Vegetarianism – the wanton ingestion of nothing but non-meat – sometimes produces or provokes antipathy, hostility and disgust. Researchers have struggled to understand why. In 1945, as the second world war was ending, US Army Major Hyman S Barahal, chief of the psychiatry section of Mason general hospital in Brentwood, New York, issued a report called The Cruel Vegetarian. Major Barahal began by explaining the word "vegetarianism" for anyone who might be ignorant or confused: "It consists essentially in the exclusion of flesh, fowl and fish from the dietary."
Major Barahal drew upon his own experience at having met, and endured the presence of, several vegetarians. "Their exaggerated concern over the welfare of animals betrays the utter contempt and hatred which they hold for the human race generally," he reported. "As far as the present writer knows, no [previous] article has ever attempted to explain the psychology of a person who, of his own free will, becomes a fervent follower of the cult."
Major Barahal preferred to mince vegetarians, rather then words. He cut directly to the meat of the matter: "The average vegetarian is eccentric, not only as regards his food, but in many other spheres as well. Careful observation of his views ... will frequently reveal somewhat twisted and rather peculiar attitudes and prejudices. In short, the average vegetarian is not definitely 'a lunatic', but he certainly fringes on it."