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In celebration of a vegan saint

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2 April (2011) marks the anniversary of the death in 1507 of St Francis of Paola who, among other things, was known for following a vegan diet, free from all animal-derived foods, including eggs and dairy foods as well as meat and fish.

Francis was born at Paola in Calabria, Italy, in 1416. He founded a monastic order, the Order of the Minims. Among the vows that members had to make was abstinence from animal foods.

According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, 5 per cent of the UK population follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, with concern for animals being of central importance to many who follow such diets.

But few modern vegetarians or vegans would espouse the way of life of St Francis and his order, which was one of extraordinary severity. They lived in great poverty and were required to seek to live unknown and hidden from the world.

As with St Francis of Assisi, several stories have apparently been told of St Francis of Paola’s compassion for animals, and compassion remains a strong motive for people to avoid animal food in modern times or at least to ask about its provenance.

There is also ongoing debate about the value of meat for health. A recent Government report suggested that high intakes of red meat are associated with higher risk of cancer. But lean red meat is a good source of zinc and iron and in moderate amounts makes a useful contribution to a healthy diet.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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