Not to eat meat, or to frown on the captivity and killing of animals, went to the heart of society…
It is not difficult to see how the man who collected the largest herds would become the most influential and most powerful in the community. One can also see how, in a community structured around the number of cattle owned by its inhabitants, the idea that their meat was unnecessary to human survival would seem heretical – it would be not simply a criticism of meat-eating but a criticism of power. Power itself would also come to mean moral worth and therefore to deserve reverence. Not to eat meat, or to frown on the captivity and killing of animals, went to the heart of society.
…vegetarianism becomes inevitably a lifestyle which at times is impossible to keep private. Such views may seem quite harmless to the ruling classes and the whole apparatus of statecraft, yet the lifestyle is an unspoken criticism. But, more than that, vegetarianism is one of the signs of a radical thinker, the individual who criticises the status quo, who desires something better, more humane and more civilised for the whole of society. It makes meat-eaters uneasy and they often react aggressively.
from “Vegetarianism: A History” by Colin Spencer