While I’m on the subject of health, diet, and parts of the body that we don’t often talk about, I must say a few words about ‘Protein Man.’
He should really be called ‘Less Protein Man,’ because that was his message: that by eating less protein you would experience less passion, and less passion would make the world a better place.
From 1968 until 1993 when he died, Stanley Green would walk up and down Oxford Street in London’s West End. He carried the same banner and a little wooden box of leaflets explaining his message. People mainly walked past him, but he became such a visible feature of London life because of his quiet determination and commitment.
To us Krishna devotees, out on Oxford Street on harinama or book distribution he was a reassuring figure. Here was someone who had a message about minimising lust, and a campaign for vegetarianism, at a time when such messages were still considered quirky.
I can remember long, cold days when the sight of Stanley Green would give me some encouragement. In the turbulent ocean of West End shoppers, here was one person who was peaceful, and who understood a little of what I as a young Hare Krishna monk was trying to do. We were both engaged in attempting to reach out to others with a message which we felt would improve their lives.
Less Protein Man was not averse to talking with us devotees, and even visited our temple and ate with us, but would never stay for long. He couldn’t waste time – he had to be out on the street with his message. He spoke softly but I never saw him smile. Occasionally, while walking along in his home-made shoes, he would raise his voice above the noise of the street and call out in a slow, deep tone: “Less Lust through Less Protein!”
I never found out whether Stanley Green had a following or a school of thought named after him. I suspect not. But when a jigsaw puzzle of a typical London street scene came onto the market he was featured, as were the orange-robed Hare Krishna people, red double-decker buses and black taxis. Ben Elton gives him a nod in his novel Gridlock, and the biographer of the city of London, Peter Ackroyd, says of him:
“Stanley Green, ‘Protein Man, walked up and down Oxford Street for many years, parading the same dietary message. He was commonly ignored by the great tide of people who washed around him, and thus became a poignant symbol of the city’s incuriosity and forgetfulness.” – Peter Ackroyd, London: The Biography. After his death, the Museum of London accquired both his placard and a full set of his booklets (below). I discovered that he sold 93,000 booklets during his life.
Whilst his message of the need for dietary reform is one which genuine spiritualists would all agree to, we might also pay heed to his call for ‘Less Sitting’ – perhaps one of the least valued precautions of our sedentary society.