Rynn Berry, 68, died on January 9, 2014 at New York Methodist Hospital in New York City. An accomplished runner who completed the 1979 New York City Marathon and had competed in shorter events as far away as Brazil, Berry had suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on New Year’s Eve while jogging in Prospect Park.
“Berry, who had asthma, was carrying an inhaler but no identification when he was found in the park,” reported Leslie Albrecht of DNAInfo.com. “His identity was a mystery for more than a week. New York’s running community spread the word through social media, and members of running groups even visited Berry in the hospital to see if they recognized him. After police released a photo of an unconscious Berry in his hospital bed, Berry’s half brother Charles identified him on January 7.”
Berry was historical advisor to the North American Vegetarian Society and was on the Advisory Board of Earth Save, but was best known as editor of 20 editions of the The Vegan Guide to New York City.
“When I was 19,” Berry told interviewer Tom Epler in June 2003, “and an undergraduate at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, I learned that before they are slaughtered to supply humans with meat, animals excrete adrenaline in anticipation of their death. That was enough to convince me that animals are fellow sentient beings. I became a vegetarian on the spot.
“After attending an international vegan conference in Malaga, Spain, in 1994, “ Berry continued, “two friends and I collaborated on the first edition of The Vegan Guide to New York City. There were so few veg restaurants at the time that we had to bulk up the guide with restaurants that served animal flesh but condescended to cater to the culinary whims of vegetarians. The next year, my two collaborators went off to graduate school in England and California; I made the guide exclusively vegetarian. At last count, there were over 136 listings for vegan and vegetarian restaurants.”
Berry recalled that “Vegetarian and vegan were such highly charged, controversial terms that many stores refused to stock the book. Now it is sold in restaurants, health food stores, gift shops, stationery stores, on-line stores, news stands and bookstores. A mobile app has vastly increased the audience.”
Berry established a reputation as a meticulous historian of vegetarianism and veganism with Famous Vegetarians & Their Favorite Recipes, a 1989 category best-seller. He followed up with Food For The Gods: Vegetarianism and the World’s Religions (1998).
“I was constantly being heckled by hostile non-vegetarians, “ Berry told Epler, “who would invariably ask me why I hadn’t included Adolf Hitler among the Famous Vegetarians. So, I decided to research the matter in order to ascertain whether this butcher of Europe was in fact a vegetarian. To my dismay, I found that Hitler biographers stoutly maintain that he was a vegetarian in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Since no one had written a book that marshals the evidence to prove that Hitler was not a vegetarian, I wrote Hitler: Neither Vegetarian, Nor Animal Lover (2004).”
Hitler on several occasions claimed to be a vegetarian, but those who accept him as one “don’t seem to realize that one cannot be a vegetarian and be so inconsistent as to eat liver dumplings and cured meats, which eyewitnesses attest that Hitler did on a regular basis,” Berry said. “If anything, Hitler was a flexitarian. By no stretch of the imagination could he accurately be called a vegetarian.”