International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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18th World Vegetarian Congress 1965
Swanwick, England

Secretary: The Vegetarian Society
Hon. General Secretary: International Vegetarian Union

Part 2: The British Movement

In 1809 the Rev. W. Cowherd, in association with Mr. Joseph Brotherton, Salford's first Member of Parliament, founded what they called the Bible Christian Church at Salford, Manchester, its main conditions of membership being abstinence from alcohol and fleshfoods. In 1817 forty-one members emigrated to America and founded a similar church in Philadelphia, led by the Rev. Wm. Metcalfe.

It should be mentioned here, perhaps, that English vegetarians, finding the terms "vegetable diet" and non-meateatmg both inadequate and misleading in that they ate more than vegetables and did not simply not eat meat, first coined the word "Vegetarian" in 1842, and as Dr. W. E. A. Axon stated, "the meaning of the word does not depend on what some people think it means, but on the meaning given to it originally" - "the practice of living on the products of the vegetable kingdom with or without the addition of eggs and of milk, and its products."

In 1847, desiring to propagate vegetarianism through a secular society, and without religious attachments, members of the Bible Christian Church founded The Vegetarian Society at Manchester the first in the world to be formed solely for the purpose of teaching the benefits of vegetarianism. The Rev. Metcalfe hastened to do the same thing in America, and their first meeting was held in New York in 1850.

It would be impossible to list the people who devoted their lives to the British movement; indeed, Charles Forward, in trying to write 50mething about the personalities in the first Fifty Years of Food Reform (to 1897), found himself with a volume 7¾" x 10" running into nearly 200 pages, but there are Sir Isaac Pitman, Joseph Brotherton, M.P., James Simpson, The Vegetarian Society's first President; Professor J. E. B. Mayor of Cambridge University Professor F. W. Newman, Dr. W. E. A. Axon, Ernest Bell, Henry Salt, who gave up his career at Eton to work in the humanitarian movement; Edward Maitland, Anna Kingsford, Dr. Annie Besant, Henry Light, Arnold Hills and many others whose contributions have raised the movement to the level from which we make our efforts.

In its first year of activity The Vegetarian Society collected 331 members, and at its second annual meeting was addressed by Mr. Isaac Pitmam, "the well-known author and inventor of the Phonetic System," who said he had been a vegetarian for eleven years. Its membership then boasted: "Member of Parliament 1, county magistrate 1, alderman 1, physicians and surgeons 20, ministers 9, lecturers and authors 11, professional men 55, merchants and manufacturers 22, farmers 8, private gentlemen 15, tradesmen, mechanics and labourers 418, students 11. Males 572, females 229.

The two "National Societies" in Great Britain are often a puzzle to newcomers. They arose by The Vegetarian Society acquiring the National Food Reform Society in London in 1885 and calling it its London auxiliary. This branch, desiring to publish its own literature and operate without reference to the parent society, claimed its independence in 1888 and became The London Vegetarian Society. Whatever differences of opinion there were in those days, the two societies now work in complete harmony, sharing the same magazine and printing much of their literature together.