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History of the Australian Vegetarian Societies

Reports from England:

From The Dietetic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), June 1886, p188:

Australia. - The Herald (Melbourne, 30 Swanston Street) of Wednesday, February 24th, had the following paragraph: "A general meeting of the Vegetarian Society of Australia was held at the Thistle Company's Hall on Tuesday evening. There was a good attendance, and a number of names were enrolled. The constitution of the society was read, discussed, altered, improved, and finally adopted. The following office-bearers were elected: Rev. J. Higgins, president; Miss Fanny E. Samuel and Mr. Robert Jones, vice-presidents; Mr. Thomas Lang; treasurer and secretary; Messrs. John Forbes, James Haydon, F. Hynes, George Jackson, and William Mainwaring, members of committee. A short discussion on various matters of interest took place after business was over, and it was arranged that a friendly meeting should be held at an early date for still further discussing these matters and imparting information.

From The Dietetic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), August 1886, p221:

[Editorial] The Vegetarian Society of Australia, founded in Melbourne on the 4th February, 1886, held a meeting on the 16th of June, of which particulars have not yet reached us. The Rev. J. Higgins, its president, was expected to deliver an inaugural address at this, the first public meeting of the society; specimen dishes of Vegetarian cookery were to be submitted, and new members to be enrolled. Particulars of the constitution and manifesto of the society, which in the main resemble our own, will be given in our next number. Since the foundation of our own Society, in 1847, no such important event has taken place in the history of the Vegetarian movement as the inauguration of this new Vegetarian Society in the Australasian world. No longer a colony, but a nation - we might almost say a federation of nations - completely independent from the nature of its geographical position and its inexhaustible resources, yet friendly and loyal to the mother-country, which it bids fair to equal in civilisation and to exceed in wealth - the position of Australia is unique, and the possibilities of its future are boundless. That Vegetarianism is among those possibilities is a fact worth reflecting on: for although at present the social life of the country is passing out of the stage of its infancy, and Australia, governed by uts own institutions, and endowed with its own universities, has already all the elements of the highest civilisation, yet side by side with the elegancies of wealth and learning there still exists the ruder life of the hunter and the farmer, and we in England are too are too apt to fancy that this is the only life possible in the colonial regions. That in the very stronghold, as we regard it, of the beef and mutton trade, the foundation of a Vegetarian society is possible, is a thing to be greatly rejoiced at, for it shows that our principles are not the accident of any expecial economic or social conditions, but are founded on a world-wide basis. We must not, however, fall into the error of expecting that all Australia will immediately embrace our principles; our Australian allies will meet with as much opposition and ridicule as was the case with the English Vegetarian Society at its foundation. The fun however, though it may be quite as stinging, will probably not be quite as clumsy as on British soil, for in Australia, as in America, the co-existence side by side of the life of books and the life of struggle for existence generates a variety of humour much more genuine and caustic, in short much more funny, than any fun that is to be found in the less contrasted conditions of our English life. We wonder what the Melbourne Punch will say to the new Vegetarian Society!

From the Dietetic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), September 1886, p281:

Melbourne, Australia. - The Vegetarian Society of Australia held a meeting, to which the public was invited, in Melbourne, on June 16th. The attendance was about 50. The President, Rev. J. Higgins, read his inaugural address, which was listened to with great attention, and gave universal satisfaction. Thereafter sample dishes of Vegetarian food, well cooked, were partaken of by those present, and were highly approved of. This was followed by a most interesting and agreeable conversation on the subject of food: one gentleman expressed himself so satisfied with the arguments of the president, that he would give Vegetarianism a fair trial. A general wish was expressed that the president's address should be printed and circulated. [We owe the above report to the kindness of the honorary secretary of the Australian Vegetarian Society, Mr. Thomas Lang.] The manifesto of the society is deferred till our next number.

From the Dietetic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), October 1886, p296-300:


The following is the Manifesto of the Australian Vegetarian Society, the inauguration of which we recently welcomed :-

  1. This Society having been established in the Australian colonies, the members think that one of their first duties is to give information as to the objects of the Society, and advance reasons for its existence.
  2. The object of the Society is to induce habits of abstinence from the flesh of animals (fish, flesh, and fowl) as food.
  3. The members claim to be acting from unselfish and philanthropic motives. They have experienced the advantages of a simple and nutritious diet, and they are desirous to communicate their knowledge, and the results of their experience, to their fellow-men.
  4. During the past century the progress of science had been great and beyond any former period of the world's history, and the researches of scientific men have been extended industriously into every branch of knowledge.
  5. The science of chemistry, in particular, has been cultivated with most assiduous care. Exact analyses have been made of the bodily organs which constitute a human being, and most exact analyses have been made of the various foods which he is in the custom of using.
  6. The science of physiology has also been prosecuted with much success, and the great majority of the processes which are continuously being carried on in the human system have been pretty well explained.
  7. It has been found that food serves two leading and important purposes in the human economy: First it supplies material for keeping up the muscular, bony, cartilaginous, nervous, and other portions of the framework of man's body; and, next, it furnishes a supply of fuel to be consumed in the lungs, which keep up the heat of the body.
  8. Chemical analysis proves that VEGETABLE SUBSTANCES contain all the elements necessary for keeping the human body in perfect health and strength, and for furnishing the supply of heat to the system.
  9. Not only so, but it is proved that in the same weight of food there is much more of the nutritive and heat-forming elements in vegetable than there is in animal food.
  10. There are extensive tables no furnished of the various kinds of food, but we can insert here only a few of the leading articles in juxtaposition for comparison.
      Water Nitrogenous
    and sugar)

    Lean Beef
    White Haricots

    Fat Beef

    Lean Mutton
    Dry Rice

    Fat Mutton
    Dry Wheat

















  11. At a glance it is obvious that a very large percentage of animal food consists of water; and, in proportion to the water, these vegetable substances contain much more nitrogenous or muscle forming matter than the animal substances do; and the carbo-hydrates, which keep up the animal heat, abound in the vegetable kingdom.
  12. Taking these facts into consideration, it will be seen, when we come to calculate the cost of animal food as compared with vegetable, how much more expensive the former is than the latter. Even in Australia, where flesh-meat is much more abundant and cheaper than in Great Britain, the difference is remarkable, and how much more remarkable is it in countries where flesh-meat is double the price, and vegetable substances one-half the price, of what they are in Australia; for instance -
    100lbs of steak, at 8d., cost £3 6s. 8d., and contain 28lbs. useful substances, being 2s. 4 1/2d. per lb.
    100lbs haricots, at 4d., cost £1 13s. 4d., and contain 91lbs useful substances, being 4 1/2d. per lb.
  13. Plums, apples, and other delicious fruits are incomparably more wholesome than animal food.
  14. It is natural for the human race universally, from their earliest infancy, to pluck and eat fruit with relish; but it is not natural for them to slay anmals and eat their flesh.
  15. The teeth do not indicate that man is by nature an eater of animal food: his teeth, his stomach, his intestines indicate that it is natural for him to feed on fruits, grains, and roots.
  16. Vegetarians assert that the consumption of animal food promotes disease and unhappiness amongst mankind; whilst Vegetarian diet conduces to health, happiness, and longevity.
  17. Vegetarians are not liable to the attacks of diseases; and when they do become ill; their recovery is much more probable and more rapid.
  18. Vegetarians do not claim to be exempt from sickness; because sickness often depends on the violation of other laws than those which concern their food - such, for instance, as the breathing of impure air, or the subjection of the system to extreme heat or cold. And they also are aware that mistakes may even be made in using vegetable food; but their belief is that sickness should not in any case arise from the judicious use of the foods which they advocate.
  19. Animal food does directly engender many painful, loathsome, and fatal disorders - such as hydatids, trichinosis, tapeworms, carbuncles, &c.
  20. Many diseases such as consumption, cancer, gout, epilepsy, have frequently their origin in the use of animal food; while these same diseases are cured by the adoption of a Vegetarian diet.
  21. Dipsomania, or drunkenness - that is the craving for strong drink - is stimulated by the use of animal food, and is entirely removed by the adoption of the Vegetarian diet. This has been satisfactorily proved by Dr. Jackson in his establishment for the treatment of inebriates at Dansville, New York.
  22. The use of food recommended by Vegetarians is specially conducive to physical beauty, to clearness of complexion, to clean and healthy skin, and to cheerful and agreeable expression of countenance: and much simple food tends to the restoration of the physical beauty which has deteriorated in consequence of the indulgence in animal food throughout many generations.
  23. The indulgence in animal food tends to brutalise the human race; whilst a Vegetarian diet tends to the development of the moral and intellectual faculties of man.
  24. The effect of anmial food on the dispositions of living beings is seen conspicuouslyin the carnivora; whilst the effect of vegetable food is seen conspicuously in the elephant, the horse, the ox, the sheep, and such animals.
  25. It is obvious that man has dominion over all animals. This does not imply that he is entitled to exercise cruelty towards them, deprive them of their lives, and devour their flesh.
  26. Animal food makes men ferocious and quarrelsome, and tends to keep up the love of war.
  27. The advancement of the human race in moral and intellectual development depends on their wisdom in adopting a Vegetarian diet. The human race will not attain its highest development on a diet of which animal food forms an important part.
  28. In a new country like Australia, where land is abundant and not fully occupied, the question of economising land is not yet of pressing importance, but in densely populated countries like Great Britain the question of cultivating the land for the production of vegetable food, is of paramount importance, and will soon demand universal attention.
  29. A given acreage of wheat will feed at least ten times as many men as the same acreage employed in growing mutton.
  30. In order to have a sufficient quantity of animal food to meet the demand, the inspector of the London Metropolitan Meat Market states that he has had to pass many animals that were diseased; and he declares that were he strictly to condemn all that are unsound there would not be sufficient animal food for the people. Similar statements have been made by the inspector of markets in Melbourne.
  31. The cruelties to which animals are often subjected in bringing them to market and to the slaughter-yards is unjustifiable; and if these cruelties could be realised by the thoughtful members of the community, they would rise up, and with one voice demand that a stop should be put to such unnecessary proceedings.
  32. The use of animal food leads to the unnecessary and wanton cruelties of hunting and killing animals in certain field sports, the cruelties and the sport being all on the one side - that is on the side supposed to be gifted with godlike reason and humanity.
  33. The use of animal food keeps up amongst us a class of men who have, of necessity, to follow a cruel trade; and it is a wrong thing to have such a class, just as it is a wrong thing to have a class of slaves, and could only be justified by there being an absolute necessity for using slaughtered meat as food. Vegetarians sympathise very much with those whom circumstances compel to follow the calling of slaughtermen, and their anxious desire is to educate society so that this class shall be emancipated fromt their present onjectionable occupation.
  34. The feeding of the poor is one of the most important matters connected with Vegetarianism, particularly in densely-peopled countries. Vegetarians assert that their diet is much cheapert than animal food diet, and at the same time more nutritious, more enjoyable, and more conducive to health and contentment.
  35. The economy of the working-man's household is vitally affected by his selection of a complete Vegetarian diet, or a diet containing animal food. An erroneous opinion prevails that animal food is the superior food, whereas the opposite is the case; and whenever working-men become satisfied of the truth of our views, and adopt our simple, agreeable, and rational diet, they will advance in prosperity, enjoy substantial comforts, and increase in physical strength.
  36. The term "Vegetarian" is not a satisfactory term to denote the principles or habits of those who abstain from fish, flesh, or fowl as food. There are a few - a very few - who do confine themselves rigidly to vegetable food, produced directly from the soil; but the great majority of so-called Vegetarians indulge in the use of eggs, milk, butter and cheese. It is not necessary to deprive animals of their lives in order to obtain these articles of food. On the contrary, many animals are, in consequence of the use of these substances, called into existence, and live happy lives in the society of mankind. Vegetarians object to the custom that prevails in appropriating all the benefits from these inoffensive animals, and then at last depriving them of their lives and eating up their flesh. It seems to be Vegetarians who have had occasion to reflect on these matters a very shocking, unjustifiable, and arbitrary proceeding on the part of the human race, and in good time coming future generations will look back with astonishment and horror at the customs of their ancestors.
  37. Many people who are not convinced of the propriety of abstaining from flesh entirely are yet thoroughly convinced that the use of such food three times a day, and in large quantities, is very injurious to those who indulge in such excesses. It is desireable that there should be united effort to induce flesh-eaters to be moderate in their use of flesh; and the Vegetarian Society of Australia will welcome to its meetings "subscribers" who advocate moderation in flesh-eating, and will be glad of their co-operation.
  38. There are many who think favourably of the object of the Society, but who cannot, or at all events think they cannot, adopt the correct habits at all times. Those are admitted as "associates", the other members fondly hoping that in course of time their difficulties, real or imaginary, will be overcome, and that they will ultimately adopt in its entirety the natural system of maintaining life in comfort and happiness.

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), June 1887, p217:

Melbourne. - The annual meeting of the Vegetarian Society of Australia was held in the Thistle Company's Hall, Melbourne, Australia, on the evening of 1st March, 1887; Re. J. Higgins, the president, in the chair. The meeting was well attended, both by members and visitors, and was an unqualified success. The following is the report of the Committee of Management: "Twelve months have elapsed since the foundation of the Vegetarian Society of Australia. The Commitee of Management have not been able to do as much work and make as much progress as they desired to do, but they have no reason to be dissatisfied with the position of the society. Forty-seven names have been enrolled in the books, and a number of friends are on the point of giving their names. It has been an agreeable surprise to find that there exist so many in the community who practise Vegetarian habits or are favourably disposed to the cause. At the same time the committee feel a little dissapointed that many who have experienced the advantages of a healthful mode of living delay or hesitate to give in their names.

The committee would remark to these that the efforts of the society to disseminate valuable the knowledge knowledge in matters of diet which Vegetarians have acquired are, of course, limited by the means placed at their disposal, and it seems to be a duty which men owe to each other that they should subscribe a small sum for the purpose of imparting the good news to others. Two thousand copies of the constitution and manifesto were printed, and a great many have been disseminated. There are still some on hand, however, and members and friends are requested to give to the secretay the addresses of persons to whom it is advisable to send our manifesto. As regards this manifesto, the committee indulge in a littel pardonable pride in finding that the Vegetarian journal published in Great Britain copied it into their October number in full, and moreover the leaders of the movement at home have expressed their opinion that the foundation of the Vegetarian Society of Australia has been the most important move made in the cause since the foundation of the Vegetarian Society in Great Britain in 1847. Such compliments must have the effect of inducing us all to continue our exertions with renewed energy, and cause us to remember that the eyes of our fellow-workers all over the world are upon us, in expectation of our doing something worthy of the great Australian community, which has attracted so much attention in Europe during the past twelve months.

The committee report that they purchased a supply of literature for distribution from the Vegetarian Society of Great Britain, and that the greater number of these documents have been issued. The committee have made application to the Commisioners for the Centenary Exhibition, which is to be held in the colony of Victoria in 1888, for accommodation to enable them to make arrangements for opening a Vegetarian dining-room during the exhibition. The Vegetarian dining-room that was kept open during the International Healtheries Exhibition in London during 1884 was one of the most popular and attractive features in that great exhibition, and did more to popularise Vegetarianism than any other means that had ever been tried; it led to the establishment of a number of Vegetarian dining-rooms. There are now at least seventeen such dining-rooms in London.

The following office-bearers were elected: Rev. J. Higgins, president; Miss Fanny E. Samuel, Messrs. Robert Jones and William Mainwaring, vice-presidents; Mrs. Harvie, Messrs. Forbes, Jackson, Hall, and Hynes, members of the Committee of Management; Mr. Thomas Lang, secretary, to be assisted by Mr. Robert Jones, who volunteered his services. A vote of thanks was passed to the office-bearers of last year. Thereafter the Rev. J. Higgins gave an address on "The General Aspects of Vegetarianism, and the duty of those who were favourable to the cause to join the Society." Mr. Robert Jones gave an address on "The Humanitarian Aspect of the Movement," and Mr. Thomas Lang read the following paper on "Vegetarianism as a Cure for Drunkeness" :- [paper reproduced in full] .

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), August 1887, p282:

Melbourne, Australia - On the evening of the Queen's birthday, the Australian Vegetarian Society had a banquet at the Thistle Company's Hall, Littel Collins Street, to which the public were admitted at the rate of 2s. a head. This banquet afforded a text for more than a column of banter in the Argus of May 25, which has at least had the excellent effect of making the Australian Vegetarian Society known to a large public.

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), January 1888, p21:

Melbourne, Australia.- Vegetarianism has lately attracted some attention in Melbourne. In April 27th [1887] the members of the Vegetarian Society of Australia met to discuss the bread question, Many of the outside public attended, and a most interesting meeting was held. Speicmens of various sorts of bread were produced and cut up. On the Queen's birthday a grand Vegetarian dinner was given in the Thistle Company's Hall, in honour of the day. This was attended by twice as many as we expected, including several prominent citizens. Mrs. Harvie was interested in the arrangement and furnishing of the tables, and everything was done satisfactorily. Only one little event ruffled the tempers of the carnivorous members of the party. Vegetarian duck was in the menu as one of the dishes, and much curiosity was aroused as to what Vegetarian duck would consist of. Unfortunately the dish was placed before an Englishman possesed of a large benevolence, and he began at once to freely help those who applied, and in a very little time the dish was empty. It was intended that this high-flavoured dish should be supplied in small quantities along with some other articles of food. The growls from the disappointed were loud and deep, but they soon recovered their peace of mind, and made the most of the other good things that were left. Our leading paper, the Argus, occupied more than a column in reporting this dinner, showing that the subject is considered worthy of some consideration.

Another meeting, open to the public also, was held on June 24th, when an analysis was given by Mr. A. J. Hall of a well-written American book, "The Diet Question : Giving the Reason Why," by Mrs. Susanna Doods, M.D. [further details were given of this talk, and of a talk given by a member to a newly formed church.]

p.23: Melbourne.- A Vegetarian Meeting. - Those who have given themselves up to Vegetarianism held a meeting last night [Sep. 30, 1887] in the Thistle Hall. There were between fifty and sixty ladies and gentlemen - probably more of the latter than the former - and the chair was occupied by the Rev. Mr. Higgins. Like many others who have become converted to Vegetarianism, the Chairman, so he told us, first became acquainted with the system through the phonographic works of Isaac Pitman [further details of his talk followed]. The exposition of the advantages of the system was next taken up by Mr. Lang, a veteran Vegetarian of some seventy years of age [further details of his talk followed].

Now there was a little variety in the proceedings. One of the lady members of the Society, Mrs. Jones, had compounded a new Vegetarian dish, which she had called "orange snow," and, in order to introduce it she had a supply made for the meeting. The dish, which is composed of oranges, sugar and eggs was distributed, and appeared to please the palates of all who partook of it. Following this Mr. R. Jones gave a short treatise on the meat v. vegetable diet, with the voew of proving the latter was infinitely the more advantageous of the two systems. Subsequently the meeting assumed a kind of "testimony" shape. One member assured us he had trained himself to two meals a day; another stated that since he became a Vegetarian - none months ago - he "had known what it was to have a liver;" and a third testified that while he used to enjoy his glass and his pipe before he adopted the system, he had no desire for wither now. And thus a not unprofitable couple of hours were spent among the Vegetarians. - Melbourne Herald, October 1st [1887]

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