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History of the Australian Vegetarian Societies

The Vegetarian Society of Australia from 1888:

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), May 1888, p148:

Australia.- The annual meeting of the Vegetarian Society of Australia was held on Wednesday evening, Feb. 29 [1888], at the Thistle Company's Rooms, Little Collins Street, Melbourne. The report showed that much progress had been made, the movement having excited a great deal of attention, and been spoken of with much more respect than formerly. The number of members had considerably increased, and the committee were continually hearing of whole families who had either become entire Vegetarians, or had largely reduced their consumption of flesh. Losses incurred through removals of members were more than counterbalanced by the missionary spirit which these carried with them. Dr. Campbell, the well-known advocate of food reform in Adelaide, had accepted with pleasure the position of corresponding associate. The Vegetarian Dining-room, started by Mrs, Harvie as an adjunct to her usual business, had been largely patronised by the public. Reference was made to the expense incurred by the society in holding meetings, distributing pamphlets, &c, and regret was expressed that many Vegetarians did not feel it a duty to assist the society with contributions.

The following office-bearers were then elected: - President, Mr. Robert Jones, vice Rev. John Higgins, retired by effluxion of time; vice-presidents, Rev. John Higgins and Mr. S. Hodge; secretary, Mr. Thomas Lang (re-elected); committee, Mrs. E. Harvie, and Messrs. Hall, Forbes, Marchant, and Dermer-Smith. The retiring President made a speech, drawing special attention to the evidence that Vegetarian diet very largely reduced thirst, and subdued the passions, so tending to decrease the number of violent and brutal crimes. The President-elect, in the course of his remarks, alluded to the constant accession of men of culture to the Vegetarian ranks in England, and pointed out that its creed rested on no selfish considerations, numerous and powerful as were the latter, but on the enduring basis of universal justice and compassion. Its chief aim to consideration did not lie in its proven power of improving man's health, but in its unceasing demand that the cruelties of the railway truck, the cattle steamer, and the slaughter-house should once and forever cease.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), August 1888, p262 [refers to the same meeting as above]:

Vegetarian Society of Australia - The annual report of the Australian Society shows that - "the cause of Vegetarianism has made evident and undoubted progress." Monthly meetings have been held, and discussions have taken place on various aspects of the question. The death is recorded of Mr, Carl H, Hartman. In November last a Vegetarian dining room was opened in Melbourne by Miss Harvie. The report shows that wark has been done in the past, and hopes still more in the future.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), September 1888, p305:

The Argus reports the April meeting of the Australian Vegetarian Society; Mr. Robert Jones (the president) in the chair. The president delivered an address on "Ancient and Modern Testimony in Favour of Vegetarian Diet." [details of the talk and subsequent discussions given - the full text of this talk appeared in a later issue].

The Vegetarian Society of Australia held a social meeting lest evening at the Thistle Co's Hall. The proceedings were of a conversational description, and the tables were covered with numerous curios for the amusement of the visitors. such as a blak-letter copy of Chaucer's Poems as a contrast to the magnificently embellished Atlas of Australia. Mr. Robert Jones, the president of the society, occupied the chair. Mrs. Hodgson gave a brief address on the troubles which some people met with when they first become Vegetarian. An opportunity was afforded to visitors to put questions, which were promptly responded to; and at nine o'clock the company descended to the supper room, where a repast of fruit and flowers was laid. Amongst the fruit was a new Japanese persimon. some of which were ripe. Those who obtained the ripe specimens pronounced the fruit excellent, the flavour being somewhat after the rock melon. There were some very fine specimens of American canned fruit, particularly peaches, and also some quinces and other fruits preserved by the Thistle Company. A vote of thanks was passed to Mrs. Hodgeson for her address, and she and her husband were wished bon voyage, as they are about to depart to Europe on a visit. - Melbourne Daily Telegraph, May 25.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), June 1889, p179-180:

MELBOURNE.- ANNUAL REPORT OF THE VEGETARIAN SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA, PRESENTED TO THE ANNUAL MEETING HELD ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27. - Monthly meetings open to the public have been held, at which original addresses or abstracts of Vegetarian publications have been delivered. Miss Fanny F. Samuel, Rev. J. Higgins, Mr. H. Jones, Mr. J. Beard, Mr. A. F. Spawn, and Mrs. Harris, of Auckland, gave the principal lectures.

Miss Samuel showed that man's upward progress was immensely retarded by the checking of the development of his higher spiritual nature. Every form of barbarism was such a check, and as the slaughter of speechless animals, and its attendant cruelty, was the barbarism of which civilised man was most frequently guilty, it must be regarded as the chief obstacle to the triumphant progress of those ideas of justice and mercy which are man's highest possession, and which most distinguish him from the mere animal. It was certain that physical regeneration led to moral and spiritual growth, and nothing assisted physical regeneration so much as the adoption of a dietary free from the taint of blood.

The Rev.John Hiiggins demonstrated the healthfulness and sufficiency of Vegetarian diet. Besides advancing many individual illustrations of eminent Vegetarians who were remarkable for their mental and physical activity, he pointed out that whole tribes and nations subsisted on Vegetarian fare. The peasants of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Continental Europe got very little flesh food, in some cases none at all, yet their strength and healthfulness were well known. During the discussion which followed this address, Mr. James, of Sydney, said that many years ago the doctors had told him that the disease (diabetes) from which he was suffering, was incurable, and that he could not live more than a few months. But, having been induced to become a Vegetarian, his health gradually improved, and he was now completely restored.

Mr. R. Jones lectured on "Ancient and Modern Testimony to the Excellence of Vegetarian Diet." (See V. M. for March.) Mr. Beard's subject was "The philosophy of Right Living." He said that man must commence to recognise his own dignity. He must remember that the earth (in which he stood was one of the heavenly bodies. He was a spiritual being with unknown powers, which he should try to develop. To do this, he must he just and merciful; for the whole force of the universe was against him if he were not. Now, nothing was more unjust and cruel than the slaughter of defenceless animals. He could call it nothing but semi-cannibalism. It outraged nature, who terribly avenged herself. The number and deadliness of diseases increased, men became more and more restless and greedy, and their moral perceptions became fearfully blunted. Having trampled on the rights of the lower animals, they were less reluctant to trample on those of their fellow-man. This we saw being done on all sides, and it was terribly sad, for men were members of one family, and could make little upward progress until they recognised this to be yhe case. The least useful vegetable foods were those which grew under, or near the soil; next came wheat and other grains; and last and best, fruits and nuts. Drugs, which were all poisonous, should not be taken, hygienic treatment being the only method of fighting disease. No system of education was complete which overlooked this important question of diet.

Mr. Spawn, the well-known fruit evaporator, explained his process of treating fruits and vegetables. Its two principal merits are the following:- (1) It reduces bulk so greatly, that the cost of carriage is relatively small. (2) By abstracting all moisture from the fruits, it reduces the risk of loss by decay to a minimum. Fruit desiccation is an industry which has assumed immese proportions in California, and is destined, in conjunction with irrigation, to increase indefinitely the wealth of this colony. Various specimens of Mr. Spawns goods were cooked, and served to those present at the lecture, by the Thistle Co., and were highly appreciated by all.

Mrs. Harris contended that one of the factors in the production of the appalling amount of disease, which was decimating the community, was the unwholesome flesh diet with which the people were so much in love. Lectures have also been delivered before outside societies. One of these, addressed to the Melbourne Total Abstinence Society by Mr. R. Jones was published in pamphlet form last June. It was on "Vegetarianism with Special Reference to its connection with Temperance in Drinking." The first one thousand copies were soon exhausted, and the Committee note with pleasure that the English Vegetarian Society now announce an English reprint of this publication, feeling it to be a matter for congratulation that the first Australian pamphlet dealing with a vegetarian topic should have been considered worthy of a reprint in England.

A great discussion took place in September at the Thistle Hall, between the friends and the opponents of Vegetarianism. Mr. H. Thomas considered that the strength and activity of the carnivore and of flesh-eating men were proof of the inferiority of Vegetarian diet. He denied that it was cruel to slaughter animals, and thought there was no more cheerful sight than that of a father carving a joint for his family. No attempt was made to weaken the many other Vegetarian arguments which have been mentioned in previous pages of this report. Mr. Geo. Hughes and other speakers on the Vegetarian side pointed out that carnivorous animals were incapable of continued exertion, and required long periods of sleep whilst all working animals were strictly Vegetarian. As to mankind, it was notorious that the most powerful men were wholly or principally Vegetarian. There no necessity quote books with reference to the sufferings of animals; common observation and newspaper reports abundantly testified to it. As to the "beauty" of carving, they thought it was a far more cheerful sight to see a father instructing his children in some branch of science or art, or urging them to cultivate feelings of compassion for dumb animals.

Mr. George Hughes, the well-known temperance lecturer who is also an earnest Vegetarian, has introduced the subject to the notice of many of his temperance audiences, and so largely helped to extend the knowledge of our principles. Our thanks are also due to many of our members, particularly ladies, who, not content with setting an example to their friends, have lost no opportunity in private life of inducing them to follow that example. But perhaps the most powerful organ of Vegetarianism now at work in Melbourne, is the excellent Vegetarian dining-room conducted by our friend, Mrs. Harvie, of the Thistle Co., for it is an agency that operates daily. The committee are therefore gratified to hear that during the past year it has been well patronised, not only by Vegetarians, but also by the outside public. Thus the committee are able to state that abundant energy had been displayed and much good work accomplished; and although the number of members has not greatly increased, they know of very many people who have largely reduced their consumption of flesh food.

The committee feel that the best thanks of the Society are due to Mr. Thos. Lang, who has now for three years acted as honorary secretary. Statement of Finances, 1888: Subscriptions, £25 12s.; extra donations from firends of the cause, £6 1s.; collected at the monthly meetings, £9 8s. 6d.; total income for 1888, £41 3s 6d.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), December 1889, p346:

News from Australia: A Vegetarian Society at Ballarat. - The Australian Vegetarian Society is growing; a branch society has been formed at Ballarat, which is, as Mr. Jones writes, "a large gold-mining town about 60 miles from Melbourne in a straight line, and 100 miles by rail."