International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

History of the Australian Vegetarian Societies

Australia 1890

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), February 1890, p36:

Australia. - The new monthly journal "Progress," price 1d., is now started. Subscriptions may be paid to Mr. Robert Jones, Sorella, Royal Park, Melbourne. The first number contains the report of a Vegetarian lecture by Miss Samuels, the blind lady, and a comical article, ridiculing the opponents of Woman's Suffrage.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), Septrember 1890, pp259-266


The Annual Meeting of the Vegetarian Society of Australia was held at Melbourne, on Wednesday, 26th February, 1890. The Secretary read the following report :-

The committee have much pleasure in submitting the Annual Report to members and associates of the society. Public meetings have been held monthly during the year, and the lectures and debates at these have been of a very high standard.

The committee refer with pleasure to the accession of the society, during the year, of several members who have since distinguished themselves by their activity in lectures and debates. But the chief feature of the year has been, undoubtedly, the establishment of the journal Progress, by two members of the society, Messrs. Robert Jones and John Dun. This periodical, the first number of which appeared in October last, reports fully the Vegetarian meetings, besides publishing articles on the question. The power of this medium in spreading Vegetarian principles is in some degree evinced by the fact that the secretary has received letters from many parts of Australasia, requesting information on Vegetarianism and Vegetarian literature, these letters, in many cases proceeding from subscribers to Progress. Two thousand (2,000) copies have been published monthly, and Vegetarian ideas have thus been circulated very widely. The committee, therefore, ventures to express the hope that the journal will meet with the liberal patronage of our members.

Our principles have excited considerable interest in Ballarat, where a society was formed in September last, with Mr. Aurelius Müller as acting-secretary. The president and the secretary of this society went to Ballarat in October, at the invitation of the local society. Mr. Jones delivered, in the Mechanics' Institute, an exhaustive address on the diet question, his remarks being followed by a short speech from the secretary. Notwithstanding the gallons of ink poured out in the correspondence columns of the Ballarat Courier against "Tom Touchstone's" able arguments for the new diet, there was no opposition to the views expressed by the lecturer.

The president, on a holiday trip to Tasmania, made it his business inquire into the progress of diet reform, and was pleased to find that a number of the citizens of Hobart had adopted Vegetarian principles and practice. Before his departure he was instrumental in making many of them known to each other And this may lead to the establishment of a society in Hobart.

On the 27th March Mr. Robt. Jones translated the brochure of M. Philippe Daryl, entitled "Plus de Viande" ("No More Meat"). Considerable interest was created by the introduction to an English audience of this pamphlet, which presented in a clear, succinct manner the arguments against flesh eating, and those for vegetarianism.

An experience meeting was held in May. The president opened the proceedings by sketching the experiences of eminent Vegetarians like Drs. Allinson, Kellogg, and Kingsford. He briefly referred to the fact that the children of the Yuma tribe of North American Indians, who were brought up on a Vegetarian diet, sickened when received into the missionary schools, where a meat diet prevailed. In conclusion, he gave a short sketch of his own career as a Vegetarian. Miss Samuel, Messrs. Higgins, Hughes, Plough, and others then gave their experiences. This was followed by a discussion as to the dietetic value of beef-tea.

A paper entitled "Dietetics considered philosophically was read by Mr. John Dun, on the 27th June. He considered philosophy to be the search after harmony. The true philosopher was simple in his habits, and counselled simplicity in others. Nature required little; fashion demanded superfluity. The number of cooks in a country was an index to the number of its diseases. A great curse of the age was precept without practice. Vegetarians were embryo philosophers inasmuch as they practised what they preached. A thoughtless man might consider dietetics of small value. This was wrong. An individual, like society, had to be regenerated from beneath. Robust physical regeneration must precede robust spiritual regeneration. This lecture has since appeared in full in the columns of the London Vegetarian. In the discussion which followed, Mr. Bain remarked that he knew Joseph Livesey, "the father of temperance," fifty years ago, and that Livesey was then a Vegetarian, although he did not publicly advocate Vegetarianism.

On the 27th August, Mr. M. Miller delivered a powerful and instructive address. He showed that vegetables contained all the elements necessary for building up the body. He referred to the strength and physique attained by nations wholly or partly Vegetarian and drew particular attention to the fact that the pulse-fed followers of Mahomet had proved themselves a match for the finest troops of their day. Numerous instances of the longevity and activity of eminent Vegetarians were given. He also illustrated his arguments by his own experience the Vegetarian diet. In conclusion Mr. Miller inveighed in strong terms against the cruelty and barbarity of the present system of diet, and stated his belief that Vegetarianism was the diet the near future.

"The Curative Action of the Vegetarian Diet" was the title of a lecture delivered by Mr. W. P. Bretnall, on the 25th September. Mr. Bretnall considered the present age to be one of reform. Reforms were good only so far as they appealed to common sense. Vegetarianism did so appeal; for it both prevented and cured diseases. He gave an instance of a lady who suffered from cancer, and whose husband had died from the disease. The lady had been discharged from a hospital as incurable, and two doctors whom she consulted were unable to relieve her. He (Mr. Bretnall) prescribed a simple vegetarian diet, and the lady is now alive and well in Melbourne. Anyone wishing to see her could do so through him. He said that cancer and cancerous growth were so frightfully prevalent in Melbourne, that one person in every five hundred suffered from one of the two. Vegetarianism was in the hands of the ladies. Meetings and lectures of men were useless without cooperation in the kitchen.

On the 13th of November, Miss Fanny E. Samuel delivered an address on "The Influence of the Reformed Diet on the Senses." She said that man's anatomical structure proclaimed him a fruit and grain eater. This was the opinion of the highest authorities from Linnaeus and Gassendi down to Haeckel and Darwin, who all classified man amongst the frugivora, or fruit-eaters. The apes, which most nearly approached man in structure, were non-flesh eaters, and developed prodigious strength. Man was probably driven into eating flesh during the glacial period, when grains and fruits had been destroyed by the intense cold. He was now, however, emerging from that savage condition, and was destined to develop powers of mind and body of which we could barely form a conception. Food would play a great part in this development. Our bodies were built up of the food we ate. Now, all experience showed that man lived a healthier and a longer life on a non-flesh diet; for very many diseases had been directly or indirectly traced to the practice flesh-eating. But there was another benefit derivable from a reformed diet. This was the improvement in the senses. Sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing all become more acute under the new regimen. And this was something far more than a mere addition to the pleasure of life. It meant increased protection from disease. Thus a person with a weak sense of smell would go into, and remain in, an atmosphere whose foulness would be recognised and avoided by one with a keen scent. One great cause of disease was the breathing of vitiated air. This was a matter on which the pure feeder was very sensitive, and it generally happened that he lived I habitually with windows open night and day. In the same way a person with a keen taste often rejected food which another partook of heartily. He thus avoided the painful consequences which the other endured. Man's intuitive powers were also increased, even in course of his own life, and were destined to increase much more during the progress of the race, by adopting a simple dietary. Such people could tell instinctively whether a person or a thing was dangerous or not, and thus escaped many dangers. But it was irrational to expect that a state of health which was the outcome of many years' practice of false habits of life could be entirely changed by the adoption for a few weeks or months of the better habits. Poisons accumulated for years in the blood, and time was required to expel them. Unfortunately the great mass of people were so apathetic, and so bent upon pursuing "pleasure," that they could not be induced to consider diet until they had lost their health. Then they get alarmed and become teetotalers or Vegetarians, or both, and the opponents of these reforms pointed to their weak appearance as a strong argument against the adoption of the new course. Thus the good habits were blamed for the ill-health which had been produced before those good habits had been adopted. Let no one be deceived by this false logic, but examine our case fully and impartially. She had no doubt of the conclusion which would then be arrived at.

At the meeting of the Society, Nov. 27th, Mr. Robert Jones lectured on "The Reformed Diet and the Land Question." After demonstrating the sufficiency and the aesthetic beauty of the new diet, he proceeded to show that food reform was inseparably connected with land reform. If there were a greater demand for fruits, grains, and vegetables, much of the land now used for sheep and cattle runs would be put under cultivation. Only a few men were required on the land, if used for pastoral purposes; but if it were cultivated, a very much larger number would be employed. This demand for labour in the country would certainly lead to the decentralization of the people, and this would reduce the vice and crime which accompanied the crowding together of the people in the slums of the great cities of cities of the world. Then, the land being thrown open to the people, their Vegetarian diet would enable them to live upon their land almost independently. Mr. Jones incidentally referred to the late Dock Strike remarking how much more powerful the labourers would be, if on the occasion of a strike, they were prepared to subsist on a Vegetarian diet, which could be made to be incredibly cheap. Being thus enabled to sustain a much longer struggle than they could on an expensive flesh diet, they would have a far greater chance of getting their grievances redressed, and their employers would be more chary of provoking a dispute.

On the 29th Jan., 1890, Mr. John Dun read a paper entitled "The Food Question in the Voluntary Socialisms of America. Mr. Dun said that the character of a community was determined by the character of the units which composed it. Given a society which had maintained a certain character for, say, twenty-five years, we might safely infer that the individuals in it also possessed that character. Now, Vegetarianism was said to produce certain qualities in an individual. Granted this to be a fact, then, if we took some communities making these very qualities their aim, and found the members adopting dietetic habits tending to Vegetarianism, we might safely conclude that the reformed diet had just claims to our consideration. Mr. Dun then entered into an examination of the habits of the Bible Communists, Shakers, and others. He showed that all members of these societies were total abstainers, and most of them were Vegetarians and non-smokers as well. Among the Shakers, "Elder Evans" had by hygienic measures almost banished sickness and drugs. His dictum was, "No man has right to be ill before the age of sixty. The Shakers had been in existence for about one hundred years and numbered about four thousand. The Rappists and Bible Communists were also very simple in their habits, and many of them were Vegetarians. Past efforts to realise a higher life had partaken of the nature of a dreary struggle between the spirit and the flesh. This was due to certain obstacles, and the tendency of the evidence he had produced was favourable to the inference that a scientific diet reduces these obstacles to a minimum.

Besides these regular monthly meetings, many open-air meetings have been held on Sunday afternoons at Studley Park. Total abstinence and Vegetarianism have been strongly advocated at these meetings by several of our members, particularly by Mr. Geo. Hughes to whom belongs the credit of having originated these open-air meetings. Mr. Hughes is continually engaged in giving temperance lectures, and never loses an opportunity of saying a word in favour of our principles.

The committee feel that the best thanks of this society are due to the London Vegetarian Society for a generous donation of literature which arrived here last year. This literature has been distributed at the close of public meetings and otherwise. The committee note with pleasure the election of the Rev. J. Higgins, one of the original founders of this society, to a vice-presidency of the Parent Society, Manchester, England. - Mr. Lang moved, and Mr. Hughes seconded, that the report be adopted. Carried unanimously.

The folliwng ladies and gentlemen were then elected office-bearers for the ensuing year.:- President: Mr. Robert Jones; vice-presidents: Rev. J. Higgins and Mrs. E. Harvie; members of committee: Miss E. Jones, Miss F. E Samuel, Mrs. F. W. Debney, Mr. J. Dun, and Mr. F. W. Debney. - By an oversight the name of Thomas Lang, the first secretary of the society, was not read out as a proposed members of committee. Wishing to see one of the vice-presidents a lady, he proposed Mrs. Harvie for the position which he occupied, and the necessity of proposing him as a member of committee was overlooked.


Dr. £ s. d. | Cr. £ s. d.
To contributions and Subscriptions 29 14 4 | By Balance from 1888 0 12 6
        | By Printing, &c. 8 4 11
        | By Rent of Rooms 5 15 0
        | By Advertisements 4 6 4
        | By Postage, &c. 4 9 8
        | By Secretary's Salary 3 10 0
        | Entertainment in February last 2 2 2
        | By Stationery 0 8 9


| By Balance in hand 0
Total 29 14 4 Total 29 14 4

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), October 1890, p285:

Vegetarianism in Australia. - The new journal, Progress, has not hitherto been able to pay its way. Subscriptions will be gratefully received by the editor, Mr. R. Jones, Carlton Grammar School, near Melbourne.