International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

History of the Australian Vegetarian Societies

Australia 1892

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), February 1892, pp52-53:

Australia Advancing. - We have received some welcome letters and news from the Antipodes. Mr. Thos. Lang, formerly hon. sec. of the Australian Society, in a pleasant, chatty letter, says: "Our mutual friend, Rev. J. Higgins, took tea with me last night. I almost hugged him in my arms, I was so glad to see him. He is a kind, sensible, tolerant man. We both congratulated ourselves on the progress made by the Vegetarian Society of Australia since we started it. We both feel that we are shut out to a certain extent by the younger and more energetic workers, but that was to be expected, and we are both pleased to see the movement carried on by such good hands. I am only 76 last birthday, but am sorry to be removed so soon from the many important movements that are at present troubling the face of human nature."

It is but a short time since we received one of Mr. Higgins' genial letters, with a request for further supplies of literature, which he delights to read and make his own, and then pass on to others. He was the first president of the Australian Society, and, like Mr. Lang, is very warmly interested in the welfare of the movement. He says:- " There is considerably more willingness in these parts than was some years ago to hear and read about Vegetarianism. Many of my acquaintances have diminshed their proportion of flesh food. Doctors have taken up the cry, 'Don;t eat too much flesh!' In the interior, I fear, however, many, and even the very young, still devour much flesh. Among our colonial animolies is one which some of us are very anxious to have recitfied. There is a superabundant amount of most excellent fruit grown up country, a large proportion of which goes to loss, or worse than loss, it is used to feed pigs. Quantities literally rot for want of being picked off the ground under the trees. That the growers neglect them because they prefer to eat mutton, pork, &c., is not the worst. When asked why they do not send them to market, they say it would not pay - price low, carriage high - and yet in Melbourne fruit is so dear as to be an expensive luxury. The middleman stints the grower, mulets the consumer - preys upon both. This has been exposed in the newspapers. The retailer in town finds his advantage in keeping fruit scarce and dear. Turning over such small quantities at large profits suits his purposes. I hope all this will be changed ere long. Prejudice and politics hinder reform. It is good, however, to have some of the prominent doctors advising more fruit and less flesh."

Mr. Robert Jones, who has succeeded the Rev. John Higgins in the office of president, sends a few lines to let us know how they are getting on: "We have during the last six or eight months been visiting debating and temperance societies, giving addresses and conducting debates, and have thus disseminated our principles far and wide. We get a new audience every time, and, of course, have nothing to pay for hall. This saving enables us to distribute gratis a good deal of literature - seed which will some day produce its harvest." Mr. Jones added to his numerous duties during the past year the task of preparing the examination papers for the competitive examination in temperance physiology, arranged by the large Total Abstinence Society in Melbourne, and in recognition of this service has been elected to the honour of life membership of that influential organisation. Good for the Vegetarians!

Miss E. A. Jones, the present honorary secretary of the society, sent with a letter two papers, one containing a leader on Vegetarianism, supporting our principles fully. The other paper, Health and Home, will include among other items a page of Vegetarian information in each issue. In her letter Miss Jones says:- "Our society is not very strong, numerically, but I am continually receiving letters from people either asking for information or expressing their sympahty with the cause." Referring to the people who have attended the the meetings they have been holding she says: "Amongst them we had a great many opponents, but we also had a great many sympathisers, the majority of the former even allowed that, as a nation, Australians eat a great deal more meat than is beneficial. A good deal of interest in the subject has been awakened by the debates."

We may congratulate our Antipodean cousins and ourselves on the decided advance that has been made over the years in the intelligent interest given to the question. And to our congratulations we add hearty good wishes for the continued success, and bid them in their own words, "Advance Australia." - Joseph Knight [Vegetarian Society secretary]

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), June 1892, p187:

Melbourne Vegetarian Society. - From the annual report of the Vegetarian Society of Melbourne [sic - this is surely still the VegSoc of Australia, based in Melbourne, with the British editor getting a little confused now there was also a NSW VegSoc...] we learn that the experiment proposed last year of abolishing all the offices except those of secretary and treasurer has worked well. The hope was that more of the members would take an active part in the affairs of the society if no one were held specially responsible. The result has been that several members who had not previously taken part in the work of the society have presided over meetings, and have given addresses. The Melbourne society has recently altered its plans of operations somewhat. Instead of holding monthly meetings of its members, it meets only once a quarter in the city, but sends out its active members to various debating and temperance societies in the city and suburbs, to deliver addresses and conduct debates on food reform. It thus succeeds in securing a very wide dissemination of the question. The balance sheet of the society shows an income of £18 1s. 1d., and a expenditure of £16 15s. 9d.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), July 1892, p215-216:

Victoria. - At a meeting of the Vegetarian Society of Victoria [sic - the editor seems to be even more confused], held in the open air on the eastern shore of Prt Phillip, on 12th March, 1892, under the chairmanship of Mr. Robert Jones, Mr. B. S. Hassell, formerly of Ballarat, and now of Kent, Emgland, was elected as honorary member of the society. Mr. Hassell became a Vegetarian some twenty years ago, acting on the advice of his friend Professor Newman.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), November 1892, p339:

Victoria.- Mr. Thomas Bury ("Tom Touchstone") writes from Ballarat, 29th August: " I get the Vegetarian Messenger regularly every month, and I find it very useful and interesting. We have started a Vegetarian Society here and are making arrangements for a Vegetarian restaurant. Numbers of the people seem to be losing their old hankering after the flesh-pots of Egypt, and are going for Egytpian lentils instead. I sincerely hope the good cause is advancing in Great Britain, for food reform is the foundation of all reform. A man can reform his own diet without an Act of Parliament, but he cannot so reform the land laws and labour customs etc.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), November 1892, p339:

Australia. - The Vegetarian Society of Australia held a public meeting in the new Vegetarian restaurant, Russell Street, Melbourne, on August 18. mr. John Dun delivered an address in criticism of dietetic reform, advocating a diet of fruit and nuts, "which contain all the elements of nutrition and leave no injurious effects behind." A letter was read from Mr. Hassall acknowledging the compliment the Society had paid him by electing him an honorary member.