1. “…To tell a man, who is in the stocks for a given fault, that he cannot so be confined for such an offence, is ridiculous enough; but not more so than to tell a healthy vegetarian that his diet is very uncongenial with the wants of his nature, and contrary to reason”.
The Healthian, April 1842.
The above excerpt was located by H.B. Amos (1869-1946) during the 1900’s. The historian also wrote that:
“To some it may seem a small matter to spend time in trying to “track down” the actual authorship of the word “vegetarian,” and, in one sense, it is of very little moment, it is true. At the same time, as the word has entered so definitely into the current coin of the language of the realm, it is only fair that the matter should be followed up and honour given where it may be due – if it can be done. But having said this, I must confess that though I have spent considerable time recently in ransacking in the British Museum the literature of the period, I have been unable to carry the word further back than 1842. This, however, is five years before the formation of the Vegetarian Society. On the occasion referred to it appears in the Healthian, for April, a magazine published monthly, and dealing with “Human Physiology, Diet and Regimen.” The word is used in a perfectly formal and natural manner, so that it is evident it was in regular use before that date.”
From: The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, July, 1907.
2. The inside cover of The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review contained the following definition, until the 1950’s:
“Vegetarianism (V.E.M.) – That is, the practice of living on the products of the Vegetable kingdom, with or without the addition of Eggs and of Milk and its products (butter and cheese), to the exclusion of fish, flesh and fowl.”
3. A distinction nonetheless existed between the values of the two movements which would eventually lead to friction:
In a letter to The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review of April 1933, entitled “Food-Reform v. Vegetarianism”, Rev. J.W. Bishop wrote that:
“The Food-Reform idea is certainly taking hold of the people, and doctors are evidently coming to the conclusion that its adoption will prevent much sickness and senile decay.
Vegetarian and food-reform propagandists seem, however, to have arrived at the parting of the ways, and instead of putting on a bold attitude towards the difficulties of the situation, compromise is suggested. Some of us think this is a great pity as it will eventually cut away the primary motive of vegetarian practice, which is not only to preserve health but to prevent needless suffering and death…
Food-reform says take less meat, but there is no need to face inconvenience when friends pay visits or when on holiday. Taking the middle course is but dallying with the real issue!”
Rev. Bishop’s observations were endorsed in subsequent letters which nonetheless called for caution against any moves which might constitute the “excommunication” of food reformers. For:
“We are in a hopeless minority; and it is well to recognise the fact…
“Food-reform, essentially, has nothing whatever to do with vegetarianism. It is the outcome of investigations into the physiological effects of various foods on the human body. It cannot be said to be ethical in aim, except in so far as the proper nurture of the body comes within the scope of a rational system of ethics.”
A. W. Perris
The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, May 1933
“Vegetarianism, in fact, cannot consistently dissociate itself from the larger humanitarian movement whose aim is justice for both man and beast”.
The Vegetarian Society took an official line which recommended that:
“There is so much that is of common interest to both parties that there should be mutual co-operation for the advancement of true food reform, whatever label may be affixed to the parties concerned”.
The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, June 1933.
However, a contributor to a leading food reform publication of the time epitomised their position:
“For close on thirty years I have been engaged in advocating food reform and for one vegetarian who has grasped the root principle of integrity in food I have met fifty who did not”.
Healthy Life, May 1933
The dispute resurfaced in the November 1945 edition of Health for All when a writer asserted that:
“Most vegetarians do not understand the basic principles of diet reform”.
In a reply to subsequent, vegetarian detractors the author focussed upon “so-called Diet Reform Guest Houses” – which seemingly exemplified a widespread grievance held amongst food reformers of the period:
“Many people, like myself, have had holidays ruined by having food served at such places which completely undermines digestion and general well-being, on the pretext that what is being served is pure “Diet Reform” merely because it is meatless. Honestly, I feel I can say without the slightest exaggeration that the food served at some Vegetarian Guest Houses is appalling, and the people who serve such meals should be heartily ashamed of themselves; instead of which they brazenly acclaim themselves as “Diet Reform Guest Houses!” What impudence!”
The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, February 1946
In 1953 The Food Reformer’s Yearbook became The Vegetarian Handbook. However the title became The Vegetarian Health Food Handbook in 1975 – reflecting a correlation which remains prevalent between meat-abstention and avoidance.
4. Dr. Oldfield had also served as an Editor of the London Vegetarian Society/Vegetarian Federal Union publication The Vegetarian during the 1890’s.
5. The first mention in the New English Dictionary referred to the Natural Food Magazine, February 1893.
6. The Society went without mention in The Food Reformer’s Yearbook which was published at various stages during the first half of the twentieth century.
However, the journals of The Vegetarian Society contained occasional notices of Fruitarian Society events; such as a series of lectures given by Dr. Oldfield, in 1919, from the O.G.A. Headquarters.
During the 1930’s and 40’s, Dr. Oldfield contributed regular essays to The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review. However the only epithet adopted by The Fruitarian Society President was that of Earnshaw Cooper Lecturer in Dietics to the Lady Margaret Hospital.
7. In a subsequent pamphlet entitled; ” FRUITARIANISM – a treatise on the diet question” – Dugald Semple maintained his vegan terms of reference. The tract also contained a few interesting theological reflections:
“An excuse for meat-eating is often found in the Bible, the place of refuge for many who would rather evade a guilty conscience. Even enlightened theologians – if such there be – who object to Mosaism in other things, will defend meat-eating upon the score of the Jews. It is not my intention to quote the Bible in favour of Fruitarianism, although a strong case can be
established, but rather to appeal to the universal instinct of humaneness existing in all truly cultured peoples. To say that flesh-eating is right because it is permitted by the Bible, when your own conscience condemns it, is simply to confess that your religious creed is worse than your own morality.
The Bible is a book dealing with spiritual principles which are in no wise opposed to the practice of an altruistic dietary, which aims at a healthy body in a healthy mind, and all in a healthy soul.”
(From the second edition published in 1913)
In the early 1921 the London Vegetarian Society published a leaflet entitled: “Fruitarianism by Maurice Knaggs” – which also extolled the merits of “…unfired and sun-cooked” plant foods. The tract was revised and re-issued a decade later by the Friends Vegetarian Society.
8. It was not the first occasion upon which The Vegetarian Society found itself in diametric disagreement with Dr. Oldfield’s assertions. A review of an anthological title which was published in 1902 by the O.G.A. – “Essays of the Golden Age by Josiah Oldfield, M.A., D.C.L., L.R.C.P.” – contained the following conclusions:
“…In the essay entitled ‘Aristopagy’ – eating of the best – Dr. Oldfield institutes a most unhappy comparison. ‘Aristophagy – the eating only of the best,’ he says, ‘is like aristocracy, confined to the few. . . few – only a few – are fitted to enter the narrow gate of the sacrificial fold, and who being so fitted will be able to see the beauty of the land of promise.’ To us there is nothing in vegetarianism to suggest the ‘sacrificial fold,’ and if we thought that there were few who were fitted to become vegetarians we should certainly not devote time and money to the propagation of vegetarianism. Our whole propaganda is based on a belief that vegetarianism is suitable for all, and that it would be to the mental, moral and physical advantage of everyone to be vegetarian.”
The Vegetarian Messenger, February 1902.
9. Similarly, a review of O.G.A. publications in the 1920’s, commented on Dr. Oldfield’s manual; “A Popular Guide to Fruitarian Diet and Cookery” –
“Fruitarian” is evidently a very elastic term, for it appears to include eggs (a weird fruit this!) cheese and potatoes…”
Science of Thought Review, September, 1923.
10. Royal Tea – Time Magazine, November 9, 1931
The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review are used with the kind permission of The Vegetarian Society