A century later The Order of the Cross continues to advocate the aims and ideals of its founders whilst “On Behalf of the Creatures” by J. Todd Ferrier remains an essential bookshelf title for today’s Christian advocates of vegetarianism. The book was originally published in 1903 by The Order of the Golden Age and entitled; “Concerning Human Carnivorism.” Although the text received minor revision from the author in 1926, the work essentially remains a compilation of essays which were originally published in The Herald of the Golden Age.

Thus establishing a theological connection between the Victorian era of religious Food Reform and the Christian vegetarian campaigning which exists today.

“The Rising Tide of Conviction”

The Order of the Golden Age had barely begun to present their vision of a largely vegetarian Christendom, by 1904.

During 1903, The Herald of the Golden Age was however in a position to feature a three page compilation of Ministerial letters on vegetarianism to local newspapers. The Daily News – a national newspaper of the period – contained a correspondence between Sidney H. Beard and a butcher, towards the Christmas of 1903. In his Editorial Notes for the January 1904 edition of The Herald of the Golden Age the exchange was described by Beard, in the following terms:

“A butcher had written a plausible and fanciful account of the ideal conditions which obtained in his slaughterhouse, and of the kind and gentle treatment which was meted out to the “beasts” which were entrusted to his care, and which, according to his representations, met with an almost enviable release from the troubles of mundane existence.”

Beard’s response which appeared in the 21st December edition of The Daily News was largely a transcript of the eyewitness O.G.A. tract; A Tale of Shame by Dr. Josiah Oldfield. Dr. Oldfield was a Harley Street physician and a recent contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The incidents of haphazard and occupational cruelty which were described in the pamphlet were therefore considered to be reliable. Indeed, subsequent letters from former slaughterhouse workers which appeared in The Daily News were to corroborate Dr. Oldfield’s findings.

The O.G.A. administration became considerably more decisive in 1906, upon publication of The Jungle – an expose by Upton Sinclair which was centred around the Chicago slaughterhouse. The book received extensive serialisation throughout the world’s press and inevitably led to hundreds of enquiries about vegetarianism being received at the O.G.A.’s International Headquarters. The public disdain had arisen mostly from revelations over the repackaging of diseased meat. However The Jungle served to instil a sombre and resolute mood within the O.G.A. itself:

“For many long years the Food-Reformers of this and other lands have been gently proclaiming the truth concerning this matter, and meekly inviting the Clergy and Ministry to condescend to give the subject a few minutes’ thought, and the Movement some slight evidence of their patronage.
“But in view of these revelations that are now made public; that have been, as it were, forced upon the consciousness of all educated persons from the great pulpit of Journalism; the time has come for bolder action.

“Our leaders of thought and our official representatives of Christianity and teachers of Righteousness must be faithfully and bravely, though courteously challenged. They cannot be allowed to ‘sit on the fence’ concerning this great iniquity much longer, and the hour is at hand for them to be compelled to take sides and to declare themselves either as avowed upholders of the butchery business (and therefore prepared to publicly defend it), or as supporters of the Food Reformation.

“During twelve years of active service as a public advocate of Dietic Reform I have upon every possible occasion challenged the carnivorous habit as a transgression against physical and moral law, for humane, hygienic, and ethical reasons, and I have never known a Christian Minister to have sufficient courage to get upon his legs and defend it. Many have come to meetings with the avowed intention of doing so, but on every occasion they have decided to remain silent after listening to facts…
“This is a matter of Right and Wrong, and we must faithfully serve God and Humanity by doing our duty according to the light that has been given us.”
The Herald of the Golden Age,
July, 1906.

A Considerable Coup…?

Perhaps the most interesting development of this period occurred in the months which followed the publication of The Herald of the Golden Age dated January, 1907.

It was an issue of the then quarterly journal which comprised a carefully tailored response to perceived clergy inertia towards humanitarian issues. A copy of the paper was sent to every Bishop, Cardinal and Non-Conformist President; as well as to the Pope and a large number of clergy. A challenge was issued to the ordained to:

“…defend and justify in a convincing manner their position as patrons of the cattle boat and the slaughterhouse.”

The opening article encapsulated both the ideology and the activities of the O.G.A. and concluded:

“It is the Anti-Slavery Movement over again, and our religious leaders cannot long remain neutral – they must take one side or another.”

Later, in that year The Central News agency reported that:

“…it is no longer a secret that the Pope has become a vegetarian.”
Cited in: The Herald of the Golden Age, July, 1907.

The report placed an emphasis on the Pontiff’s recent relief from gout but also revealed that the change in diet had occurred in January of that year.

In commenting on the eventual Vatican disclosure, Beard wrote:

“It is a noteworthy coincidence that a copy of this journal (the issue containing our Ethical Challenge to the Christian Ministry concerning the morality of needless butchery for food) was sent to His Holiness early in January with a personal letter inviting him, most respectfully, but yet most earnestly, to give the matter his most serious consideration.”

The Order of the Golden Age were increasing in ideological momentum and stature, as they looked towards a more influential location.

The Golden Years

The benefit of a legacy and the advantage of an economic downturn enabled the O.G.A. to obtain a lease on prestigious London offices, at 153 & 155 Brompton Road, in 1909. Within a year of their move, Sidney Beard was able to report a “tenfold multiplication” in the influence of the organisation.

“Our propaganda has grown to such an extent that we have the greatest difficulty in keeping pace with the incessant demands that are forthcoming in connection to it; and are often regretfully obliged to forego the utilisation of many opportunities through lack of administrative and clerical workers.”
The Herald of the Golden Age, January, 1910.