The Herald of the Golden Age, July, 1911.
It would appear that Beard was ultimately unable to attune with a mass-consciousness which would remain very much grounded in the ways of the world; whether religion was embraced by the populace or otherwise. (21) Nonetheless, it would be unfair to appropriate the demise of The Order to the occasional, if wayward, predictions of perhaps its most dedicated and inspirational personality. The O.G.A. realised at the outset that; “Each member must become a centre of influence.” (22) Moreover, Beard had clearly cautioned that:
“The joy of seeing a great cause carried to victory will be experienced only in proportion to the personal effort and self sacrifice we have each made on behalf of the same.”
The Herald of the Golden Age, December, 1898.
The Order were at no stage a “one-man-band” yet followed the form of many similar enterprises, whereby around 97% of the endeavour stemmed from 3% of the membership.
A wider appraisal of the status which the vegetarian movement had attained by the 1920’s is also revealing:
“The appeal to human compassion in the matter of the treatment of animals, though logically cogent, has been made with very little success even in this country, where the sentiment of kindness towards animals is strongly developed, as compared with that of other European peoples…”
And the most likely reason..?
“…public opinion is too lax on the question and custom is too strong to have allowed the matter to be fairly discussed. The truth is, an enormous majority of people are too much under the yoke of custom to be awake to the moral appeal.“
Vegetarianism by E. Lyttelton from The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 1921.
The general deprivation which followed the First World War was unable to instil any voluntary or national shift away from the consumption of animal products. A similar situation prevailed in the years which followed the Second World War and led the editor of an independent vegetarian journal to remark:
“There are two publications issued from London and Manchester – nice, quiet little brochures which frankly cut no ice, and are never seen outside the narrow confines of the society membership.” (23)
The Vegetarian, Winter 1949.
The leader went on to declare that “…the vegetarian movement is as dead as the proverbial Dodo” – a situation strenuously denied by The (Manchester) Vegetarian Society at the time. Yet The Vegetarian believed that the lifestyle:
“…lacks a wide, general interest because its appeal is on the monotonous level of health and food, whereas moral and spiritual values are the only ones that really matter – who cares a button whether they would be slightly more healthy or not on a vegetarian diet, when they can look around and see meat-eaters in the best of health?”
However the moral and spiritual approach, or rather its embodiment, in the form of The Order of the Golden Age – was rarely receiving a mention within vegetarian journals, or yearbooks, at the time of Sidney Hartnoll Beard’s death in 1938.
Yet it would be a mistake to dismiss the ideals of The Order of the Golden Age merely on the basis of their failure to impact upon a particular era. By way of comparison, it is interesting to note the reasons which were given by The Humanitarian League for their own demise in 1919, after twenty-eight years. Reasons which would be considered remarkable had they been expressed by any kindred organisation towards the end of the twentieth century. For the League concluded that in contrast to animal welfare the philosophical claim of rights was “…much less popular, and will receive comparatively slender support.”
“…a society like ours which can hold out no allurements to the youthful or to the ambitious mind, has failed to prove attractive to the younger generation.”
The Humanitarian, April, 1919.
Henry Salt and his associates had no inclination to observe the League “being carried on in a feeble or ineffectual manner” (Ibid.). It may have been a tactful discernment of the receptivity of their times. Yet the secular ideals of the Humanitarian League were to readily re-emerge with the formation of the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports in 1924. (24) Whereas the gradual demise of the O.G.A. was to leave a vacuum in religious vegetarian campaigning which would remain until the rise of the modern animal rights movement, of the 1970’s.
A final selection of O.G.A. publications were issued in the early 1950’s, at the behest of their most prominent surviving member. As one of the last remaining links to the Victorian era of Food Reform however, Dr. Josiah Oldfield had long-since chosen to diversify in his campaigning approach …