Vegetarian Society

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Vegetarian Society
Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom
Vegetarian Society logo.svg
Interior of Northwood Villa, where the Vegetarian Society was founded in 1847
Formation30 September 1847;172 years ago (1847-09-30)
Founded at Ramsgate, England
Merger ofLondon Vegetarian Society
Manchester Vegetarian Society
Type Charity
Registration no.259358
Legal statusCharity
Purpose Vegetarianism
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
MethodsInformation, support
Vegetarian Society Approved
Vegetarian Society approved logo.png
The Vegetarian Society Approved trademark is the UK's most widely recognised vegetarian symbol.
Effective regionFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Product categoryThe approved product or food has undergone stringent checks to meet our vegetarian criteria.
Legal statusRecognised by consumers

The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom is a British registered charity which was established on 30 September 1847 to promote vegetarianism.



Society notice (1890) Vegetarian Society.jpg
Society notice (1890)
Francis William Newman (1805-1897), Isaac Pitman (1813-1897), William Gibson Ward (1819-1882), and John Davie (1800-1891), leading members of the Vegetarian Society Leading members of the Vegetarian Society.png
Francis William Newman (1805–1897), Isaac Pitman (1813–1897), William Gibson Ward (1819–1882), and John Davie (1800–1891), leading members of the Vegetarian Society

In the 19th century a number of groups in Britain actively promoted and followed meat-free diets. Key groups involved in the formation of the Vegetarian Society were members of the Bible Christian Church, supporters of the Concordium, and readers of the Truth-Tester journal. [1]

Bible Christian Church

The Bible Christian Church was founded in 1809 in Salford by Reverend William Cowherd after a split from the Swedenborgians. One distinctive feature of the Bible Christians was a belief in a meat-free diet, or ovo-lacto vegetarianism, as a form of temperance. [2] [3]

Concordium (Alcott House)

The Concordium was a boarding school near London on Ham Common, Richmond, Surrey, which opened in 1838. Pupils at the school followed a diet completely free of animal products, known today as a vegan diet. The Concordium was also called Alcott House, in honor of American education and food reform advocate Amos Bronson Alcott. [1]

Truth-Tester and Physiological Conference, 1847

The Truth-Tester was a journal which published material supporting the temperance movement. In 1846 the editorship was taken over by William Horsell, operator of the Northwood Villa Hydropathic Institute in Ramsgate. Horsell gradually steered the Truth-Tester towards promotion of the 'Vegetable Diet'. In early 1847 a letter to the Truth-Tester proposed the formation of a Vegetarian Society. In response to this letter, William Oldham held what he called a "physiological conference" in July 1847 at Alcott House. Up to 130 attended, including Bible Christian James Simpson, who presented a speech. The conference passed a number of resolutions, including a resolution to reconvene at the end of September. [1]

Ramsgate Conference, 1847

On 30 September 1847 the meeting which had been planned at the Physiological Conference took place at Northwood Villa Hydropathic Institute in Ramsgate. [4] Joseph Brotherton, Member of Parliament for Salford, and a Bible Christian chaired. Bible Christian James Simpson was elected president of the society, Concordist William Oldham elected treasurer, and Truth-Tester editor William Horsell elected secretary. [5] The name 'Vegetarian Society' was chosen for the new organisation by a unanimous vote. [4]

After Ramsgate

The Vegetarian Society's first full public meeting was held in Manchester the following year. In 1853 it already had 889 members. The society made available publications on the topic sometimes accompanied by lectures. [6] In 1897 its membership was about 5,000. [7]

Manchester and London Vegetarian Society

In 1888, a split-off group from the Vegetarian Society formed known as the London Vegetarian Society (LVS). [8] After this, the Vegetarian Society was often referred to as the Manchester Vegetarian Society (MVS). Relations between the two groups were strained because of their differences over the definition of vegetarianism. [9]

Francis William Newman was President of the Manchester Vegetarian Society, 1873–1883. [9] He made an associate membership possible for people who were not completely vegetarian, such as those who ate chicken or fish. [8] Newman was critical of raw food vegetarianism which he rejected as fanatical. [8] Between 1875-1896 membership for the Vegetarian Society was 2,159 and associate membership 1,785. [8] Newman believed that abstinence from meat, fish and fowl should be the only thing the Society advocates and the Society should not be associated with other reform ideas. [8] [10] Under Newman's Presidency the Society flourished as income, associates and members increased. [10] In regard to the associate membership, Newman commented:

It occurs to me to ask whether certain grades of profession might not be allowed within our Society, which would give to it far greater material support, enable it to circulate its literature, and at the same time retain the instructive spectacle of a select band of stricter feeders... Yet, as our Society is at present (1871) constituted, all those friendly are shut out... But if they entered as Associates in the lowest grade... they might be drawn on gradually, and would swell our funds, without which we can do nothing. [10]

The first President of the London Vegetarian Society was raw foodist Arnold Hills, and other members included Thomas Allinson and Mahatma Gandhi. [9] Members of the LVS were more radical than the original Manchester Society. [8]

If anybody said that I should die if I did not take beef tea or mutton, even on medical advice, I would prefer death. That is the basis of my vegetarianism.

Mahatma Gandhi, to the London Vegetarian Society on 20 November 1931 [11]

In 1969, the Manchester and London Vegetarian Society amalgamated as the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom. [9] Historian Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska has noted that "against the background of growing concern about the environment, animal rights, and food safety the society has flourished in recent decades." [12]


The Vegetarian Society first published The Vegetarian Messenger (1849–1860). It became The Dietetic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger (1861–1897), The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review (1898–1952), The Vegetarian (1953–1958) and The British Vegetarian (1959–1971). [13] [14]

Current work

During the 20th century, the Society's work focused primarily on public education. In fulfilling this mission, the Society worked with other community groups to educate the public about the benefits of eating healthily. The Vegetarian Society also participated in political events, as a pressure group with the aim of influencing food producers to remove non-vegetarian ingredients such as gelatine or cheese produced using animal rennet from their products. They sought manufacturers to become accredited and marked food products with the Society's trademarked seedling symbol. [15] This accreditation includes the use of free range eggs, which other V symbols may not include. Their campaign was opposed to the labeling of products as vegetarian that contained fish. This action particularly affected restaurants. They also highlighted celebrities who claimed to be vegetarian but ate fish. As part of this campaign, in 1995, the Society produced the documentary Devour the Earth , written by Tony Wardle and narrated by Paul McCartney.[ citation needed ]

Notable members

Notable members of the Vegetarian Society have included Peter Cushing, Henry Stephens Salt, Isaac Pitman, Jorja Fox, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Paul, Linda and Stella McCartney, and Jerome Flynn.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

An ovo-lacto vegetarian or lacto-ovo vegetarian is a vegetarian who consumes some animal products, such as eggs and dairy. Unlike pescatarians, they do not consume fish or other seafood. A typical ovo-lacto vegetarian diet may include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, roots, fungi, milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, and eggs.

Veganism Practice of abstaining from eating or otherwise using animal products

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegan. Distinctions may be made between several categories of veganism. Dietary vegans refrain from consuming meat, eggs, dairy products, and any other animal-derived substances. An ethical vegan is someone who not only follows a vegan diet but extends the philosophy into other areas of their lives, and opposes the use of animals for any purpose. Another term is "environmental veganism", which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.

Vegetarianism Practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat

Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat, and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter.

Lacto vegetarianism Vegetarian diet that includes dairy products

A lacto-vegetarian diet is a diet that includes vegetables as well as dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ghee, cream, and kefir.

Francis William Newman English scholar and writer

Francis William Newman was an English classical scholar and moral philosopher, miscellaneous writer and vegetarianism activist. He was the younger brother of Cardinal Newman.

Christian vegetarianism is the practice of keeping to a vegetarian lifestyle for reasons connected to or derived from the Christian faith. The three primary reasons are spiritual, nutritional, and ethical. The ethical reasons may include a concern for God's creation, a concern for animal rights and welfare, or both. Likewise, Christian veganism is the abstaining from the use of all animal products for reasons connected to or derived from the Christian faith.

History of vegetarianism

The earliest records of vegetarianism as a concept and practice amongst a significant number of people are from ancient India, especially the Jains, and the ancient Greek civilizations in southern Italy and Greece. In both instances, the diet was closely connected with the idea of nonviolence toward animals, and was promoted by religious groups and philosophers.

Eustace Miles Real tennis player

Eustace Hamilton Miles was a British real tennis player who competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics, restaurateur, and a diet guru who made his name selling health products and health advice to Edwardian Britons.

William Alcott American physician and author

William Andrus Alcott, also known as William Alexander Alcott, was an American educator, educational reformer, physician, vegetarian and author of 108 books. His works, which include a wide range of topics including educational reform, physical education, school house design, family life, and diet, are still widely cited today.

William Axon British librarian and antiquarian

William Edward Armytage Axon was an English librarian, antiquary and journalist for the Manchester Guardian. He contributed to the Dictionary of National Biography under his initials W. E. A. A. He was also a notable vegetarianism activist.

Alcott House in Ham, Surrey, was the home of a utopian spiritual community and progressive school which lasted from 1838 to 1848. Supporters of Alcott House, or the Concordium, were a key group involved in the formation of the Vegetarian Society in 1847.

The Bible Christian Church was a Christian vegetarian sect founded by William Cowherd in North West England in 1809. To join the church, members had to sign a pledge that committed them to a vegetarian diet and abstention from alcohol. Followers of Cowherd's ideas were commonly known as Bible Christians or "Cowherdites." Cowherd was one of the philosophical forerunners of the Vegetarian Society founded in 1847.

Jewish vegetarianism

Jewish vegetarianism is a commitment to vegetarianism that is connected to Judaism, Jewish ethics or Jewish identity. Jewish vegetarians often cite Jewish principles regarding animal welfare, environmental ethics, moral character, and health as reasons for adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.

William Lambe English physician and vegetarian

William Lambe, FRCP was an English physician and pioneer of vegetarianism.

Asenath Nicholson social observer and philanthropist (1792–1855)

Asenath Hatch Nicholson was an American vegan, social observer and philanthropist. She wrote at first hand about the Great Hunger in Ireland in the 1840s. She observed the famine as she distributed bibles, food, and clothing.

Russell Thacher Trall American writer (1812-1877)

Russell Thacher Trall was an American physician and proponent of hydrotherapy, natural hygiene and vegetarianism. Trall authored the first American vegan cookbook in 1874.

<i>Ten Talents</i> (cookbook) Vegan cookbook, first published 1968

Ten Talents is a vegetarian and vegan cookbook originally published in 1968 by Rosalie Hurd and Frank J. Hurd. At the time, it was one of the few resources for vegetarian and vegan cooks. The cookbook promotes Christian vegetarianism and a Bible-based diet, in keeping with teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By 1991, the 750-recipe cookbook was entering its 44th printing and had sold more than 250,000 copies. An expanded edition with more than 1,000 recipes was issued in 2012.

William Horsell Horsell, William (1807–1863), promoter of vegetarianism

William Horsell was an English hydrotherapist, publisher and vegetarianism activist. Horsell published the first vegan cookbook in 1849.

Josiah Oldfield English lawyer, physician, and writer on health

Josiah Oldfield M.A., D.C.L., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P was an English lawyer, physician and promoter of his own variant of fruitarianism which was virtually indistinguishable from lacto-ovo vegetarianism.

<i>Figs or Pigs?</i> 1896 treatise on Vegetarianism by James Madison Allen

Figs or Pigs? is an 1896 manual on vegetarianism and fruitarianism compiled by James Madison Allen, which contains observations from the author, as well as numerous quotations from eminent authors and authorities.


  1. 1 2 3 Davis, John (28 July 2011). "The Origins of the "Vegetarians"". International Vegetarian Union.
  2. "The Vegetarian Movement in England 1847-1981". Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  3. John Davis. "A History of Veganism from 1806" (PDF). International Vegetarian Union.
  4. 1 2 "Vegetarian Society - History - The Vegetarian Society". Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  5. Spencer, Colin. Vegetarianism: A History. Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000. p. 238-246.
  6. Newman, Francis William (1904), Lecture on vegetarianism, F. Pitman, retrieved 18 May 2019
  7. Keith Thomas (1984) Man and the natural world changing attitudes in England 1500-1800 , p. 297.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Spencer, Colin. (1995). The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism. University Press of New England. pp. 274-278. ISBN   0-87451-708-7
  9. 1 2 3 4 Puskar-Pasewicz, Margaret. (2010). Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism. ABC-CLIO. pp. 259-260. ISBN   978-0-313-37556-9
  10. 1 2 3 Yeh, Hsin-Yi. (2013). Boundaries, Entities, and Modern Vegetarianism : Examining the Emergence of the First Vegetarian Organization. Qualitative Inquiry 19: 298–309.
  11. In charts: Vegetarianism in India has more to do with caste hierarchy than love for animals,, 6 April 2017.
  12. Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Ina. (2010). Managing the Body: Beauty, Health, and Fitness in Britain 1880-1939. Oxford University Press. p. 337. ISBN   978-0199280520
  13. Newton, David E. (2019). Vegetarianism and Veganism: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 315. ISBN   978-1-4408-6763-7
  14. "The Vegetarian Movement in England, 1847-1981". International Vegetarian Union.