Vegan Society Australia
The following article was sent by Edgar Crook, Australia:
The first Australian Vegetarian Society was formed in Melbourne on June 16 1886. The Society published a constitution and manifesto, but sadly, neither of these appear to exist anymore in Australia. The object of founding the Society was to provide information on the subject and to 'induce habits of abstinence from the use of fish, flesh, and fowl as food. The constitution was seemingly extremely close to that of the British vegetarian Society to which some of the founders had previously been members.
Members of the Society were expected to abstain completely from all flesh foods whilst those who were supportive but who felt they could not abstain completely were allowed to join as associates. One of the first associates was the prominent South Australian parliamentarian, doctor and Bible Christian the Hon Dr Allan Campbell MLC.
The inaugural meeting of the Society was held at 41 Little Collins Street in central Melbourne at Australias first vegetarian restaurant Mrs Harvies Vegetarian Dining Room, and according to William Terry a leading Melbourne spiritualist it ended with a hearty vegetarian feast:
The founding members of the Vegetarian Society were an active and well connected group of individuals. The leadership and general membership were mainly made up of religious and teetotal men. There would have been female members but apart from a Miss Jones who was a membership secretary in the 1890s, they do not appear to taken any leadership positions.
The first president of the Society was the Rev. John Higgins (1819-1895) a Wesleyan Methodist Minister originally from Ireland who had arrived in Melbourne in 1875. He was for many years chaplain to Melbourne Goal, local hospitals and Benevolent Asylums. He promoted vegetarianism prolifically by public speaking and in the press both in Australia and Britain.
The first Secretary of the Society was Thomas Lang, a vegetarian since 1843 and like many Melbourne vegetarians also an active member of the Victorian Association of Progressive Spiritualists. Lang was a successful businessman and proprietor of Thomas Lang and Companies, nurserymen, seedsmen, and florists, which given the need for many vegetarians at that time to grow their own food would have been very handy. Lang introduced many varieties of vegetables onto the Australian market thereby diversifying the diet of many a willing vegetarian. Lang was also an early associate of the leading British vegetarian Sir Isaac Pitman, whose brother Jacob resided in Melbourne, and with which he shared many views including that of spelling reform.
Robert Jones the Society's second President, was in fact what we would now call a vegan. He had become vegetarian and then vegan only a couple of years before the formation of the Society. Like Lang and Higgins, he was an active propagandist for the cause and a very religious man. As he was also a member of total abstention societies he was able to bring an awareness of vegetarianism and its benefits to those organisations. A speech of his on the subject being printed by the Vegetarian Society in Manchester as well as in Melbourne.
In the years following formation the membership of the Vegetarian Society met monthly. The meetings seemingly where designed primarily for raising publicity to promote the diet. From the records existing, most meetings seemed to feature largely the giving of testimonies by vegetarians as to their health and longevity due to the diet. One such example was the testimony of a Mr G. S. Bowden, given at the second annual meeting in Feb. 1888, who stated that he worked at sheep shearing for 3 months on a diet of cabbage and potatoes and was not inconvenienced in any way but remained in fact hale and strong. Whilst he also reported he had a friend similarly healthy who worked at a sawmill only on a diet of rice, peas and porridge.
Unfortunately we can know little of the other membership as no records, membership lists or other administrative materials exist. However we know the Society was still extant ten years later in 1896 as Ellen White, leader of the Seventh day Adventists who settled in Australia, reported that the Society was still extant but that its numbers were comparatively few. There was however enough numbers for the creation of a childrens group called the Wattle Blossoms, which probably acted similarly to the British Vegetarian Societys childrens group called the Daisy Society.
Around 1900 the Vegetarian Society of Victoria, which we must assume was the same body with a name change published a booklet entitled Rational Food, so we know they existed into the next century. The name change may have been prompted by the fact that they may have wanted to distinguish themselves from the other Vegetarian Society which had been running from 1891 in Sydney.
The NSW Society based in Sydney was founded on July 20 1891. Their only known published work in Australia is The Vegetarian : the Organ of the New South Wales Vegetarian Society of which only the first issue dated March 1896 is available.
Irrespective of the paucity of its printed record, this Society was seemingly very successful and...