History of Vegetarianism. DFW Vegetarian in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.

History of Vegetarianism

Unfortunately for American health, vegetarianism became a weaker voice than the US government when the USDA published a food guide promoting a diet heavy in meat, eggs, and dairy. By the 1940s Americans prized their animal products as a source of protein and good health.

Although vegetarianism began many thousands of years ago with great minds like Pythagoras, Buddha, Plato, and Plutarch, it was not until the mid-1800s that it reached western civilization.

Vegetarianism can name the Reverend William Cowherd as its founder. Reverend Cowherd's offer of free vegetable soup in the industrial north of England supported the largely poor population there. He built a large congregation of members who vowed not to eat meat.

The word vegetarian is derived from the Latin vegetus which means whole, sound, fresh, lively. The first instance of its use was not found until 1842.

On September 30, 1847, a group in England had the inaugural meeting of the Vegetarian Society. This original group of 140 free-thinking individuals publicly supported meatless eating. Their publication, Vegetarian Messenger, urged people to live and let live.

 

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Although vegetarianism began many thousands of years ago with great minds like Pythagoras, Buddha, Plato, and Plutarch, it was not until the mid-1800s that it reached western civilization.

A disciple of Cowherd's, Reverend William Metcalf, set sail for America in 1817. Influential converts such as Sylvester Graham ( a raw foods enthusiast and originator of the Graham cracker) and Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May Alcott) were joined by other idealists to form the first American Vegetarian Society in 1850. This society took root in times of widespread poverty, alcoholism, and severely corrupted foods.

In the early 1900s, the governments of both Britain and the United States became concerned about the diets of their poor citizens. By the beginning of World War I, scientific research on both side of the Atlantic recognized the severe effects of protein deficiency and touted the rich protein sources of animal flesh, eggs, and dairy.

At the same time, the Vegetarian Messenger began to support a diet free of eggs and dairy, listing both ethical and health objections to the use of these foods.

Unfortunately for American health, vegetarianism became a weaker voice than the US government when the USDA published a food guide promoting a diet heavy in meat, eggs, and dairy. By the 1940s Americans prized their animal products as a source of protein and good health.

In the next two decades in the US:

  • Scientific research promoted obtaining enough of various nutrients including the great god protein.
  • Rural farmers were displaced by factory farms.
  • People became more urbanized and thus, more distanced from their food source.
  • Very little attention was given to the fact that Americans enjoyed nutritional excesses to their detriment and the detriment of their environment and the farm animals which provided those excesses.
  • American food policies included greater and greater subsidies for animal products.
  • The sale of American animal products grew to become the prime focus of the United States Department of Agriculture regardless of the effects of this animal-centered diet on American health.

Farming, beginning in the mid-1950s, focused more on productivity through mechanization. Factory farms were born.

Fortunately for the west, vegetarianism enjoyed more success in England during this time. In November of 1944, a small group of vegetarians led by Donald Wilson (who first coined the word vegan) formed the Vegan Society in London. This group emphasized the moral, spiritual, social, health, and economic advantages of living by humane principles.

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DFW Vegetarian reports on history of vegetarianism.

Dr. Frey Ellis, a vegan medical doctor and consultant hematologist, conducted much of the early research on vegan diets, He showed the scientific world that a vegan diet could be nutritionally adequate. He educated vegans about the necessity of Vitamin B12. He became the president of the Vegan Society in 1964 and led the vegan community as president until his death in 1978.

In 1960 the American Vegan Society was founded in America by Jay Dinshah, whose English wife Freya had been a neighbor of Dr. Ellis. Then, as now, the Society encouraged active participation in the Hindu practice of Ahisma--a Sanskrit term meaning nonharming or noninjuring. The practice of Ahimsa includes avoiding specific foods and products, being considerate of the lives of humans and animals, and actively participating in beneficial action.

The growth of the vegetarian/vegan movement in the US was spurred on by several books (Diet for a Small Planet and Diet for a New America), the Farm, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the growth of local vegetarian societies, and both concern over the treatment of animals and the disastrous effects of animal agriculture on our environment.

As, mounting evidence confirms the nutritional adequacy of well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets, scientific research shows meat and animal-based diets to contribute to, if not directly cause, the chronic diseases, obesity, and general ill-health of Americans.

And you support this. You, by your example and as a member of the Vegetarian Society of DFW, contribute to the fact that the vegetarian time has come!

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