International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

4th International Congress 1897
London, England

from The Vegetarian (London), September 25th, 1897:

International Vegetarian Congress

The Last Day.


The proceedings on Friday morning were presided over by Councillor Joseph Malins, the Grand Chief Templar of England. The first paper, by the Hon. Mrs. F. J. Bruce, on " Our Mistakes as Vegetarians," was read, with most humorously interjected disagreements, by Mr. H. L. Bathgate, of Glasgow. Mrs. Bruce so firmly believed that all the good qualities of Vegetarians had already received - from themselves - the fullest meed of acknowledgment, that she was driven, from sheer need of originality, to point to the comical defects of Vegetarians as they appeared to her eyes.


Vegetarians, she objected, were always engaged in active protest, were perpetually self-sufficient, were always asserting that, given Vegetarianism, every virtue must necessarily follow suit. Vegetarians occasionally had, as she knew from personal knowledge of herself, very troublesome tempers, while some carnivoræ were singularly remarkable for the sweetness of theirs. She took exception, further, to the " bloodless" diet, not as a fact but as a term. It conveyed an inuendo, a weapon unworthy of use and even mischievous in its results. The assumption of an acrid attitude was, she considered, an error into which "young" Vegetarians might so easily fall. She well recollected her own proud truculence on first becoming a Vegetarian, her own proneness to speak with pious pity of the carnivora-all the remainder of mankind.


Mrs. Bruce next proceeded, with every anticipation of arousing disagreements verified in the event, to deprecate the "too sweeping condemnation" of those agreeable little indulgences, wine, beer, tobacco, tea, and coffee, which have nothing to do with Vegetarianism, and would therefore be better left unattacked [cries of "No, no" from the audience, and of "I say 'no' too," from the unfortunate victim who was reading the paper].


Now these things, continued the paper, are neither harmful nor degrading to any one if taken in moderation, and when articles appear in the Vegetarian press hotly denouncing their use, the Vegetarian believer frequently thinks them too extreme, while the anti-Vegetarian unbeliever simply laughs at such madness and goeth onwards rejoicing.

Carlyle and his old mother, and Carlyle and Tennyson would sit smoking together in perfect harmony without speaking, and the use of tobacco in moderation was, Mrs. Bruce declared, very good indeed for the temper, was not, as some have asserted, stupefying, and tobacco, in her opinion, certainly does not, as some have imagined, lead to drinking - with all of which sentiments the reader of the paper found himself in helpless disagreement.

To her sister-women, Mrs. Bruce whispered that if they loved their own way, to make war upon tobacco was madness - the masculine breast was never so maleable as under the influence of tobacco. If they wished to "get round" father, brother, or husband, it was wisest to select the propitious moment when a satisfactory pipe-nicely "drawing " - was well under weigh. Although the entire audience might be out-and-out Vegetarians, yet she, the writer of the paper, lived a good deal in the society of non-Vegetarians, with opportunities, therefore, of noting how much harm is done to a good cause by the unwise endeavour to thrust great and small reforms upon the unwilling. The temptation to thrust all one's hobbies, wholesale, upon "the enemy " must he resisted, and the Gospel should be preached purely and simply. "Spare the poor animals," we should say, "leave off fish, leave off flesh, leave off fowl, and do all you can to get others to go with you, but to try for more may be to lose all, like the dog in the fable, by seeking to obtain too much."

An animated discussion followed, but it was agreed that the paper should be afforded the same publicity as others read during the Congress. The paper on " Mistakes," remarked the Chairman drily, might be said to contain some, but it was as well to hear all sides, and as a matter of fact, Vegetarian Societies primarily existed for purposes of Vegetarian propaganda, and on the question of flesh-abstinence the paper was full of valuable suggestions. As for smoking, it could not be proven that Carlyle or Tennyson or English literature had been materially altered for the better by the fact that those two great men had spent many silent hours together with tobacco as a substitute for conversation.

The Rev. Francis Wood's uncontentious paper on


was taken next. The speaker contended that they were not sent to be used as food, and further, that even now the uses of such animals as are reared exclusively for consumption might well be diverted to other purposes. Cattle might be used for dairy and agricultural purposes; as draft animals oxen had been largely used in foreign countries, and in our own colonies, invaluable in the matter of sheer, stubborn, solid strength. The horse, because he has not been bred and reared for dietetic purposes, has been brought to a very high state of intelligence and efficiency. Cattle on the contrary, are usually regarded as stupid ans souless, an erroneous opinion not shared by the writer of the article on "Cattle," in the Encyclopædia Brittanica, who declares, with a refreshing frankness comic in a non-Vegetarian, but delightful to one of ourselves, that if they be stupid it is only under the system of fattening for slaughter, which deprives them of all chance of being otherwise, and he instances the trained ox of the Western shires, and the remarkably high intelligence of some species of wild cattle in substantial disproof of their congenital stupidity.


In Transylvania sheep, Mr. Wood was informed by a native, were at present bred and kept alive, not for their food-giving, but for their clothes-giving properties ; while with regard to domestic fowls, the speaker instanced the difficulty with which Miss Bird, in "Unbeaten Tracks in Japan," obtained a fowl for cooking purposes, when the vendor accidentally discovered the end to which the bird was doomed, and indignantly withdrew from the contract, refusing, even for money, to consent to surrender the creature, to whom she had become attached, and who was, in her eyes, only fitted to furnish such food as eggs.

Many Vegetarian Minds.

On Friday afternoon the chair was taken by Mr. W. G. Smith, a life-Vegetarian, and an admirable advertisement in his own person of the strength-giving properties of his dietary system. A large audience had assembled to listen to a very instructive paper by Mr. Macdonald, a most picturesque and interesting figure, looking like an embodiment of one of the primordial characters of a Saga.


The physiological uses of oil in the human organism are threefold: first, it splits up into CO2 and H2O, is then eliminated through the lungs and skin, and the chemical action undergone is the source of animal heat which sustains the bodily temperature and mechanical exertion ; second, when taken in excess by persons of certain temperaments or certain states of disease, it is stored up - not so much for a rainy day, as the saying is, as for a fine day, or, at least, for days suitable for undergoing strenuous exertion - so that then the fatty tissue of the body may be drawn on instead of food consumed ; and third, it protects the nitrogenous compounds of the body, or the muscular tissue, from excessive waste. But the splitting up of nitrogenous tissue also results in the formation of fat, so does the splitting up of starch and sugar, and there is no more sense in saying that the fats protect the albuminoids than that the albuminoids protect the fats, except it first be decided which is the scarcest or most difficultly digested compound. As all the organic compounds generate heat and force by being split up, oil can only be said to be superior to starch or sugar in the sense that, weight for weight, it yields two and a half times more heat, and it can only be said to be superior to nitrogenous substances in the sense that the latter, when ammonia, as well as CO2 and H20, which must be eliminated through the kidneys, and so, when taken in excess, are apt to cause a strain upon these organs.


Mr. Macdonald eliminated the classitication of cost or price, disclaiming, as a thorough-paced naturist, the inclusion of a pocket as one of the physical components of human organism and confined his classification under the following four heads:


The lecturer, however, added what might be termed unofficial extension to his list by alluding to the artistically minded lady who found she was quite unable to put wholemeal bread to table.use because she found her eys offended by the "horrid look" of brown bread when placed above a white table-cloth.


The quality of an oil depends, in Mr. MacDonald's opinion, upon the stage of ripeness of the seed from which it is extracted, Upon the condition in whoich the seed has been harvested and preserved, and upon the quantity of pressure to which it has been subjected in the process of manufacture. Commerce recognises the question of flavour only, and all oils, when eaten alone, will sooner ot later sicken the palate. Those oils extracted by pressure are too liquid, and lack the more solid oleaginous chemical constituents, which nevertheless, are as important to digestion as is bran to flour.

The conclusions reached by Mr. MacDonald recognize two standards in the classification of oils: the one consisting in adherence to those oils which are extracted from oil-giving seeds which form a normal and palatable diet, and, secondly, those products from seeds which flourish in a climate most analogous to our own, though this is by no mens the most important consideration.

The lecturer then proceeded to an examination of the following oils for dietetic purposes : linseed, sesame, cotton-seed, peanut, olive, rape and coker-butter, which latter substance is now largely superceeding cow's butter for culinary purposes ; almost every particle is pure fat, scarcely a trace of water being contained therein. As the constituent which causes rancidity is excluded, its keeping properties are excellent, and its flavour so delicatethat it may be readily substituted as a table article for dairy-butter.

The Chairman then gave a very recondite account of the soaps of the ancients, with illustrations in support of his statements, culled from Homer, Plato, Arostotle, Pollax, Auxigonus, Carysrius and Pliny. It was essential alikefrom considerations of hygiene and of humanity that non-animal fats should alone be employed in the manufacture of all saporaceous substances.


The title of Mrs. C. L. Hunt Wallace's address - "Conservative Cookery" - was something of a surprise to those who know her by reputation. The word "Conservative," however, was used, not in the technically political sense, but in accordance with its dictionary meaning of preserving from loss or escape, the nutritive properties with which Nature endows edible plants. Conservative cookery, Mrs. Wallace informed her audience, might also be applied to other dietetic articles, and need not necessarily confine its science of preparation to vegetable foods alone. But . . .it should be carefully practised only when it was deemed desireable to conserve such matters as would build up within the human organism such vital superfluities as were familiarly known to suffering humanity under the forms of boils, tumors and abscesses.


In the evening Mrs. McDouall gave a reception to Vegetarian friends and delegates at the "Central" Restaurant. The function was distinguished by the extremely cordial and kindly feeling which pervaded it, indeed, some one went the length of declaring that it was the nicest and most successful gathering held during the whole of a wonderfully nice and successful Congress.