International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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History of Irish Vegetarian Societies

In 1878 a Belfast Vegetarian Association was formed as a branch of the Vegetarian Society based in Manchester, England. There were further reports in the Vegetarian Messenger in subsequent issues, but this group appears to have closed after a few years.

By 1890 there was a Dublin Vegetarian Society, mentioned early that year in the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester) in a way that implied it had been in existence for some time, but with no indication of whether this was an independent group, or another branch (the whole of Ireland was still under British rule at that time so Dublin could have been a branch of the society in Manchester).

The Irish Vegetarian Union was founded in March 1890, and based in Belfast. This appears to have been at the instigation of the London Vegetarian Society but the IVU was independent of either society in England.

On September 10th, 1890, (reports vary) a meeting of the Vegetarian Federal Union (based in London) accepted the Irish Vegetarian Union as a member.

The October 11 and 18, 1890, issues of The Vegetarian (London) listed events organised by the Belfast Vegetarian Society and the November 8 issue listed events by the Dublin Vegetarian Society, The Belfast Vegetarian Society, and the Irish Vegetarian Union. Though no further explanation of all these groups was given, but a report from the Irish Vegetarian Union in December 1890 (as well as that linked above) suggests that it was a society of individual members in Belfast, not a Union of the other two.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), July 1893, p269:

Belfast. - The third annual meeting of the Irish Vegetarian Union was held on 19th May. Mr. J. F. Shone occupied the chair. Mr. J. S. Herron read the annual report, and the meeting wa afterwards addressed by Messrs. Orr, M;Caughey, Straiton, Jones, and Griffiths, and the report was adopted. [details of a talk by Mr.s Tonbridge followed].

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), July 1895, p224:

Belfast : Irish Vegetarian Union, May 29th.- The fifth annual meeting was held in the City Chambers, Royal Avenue. Mr. R. Semple, president of the union, occupied the chair. The Hon. Sec. (Mr. Herron) read the annual report, from which it appeared that during the past 12 months 26 public meetings were held in Belfast and neighbourhood, and a great amount of Vegetarian literature given away. [further details followed]

From the Vegetarian Federal Union annual report, 1897:

At the first International Vegetarian Union Congress in Dresden, Germany, 1908, there were letters of support from many Vegetarian Societies around the world, but no mention of Ireland.

The next information currently available is from the March 1910 issue of the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester):

Vegetarianism in Ireland.
Our movement is being kept well to the front in Ireland, the principal activities centering around Dublin, where the Irish Vegetarian Union has its headquarters. With lectures, cookery demonstrations, letters to the Press, athletic achievements, the members are making their influence felt. There is a little band of medical students, earnest believers in the ultimate triumph of our principles. Mrs. Cousins, Mus. Bac., the energetic and able secretary, keeps all these forces in useful operation. The Secretary of the Vegetarian Society has visited Dublin and Belfast recently, and was well received. At Belfast Mr. John A. Palmer is the secretary and has a difficult and uphill task in his endeavours to arouse interest in our cause. We wish for him success in his ungrudging and devoted labours.

In the April issue of the Vegetarian Messenger a letter from a committee member in Dublin refers to the Irish Vegetarian Society, rather than 'Union'. A report in the January 1911 issue also describes it as a 'Society'. It is possible that the name was changed to avoid it being called 'IVU' - that would not have been a problem before 1908... the Secretary who visited Dublin and Belfast, above, was Albert Broadbent who was on the (International) IVU committee at that time.

The February 1912 issue of the Vegetarian Messenger refers to the Irish Vegetarian Society as having been formed in 1901. It is also possible that there were separate societies in Dublin and Belfast, joined by the Irish Veg. Union, or that the first society closed and this was a new one.

The reports on the IVU Congresses for 1923, 26, 29, 32 and 35 make no mention of Ireland.

The report from the 1938 Congress, in Norway includes: "Apologies for absence and expressions of good wishes were read from ... Mr. W. D. Cousins (Northern Ireland) ... " . We do not know which Society Mr Cousins represented.

The report from the 1947 IVU Congress, at Stonehouse, England, mentions: "Messages of good wishes to the Congress were also received from ... the Irish Vegetarian Society "... " The business included reports from representatives of Societies affiliated to the I.V.U., and were given by ... Mr. Howell Ritson (Ireland), ..." [one session at the Congress was chaired by Mr Howell Ritson, described there as 'Northern Ireland']

The photo on the right is from a group of 'overseas delegates' at the 1947 Congress. The caption says she was 'Miss Moira Henry (Eire)', we are not told which society she represented but later reports clarify that she was Secretary of the Dublin V.S.

From the Vegetarian World Forum, Summer 1948 pp.35-38:

The Annual General Meeting of the Dublin Vegetarian Society was held on Wednesday, February 18th, Mr. Neill Wells presiding. The attendance was better than last year.
Reading her Annual Report, the Honorary Treasurer stated that several new members had been gained, and that the financial position of the Society was consequently stronger. In her Report, the Honorary Secretary said that there was an increasing interest in vegetarianism, and that at two recent talks which she had given not one among her listeners had attempted to defend the traditional diet of cooked corpses. The Secretary also said that the Dublin Vegetarian Society deeply appreciated the kindness of editors who found space to fit in vegetarian items, and time to forward vegetarian periodicals.
At the nomination of officers, Mrs. M. J. Roche was re-elected Honorary Treasurer, and Mr.
Neill Wells was re-elected Chairman. Miss Moira Henry agreed to continue as Honorary Secretary. The five Committee members for 1948 are: Mrs. Law, Mrs. Gregg, Miss Till, Mr. Smith and Mr. Morgan.

- we have no record of when the Dublin V.S. was formed.
From the Vegetarian World Forum, Summer 1950 p.11:

The Dublin Vegetarian Society held its A.G.M. on Wednesday, March 22nd, Mr. Neill Wells presiding. Over twenty members and prospective members were present, which compared favourably with the mere eight who attended last year!
The Honorary Treasurer's Report showed a very encouraging improvement in the financial position. In her Report, the Honorary Secretary thanked her Committee for their loyalty and help during the year. Miss Henry said that anything she had been able to accomplish had been made possible by the sympathy and cooperation of her committee; and she wished particularly to thank Miss Bowie for her assistance and efficacy in looking after the finances, since the resignation of Mrs. Roche last August. Thanks were also expressed for the generosity of those who had regularly forwarded vegetarian literature and magazines.
Mr. Neill Wells was re-elected President and Chairman. Miss Mabel J. Bowie was invited to continue as Honorary Treasurer: and Miss Moira Henry agreed to remain in her present position of Honorary Secretary. It was unanimously decided to re-elect the Committee.Therefore, members are the same as last year; Miss Alice Law, Mrs Violet Gregg, Mr. David Smith, Mr. James Morgan and mr. Leslie Harris.
Moira Henry, Ranelagh

The reports from the 1950 IVU Congress make no mention of Ireland. The next reference currently available is in the minutes of the IVU Executive Committee, Easter 1952: "It was decided to decline an invitation from the Dublin Vegetarian Society to hold the 1956 Congress in Kellarney, Ireland."

1958 - The Vegetarian World Forum, July 1958, carried a complete list of IVU " Affiliated Societies - and others in association with the I.V.U." These included: Dublin V. S., Mrs. F. Gourlay, 32 Sandycove Rd., Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Eire.

The present Vegetarian Society of Ireland was founded in 1978 by Christopher Fettes.
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