International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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1847-1981 :

A thesis presented to the London School of Economics, University of London,
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Julia Twigg
©AUTUMN 1981 - Thesis Index

The author is now Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University, England, and has given permission for this previously unpublished thesis to be published on the IVU website. The ownership and copyright remain hers and no part of this thesis may be used elsewhere without her express permission.


[Numerical links are to the author's footnotes, use your back button to return to the same point in the text. Text links are to relevant items on the IVU website, all open in new windows]


No special provision was made for vegetarians serving in the forces, and it was thus a question of luck as to whether the diet was adequate. Gandhi's friend Josiah Oldfield, now transformed into a lieutenant-colonel in the 3rd East Anglian Field Ambulance Corps, reported at the beginning of the War no special difficulty, but he pointed out that hardships must be expected, and it is clear that as the war progressed many vegetarians at the front did suffer considerably and only survived through food parcels sent from home. (1)

On the home front, things were easier, at least until the final years of the war, when shortages began to appear, though how much they were a result of panic and bad distribution, rather than actual shortages, is not clear. (2) By 1917 the government, first under Lord Devonport at the new Food Ministry, and then, more competently under Lord Rhondda, began to encourage food economy. Pleas for meatless days led by bishops and leading citizens found natural favour among the vegetarians; (3) and government used among others the vegetarians Mrs Leonora Cohen (4) and Dugald Semple (5) to spread propaganda for food innovations [?] barley rissoles and nut foods. Again to the approval of the vegetarians, the home loaf became during the war progressively higher in bran. (6) In 1918 meat rationing was finally introduced, at the level of ¾lb per person per week. Promises of extra cheese for vegetarians did not materialise, though they were eventually allowed extra fat and butter. (7) August 1918 saw a shortage of fruit, and vegetarian anxieties were raised by the government's policy of giving priority to jam making. (8) Bread and jam at this time were still staples of most working-class diets. (9)

  1. VM, March 1915, p73; VM, April 1915, p85; VN, July 1921, p98, Bertrand Allinson (son of T.R.) on what was available to him in the forces; VM, Jan 1917, p3, for refusal to give special rations; and VM, Feb 1917, p35, for the need for supplements.
  2. See Arthur Marwick, The Deluge: British Society and the First World War, 1965, p191-200 for the shortages and rationing.
  3. VM, Jan 1916, p131, also June, p131.
  4. VM, Jan 1916, p24; VN, March, 1917, p54.
  5. Semple, Joy in Living, p47-9. Semple was a C.O., freed by the tribunal to do this work.
  6. Marwick, p196. Allinson commented on the irony as he saw it of the troops being 'treated' to white bread, VN, July 1921, p99.
  7. VM, Jan to July 1918, for running comments.
  8. VM, Aug 1918, p145.
  9. For the role of jam in working-class diets see A. Torode, 'Trends in Fruit Consumption', T.C. Barker et al, Our Changing Fare, 1966.

    Editor's Note: not in England, but for interest in this period see also: The effect of Food Restriction on Mortality in Copenhagen during War - M. Hindhede, Laboratory for Nutrition Research, Copenhagen, Denmark, Feb. 7, 1920.

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