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Vegetarian Federal Union 1889-1911

Notes from Australia, 1890

From The Vegetarian (London), January 25, 1890:

The Work in Australia

Right cheering are the accounts that come to us of the progress of the movement and its allied interests in the antipodes. The third number of our little Melbourne contemporary, Progress, is just to hand, and merits our warmest congratulations. Its pages are instinct with the broad and fraternal spirit that inspires the recentyl established Vegetarian Federal Union, into whose embrace we look confidently to welcome the Australian Societies ; and in the fact that the new paper stands pledged, not only to the first principles of Vegetarianism so-called, but to those great and progessive movements which are in vital union with it, we recognise the development of a powerful advocacy in the near future which shall join hands with us in lifting Vegetarianism out of the narrow ruts into which it had got well-nigh fixed, on to the broad road of progressive reform, and into the forefront of physical, intellectual, and spiritual development. The word, "Come forth!" rings over land and sea in the name of the Federal Union, and our graveclothes are falling off, and revealing, in its native manhood and its divine right, the real spirit and life of the movement.

Speaking of co-operation, Mr. Henry Murphy, president of the Lanark Co-operative Institute says:

"Mankind have set up many graven images and false gods which they worship. Insead of truth, benevolence, and justice being their rule of conduct, they have forsaken the spirit of divinity and, to the utter neglect of all conseqences, have established the idea of 'Will it pay me in hard cash?" Will it yield a profit to me, no matter what it yield to others?' Harmony is the highest law of nature ; towards this end all the efforts of reformers are ever directed, not to destroy but to build up ; not to annihilate, but to recreate ; to build a new world in which the individual selfishness shall be utilised, and find ample scope, not in antagonism to, but in conjuction with, the well being of others. This is the highest aim of all true reformers."

At a meeting of the Vegetarian Society of Australia, Mr. Robert Jones presiding, after a few introductory remarks from the Chairman on the great spread of the movement in England and America :

"Miss Fanny E. Samuel delivered an address on 'The Influence of the Reformed Diet on the Senses.' She said that man's anatomical structure proclaimed him a fruit and grain eater. This was the opinion of the highest authorities, from Linnæus and Gassendi down to Hæckel and Darwin, who all classified man amongst the frugivora or fruit-eaters. The apes, which most nearly approached man in structure, were non-flesh eaters, and developed prodigious strength.Man was probably driven into eating flesh during the glacial period, when grains and fruits had been destroyed by the intense cold. He was now, however, emerging from that savage condition, and was destined to develop powers of mind and body of which we could barely form a conception. Food would play a great part in this development. Our bodies were built uo of the food we ate. Now all experience showed that man lived a healthier and a longer life on a non-flesh diet ; for very many diseases had been directly or indirectly traced to the practice of flesh-eating. But there was another benefit deriveable from the reformed diet. This was the improvement in the senses. Sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing all became more acute under the new regimen. And this was something far more than a mere addition to the pleasure of life. It meant increased protection from disease. Thus a person with a weak sense of smell would go into, and remain in, an atmosphere whose foulness would be recognised and avoided by one with a keen scent. One great cause of disease was the breathing of vitiated air. This was a matter on which the pure feeder was sensitive, and it generally happened that he lived habitually wih windows open night and day. In the same way a person with a keen taste often rejected food which another partook of heartily. He thus avoided the painful conseqiences which the other endured. Man's intuitive powere were also increased, even in the course of his own life, and were destined to increase much more during the progress of the race, by adopting a simple dietary. Such people could tell instinctively whether a person or a thing was dangerous or not, and thus escaped many dangers. But it was irrational to expect that a state of health which was the outcome of many years' practice of false habits of life could be entirely changed by the adoption for a few weeks or months of the better habits. Poisons accumulated for years in the blood, and time was required to expel them. Unfortunately the great mass of people were so apathetic, and so bent on pursuing "pleasure," that they could not be induced to consdier diet until they had lost their health. Then they got alarmed and became Teetotallers or Vegetarians, or both, and the strong argument against the adoption of the new course. Thus the good habits were blamed for the ill-health which had been produced before those good habits had been adopted. Let no-one be deceived by this false logic, but examine the case fully and impartially. She had no dount of the conclusion which would be arrived at."

Four lectures given under the auspices of the Australian Health Society during the month of November, are noticed and commented on in the number to hand :

"On the 4th, Dr. Astles gave an address on 'The Coming Race.' He said a large amount of disease and ill-health was due to heredity. Wrong habits of life were responsible for much more. Tight lacing, for instance, not only injured ladies, but mischieviously affected the unborn also. Personal and national habits of cleanliness were doing much to reduce disease. In the 18th century the death-rate in London was 80 per 1000 ; now it was 24 per 1000. Legislation was necessary in the direction of preventing marriage among the diseased. Health lectures also should be given daily in all schools. By these and similar methods, the vitality of the race would be greatly increased, and disease would ultimately be eliminated.

"On the 11th, Jas. Smith Esq., lectured on 'Wealth as an enemy to Health.' He said that medical men lived in the fashionable quarters of large cities, and derived their chief revenue from attending to the real or imaginary ailments of the wealthy, especially the nouveaux riches. The latter had but one aim in life, and that was to make money. Having made it, they built for themselves most elaborate houses and, knowing next to nothing about physiology and the laws of health, gave themselves up to luxury in food and drink, and generally to self-indulgence. The philosophy of self-restraint was unknown to them. The inevitable result was a disordered digestive system, and they became vistims of the fiend, dyspepsia. Man, however, would learn the folly of this kind of life, and would strive to live in harmony with the laws of health. Then he would attain the age which both science and Scripture (Genesis) assigned to him, namely one hundred and twenty years. Buffon had shown that other animals lived to about six times the period of their growth. Man reached maturity in about twenty years, and six times this, or one hundred and twenty years, was therefore the age whichmight reasonably be predicted as that of future man."

[Similar reports, based on the magazine from Ausralia, appeared in The Vegetarian during 1890]