TO THE MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS
We venture to address you on a subject which is not popular; which yet, of its grave and deep import – personally and nationally – has the very strongest claims on national attention. It has such claims, we are satisfied, on the Society of Friends, and on yourself as a faithful and intelligent member of that body. We, therefore, ask your most earnest heed to our plea. Somebody, writing in parody of a familiar line, assuming the lowered state of the public conscience, says that in these days
“Commerce doth make cowards of us all.”
Many, truly, cry out for trade to be FREE who trouble themselves little if it be CLEAN, and forget that everything a man’s hand findeth to do should be done in the fear of God and for the blessing of his neighbour.
Need we remind you how Friends have earned our gratitude – nay, the gratitude and admiration of a whole wide circle of intelligent and patriotic Englishmen – for their noble and self-denying services in the past? The early Friends did great things in dark times and under hard conditions. For many a brave deed; for many a scoff endured for righteousness’ sake; for the week and helpless befriended; for the schoolless taught, after-generations have deep cause to thank them. For the help which Friends have rendered to the cause of prison reform; for their efforts to extend peace among the nations of the earth, to liberate the slave, to prevent cruelty and intemperance, and to promote the adoption of principles of humanity and self-control – we owe more than can well be told.
The battle is not over; the victory is but partially won. Much remains to be overcome. And it is because Friends have laboured for peace, for temperance, for humaneness in relation to all sentient beings – both to our own race and to suffering animals generally – that we claim their further help in the promotion of a root principle – one which makes alike and completely for peace, for temperance, and for humaneness to all our fellow-creatures.
Need we point out how the habits of luxury now so generally prevalent in English society present an inevitable barrier to those ways of purity and simplicity of life which are essential alike to moral control and spiritual advancement; that luxurious eating precedes needless drinking; that the occupations of the stock-breeder, the cattle-drover, the slaughter-man – which the habits of English society call into exercise for its gratification – do not minister to the moral elevation of the individuals so employed, or to that of the nation which ordains them to such callings, and then, as a pariah class, rules against their admission within the pale of its respectable and cultivated circles? Need we remind you that land devoted to grazing purposes does not employ one-fourth the labour, neither does it yield one-fourth the food of land used for the higher purpose of garden and cultivated field? And when we urge that the experience both of individuals and nations proves conclusively that this cruelty to animals, this inhumanity to our fellow-men, this unpatriotic use of land that it may yield the smallest result in food, and give employment to the fewest labourers, is wholly unnecessary, have we not said that which at least must command your attentive ear and prompt inquiry whether these things be? And, if these things be so, can you not help us to promote the adoption of a course of life which shall minister towards the establishment of the “new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness,” where, in place of barrenness, the orchard and the cultivated field shall flourish, and the cattle-pen and the slaughter-house be no more, as it was in Eden at the first? May we not ask for your help in these things? Surely the gentler lessons of Bernard Barton or of John G. Whittier have not been given in vain, nor the lives of Elizabeth Fry and John Howard (the latter of whom attributed his comparative immunity from disease, when enduring the most arduous labours and visiting dens of misery which could scarcely now be found in Europe, to his simple habits and vegetarian diet) been lived without purpose, to the Friends of a later generation. Surely those who delight to feed the hungry will hear with interest of a method whereby they may feed two where they have fed one before; and those who labour against intemperance may be asked to encourage a system which prevents the acquirement of the drunkard’s appetite, while it opens the only effectual way for the recovery of those who have fallen into the drunkard’s snare.
Thirty-three years ago a few pioneers met together in Ramsgate for the establishment of a society which should seek, for such reasons as we have stated, “to induce habits of abstinence from the flesh of animals as food,” recognising in such abstinence a “principle tending essentially to true civilisation, universal brotherhood, and the increase of human happiness.” This Association, we are glad to say, has never been without its supporters among the Society of Friends. But, cherishing ends which are so distinctly at one with theirs, may not its claims and aims be reasonably and again laid before them? May we not, in the great name of humanity, look to Friends for some of the help which, at this time, we so greatly need for the diffusion of valuable knowledge which many are waiting to receive?
EMERITUS PROFESSOR F. W. NEWMAN – (brother of Cardinal Newman)
President of the Vegetarian Society.
William E. A. AXON, M.R.S.L., F.S.S., Treasurer.
P. FOXCROFT, Chairman of the Executive Committee.
R. BAILEY WALKER, F.S.S., Secretary.
Manchester, 23 August, 1880.
From The Dietic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger, September 1880.
Reproduced with thanks to the Vegetarian Society – and to John Gilheany, who drew this interesting letter to our attention.