(UK) Vegetarian roots: The extraordinary tale of Reverend Cowherd
- The Beefsteak chapel hardly sounds like a place where vegetarians
would be welcome, but more than 200 years ago, this tiny chapel in
Salford was the British birthplace of the meat-free diet.
In an even greater twist, the cleric who preached the moral virtues of
vegetarianism was the Reverend William Cowherd. His Beefsteak Chapel
was the country's first vegetarian church.
Cowherd, born almost 250 years ago on Sunday 16 December, demanded his
congregation eat a meat free diet.
At this time the poor would eat the cheapest meat. This meant a diet
featuring a great deal of offal - sometimes stomach or intestines.
Cowherd believed that God inhabited every animal and as such it was a
sin to eat meat. His followers - aptly named Cowherdites - went on to
form the Vegetarian Society.
Abstinence from meat became part of the church's creed. Cowherd told
his congregation it was a sin to eat meat and it could make them
The Vegetarian Society quotes him saying: "If God had meant us to eat
meat, then it would have come to us in edible form as is the ripened
After Cowherd's death in 1816, Joseph Brotherton became the Beefsteak
Chapel's minister and continued his mission. Along with other
Cowherdites, Brotherton helped form the Vegetarian Society in 1847.
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