The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

Research Article

A Taste of Eden: Modern Christianity and Vegetarianism


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This article considers how the roots of modern vegetarianism, one of the fastest growing cultural trends in the UK and USA since the 1960s, can be found in Protestant sectarianism. Christian vegetarianism is shown to have developed in three main periods: the first during the first half of the nineteenth century and culminating in 1847 with the founding of the Vegetarian Society; the second starting in the 1890s; and the third in the 1960s. The article demonstrates that the main themes to be found in the arguments for Christian vegetarianism are humanitarianism, purity and reincarnation. It examines why these movements experienced only limited success in preaching a Christian vegetarian message and considers whether this work continues today in the work of groups of vegetarian Christians within the mainstream Churches.


I would like to express my thanks to my supervisor, Professor Hugh McLeod, for his advice and support during the preparation of this paper, to the Editors and the anonymous reviewer of this Journal for their helpful comments and suggestions for improvement and to Dr Nigel Scotland, who supervised my MA work at the University of Gloucestershire upon which this paper is based. All errors or omissions are, of course, my own.