Suffragette: the mother of all vegetarians


I don’t blog much these days. I’ve decided from now on, I’m only going to blog when I’m really inspired. And it doesn’t get much more inspiring than this…

Today is the 100th anniversary of the day women got the vote for the very first time (6th February 1918). 

It’s pretty important that we remember how rad these women were, and it’s also pretty important to remember that 100 years really isn’t that long ago and we still have a lot to fight for; we cannot be complacent because there are certain people in this world that would send us back there if they could. “But what have the suffragettes got to do with environmentalism?”, I hear you ask.

They were vegetarians. 

(I first learnt this fact when watching BBC’s ‘Back in time for dinner’ – did anyone else watch it?! It was very interesting, especially for someone who loves their food.)

There are a number of varying theories as to why the suffragettes often ditched meat. Some say that in prison, they would advise each other to become vegetarian because the meat options on offer were so appalling.

But I like the links that theorist and vegan cook, Leah Leneman, has made between the suffragette movement and vegetarianism:

  • “the psychological identification of women with animals as victims of male brutality “
  • “the empowering idea that women confined to a homemaker’s role could still help to create a new and more compassionate world by adopting a vegetarian diet”

Edwardian feminists were against brutality of all kinds, including the slaughtering of animals, as it was a negative characteristic of the male gender that they wanted to disassociated themselves from. In late 19th-century America and Britain, many suffragists were heavily involved in the temperance movement and antivivisection, and vegetarianism was a dietary extension of that. Meat was a product of violence and, as a lot of suffragettes considered themselves pacifists and were against the first world war, they wanted to steer well away from it. As Leneman states: “the vegetarian movement had the same overall goal, and therefore it is not surprising that so many suffragists should have adopted a vegetarian diet”.

The suffragettes believed that if they were able to influence political decisions by casting a vote, they would make the world a kinder, more just, and more compassionate place. It is this belief that attracted so many other women to the suffragette movement.

Women still stand by this today. In fact, I believe that only by getting more women into positions of power (be that in parliament and in big business) will we be able to solve the world’s problems, especially when it comes down to environmentalism. As Friend’s of the Earth state, women’s empowerment is often considered the only driver in reducing global population growth. Ultimately, gender equality is vital if we are going to save the planet.

Read all about it, in FOE’s book: Why Women Will Save The Planet.




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