A textual page which again, essentially comprised an update to the 1914 leaflet “Thoughts about Lent” appeared in “The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review” a year later. (10)
Yet Lenten vegetarian campaigning had innate limitations even within the Pre-Conciliar period of the Catholic Church in which abstinence from flesh held a Canonical status. (11) A leading Animal Theologian of the early twentieth century advised caution in the course of vegetarian overtures to Lenten practitioners:
Lent and Vegetarianism - By Rev. F. Wood (1854 - 1935).
The approach once again of the Lenten Season gives the opportunity to enquire whether this ecclesiastical institution has any significance in relation to vegetarianism. On a first view it would seem that it has a relationship. That the Christian Church should require of its members that they abstain from flesh food for at least two days a week during a period approximating to two months would appear to give considerable support to vegetarian claims, and offer good opportunity for vegetarian propaganda. But a closer consideration of the facts decidedly lessens this impression.
To begin with, it is only some sections of the Church that are affected. The Anglican Communion observes Lent, the Roman Church still more so, but the many denominations constituting Protestant Nonconformity take little note of this part of the Christian year. We never hear of Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, or Presbyterians, fasting during the seven weeks prior to Easter.
Then again, it is probably only the very good churchmen who, in the Anglican body, carry their loyalty to ecclesiastical demands to the extent of fasting under the strict conditions and for the full term required. And even in the Roman Church, though abstinence from flesh food is more general and more strict, it is not an express obligation, carrying the force, say, of a Commandment. It is rather of the character of an ecclesiastical ordinance, which may, on occasion, be altered or suspended. The church authorities may grant a "dispensation" either partial or complete, granted to particular individuals or to the whole body of believers. Only a year ago, as may be remembered, Cardinal Bourne granted a general dispensation, excusing Catholics from the usual abstinence from flesh-food. The reason given was the very severe weather prevalent at the time - the Cardinal himself was down with influenza - necessitating, it was alleged, the use of "meat" as a strength and heat affording article of diet.
Yet again, and still more significant, the raison d'etre of the abstinence of Lent is very different from that of vegetarianism. The former is motivated by the desire of self-discipline, the mastery of the flesh, the strict limiting of indulgences. There is no humanitarian aim, no reference whatever to the claims and rights of the humble, helpless victims of the flesh-eating custom. The latter, on the other hand, while attaching importance to the role of bodily appetite, while holding that we should "eat to live; not live to eat," is urged by other, grander, and more altruistic, aims.
The prime work of vegetarianism, as conceived by the present writer, at least, is to protest against, and try to terminate, the cannibal customs of killing and eating our fellow-creatures, the custom which every day dooms multitudes of our innocent, helpless, fellow-denizens of this world to a cruel death, the custom which necessitates that a whole class of our human fellows have to get their living by the abhorrent work of the slaughter-house, the custom, moreover, which lends support and sanction to the barbarities of blood sports, of the fur and feather trade, and of the vivisection chamber.
While, therefore, vegetarians should welcome any support, and any opportunity of propaganda, the custom of Lenten observance may offer, they must guard against exaggerated ideas of the importance of these things. Otherwise they may fail of due appreciation of the difficulty and magnitude of their task, a task the more difficult and the more onerous because it means the conversion not only of the non-church-and-chapel-going-masses, but of the church-and-chapel-going-classes also, which latter is sometimes the most difficult task of all.
The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review March 1930.
Rev. Wood (1854-1935 ) wrote at a period in time where the Lenten tradition was devoid of explicit expressions of charity; in either thought or deed. To many vegetarians there was no sense of dichotomy in their attempts to share particular insights with those embarking on a period of prayer and contemplation:
"...As for the spiritual values which have been referred to, where else, we would ask, is any satisfaction so great to be found as that derived from the feeling that one is no longer directly responsible for the un nameable horrors of the slaughter-house?"
The Vegetarian News March 1934.
The ambivalence of such a distinguished Christian member of the vegetarian movement towards Lenten activity may however have sealed the demise of such endeavours before the 1940's. Yet the secular, if inclusive, Although perhaps the London Vegetarian Society wrote with a measure of Divine accord in their assertion that:
"The flesh indeed lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. But it is an evil world in which the flesh always comes off conqueror."
The Vegetarian News March 1929.
Try a Vegetarian Diet during Lent