The Reverend William Cowherd and the beginning of a whole new culture

johnnydodStarred Page By johnnydod, 10th Mar 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Activism

A look at how The Reverend William Cowherd changed the way how many people thought about the way they ate.

The BeefStake Chapel

250 years ago on Sunday 16th December 1763 a baby was born to Mr and Mrs Cowherd they called him William, he later went on to teach philology and became a curate to the rev. John Clowes at St. John’s Church, William studied the works of Emanuel Swedenborg and embraced Swedenborg’s principles.
In 1847 The Reverend William Cowherd, (Yup that was his real name) started a Chapel called The Bible Christian Church, in Salford, an urban settlement, laying in the heart of the City of Salford a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester England.

Rev. Cowherd believed people should think more about what they ate

The Chapel was given the nickname “The Beefsteak Chapel” and unusual name you might think, but it was even stranger then you think for the Chapel was Britain’s first vegetarian church, the Reverend William cowherd observed that the poor of his district would eat only the cheapest meat, this in turn led to a poor diet of offal including stomach and intestines and other low quality meat, leading to many illnesses.
Cowherd believed that the Lord occupied every animal including offal and therefore it was a sin to eat meat, he instructed his followers, pertinently named “Cowherdites to eat a meat free diet and eventually went on to form the Vegetarian Society.

He paved the way towards vegetarianism

He became a very popular minister providing his flock with free medicinal services, a lending library and free vegetable soup it was not known at that time what effect a meat free diet would have, and many including his fellow minister Robert Hindmarsh thought a meat free diet would be cataclysmic and that people would die through lack of meat, however cowherd continued to preach that “it was a sin to eat meat and it could make them behave aggressively” and that "If God had meant us to eat meat, then it would have come to us in edible form as is the ripened fruit."
The Beefsteak Chapel became not just a place to worship but also a school, a science college and a library, it even had its own printing press, over a period of time, intellectuals began to debate the morals of eating animals. After Cowherd’s death Joseph Brotherton became the Beefsteak Chapel's minister and continued cowherds work and along with other like-minded people helped form the Vegetarian Society in 1847. Brotherton also went on to become Salford’s first MP in 1832

Manchester became the home for non-meat eaters

All over Manchester vegetarian restaurants began to open, in fact there were more vegetarian restaurants in that time than there are today in Manchester, vegetarianism was flourishing and in 1889 there were 52 vegetarian restaurants in Britain with 34 in London
In 1817 forty one members of Cowherds church travelled to the Philadelphia in the US and preached the message in the Bible Christian Church they developed the beginning of vegetarianism in the US, The American Vegetarian Society, was established in 1850 by The Reverend William Metcalfe a member of that group of 41. One of the converts of this society was Sylvester Graham whose “Graham bread” is still to be found in the United States
Reverend William Cowherd’s compilation called “Facts Authentic in Science and Religion towards a new Translation of the Bible “was printed after his death this was followed by many books on vegetarianism and vegetarian cook books

Thanks for not eating me

Thank you so much for taking time to read my story, all pictures are by Author and are available from These are "Royalty free stock photos". And All pictures are free for commercial and personal use

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author avatar johnbee
10th Mar 2013 (#)

The look on the faces of the cows are curious.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
10th Mar 2013 (#)

We must remember that all animals place a value on their lives, they were not put here to be food for us, they were put here to live, just as we were. If we do eat them, we must try to find humanely treated animals when possible and should not eat too much, and never let it be wasted either. Nothing is more troublesome than when people buy meat, forget about it, and throw it out later.

People are wise to reduce portion sizes or reduce the number of days they eat meat if they are not ready to become full vegetarians.

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author avatar johnnydod
10th Mar 2013 (#)

Well said Mark, lets face it, we are ALL animals

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
11th Mar 2013 (#)

Being a born vegetarian this is a subject close to my heart. We need much less land for agriculture and crops if we stop raising animals for meat consumption. Also, much less water that is used in processing the meat. Let there be a gradual vegetarianism After all, our bodies are not made for meat consumption, quite unlike carnivorous animals. We should move towards a less sinful way of life by treating our fellow travelers the way we want to be treated - siva

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author avatar C.D. Moore
11th Mar 2013 (#)

Unusual and interesting story.
We do eat some meat, bison,free range chicken and fish. Used to be vegetarian but it didn't agree with me. Try to buy only humanly raised animal and eat little.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
12th Mar 2013 (#)

Very interesting history and advice...

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author avatar Songbird B
15th Mar 2013 (#)

Fascinating and informative article as always Johnny.. \0/x

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