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Come feast on our vegetarian history!

Come feast on our vegetarian history!

From: Rebel Press

Date: 22 August 2014

The first comprehensive history of vegetarianism in Aotearoa New Zealand will be launched by Rebel Press next weekend. The Compassionate Contrarians, by local writer Catherine Amey, describes how animal-free diets evolved in New Zealand from Victorian vegetarians through to modern animal rights campaigners. The publisher is celebrating by inviting book-lovers to sample some sweet or savoury treats from Aotearoa's vegetarian history at the book launch on Saturday 30 August, 3 p.m. at St John's Church Hall.

According to author Catherine Amey, "Today vegetarianism is fairly common and almost trendy. How did this happen in a nation that is focused on meat and dairy? Although New Zealand's economy has long depended on the meat and more recently the dairy industries, this country also has a little known history of vegetarianism, dating back to early Māori communities."

In the course of her research Catherine came across a wide range of unusual and interesting people. "In the nineteenth century, British colonists explored meatless diets. Early vegetarians dreamed of international disarmament, equal rights for women, prison reform, the dismantlement of the British Empire, anarchism, socialism and a ban on alcohol. Among them were animal rights activists, Seventh Day Adventists, theosophists, pacifists, conscientious objectors, feminists, socialists, anarchists, free-thinkers and spiritualists."

The book reveals the vegetarian lives of some well-known New Zealanders - such as the suffrage and temperance campaigner Kate Sheppard, the judge and politician Sir Robert Stout, the artist Rita Angus, and Maui Pomare, the first Māori doctor.

It also shows how vegetarianism became part of life in this country. In the early twentieth century Adventists started up vegetarian cafes, published cookbooks, and set up Sanitarium. Weetbix and Marmite, once 'faddish' health foods, became iconic New Zealand products. Over the years, New Zealand attitudes towards animals and food have shifted. New Zealand cuisine is no longer just about roasts, sweet cakes and stodgy puddings, and there is increasing awareness of the environmental impacts of consuming meat and dairy.

The Compassionate Contrarians uncovers the quirks of the vegetarian experience in a land of meat and dairy. More importantly, it acknowledges the hard work and courage of a group of idealists who dedicated their lives to creating a more just world for all sentient beings. It is available at selected bookshops, and through the Rebel Press website


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