Familiar Strangers: The Church and the Vegetarian Movement in Britain (1809-2009) is a book about the history of the relationship between the Churches and organized vegetarianism in Britain over two centuries.
Within the name, Familiar Strangers, author John Gilheany captures the essence of the struggle that has existed between the church and the vegetarian movements for the past 2,000 years, and his study of the last 200 years in Britain highlights the continued struggle, as well as the advances that have occurred.
For far too many years the majority of churches and church leaders have turned a blind eye and heart toward the suffering of animals, and the health problems to human beings that an animal product based diet causes. In Familiar Strangers, John Gilheany brings to light the historical documentation and the need for all of us to become vegetarian/vegan, for it is God's heavenly will for our lives, and the best thing for the animals and the environment.
In Familiar Strangers, we also see how the animal rights movement was a natural progression of the vegetarian influence with it's concern for the suffering of animals.
In 1809, the origins of the vegetarian movement were set in place with the foundation of the Bible Christian Church of Salford. The radical sect, whose congregation included local Civic leaders and the first M.P. for Salford, Joseph Brotherton (1783 - 1857) was instrumental in the formation of the Vegetarian Society, in 1847. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the wider Food Reform movement had developed both secular and spiritual ideals which attracted a notable proportion of Christians.
Among the more prominent religious figures to have shared an association with Christian vegetarianism have been John and Charles Wesley; General William Booth, C.H Spurgeon, Leo Tolstoy, Lord Soper, and even Mahatma Gandhi.
The reluctance of the Vegetarian Society to adopt an overtly theological stance led to the formation of related but distinctly religious organizations. The Order of the Golden Age became particularly influential during the Edwardian period whilst operating from prestigious offices in London's Knightsbridge. The most remarkable achievement of the forgotten organization occurred in 1907, when their propaganda was met with a change in diet on the part of Pope Pius X.
The vegetarian movement entered into a decline after the Second World War from which it was unable to recover until the Counter Culture of the 1960s eventually gave rise to the modern animal rights movement.