Vegetarian Society Letter From 1933 Describes Ox Roast As ‘Grave Offense’

The letter suggested a celebration "more in tune with the ideals of the twentieth century"

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A 100-year-old letter written by the Vegetarian Society to the Mayor of Bristol urging him to cancel a public ox roast The letter was written in October, 1933 - Media Credit: Instagram/@Chef_Liam_Penn

The Vegetarian Society wrote a letter to the Mayor of Bristol almost 100 years ago calling on him to halt the public roasting of an ox, or young bullock.

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The letter, dated October 1933, to Bristol mayor Francis Crispin Luke, requesting they cancel a “public ox-roasting.” The celebration, announced by the Bristol Evening Post, aimed to raise money for the mayor’s Hospital Appeal Fund and Christmas Dinner Fund, which the Vegetarian Society described as “most worthy.”

However, the society’s letter goes on to discuss the “grave offense” that publicly displaying a dead animal may cause, “whether or not they happen to be vegetarians,” and suggests that the mayor substitute a celebration “more in tune with the ideals of the twentieth century.”

“I would most respectfully submit that perpetuation of what is old, merely because it is old, affords no true criterion so far as public behavior is concerned,” continues the letter. It goes on to suggest that ox-roasting belongs in a bygone era of “bull-baiting” and other bloodsports.

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Oxen and other cows are “sophisticated” and “sensitive”

An ox standing in a field
Adobe Stock Oxen are known to be intelligent and sensitive

Plant-based fine dining chef Liam Penn discovered the letter while working on his Edible Histories menu, which delves into “some of history’s most influential dishes and food.” (The correspondence can also be found referenced in the Bristol Archives Catalogue.)

“This 3 page letter described in detail how old fashioned, barbaric and misplaced the public parade of a dead animal is,” wrote Penn on Instagram.

Oxen, or bullocks, are traditionally trained and used as draft animals for agricultural labor. To do this work, oxen were trained to respond to words and signals in the same way as draft horses, and some people believe they are at least as smart as dogs.

Scientific studies confirm that cattle are intelligent, “sophisticated,” and “sensitive” animals, with emotional inner lives and complicated relationships with others.

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