If the Booths had had their way, The Salvation Army would have been a vegetarian Movement. In the 19th century, the majority of Salvationists were former Methodists and many agreed with some form of vegetarianism, following the example of John Wesley.
The Mother of the Army, Catherine Booth, was more partial to vegetarianism than her husband. Early in their marriage she wrote to William, “Have you thought any more about vegetarianism? I am inclined towards it more than ever. I am convinced of the importance of simplicity and regularity in diet … I don’t think half as highly of meat (animal food I mean) as I used to do.”
It appears that William was convinced, as noted by his response to a reporter in 1909. “How do you sustain such hard work, and particularly so much public speaking at night, at your advanced age?” he was asked, to which he replied, “I owe it to my careful vegetarian diet.”
Their son, Bramwell, and his wife, Florence, were committed vegetarians. Their daughter, Catherine Booth (named after her grandmother), wrote: “Memory holds for me a gentle picture of Catherine as grandmother. I am nearly four years old. When she will not allow Uncle Herbert to give me a piece of meat I hear her speak distinctly. ‘No, Herbert, she shall not have anything in this house that her mother would not wish her to have.’ ”
Even though he was interested in all aspects of Army activity, Bramwell considered officer training to be vital to the Movement’s success. He therefore carefully watched over this training. Not even such mundane matters as the quality and variety of diet escaped his attention. He insisted that a vegetarian “bill of fare” be provided for cadets who wished to avoid meat.