International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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32nd World Vegetarian Congress 1996
[Vegetarian Summerfest '96: A World Vegetarian Congress]

The Value Of Freedom
by Freya Dinsha

[Freya Dinshah]
Freya Dinshah
Vice president of the American Vegan Society. Cookbook author.
American Vegan Society
Malaga, NJ 08328-0908
In this country and throughout the world, we value Freedom. It is on this subject that I want to share some thoughts with you, in whose company I am happy to be today. For us Freedom has a broad meaning, and with it many obligations.

Freedom is not a simple matter of doing what we want to do, and having fun; although some may think so, for a while at least.. Freedom cannot just be viewed from a personal standpoint, for we will upset others by selfishly pursuing our own desires. Freedom IS freedom from bondage and exploitation. It is a state in which we may grow and learn, be nourished, and in which we may develop our talents, and explore life and the world in its many dimensions. This is what we want for ourselves, for our families, our friends and neighbors, our country, the world...

Freedom is an ideal that in the minds of a growing number of people should be extended to the animals. We are saddened at the plight of so many of our fellow creatures, shamed that they are imprisoned and slaughtered to provide food for the table, dismayed at their loss of habitat caused by the expanding demands of the human population, and distraught at the many other abuses inflicted upon them in the name of science, entertainment, and so forth.

This ideal exists in some traditions, or may spring forth spontaneously in the hearts of individuals. To change the appalling conditions that exist for the animals requires changes in our lifestyles. Reform depends on our individual actions, on the choices we make everyday.

We are indeed fortunate to be able to meet and learn from each other how to put our ideals into action. We are fortunate to have books and information available to us. We are blessed that we can obtain the food and commodities we need to live the way we have chosen.

There are many who are constrained by the habits of the society in which they live, by their lack of awareness, or by their age (the very young or the very old), or by infirmity, dependant on others or institutions for their care and sustenance. A tragedy occurs whenever an old person has to go into care and is fed meat when they'd rather be vegetarian. Or when a teenager becomes malnourished on a vegan diet through a lack of information, support, and good food selection.

Value your freedom and use it well to benefit not only yourself but to make the way easier for the others in your life, to alleviate the suffering of the animals and the earth. When it seems too much of a bother, remember we have a choice, and inconvenience is not an excuse. The more we do it, the easier it will become. We are blazing a trail for others to follow.. What we do will impact the lives of more than we will ever know.

We should take on responsibility, do some extra work, go to some extra trouble if need be. Even though through the years our understanding may change and we find it necessary to revise some hard won concepts when they are put to the test or as times change. Even though there are times when compromise may be the better choice.

We must be honest in evaluating a situation. We must make the right choice, not the lazy choice. It is important that we strengthen our spirits and do our best in exercising the Freedom we have, that is so valuable.

That will make it easier for all of us to walk more gently on the earth in a better harmony with our environment and the other creatures who share our planet.

The world is counting on us to make every effort.

Thank you.