The Beatles and IVU
A story of convergence between a pop group and the International Vegetarian Union . . .
July 6 - the centre of Woolton village has changed little since the day when John Lennon, 16 going on 17, and Paul McCartney, 15, met at the church fete. They had probably never heard of vegetarianism, let alone thought anything about it.
November 9 – the 15th IVU World Veg Congress was held in India, organised by a remarkable man named Jay Mankar (more about him below). One of the speakers was the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (photo right from 1973, more about him below too).
August 17 - the Beatles arrived in Hamburg, Germany, very early in the morning to begin a few months of club sessions.
August 26-28 – the 16th IVU World Veg Congress arrived in Hamburg after a few days in Hanover. It was probably in a rather more upmarket part of town than the infamous red-light district where the Beatles were still playing. Jay Mankar was at this Congress too (more about him below).
1962 – November – Little Richard had mostly retired from rock and roll in 1957 to become a vegetarian Seventh Day Adventist Minister. He made one of his occasional returns at the Star Club in Hamburg, where the still little known Beatles were also on the bill. This was possibly their first encounter with vegetarianism, and from one of their musical heroes. (the photo right is from 1963 when they were becoming famous) Little Richard has remained vegetarian.
1965 - April – George Harrison began to develop an interest in Indian music and culture while they were filming Help! in the Bahamas. Later that year George first used a sitar on Norwegian Wood, on the Rubber Soul album. Below: with Ravi Shankar in 1967.
August 24 – all four Beatles met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in London. They planned to go to his ashram at Rishikesh, near Delhi, in October/November, but Paul wanted to finish filming the Magical Mystery Tour so their trip was delayed to the following February.
November 18 – the 19th IVU World Veg Congress arrived in New Delhi, India, and was opened by the Dalai Lama (photo below - he was vegetarian for about 18 months at that time, but on and off ever since). This was again organised by Jay Mankar (on the right of the photo). Not many records from this Congress have survived, so we don’t know whether the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was present again, but it is quite possible. It was exactly the time when the Beatles originally planned to be at nearby Rishikesh – if they had kept to that plan the IVU Congress might have had even more illustrious visitors . . .
Mid-February - the Beatles arrived in Rishikesh, via Delhi.
from The British Vegetarian, May/June 1968: Hard Days Yoga - Even The Times (19.2.68) condescended to reporting that the Beatles had a vegetarian diet while meditating with their Maharishi in Rishikesh. (photo right)
Later that year we have reports that Paul & Jane Asher were still veggie back in Scotland but then split up and both seem to have drifted back to meat-eating. George remained consistent for the rest of his life, John seems to have drifted in and out of various diets, and Ringo eventually returned to veg*ism permanently.
1973 – George donated Bhaktivedanta Manor, in Hertfordshire, to the vegetarian Hare Krishna movement.
1970s - Paul & Linda became vegetarian together at some point in the 70s, though there seem to be different accounts of exactly how or when.
1977 - Jay Mankar (left) died, age 82, just before yet another huge IVU Congress he was organising in India. The Mankar Memorial Award was created, to be given for services to the veg movement.
1989 - Linda's first vegetarian cookbook, cover right.
1991 - Linda's vegetarian food range introduced in the UK.
1995 - Paul and Linda became Patrons of the Vegetarian Society UK, one of the founder members of IVU way back in 1908.
In an interview, Paul said, ""We all turned out to be veggie. Ringo's walking around with, like, a bag of seeds, so healthy".
1999 – the Mankar Memorial Award was given posthumously to Linda, who had died the year before. In December some IVU leaders met Paul in London where he accepted the award on Linda’s behalf:
l-r: - Sir Paul McCartney - Tina Fox, then CEO of The Vegetarian Society UK, IVU membership secretary, and later chair of the IVU council. - Francisco Martin, President on the Spanish Vegan Society, and then IVU General Secretary. - the late Maxwell Lee, Chair of the IVU Council and President of VSUK.
2002 – the 35th IVU World Veg Congress was held in Edinburgh, Scotland. Paul made a personal donation to fund delegates from developing countries in attending. It was used to bring some African veg group leaders to the Congress.
Paul and Linda’s daughters, Stella and Mary, took their mother’ splace as Patrons of the Vegetarian Society UK, and in recent years Paul has been actively promoting veg*ism, especially through his ‘Meat-free Mondays’ campaign.
It would have been hard to imagine all that back in 1957.
For vegan history, see my free e-book: ‘World Veganism – past, present and future.” You can download it for free, or replace your existing copy at: www.ivu.org/history/Vegan_History.pdf (6mb)
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