The 9th European Vegetarian Congress in Riccione, Italy, and the EVU Annual General Meeting
Vegetarians seem to feel at home in Italy, or why else would they meet for the third time at a European Congress in this beautiful country? The decision to found a European Vegetarian Union was taken at the first congress in Cervia, and therefore there was an anniversary to be marked this time – the EVU is 20 years old! A further reason to celebrate was World Vegetarian Day on 1 October; an event that was the main topic of the opening party and that met with a broad reaction in the press.
Approximately 350 participants came from 15 different countries, from the USA to India, and Sweden to Ghana. There was a warm reunion with many friends from previous congresses, while at the same time many new acquaintances were made. We stayed at the 4-star congress hotel “Le Conchiglie” (the seashell), directly on the Adriatic coast. The summer season had just finished, and so, except for a few seagulls, we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. The weather did not exactly spoil us as there was a mix of everything, including storms, thunder and lightening, but there were also some warm, sunny days. The comfort offered by the hotel was certainly worth the price, with a pleasant atmosphere in the main congress hall and all the necessary electronic equipment. Smaller rooms were available for workshops, an internet café provided contact to the outside world, and lots of comfortable sofas and armchairs encouraged conversations and exchanges of ideas.
A five-day programme was put on under the motto “Vegetarians do it better”, with speakers from across the world, workshops and scientific discussions, cooking demonstrations and excursions to well-known destinations in the area. Each day had its own main topic, such as vegetarianism and animal rights, sustainable vegetarianism or vegetarian health.
It is not easy to single out individual speakers, and it is a reflection of the quantity of interesting speakers that they cannot all be mentioned here. Stephan Walsh, author of the book “Plant-Based Nutrition and Health” presented several particularly interesting topics from his book, with additional background information and tips for implementation in real life. Paul Turner reported on his organisation “Food for Life” (see interview on page 15), and Tina Fox, Chief Executive of the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom and Chair of the IVU talked about the work of the oldest and largest vegetarian association in the world. Several Italian speakers, less well known to us, also held notable lectures. All of the talks and workshops were translated either from English into Italian or vice versa, depending on the language of the speaker.
The programme of lectures was complemented by daily yoga exercises with Margaret Gunn-King, an exhibition of firms offering vegetarian products and information on various associations, including all the Italian vegetarian societies.
And what is almost more important at a vegetarian congress than the lectures? The food of course! The chefs at the hotel excelled themselves with a buffet that left no-one wanting with its variety, choice and flavour. Anyone wanting to sample every dish could forget about counting the calories! The vegan desserts in particular were a treat. The congress closed with a gala dinner, where the chefs again demonstrated how good high-quality vegetarian food can look and taste.
Our thanks go out to Carmen Somaschi and her daughter Sophia who organised the congress and made this unforgettable experience possible. Not everything ran according to plan, but that is usual when such an event is not organised by professionals, but rather by dedicated volunteers of a non-profit society.
Prior to the congress, the “Le Conchiglie” hotel was also host to the Annual General Meeting of the EVU. Renato Pichler was elected President of the EVU, and several other Board members were re-elected or joined the EVU Board for the first time. Strategies for the future work of the EVU were discussed, including our contribution to the future revision of the EU Directive on the labelling of foodstuffs, the promotion of vegetarian food in schools and the establishment of the annual working meetings under the title “EVU Talks”.Some Congress photos on Facebook