International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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History of Vegetarian Societies in Africa


  • 1894-1903 - the earliest references we have to vegetarianism in Africa are several letters and articles sent by Gandhi to The Vegetarian (London). See Mohandas K. Gandhi for the complete collection, below are the items from South Africa:
    To Indians in England (from South Africa) - April 28, 1894
    A Band of Vegetarian Missionaries, and their work in South Africa - May 18, 1895
    Vegetarianism in Natal - December 21, 1895
    Vegetarianism - copy of a letter to the Editor of the Natal Mercury - March 28, 1896
    Facts for Emigrants to South Africa - April 25, 1903

  • 1957 - the minutes of the IVU General Meeting, during the Congress in India, record the presence of one or more delegates from South Africa, but no details were given.
    - A Vegetarian in Central Africa - written in 1956 by an Englishman, published in the Souvenir book of the 1957 Congress.

  • 1958 - The Vegetarian World Forum, July 1958, carried a complete list of IVU " Affiliated Societies - and others in association with the I.V.U." These included:
    West African V.S., Mr. E. M. Affram, P.O. Box 671, Accra, Ghana
    West African V.S., Mr. T. C. K. Osuji, P.O. Box Port Harcourt, Nigeria
    Johannesburg V.S., Mr. J. Idelson, P.O. Box 5119, Jo'burg, S. Africa

  • 1960 - the General Secretary's report states: "The following societies and organisations are now affiliated to The I.V.U. . . . Nigerian Vegetarian Society . . . West African Vegetarian Society . . . " (from a total of 48)

  • 1966 - From a piece written by Jan Beeldman, former Chairman of the Vegetarian Society of South Africa:
    "In 1966 letters appeared in the press from vegetarians enquiring if there was a vegetarian society and if not, if it wasn't time that such a society should be founded. Jeremiah Idelson who had been a foundation member of a vegetarian society in earlier years responded by inviting those interested to write to him and in due course a meeting was held when about 30 people 'gave birth' to what was then called The Johannesburg Vegetarian Society. One of the first steps the society took was to draw up a constitution, join the parent body S.A.V.U. (South African Vegetarian Union) and to become affiliated to the International Vegetarian Union."

  • 1969 - an article by Woodland Kahler, President of IVU, describes the 'recent' formation of the South African Vegetarian Union (last paragraph)
    From The Humanitarian and Vegetarian World Forum, Oct.-Dec., 1969:
    SOUTH AFRICA : Durban
    From Durban we have the good news that up until May, 1969, Mrs. van Loon's vegetarian booklet had sold 6,000 copies. She is the wife of Louis van Loon, the founder and organizer of the Vegetarian Society of Durban that began four years ago [ie 1965] and developed into the South African Vegetarian Union which now has its own excellent "glossy" magazine called MAN, the first number of which was reviewed in World Forum.
    Mrs. van Loon evidently won the approval of her interviewer from the Natal Mercury of May 30th, 1969, by giving her an appetising meal consisting of Soya Bean rissoles, cauliflower, mashed potato with mint, beans and salad. The long article she reported covered most arguments for a harmless diet and was liberally illustrated, by pictures of convincingly hale South African vegetarians of both sexes, young and old. It also quoted Mr. van Loon as giving the acid test of whether flesh-eating was right or wrong in the observation: "People will take their children to a farm and let them see fruit and crops growing, but how many will take their children to an abbatoir to see cattle being slaughtered?"

  • 1971 - Mr. Louis H. van Loon, President of the South African Vegetarian Union elected to the IVU International Council. SAVU bid to host the 1973 Congress, but the members voted to go to Sweden.

  • 1973 - from a list of particpants at the IVU Congress in Sweden - South Africa: Mrs. Claire Cullen, Mrs. Margaret Newby, Mr. Solomon Stein, Mrs. F. Stein.

  • 1975 - Mr. Evan P. Morkel, of Cape Town, appointed as the first IVU Regional Secretary for Africa, and joined Mr. van Loon on the Council. South Africa proposed for the 1977 IVU Congress, but the members voted to go to India.
    - records show a donation from: "Mr.H.Levenberg (S. Africa) £2.12"
    - from reports by Member Societies at the 1975 Congress in the USA, quoted by the Vegetarian Times: "S. AFRICA: Publishes a journal, circ = 1,000. Has 3 regional offices in Johannesburg, Capetown, & Durban. Has veg. contacts in Ghana, Nigeria, Rhodesia, Liberia."

  • 1977 - The IVU Membership records show that the South African Vegetarian Union paid subscriptions of £4.00 in 1975 and 76, but nothing from 1977 onwards. S.O.U.L. Vegetarian Soc. (Nigeria) paid £5.00 in 1975, '76 and '77.
    - from the 1977 General Secretary's Report: "The African Region is keeping close contact in 3 countries but conditions militate presently against a Regional Congress there. "

  • 1979 - the minutes of the General Meeting, in England, record: "Regional and National Society reports were read out at two following sessions of the Congress from 30th Aug. 1979:- Egyptian Vegetarians - Prof.T.Magalid . . . Nigerian (S.O.U.L.) Vegetarian Society - Mr.Gunn-King read report . . . South African Vegetarian Union - Mrs. Pamela Solarsh "

  • 1982 - Mr. Jan Beeldman appointed Regional Secretary for Africa. (Mr. van Loon left the Council at this point after having "not been active in IVU for some years". Mr. Morkel's last involement was in 1980, and he had also left by 1982, which suggests that SAVU had closed by this time)
    The minutes of the IVU General Meeting record: "Reports were presented from the following societies:- Ghana - Pan African Vegetarian Union - Dr O.A.Gyan; South African Vegetarian Society - Mr Colin Rood "

  • 1984 - Jan Beeldman attended the IVU Congress in Baltimore, USA, and gave a report from Africa: "Mr Beeldman commented on Africa's food problem and the relevance of the vegetarian answer to it. There was growing interest in vegetarianism in South Africa and the Society was becoming more active [presumably the South African Vegetarian Society]. He explained the lack of contact with other parts of Africa."
    He remained as Regional Secretary until 1997, but did not attend any further Congresses.
    An offer was made to host the IVU Congress in 'West Africa' in 1988, but the members voted for Mexico (which was later cancelled...)
    Reports were presented from the following societies:- South Africa: South African Vegetarian Society - Mr.C.Rood

  • 1989 - the minutes of the IVU Council meeting record that Mr. Beeldman was not present but reported: "Africa - a national meeting had been held in South Africa but, due to political problems, no regional congress had been possible."

  • 1990 - from the minutes of the IVU General Meeting at the Congress in Israel: "Reports were presented . . . on behalf of the regional secretaries of . . . Africa, . . ." "Reports of Member Societies - . . .the South African Vegetarian Society, . . ."
    - Nigeria Vegetarian Society founded (presumably the earlier one mentioned in 1960 had closed)

  • 1993 - minutes of the IVU Council meeting, during the Congress in India record: "Mr Jan Beeldman of South Africa had indicated he wished to retire from the post but had agreed to continue until a suitable replacement were found."

  • 1994 - from the minutes of the General Meeting in The Netherlands: "Africa - The regional secretary, Mr Jan Beeldman, was unable to attend the congress and sent his apologies. He reported the developments in South Africa since the liberation and the prospects for growth in the vegetarian movement. He received little from other parts of Africa but looked forward to increasing co-operation between African vegetarian societies as time progressed. Mr Maxwell Lee, the Hon.General Secretary, reported in contacts he had with vegetarian societies in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In addition he heard periodically from vegetarian groups in Mauritius."
    IVU Membership Records show that the S.O.U.L. Vegetarian Soc. (Nigeria) paid subscriptions from 1991 to 1994, but in steadily decreasing amounts - the subs were related to numbers of members, suggesting a declining membership.
    The South Africa Vegetarian Society paid a subscription in 1991, then less in 1992, but nothing after that.
    The Nigeria Vegetarian Society paid a subscription in 1993.
    Vegetarian Society of Mauritius was listed, apparently with free membership.

  • 1995 - from the minutes of the IVU Council meeting "Regional Secretaries' Reports - Africa - Mr Jan Beeldman reported the development of the South African society and the hope for the future of a regional organisation now the political changes in South Africa had taken place"
    - Vegetarian Society of Botswana

  • 1996 - Global News Roundup - includes an item about the newly formed Botswana Vegetarian Society (IVU Newsletter, May 1996)
    - Out of Africa - report from Jan Beeldman and 'Botswana's President attends Vegetarian Gastronomic Dinner' (IVU News 1996)
    - Reports from Botswana & Zambia - Vegetarian Society of Botswana and The Zambian Society of Vegetarians (EVU News 1996)

Seated (L to R): Dr. P.K. Jain; Sir Q.K.J. Masire, President of Botswana;
Madam G. Masire, First Lady; Mrs. S. Seligman. Standing: Mrs. P.Jain

Since the mid 1990s, many Vegetarian and Vegan Societies in Africa have been given free membership of IVU, but it has often been difficult to maintain contact with them and to establish whether they still exist. For the current membership, and details of many related organisations, see the database at IVU in Africa

If you have any more information about anything on this page please contact John Davis -