International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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4th International Congress 1897
London, England

from The Vegetarian (London), September 25th, 1897:

International Vegetarian Congress

A Day of "Papers"


Mme. Veigelé read a praise-worthily brief paper on "Vegetarianism the Root of all Good, Proved by True Experiences." Since so great a majority of Vegetarians confessed to its adoption from the interested motive of personal physical well-being the fact that this system was conducive to health, became at once a safe generalization, meriting serious attention, for perfect health was a priceless possession, only prized by such unfortunates among mankind as have long been deprived of it.

But it was Madame Viegeilé pointed out, even a potent a remedy of moral as of physical pathology. A pure vegetable diet would be the best axe with which to strike at the root of disease, madness, poverty, suffering and drunkeness. Man has deteriorated in himself, and had devastated the land by his forsaking of Nature's laws by the slaughter and usage of anmals as food-articles. With the spectacle of the struggle for life ever before us, it is appalling to see innumerable acres of land annually going out of cultivation for the rearing of animals, forced to breed in season and out, and to subsist, like their human devourers, upon dead bodies. Slaughter-houses might give place to orchards of fruit trees, if only the tyranny of the barbarous customs could be abolished ; and consistency would require the cessation of vivisection, accompanied as it must ever be by diabolical torments, while the discarding of needless fur and feathers at present worn, merely to obey the thoughtless decrees of fashinable barbarity, must follow perforce and speedily.


This was the subject chosen by Miss May Yates for her very interesting paper. The present century, she thought, gave evidence of a material development unparalleled in the annals of history. Nature's forces were subdued by the knowledge of laws to an extent that would formerly have been accounted miraculous, but on the other hand disquieting analogies to the ruin-breeding luxury of Rome and Babylon might also be traced.

The downfall of ancient empires had been at all times the result of over-sensual indulgence, and, with historical parallels behind us, we should be able to retain all the acquirements and refinements of a yet more cultured civilization, together with plain living and high morality.

Vegetarianism considered merely as a more adequate dietetic system, could hardly achieve this preventative work if it were not spiritualized by an idela yet practical, recognition of the underlying unity of all life, and a perception that the whole of Nature is governed by the impelling force of that love which as Dante has said, "moves the sun and the other stars." Conquering evil by that love which is invincible, Vegetarianism, after laying the foundation of life in conditions freed from cruelty and bloodshed, must press ever onwards, striving to kindle enthusiasm against cruelty under any disguise, until righteousness alone should be established upon the earth.


The paper by Miss Isabel Whitfield on "Vegetarianismin its Highest Aspect" opened with one of the mystic sayings of Orpheus : "Fire is not to be enkindled on a hearth defiled with gore," and proceeded with the Pythagorean injunction that "we should consider our body as the garment of our soul." Pity and love are qualities essential to the life of the pure soul, and are inconsistent with the sustenance of the physical body upon articles slaughtered for food. To act humanely towards animals is the first step towards that happy state wherein the soul, loving all that breathes, loves humanity not more but less, and the whole world then sends forth appeals which are no longer vainly made.


"They walked out alone," continued the speaker, quoting from Iamblichus of the Pythagoreans, "in the early morning to converse with Nature, and to render their own souls sedate. Their meals consisted of bread and honey, with raw and boiled herbs and maize." They avoided unjust and superfluous foods, such as flesh and wine, and sought fearlessly to instruct and to tame savage beasts by ways of gentleness, for, like Sir Galahad, "whose strength was as the strength of ten because his heart was pure," their courage grew greater commensurately with their spiritual development.


Frau Johanna Mertens (German Federal Union), the President of the "Berliner Kinderheim-Verein Wohlfart," then gave some interesting particulars, in German, of the society which seeks to benefit those poor little bairns of either illegitimate birth or who may have been deserted by their parents, and who, despised by uncharitable law and unchristian-like public opinion, are circumstanced rather for the fostering than eradication of disease, crime, and vice.

The diet in the school will be strictly Vegetarian, and the children entrusted to the care of the Society will be carefully trained in sound morality and in useful manual and mental work, according to age and ability. The individuality of each child will be carefully studied, and in due time each will be given the best possible assistance in starting out upon his or her professional or industrial career.

Frau Mertens' remarks were translated into French and into English by the delegate of the Swiss and of the Chicago Societies, Fraülein Kövel, who also continued to act as interpreter of all the transactions of the Congress throughout the ensuing week.


On Tuesday afternoon the chair was occupied by Herr Buerdorff, whose name is well known to readers of the Vegetarische Warte as a most zealous Vegetarian, a Vegetarian who believes emphatically the Vegetarianism is not in principle, or fact, a mere matter of diet, but a duty which should be based upon a nobler foundation, and which shold attempt loftier aims. The whole dietetic side of the question has been raised, as Herr Buerdorff observed, not by Vegetarians, but by the physiologists and the physicians, and if only the question of humane human food could be met by a proper response, sickness would become so rare that doctors would have no exercise for their faculties in that direction.


The feature of the afternoon was Mr. Light's paper on Vegetarian Athletics, which followed papers by Messrs. Forward and Axon, the latter being represented by the Rev. J. Clark.Rapidly tracing the history of the Vegetarian Athletic and Cycling Club, Mr. Light said that its birth occurred in May, 1887, with Mr. Leslie Large as its first secretary, and with Mr. W. H. Browne (who, however, left for Canada in 1889) as captain.

Mr. Crossley replaced Mr. Large shortly afterwards, and the vacant captaincy was filled by Mr. Light. Mr. A. F. Hills was elected President, and by his encouragement and example gave the utmost assistance to the movement in its infancy and weakness, and several notable vice-Presidents did the same.

The immense difficulties respecting Club runs would have discouraged the members of any club not fired, like the Vegetarian Cycling Club, with the desire to forward a great object. It had to contend against the competition of other district clubs whose members lived within easy access of the weekly trysting place, whereas the Vegetarian C.C.'s component elements were dispersed broadcast on every London and suburban classification indicated by the capital initials of the postal districts, separated by a distance of thirty miles from the start, and of necessity the major portion of the Club would have to traverse the heart of London to get to the club room, no matter where it might have been situated.


The most various arguments for the practical adoption of Vegetarianism may be extracted wholesale by him who hath eyes to see, from the all unsuspicious admissions of our friend the enemy. Defoe and Bunyan, though meat-eaters, even as Shakespeare himself, were laid under contribution, by the Rev. Alfred Bodington, to prove conclusively that -

"The mind shall banquet, though the body pine;
Fat paunches have lean pates ; and dainty hits
Make rich the ribs, but bankrout the wits.''

Mr. Bodington instanced Nelson as having cured himself of gout, to which he was hereditarily predisposed, by abstaining for nearly two years from wines and animal food, throwing "the grosser manner of these world's delights" upon the "gross world's baser slaves," by an exclusive diet of vegetables, as meat, and of milk and water, as drink. The speaker made allusion to Elijah, to whom the angel said : "Arise and eat. And behold there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. . . . And he arose and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb, the Mount of God."

The Women's Reception at "Shafts."

The reception given by the Women's Vegetarian Union at the offices of that extremely earnest and uncompromisingly progressive women's newspaper, Shafts, was an unqualified success from start to finish. Mrs. Sibthorp [right], the editor of the paper, was the most unobtrusively kindly and informal of hostesses, and, as several of the German delegates remarked to the representative of the Vegetarian, one of the most majestatliche of women. Mercifully there was no "speechifying," and the keynote of the evening's proceedings was rather recreative and recuperative than "improving". The asemblage, despite the meeting of the Order of the Golden Age at St.Martin's Town Hall, made up a collecitve noun of considerable multitude, of masculine and feminine gender, while international was its most fitting qualifying adjective. Conversation in French, in German, in Italian, and in English was to be heard through the unceasing murmur of talk - not conversation - and of laughter ; representatives of other nationalities were there confining their conversation, however, to what the advertisements in "Continental Bradshaw" term these "principle languages."


The most noteworthy items of the entertainment were Mrs. Gaskell's costume, Mrs. Leo's "Distinguishing Features" - a very humorous sketch, with appropriately dramatic actions and topical allusions, of the outlines of physiognomy - and some eggless biscuits, which by a fortunate accident had been provided, and of which some of the Union's Hindu guests, who were Jains, were therefore able to partake. The rnusic and refreshments, it should be added, were both excellent, and the children's party of "grown-ups" parted from one another and their hostess with unaffectedly hearty regret.