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5th International Vegetarian Congress 1900
Paris, France

From The Vegetarian (London), February 6, 1901:

Relics of Paris Exhibition

Some interesting reminiscences of the Paris Exhibition were the other day given in an interview with Miss Hompes, who was sent to the Paris Exhibition by the Southport Food Reformers as their representative at the Vegetarian Conference. She regarded it as very significant in the history of the movement that the French Government should recognise an international conference of "Vegetarians" as part of the official programme of the proceedings of the great exhibition of 1900. She went on to say, surely after that we may claim to be something a little more than "faddists", even of the most refined and harmless kind.

The details of the arrangements fell to the Vegetarian Federal Union, whose headquarters are in London, and to the Committee of the French Vegetarian Society. I believe that the latter had matters pretty much their own way, and for republicans they certainly know how to rule a meeting pretty tightly. It was amusing to watch occasionally, during the course of a meeting, how very despotic and uncompromising a French chairman can be. But then he is called a "President," and that surely should impress even argumentative food reformers. But all was done with such characterstic, exemplary politeness that one could but sit down ; as politely, however, to beg for another hearing at the very next chance. This way we did manage on the second and third days of the conference - for we had three days of it - to push in a fair amount of discussion, such as we are used to at English meetings. I take credit for helping it on, whatever it may be worth, and I honestly believe that after we were once fairly off our French friends liked it. Their method of conducting a meeting seems to be to listen silently to paper after paper, with or without some slight comment from the chairman.

Vegetarianism appears to have the greatest numerical force behind it in this country, if we may judge from the fact that the English contribution of visitors numbered clise upon 70. There certainly was nothing like so large a set from any other foreign country outside France. But the visitors were representative for we had amongst us, Americans, Russians, German, Scandinavians, Dutch, and Swiss, each of which countries sent an encouraging report about the progress of the cause in its midst, and there were also reports sent from Australia and India. The meetings were, on the whole, well attended, the company numbered men and women of every shade of social position and degrees of culture.

The chairman of the opening meeting (who is the President of the French Vegetarian Society) was a Doctor of Medicine in active practice, and I am pleased to learn that the French Society has on its list no less than 18 medical men, some of whom were present in the room. Dr. Jules Grand's opening address was a splendid exposition of Vegetarianism from every aspect, the economic and humanitarian having due prominence. But as became the speaker, he was most emphatic on the hygienic side. He declared most emphatically that meat and alcohol should be banished together from every home and that no mother of a family should indulge in either. His testimony was borne up by a veteran advocate of the cause, Dr. Dock, of Geneva, who is now close upon 70 years of age, and has been a Vegetarian since 1867. If economic Vegetarianism needs an advocate in France it certainly could not ask for one abler than Maitre Roux, of Rouen, who held his audience spellbound on the last day of the conference for more than an hour. A better exposition I never desire to hear.

I ought not to forget either the very telling paper given by Mr. Harry Phillips, the Secretary of the Vegetarian Federal Union, on "Vegetarianism and Labour," in which he showed what workers in the Thames ironworks were able to do on Vegetarian food, and the good results obtained at the Walsted Colony.

Dr. Nyssens, of Brussels, who is the founder of the Belgian Vegetarian Society, drew the attention of his medical brethren to the good results he had obtained in the treatment of that so-called incurable disease diabetes, to which several of the doctors present responded. Certainly the French Vegetaians have made headway since their first general conference in 1890. And this is all the more encouraging in a country where, unlike England, the consumption of flesh food is not excessive.

Speaking with such men as Dr. Nyssens I have found the confirmation of my opinion, based on knowledge of other parts of the continent, that far more vegetables and fruit are consumed in France than with us. Indeed, in the country districts the people are largely, if not entirely vegetarians in practice. "But," says my friend, "mention the word Vegetarian to them and they are scared." Well, we English must not expect to have the exclusive claim to prejudice! It was good to see how cheaply fruit might be bought in Paris - good strawberries at 3d., cherries at 1d. and 2d., peaches at 4d. per lb., certainly gave one a chance of eating as much as one would like, and French beans at 1d. and 2d. per lb. are inviting. Such dainty luncheons of fruit and bread, well served as we had in the Paris restaurants, or hot vegetables if we preferred, at the modest charge of one franc, I have certainly looked for in vain in England. Fruit is still too much of a luxury among us. We have not yet learnt the wholesome lesson to treat it as a food. A conference such as this may and should help us.

Within the precincts of the Exhibition there was a fruit section, the scent of which was borne on the breeze for many yards away.