|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
35th World Vegetarian Congress
'Food for all our futures'
Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland
July 8-14, 2002
The Vegetarian Society
of the United Kingdom
Saturday, July 13,
Day the Sixth
This being the last day of the Congress, I want to end on a high note. It has obviously been an incredibly rewarding experience for all of us. But it seems most fitting at this reserve, to conclude with discussions I had with one delegate who was at her first vegetarian Congress, and another who has been around almost as long as the modern vegetarian movement itself
Herma Caelen is the Hon. Secretary General of the European Vegetarian Union. This is her first vegetarian congress. She has been a vegetarian for 17 years and always, in one way or another, involved in animal rights.
"I really enjoyed the Congress, I love it," Caelen told the Journal. "The lectures, certainly were wonderful but more than anything else it was meeting people, seeing what people think, what they feel, the knowledge they shared, their impressions. What is most lovely is to be with people who do not eat meat."
Asked if she is coming away with more hope about vegetarianism and animal welfare taking a firmer and broader hold in the world, Caelen expressed her optimism in terms of interest expressed by corporations interested in vegetarian products:
"I had hope before I came,"Caelen recalled. "I had two
long telephone conversation before I came from people in the U.K. and
India doing marketing research and looking for outlets. The big bucks
are interested in investing in vegetarian issues. If they are interested
in it, there must be something to it
No question about that after my chat with Neville Hall, in my opinion the most distinguished delegate at this year's Congress. Neville is 92 years-old.
Neville became a vegetarian at the age of 23, when there was little support for someone who made the decision to eradicate meat from his or her diet. It was a courageous and far-sighted decision that Neville says has kept him in good stead, physically and otherwise. This astute, articulate gentleman has better recall of what he did 70 years ago than I have about what I did in downtown Edinburgh yesterday.
Neville was President of the Vegetarian Society, from 1990-94, and is currently the President of the Vegetarian Housing Association.
I had the privilege of speaking with him during the last afternoon tea break of the last day of the Congress.
"I became a vegetarian at the age of 23 when I left home and cooked meals for myself," Neville says, noting he moved in with a non-vegetarian family in Croydon when he was working in a new factory in Lancashire in 1934. "I became a vegetarian because it pleased myself. I found a landlady who would give me a room and look after me and provide me with vegetarian food. She said she didn't know what vegetarianism was but if I told her what I ate she'd buy it and give it to me."
Asked what influenced him to become a vegetarian, Neville recalled he had several influences.
" My grade school friend was interested in theosophy and he brought in the oriental religions and I learned about Buddhism and Hinduism and the attitude to animals and that influenced me. I thought that made good sense and I adopted it really for those reasons.
"It was about non-violence and it being totally unnecessary to kill."
At first, Neville had very few if any vegetarian contacts in Croydon; then, when his company moved him back to London, he went on his first vegetarian group holiday with the Vegetarian Society in 1956. "We met a lot of other vegetarians and, fortunately, there were some there who lived in Croydon where I lived and they said 'why don't you join our Croydon vegetarian society' which I did in 1956 and that's where I began all my involvement with it."
Neville said the biggest changes he's seen since then have been in the
growth of the movement's numbers. He said it was estimated there were
100,000 vegetarians in Britain at the end of the war. These statistics
were kept because of food rationing and the keeping of figures of individuals
Neville told me he believes the advent of television and films showing the horrors of factory farming are responsible for the conversion of great numbers of individuals to vegetarianism. Malcolm Muggeridge was invited by Neville and his vegetarian colleagues to a vegetarian exhibition in Croydon because Muggeridge had been schoolboy in there. The experience, he said, turned Muggeridge into a vegetarian.
Thoughts about the Congress?
"Very good, indeed," Neville said. "I'm very impressed with the organization of it. And of course we've got more resources than we had in the old day. We had to improvise so much."
Asked what he would do to continue to spread the word of vegetarianism, Neville said the human element is key.
"Congresses, human, one-to-one contact and local activities,"
he suggests. "But people don't go to meetings the way they used to
do. There is so much available on television and on the radio and the
Internet and, of course, the pressures of modern life; people haven't
got all the time. So it is important
Neville is recovering from a stroke which he says was brought on by stress, not vegetarianism.
"Up until then, I haven't had a doctor for 40 years!"
He heard a vegetarian doctor moved into Croydon, made an appointment
and discovered he had high blood pressure which led to the stroke. He
says it could have been much worse "but within 10 months I was driving
again until last year." A stunning endorsement of the vegetarian
diet if there ever was
Eye problems have taken Neville from behind the wheel but not off the
front lines of the campaign for sensible dietary choices and compassionate
living. "We (in the U.K.) are probably the most advanced vegetarians
in the western world. We are, I think, the torchbearers. I think we've
led the way. One is
The vegetarian movement in these countries, in the U.K., indeed throughout the world has pioneers like Neville Hall to thank for these advances.
I am certain all vegetarians, worldwide, thank you, Neville, for your lifelong contribution to the vegetarian and animal welfare movements.
The beauty and timely delivery of the Congress Journal was, in large
part, due to the creative genius and lucubrative efforts of John Davis.
I'm sure you will agree his nature and delegate photos have been top drawer.
These candid, inspired portraits have made this a Journal that will live
in perpetuity as a
John's indispensable contribution to the Congress was overlooked when thank yous were announced at the gala dinner tonight (ironic, considering several delegates, including your journal keeper, would have never registered for the Congress had it not been for John's design and management of IVU's outstanding Congress Internet site); this often happens in organizations that have hierarchical political structures, no matter how altruistic and well-intentioned they are; a few black holes and windbags of long-standing usually suck up all the light and glory whilst the real stars of the production shine quietly in distant corners of the organization's firmament.
After they became aware of this highly inconsidrate oversight, Congress organizers apologized and offered belated thanks. "Too little, too late," noted my colleague and Canadian Justice Department delegate, Eric Noble. Know that you are appreciated, John, by me and several other delegates who had nothing but praise for your several talents and inexhaustible efforts. Having been left out of the initial acknowledgements myself, I realized our gratification and appreciation would issue from the knowledge that our efforts were of benefit to those who could not attend the Conference and those who will consult the journal for ages to come.
Now a word for my sponsors.
The Congress Journal was written on a Toshiba Portege 4000 notebook computer. The Portege preformed absolutely brilliantly. I got great battery life out of it when writing in seminars, and the keyboard action is first-rate. Overall, a cracker machine I recommend to anyone and everyone who is looking for a great laptop.
I have also been taking photos of the Congress with a Kodak EasyShare DX4900 digital camera. Again, spot on performance! Wonderful zoom lens and excellent focusing and light control features. I have been testing several digitals since learning that my old 35mm Nikon uses animal-based, gelatin film which is also used in the processing of the film. Definitely no vegan product there, what? The Kodak, as I say, also performed brilliantly. Get rid of that animal exploiting camera and get yourself a cracker jack digital number like the Kodak Easyshare.
See you in Singapore, 2004!