International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo 35th World Vegetarian Congress
'Food for all our futures'

Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland
July 8-14, 2002
Hosted by

The Vegetarian Society
of the United Kingdom

Jeff's Congress Journal

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Day Four

Another early bird - a black-headed gull on the campus lake.

Well, we're just past the halfway point at the Congress, so I thought it would be a good time to take stalk of where we are at the 35th World Vegetarian Congress.

I started the day at a 6 a.m. Vipassana meditation meeting in the main hall of Herriot-Watt. I ended up meditating on why I got up at 5:30 in the morning when no one showed up.

Fortunately, I slept better last night thanks to the 'sleepy pillow spray' I bought in town at Boots yesterday. Now I'm just trying to deal with the feeling of being overweight I've had since we started eating here. I'm not alone in this several delegates have been complaining about the only-once-pass-through policy at the cafeteria had us all stacking up enough food to feed the ground troops in Afghanistan. I've always been slim-to-anorexic for my height. Since the second day here, however, I've had to undo the top button on my jeans and walk around with the bulge of my denim waist poking through my shirt. One rather attractive female delegate asked me today "Is that a tofu hot dog under that 'VEGAN' t-shirt or are you just glad to see me?"

Next, I went to Gerry Coffey's 7 a.m. Body Works class; a vigorous workout of stretching, yoga and aerobics. A great way to start day four of the Congress.

Throughout the day a variety of workshops and seminars have offered a plethora of information for attendees who are concerned about diet, animals, ecology and other issues. Hans Diehl's protein and the osteoporosis link was very informative and said a lot about the myth surrounding how much protein we are told we need. It turns out its much less that what medical professionals advise. In the afternoon I went to a seminar by my good friend, Rynn Berry, the vegetarian historian par excellence. I've seen Rynn at other vegetarian conferences. He talked to us about various vegetarian sects throughout history. The most interesting fact about this is that most orthodox sects and religions were carnivorous; the reactionary sects that rejected animal sacrifices, such as Buddhism and Jainism, were vegetarian.

Some local wildlife that has survived... the swallow above has been feeding its chicks below. The nest is just above the door to one of the campus accommodation blocks.

Right now, around 4:45, we are at the plenary session. Dawn Carr of PETA told us about the ongoing battle against the commercial fishing industry. The magnitude of the slaughter makes it obvious to us how necessary and difficult this effort is. George Rodger, Chair of the UK Vegan Society Council, is providing us with a history of animal life in Scotland and the deracination of native forest land in Scotland. It's a sad tale, indeed. A tale that has little good to say about what George called the "naked ape" that has robbed the natural woodland, greenery and shrubs from the local wildlife. Grouse shooting and deer hunting are two of the most distasteful 'sports' that take a horrid toll on the local animals. People pay big money for killing beautiful deer with beautiful horns and retain the services of a local guide to bag one. But George's talk about the promotion of reforestation in the country has left us with the feeling there is still hope, hope that the natural beauty and protection of wildlife will return to Scotland some day.

The Singaporean delegation presented their case for hosting the next Congress in 2004. Although their time was cut short, the presentation was very impressive. Singapore has no competitors at this time and seems to be a good bet for 2004.

This being the midway point of the Congress, this seems like a good time to ask Tina Fox, Conference Coordinator, her impressions of the event.

"I think things are going very well," Fox told the Congress Journal. "Most people seem to be having a good time, the food has been very well received. I knew the kitchen staff would cope but I wasn't aware how well they'd cope. We've had a real variety of food that is such an important part of the Congress."

Asked what surprises the Congress held for her, a taxing schedule of responsibilities and duties was first on Tina's list.

"I think I hadn't thought it would have been so busy and stressful," Fox explained. "I thought the first two days would be the most busy but it has remained busy and I can't even go to the toilet without someone stopping me to ask me a question."

Although obviously understaffed, Fox said the under-staffing was deliberate for costing reason but even with that, VSUK may still be in the red after the receipts are added up.

Asked what she would have changed if she knew the Congress would present the challenges it has, she said she probably would have relied more on the Vegetarian Society in terms of planning; this includes seemingly minor but essential things like putting labels on the rooms because, according to Fox, people still don't seem to know where many of the conference and seminar rooms are.

Congress media coverage has been positive throughout the week. Fox said Radio Scotland and BBC (Scottish television) interviews went very well and were shown on prime time news.
"The society has been very busy with this being national vegetarian week," Fox said. "We've had masses of coverage from people who have never called us before. We've done really, really well."

The Journal asked Fox if her objectives for the Congress had been met. She said what she wanted to see happen was for people to be able to learn, not only from the speakers but from each other, "So I deliberately put in plenty of coffee breaks and a decent lunch time so people could network and that is really, really happening and people are getting together and I think it's a very good atmosphere."

The vast majority of delegates canvassed by The Journal agree.

P.S. Tonight we're enjoying a color therapy lecture by a very wise and wonderful woman, Norma, in the College Pub. She's spraying lovely odors in the air and showing us all manner of colored bottles. "There is a language of color," Norma told the delegates. "If you are drawn to a color it indicates a deep need" for the energy in that color. Color therapy helps us determine which colors speak to us and how we can use them to heal and enhance our lives. Aurasoma, as it's referred to, can help people, she said, like an artist she knows who veered from his true calling and became a journalist.