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First Spanish Vegetarian Congress, 2004

The first Spanish Vegetarian Congress organised by the Spanish Vegetarian Union (UVE) during a long weekend (9-12th October 2004) in Calpe, Alicante, attracted over one hundred participants and set a timely encouraging precedent for future vegetarian gatherings.

The symbolic nature of the venue, the three star Roca Esmeralda hotel facing the Peñon de Ifach Rock, within an area with strong vegetarian roots near Alicante and Valencia, proved to be an excellent choice judging by the keen interest of vegetarians and those wishing to learn more about vegetarianism coming from the region, who were delighted to see their lifestyle vindicated by the public and media attention (radio and television coverage) generated in just two months since the decision to hold the congress was taken.

The full three day congress began after a varied vegan lunch (that included plenty of fresh fruits and greens) on Saturday October 9th, with a brief presentation followed by a round table on ¨Vegetarianism Today¨, a look at vegetarian trends and ¨Body and Soul Medicine¨, a talk by Juan J. Núñez, MD, a natural hygiene specialist.

As it is typical in Spain, dinner was a social event that went on for a couple of hours, during which time new acquaintances were made and all the world´s problems were solved from a sound vegetarian/vegan perspective.

On Sunday, the early risers walked to the nearby beach for a daily series of exercises including Yoga, Chi Kung, stretching and meditation, followed by a generous breakfast and an excursion on foot to the top of the Ifach Rock to see and photograph the impressive views of the Calpe coastline, which some of us without proper shoes considered awesome enough from halfway up due to the slippery rocks.

Back at the conference hall at the hotel, Maribel García and Rafael Romá, holistic therapists, taught us the healing benefits of the therapeutic technic of ¨Jin Shin Jyutsu¨ for proper energy balance, whose main advantage is that everyone can practice it on their own.

Julio Basulto, the nutritional dietician of the Spanish Vegetarian Union, gave a very interesting talk on ¨Vegetarian Nutrition and Health¨, with encouraging comments on the worldwide support of vegetarian/vegan diets for children and adults, considered by various international institutions such as ¨the American Dietetic Association¨ and ¨Dieticians of Canada¨ as nutritionally balanced and adequate for the treatment and prevention of various diseases.

Rafael Boró, an animal rights activist since 1992, who has worked with ALA, (Alternativa para la Liberación Animal) promoting vegetarianism as an ethical diet, talked about ¨Vegetarianism and Psychology¨, and the way the vegetarian and animal rights movements complement each other.

Almudena Moreno, MD., specialised in natural hygiene, gave one of the longest and most complete presentations on the merits of a natural hygiene lifestyle enumerating in ¨Beyond Diet: Holistic Health¨, the health factors that make us and keep us healthy, besides helping us to develop our senses like friendship and love.

The programme for Monday the 11th of October was mixed, starting with a talk on ¨Living without Cooking¨ by Balta lorenzo, who has been on a raw food diet for ten years and promotes a raw food community in Málaga, Spain, where it is possible to eat ripe fruit directly from the trees.
Later at a round table on ¨Animal Rights in our Social Context¨, Leonora Esquivel of AnimaNaturalis, an international organisation´s website for the defense of all animals, and Juan Francisco Alcalá, the current General Secretary of ALA, spoke of the speciest bias against animals and why we should question the attitudes and consumer habits that perpetuate such exploitation.

After a short brake Gundiça, the director of the Hare Krishna Temple in Barcelona, talked about ¨Soul Food¨ and told us which foods are linked with each of the three levels or stages of awareness: where meat and putrid food is identified with ignorance, spicy foods with passion and fruits and vegetables with kindness. Finishing with a cooking demonstration where the participants were reminded to always prepare their meals in a relaxed and peaceful environment.

In the Afternoon, In my talk ¨Veganism in Relationship to the Exploitation of Animals and Violence¨ I spoke about the inherent cruelty and violence of meat eating cultures in sharp contrast to the sound principles of veganism. Followed by ¨Vegetarianism: a Good Path Towards Another Conscience¨, a presentation by Carmen Urbano, a teacher of vegetarian cooking and personal growth of Brahma Kumaris.

On Tuesday the 12th October, our national holiday, after the early morning exercises and magical daybreak by the sea, David Román, the President of the Spanish Vegetarian Union spoke on ¨Dispelling the Topical Myths about Vegetarian Diets¨, followed by a general workshop on how vegetarians cope within our meat-oriented society and how daily problems are best solved, where everyone participated and told their personal experiences.

The last congress item was a general discussion about future projects and the closing statements prior to our departure and goodbyes or the last congress lunch for some.

The First Spanish Vegetarian Congress, held eleven years after the 7th International Vegan Festival of Tossa de Mar, Girona, was very positive and productive, as well as certainly overdue judging by the enthusiastic support it received from everyone who was able to attend at such short notice, and will be followed by a 2nd Spanish Vegetarian Congress in the Spring of 2005 (to avoid any conflict with next year´s 9th European Vegetarian Congress to be held Oct. 1-7th, in Riccione, Italy).

One of the most touching and symbolic notes of this congress was the moving determination of a young deaf couple from Tenerife, Lilian Kimberly and Sergio, who videotaped the sessions of the congress and motivated everyone with their enthusiasm. Kimberly, an ethical vegetarian since age 11, who got the support and respect of her parents at that early age, and Sergio, are a living example that, whatever our handicaps, all that is required to evolve as human beings is to develop our innate sense of compassion and solidarity with all living beings.

See you in Spain and / or Italy in 2005.

Francisco Martin

Were you there? Do you have any photographs, reports, personal memories or anything else that you can contribute?

If so please contact John Davis -