International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

12th IVU World Vegetarian Congress 1950

Oosterbeck, Netherlands

From The Vegan, Spring 1951:

by Marion Read

The writer was able to attend only the last three days of the 1950 International Vegetarian Congress in Holland. As the train from The Hook drew near Arnhem, the flat, treless, hedgeless, marine landscape, with its interesting architecture of town and village and with its windmills, gave place to lovely, gently wooded slopes. On the bus from Arnhem to Oesterbrek, as the English visitor had no small change to pay her fare the conductor said: "English lady! No ticket!" This episode is illustrative of the Dutch goodwill everywhere towards the English. Nearly everybody speaks English and they eagerly seize every opportunity to practice the English which they learned at school.

At the Congress, the hospitality and friendliness were most warming to the heart. It was like a home from home; all addresses and discussions were in English with one exception, M. Perroud, the French delegate, spoke in his beatiful, flowing French, just as he had done three years previously in the Cotswolds. In some quarters there was perhaps, too much preoccupation with personalties which pass, instead of concentration on principles which endure so long as the human heart aspires. Nevertheless, from the social standpoint, the Congress was a great success. Yet a vegan at the I.V.U. seemed a much an anachronism as a Yankee at the court of King Arthur.

On Saturday morning, July 15th, Kaj Dessau, the resigning honorary international secretary, who has done a wonderful work of unification amongst scattered vegetarians in America, expressed his deep disappoinment over the lack or organised social activities and the "criminal" neglect of youth in the vegetarian movement. After his departure, at the farewell meeting on the evening of Monday, July 24th, as though to challenge his latter charge, the company was enthusistically entertained by exuberant juveniles from the nearby youth camp. Kaj Dessau's disappointment could not have been greater than that of the few vegans at the Conference, who found their principles completely ignored. This was a retrograde step in comparison with the last Congress when there had been a general heated discussion over vegan claims. In his farewell speech Professor Stephens of Canada critisised the Congress for neglect of the vegan question. Indeed vegans had been given no official welcome and no session had been allotted to them, the only legitimate opportunity they had of publicly expressing their views was to a small gathering on Sunday morning, July 16th. This time had been left vacant with the official explanation: "No morning session in deference to churchgoers."

Kaj Dessau caused confusion in the minds of some of his hearers on one occasion by announcing that "vegans eat cooked food." The confusion was evident at the Sunday morning discussion when somebody supposed that the ethical progression could be expressed by the stages (1) Vegetarianism (2) Veganism (3) Raw Food. This, of course, is nonsense. The ethical progression is (1) Vegetarianism (raw or cooked food, or both), (2) Veganism (raw or cooked food, or both). Dr. Bircher-Benner has proved over and over again the advantage of raw food over cooked food for the cure of ill health and for the maintenance of good health, but this idea, though most important, is not intrinsic in veganism. Both vegetarians and vegans would be wise to take always more raw than cooked food.

The Vegan Society is a pioneer movement started during the war and it is still feeling its way. Its members aim at eliminating the exploitation of animals for human ends. The crucial difference between the diet to vegans and vegetarians, as the writer sees it, is that vegans abstain from eating eggs and dairy produce, which latter, in the present day commerial conditions of dairy farming, is almost as much a slaughterhouse product as flesh food. Vegans advocate an intensive personal reform which is of fundamental importance. This urgent question should have had first place at the Congress and should have engrossed the closest attention of those present as leaders of the vegetarian movement in various countries. Until vegetarians have faced this question they can offer no adequate solution to the world problems of today.

Having lost the opportunity offered by the 1950 Congress we must make the most of the next chance in Sweden in 1953.

Congress members meet every three years when world conditions allow for a fleeting moment of eternity, as it were. The next moment might be fraught with destiny for the world, if only, in the interval, each one would search out the meaning for himself of Kaj Dessau's words: "To give less than all is not enough" - a provocative challenge which vegans might appropriate and embroider on their banner.