International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India

G. Van Nederveen
President, Board of the Central Institute

Vegetarianism has a national and an international task. In Holland we pay attention to both, and this is the reason why the Dutch vegetarians maintain cordial relations with vegetarians in other countries.

The starting point of vegetarians is the need to pay attention to the origin and composition of their foodstuffs. Consciousness, religious realization and inner faith bring them to wonder if that which has been presented as food is connected with cruelty, lack of love or inhumanity and if the influence on human health is constructive, vital and refined.

These universal considerations are not limited by frontiers, not are they the prerogative of particular countries or continents; they are directly related to the degree of education and inner culture which a person or a nation has reached. This is the domain of the international tongue of the heart and can be understood wherever man is prepared to retire into himself.

By bringing this way of living into practice, the Dutch vegetarian is directly confronted with common and provincial habits and circumstances. These force him to realize the background of the present supply of his country's foodstuffs and the essential objections against their origin and composition. Practice, too, has taught him that the rejection of certain unacceptable foods does not mean that those foods remaining will provide him with adequate nutrition. This experience makes him realize how vital is a well-balanced diet and therefore causes him to do all that is essential to assure his supply of superior and nutritive food.

In studying these subjects, he wonders if there exists a universal conception of a well-balanced diet, which is valid at the same time, in every country, in every season and by all peoples some indications lead him to believe that, depending on the region, climate, and national character, a different composition of menu is imperative.

A thorough study of an adequate nutrition of the various people in different parts of the world is still in its early stages, but in some countries already a start has been made in this direction.

Neither hunting nor fishing are particular problems in Holland, so we do not need to concentrate much attention on these cruel sports. Cattle and dairy produce, however, are more important in our country and therefore many of us occupy ourselves with questions concerning this side of vegetarianism.

At present, the general opinion of Dutch officials on nutrition is that so-called lacto-vegetarianism including the consumption of raw and fresh fruits and vegetables, can be an adequate diet. This means that lacto-vegetarianism is an accepted diet and need no longer become a thorough study. Therefore, the Dutch vegetarian can concentrate his attention, more than ever before if possible, on the essence of vegetarianism, which is an appeal to an inner revolt, which makes it imperative to follow a worthier way of life. Because these ideas are not yet common knowledge in all sections of the public, one very frequently meets with false opinions about the importance of meat consumption.

There is not so much knowledge available for vegetarians occupied with the problem of a diet without dairy produce, and who would like to put it into practice, There is an increasing interest among the vegetarians in Holland to follow a diet excluding dairy produce, but considering the consequences connected with the practice of it, one finds that a justified change from lacto-vegetarianism into veganism is far from an easy matter.

Many long-term studies and experiments are necessary to resolve the many problems which exist, but one may trust that sincere work in co-operation with experts and test subjects shows the right way. The study of a dairy-free diet needs close international contact because the experience and knowledge collected in other countries apply equally in our own.

We are glad to have started a Central Institute some years ago to centralize these studies, to collect all experiences and to co-ordinate the efforts of individual persons or groups. One of the functions of this Centre is to co-operate with other countries where men are willing to work on these fundamental problems. Only in this way, we believe that it will be possible to give vegetarianism the scientific background which it needs and so make into a practical reality the high standard of life inspired by the heart.