International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

23rd IVU World Vegetarian Congress 1975
Orono, Maine, USA

The New York Times, Friday, August 22, 1975
World Vegetarians Meet to Talk - and Eat
Special in The New York Times
click on pictures for bigger images
Above left: Dr. Gordon Latto, president of the International Vegetarian Union,
and Elaine Wechaler of the Bronx chat at the conference;
middle: vegetarians listen intently during one of the classroom sessions,
and at right Alexandra Lonc of Detroit in T-shirt espousing vegetarianism.

nyt2ORONO, Me., Aug. 21 - Some are reed-slim, the way vegetarians are always thought to be; others are quite obese. Some have healthy, glowing complexions; others have acne. They are young and old, rich and poor, long-haired and short-haired. Many are passive by nature, but some are pushy and aggressive – especially when they have to wait in the long cafeteria lines for some of the most exotic vegetarian foods they have ever  encountered.

Perhaps the only clue that the 1,500 black, white, brown and yellow people from 30 countries who have gathered here for the World Vegetarian Congress don't eat flesh foods is to look at their feet. Most of them eschew leather for rather tacky looking shoes made of canvas, plastic or rubber – and some of them don't wear any shoes at all.

The vegetarians, who chose the University of Maine campus here as their conference site because it was in a relatively pollution-free part of the country, are here for 12 days of studying, socializing, arguing, proselytizing, and perhaps the most enjoyable of all-eating.

Came to Compare

'We came to see the difference between the way you  eat and the way we eat.” Said Gurdip Singh Sidbu, a bearded vegetarian Sikh who breeds race horses and dairy cattle in Muktsar, Punjab, India.

His verdict of the three vegetarian meals a day at the conference: “They're good, but Indian food is better. It's spicier. It's difficult to eat vegetarian food when it has no spIces."

To many people, of course, the food is secondary. To them, vegetarianism is a serious political, social and economic issue, and many believe that a failure to create a vegetarian world may result in a failure to save the world.

"The people are here for three reasons that are equal, like the three sides of a triangle," said H. Jay Dinshah, 41, of Malaga, N.J., president of the North American Vegetarian Society, which is host for the congress, the first ever held in North America.

Outlines Reasons

“They are here because they think meat-eating is harmful to their health," he said. "And they are here for ethical reasons, because they believe it is wrong to slaughter animals for food. And they are here because they believe that vegetarians could help solve the world's food crisis, because then the eight pounds of grain it takes to make one pound of beef would he diverted from feeding animals to feeding people."

According  to Mr. Dinshah, 50 per cent of the world's nearly four billion people are already vegetarians, many of them for religious reasons or because they have no other choice. In the United States, about 10 million people are vegetarians, he said.

Most of the 1,500 people at the Congress are staying in dormitories on campus here. Mr. Dinshah said about 90 per cent of them are committed vegetarians, and the other 10 per cent are here to learn about vegetarianism. Countries with the largest delegations outside of North America include Japan with 66 people; India, with 40, including nearly a dozen gurus; and England, with 40.

This week, there is much stress on education, with 75 worldwide experts on vegetarianism - including several medical doctors - lecturing on such subjects as "Vegetarianism and Nonviolence," "Health Problems Related to Meat," "Raising a Healthy Vegetarian Family." "The Care and Feeding of Vegetarian Pets," "Vegetarianism in Literature," and "Beauty Is as Beauty Does," in which women discussed clothing and cosmetics that were not made from animal products.

Beauty was one of the reasons that attracted Joan Chabrowe, a 35-year-old junior high school teacher in the Bronx, to the conference. A nonvegetaran, Miss Chabrowe has been considering giving up meat ("It is not an easy conversion") and wanted to talk to experts on vegetarianism.

"One thing that attracted me was the fact that vegetarians always look healthier and age much better," she said, "and that's something to think about as I grow older."

At the seminar on "Health Problems Related to Meat," Dr. Galen Johnson, a 37-year-old vegetarian and a surgeon on the staff of the Parkview Memorial Hospital in Brunswick, Me., said that the incidence of cancer of the colon has increased along with the increase of meat-eating in this country.

Warns of Carcinoma

"The common American concept is that meat is an ideal food," he said, "But medical researchers have found that a diet high in animal protein and animal fat correlates with a high incidence of colon carcinoma. I'm no prophet, but it won't be long before you read this in the common press. We're seeing more and more of it in the medical press."

Occasionally the vegetarians here will argue among themselves, usually good naturedly, over which is the 'true way."

There are fruitarians here, who eat only fruit; ovo-lacto vegetarians, who eat eggs, milk and cheese in addition to vegetarian fare; vegans (pronounced with a Iong “e” and a hard "g"), who use no food or clothing from the animal kingdom: natural hygienists, who do not use sugar, refined flour, condiments, and do not believe in combining fruits and vegetables in meals; the Jain vegetarians from India, who do not use any food that grows below ground, such as potatoes and carrots; and the Nanadhari Sikhs from India, who won't drink water drawn through a pipe. They get their water from the well of a nearby farm.

Here is a typical day’s menu at the conference:

  • Breakfast – Wheatena and pumpkin seeds, dry cereals, fruit.
  • Lunch – Parsnip soup, Waldorf salad, cold cooked beets, sprouted lentils, eggplant coronets and Brussels sprouts.
  • Dinner – Tomato soup, tossed green salad, cooked beets, broccoli, chow Maine (string beans, peas, mushrooms and bean sprouts), brown rice with carrots date coconut cookies, and raspberries.

There is also a salad table for lunch and dinner, at which people concoct their own salads, usually of a gigantic proportion. Soya and cow milk are available at all times, as are fruit juices, spring water and herb tea.

Even pets are urged to be vegetarians here. Dudley Giehl, 28, the president of the 300-member  Animal Liberation, Inc., in New York City, told one session here how he fed his two 18-pound stray dogs the same foods he cooks for himself, "generally green peas and rice, with wheat germ." Although they may argue over which brand of vegetarianism is the best, no one here seems to argue over one thing: their belief that vegetarianism is a mushrooming movement. They attribute much of this growth to young people, many whom come to vegetarianism through yoga.

"Certainly we're growing said Dr. Gordon Latto, a retired London naturopath in his mid-60's who was re-elected yesterday as president of the international Vegetarian Union, the parent organization of most of the world's vegetarian groups. The union has its headquarters in London. (sic)

A Growing Movement

''I can't think of any of our groups that isn't growing right now,” he added. “You can see evidence of this everywhere, in the increase in vegetarian restaurants by the fact that many hotels now have vegetarian menus, and you can vegetaran meals on airplanes by giving them 24 hours' notice. You can even get vegetarian meals on trains in Britain and you couldn’t before.

Stan Watin, 36, York City, who owns a talking taxicab named "Stanley Supahak" that he takes to the openings of supermarkets, said he came to the conference to "re-educate" his eating habits.

A sometime vegetarian who would like to become a fulltime one, Mr. Watin fell off the wagon when he gorged himself on sloppy Joe sandwiches at a New York party the night before he came here.

Dr. Sandra McLanahan, 28, who practices family medicine by day in Putnam, Conn., and becomes Swami Amritananda when she returns at night to her home in a Yoga compound, is here to try to interest vegetarians in practicing yoga for health.

"I found that Western medicine wasn't producing results," she told a plenary session of the congress. “The more I've used these simple yoga techniques, the more I find they're so powerful and beneficial."

Two of the more interesting events on the agenda were a mock funeral (complete with pallbearers and hearse) celebrating the death of famine, and a planned trip to the nearby farm home of Scott Nearing the 92-year-old long-time pacifist and author, and his wife, Helen. The Nearings are the congress's reigning celebrities, at least until Dick Gregory, the comedian, arrives on Monday.

Children are by no means forgotten at the congress. There is a day care center for babies, and special programs for the older children, at which they discuss the difficulties of being a vegetarian in school, at parties, arid in dating nonvegetarians.

Several youngsters said they were "closet vegetarians" because they didn't know how to react to classmates who "hassle" them about not eating meat.

"You don't' have to cry, you don't have to scream at them," said Nathaniel Altman, an adult discussion leader who is the author of "Eating for Life." "Just lay out the facts, Tell them that 1,100 animals an hour are killed at the slaughter house, or a total of three billion a year, and that you just don't believein it.