International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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23rd IVU World Vegetarian Congress 1975
Orono, Maine, USA


Author Scott Nearing: star of the vegetarian congress

1,500 people from 30 countries are gathered at the world Vegetarian Congress for 12 days of studying, socialising, proselytising.

Vegetarians of the World Unite in Maine
by Judy Klemesrud

ORONO, 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.

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 Reasons

"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.

“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.

"If one person becomes a vegetarian, he or she is responsible for sparing the life of one large animal a year," Mr. Dinshah asserted. "That's one cow, sheep or pig. And that's about 50 large animals over 50 years of life."

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.

The Lectures

Last 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, Maine, said that the incidence of cancer of the colon has increased along with the increase of meat-eating in this country.

"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."

The True Way

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 wells.

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."

"It's not necessary to kill one animal to feed another." he said shortly before showing a movie of his dogs running and eating corn on the cob.

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.

The President

"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)

''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.

For entertainment, the vegetarians have been offered a tennis exhibition by a team of vegetarian tennis players, 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, arrived on today.

Mr. Nearing, the 92-year-old longtime pacifist and author, was given a standing ovation at the congress's opening session for being the oldest vegetarian present. He and his wife lectured on "Vegetarian Homesteading" and "Living the Good Life" last week.

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.