International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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32nd World Vegetarian Congress 1996
[Vegetarian Summerfest '96: A World Vegetarian Congress]


Global Consciousness through Vegetarianism
from EVU-News, Issue 4 /1996

[photo: Surendra Mehta]
Surendra Metha
outgoing President
of IVU.

Three consecutive terms of occupying the Presidential chair of a very active and vibrant organisation - promoting vegetarianism, fighting for the alleviation of the miseries inflicted on other living creatures, and in the process trying to upgrade the human values in life - is indeed a task which the person chairing could feel very proud of.

The happiness and joy is doubled when one realises that he has carried with him the support of hundreds and thousands of like-minded people all over the globe - together promoting the cause that this organisation has stood - and stands for.

And, the enthusiasm gets tripled when one finds, further, that over those years, the impact of the work undertaken has, indeed, penetrated to a very great extent - in making the people the world over realise the truth behind the cause that this organisation is striving for.

Today, with a deep sense of introspection, I recall the speech which I had made a couple of years ago - in 1994, the last World Vegetarian Congress. At that time, I had pinpointed that the "Speed" and the "Greed" of the animal farming industry is taking humanity on a path which would soon prove self-destructive, and I stressed upon the "Need" for making quick amends to the folly in the path that those people were pursuing. Friends, my statements made that day could not have had a truer ring.

Over the past couple of months you will have observed the pitiable state of affairs which has pulled the bottom out of the British Beef Industry.

Decades earlier the animal farming industry in the U.K. must have thought that by feeding the "wasted wealth of protein” recovered from the "offals” of the other slaughtered animals to the much exported Beef-cattle, could well be the path to "earn golden ducats of foreign exchange”. But the consequences of doing that has proved contrary. The poor creatures are being put to death for absolutely no fault of theirs - and at the some ‘speed` with which they were forced to increase their tribe, which, at the first instance, the animals probably never opted for.

That being so in Britain, in the USA the Food Department authorities are getting more worried over the increasing incidence of zoonotic diseases in humans through the consumption of contaminated meat. The authorities feel that by exercising stringent quality control measures, they could check such occurrences in the future.

The US President Bill Clinton, in his Broadcast over the Radio recently, mentioned that "these new meat and poultry contamination safeguards will be the strongest ever", and that - "parents should know when they serve a chicken dinner, they are not putting their children at risk".

The irony of the statement "NOT putting their children at risk‘ makes me wonder - "From what?" By serving "chicken at dinner" are not the children exposed to more serious diseases of overweight, coronary diseases, heart attacks, osteoporosis? - And these sufferings could well be avoided by changing to a vegetarian diet!

The Director of Food Society for the Center for Sciences in the Public Interest, a Consumer Group, is seemingly contended with Bill Clinton’s remarks by saying - "This rule is a LANDMARK in improving meat and poultry Safety".

On my part, it could have been a "real landmark" in the human history if Mr.Bill Clinton had taken the step to announce - "parents should know that by NOT SERVING chicken or meat dinner, they are NOT putting their children at risk".

But, would anybody - who needs to rely on the monetary strength and powerful lobby of the animal farming industry - be bold enough to say that?

A few days prior to my leaving India to attend this Congress, I happened to go through a news item. It mentioned that the body of the European Union (Codex) who met to discuss food labelling and standards has approved killing of animals by "Halal" - a method which means slow killing of the animals, causing extreme pain, agony and cruelty and that was approved inspite of objections from countries like the U.S.A., U.K. and some more. This was just around the time when the National Alliance for Animals organised a rally in Washington - June 23, 1996, - for Animals Rights. This extremely cruel form of Slaughter approved by-’Codex’- has come as a great shock to me and to other animal lovers of India. Similar agony would have been felt by people all over the world. I would urge each one of you here present at this Congress to write a suitable letter to Codex, Brussels, Belgium, - expressing your anguish, and opposing slaughter by the’Halal’ method.

I will tell you briefly that inspite of the wide support and large subsidies provided by the governments, how these Animal Flesh Industries - poultry, cattle, aquafarms - are still beset with economic and health problems. Some of you may be aware of that, in one of their programmes- ‘HORIZON’ - BBC showed a documentary - titled -’FAST LINE IN THE FOOD CHAIN’. This documentary clearly depicted the sufferings of the poor animals - chicken, turkey, pigs, Beef-cattle, veal calves - and narrated with facts how the entire animal-flesh industry has ignored the natural cycles of these poor creatures. For example, the chickens were made to achieve a growth in just 42 days, which they would have normally done in 84 days - meaning in just about half of the time that was actually needed. The results of this was that though the animals put on enough weight by way of fat, - their heart, lungs, bones, - could not keep up with the same pace in their growth. Because of that these animals were not able to support themselves on their legs, they were gasping for breath, they were collecting all unwanted fluids in their chests and abdomen - and eventually their growth being affected, they were not able to serve any purpose at all - NOT even as food!

Apart from the harm thus inflicted on these creatures, the public at large have yet to realise the greater and more harmful impact of these animal processing industries. And the worst part of it is that we are forced to spend all our Scientific energy to find newer and newer solutions for treating the wastes thus generated by this industry - and for finding cures for the consequential diseases that befall humans, at colossal cost.

For example, all the cattle afflicted by the BSE (the madcow disease) are to be killed - but scientists are worried how to dispose of the waste - dump them in sea, incinerate them, or what? And we do not as yet know that it could even be a time bomb that could explode when our future generations are least prepared for it! Does finding solutions for such problems, not involve a colossal waste of national energy?

When the ‘Guardian Weekly’ in their issue dated 28th April, 1996, reported:

"85% of the USA will become vegetarian by the year 2050" - it could well be the greatest prophecy, and realisation, to direct our policies and actions towards the cause of Vegetarianism.

Again, there could not be a greater message to the people than that of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan - when she told her countrymen recently.

"A Vegetarian Diet keeps me fit inspite of the strains of office. All Muslims should take to Vegetarianism, or otherwise the livestock would not be found".

What beautiful words - I feel that these words should be framed and displayed in every office and home. Friends, the realisation has indeed dawned!

Presently, I feel a little happier that the world over, the wisdom of taking a vegetarian diet and removing the flesh of animals from one’s food menu has gathered a much faster momentum.

Today, we have Francis Moore Lappe, John Robbins, Jeremy Rifkins, Dr. Colin Campbell and many more who have taken great efforts to show that the path that the animal industry is pursuing can only be destructive. They have shown how these industries deplete all the natural resources and the potential of mother earth to take care of the future world population.

Today, we have Dr. Michael Klaper, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard and many others - who have shown us how a vegetarian diet helps restore normalcy to our heart, to our digestive systems, to our liver and kidney - and makes our life worth living.

Today, we have many Animal Rights Organisations who speak of the miseries of the voiceless creatures, the creatures who are silently crying for help - and whose ‘silent cry’ is eloquently deafening - to be free and be one with Nature.

Today, we have hundreds of Scientists who, with evidence gathered over the years, are proving that if we do not mend our way of living - we would be living in an atmosphere which would be highly polluted, and which will soon cripple our lives.

Today, we could watch scientific documentaries on our TV and Video channels which show what is happening all over the globe and in detail tell us about the harmful effects of the animal farming industry.

With great support that we have gained from Doctors, Scientists, Environmentalists and various like minded organisations, - I feel, that our efforts should now become redoubled -

  • to educate the governments all over the world, and if necessary using persuasive measures, about the harm done by these animal based industries - and to tell the legislators that if they stopped encouraging animal farming, the gains that a nation could reap would become a phenomenal manifold,
  • to enlighten the younger generations who have been made used to meat eating and to tell them that if they do not change their habits now, the price they will be unknowingly paying for remaining in the grip of the animal industry - will be staggeringly high.
  • to liberate the still adamant people from the commercialized and depersonalized life that they are leading, and make them realise that by turning to a vegetarian diet, they would be bringing consciousness and thankfulness to the meals that they are eating,which would in turn serve their health and happiness, and genuinely express their respect for life.

John Robbins has expressed this beautifully in his book, - "MAY ALL BE FED" - "There are a few places where the spiritual, political, personal and ecological dimensions of our lives meet as fully as they do - when we sit down to our breakfasts, lunches and dinners".

Coming from India, I can tell you that the Rishis of India had the vision that was thousands of years ahead of their times - when they classified the diet as Satvilk, Rojasik and Tamasic -

The Satvik food is today what we call ‘Vegan’ food - but with some dairy products included. You would also be surprised to know that they had even categorised 225 types of human beings and defined them. Their findings and the sayings are well worth a serious study.

"The extra-ordinary importance of our food awareness and actions ... (will show) ... what is to be gained not only in terms of your individual health, but also for infants and children, for the world’s less fortunate, for the very future of humanity and for the essential ecological systems on which all earthly life depends".

In order to enlighten the people on the various aspects to carry on with the work which we have undertaken, we in India are in the process of forming a non-dividend paying public limited company - called Ahimsaa Research Foundation. The Foundation will be professionally managed to conduct research into Dietary habits, Nutrition, Animal Welfare, Organic farming, Ecology, Environment, and more - which information would be disseminated to the people and the legislators for improving the life of all living creatures. The details of the Foundation are available from me.

Friends, what I have in mind has been expressed by John Robbins in one of his Chapters, of his book which also I would like to quote - "We do not yet know what it would be like to live in a truly healthy and compassionate society. But there are some things that are available to us now. We can know the fulfillment of working toward such a world".

Imagine a world where the land is fertile, the water is clean, the air is fresh and ALL are fed .... This is a world where people have learned to live in harmony with Nature - and where our food is healthy for us, as well as for our environment.

I know the task of creating such a world, cannot be accomplished overnight. It will take a lifetime of patient persistence. But, to my heart at least, it is a challenge more than worth the struggle.

Friends, I may cease to be your President in a short while from now, but my efforts in the directions I have stated will continue forever.

Surendra Mehta
Mehta Jewellery, No.40, Thirumalai Pillai Road, Madras, Tamil Nagar, 600017, India
Tel. +91 44 8277133, Fax +91 44 8277885