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History of the Belgian Vegetarian Societies

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester) November, 1897 p411:

La Reforme Alimentaire. - We are glad to see that the subject of vegetarianism is attractting an increased amount of attention on the continent. Last month we referred to the Vegetarische Bode, the new organ of the Dutch Vegetarian Society. In October was published the first number of La Réforme Alimentaire, the new organ of the Societé Belge pour l'etude de La Réforme Alimentaire. La Réforme Alimentaire is frankly vegetarian, as it lays down in the introductory article on "our programme." The first number includes an article by Dr. Sens, "Les dangers de la viande," "Conseils pratiques," and a series of "Attestations medicales et scientifique en faveur du regime vêgétarien." We congratulate the Societé Belge pour l'etude de La Réforme Alimentaire, which was founded so recently as August 1897, on the publication of so creditable an addition to the rapidly lengthening list of vegetarian periodicals. - E.A.

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester) January, 1899 pp8/9:

La Reforme Alimentaire. - This, the only journal in the French language which advocates vegetarianism, is just about to close its second year. It was founded in October, 1897, and during the first year of its life published two numbers. During the present year it has appeared every two months, and we are pleased to learn that it has received so much support from the general public, and through the private generosity of one who does not wish his name to be known, that the editor feels justified in announcing to the monthly issues for 1899. He asks for the help of all those who have found the right way for themselves to spread the light into a wider circle. The Belgian Society for the Study of Food Reform, closed its year in November, with forty members. These all reside in Brussels. There is a depot for the sale of vegetarian goods, and the committee trust that ere long they will be able to open a vegetarian restaurant. As there is no vegetarian cookery book in French, a translator has been found for a German work, by Carlotto Schultz, which will shortly appear at the office of La Réforme Alimentaire. The committee feel encouraged by the progress of the movement.

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester) January, 1900 p4:

Vegetarian Society of Belgium.- A few years ago there was established the "Société Belge pour l'étude de la réforme alimentaire." As its name implied it was for the study of the diet question. The impartial study of rational diet having convinced the Society of the utility of vegetarianism, the name of the Society has been changed to the "Société végetarienne de Belgique". In announcing the change of name the Committee say, "We have all become convinced that vegetarianism is the diet most favourable to health and physical and moral development," and they will, therefore, in future take a militant attitude in favour of vegetarianism.


In 1908 the Belgian Vegetarian Society sent a message of support to the first IVU Congress in Dresden, Germany.

On February 14, 1909, the first meeting of the IVU Executive Committee was held in Rotterdam and Dr. Ernest Nyssens, President of the Belgian Society became a member of the Committee.

The May 1909 issue of the Vegetarian Messenger (VSUK magazine) reported:

Vegetarianism at Brussels Exhibition -The Vegetarian Society (UK) has secured space at the International Exhibition to be held in Brussels in 1910, for a vegetarian restaurant. Further particulars will be given next month. [ this becomes more significant later ]

Mr.A.Broadbent in Brussels - On April 8th while in Brussels on business connected with the forthcoming Exhibition in 1910, Mr.Broadbent gave a cookery demonstration to the members of the Belgian Vegetarian Society. Dr.Nyssens, President of the Society, took the chair, and gave translations of the lecture at intervals. … The meeting was held in the room of the Belgian College of Medicine. The friendly attitude of the medical profession to Dr Nyssens and Belgian Vegetarianism is pleasant to note. He has always discouraged offensive references to the medical profession in the Réform Alimentaire. [ this appears to have been the main magazine for all French speaking vegetarians, but produced in Brussels ]

The Messenger gave an update in October 1909

Vegetarianism at Brussels Exhibition - The erection of the Vegetarian Society's restaurant at the International Exhibition to be held in Brussels in 1910, from April to November, has been commenced. It will consist of two rooms, and we give a drawing of the building. [ the picture will be added here later, it shows a building about twice the size of an average house... it was built by the UK Society but clearly there was a good relationship with the Belgian group ]

In December 1909 the Messenger reported on the 2nd IVU Congress, Manchester, England, October 1909:

... Dr. Ernest Nyssens, of Brussels gave an account of the movement in Belgium, and told how, from their very first meeting consisting of three, they had grown to a very respectable society, which stood well in the eyes of the medical profession. They made much of the scientific aspect of vegetarianism. ... Next year's Congress, which it has been decided to hold at Brussels, was discussed ... [ this was being linked with the restaurant at the Exhibition ]

The Vegetarian Messenger, in the January 1910 issue, gave a summary of reports around Europe about the Manchester Congress:

In La Réforme Alimentaire Dr Nyssens is hardly less enthusiastic than our Dutch friend. He says that we "extended to all delegates that hearty hospitality for which Englishmen are noted. Our every desire might have been anticipated ; we were everywhere surrounded by that hearty sympathy which should blind all who work and battle in a common cause towards a common end. We owe them heartfelt thanks, which I here tender in my own name and in that of the societies which I represented. All good things come to an end, and we left the busy manufacturing city of Manchester with deep regret as we said good-bye to our friends. We hope to meet them again in Brussels in 1910, and I hope to give the programme of that Congress in our next issue." Brussels is about to open a Natura-Vigor, it is hoped on December 15 - on the model of the Paris establishment.

and in February 1910:

Dr .Ernest Nyssens announces that the International Vegetarian Congress will take place at Brussels from 10th to the 12th June next.

Some extracts from the reports of the 1913 IVU Congress held in the Hague, Holland:

The following is a list of the papers:- Those marked with an * were read.
Mrs. E. Anldreé, of Brussels, *"Vegetarianism and Alcoholism."
Dr. Ernest Nyssens, of Brussels.
Miss Kipiani, of Brussels, *"The Place of 'Tropism' and of Symmetry in the Integral Life of the Human Being."

The next Congress was not until 1923, due to the war. At that Congress, in Stockholm, and the following Congresses, in 1926, 29, 32, 35, 38 and 47 the detailed reports make no mention of Belgium at all.

From the reports of the 1950 IVU Congress, held in The Netherlands: " ...A delightful and progressive feature of the Congress was the Youth Camp, which was attended by representatives from Belgium, ..."

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For current IVU members and supporters in Belgium see:

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