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The Vegetarian World Forum


by Elsie B. Shrigley

There is a deep and growing conviction among vegetarians that the formation of one British Vegetarian Society will add prestige and strength to the vegetarian movement and that this united front will impress the vast meat-eating public and be welcomed by the vegetarians abroad, who were so confused to find two societies calling themselves national and claiming to speak for British vegetarians at the recent International Vegetarian Congress.

The idea of two national societies in such a small country as England and dealing with such a minority of the community, as, unfortunately, vegetarians are, is ludicrous. During my seven years as secretary of Croydon Vegetarian Society I had a great deal of correspondence from vegetarians all over Britain and spoken to them at guest houses and conferences and I am astonished at the numbers who advocate the formation of one National Society, and regard it as inevitable.

I have also found it difficult to explain the position to vegetarians new to the movement when trying to get them to order The Vegetarian News or Messenger. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and India all have one National Society. We in England sentimentally compromise and muddle along.

Surely it would be better if there were one President and one Secretary to represent and speak for the vegetarians of Britain?

At present there is a lamentable overlapping of work among the two main societies: a great number of vegetarians support both The Vegetarian Society (at Manchester) and The London Vegetarian Society-and so make double work.

Both Societies say that they are short staffed, and yet they carry on propaganda for membership among the same limited number of vegetarians. How much more efficient it would be if the work was carried on in one central office! It has been said in opposition that membership and legacies would be reduced if the amalgamation were to- take place - we do not believe it. It is taking a very poor view of the enthusiasm and selflessness of vegetarians who are working for theft particular way of life and not merely as supporters of one or other Society.

The affiliated societies will gain greater satisfaction, strength and moral uplift in belonging to one unified whole instead of to two competitive societies, even though they may not get a great deal of material help from one National Society at first.

At present most affiliated societies pay two affiliation fees, which really go to help one society to compete against the other. Would it not be infinitely preferable to pay one fee to a single organisation?

In our opinion, the headquarters would deal with general policy, propaganda, publications, international work, holiday centres, week-end schools, training speakers, etc.

There should be local societies in every town, who would arrange meetings, outings and local propaganda, with district offices to co-ordinate the work of the local societies. All this would, of course, take considerable time to accomplish, but a separate Committee should be formed at once to work out ideas and plans.

The vegetarian movement is ready to go forward to great success, but it is necessary that it should have the most efficient organisation possible in order to present its message to this Britain and, indeed, the world, and that it should have the strength of a united front.

[Editor's update: The two national Vegetarian Societies in Britain were created when the London Vegetarian Society declared independence in 1888. The magazines of the two societies merged in 1958, then the societies merged to form VSUK in 1969. However, in 1993, VIVA was created by a breakaway group from VSUK so we're back to two again. The Vegan Society remains independent]

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