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IVU News 2-97

Its all right to be Different

Events in the vegetarian world in the past year or so concentrate the mind on the problems we face trying to convert people when we are not united in our aims and objectives and internal disagreements reduce the effect of our efforts.

Some time ago an Indian friend sent me a booklet called Reflections by Puija Shree Chitrabhanuji, an Indian sage and Jain teacher, which is a series of brief comments on various aspects of life. One short statement is called Love and Forbearance and states: Remember this much, my friends! The world never advances through controversy and cavil. Bitter and wearisome one must make ones existence thereby. If you would transform your world into a sweet and lovely thing, then expand the spirit of forbearance and love in your life.

A later thought is entitled Within: Without and this suggests: When the mind is light, resonant with harmony, fully developed, joy swells within, even though there might rage the anguish of hell without. But if the mind is heavy, gruesome and self circumscribed, the heart feels oppressed within, with the agony of hell, even though there might be paradise prevailing without.

We all need to pay heed to such thoughts when we are trying to put forward our argument for a vegetarian world. There are various reasons for adopting a vegetarian diet and way of life. Simply giving up the consumption of meat is a first step and one we welcome. However, life is more complicated than that and we need to look beyond this first step and consider what might follow. This is where we are likely to differ, since we all have our own views on the extent to which one should go. Some of us choose not to wear clothing made of leather and only use products which do not contain slaughterhouse ingredients. Others go further and refuse to eat anything coming from animals whilst some extend this to avoid any clothing or other products which contain animal matter. We need to encourage everyone to go as far along the path to perfect vegetarianism as they feel ready for.

cartoon There is a point of view which extends vegetarianism to health and fitness and results in some such people criticising those who do not fit their perfect image of the human form. This assumes that those who do not fit the perfect shape are a bad advertisement for vegetarianism and that they are also unhealthy. No doubt many people who are overweight do have health problems, but so do many people who are not overweight. It is suggested that vegetarians are more healthy than those who eat animals, and there is considerable evidence to support this contention. What is also clear is that a vegan diet is even more likely to lead to good health and a long life.

Where does this leave the vegetarian who criticises the vegan who is overweight? Surely it is just as important for the vegetarian to move to a diet that will improve their health as it is for an overweight person to adopt a diet and lifestyle that leads to weight loss. Indeed, many overweight people have struggled with their problem without much success.

Whether they have or not, it is not for the thin to treat them as undesirables. A recent article in the EVU Newsletter seemed to be critical of people who were overweight being in important positions in vegetarian societies. This ignores the fact that these people have usually been elected to such positions and that they are willing to do the necessary work. Generally, vegetarian societies are not full of members who are willing to carry out the administrative duties. The attitude to overweight people implies that they are in some way wrong, a bad example and even inferior, and therefore should not be put in positions of authority in vegetarian societies. In fact, there are quite a number of vegetarian leaders whom one might consider as overweight and they usually work hard and successfully for the cause. Is size a problem and therefore more important than encouraging all, whatever their shape, size, race, sex, orientation etc. to become vegetarian and to work for the cause? We need all who would work for vegetarianism to be encouraged. There is more than enough work for us all to do.

It is also important to remember that divisions among people lead to disharmony, aggression and even war. In the past, and even today, people who are different in some way are made to suffer great cruelty and even death because of their differences. No moral vegetarian, if they are to be true to the vegetarian principle, can support such an attitude to those who are different. We need to proclaim the vegetarian message as one of love and respect for all life and remember the principle of Ahimsa. This should extend to both word and deed.

This brings me back to the quotations given at the beginning of this article. Surely harmony, good temper, forbearance and love are likely to win? A happy approach, lacking criticism of those who are different in some way, will produce a co-operative movement and ensure that we all pull together towards the same goal: a vegetarian world. If we are to transform our world into a sweet and lovely place where all can live in harmony with one another, the animal kingdom and all nature, then we need to avoid attitudes that lead to divisions among us.

- Maxwell G. Lee, Deputy President, IVU.

The Long and the Short of it

While were on the subject of the great and the good, or the thick and the thin, perhaps I may put in a word for those of us who are, well, smallish... So many studies of veggies and omnivores come up with the result that vegans are clearly the healthiest of all but may sometimes be of slightly smaller stature, as though this were some kind of defect. Has it not occurred to anyone that this may well be the result of the increasing amounts of bovine growth hormone ingested by lacto-vegetarians and omnivores from the moment of conception onwards?

- Vanessa Clarke, London, UK.

Contributions to IVU News are welcomed. Material published does not necessarily reflect the views of the editor or the policy of the International Vegetarian Union.