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A letter from Sri Lanka
IVU News 2-97

photo [The following was received from social worker and well known animal campaigner Joan Court of Cambridge, UK, who recently visited Sri Lanka. Having worked in India more than 50 years ago, when she met and was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Joan has retained a deep interest in the Indian subcontinent since that time.]

As 70 per cent of the inhabitants of this beautiful island are Theravada Buddhists, I had expected most people to be vegetarian and to find no difficulty in obtaining vegetarian food, but I was sadly disappointed. Heavily dependent on the tourist trade, the country has been greatly influenced by western tastes and the hotel where I stayed served disgusting quantities of meat at every meal. It was therefore very difficult to obtain vegetarian food, let alone the vegan fare that I required.

Staff at the hotel told me how difficult it was for them to keep to the Buddhist tradition of not eating flesh since over the years doctors had encouraged families to eat meat "for the sake of their health" and young people in particular had fallen for the constant bombardment of advertisements promoting the burger culture. There had also been an increase in cancer, which some feared might be due to the change in diet.

Judging from letters in the newspapers, there is a growing concern about this trend, not least because of the terrible suffering of cattle and poultry. I photographed a treasured cow resting in the garden of a hotel which serves only vegetarian food and also offers Ayurvedic treatment, but such places are hard to find and not well advertised.

Nevertheless, I met a number of people deeply concerned about animal suffering and anxious that a concerted attempt should be made to educate and inspire people about vegetarianism. Sri Lanka is traditionally and culturally open to such teaching, so I hope that we can help in this endeavour.

[Astonishingly, within days of receiving Joan's plea for an active vegetarian movement in Sri Lanka, we received the good news detailed on the next page (see link below). Clearly, vegetarianism in Sri Lanka is an idea whose time has come. Joan has also been doing sterling work putting people in contact with one another. Her address: Joan Court, 74 Sturton Street, Cambridge CB1 2QA, UK. Fax: 44-1223-300318.]

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