International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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My thoughts on the Congress
from IVU News Oct 2000

"The Congress was like living in a vegetarian world for a week, though I never realized how tiring that would be!"

Congress delegates wondering what workshop or lecture to attend next.

by Saurahh Dalal. IVU Secretary

With truly wonderlul and friendly people, wide-ranging and informative presentations, and creative and tasteful vegan food, the World Vegetarian Congress (WVC) this past June was a sensational event. Add to this the beautiful weather we had in the lively and clean city of Toronto and my week was personally refreshing and recharging. With media coverage and individual attendees from around the world, a significant push also occurred for the overall vegetarian cause with an exchange of ideas and strategies.

This 34 WVC of the International Vegetarian Union (IVU) was hosted by the Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) from 10-16 June 2000. TVA volunteers did an outstanding job of welcoming and planning for the more than 500 attendees from 20 different countries. There were scheduled activities daily from 8 am to well past 10 pm, and many people stayed up much later (believe me - I know as we had several nights of hanging out until 2 am).

The sessions truly covered the whole range of issues related to vegetarianism - from medicine, health, and nutrition to ecology and economics, and from animal concerns and compassion to spirituality and religion. There were plenary sessions, panels with discussions, cooking demonstrations, videos, participatory sessions, music, dancing, singing, organizational meetings, and some reports from around the world. Exhibitors were present to promote vegetarian foods, products, and services while the American Vegan Society (AVS) offered a vast array of books, videos, and tapes in the book room.

Socially, the Congress was like living in a vegetarian world for a week. though I never realized how tiring that would be. It really was exciting to mix with people from all over the world as well as from home (at least 10 people from the Washington DC area attended). Coming from various ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds, religious persuasions,and experiences, we were united in our beliet in the future of the vegetarian diet and lifestyle the world would follow. Meeting many of the veg movements speakers, authors, and activists was easv with everyone being very approachable and excited to be there. And were we pampered with the all-you-can-eat (and then some) all-vegan meals prepared under the direction of chefs extraordinaire Ken Bergeron and Ron Pickarski - both Gold Medal winners in the International Culinary Olympics.

Several aspects were extra-special in my mind during the congress. Firstly, there was a very special bonding between the attendees. Little in what I could write here can capture the way I felt when I interacted with others at the congress; it reaffirmed so many things I believed in and wanted to share with others. Many of us were honored to be a part of the wedding of our good friend Peter McQueen (President of the Vegetarian Union of North America and Past-President of TVA) and his then fiancee Jenny Jones (a Trustee of the Vegetarian Society of the UK). The venue of the WVC was fitting since Peter and Jenny had met at the previous WVC in Chiang Mai, Thailand in January 1999.

The AVS held their annual meeting which was also a memorial and tribute to its recently deceased Founder and President H. Jay Dinshah who was a true visionary and pioneer of veganism in North America.

I attended the screening of the new video "The Witness," which brought together 150 people and evoked a very emotional response from each of us. This change of consciousness film contained a powerful segment of activism, with Sara McLachlan's song "Angel" in the background.

When I reflect on the week at the WVC in Toronto and then look forward, I feel even more strongly in a vegetarian future for our world and the need for each of us to make sincere efforts to get there. If you want to experience something similar, the next WVC is scheduled for 8-14 July 2002 in Edinburgh, Scotland. You have plenty of time now to plan to be there. In the meantime, many local-based societies like the Vegetarian Society of DC stand ready to tackle the more immediate and close-at-home concerns - as resources and as places where individuals can channel their energy and "share the vision" to advance vegetarianism.

Saurabh Dulal, who lives in Washington DC, is the President of the Vegetarian Society of DC and was elected IVU Secretary at the recent World Congress.