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Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
February 2008

Interview with IVU Regional Coordinator for Latin America

This interview, with Marly Winckler - - is the fourth in a series of interviews with IVU representatives in various parts of the world. To find the contact information for the representative in your part of the world, visit

Hi, Marly. When and why did you become a vegetarian?

I became vegetarian in 1982 for ethical reasons. Since then, I have learned about many other good reasons to be vegetarian, and now I am vegetarian for many reasons.

You are the IVU Regional Coordinator (RC) for Latin America. How were you involved in vegetarianism before that?

Before that, I was working for vegetarianism at the local level in my native country, Brazil. For example, in 1992, I wrote a booklet on vegetarianism, just after coming back from India, where I had lived for 5 months. At that time, I started corresponding with people involved in the international vegetarian movement – including the secretary of IVU, Maxwell Lee. In 1994, I attended my first IVU World Vegetarian Congress, in The Hague, Netherlands. In 1995, I went to San Diego for the International Vegan Festival, and the more I saw, learned and did, the more I wanted to do to promote vegetarianism. So, in 1999, I became Latin American Regional Coordinator for IVU. In 2004, I organized the 36th IVU World Vegetarian Congress in Florianopolois, Brazil.

How did you first learn about IVU?

I believe it was in the Vegetarian Times magazine. Afterwards, I started to correspond with the IVU Secretary. At that time, there wasn’t Internet; so, communication was much more difficult.

What are some pro-veg factors in the Latin America context, and what are some anti-veg factors?

The pro-veg factors are that we have a wonderful climate and can grow an enormous variety of tasty, healthy vegetables and fruits. Also, we have a heritage from the times of the Incas and other Latin American native peoples who were mostly vegetarians – we only need now to return to our past eating habits. Anti-veg factors are the still very new veg organisations we have all over Latin America and a lack of resources for promoting vegetarianism.

What are some of your plans for promoting vegetarianism in Latin America?

We have already organized our 1st Latin America Vegetarian Congress and intend to go ahead with more such congresses – each time in a different country. This is a very good way of creating ties among activists across the Latin American continent, inspiring action and empowering more people to become active. We experienced this same energizing phenomenon after the IVU World Vegetarian Congress in Florianopolis, Brazil. Many local organizations of various kinds sprouted up all over the country, including on the Internet, such as Orkut (a social networking site). In 2004, we created UVLA (Latin American Vegetarian Union) – to unite different veg organizations so as to better spread vegetarianism in the region. Now, we are again organizing an international gathering – the 12th International Vegan Festival, in 2009, in Rio de Janeiro.

Do you do your RC work full-time, or do you have a regular job, too?

I work 12 hours a day for vegetarianism, and in the rest of my time, I work as a translator to earn a living. I don’t earn money from my vegetarianism work.

What is one idea or strategy that vegetarian activists elsewhere in the world can learn from what our Latin America colleagues do?

Maybe the way we are organized – the structure of our vegetarian groups, with representatives at local, regional and national levels, can be a contribution. We also have a very open, happy and creative way of spreading our message – this can maybe serve as an inspiration to others.

Please share a vegetarian joke from Latin America with us.

I’m not sure where these jokes came from but here are two.

a. How many vegans does it take to change a light bulb?
Two, one to change it and one to check for animal ingredients.

b. In search of some romantic private time away from prying eyes, two vegetarians go behind a row of plants, but instead of making love, they end up eating the plants.