International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
June 2008

Interview with the Chair of VEBU (Vegetarian Society of Germany) Vegetarierbund Logo
VEBU (Vegetarian Society of Germany) is hosting the 100th anniversary IVU World Vegetarian Union, 27 Jul-2 Aug, in Dresden, Germany. Let’s learn a little about one of VEBU’s leaders, Thomas Schönberger, chairman of VEBU,

What made you decide to become a vegetarian? When did that happen? How old were you at the time?

Two reasons came together when I was about 20 years old: I had big problems with my skin, and I was informed about vegetarianism from a young activist against experiments on animals.

You are a leader of a member society of IVU. How long have you been a leader of this organisation?

I started with my work as chairman of VEBU in 1996.

What made you decide to become active in promoting vegetarianism?

My first reason was animal protection and later animal rights. But today the ecological and climate related reasons are very important as well.

What is it that sustains your desire to be active?

It helps me to know that our organisation and my work are a small but important part of a long journey to a vegetarian future for the world.

What is an obstacle that you face in remaining active in promoting vegetarianism? How do you overcome this obstacle?

An obstacle is, indeed, that the steps we can help society to take are small ones, and much patience is necessary. But as long as I am convinced that I am doing the right thing, I will continue to do it, even if I am the only one left promoting vegetarianism - just for me.

What is one of your organisation’s accomplishments that makes you especially proud?

One thing is our long tradition – VEBU has now worked more than 110 years for the vegetarian idea - and we succeed now and then in convincing young people to carry on our work.

How do you try to maintain good relations and enthusiasm amongst your organisation’s members?

We try to show our members that we are an active and engaged organisation, and we offer them activities, like Meatout, World Vegetarian Day and Vegetarian Christmas, which they can be part of. In addition, we organise meetings with a good balance of information and social gathering - for example, a big meeting every two years between Christmas and New Year's Day.

What is one way that your organisation cooperates with other veg organisations?

There are not many other active vegetarian organisations in Germany. We try to motivate other organisations with vegetarian aims to join our activities. For example, we cooperate with animal rights groups at the yearly Meatout weekend in the Spring:

Do you have any fundraising tips for other organisations

Our experiences show that you must have a good project, a clear aim (for example, a certain amount of Euros at the end of the year) and – if possible – a prominent person, to start with (“I give X Euros for this project, because ...”).

What is one thing that other veg organisations might be able to learn from your organisation?

Try to combine good and effective work with a good feeling and a good working atmosphere for the active members.

How does your organisation reach out to people who are trying to become veg or who are newly veg?

We try to offer them a way towards a vegetarian life, step by step, and we suggest that “every change more than zero is appreciated“. We don't believe in putting pressure on people saying, for instance, ”A vegan life is the only right way of living”. But – naturally – we are happy when people adopt a vegan way of living later on.