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Barbara Gamson-Jackson sets the scene for the Sixth International Vegan Festival

International Vegan Festivals began in the early 1980s, and were initiated by Kirsten Jungsberg of Denmark. So far they have been held in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and The Netherlands. This year the Festival will be held in the UK for the first time (see page 15 for details).

The Festivals are a combination of conference and holiday for vegans of all ages and nationalities. At the last Festival, in 1990 in The Netherlands, over 90 people attended from 10 different European countries, Canada and the USA.

New Growth

As well as providing as opportunity for people to become better informed about many aspects of veganism, and to make friends with vegans from overseas, the Festivals are proving to be very supportive for those from countries where veganism is in its infancy. At the 1990 (sic) Festival, Vegans International was founded - a network of volunteers in over 11 countries. Since then, and due in no small part to the encouragement and support of Vegans International, vegan societies have been started up in France, Germany and Italy.

There is, of course, a long way to go. Although there are well established vegan societies in The Netherlands, Sweden, North America and Australia, and smaller groups and/or journals in Belgium, Argentina, Japan and South Africa, in addition to the new organizations mentioned above, that still leaves most of the globe without any organized promotion of veganism.

Eastern Europe

What is encouraging, however, is that there is often greta interest once the concept of veganism is 'discovered'. This is perhaps particularly noticeable at the moment in Eastern Europe. The Estonian Vegetarian Society recently arranged for Ulla Troeng (President of the Swedish Vegan Society and also of the Nordic Veg Union) to give lectures, and radio and television interviews about veganism in that country. Around the same time, Julia Hope Jacquel of the Gentle World vegan community in Hawaii was touring Russia, Latvia and Lithuania. They discovered that a vegan cafe was in the process of being started in Tallinn, capital of Estonia!

No doubt some readers will be most surprised to hear that there are actually vegans (even raw food ones) in some parts of Eastern Europe, chiefly in what was the Soviet Union and in Poland. However, food shortages make it impossible to be more than about 3/4 vegan when in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania at present.

I hope that we will be able to welcome some Eastern Europeans to this year's Vegan Festival, and offer them information and encouragement to follow and spread the vegan way of life. At the time of writing (January) I am still awaiting responses from firms approached for sponsorship, as well as from anyone living near the border of Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire willing to accommodate a visitor or two for the week.

I also hope the Sixth International Vegan Festival will be successful in encouraging veganism internationally long after the event itself has ended.

Barbara Gamso-Jackson
Vegans International contact for the UK and organizer of the Sixth International Vegan Festival

International Vegan Festivals Index