|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, October, 1889:
Ladies and Gentlemen, - Allow me, first of all, to offer you, in the name of the German Natural Living Society, words of cordial welcome and grateful acknowledgment of your highly appreciated presence on this occasion. Though the lovely Rhine, with its romantic traditions of past centuries, its flourishing towns, its hilly vineyards, praised in many a poet's song, and not less the proud token of man's genius in this hospitable city, has at all times proved an irresistible attraction, we know full well that the object of your presence at our International Congress is earnest work in the first instance, and pleasure but in second line. And of what nature is the work awaiting you? Does it concern the welfare of a certain class-the authority and social position of a profession? Did we meet here to discuss religious or political party opinions? Nothing of the kind. Our work concerns the whole people, humanity at large; it is of an international character, entirely devoid of selfish interests. No title, no cross of any order, no social position of high account, is to be gained here, and anyone seeking for such will be disappointed. The welfare of the whole people, of the entire population, in all its classes-nay, of all mankind-is to be the only and single object of our work here; and therefore we call upon all, to whatever class or nation they may belong, to grant us their assistance and co-operation.
We feel especially gratified to see in our midst a number of dear friends and fellow-labourers from our neighbouring country, England. We welcome you proudly and joyfully with heartfelt thanks for your kind presence at this meeting. We trust many golden grains from the rich treasure of your experiences will benefit us, and wish most sincerely you may in years to come be able to witness in this country the fruitful results of your present labours. But may you, too, respected friends, when returning to your own country, take back with you the conviction that you were here surrounded by sympathising friends pursuing the same objects, working with an equal firmness of purpose towards the fulfilment of the great idea-i.e., to lead man back into the path of Nature, to do away with the over-grown excrescences of civilisation, that its blessings may be enjoyed so much more purely, and that Nature may become reconciled to culture. Though the labourers in this field be yet few, they are untiring in their efforts, and we hope the Congress, with your help, dear friends, may cause a considerable increase to the number of our adherents. This hope is not so vain as our adversaries so often triumphantly proclaim; a short retrospect at past times proves this.
When this Society met at Cologne in 1876-it was the seventh yearly meeting-the name of Vegetarism, or, as it was then universally called, Vegetarianism, was known but to few persons in Germany, and I was myself one of those who had hardly once heard this word. In consequence the number of adherents to the cause was but small; but we cannot even say what it is exactly to-day, owing to the fact that a great many Vegetarians who, under the present state of things, carry out secretly in -their homes the principles to which they owe their own and their family's well-being, avoid, however, from false reticence, anxiously whatever might make their mode of living known to others. But even the incomplete figures known to us prove that Vegetarism is steadily gaining hold in Germany ; we find adherents in all parts of the Fatherland, and in some of the larger cities they are already pretty numerous. Whilst for instance, in 1876 Leipzig did not count more than 10 Vegetarians, there are now, beyond doubt, several hundreds of them, though mostly belonging to those violets which bloom hidden from man's sight. But progress may be noted also in another direction. Everywhere Vegetarism begins to attract the attention of the public, and but few educated persons will now be found wholly ignorant of its general principles. In consequence the cause of Vegetarism becomes more and more an object of discussion, and ours is the duty to be ever ready to set people right where false ideas are formed, for a superficial acquaintance with Vegetarian principles does not exclude a great many mistaken perceptions, and I dare say you all have had occasion to observe daily how false and correct opinions get mixed up wherever this question is discussed.
This danger has certainly increased in the course of time, and will do so still further as Vegetarism progresses. Ought we to deplore this fact?
I say confidently "No ?" (sic) . I myself ; before becoming a Vegetarian, used to hear the most condemning comments on this question, and shared those opinions so long as I had no opportunity to inquire into the matter. Still, from the very first, the thought had taken hold of me, whether a cause advocated by so many individuals could possibly be so entirely devoid of sense-whether it was not perhaps after all based on sound principles. I resolved to investigate myself, in order to judge by my own experiences, and for this purpose, sought the company of Vegetarians. I felt exceedingly surprised on finding amongst them men of healthy, hardy appearance, who went about like other ordinary people, without a vestige of singularity about them ; arguing clearly and logically, and carrying in their persons the proof of their arguments. My Surprise was intense ! Here I saw strong healthy men, who, according to prevalent opinions, should be all walking skeletons, destined for an early grave. There, in a corner, sat I, with a pensive face, having until now thoughtlessly repeated and lived up to the universal maxim, "Flesh produces flesh." Yes, there I was with my stomach complaint. But the promise of a newly arising sun seemed to dawn upon me after a long and stormy night. I presume most Vegetarians might be in a position to relate similar experienes and from this circumstance important inferences may be drawn.
This leads me at once to the weighty question, "By what means can we most successfully advance the cause of Vegetarianism? If we consider the number of lectures given in the course of the past few years and compare them with the results obtained through them in the propagation of Vegetarism, it becomes obvious that the effects do not come up to the efforts made. Lectures are certainly of vast importance, and to them is due the fact of Vegetarism having become generally known to public, but they alone are insufficient, and whoever has fully entered into the spirit of the question at issue will easily understand why it is so. Vegetarism does not only require a complete change of opinion, as the adoption of a new religion or political conviction; no, it requires an entirely altered mode of living; it changes our home altogether, makes us forego dear old habits; it denies us the enjoyment of more than one favourite food or drink; in a word, it requires from us actions. Though it may be possible to hide a change of opinion, the alteration of our entire way of living can never be kept a secret for any length of time; we are compelled to admit our conviction. Is it, then, to be wondered at that by words alone, be they ever so convincing, such complete revolutions are only very exceptionally brought about? Actions must be studied, the more so, if they are to form part of the daily practice of our lives; they must be demonstrated by example, if words are not to remain a hollow sound. Only a very few exceptional characters will possess sufficient energy by their own initiative to carry out the lessons taught by words alone, and to persevere with the new practice until it has become a fixed habit. The pioneers of Vegetarism were such exceptional characters, endowed with uncommon energy, such as is but rarely encountered. Weaker natures want to be frequently stirred to action ; in order to lead them on the path of Nature and Vegetarism, a number of institutions and different arrangements are necessary. The practical consideration of these wants must be our chief task in the future.
Whether we consider and advocate Vegetarism from a moral or simply from a physical point of view, our first question will always be "What are we to eat? What are we to drink?" and only after the problem of the stomach has been satisfactorily resolved can the more ideal sides of the question he taken into account. A great many Vegetarians of the present time have gone through a course of practical study at one of our institutions for the natural cure of disease; there they have learned what may constitute a Vegetarian diet, and have experienced in their own person what is best for the human organism. These institutions have been until now the most prominent nurseries of Vegetarism. But they lead towards our cause only those persons whose bodies have suffered more or less from disease, and who, as they do not always succeed in regaining a healthy appearance, endanger in a certain way the reputation of Vegetarism. Nevertheless, those institutions will always afford the best opportunities for the propagation of our cause, and we cannot but express our unconditional approbation to their proprietors, who devote all their time to their patients and try to teach them the way of a better and healthier life on earth. I may, however, be allowed to express the wish on this occasion that all institutions for the natural cure of disease, which have adopted the Vegetarian diet for the treatment of their patients, should publish frequent statistics of the successful results obtained by their system. Facts speak loudest, and people want to see success before they are convinced.
Vegetarian eating-houses are another training-school for intending Vegetarians, and it is absolutely necessary to increase their number if the cause of Vegetarism is to progress satisfactorily. I believe, in this respect more than in any other, are we behindhand in Germany, and might learn a good deal from our English friends. Our principal endeavour ought therefore to be directed towards supplying this want.
We recommend to any of our Vegetarian friends, feeling an inclination to open well-regulated eating-houses, to go about it quickly and resolutely.
It is not only a noble task, but, as proved by experience, also profitable in a worldly sense. These eating-houses will at the same time serve as meeting places for Vegetarians, and we may congratulate ourselves when everywhere a congregation of convinced and prudent fellow-thinkers will be found, commanding by their very manners and personal appearance universal respect and consideration, and proving by what they accomplish in their individual calling that they are men of sterling value and capacity. It is fortunate indeed for me to have met with such high-minded Vegetarians when first I began my investigations; who knows if, but for this circumstance, I should not have lost the inclination to pursue the matter and to make a trial with the new mode of living. This leads me once more to a point which I mentioned before. The advancement of Vegetarism must be brought about not by the effects of our work in first line, but by the influence of our own individuality and therefore it is our duty, more than any other class, to work with all energy towards our moral and physical perfection. We have often heard the reproach, very likely not without cause, that a great many curious characters are to be met with in our ranks. Can we wonder if it is so? Must not every Vegetarian feel inclined to keep more and more aloof from a society in which Vegetarism is so little understood? Singular people are, as a rule, firm characters, just the kind to be of use to any cause ; still they only succeed in very exceptional cases in making new converts to Vegetarism.
Before I conclude I must say a few words about our so-called prophetdom. Prophets arise but rarely, for in them qualities must a combined which are but seldom found united in any mortal being, viz., keen insight, unbending energy, and an irresistible creative impulse, which knows no wavering in the pursuit of an object. Those are the virtues that constitute a prophet, and the man endowed with them may well lay claim on this title, for neither force nor persuasion will restrain him from carrying out the work which he feels to be his vocation. But let no other less gifted person pretend to the character of a prophet. We shall not countenance the presumption of anyone harbouring the least doubt about our cause, or simply copying former prophets; for the cause of Vegetarism would he more injured than benefited by such men.
Ladies and Gentlemen,-I have now given you a few hints as to the means by which a more successful propagation of Vegetarism might be brought about, and have cautioned you at the same time as to the dangers besetting it here and there. It is impossible to treat the subject anything like exhaustively in a short address, and I must therefore be satisfied with recommending the points mentioned to your further consideration.
When single individuals begin to fail in their efforts, it should be the duty of our Society to use its influence in the most efficacious manner, and to induce increased activity on all sides. On the other hand, everyone belonging to our Society should equally support it to the utmost of his abilities. The Society, too, must prove by what it accomplishes that Vegetarism possesses an inherent power, and we hope it has given proofs of this before now.
May the exchange of ideas, to which this Congress will once more give the impulse, find a fruitful soil ; and may the whole people be benefited by the blessings arising from it.