International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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4th International Congress 1897
London, England

From The Vegetarian (London), October 2nd, 1897:

- As Others See Us -
The Press and the Congress

THE most truthworthy gauge of the importance and progress of any social movement in this country is, perhaps, the space given to the record of its proceedings in the columns of thc press. The sub-editor is frequently omnipotent and not unusually infallible. The chief reason of his being is to cut down "copy" to such proportions as that abstraction known as "the average reader" will tolerate. This he does with a blue pencil and something of the ideal judicial impartiality inseparably associated with that famous Eastern potentate who strove so touchingly to make the punishment fit the crime, thus anticipating -in a sense- the labours of Lombroso. Of the labours of the sub-editor in connection with the Congress, Vegetarians have certainly no cause to complain. The proceedings have been most excellently reported from day to day, not only in the London daily press, but also in practically every important journal in the provinces, as well as in Scotland and Ireland. Very many of the journals have also devoted a considerable amount of space to editorial comment upon what they understand to be the principles and practice of Vegetarianism ; and, in quite an unexpected number of cases, the comment is by no means unfriendly, but, on the contrary, decidedly encouraging. Even when they contain a considerable admixture of sarcasm and satire, the comments of the general press need not be at all ungrateful to Vegetarians ; for the fact that they are there at all means that the movement is emphatically one to be reckoned with, and that now even the "average reader" is not uninterested in it. All those, therefore, who have contributed to the success of the Congress may well take heart. Its proceedings have done much to enable the press, and through it the public, to obtain - what Matthew Arnold was so anxious that people should get in regard to certain other things - a new point of view with regard to human food. The widely accepted idea that human food is simply "anything eatable" is gradually being found to be no longer tenable and it is more or less dimly recognized, even in the least likely quarters, that certain troublesome inconsistencies are, undoubtedly, involved in the eating of meat. All this is good as far as it goes, and there can be no doubt that it will soon go very much farther. Meanwhile, Vegetarians cannot but feel grateful to the press in general for the attention it has been led to devote to the various proceedings of the Congress is one of the best of auguries for progress in the future.

Before Lunch - and After.

It is, of course, quite impossible to do more than make a few short extracts from the multitude of articles which have now come to hand from all parts of the country. Quotations from the London press alone would fill whole pages. The Daily News, in a serio-comic leader, thinks that such Congresses "are, or ought to be, of interest to all of us, for they serve to mark our progress backwards towards simplicity of living." It proceeds :-

"Vegetarianism is a corrective of the pride of life. It is the modern substitute for the blood-letting with which our ancestors periodically reduced themselves from the high pitch of meat dinners, and suppers after the play. . . . If its advocates could contrive to talk less of what is agreeable, they might have a better chance with the unregenrate. They have yet to make their fare appetizing. Their most triumphant demonstration would be a public dinner on their won menu, at which an Alderman asked for more. Their luncheon at the Crystal Palace on Thursday is perhaps their challenge to the human race that we all ought to eat more vegetable and less meat seems certain. . . . The points of conscience in Vegetarian confessionals turn on the lawfulness of milk as a product of animal life, on the innate depravity of suet, on the tendency of the enemy of mankind to effect a lodgment in the system in the guise of stock for the soup. No substitute for these flavours ever has been invented, or ever will be, and until Vegetarianism puts aside its prejudices, and makes use of them in their due and healthful proportion, it will never go far."

Thus the Daily News, on the 14th ult., obviously distrustful of Vegetarian asceticism, and fearful of being brought back to Napier's "toothbrush and a change of shirts" as an outfit for the voyage of life! Three days later, in describing the Crystal Palace lunch, the Daily News says :-

The elaborate variety of the items on the menu was a surprise. There were three excellently flavoured soups, in none of which, of course, any trace of the customary animal stock was permitted. . . . The whole luncheon was daintily and artistically served, and was such as even the semi-carnivorous gourmet might well respect.''

This is really charming of the Daily News. It would be interesting to learn whether its representative "asked for more," for press-men have notoriously quite as excellent opportunities of cultivating a palate as any Alderman.

"Boiled Cabbage," CannibaJism and Morals.

In quite a number of journals the old notion that Vegetarianism is of necessity a monotonous regime has been quite frankly abandoned, and for this the exhibits at the Congress are no doubt largely responsible. The Daily Telegraph remarks: "Not so many years ago the public were committed to what has been termed the 'boiled cabbage' theory of Vegetarianism. That has become an exploded idea nowadays ; it is a recognized fact that the flesh-abstentient enjoys a really varied diet." When it is remembered that the Telegraph has in past years been one of the most brilliant and tenacious advocates of this same "boiled cabbage theory," the more recent kindliness of our big contemporary is all the more a matter for rejoicing. So, too, the Dundee Advertiser, in commenting on the Crystal Palace luncheon, is constrained to admit that it must have taught the curious a good deal in regard to the artistic preparation of food, and that "the Congress might do more by means of its lunches than its lectures "- not, however, that it has had anything very severe to say about its lectures.

The Daily Chronicle, in addition to several kindly criticisms of the proceedings, published an interesting interview on " Vegetarianism and Athletics" with Mr. H. Light. the Captain of the Vegetarian Cycling Club. The Chronicle's one fear with regard to the spread of Vegetarianism is very curious. "We may wonder," it writes, "what will be done to restrict the breeding of animals, which, if slaughter absolutely ceased, might incommode the human population of the planet." The Chronicle seems to overlook the fact that at present the breeding of animals for human food is largely artificial, and that, even in newly discovered countries where animals have been free to breed, quite unrestricted by slaughter, there is usually room enough and to spare for man. But would not the Chronicl's theory, logically carried out, justify human slaughter also in certain circumstances? Should mankind ever reach the extreme limit of subsistence, one portion of "the human population of the planet " will undoubtedly be much "incommoded" by another. The Chronicle would hardly think humane slaughter justifiable even in such circumstances. If it did, it might easily find "congested districts," not a hundred miles from Fleet Street, where the principle might be carried into practice with equal justification now. The Standard thinks it quite likely that Vegetarianism may possess economic and hygienic advantages, but does not see that "sentiments of humanity and the promptings of the higher instincts" are of much importance in connection with its practice :

"That one animal should find nutriment in another is a law of Nature, and cannot be set aside by a well-turned phrase. If to eat flesh be good for man, the 'higher instincts' would be worthless if they did not prompt him to adopt the course which is for his benefit. These arguments, in fact, rest either upon a trait begging of the question, or at most upon instancess of the abuse, not of the use of a flesh diet, such as killing by cruel methods, wanton destruction, and the like."

The "laws of Nature" as they operate in Shoe Lane would obviously justify canabalism, for under that dietetic régime one animal, to use the Standard's chaste phraseology, "finds nutriment in another" ; and the mere fact that the other happened to have been killed by what the journal would doubtless describe as kind "methods" does not make the proceeding any more lovely or justifiable. In similar fashion the Evening Standard opines that ''it is when the Vegetarians seek to exalt their diet to the dignity of a moral principle that they get out of their depth." But surely an appeal to the laws of Nature in justification of flesh-eating is also an appeal to a "moral principle," and that of the Evening Standard's morning contemporary is found not to work quite so convincingly in practice as it was intended.

Butchers, Cauliflowers, Waists and Wars.

What seems to surprise the Daily Mail with regard to the Congress is that up to the present "the butchers show no sign of concern." This, however is simply the natural result of their professional habits and diet, for those who have made a study of physiognomy in the profession know that it does not as a rule lend itself rapidly to the expression of subtle and poignant emotion. The Globe which does not concern itself with principles does all that could be fairly be expected of it with a malicious allusion to 'cauliflowers of rhetoric," which is altogether charming. The Sun also, one regrets to see exhibits slight cannibalistic tendencies. Vegetarians," it moreover declares, "ought logically to live on chemical extracts of the elemental forces. Perhaps they may some day. But what and where are they, these elemental forces, if not in the fruits of the earth? That doubtless, is the Sun's secret. The writer of the woman's column in the St. James Gazette is much concerned about waists, of all things.

"Where," she (or is it he?) asks, "are the vegetable waists? Waists were are aware, largely consist of bones, and we had supposed that a Vegetarian diet, as being less bone producing, might have been useful in reducing the waists. But it seems not so. Vegetarian waists are large and flat and loose, and we have come to the conclusion that the result of a flabby diet is a flabby waist. Under these circumstances Vegetarians can scarcely look for the support of women. You cannot define your waist, your hand, your feet, or - we may venture to suggest - your ideas by purely vegetable aid."

From this most wonderful string of inconsequences it may not unreasonably be concluded that between mixed ideas and a mixed diet there is at least a possible relationship. "For ourselves," says the St. James's Gazette, editorially, "we will take to Vegetarianism when we see herbivorous man conquering the meat-eater." Has the St. James's forgotten the result of the Greco-Turkish war already? The Sunday Times, in a leader, touches sympathetically on several aspects of the Vegetarian movement :-

"On each one of these heads there is no doubt a good deal to be said for the Vegetarian case. Perhaps the greatest stumbling block to human carnivora is the plea of one section of Vegetarians that animal life is sacred and ought not to be sacrificed even to support human life. Here it is but just to remember that very many people would prefer to forego their beef and mutton altogether rather than be their own butchers. The flesh-eater does not often think of this, but when he does he has undoubtedly a somewhat awkward account to settle with his own conscience."

Ther Weekly Sun, alluding to the variety of Vegetarian foods, remarks that "it became no longer a source of speculation as to what the Vegetarian found to live on ; rather a matter of wonder how in the name of miracles they make choice of a dinner."

The Observer has a humorous leader entitled "A Vegetable Love," in which it suggests that the ox, when no longer required for food, might be brought up in the racing stable, and that the pig might be elevated from his stye and taught the polish of the drawing room! The Court Journal shows that it lives and moves in sphered apart and cannot, therefore, be expected to know very much about these culinary matters. "If," it sagely observes, "the motive for the attempt to supersede leather is purely humanitarian, the idea may meet with some sympathy ; but as Vegetarians are chiefly moved by a consideration of health and longevity it is difficult to see how the vegetable boot or shoe can attain a wide popularity." Really! Not even if it should not happen to wear well?

Alcohol and Porcine Poetry

Only one other of the many provincial press notices can be touched upon. For the most part these ought to be satisfactory in the highest degree to Vegetarians throughout the whole country. The Newsacstle Leader is evidently in two different minds about the merits of the matter. It wonders "why none of our realistic novelists have ever painted the dread monotony of the Vegetarian life." Probably because there is none, though in "David Grieve," Mrs. Humphrey Ward tackles the problem of an unending variety in Vegetarian Menu-making. On the other hand, the plaint of the meat-eater about the samemess of his fare is frequent and loud enough. The Leader says further :-

"That we should all do better to eat more vegetables and less meat most fols will admit. . . . That good work can be done on a purely vegetable diet I fully believe. I have seen labourers in Roumanina carrying on their shoulders sacks of wheat weighing 150lbs., for twelve and fourteen hours a day, and doing this on nothing more substantial than a loaf of bread and half a kilogramme of grapes. These were big, strong fellows. Make the dishes more tempting and there is no reason why many of us should not be practically Vegetarians."

And yet the writer thinks that the crusade against meat of every kind "is carrying the reform a little too far." One of the most notable discoveries made by the press during the Congress is that alcohol is a purely vegetable product. But in this discovery they, unfotunately, are at variance with the Bacteriologists. Several newspapers appear to have made it simultaneously. "Who," they ask, "ever heard of alcohol being produced from anything but a vegetable?" Possibly no one. But is it not a little amusing to charge Vegetarians, by implication, with having kept the real origin of alcohol a deadly secret all these years? By way of conclusion we quote a few verses from a poem entitled "Pigs in Clover" by "M. T. P." in the World, in which the suggestion already alluded to that pigs might be employed as drawing-room pets is thus wittily treated:-

"Prithee, patient Piggy-wiggy,
Do not let your heart despond ;
Time is somewhat whirlygiggy,
Better days may lay beyond.

"Man through dark untutored ages
In your blood his hands embued,
Even solid, stolid sages,
Simply looked on you as food."

The future, however, is to be happier :

"For the valiant Vegetarian,
Armed with salad-spoon and fork,
Challenges the base barbarian
Who transforms you into pork.

"Round the boudoir you shall gambol,
Coats your bristly hide shall deck,
Throught the Park you'll gaily amble
With a collar round your neck.

"On the hearthrug, on the sofa,
In our honeysuckled bowers,
You shall lie and lounge and loaf-a
-way the gentle gliding hours.

"While the caller idly chatters
Over tea 'twixt five and six,
You shall feed from china platters
In return for 'parlour-tricks.'

"Spinsters who were won't to eat you
Soon about your neck shall cling,
And in crooning accents greet you
As a 'pitty ickle sing.'

"Cheer up, therefore, Piggy-wiggy ;
Though your past was burdensome,
You shall be all blithe and griggy,
In the happy days to come."