International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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34th World Vegetarian Congress 2000
Toronto, Canada

from The Vegan, Summer 2000:

World Vegetarian Congress

Vegan Society Council member Alex Bourke reports from the 34th World Vegetarian Congress which recently took place in Toronto from July 10-16, 2000.

Never before had the been assembled such a dazzling array of the greatest vegan teachers and activists, including PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk, China Study leader Professor T Colin Campbell, Meat Out organiser Alex Hershaft, "mad cowboy" Howard Lyman, Vegetarian Resource Group co-ordinators Charles Stahler and Debra Wasserman, the Dinshah fanily who have run the American Vegan Society for forty years, "not milkman" Robert Cohen and doctors Hans Diehl and Caldwell Esselstyn. All the speakers were top experts in their field, they knew how to make you laugh. It was all new, it was inspiring, and it raised the roof. I loved every minute and hope to share their stories with you in future issues of The Vegan.

This was the first vegetarian congress I had attended with 100% vegan food - what a difference a vegan chef makes. Only one speaker tried to kid us that milk was good, and she was sheduled on the last day when everyone was leaving (which surely was no coincidence). This was really a World Vegan Congress, as speaker after speaker passionately laid into the evils of dairy and joy of veganism. With a free guide to the 35 veggie restaurants in Toronto, this was also truly a heavenly holiday.

Every day Robert Cohen, the former research schientist and TV comedy producer who wrote Milk - A Deadly Poison and created the notmilk.com website, gave an exciting talk on an aspect of veganism, such as how the bovine growth hormone IGF-1 in milk causes breast cancer. On the fourth day, as at previous congresses I asked for a show of hands as to how many people were vegan, expecting the usual 10%. Around half out of 500 raised a hand. It looked like Robert, who has 40 people at the American Dairy Council working to counter his demolition of the dairy industry, had done a great job. To find out more about this dynamic vegan activist visit www.notmilk.com and watch this space.

Dr. Hans Diehl, co-ordinator of the Coronary Health Improvement Program (CHIP), spoke on reversing heart disease, diabetes and hypertension with vegan diets. He guides seriously ill people, through a four week programme that leaves them rejuvenated, pain and drug free, and delightedly vegan. But he doesn't tip them off up front that they'll be going vegan. Instead he just gets Dr Michael Klaper to talk about the causes of heart disease and say that they will be on a low fat plant based diet. At the end he asks if the would have joined up, if they had known that they would be going vegan, and most say no. There may be a lesson for us here, in subtlety when preaching to those most heavily addicted to animal products. One of Hans Diehl's colleagues is Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, who put 18 people on a vegan diet, who had suffered from 49 coronary events, in the previous eight years. A further 12 years later, they'd had no extension of clinical disease, nor a single coronary event (unlike his other patients who hadn't stuck to a low fat vegan diet).

We have a lot to learn from North America about promoting veganism as the cure for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. American vegan doctors from the Physicians Committee for Resposible Medicine (PCRM) have been so successful, that the four food groups (meat, dairy, grains, and fruit and vegetables) have been abolished in the USA and replaced by a food pyramid that greatly reduces the importance of the first two and hugely increases that of plant foods. This is a giant step towards the new four vegan food groups. I hope over the coming years that we will be working to also get these ideas into the health mainstream over here.

I gave presentations on publishing vegan books, travelling in Europe as a vegan, and veganism from a British perspective. I also explained that in the UK most people go vegan for reasons of compassion. Many North Americans at the congress said they were delighted, that finally, the animals were getting a look in. When I explained that Consort Beagle Breeders, Hillgrove Cat Farm and Shamrock Monkey Prison had been closed down by vegan activists, (and HUntingdon was about to be), the audience went wild.

For those of you who couldn't make it, you'll soon be able to listen to the talks through the internet at PlanetVeggie.com or watch them on video at Upperworld.com. These vegan internet radio and TV stations have been started up by young Canadians. With braodband satellite and cable communications arriving here too in the next few years, soon we'll be able to watch and join in the World Vegan Congress from the comfort of our own living rooms and world veganism will be an imminent reality. I can't wait.