International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo 35th World Vegetarian Congress
'Food for all our futures'

Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland
July 8-14, 2002
Hosted by

The Vegetarian Society
of the United Kingdom

Jeff's Congress Journal

- Jeff Freedman hard at work on this column during day 1

Day The First

The hunt for the elusive tofu haggis begins.

Everyone promised my vegan meal had been ordered, so I didn't bother to have much of a lunch or any dinner before I boarded my Glasgow-bound Air Canada flight in Toronto.

As a non-smoker, relative non-drinker (I no longer drink with my alcoholic relatives) and vegan, I sometimes let the near-Immaculate state of my life overtake my humility . This is why G-d in His wisdom always places me directly in front of crying babies and corpulent passengers who jab their chubby knees into my back on trans-Atlantic journeys. It's a test of patience; of my love for mankind, crying babies, chubby knees and all.

Hungry, tired and dreading the pending six-hour flight to Glasgow, I headed directly for two empty seats I spied at the back of the plane before it took off.

"You can't sit there, sir," a flight attendant said matter-of-factly.
"And the reason is?" I enquired, turning weak in the knees and red in the face.
"We need to balance and stabilize the aircraft with proper weight distribution before take-off," she said.
I told her I was probably one of three of the 486 passengers on the aircraft who is not obese, if you didn't count the resentment against Air Canada I was carrying.
She said I was not going to be allowed to switch seats.
"Look," I told her, "there's a screaming child and someone behind me who is big enough to have destabilized the Titanic. I'm switching seats."
With that I pushed my way passed her and sunk into my dark, private little corner of the aircraft that would take me to the International Vegetarian Union's 35 bi-annual Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland.
"Chicken or beef?" the same guardian of unoccupied seats enquired as she brought around the dinner trays.
I told her I was not chicken and my beef I was saving for the official complaint form I was tendering to the airline representative when we got to Glasgow.
"You don't want any dinner then, sir?"she asked.
I told her I wanted the vegan meal I requested over a month ago; the same one my travel agent and the Air Canada ticket agent promised me I would have.
"I'm afraid there's no vegan meal on our manifest, sir," she said, with sadistic glee.
I was convinced it was a carnivorous conspiracy, definitely aimed at me but probably against the International Vegetarian Union-make that all vegetarians and vegans worldwide. After a great deal of threats and beefing I realized it was only going to be salad and bread (plus three bottles of white wine and two miniature whiskies I justifiably pinched from the liquor cart) until Glasgow.

Imagine my joy, then, when I finally did make it to Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh the next day, bleary-eyes but bushy tailed, greeted by several other brother and sister vegetarians, refuge and comfort from the world of conspiratorial airlines and the rest of this carnivorously entrenched planet.

I am happy to report the Congress itself has gotten off to a whackingly good start. Delegates from over 27 nations have been filtering in since morning from all over the world. While the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada have by far the largest number of representatives, there are also attendees from Sweden, Germany, Singapore, Japan, Belgium, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, France, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Malta, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland and many more.

The setting of the Congress, Heriot-Watt University, is absolutely smashing! The university is set in what is a nature sanctuary replete with vegan bunnies hopping about and all manner of birds and other wildlife. Accommodations are dormitory-like-what else would you expect at a university? -but are clean, well-kept.

The first major order of business was the welcoming ceremony which featured remarks from Tina Fox, Chief Executive of the Vegetarian Society UK and Congress organiser, Maxwell Lee, President of VSUK, and Kevin Pickard, Chairman of the International Council of IVU. In addition to a general welcome, the speakers also encouraged the delegates to take full advantage of the wonderful networking opportunities at the Congress. Indeed, with so many veggies from all over the world, this is the opportunity of a lifetime to celebrate a non-violent way of life that is good for one's health, for the animals and for the planet.

Anyone who thinks we're here for just fun and games should take note of some of the very serious business this Congress has on its agenda.

"The meat commission of the Indian government is proposing the Indian government should increase the production of animals for meat, for export and also it should allow import of animals for meat and obviously they are doing this for economic reasons, for money and nothing else," Maxwell Lee told the Congress Journal. He added that there would be a working session at the Congress aimed at drafting a resolution that will be sent to the Prime Minister of India. This will, most likely, reflect the Congress's sincere wish that this proposal be reconsidered if not abolished altogether.

So you can see, this 35 World Vegetarian Congress is truly international, both in the makeup of its delegates and its agenda. Make no mistake, however, promoting and celebrating vegetarianism with like-minded individuals from around the world is what we're for and everyone seems joyfully geared up to do just that.