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

INTRODUCTION TO A DEFINITION OF VEGETARIANISM BY "RELATIONAL VALUE"

by Yoshihiko MIYAZAWA,
Chief Representative, Food and Relational Value Laboratory, Japan
Councillor, Japan Vegetarian Society
- fringe meeting, thursday 3pm-4pm


PREFACE

When I say, "I don't eat meat", people ask me "Are you a vegetarian?" And I answer "a sort of that"
The meaning of "vegetarian" they speak seems to be an image; vegetarian = the person whose principle is eating none of meat.
My principle is surely not to eat meat, but at the same time, I feel a sense of incongruity, in the feeling enclosed by the word "vegetarian" as a whole.
I dare say to feel that it is not possible to finish making up with the idea of vegetarianism in now probably, so that it is a little uncomfortable for me to stay in the style of their fixed vegetarian image.
Therefore, I attempted to dig into my idea regarding food and vegetarian again.
As a result, it merely was not vegetarianism = the attitude not to eat meat so on and I recognized that to think much of "relation" between food and myself is very important.
Moreover, I thought that caring much of "relation" was one of the raisons d'etre for vegetarianism.
If so, will it not become the new way that to think much of the "relation" increases vegetarian?
In this article, I attempt to analyze the meaning of the thinking much of the "relation" for vegetarianism.

Ecological society demands increasing of "relation"

When thinking of the modernistic meaning of the style, vegetarianism, it is necessary to think in the aspect of changing social sense of values.
As future society becomes the society to think much of the ecology, the sense of values in the society will change as other many phenomena.
Comparing with that general science focusing more for the single matter, on the other hand, ecology expand its observation for the mutual relation of the matter. It shows that ecology is different from the other science in the technique of analyze.
Therefore, in so-called ecological society, it expects that the value with the relation itself that exists among the things will surface as the important element relatively, in addition to the value with things itself. For the human being, the value of the relation between the human being and the object will become important, in addition to the peculiar value which some object has.
Thus, "Relational value" proposed as the concept is the value which such relation itself has.

It estimates the value of such "relation" grows that must be pursued by people, rather than the value of material or money, after the material and money too mach overflow these days.
So far, people have tried to get happiness by chasing material and money. However, what people demand is happiness itself, and chasing material and money is only one of the means to get happiness.
It is already obvious today that we cannot unlimitedly achieved happiness even if we have material and money unlimitedly.
The more the society matures, the more people come to find values in the better relationship between person and person, or people and nature, more than to find values in material and money.

Viewing vegetarianism by the relation value

The purpose of vegetarianism can be taken as making the better relation between people and animal, or nature behind, in addition to the independent purpose like health keeping, protection of animal rights, or caring environment issue.
If we focus the relation, therefore, duality theory by the alternative whether to eat or not to eat meat is not essential problem. It is merely issues where we draw line temporary.
Important thing is that what relation we conclude with the meat in the situation of physical, mental and social state at the time, and considering the background of meat which is served.
It means; we must recognize the condition "you and I are both happy now".

Such an idea that places food in the relation between people and the nature is never new.
For example, in the point of view of the traditional meal in Japan, people have taken food with taking care as life.
It is traditional habitude in Japan that people advocate saying "itadakimasu" before beginning a meal. That almost means, "I will have these life with respect and appreciation".
What is important is to think what or how to eat, and what the meaning of eating meat, in the context of "the relation". For example, if someone unconsciously serves meal includes meat for you, you had better decide your behaviour in various elements. As the result, you may not refuse all the meat in order not to waste the life.
In case of Zen priest in Japan and Korea, generally, they often take even meat donated by people out of temple.
They seem to have an insight about relation with the life and the society in the background, instead of merely refusing eating meat.

Reaching the times of Relational Value

I am describing a style of economy that value of relation becomes much worth seeking for people than value of material and money as "Communication Economy ".
It expects that communication, which is the dynamic act of the relation, becomes much valuable for people in Communication Economy and that it will become the momentum to drive the society.
Communicating with food is getting important. In this way, as the style of diet in the time when the people look for value in relation, vegetarianism will become much important.

Especially in the field of the food, it is symbolical that Slow Food movement experiences a boom worldwide. Slow Food movement is not just joy of food, but is to recover relation between people and meal, which was lost by a kind of Fordism.
Therefore, Slow Food movement has surely commonness with vegetarianism.
Moreover, "Kaiseki-Ryori", a traditional Japanese cuisine style, which means stone in bosom dishes and served with "Chano-yu" tea ceremony, is sometime serving fish recently, nevertheless also the style which thought much of the relation, in contrastive form of Slow Food movement.
In the place of "Kaiseki-Ryori", food isn't being served busily with the platter as Italian and the small square table for the each person is quietly prepared.
Originally, such style of the meal came from Zen Buddhism, so that there are simplicity and few conversations while having a meal.
However, that makes guests feel hospitality of host master and often feel full of seasonality in each dishes. Guests just soak into the nature and exchange the heart with the host master or in the progresses of being calm. This must be Japanese version of Slow Food. Through the meal, people exchange with the nature and the universe.
It seems that such dialog with food makes us possible to decide what we behave for food or our hearth, other lives, or the nature.
Concerning a saying "Food For Thought", it is useful to attempt to "Think what". Answers may be; Think Life, Think Truth, or Think Myself and Think Other. However, it may be necessary to add "Think Relation between one and other".
A famous modern Japanese poet and artist Kenji Miyazawa, who is also vegetarian, left a message in his essay. That is "there will be no true happiness without whole world become happy ".
If we consider the meaning of the word under Relational Value, consciousness to such universal relation invite people to awaking to vegetarianism much deeper.