International Vegetarian Union (IVU)

For a vegetarian world. For people. For animals. For the planet.
Be part of this world: 8 - 14th November 2004
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Alex Hershaft

Farm Animal Reform Movement
10101 Ashburton Ln, Bethesda MD 20817

The term ‘vegan’ defines for me a lifestyle that is as free of cruelty as is practical, without substantially detracting from my life’s mission. It means choosing foods that are free of animal flesh, dairy products, eggs, honey, and ingredients derived from these products (eg, gelatin, casein). It means choosing apparel free of leather, fur, wool, silk, and other products of animal exploitation. It means choosing personal care, household, and other products that are not tested on animals. It means making the more difficult choices to use gelatin-based photographic film, rubber tires that may contain animal ingredients, and occasionally, foods containing sugar that may have been refined on charred animal bones. It does not mean prowling through my friends’ refrigerators and medicine cabinets in gleeful search of flawed items and making their lives miserable. In short, it means treading gently and lovingly in an imperfect world.

By the Spring of 1975, I had been a closet vegetarian for 13 years and had never known any other vegetarians. When I came across a leaflet promoting the World Vegetarian Congress scheduled that Summer in Orono (ME), I felt that this would be a good opportunity to determine whether the time had arrived to come out of the closet.Indeed, seeing 1,500 vegetarians from different parts of the world, with different professions and education levels, wearing different clothes and speaking different tongues was my epiphany.I decided to come out of the closet and to just keep on going, devoting the rest of my life to the promotion of meatless eating.

I became a vegan in 1981, when I founded FARM ( .My motivation then and now has been compassion, empathy, and respect for life. When I arranged the ‘Action For Life’ conference which launched the US animal rights movement in the summer of 1981, I was shocked at the hypocrisy of some animal rights leaders who were still eating animals.But, then, I reflected on my own hypocrisy in eating eggs, dairy products, and other foods based on animal exploitation.I became a vegan overnight, missed the cheese and ice cream, but never went back.

Being vegan has changed my life in several important ways.I gained more vitality, health, and self-respect.I lost my taste for fatty foods, alcoholic beverages, and non-vegan friends. The most rewarding aspect of being vegan for me is the satisfaction of causing less harm to my fellow animals, to my own body, and to our planet.

My most difficult challenge as a vegan has been convincing my ethical vegetarian friends to complete their dietary emancipation from animal products.I frequently note that they could substantially reduce their personal contribution to animal cruelty by replacing dairy products and eggs in their diet with beef.

My experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi Holocaust had a profound impact on my subsequent life choices.I felt some guilt that I lived when so many others didn’t and a sense of duty to redeem my survival by assuming their share of responsibility for making this planet a better place to live for all its inhabitants.After the war, I became active in the religious freedom, civil rights, peace, and environmental movements, receiving much fulfillment, but always feeling that I was missing something.Following my deeply emotional experience at the World Vegetarian Congress, I took time to reflect on the root of the key problems challenging planetary survival, i.e., disease, hunger, environmental devastation, oppression, and war.Amazingly, all evidence pointed to animal agriculture as the common root cause.My life’s mission then became crystal clear. In particular, my experiences in the Nazi Holocaust allowed me to empathize with the condition of farm animals in today’s factory farms, auction yards, and slaughterhouses.I know first hand what it’s like to be treated like a worthless object, to be hunted by the killers of my family and friends, to wonder each day if I will see the next sunrise, to be crammed in a cattle car on the way to slaughter.


Alex will be presenting the following talks/workshops:

"Winning Hearts and Stomachs" - conducting successful vegetarian campaigns A. Principles of Behavior Modification
  • Direct (coercion)
  • Intellectual (changing beliefs)
  • Emotional (affecting feelings)
B. Elements of a Successful Campaign
  • Definition: planned, systematic application of power to change behavior
  • Research: problems, consequences, strengths and weaknesses, target negotiation
  • Planning: purpose, objectives, scope, theme, timing, resources, action plan
  • Execution: command structure; decision, feedback, review, and revision processes; media
  • Closure: target negotiation, media spin, report to supporters
C. Case Studies
  • Great American Meatout
  • Healthy School Lunches
  • World Farm Animal Day
"The Tragedy of Factory Farming" - 80-slide show A. Factory Farms B. Transport C. Slaughter D. Environmental Impacts

Panel (with David Pye and Caryn Hartglass): How vegetarianism can help to save the environment


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