International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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38th IVU World Vegetarian Congress

Dresden, Germany

Sunday July 27 - Sunday August 3, 2008

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Vegetarians in Europe
- or 'What are all those logos..?'
by John Davis, IVU Webmaster and Historian

Vegetarier-Bund Deutschlands - can trace a direct line back to 1867 as the Deutsche Verein für natürliche Lebensweise (German Natural Living Society). In 1892 a merger of the two main German groups created the Deutscher Vegetarier-Bund. They were forced to close in 1935, but continued meeting in members' homes; then re-formed in 1945 and went through a few name changes and mergers, eventually assuming their present identity.

Today the Vegetarier-Bund Deutschlands e.V. (VEBU) is the biggest body representing the interests of vegetarians and vegans in Germany and now has many independent local affiliated groups throughout the country. The original Dresden Vegetarian Society, founded 1881, also disappeared under the Nazis. The City suffered total destruction in WWII, and then became part of Communist East Germany which also suppressed vegetarian organisations. However, much of this beautiful city has been rebuilt, and there is now a new local affiliated vegetarian group in Dresden, which will be assisting Vebu in organising the 2008 Congress.

For much more detail see History of the German Vegetarian Societies

IVU logoInternational Vegetarian Union - founded in Dresden in 1908, hence this centenary Congress. For a detailed account of the formation of IVU see Why Dresden?

For almost 50 years IVU was very much a European organisation with all Congresses held in Europe and all member societies being in Europe, with just an occasional visitor from India and America. See The Fabulous Fifteenth - how India transformed IVU in 1957 - for an account of how IVU became genuinely global.

One major result of the Indian Congress in 1957 was that IVU appointed a Regional Secretary for 'India and the East', complete with a local treasurer. A Regional Secretary for the Americas soon followed and Europe was also identified as a distinct region. However as the IVU General Secretary was based in the UK it was decided that he should deal directly with Europe.

This arrangement continued until 1975 when Secretaries for seven regions were appointed, and Europe finally got its own, Isabel James from England. Later that year The Vegetarian (UK) reported: ". . . Isabel James is newly elected secretary for the IVU European Region . . . has exciting plans . . . hopes to strengthen the ties, and arrange a Regional Congress during alternate years." In 1977 the IVU General Secretary's report mentioned: "In Europe attempts were made twice this year to hold an International Council Meeting combined with a Regional Committee but air strikes twice caused cancellation of a mid-European location."

In 1979 Christopher Fettes, of Dublin, Ireland, became the IVU Regional Secretary for Europe and, in March 1980, he succeeded in organising a weekend conference of the leaders of European Vegetarian Societies in Luxembourg. The countries represented were Britain, Denmark, France, W. Germany, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands. There were plans for a 'small European Congress' in 1981 which apparently did not materialise.

In 1982 IVU adopted a new Constitution which formally recognised, and encouraged, the creation of regional organisations. Some extracts:

During the years when there are no world Congresses, each of the seven regions shall, if possible, hold regional vegetarian Congresses.
Each region shall hold elections at its Congress to administer the affairs of the region through a regional executive.
Each region shall determine its own constitution.

During that 1982 IVU Congress Mr. Fettes said that: "the Italian Vegetarian Society had agreed to organise a European Congress from 25th - 30th August, 1983 at Perugia." This was extensively advertised but then cancelled.

At the 1984 IVU Congress the General Secretary stated: "A European Congress was to be held at Cervia in Italy from 25th - 31st August, 1985 when it was hoped to develop co-operation between European societies." Later publicity clarified the location as "on the Adriatic Coast of Italy (near San Marino)."

The Vegetarian (UK) later reported:

The International Vegetarian Union held its first European Conference last August in Cervia, Italy. Two hundred and fifty people attended and reaffirmed the aim of the Union to fight against factory farming, vivisection, cruel sports and other animal abuse. A young Belgian doctor, Jacqueline André, was elected to the post of European Secretary. In a meeting held in Brussels in December, Maxwell Lee, Chairman of Council of the VSUK, was elected President of the European Regional Council of the IVU.

The following is fom the minutes of the IVU General Meeting at the World Congress in Dubrovnik 1986, in the 'Regional Secretaries Reports':

Professor Marcel Hebbelinck gave the report in the absence of Dr Jacqueline Andre. He mentioned the development of the European Vegetarian Union and the proposal to hold another European Congress in Belgium in 1987 following the successful one held in Italy in 1985. He mentioned growing interest in various countries.

This is the first known mention of the name 'European Vegetarian Union' - our final logo - but it appears to have been an informal term at that time, as the following appeared in the July/August 1988 issue of The Vegetarian:

EVU is born!

April 5 [1988] should be a notable date on the calendar from this year onwards, as it was the day on which the constitution of the European Vegetarian Union was signed. The EVU is an off-shoot of the International Vegetarian Union and consists of several European Vegetarian Organisations in Italy, France, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the UK, and the Esperantista Vegetarano Associo.

There seems to be some confusion in all the above as to when EVU was actually created. To explain the situation: In 1985 there was a conference held in Brussels with representatives of the most important vegetarian societies of Europe. The meeting organised by Dr. Jacqueline André and chaired by Maxwell Lee worked out and adopted a constitution for the EVU. Maxwell Lee was elected preliminary president and Dr. André secretary. Because of some administrational difficulties the official registration in the Netherlands was not possible until 1988, However, the EVU regards itself as founded in 1985.

The above report also gave the address of the EVU secretariat as being in Amsterdam, the base of the new Regional Secretary, Rob Snijders. Further highly successful Congresses were organised in Strasbourg, France, 1989, and Chester, England, 1991. 1993 was missed as the World Vegetarian Congress was held in the Netherlands in 1994.

At the 1995 European Vegetarian Congress in, Bratislava, Slovakia, EVU elected Sigrid De Leo as its Secretary. Over the previous ten years EVU had gradually become more independent of IVU, but still had a shared membership arrangement. Then, in 1997, at the Congress in Bussolengo, Italy, the members of EVU voted to become fully autonomous, with a separate membership, and went on to hold their first independent Congress in Widnau, Switzerland in 1999.

However EVU has retained its close links with the parent organisation, and is now an independent member of IVU. It will also be assisting Vebu in promoting the IVU World Vegetarian Congress in Dresden, 2008.

In October 2005 EVU held the 9th European Vegetarian Congress in Riccione, Italy - close to the site of the first such event 20 years earlier.

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