|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Pasta and Palaver:
The EVU Congress in Bussolengo
from EVU News, Issue 4 /1997 The 6th European Vegetarian Congress took place in Bussolengo, Italy, from September 21st to 26th. 150 vegetarians met here, eight kilometres from Lake Garda, where the weather was as good as everyone’s mood (most of the time). More than a third of the participants came from the German speaking part of Europe. The mixture of very different characters from all over the world made the congress sucessful in spite of some annoying aspects.
At the beginning of the congress, things didn’t look very promising due to the organisational problems of the hosts, the Associazione Vegetariana Italiana (AVI). The problems began with the trip itself: While those in charge of EVU not directly responsible for the organisation of the congress were worried about its success, many visitors who traveled to Bussolengo had never even received a confirmation of their reservation. Due to the many questions that had yet to be answered, the registration took much longer than planned, and thus, the first event was already late in starting. The subsequent reception with fruit and fruit juices gave everyone the opportunity of renewing old friendships and of gathering a first impression of the pleasant atmosphere in the Hotel Centro Turistico Gardesano.
The opening meeting that afternoon began with the declaration of a decision the heads of EVU had reached the day before. EVU was stated to be an independent organisation organised as an equal partner within the International Vegetarian Union (IVU). Due to different interpretations of this decision by EVU and IVU, there was some disagreement, most of which was eliminated during the course of the congress, however. After the official opening, AVI president Marco Stellini delivered a welcoming speech on behalf of the hosts.
For the most part, the official program consisted of speeches. Every day, an important theme of vegetarianism was to be discussed. Partly because a number of speakers had decided not to come and also due to bad organisation, after a few hours, it was clear that the official program was not very reliable. The dates and times of speeches were changed around, speakers were replaced and often, speeches were not delivered at all. The only thing absolutely reliable were the meals, which everyone looked forward to. We all used the time freed up by the speeches to get to know many people. This led to an exceptionally good atmosphere.
The program itself had very few highlights. Noteworthy was the euphoric speech delivered by IVU president Howard Lyman who predicted the global spread of vegetarianism as well as the speech delivered by the Austrian philosopher and animal rights activist Helmut Kaplan, who analyzed the future of the animal rights movement from his point of view. Also very interesting were the speeches by Italian medical doctors on vegetarian food for children, the very dedicated and uncompromising contribution by Dr.Cocca who spoke about the nonsensical practice of vaccination as well as the funny and yet motivating speech by Giorgio Cerquetto, who called upon everyone to open the hearts of others by opening their own hearts. Once again, a medical study was carried out during the congress, which is to serve to convince sceptical 'experts' of the positive aspects of a vegetarian diet. A few dozen participants immediately volunteered for these examinations which were carried out by Dr. Trespidi of the University of Verona.
Apart from the speeches, there was the option of taking part in excursions to Verona, Venice and Lake Garda, all of which were accepted with alacrity and were very successful. Once we got by the stinking, honking, cursing masses of cars and the hordes of tourists armed with sunglasses and cameras, the places were all very lovely. The tiny, winding streets and the historic buildings in the town and the wineyards and small villages on the lake made the excursions one of the highlights of this congress.
Those who had decided to stay at the hotel had the opportunity of participating in workshops, which, however, proved to be not very informative. But here as well, the relaxing atmosphere of the hotel was very enjoyable.
Food necessarily always plays a major role in vegetarian meetings. The chef, (still) a meateater, did his very best to offer us a wide variety of vegetarian food and to incorporate many Italian specialties at the same time. The food was strictly vegan, for the most part delicious and always served in ample amounts. The more healthconscious among us deplored the fact that the quality of the ingredients was not quite what they had wished for. Very little of the food was organically grown and there was almost a complete lack of wholegrain products. The meals were certainly the highlights with regard to socializing. Many interesting subjects were discussed. The gala dinner gave the chefs the opportunity of showing their knowhow in the art of cooking and in the subsequent dance, the older people in particular demonstrated the positive effects of a vegetarian diet on one’s health.
The success of this congress can for the most part be ascribed to the pleasant atmosphere among the participants. At the next congress which will take place in two years’ time in Switzerland, the organisational aspects should, however, be improved on. The venue and the surrounding area made for a harmonious entourage and the prices rather steep at times were made acceptable by the friendliness of the Italians. All in all, I would say this was a congress in which the vegetarians of the world came a little closer and at which we all were confirmed in the vegetarian way of life.