International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Congress Logo 33rd World Vegetarian Congress
Chiang Mai, Thailand, January 4 - 10, 1999
'Vegetarianism is the Way'
an unforgettable visual, cultural and gastronomic experience

General Secretary's Welcome Message

In an increasingly violent and materialistic world where so many people squander their energy in pursuit of personal ambition and material gain, to the detriment not only of the planet but of their own moral dignity, it is a pleasure and a privilege to welcome to the 33rd World Vegetarian Congress people from every continent of the world whose lives are committed to redressing the balance between greed and compassion, rich and poor, human and non-human.

It is especially appropriate that this congress should take place in Thailand, a country whose beauty and hospitality are legendary and where spirituality and compassion have traditionally been upheld in preference to the shallow pursuit of wealth and status. It is also appropriate that Thailand should be the venue for the international launch of the Worldwide Millennium Pledge for a vegetarian world in which all living beings are accorded respect and the right to life.

These qualities must also guide and motivate the new Asian Vegetarian Union, to be launched during the congress in Chiang Mai, bringing together vegetarian societies and kindred groups from all over Asia to spread the vegetarian message throughout a continent where interest in the vegetarian lifestyle is growing day by day and where understanding of the relationship between animal exploitation and human starvation is essential to safeguard the forests and other vital resources and to protect the rich variety of human and non-human life for which this planet provides a home.

The lush country and glorious scenery of Lanna Thai will be a perfect backdrop for a happy and productive gathering at which individuals and families come together from every corner of the earth to have fun, to enjoy the wonders of this amazing country and to promote a better lifestyle than the all too prevalent flesh-eating culture in which millions of living beings are exploited for their flesh, their skins and other unnecessary products while children starve to death alongside fields of grain destined for the miserable victims of western factory farming.

A huge range of culinary wonders will be provided without the use of any animal products whatever and a wide variety of activities will be offered, ranging from international panels and workshops on the humanitarian, ecological and medical benefits of the vegetarian lifestyle to alternative therapies, cookery and fruit carving, meditation and yoga, excursions to temples and villages and visits to sanctuaries where dedicated individuals strive to care for rescued animals, from monkeys and bears to majestic elephants, and to encourage people to treat them with the respect to which they are entitled.

As the parent organisation uniting the vegetarian societies of the world since 1908, the International Vegetarian Union is proud to welcome so many dedicated and talented people to Chiang Mai and to witness the birth of a new regional body for this important area of the globe. I am sure that everyone will have a wonderful time and make new friends from many different cultures and walks of life. I thank our friends in Thailand and throughout the world whose enthusiasm and commitment have made this event possible.

Francisco Martín
General Secretary