International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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11th IVU World Vegetarian Congress 1947

Stonehouse, England

From The Vegetarian News (London) Autumn 1947:


INDIA was not represented at the International Vegetarian Union Congress by a delegate from any national vegetarian society, although Dr. Kapur of London attended the L.V.S. reception in London, and addressed the delegates. The anomaly is partly explained by the comment of an indian student at a small meeting convened by Dr. Kapur in Caxton Hall, Westminster, a few weeks earlier. In Britain, he observed, the majority are convinced meateaters and only a minority are vegetarians; so there are vegetarian societies for the minority. In India the majority believes that vegetarianism is right and advocates of meat-eating are in the minority. So in India there are no vegetarian societies just as in Britain there are no meat-eating societies; Indian society is vegetarian. Of course, some Indiah organisations include vegetarianism among their principal objects; one such society of Jains and others in Delhi has recently enquired about affiliation to the London Vegetarian Society.

The Indian who comes to Britain knows that he is travelling from a vegetarian to a meat-eating country. He is often told in India that it is impossible to live as a vegetarian in Britain and-which is unfortunately true- that the majority of Indians here have given up vegetarianism, so that vegetarian meals are not available to Indian students even in some of the few hostels run by Indians or in most of the Indian restaurants. Readers of Gandhi's autobiography, My Experiments with Truth, will remember his difficulties as a stranger in London in the eighties. The appointment of the vegetarian, Krishna Menon, as first High Commissioner in London of independent India may be the signal for improvements, and already close co-operation has been established between the London Vegetarian Society Office and the Enquiry and Accommodation Departments at near-by India House.

Gandhi himself, as Henry Polak relates on another page, joined the London Vegetarian Society (we sometimes wonder if we shall one day receive rather more than fifty years' arrears of subscriptions from him in the form of hand-spun khadi cloth). Many Indians have followed his example. The L.V.S. is proud of its internationalism and extends a welcome to vegetarians of all creeds and colours. But Dr. Kapur and his friends are hoping to establish also, an all Indian Vegetarian Society in Britain, to work in close co-operation with the L.V.S. The objectives of the joint work are easy to define. First, to put into the hands of every Indian arriving in this country (and other Asiatics and Africans too) concise information about the
vegetarian ration available, the Health Food Stores from which the ration can be obtained, the vegetarian restaurants and societies and addresses where vegetarian accommodation may be available at reasonable cost. Second, to encourage some far-sighted Indian philanthropist to establish new hostels for Indians in Britain, to be run by Indians on strictly vegetarian lines; for without some such enterprise there will be no solution of the accommodation problem.

Third, to bring the visiting Indian into social contact with British vegetarians. Those who have had the pleasure of their company know how delightful and cultured many of our Indian visitors are, and how much they appreciate the privilege of being once more welcomed into a family and a home. The Indian is very deepiy attached to the family, and suffers loneliness and unhappiness when separated from the natural society of brothers and sisters (and innumerable cousins). He must be helped to feel that he may live as a vegetarian not only among Indians here but also in his social life among English people. The L.V.S. Secretary would be glad to hear from any vegetarian family that could accommodate an Indian student as a paying guest, and from all who would like to make the acquaintance of Indian students and invite them occasionally to visit vegetarian homes in this country.

Now that India has at last achieved political freedom, the relationship between the two countries can become a true friendship. There are cultural treasures in India which we may share for the asking and which are incomparably more valuable than anything appropriated by the East India Company. Living exponents of that culture have been among us recently. Pundit Rishiram, gentle and smiling, has been lecturing to crowded and appreciative audiences at Kingsway Hall; the gifted Indian dancer Saran has been here to make arrangements for public performances later in the year; and the Royal Academy has chosen exactly the right historical moment to prepare a superb Exhibition of Indian Art, to open in December. During his visit Saran gave a memorable dance recital for the benefit of the IndoBritish Goodwill and Cultural Mission to India which is spending the next six months studying the Indian cultures and carrying throughout the subcontinent messages of goodwill and friendship from the British people. Both the British and Indian members of the Mission, which is headed by Swami Avyaktanan founder of the Vedanta movement in Britain, are vegetarians and the first object of the Mission is "to arrange fellowship meals based on vegetarianism acceptable to all, for the representatives of the different cultures extant in India, with a view to facilitating closer contact and friendly exchange of ideas with them."
On their return to Britain members of the Mission will tour this country to describe their journey and experiences. Miss Vyvyen Jenkins, president of the Society for Cultural Fellowship with India and a member of the London Vegetarian Society, who accompanies the Mission, will convey our greetings to Gandhiji and others (and present that demand for fifty years' subscriptions in arrears) and we hope will contribute to these pages on her return some account of the inter-dining on a vegetarian basis that unites not only the diverse cultures of India but also unites India with at least some of us in the Western World.