International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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14th World Vegetarian Congress 1955
Paris, France

from the Vegetarian News (London) Autumn 1955:

The XIVth International Vegetarian Congress

Paris, July 31st to August 6th, 1955

THIS year two delegates from the London Vegetarian Society attended the Congress, these being Dr. Douglas Latto, who is a member of the London Vegetarian Society's Executive Committee, and the Secretary, Mr. Ronald Lightowler.

As will be already known to most, International Congresses are held every two or three years in different countries and they have the effect of stimulating public interest in the vegetarian movement within the country immediately concerned as well as providing an opportunity for vegetarians from all parts of the world to meet, get to know each other, exchange ideas and discuss problems and so forth while. at the same time, the actual business of the International Union is dealt with.

Undoubtedly the Congresses can be of considerable value if well organised and provided a balanced programme is arranged. Probably most people who attended the recent Congress would agree that, while we have not yet achieved the ideal so far as organisation and balance are concerned, nevertheless, it had elements of great value, more particularly as a meeting place for vegetarians from over 20 countries and as a venue through which public lectures were made available each evening. These were regularly attended by between approximately 400-600 people, many of whom were students at the University.

About 150 people from overseas actually resided at the Cité Universitaire and probably about 50 more attended daily, coming from Paris for the various functions and meetings. The visitors from overseas arrived by various routes and means of transport - sea air rail, motor car and motor scooter!

The main central building in which the meetings of the Congress were held was the Maison Internationale, in front of which some of the group photographs which appear in the picture supplement of this edition, were taken. This was a most spacious and dignified edifice with halls, canteens and even a first-class swimming pool incorporated within it. This was central to the rest of the estate. The various national hostels each bore the name, as well as some architectural characteristics, of the country by which they had been provided and each was a separate, self-contained unit with study-bedrooms, breakfast rooms and various other amenities. Main meals were apparently in one or two big canteens.

Although it was out of term time many students, some married and with children, were still in residence, and visitors to the Congress were housed in several different hostels, the writer being comfortably established in "Cuba ". It was most exhilarating to be in this "world in miniature" with living representatives of the various all about one - of all colours, creeds and cultures, and of both sexes - living happily together, respecting each other as members of the human family. How appropriate, one felt, was our sojourn in this significant place for the furtherance of the work we are trying to accomplish of advocating the practical embodiment, at all levels, of that way of life which can bring permanent peace to humanity, and liberation and emancipation to all living creatures. How understandable, too, that France should encourage such a wonderful and practical work towards the achievement of mutual respect and understanding of all the peoples of the world, in the light of her terrible experiences of the horrors of war in recent times. Another such foundation, we understand, exists in America and indeed the foundation grant and the cost of the building of the central Maison Internationale in Paris were the gifts of the American millionaire Rockefeller, the main central Avenue being named after him. The cost of building the other hostels has been borne by the people of the countries concerned. It is, as its name indicates, the City of the University, where reside and work people of all nationalities who are attending the University of Paris.

Now as to the actual work of the Congress itself. As indicated previously this, naturally, divides itself into certain clearly defined aspects. The meetings of the Executive Committee, and of delegates to deal with matters of 1.V.U. business, and then lectures and meetings open to visitors and delegates, with others open also to the general public, interspersed with some social functions and visits to places of interest for those not attending "closed sessions ".

The main work of the delegates was to appoint officers for the ensuing period; to hear and give reports on work in the various countries and to try to improve upon the draft Constitution tentatively approved at the previous Congress in Sweden in 1953. Mrs. Clarence Gasque was re-elected President, and warm expressions of gratitude for her most generous financial support of the International Vegetarian Union were spontaneously made by all present. All members of the Executive Committee were returned to office again, namely, W. A. Sibly, Esq., M.A., J.P., of England, as Past President; Oluf Egerod, Esq., M.A., of Denmark, as Deputy President; Josef Pedersen, Esq., of Sweden, as Treasurer; and Geoffrey Rudd, Esq., of England, as Assistant Treasurer, the other members being Messrs. James Hough of England, Woodland Kahler of U.S.A. and France, Dr. Jean Nussbaum of France, and Mrs. Elizabeth Ecker-Lauer of Germany.

All existing Vice-Presidents were re-elected to office and some additional ones also elected, notably Mr. Mankar of the Bombay Humanitarian League who, with other colleagues in India, will be very largely responsible for organising the next Congress which is to be held in Bombay in March, 1957, and Mrs. Rukmini Devi Arundale, also of India, a most devoted worker for the animals and a member of our own Society. Of particular interest to ourselves was the election of Dr. Douglas Latto, our delegate on this occasion and a present member of our Executive Committee, as a Vice-President. All our members will welcome this honour being accorded to Dr. Latto and will wish to congratulate him. As may be remembered, our President, Dr. B. P. Allinson, was elected a Vice-President at the previous Congress, and re-elected this year.

Work on the International Vegetarian Union Constitution took a considerable time, practically the whole of two full sessions being devoted to it. Had it not been for the labours of a small sub-committee who worked on it between the two meetings, its completion would have taken considerably longer.

Brief reports from the delegates were heard at two open meetings and the news they had to give us, on the whole, was encouraging. It was felt by very many present, however, that the time given to this part of the programme, which is a very vital one, was far from adequate. There should have been far more opportunity for discussion, of which there was practically none, and for interchange of ideas.

The members of the Congress received an official welcome at the Hotel de Ville from M. Taitinger, Vice-President of the Conseil Municipal. Pictures of this function appear elsewhere in the magazine but cannot by any means give a true impression of the magnificence, of the proportion, elegance and colouring of the various salons through which we passed. M. Taitinger, in his address of welcome, showed himself to be very well informed about the vegetarian movement, of what has been achieved and of what we hope to accomplish, and expressed a warm welcome to the delegates on behalf of the Paris Municipal Council. Our own President, Mrs. Clarence Gasque, made a suitable reply and several of the higher officers and their friends signed the Visitors' Book. We were then free to move into other salons, in one of which excellent vegetarian refreshments were served.

As indicated previously, members of the general public were admitted to the public lectures, of which there were two each evening, except on the Friday when the President made a closing speech following a lecture by Dr. Jean Nussbaum. The names of the lecturers, with their titles, were as follows:-
- Pasteur Raymond Mayer (France), "Vegetarianism and the Bible ";
- Dr. Ralph Bircher (Switzerland), "The Hunzas-a People without Disease ":
- A Paper by Professor Aldo Capitini (Italy), "Vegetarianism from the Moral Standpoint ":
- M. Raymond Dextreit (France), "The Experiences of a Vegetarian Association ";
- Louis de Costier (France), "Personal Experiences of Vegetarianism ";
- Abbé Lefèvre (France), son of the famous Professor Lefèvre, on "The Life and Work of my Father ";
- Dr. J. Nussbaum (France), "The Enemy Outside ";
- Dr. J. de Marquette (France), who gave an informal talk at short notice~
- Woodland Kahler (U.S.A.), on "Nostalgia for Perfection ", and a second lecture by Dr. J. Nussbaum, "The Enemy Within ".

It is difficult for those of us whose work is wholly within the vegetarian movement to assess the effects upon an audience of a series of lectures such as those indicated above. There were good audiences and apparently many present were not yet vegetarians, several being students at the University, so that one hopes much good will result from them. The lectures were well received.

Nothing very new was said in the course of the lectures but then, as previously indicated, a great part of the audience were new to the subject so all the lectures would be of value to them. Many people felt, and said, that two lectures each evening at the end of various other activities, were too much to assimilate and, undoubtedly, had there been a good lecture followed by a discussion, more satisfaction would have been felt.

One of the lectures which evoked a great deal of enthusiasm was that given by M. Raymond Dextreit; it was also one of the most practical and Convincing testimonials of benefits to health resulting from the adoption of a balanced vegetarian diet. The chief strength of M. Dextreit's presentation was the presence in the hall of several patients who had passed through his hands, many of whom had made spectacuiar recoveries, even from so-called incurable conditions. Each one stood up as called upon to do so by the lecturer and all were warmly applauded.

Other lectures given at afternoon sessions were by Dr. Ralph Bircher (Switzerland), "Outer and Inner Existence "; Mr. R. St. Barbe Baker (Founder of The Men of the Trees, England) "Towards Sylvan Culture ", and a film "The Struggle Against the Deserts" by way of illustration; Dr. Douglas Latto (England), "The Maintenance of Perfect Health "; Dr. Libert Bonastre (France), "The Relationship between Nutrition and Physical and Mental Development of Children ".

One of the most encouraging and yet one of the most poorly attended sessions was, in the opinion of the writer, entitled "The Voice of Vegetarian Youth ". The President was accompanied on the platform on this occasion by many young vegetarians who were themselves a splendid testimony for our cause.

We had an inspiring talk from Helios Olff, who is President of the Dutch Vegetarian Youth Movement and also a member of the Executive Committee of the Dutch Vegetarian Society. His call was for more recognition to be given to youth within the movement and permit the young people to organise themselves in their own way.

He made it abundantly clear that in the opinion of the younger the older members of the movement are far too much inclined to talking and listening to lectures and, what is worse, to imagine the young people should also be content to follow the same pattern. As he poinited out, the young people are not primarily concerned with their health - they usually have it in abundance - or with the complexities
of diets, or in feeling themselves to be superior mortals just because they happen to be vegetarians and possibly non-smokers and abstainers from alcohol. They want to meet others and to do things.

It was most encouraging to learn of the really constructive work already achieved in Holland among the young people, of the frequent week-end camps and especially of camps shared jointly with youth of other movements without any blatant vegetarian propaganda but with the quiet and effective testimony of seeing our way of living in action and not talking about it unless asked to do so.

Next year a camp is to be held in Holland, and we have promised to co-operate by getting young vegetarians from Britain to join forces. There will also be contingents from Germany and several other countries.

We heard a brief word from a youth from Germany where a very successful Congress had been held this year attended by about 650 people. Members of the German Youth contingent also entertained us with delightful songs accompanied by guitars which were played by two of their number.

A talk given on this occasion by Mrs. Ecker-Lauer of Germany, who is a member of the Executive Committee of the I.V.U., was most inspiring and was very well received. A splendid example of the radiant health of which she is an exponent, Mrs. Ecker-Lauer spoke out of her very considerable experience of her work among schoolchildren and of the many-sided aspects of life needing to be understood and applied if we are to have a world in the future whose citizens shall be happy and successful, in the true sense of being fully developed and freely able to express themselves through the full use of all their faculties and attributes.

The first of Frau Ecker-Lauer's lectures has already been printed in German and, we are glad to learn, will soon be available in English, when we shall be very happy to reproduce it in full.

One other new feature of the recent Congress was a "Ladies' Session" entitled "The Influence of Women in the Vegetarian Movement" at which gentlemen were allowed to be present to listen. This was well attended, and apparently all the ladies present, without exception, spoke at length, although they by no means said all they would have liked to, judging from comments overheard subsequently! Undoubtedly this innovation will be repeated itt future Congresses.

In looking back and in trying to assess the achievements and the real value of the Congress it is fairly safe to say that the coming together and the meeting of devoted workers in the vegetarian movement is of untold value. Naturally, as it is fairly costly to send delegates to such functions, Societies like to feel assured that money so spent, especially in these days of ever-increasing costs and decreasing incomes, is well spent. The writer feels, as expressed previously, that the value of future Congresses could be considerably enhanced if more time were given to delegates for the exchange of ideas and discussion of practical problems.

In addition, the inclusion of more cultural items, music, art and craft exhibitions, and so on, would add interest and variety to the programme which can so easily become "stodgy" if the emphasis is too much on disease and mere dietetics. So less heavy lectures please, more variety in their subject matter, and more time for discussion! And what an excellent opportunity such occasions provide for Brains Trusts with real experts on the panel!

And one final plea: let us finish up our Congresses with a Festival Evening, as we did in Sweden, for not all of us by any means accept the somewhat narrow, religious outlook which frowns upon making merry with singing, dancing and music of the lighter variety.