International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


DENMARK
N. NIELSEN
Vice-President, Danish Vegetarian Society

The Danish Vegetarian Society was founded in 1896, by Dr. Michael Larsen (municipal physician in Copenhagen) who - much in advance of his time, and with great clearness - maintained that the most healthy food for man, i e., the right food for man, is that determined by nature, by man's physical and physiological capacities, viz., fruit and nuts, and vegetables which can be eaten without cooking.

The Society but slowly gained adherents as its teachings so decidedly were in opposition to the views held by the general public as well as by the medical profession in this nation so fond of eating. Still the Society has succeeded in issuing since 1907, a monthly paper which of late years has frequently been quoted in the Press.

Oluf Egerod, now Honorary Secretary to the I.V.U., for many years conducted a widespread propaganda (pamphlets, lectures, cookery-demonstrations), and during the first world war the number of members was more than doubled as the Society obtained the right for its members to change pork rations into sugar, bread, or butter. But these "butter members" withdrew when the rationing ceased, possibly because strong divergences between the leaders hampered the work of the Society, and possibly because the Society according to its rules accepts as a member anyone "sympathizing" with its aims: to spread knowledge about the vegetarian mode of living, thereby furthering health, counteracting the use of harmful stimulants, and lessening the suffering of animals. Total abstinence from meat, alcohol, and tobacco is compulsory on committee members only, and some vegetarians do not wish to be members of a "vegetarian society" in company with meat-eaters but would prefer a "society of vegetarians."

Much has been done to further the vegetarian way of life in Denmark by The Seventh Day Adventists, especially by Dr. Carl Ottosen, but this has resulted in many people holding the opinion that vegetarianism is a religious movement. The propaganda by Dr. Mikkel Hindhede (adviser on food questions to the Government during the first world war) for the use of vegetable food also spread the knowledge of vegetarianism, but as he laid stress upon cheap food he met strong opposition in the working classes. In his food theories they saw a danger of lower wages, a lower standard of living.

The advocacy of raw food by Dr. Kirstine Nolfi has caused much stir among the medical profession. She undeniably has helped people to regain their health, but because of her emphatic rejection of any cooked food there are only few strict followers of this the most logical form of vegetarianism.

In spite of its few members, and the lack of capable assistants, the work of the Society has greatly influenced the public view on vegetarianism which now is quite different from that at the Society's start. A vegetarian was at that time considered to be a crank if not a madman, but now the vegetarian diet in wide circles is admitted to be the right one, and people emphasize that they readily eat vegetables - and many of them. Nevertheless the meat consumption per head in Denmark is very large, and therefore eager advocates of vegetarianism are much needed - I hope that they in their future work will lay stress upon the ethics of vegetarianism, the compassion with animals.

In 1935, our society successfully arranged the I.V.U. Congress at Daugaurd, and I look forward to this summer's Congress at Sigtuna, hoping that it may find ways and means to convince the public, and the Press, that vegetarianism is not a sectarian movement, and not a patent cure for bad stomachs, but that a vegetarian diet for all people is a necessity if we are to oust that hunger-ghost which threatens mankind to-day. Also it might benefit our organizations if the Congress gave a warning to those advocates of vegetarianism who promise freedom from any illness, cancer included, if people but would keep one or other special diet. Our movement has been handicapped by such propagandists dying in mid-age, and even from cancer. It may strengthen our position that many of' our adherents can affirm that the vegetarian way of life has helped them to regain health, but in the long run it would give much more impetus to our cause if we could gain over more sportsmen and hardworking people who could testify that they thrive on a vegetarian diet.


H. Mosegaard
President, Danish Vegetarian Society

As it probably can be seen from Mr. Nielsen's report of the development of the vegetarian movement in this country it has generally followed the same lines as in other countries. That our Society is not stronger to-day is partly due to a general weariness of organizations, but it is first of all because the Society, owing to divergences of opinion among its leaders, did not succeed in securing special rations for its members during the second world war as was the case during the first. People naturally want value for their money.

True idealists who want to work for the cause at heart have as a rule but little money, and it is difficult to attain results without members and means even for the best of leaders. It seems to me that the vegetarianism of Denmark today stands at a crossway. Either it shall continue to be a "nature-philosophical" system gathering all sorts of "isms" and therefore attractive to a very special public only - to people who most likely will be unable to raise the movement from the position it has had until now, a position that in our risible nation touches upon the comical - or we shall we try to put the principal idea of vegetarianism on a true scientific basis. For there it belongs!

If we write off the "nature-philosophical" speculations and all "isms," and religions = irrelevant to vegetarianism as such - there remains a nucleus which cannot be contested even by the most critical considerations of empirical science. The question is whether our organization can be brought through this revolution, or it dissolves, and the idea, if it is to survive, has to be carried on by the individual.

I have not much knowledge of the international vegetarian work but it is my impression that in a good many places scientific considerations are even less applied than in our country, and I should be very glad if we here could help the movement, but a cock-step nearer the goal. Knowledge obliges, and as it is said that we in Denmark as regards f.i. agriculture have obtained better results than in any other country we must give the world something new and positive.

While it is admitted that during the last 50 years the Americans have succeeded in partly destroying an originally fertile soil we have been able to increase the yield of our long cultivated soil by 100 per cent, mainly by applying the results of science in daily life. Whether we want it or not we shall also in the future have to follow this law of evolution. Any attempt to turn to "nature-philosophical" systems regarding food production will increase the hunger of the world, and thereby make us accomplices of that starvation which already causes so many deaths. We must either make use of science, or go back to the stone-age.