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


ITALY
ALDO CAPITINI
President Italian Vegetarian Society

The Italian Vegetarian Society began at Perugia, on 14th September 1952 at a meeting organized by the "Centre of International Co-ordination for Non-Violence'' (c/o Aldo Capitini, Palazzo Communale Perugia, Italy). The gathering was not a large one, but the Italians and their friends from other nations were all full of inspiration and enthusiasm for work. The presence of the international secretary, our friend Hanworth Walker, especially brought us the contributions of his accurate and well-judged observation, his invaluable advice and his faith, and was in itself the expression of solidarity with thousands and thousands of vegetarians throughout the world.

Vegetarianism in Italy is a matter of Ancient history : witness Pythagoras. In the Middle Ages the great apostle of non-violence, St. Francis of Assisi, though not strictly vegetarian, avoided flesh eating and often liberated animals which were to be killed for food. And in the talk to his "brothers" the birds, he based the relationship between man and animals on the universal fatherhood and providence of God.

In the humanitarian revival of the second half of the nineteenth century, although, owing to traditionalism, the Italian contribution to zoophilism and vegetarianism may have been inferior to that of other, even smaller, peoples, yet there were in this country always faithful adherents to the cause of animal welfare.

And in more recent times during the oppressions of Fascist violence there was a renewal of aspiration, stimulated by the example of Gandhi, towards a more organic society based upon unity with all living beings. I myself, became vegetarian in 1932, as part of my protest of non-collaboration with Fascist violence. I also believed that, if the Italians had learnt to be sensitive to the life of animals, they would never have hesitated even more to agree to the wars, which, in judgment Mussolini was even then preparing.

After the liberation from Fascism the reaction against violence was expressed in a ferment of meetings and writings: among the latter the publication of a book entitled "A Non-Violent Italy." Then on 30th January 1952, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Gandhi, an international meeting for non-violence was held at Perugia. At this gathering, principles and methods were discussed, and two appeals for the non-violent co-operation of all peoples were drawn up: one to the "East" and one to the "West," in the names of Gandhi and St. Francis. The second was read on 31st January at the tomb of the Saint.

And the vegetarian movement in Italy is being organized in close relationship with the wider activity. The Society founded - as above mentioned - in September 1952, was then only a small group with President: Aldo Capitini (Palazzo Municipale, Perugia) ; Vice-President : Edmondo Marcucci (via Radiciotti, 14, Jesi) ; Secretary : Fernanda Orlacchio (via S. Stefano, 45, Bologna) ; Treasurer : Emma Thomas (via dei filosofi 33, Perugia), Its numbers are now rapidly increasing.

The first congress was held in Perugia on the 14th June, 1953, to draw up a constitution, elect an executive committee, and nominate a representative to the World Congress in August. As there are in Italy vegetarians of other nationalities, who are already in association with the Italian society, it was proposed to change the name to "The Society of Vegetarians in Italy" - a regional rather than national nomenclature. A feature of the congress was a side-show of vegetable food products, and another of books, magazines and leaflets on all aspects of human relationship with the animal and vegetable worlds. Already the society has a small library of such looks, which is rapidly growing.

The principal features of the work of the Society will be :-

1 . An examination and investigation of the fundamental reasons for the practice of vegetarianism

The group here feels it to be of the utmost importance to stress the moral and spiritual basis of its faith rather than the utilitarian motive of health, which may be considered rather as a by-product. We consider vegetarianism as one expression of our love and reverence for all living things, especially those of complex organization and high sensitivity. Its daily habit and practice will take us always farther on the way of insight, and will help us to find the true philosophy of this side of human thought and action far sooner than could the discussion of detailed and pedantic theories. And each may make his personal experience and contribution independently of the convictions of others.

Nevertheless, the centre at Perugia does not by any means neglect discussion. That of a recent meeting on Sunday, 24th May, was felt by all to be such a mutual strengththening and enlightenment, as we could hardly have attained in any other way. Moreover, our Vice-President, Professor Edmondo Marcucci of Jesi, student of peace problems, non-violence, and vegetarianism for many years, has just finished writing a full, clear, and popular work on "What is Vegetarianism?" with which we hope to make much propaganda. Also I have dedicated one of my "Letters of Religion" to the Cause.

2. The education of children

The Society plans to give special attention to this very necessary section of our work. Because of the almost universal habit of meat-eating in this country, we shall have to proceed more or less indirectly, beginning with the encouragement, by precept and example, of non-violence, affection, and respect towards animals. The Group has a dream of a leisure-time centre for children, where, in addition to the above, a practical beginning in vegetarianism could be made by teaching the children vegetarian cooking and allowing them to partake of the results.

3. The distribution of information and advice

The Society has already printed a leaflet giving practical hints on the wise choice and use of vegetable foods with regard both to quantity and quality. Italy enjoys exceptionally good climatic conditions for agriculture, and already some commercial farms give attention to the production of vegetarian foods, mainly cereals. Our propaganda for vegetarianism will, we hope, create an increased demand for, and hence production of, these, and also more varied, vegetarian food substances.

Organisation

We shall aim, even with the limited means at our disposal, to bring the news of our existence to all vegetarians living in Italy and induce them to co-operate actively in the work.

We have also begun making a directory of hotels, pensions, and restaurants in Italy which give attention to vegetarian demands.

We are withal persuaded that vegetarianism is a potent contribution to world peace, to human purification, to a universal co-operation free from exploitation and violence, and above all to social and religious liberation.