International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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22nd World Vegetarian Congress 1973
Ronneby Brunn, Sweden

From the front page of The Vegetarian, September 1973:


26 Nations Affirm Principles, Proclaim Progress

"TO be vegetarian means living in accordance with nature," said the speaker (Dr. Otto Robinsohn, Israel). Simultaneously, over the headphones of hundreds of short-wave receivers crackled the instant translations . . . "Att vara vegetarian innebar att leva i overensstammelse med naturen" . . . "Vegetarier zu sein bedeuted un Ubereinstimmung mit der Natur zu leben." The 22nd World Vegetarian Congress in Sweden (28 July-4 August) was in full swing. Organised by the International Vegetarian Union, with the Swedish Vegetarian Society as hosts, the event attracted delegates from all overt the world, 32 organisations represented, 26 nations participating, as hundreds poured in by land, sea and air, across the Blekinge lowlands, the blonde fields of wheat, the dark stubble of pine forests, past carmine-coloured farmhouses . . . to Ronneby-Brunn. Here, only two kilometres from the ancient town of Ronneby and the coastal archipelago lies Sweden's biggest conference and recreation centre, with its 50-meter swimming pool and sports facilities - an ideal setting for the most important vegetarian event in recent years.

Doctor with a mike-side manner - with unfailing humour and resolution, Dr. Gordon Latto, President of the International Vegetarian Union, steered a cram-packed programme of talks, events, meetings; wrote a prescription for success when he told members: "If we work hard we can unitedly achieve much . . . Knowledge attracts people, and if we can be fully versant in this way of living, through us others can be attracted to vegetarianism" . . . won the affection of the affiliate nations, a garland of flowers from the Indian delegation, a Badge of Honour from the Swedish Vegetarian Society.

French TV news cameras swing on the international vegetarian scene - move in for close-up on the recording engineers and translators who kept the lines of communications open. (photo: Gerard Baerents)

Capacity audiences and a wide spectrum of opinion, subjects ranged from health to ethics, economy to ecology. Among the success stories . . . the vegetarian "explosion" in the Latin American countires. (photo: Stig Martinsson)

The theme for the Congress . . . "Vegetarianism is scientific and ethical" - a definition paraphrased by Dr. Gordon Latto, President of the IVU, in his opening address: "The knowledge we gain from anatomy tells us in no uncertain language that by nature we were intended to be frugivorous, and to live on flesh foods violates the fundamental laws of our being . . . Flesh eating is the antithesis of love. We must work for the abolition of the slaughterhouses, those chambers of horor where so much unecessary cruelty is enacted. We must try and liberate mankind from the chains that bind him so heavily and so forcibly to the fleshpots of Egypt, and lessen the appalling burden that rests on the shoulders of the creatures, our younger brothers, whom we forget are our younger brothers and fail to treat with brotherly love.

Ultimate values

Dr. Otto Robinsohn posed a threefold question - is vegetarianism an ideal, is it an ideal way of life, can (or should) it be made into a way of life? "In Israel," he said, "experience tells us that most people embrace vegetarianism for health reasons, but after some time those who are ready and willing to think arrive at the understanding of its profound ethical values. In the long run, a thinking person will not be able to derive satisfaction from the though of physical health only, although on the other hand, physical health is a pre-requisite to full enjoyment of all aspects of life.

"Thus, vegetarianism becomes an ideal to live up to. It becomes the full conviction that it is morally objectionable for man to use his physical and technical superiority in order to kill so-called inferior beings, to kill animals for food."

He pointed out that other factors than diet must be taken into consideration when seeking mental, emotional and physical health: ". . . the importance of food is often exaggerated and overestimated by food being the main topic of their conversation. I would like to see vegetarians among themselves take vegetarian food for granted, treat it as an extremely important factor of their way of life, but not so important as to dwarf the other three factors just mentioned: motion (exercise), avoidance of pollution, and particularly peace of mind."

A politics of ideas

Jack Lucas, scientific adviser to the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom , opened his lecture on Environmental Pollution with a quotation from one of Sweden's best known scientists, Bjorn Gillberg: " If we are ever to solve environmental problems we need a new philosophy. Environmental problems have nothing to do with science. We have enough knowledge to know what will happen. We have to solve problems in another way. We have to begin by asking what is progress. We have to change our whole philosophy, we have to realise that progress is learning how to live with nature...."

Gillberg's energetic campaigns have already resulted in a voluntary industrial ban on the use of optical brighteners in household detergents used in Sweden, and a Norwegian government ban on the use of nitrates in food.

"In this lecture," said Lucas, "I shall be concerned with environmental pollution, primarily as it affects the human internal environment and poses a hazard to the health of individuals and their descendants."

He described the transport of pollutants from the external environment via air, drinking water and food, to man; the problems of detecting these concentrations and identifying the chronic effects which may arise - problems increased by the deliberate use of chemical additives in food processing and drugs in medical practice.

Although the body has undoubtedly considerable powers of adaptation it is at least questionable whether it can cope with problems which are growing so rapidly in complexity. To help his listeners appreciate fully the nature of the problems, Lucas explained some of the digestive processes - how, for example, foreign substances such as DDT are only slowly transformed in the liver, their presence modifying the ability of the liver to deal with other chemicals.

He spoke of the population explosion and the resultant pressures brought on the land, with increased use of chemical treatments of soils, crops and animals to increase productivity. The extremely low conversion efficiency of food-animals means that we must look to plants for our proteins. He ended with a saying by George B. Leonard: "A deeply feeing person tuned to mankind's common wavelength cannot hurt other people, poison the planet, destroy what is beautiful. It is a new decade, only 30 years shy of a new millenium and a good time to start crossing boundaries. Take a chance."


Dr. Henning Karstrom (Sweden) asked the question - has vegetarianism a science foundation?. . . came up with a closely reasoned affirmative. He touched on the early history of vegetarianism, how its concept was born in different peoples, due to humanitarian, ethical and sometimes religious motivation. It was not until the 19th century that man began to consider the processes which are related with the human taking up of food, from a more scientific aspect.

Once the Frenchman Antoine Lavoisier had come up with the correct explanation of the combustion process at the end of the 18th century, he could prove that food in the human body too is combustible, namely with the help of oxygen which we breath in together with air. Based on this fundamental finding, Lavoisier not only became the founder of modern chemistry, but also the "Father of dietetic science".

But science itself was slow to learn - in 1881, Voit held that 118g of protein per day was a man's lower limit of protein need - modern research has proved that man needs one tenth of this quantity. Even if the individual vegetable proteins do not always contain all essential amino-acids in evenly good proportions, as the animal proteins do, it's found that adequate combinations of different vegetables supply high quality protein, this by the essential amino-acids ability to compete with each other. In 1959, an article published in The Lancet emphasised that formerly vegetable protien was classified as second class and biologically less valuable than protein of animal origin - this opinion was no longer representative.

Already at the beginning of the century, Max Bircher-Benner had discovered that fresh vegetables had surprisingly vital effect on the curing forces of the sick human organism. Uncooked vegetarian food was said to have a higher "energy level" than the lower "energy level" of cooked food.Subsequently Eppinger was to endorse this - according to him the permeability of unfired vegetables increases the bio-electrical potential of our tissue. In 1942, A.I.Virtanen pointed out that since all enzymes at a temperature of 60-100 degrees are denatured and become inactive, no enzymic reaction can occur in heated vegetarian food.

Whilst so far the high consumption of saturated fats was generally considered to be the main reason for heart and vessel diseases, nowadays animal protein is more and more suspected to be the real reason - a tragic situation that could be arrested by the changing of food habits.

In conclusion Henning Karstrom said: "Vegetarianism has to fight two powerful enemies: First the degenerated taste of cultivated nations as to meat diets, and secondly the enormous economic interests which are intimately concerned with animal foodstuffs production. In spite of that I'm entirely convinced that the most effective method to spread vegetarianism and its philosophy is to properly inform the masses about scientific results of research which more and more objectively demonstrate the advantages of vegetarianism. Thanks to modern nutritive science, vegetarianism is heading for a brighter and victorious future."