|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
23rd IVU World Vegetarian Congress 1975
Orono, Maine, USA
from the Vegetarian Times, no.12:
A Way Of Life
At the W.V.C. I became more aware of the "intellectual" differences among the various types of vegetarians I met and observed. Figuring out which type of vegetarian a person was could usually be determined by looking at their plate: vegetarians ate dairy products; fructarians ate only fresh fruit; vegans did not eat any products of animal origin (cheese, honey, etc).
But I soon realized that there was more to vegetarianism than the food on the plate. It was (is) a whole state of mind and a way of life for most of the people I met. It made me wonder what motivated all the people to become non-meat eaters of varying degrees. I came up with some answers that may or may not be defin-itive or representative, but talking to the people I broadened my awareness of vegetar-ianism and its offshoots.
First, through my observations, I realized that most people over 45 years old came to vegetarianism for health reasons. Perhaps they had had a major illenss and felt vegetarianism was a "cure". Perhaps they had tried every kind of medical cure and grabbed on to a vegetarian diet in desperation. These people were definitely confident that the change was for the better, and were often adherents to Dr. Shelton's special food combinations, which seem to be the heart of the natural hygienists' diet. A side effect of their new diet was a new way of life. Vegetar-ianism added a philosophical or spiritual aspect to the physical side of a vegetarian way of life.
On the other hand, vegans (pronounced vee-guns) seemed to work their vegetarianism the opposite way. Vegans do not wish to harm or exploit any creature of the animal kingdom. So, they abstain from all animal products: milk, honey, eggs, and true to their convictions, they do not use leather or wool. I call the vegans ethical vegetarians. The ethical values of the vegans lead to a seemingly wholesome diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. I didn't notice any age category. Vegans are old and young, but the vegan diet is a relatively recent off-shoot of vegetarianism, having its roots somewhere the 1940's.
A group close to the vegans in ideology I call the "compassionate vegetarians, people who refrain from eating meat due to the agricultural inefficiency of meat-eating - if this were a vegetarian world, there would be enough food for everybody. These people ate a wide variety of vegetarian foods. Eggs seem to be a matter of some controversy, but many of these people ate other dairy products. A few I met had moved to a vegan diet.
Another group, easy to distinguish, were vegetarians who belonged to a religious group. They wore special garments and observed other rules particular to their sect. For example there were several people from India who embraced vegetarianism as part of their religion. They are vegetarians of a religious / spiritual nature who practice non-meat eating as part of their faith.
People become vegetarians for a variety of reasons. An ethical, religious, compassionate, political, or health reason is often just an introduction to a vegetarian diet. There are many good reasons to continue it.
I became a vegetarian for a variety of reasons. I began to read and realize that our meat was becoming more expensive and sought an alternative. As I read further, I realized that the meat (and other foods) were being adulterated with chemicals that I questioned as necessary, useful, or healthful. Then I began to understand more about the food chain, and the fact that if we ate simpler (lower on the food chain), we would probably eat less chemicals and also free more food for the world's hungry. As more studies came out on the cruelty to animals (chickens & cows) in the food producing business, the vegan viewpoint of non-exploitation made more sense. I have become a vegetarian for many reasons and have met many others at the congress who came to vegetarianism as I did.
The more I embodied vegetarianism, the more I realized that it was not merely diet. It became a spiritual / ethical / compassionate / political / health issue. In short, it became my lifestyle. I could no longer separate my vegetarianism from other aspects of my life. I realized that no matter which of the schools of vegetarian thought a person came in by, or which "group" he/she belonged to, they all seemed to embody their vegetarianism as a way of life.
Whether one sought vegetarianism first to find good health and stumbled upon spirituality later or whether it was the other way around is irrelevant. In the final analysis, the great majority of the people embrace vegetarianism for ALL the good it has to offer. The vegetarians in general seem to have a positive attitude towards life, a reverence for fellow human beings and other animals, and a sense of good health.
There are those who would argue with me that vegetarianism is no more than a diet, but after this congress, I feel that a vegetarian attitude can be the key to a healthy, positive and beautiful life. What more can one ask of life?