International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

23rd IVU World Vegetarian Congress 1975
Orono, Maine, USA


THE WASHINGTON STAR, AUGUST 26, 1975

Meetings on Meatlessness

Vegetarianism Is Varied In Form, Degree, Motive
by Anne Crutcher
Washington Star Staff Writer

ORONO, Maine - "Even if God told me personally to eat meat, I won't" says Shrimati Rukmini Devi Arundale, Theosophist, animal welfare leader and onetime member of the Indian Parliament.

Such is the tone of believing intensity that pervades the 23rd World Vegetarian Congress, which has brought some 1,500 men, women and children from 50 countries (sic) to the campus of the University of Maine. The vegetarians chose to meet at the school that gave the world that "Marseillaise" among college songs, "The Stein Song," because of it's air, which is relatively free of urban pollutants and blessed with exhalations of pine trees and the sea, besides.

The University is also blessed with a food-service staff prepared to turn out three meals a day and a Saturday-night banquet to fit the sometimes conflicting standards of a half-dozen sub-sects among the non-meat-eaters. Menus, recipes and ingredients have been provided by Freya Dinshah, British-born wife of Jay Dinshah, president of the Norh American Vegetarian Society and a leader in organizing the Congress.

Freya Dinshah is a caterer as well as a crusader for her own brand of vegetarianism, the Vegan, which unlike the eating style of most Americans vegetarians, diallows eggs, butter, milk and honey as well as animal flesh in the diet.

OVER THE last 10 days, the vegetarians have been taking in lectures, panel discussions and slide shows as varied as their patterns of eating and not eating, and as of their motivations.

Natural hygienists go a step further than vegans by not using sugar, salt, spices or condiments, and by following certain rules of food combinations. Fruitarians limit their eating to fruit, disagreeing among themselves as to what the gategory includes. And Jains of India won't eat anything that grows below ground, ruling out all the roots and tubers. Furthermore, many within each persuasion intemittantly narrow the range of acceptable food to the vanishing point: they fast.

Some follow their regimen for reasons of physical health or spiritual development as influenced by physical condition. Others are more concerned about the morality of using animals for food or about the political and social problems of world hunger.

Reverence for life has the Jains guarding against accidentally stepping on ants. Mohandas Gandhi once reported in his autobiography that when - just once - he ate a piece of meat, he felt the murdered creature crying inside him all night. And Gandhi's successor in Indian political life, Jawaharlal Nehru, while he did not react that sensitively to meat eating, said he felt coarsened when he did it. Robert Nozick, the Harvard philosopher, explained that he became a vegetarian when his children realized what the thanksgiving turkey was and asked him if it didn't want to go on living, too.

BOTH the ethics and the esthetics of the slaughterhouse have propelled many people into vegetarianism. And for some, such as Madge Darnielle, president of the Washington Vegetarian Society, which, with 48 years of activity behind it is the oldest in the United States, a spontaneous taste was the stimulus.

As a small child, she simply didn't like meat. Her parents didn't force it on her and, as she grew up, she developed ideas on ethics and nutrition in line wih her tastes.

Vegetarians say it's eating meat that makes people belligerent, but these differences in approach and rationale got the adrenalin going here and there as the Congress proceeded. The ethical vegetarians, who don't eat meat because they believe it's wrong to kill animals, are a little disdainful of what they call "stomach vegetarians" who are primarily interested in their own digestions. "As soon as they feel better, they go back to eating meat," one ethical purist said.

Similarly, the people who don't eat meat because they fell humanity can be more efficiently supplied with protein by avoiding the animal intermediary in the food chain and who argue that this is the way available nutrients can be distributed to more people, eliminating today's famines, fell that even those who are concerned about cows' rights to life are somewhat sentimental and frivolous. The ultimate fruitarians, who are aware of plant consciouness and want to eat only what the vegetative life form voluntarily surrenders to proagate itself, find everybode else crass.

AT ONE point in the program, Yogi Bajan, a Punjabi Sikh, was moved to leave a podium exclaiming. "We are not here to be slandered," when Philip Pick, an English Jew, was explaining his theories about how the Old Testament and the Talmud really lay down vegetarian dietary rules for Jews.

Someone then accused Yogi Bajan of sitting on calfskin and a woman from Brooklyn said she didn't get good vibes from him at all. After a call for unity Neil Ehmke, president of the New York Vegetarian Society, whose vegetarianism goes no farther than not eating meat, Pick went on to defend his contention that Jewish food traditions have grown up around wrong interpretations of what the Bible says.

He agreed with one questioner that it was like Portia's analysis of why Shylock couldn't have his pound of flesh: He'd have to shed blood to get it. And, says Pick, Kosher injunctions against blood in meat really mean that meat is forbidden.

The verve of militancy was evident again when the Vegetarian Activist Commune of Brooklyn reported on its activities. This group demonstrates in the guerilla theater tradition against rodeos, circuses and the Central Park Zoo. The Activists also campaign against the use of animal epithets among humans who want to put each other down. Everything from "you rat" and "what a lousy thing to do" to "why does she have to be so catty?"

MEANWHILE, other groups have been hearing the strong voice of nonogenarian pacifist Scott Nearing as he explains the gardening methods he uses on the Maine farm where he and his wife, Helen, have for decades made an art of the simple life. Still other vegetarians have been discussing nutrition, natural childbirth and breast feeding, diseases of civilization, ecology, meditation, accupuncture, yoga exercises and color therapy.

There have even been a couple of special meetings for children, where Anne and Daniel Dinshah, 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son of two key congress leaders, have talked about being a vegetarian when the other kids are off to McDonalds for hamburgers. (It's hard, but think of the poor animals.)

Around the university gym, where many of the meeting are being held, there are booths where you can buy juicers and vegetarian coloring books, "Diet for a Small Planet" and distilled water. There's also a young man selling three kinds of dried seaweed, which he and his wife gather off the Maine coast and dry themselves. All three - kelp, alaria and dulse - are good. Very nice for munching with a glass of wine you probably won't have if you're a vegetarian; the same satisfactions of salt and chewiness you get from (oops) beef jerky, slack dried hake or the dried cod icelanders enjoy with butter on it.

Nobody has done much with the allegations of some anthropologists that fossil teeth suggest the human creatue has been a carnivore for millions of years. Or what specialists in comparative anatomy say about the length of the human intestines as opposed to the digestive apparatus of ruminants.

And I never did find out what was meant by the breatharian slogan od "Sunshine for Lunch."