line to Maine
the veg-adventure of the year
After bidding farewell to our summer crop of wilting undergraduates
on August 14, that very same evening we were en route to Orono,
Maine, over 1,300 long hot miles from York Cottage, Kentucky.
Thise miles were covered in a Superbeetle containing besides yur
correspondent, a 6ft. 200lb. husband, an 80lb Golden Retreiver,
and the usual bandboxes of drip-dries. Although the American speed
limit has been firmly set at 55 mph for months now, by cheating
outrageousl in places we made Orono by August 16 for the opening
of the World Vegetarian Congress on the pleasant campus of the
University of Maine.
Strangely enough on the way we passed a restaurant called The
Jolly Butcher (yuk!) just south of Brattleboro and then, as
we drove into Portland, Maine, we saw a V shaped trail in the
cloudless sky, a much happier sign. Certainly a happy atmosphere
permeated all we saw and did in the necessarily hectic days we
spent at Orono. Hectic because we had to drive the 1,300 miles
back to Kentucky for the opening of the college's Fall Semester
on August 25.
Because we had Chipsa, our retriever, we could not stay on the
campus so we lodged at a pleasant motel five minutes drive away.
At the risk of sounding lyrical I must record that it was a memorable
experience to sit in the packed Memorial Gymnasium that fist evening
and hear Dr. Gordon Latto, President of the International Vegetarian
Union and also of the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom,
denounce in his rich Scots voice, the horrors of "the slaughter-r-r-r-r-houses".
He really made that foul word sound like the malediction it is
and if there were any non-believers in vegetarianism present I
am sure he made converts right there. In addition to Gordon there
was a fascinating group of speakers - and listeners - from all
over the world. As one New Yorker commented, "Here is a United
Nations that really does have a common purpose."
Many of the stalwarts of our vegetarian movement were there,
people who have worked devotedly over the years and who cannot
be catalogued in this small space - Isabel James, Dr.Richard St.Barbe
Baker, and octogenarian "Woody" Kahler, past president
of the IVU, who invited everyone to his birthday party on February
Inevitably as in any parge gathering of cosmopolites, there was
a gallimaufry of characters who were so far out they were in.
And there were the Westerners who had become so determinedly
Eastern that they outdid the genuine article, swishing around
in tangerine togs under newly-acquired exotic names. Fortunately
for our movement's image there was, as always, a good solid core
of unpretentious, just-plain-folks who needed no gimmicks and
were there solely to concentrate on lessening the suffering of
what many speakers referred to, in the classic Franciscan manner
as "our younger brothers and sister, the creatures".
Possibly it may sound fanciful and out of character coming from
one whose main field of study has been the cool Age of Reason
but, all exhibitionism aside, on that hot Maine evening, in that
crowded gym, there was an almost palpable emanation of unity,
of goodwill, of positive thinking about vegetarianism that very
obviously affected many besides myself. And I venture to say that
no one was unaffected when magnificent Scott Nearing, accompanied
by his gelightful and vital Helen, strode to the platform. The
audience rose spontaneously and clapped thunderously for several
minutes. My black neighbour was moved to tears.
It was inevitable that Scott, an incredible 92, and Helen, should
steal the show, as they deserved for their courage in bucking
the materialistic-carnivorous trend long ago when it was absolutely
unheard of. They have lived to vindicate their beliefs and over
2,500 pairs of feet beat a path to their door every year. The
Nearing Monday lecture was packed and the young were well in evidence,
a good sign. Questions about homesteading and vegetarianism were
thoughtful and pertinent. Although Scott and Helen had corresponded
with me in the past in consequence of a letter of mine in Time
defending meatlessness, those 1,300 miles had precluded our meeting
until now but we made up for lost time. We drove the seventy miles
from Orono to their Harborside retreat, taking winding country
roads with frequent sea views and toured their beautifully-walled
kitchen garden and their peaceful acres on which they are building
a second house overlooking the bay. Meantime they live in a benign
old frame farmhouse that seemed to reflect the serenity of its
owners and the quiet order of their lives. The terrain is quite
different from that of Kentucky and I felt briefly, as if I were
back in my native Yorkshire. I can pay a place no greater compliment.
The catering committee must have had many gargantuan headaches
in planning meals for vegans, lacto-vegetarians, raw-fooders,
and, as the Maine Sunday Telegram expressed it, "A
group from India (which) will eat nothing that grow below ground
while another group from India won't drink water that has been
drawn through a pipe." I did hear praise for the good quality
of the fruit served at Wells Commons and for the imaginative toppings
on the wholewheat pizzas.
Besides the Telegram just mentioned, other papers such
as the Bangor Daily News gave good coverage and pictures
of the Congress and, besides local radio and TV spots, there was
TV coverage as far south as Tennessee and Kenticky, as interested
friends rushed to tell us.
There was something for everybody among the lecture topics, from
6.30 am Yoga classes to advice on how to raise healthy vegetarian
pets. There were also exhibits and sales of organic foods, handcrafted
items, and lots of useful "freebies" in the way of pamphlets
and booklets. The University bookstore also had a good display
of books specially interesting to vegetarians.
There is a saying in America, usually applied to politics, which
goes something like, "As Maine goes, so goes the nation".
Let's hope that the dynamic goodwill, overall friendliness, common-sense
and compassion so very evident at this 23rd World Vegetarian Congress
will be carried away by our members to all the parts of the globe
from which they came so that many others will be moved to join
us. Then, eventually, historians might be able to write, "As
Orono, Maine, went in August 1975, so went the rest of the world".
Britons play an important part in the International Vegetarian
Union - Isabel James (left), VSUK Deputy Chairman, is newly
elected secretary for the IVU European Region; Jack Lucas
(centre), Scientific Adviser to The Vegetarian Society, is Chairman
of SCIVU, Science Council of the IVU; Brian Gunn-King,
from Northern Ireland, is the indefatigable General Secretary
of the IVU. Isabel has exciting plans for the European Region,
hopes to strengthen the ties, and arrangea Regional Congress during
alternate years. Jack Lucas was well-pleased with the tremendous
interest shown at the Congress in the scientific activities of
SCIVU. Their information bulletin was felt to be of great importance,
and this should be expanding still further with the collation
and distribution of vital information between member countries.
A new suggestion put forward was the formation of small, specialist
groups who will study in depth the really topical subjects, such
as fatty acids and textured vegetable proteins. So much more can
be achieved collectively than individually, and it is gratifying
to find the British leading the way to international co-operation,
with Brian Gunn-King already busy planning the next World Vegetarian
No Congress would be complete without them - Woodland Kahler,
Marquis de St.Innocent, and Shri Jayantilal N.Mankar,
Secretary of the Bombay Humanitarian League. Woody, as he is known
to one and all, is immediate Past President.of the International
Vegetarian Union and was Honorary Chairman of the 23rd World Vegetarian
Congress. Mankar is IVU General Secretary for Asia and has long
been a key figure in the Indian vegetarian movement. Both men
are over 80, have been active in humanitarian work for a good
portion of their lives - and neither shows any sign of flagging
for a long while yet!
It's not a bit like school - children at the Congress responded
enthusiastically to their very own classes. This one is being
run by Nat Altman, author of the well-researched book on
vegetarianism, Eating for Life, and the subject is Growing
up Healthy.On other days they heard about Our Friends, The Animals,
learned about what they should eat, discussed the problems of
vegetarian children. When the serious business was over they were
provided with everything from modelling clay and paints to toys
of every description. But undoubtedly the most important thing
for most of them was simply the contact with other kids who didn't
eat meat, reinforcing their own families' vegetarian beliefs.
More eloquent than a thousand words - Maharaj Bir Singh Ji
of the Namdhari Sikhs expresses Inida's message of compassion
by means of the age-old tradition of song and music, a foretaste
of what is in store for visitors to the 24th World Vegetarian
Congress in India, 1977.
the good life - Scott Nearing and his wife Helen
spoke on homesteading at the Congress, have shown by practical
example that it's possible to reject the materialistic approach
of our time and return to the land. An inspiration to young people
everywhere, the Nearings drew capacity audiences, said that they
receive some 2,000 visitors a year. Vegetarians Helen and Scott,
who live almost entirely on home grown produce, also gave lectures
on natural gardening methods. Clear-thinking and physically active
at 92, Scott is a great advertisement for the simple life, and
visitors to the Congress had a unique opportunity to visit thier
holding in Maine, and see what pioneering's all about.
T he casual companionship of the Congress - three young Americans
provide impromptu music in the open air. The steps outside Wells
Commons, the central dining area, were a popular spot for chatting
casually with a variety of folk in the warm summer sunshine. Many
of the youngsters came to vegetarianism through yoga, and there
were classes held on the lawn early every morning. The enthusiasm
of these young people, their energy and idealism, provided older
vegetarians with renewed hope for the future. And their uninhibited
capacity for enjoyment meant that between lectures and serious
discussions there was plenty of real fun.