International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Europe: late 20th Century
Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999)

Yehudi Menuhin was born in New York, 1916, of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. He was a child prodigy on the violin, and by his early teens was famous throughout North America and Europe where he toured extensvely.

His first known interest in Health Foods appears to have been as a result of reading 'Nutrition and Physical Degeneration' by Weston A. Price, published in 1939. This advocated organic wholefoods, but included all types of meat.

In 1951, while on tour in New Zealand, Yehudi found a book on Yoga which he borrowed to try for himself. The following year he was in India where he found a yoga teacher, he practiced for the rest of his life (see photo right). During that tour of India he met Ravi Shankar, sitar virtuoso, and eventually persuaded him to perform in the west. Ravi's popularity had significant consequences for both music and vegetarianism in the following decades.

By the early 1950s Yehudi was based in Switzerland and in contact with the Bircher-Benner Clinic in Zurich (the place where muesli was invented). His wife, Diana, stayed in the clinic a couple of times but seemed to be less enthusiastic about the raw food than her husband. He was clearly strongly influenced by their ideas. (Dr. Max Bircher-Benner, founder of the clinic contributed articles to IVU Congresses and his son Ralph was a member of the IVU Council in the 1960s)

In the 1960s the Menuhins were living in London, where Yehudi is reported to have invested in a Health Food Store in Baker Street.

During the early 1970s Yehudi was President of the UNESCO International Music Council, his biographer says: "It was here that one of the most persistent themes of the last twenty years of his life emerged, the need for some kind of parliament that would provide 'voices for the speechless, deputies who represent the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea, the unborn generations'.


Too long have we thought of survival only in the context of the survival of the fittest, and today this means largely the survival of the richest. But I am afraid that wealth cannot indefinitely postpone or mask the more basic determinants, the naked heart and the naked claw.
... Why is compassion not part of our established curriculum, an inherent part of our education? Compassion, awe, wonder, curiosity, exhaltation, humility - these are the very foundation of any real civilisation, no longer the prerogatives, the preserves of any one church,. but belonging to everyone, every child in every home, in every school.
from: Just for Animals

The following extract is by James Henry Cook, quoted by his daughter Kathleen Keleny in her book: The First Century of Health Foods

Kathleen had music lessons from the age of 8 to 15 and then from 18 (when she typed for a composer in exchange for piano and singing lessons). As we lived near Birmingham she was able to attend most of the big Symphony concerts conducted by Adrian Boult in Birmingham Town Hall. She had free entrance because she was a programme seller. She heard Paderewski, Horowitz and Yehudi Menuhin, a Vegetarian who said that his violin teacher was his Yoga teacher because he taught him how to relax. Much later when Kathleen was President of the Bath Vegetarian Society in her fifties, Yehudi Menuhin played at one of the Bath Festival events. He agreed to meet three Committee members after the concert and told Kathleen how very important his Vegetarian diet was to him and the work he did.

from other websites:

Menuhin's interests outside music were broad. He was known as an environmentalist and practitioner of yoga. He was introduced to yoga in the 1950s and studied with B.K.S. Iyengar, a noted guru. Menuhin's daily regimen included 15 to 20 minutes of standing on his head. He also used yoga to relax before concerts. Menuhin advocated a vegetarian diet and warned of the dangers of eating white rice, white bread, and refined sugar.

Renowned, American born violinist & conductor, Yehudi Menuhin was a vegetarian and committed supporter of many social and environmental causes, with a great interest in Yoga and eastern religion.

In the 1950s, Menuhin became fascinated with yoga while in a doctor's room in New Zealand and became a daily practitioner of the art, which included 15 to 20 minutes of standing on his head. He was an anti-pollution activist and vegetarian advocate.

[from an article in the New York Times, 1982] WHEN the violinist Yehudi Menuhin comes to New York the first thing he does is call his favorite natural-food store and place an order: porridge, yogurt, goat's milk, sprouted wheat bread, ice cream, butter, fruits, vegetables, tofu sandwiches and kefir. In each American city where he performs, Mr. Menuhin has a favorite place to shop, making his life as a traveling vegetarian more comfortable.
. . . Mr. Menuhin describes himself as ''self-indulgent'' about certain foods. He can eat an entire honeycomb at four breakfasts. ''I collect honey the way some people collect stamps,'' Mr. Menuhin said. He said he is particularly fond of Indian food because it is ''so stimulating and so delicious, the vegetables with all the spices and the dairy products, the flat bread, rice and the masses of fruit.'' He loves pasta, especially with pesto and white truffles. Mr. Menuhin also enjoys fine wine.