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History of the Swiss Vegetarian Societies

From The Dietetic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), October 1880, p209 (Editorial):

At Lausanne there has just been formed a Société d'Hygiène Générale et de Vegetarisme. It is intended to be an organisation of Vegetarians and those in sympathy with Vegetarianism for the purpose of extending the knowledge of sound hygienic principles in general and of Vegetarianism in particular. The Honorary President is Dr. F. W. Dock, the Director of the Hygiènic Institute at Unter-Weid (St. Gall); the President is M. D. B. Guignard, the former editor of La Réforme Médicale ; the Secretaries are Dr. E. Raoux and Professor H. Thiele. Amongst the Vegetarian notabilites named are the following: Th. Hahn (St. Gall), E. Baltzer, Dr. Bilfinger, Professor Hyrtle (Vienna), Dr. Haureau de Villeneuve (Paris), Dr. Anderholdt (Paris), Prof. Bekétof (St. Petersburg), Prof. Nordström (St. Petersburg), Prof. Illinsky (St. Petersburg). After naming some well known German and English books the circular mentions a contribution by Prof. Bekétof to the Vestnik Evropi of August, 1878, on "The Food of Man in the Present and in Future," and some lectures on "Hygiene" by Prof. Illinsky.

From The Dietetic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), September 1883, p244:

The Frankfurter Zeitung has a brief notice of the Vegetarian Congress, which concluded at Zurich on the 15th August. There was a large attendance of delegates and friends from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Congratulatory telegrams were received from France, England, and Denmark. The Honorary President (the Venerable Eduard Baltzer), in an enthusiastic address, described Vegetarianism as the pledge of the highest morality for the individual and for society. Dr. Dock, of St. Gall, spoke on Vegetarianism in its relation to the food of the people and agriculture. The Congress was followed by a banquet in the Concert Hall, the Regierungsrath Hauser, amongst others, being present.

From The Dietetic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), October 1883, p298:

GENEVA - We are glad to receive copy of the prospectus, headed "La Santé," issued by the Société Végétarienne de Genève, 9, Rue des Pagins, containing the constitution and rules of this Society, whose executive officers are Dr. B. Guignard, president ; G. Brooke, treasurer ; and E. Eder, secretary.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), January 1887, p32:

A new Vegetarian society has been formed at Zurich.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), January 1892, p26:

Abstract from Der Vegetarier for 1st December, 1891. . . . Vegetrianism appears to have made very small progress in Switzerland. A Berne correspondent writes that were it not for some traces of earlier activity in Berne, Lausanne, and Zurich, one would scarcely believe that our principles had ever been advocated in this republic among the mountains. But there is hope, and Frau Ducard throws out some very valuable suggestions for the spread of our teaching.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), August 1892, p247:

A Vegetarian colony has been established at Zurich, under the title of "Thalysia." Members pay £40 on entrance, and this covers three years expenses. It is expected that a profit will be made during the first quarter of the society's existence.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester, England), March 1893, p106:

Switzerland. - The following letter has been received: "It is perhaps of some interest to readers of your magazine to learn something of the Vegetarian life in Switzerland. Some time ago there could scarcely be any sign of life at all, though in former years Switzerland was nearly at the head of food reform; but now we have got here a Vegetarian restaurant, at 17, Häringstrasse, Zurich, and a Vegetarian Society holding regular meetings every week. But, best of all, a Vegetarian colony has been formed last year quite in the neighbourhood. [further details were given of the colony]

The next reference we currently have to a Society in Switzerland is a 1911 issue of the Vegetarian Messenger (VSUK magazine) which mentioned that - La Bruyére, Swiss Society of Rational Hygeine, had been founded in 1908.

The first known involvement with IVU was at the 1923 Congress in Stockholm, Sweden. The report for that Congress includes:

After extending a hearty welcome to all, he called upon the Hon. Congress Secretary, Madame Lombard (Stockholm), to read the Roll Call of the Delegates. Each rose as his or her name was called. The following is a full list : ... ; Switzerland Dr. Oberdörfer ; ... [H.J.Oberdörfer M.D. - photo right]

We give the full list of papers in alphabetical order :- ... Dr. Oberdörfer (Switzerland) on "The Goal of Man," ...

The Chairman said that, owing to the great disturbance caused by the War the Committee felt as if we ought almost to make a new beginning and that the Constitution would need some alteration. He invited members for the International Vegetarian Unon and the delegates from the following countries expressed their desire to join :- ... Switzerland, ...

... Some discussion arose as to the advisability of admitting Nature Healing Societies as members of the International Vegetarian Union. ... Dr. Oberdörfcr, ... took part.

... INVITATIONS FOR THE NEXT CONGRESS were brought from :-
1. England (co-operatively from the Vegetarian Society and the London Vegetarian Society).
2. From Switzerland, but its delegate, Dr. Oberdörfer. was willing a let it stand over to the next Conference but one. He pointed out that Switzerland is the centre of Europe and a Federation. ...

The next Congress was in London, 1926, with no representative from Switzerland. The report of the 1929 Congress, held in Steinschönau, Czeckoslovakia mentions that there was a delegate from Switzerland but gives no further details. The following is from the report of the 1932 Congress, held in Berlin and Hamburg, Germany:

....After lunch, the delegates and friends again assembled, under blazing sun, to hear Mr. WERNER ZIMMERMANN (Switzerland - photo right and below right giving talk) speak on ''VEGETARIANISM AND WORLD REFORM - PARTICULARLY IN RELATION TO CHINA, JAPAN, INDIA AND THE AMERICAS." ...

In his opening remarks, Mr. Zimmermann said that he considered vegetarianism one part of a great ideal - the expression of true self in life. It did not matter, said the speaker, what labels we put on ourselves, what beliefs we cherished, hut how we lived. The important factor in life was to live up to our ideals and to have the courage to change our convictions whenever we could replace them by something better. The body, he said, was the instrument of the spirit, or mind, and therefore it was our duty to keep that vehicle in the healthiest possible state, hence the para-mount necessity for vegetarianism and other factors which would assist in the building up of a healthy body. The law of non-violence, he said, was the most important law of life, and in the working out of this law the more we condemned people for their wrong habits, the more we would be likely to send them away from the ideal. We should not seek to conquer our enemies but rather to make them our friends - that is a truer victory. He referred to his experiences in China, Japan, India, and the Americas, the extent to which vegetarianism thrived, and the bad influence of western civilization on the peoples of those countries. In the high-lands of Guatemala there were the remains of a population which had lived as long as history could record, as vegetarians. They had no cattle, they pursued artistic .... are a strong and healthy people, living as natural a life as is possible.

He related many incidents and experiences, most of which indicated that the more we seek to apply artificial laws and restrictions the more we retard true development. ...

Extracts from the report of the 1935 Congress, held in Denmark:

A CHANGE of the place of meeting, from Switzerland to Denmark, threatened to interfere seriously with the success of the 9th International Vegetarian Congress, but, apart from the absence of a few delegates who could not get to Denmark, the change did not take away from the fulness of the programme, ...

There appears to have been no representation from Switzerland in 1935 but Herr Zimmerman was back in 1938:

A popular feature of the Congress was the early morning gym-nastic exercises under the able leadership of WERNER ZIMMERMANN (Switzerland)....

Vegetarianism as the foundation of a healthy life.
On Tuesday afternoon, WERNER ZIMMERMANN (Switzerland photo right) dealt with some aspects of healthy living. Man, he said, was a spiritual being, clothed with the body as a means of expression. The laws of life differed from the laws formulated by man and it was essential, if we were to seek health, happiness, and beauty, that we should understand the former. The real Christ life, he said, was not artificial - it was simplicity itself.

Sleep was a very vital factor in the attainment of health, and the time when we took our sleep was equally important. Various suggestions had been made re-garding the ideal time but a hard and fast rule could not be laid down for everybody - the best time for one person was not neces-sarily the best time for another. We should, however, try to change the habit of retiring late and rising late. He considered it impor-tant to sleep on a hard bed. If the bed is soft, the body has no resistance and it becomes weak. The best form of sleeping was on the ground, in a north-south position, on account of the natural influences of radiation and magnetism. The air we breathe must also receive attention, but if we smothered ourselves with too much clothing it would be impossible for us to breathe as we ought. In any scheme for the building of a healthy body, a vegetarian system of living was essential, but it was important to ascertain that all the necessary mineral elements were present in our food. Dullness, for instance, was often an indication of mineral deficiency. Vegetarians he said, must try and realize their ideals in this world and not live too much "in the air." The great law of life was love and as soon as we departed from this law things went wrong. Many people thought of love as an ex-pression of sex, but that was a very one-sided view. It had a much wider significance - it involved a re-shaping of our social and economic standards and the acceptance of the principle of non-violence. There were many vegetarians who were living a very narrow life - who thought only of their stomachs. Life was not only a question of the body: the personality depended upon the harmony of the spirit, the mind and the body. Unless we were true to ourselves and had the courage to he true to others we should never appreciate the freedom which is the accompaniment of true health.

From the reports of the 1947 IVU Congress, held in Stonehouse, England:

Dr. RALPH BIRCHER (Zurich) of the Bircher~Benner Clinic, said that to live on uncooked food would be a return to the food of primitive man who must have lived on uncooked food for countless ages. But their aim was not to return to animal-like, primitive feeding, but to a fuller life guided by present day knowledge. (full text at:

From reports of the 1950 IVU Congress, held in The Netherlands: "... A delightful and progressive feature of the Congress was the Youth Camp, which was attended by representatives from ... Switzerland. ...."

1958 - The Vegetarian World Forum, July 1958, carried a complete list of IVU " Affiliated Societies - and others in association with the I.V.U." These included:
- Schweiz Gesellscaft fur Vegetarismus, Dr. W. Eberle, Postfach 61, Wallisellen, Zurich
- Union Suisse des Ligues contra la Vivisection, M. G. O'Mersserley, Boulevard Helvetique 16, Geneva

1977 - Societe Vegetarian de Geneve first mentioned.

1993 - Schweiz. Vereinigung für Vegetarismus formed

2000 - Vegetarian Society of Ticino (Switz) joined IVU

For IVU members and supporters in Switzeland today see


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