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Vegetarian Federal Union 1889-1911


From The Vegetarian (London), April 26, 1890:

The Vegetarian Movement in Germany
LETTER FROM DR. PAUL FÖRSTER

In repsonse to your invitation to occasionally report upon the movement in this country, I now for the first time send a few observations on the subject. And I do this with pleasure in order to strengthenthe common ties that unite the English and German Vegetarian Societies, and in remembranceof the pleasant hours I passed with the English friends whom, in 1888, I met in London and Manchester, on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Society. At the same time, I can do no more than offer some general observations as the movement in Germany has hitherto been without striking incidents. But though it is not making rapid strides, it is steadily gaining ground, which it will I believe, not only maintain, but constantly extend.

On the literary side of the work, we are well equipped ; our two journals, the monthly Vegetarische Rundschau, organ of the German Vegetarian Society, and the fortnightly Vegetarier, organ of the Natural Living Society, give excellent help, each of them supplying a special need, and in its particular sphere of influence tending to assist the other. They deal with Vegetarianism in both its scienific and practical aspects ; they also serve as a medium for correspondence and mutual aid. This being so, the individual member does not, of course, expect these magazines to answer in all repects to his special views. Vegetarianism has room for every earnest and independent thinker. We shall thus learn mutual toleration, and especially to forget minor differences in presence of the great principle which unites us all ; being careful above al things, to impose no conditions which may restrict the freedom of the individual. Holding this principle, we say, with Goethe :

"This now is ours ; so let it stay,
To hold, and ne'er let go away!"

It is in this spirit that we Vegetarians, who profess to give the world a new gospel of joyous service, are called upon ourselves to lead nobler lives, and in all points to illustrate the old theological dictum, "In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas!" What we have to do is, to oppose wisely, but uncompromisingl, the practice of flesh eating, and beyond that to remember, as the old Greeks well said, that in some cases "the half is better than the whole." Had we at first been content with the English formula of the three F's, we might have now made further advances towards the Ideal.

Besides the above mentioned papers, the two German Societies ocassionally issue effective pamphlets, containing able articles upon our movement, as, for example, "Die Bedeutung des Vegetarismus für die Erhaltung der Volkskraftund siene wissenscheftliche Begründng" ("A Consideration of Vegetarianism in regard to the Popular Welfare and its Scientific Foundation"), by E. Hering ; "Die Harmonische Lebensweise" ("Harmonious Life-Conduct"), by Dr. M. Klein ; and "Die Kunst des glücklichen Lebens" (Science of a Happy Life"), by the undersigned, in which I have sought to set forth the essentials of a practical philosophy of life under the ruling and guiding principles of Vegetarianism ; a lay-address which, as I hope, and certainly intend, will be made accessible in a translation to my English friends, for whom it was also intended. I should also call attention to the Vegetarian Kalender, published by A. Kammerer, Berlin, which contains much excellent matter. Finally, a gift common alike to Englishmen and Germans, is Prof. Mayoyr's "Why I am a Vegetarian."

This is one mode of carrying on the propaganda - Precept ; another is practice - that of winning recruits by persuasion and example. In this connection, I am glad to report that the Vegetarian restaurants of Berlin are continually increasing both in number and efficiency, and, like those in Manchester and London, materially help on the cause. Berlin still remains behind these towns, but is steadily improving. Together with this, we have a more aggressive form of work, in the shape of public lectures and discussions, which gain for the propaganda a still wider influence. At these meetings themes of various kinds are delat with, and handled in such a way as to promote a rational system of living, and treatment of disease ; and this also, not without good results.

The dust raised by the apostasy of Dr. Alanus in now, at length, settling. We Vegetarianshave not hitherto been much affected by the attack, though the small wits, eager to have a hit at us, have made the most of it, while calmly ignoring the strong points and real grounds of their opponents' case. We, besides, know perfectly well how weak are the arguments of Dr. Alanus, how inconsecutive his logic, and how insufficent his grounds. For our own part, we are quite content to let the matter drop, since the affair has been sufficiently discussed in both the English and German periodicals.

Thought is man's especial province. At the same time, it is possible to carry the thinking process too far ; and when we consider to what results it sometimes leads us, and to what extent it is abused, we are reminded of Sambo's exclamation, "Oh, but tinking is de dreadfullest ting!" Now, it lies in man to regain and revivify that unconscious instictive powere which manifests itself in the passions, love and hate, hope and fear, and the perception of the tasteful and beautiful. To this end, each of us must consider his own experience, and the experiences of others ; but especially his own, for every one is a world for himself - a microcosm - with his own peculiar propensities and possesions. In this way we shall learn truth, and discover for ourselves the right road, leaving to the merely intellectually cultivated the consideration of the proverb, "Je gelehrter, je verkehrter" - the more learned, the farther astray.

There has been lately an attempt to Germanise the word "Vegetarian", and its cognates, but it is not likely that this will come to much. In the meantime, the discussion has afforded a good opportunity for the stricter investigation of our manner of life and teaching. Cetainly we must learn to see it in more than a mere dietetic reform ; it must become the foundation of a more spiritual and moral life, and the starting point and potentiality of a happy life. And it was with this conviction thatI wrote the above mentioned work - conviction that such a life was not only incumbernt but possible, though only upon a Vegetarian basis.

The relations between the two societies are of the most friendly nature, and perhaps we may some day see them blended into one, though for the present we are satisfied with the good understanding and mutual alliance that already exist. It is to be hoped that last year's International Congress at Cologne may become the first of a series, and German Vegetarians will willingly resort to whatever place may be chosen for the meetings. Such meetings will serve, like a favouring breeze, to waft forward the Vegetarian Argosy, which, with its standard of Health, Purity, and Happiness - the emblems of its freight - is now speeding to its still distant, but clearly seen, goal. For ours is the Future, and we are urged by the strongest incitememts to lead forward mankind in all fields of spiritual and social effort. It will tend to promote fraternity and mutual understanding, if on both sides of the Channel the membership of the Societies is increased, and the magazines of either country interchanged and read. The movement will thus be more widely extended, and its supporters will gain fresh courage for united and individual effort.

With hearty greetings to the English members, - Yours very truly,

PAUL FÖRSTER

[The Vegetarian published several reports based on extracts from the Vegetarische Rundschau during 1890]