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The Vegetarian World Forum


by Fay K. Henderson

There has been much conjecture as to the origin of the word VEGAN and its meaning. It is therefore interesting to realise that in the first instance it was an attempt to get beyond the rather negative phrase "non-dairy vegetarian" which was originally applied to the founders of The Vegan Society. The word indicates an all vegetable base and is a restricted form of vegetarian, being both the beginning and the end yet implying hopefully that what starts as vegetarian may finish as vegan. The very sound of the word is steadfast and purposeful and has a conciseness of meaning that is as international as the ideal for which it stands.

It was during the year 1944 that Donald Watson, a pioneer humanitarian who had been living for some years without dairy foods, first had the idea of linking together other vegetarians of similar outlook. Accordingly he approached The Vegetarian Society with the suggestions that a non-dairy section be formed within its ranks and some pages of its monthly periodical, The Vegetarian Messenger, be devoted to suitable articles and propaganda on the subject. Unfortunately, these proposals were not acceptable to the Executive Committee of the Society, whose members felt it was their primary duty to convert the general public to vegetarianism first, and indicated that such extremes of propaganda should be conducted outside The Vegetarian Society and through an independent journal. Such a reaction was disappointing and certainly unexpected in that view of their definition

Vegetarianism is the practice of living on the products of the VEGETABLE kingdom, with or without the addition of eggs and milk.

An appeal was forwarded to The Vegetarian Society to reconsider this decision, and several individual approaches have been made from time to time, in the hope of keeping the non-dairy section linked to the Society, but all without success.

Accordingly, The VEGAN SOCIETY has been independently formed, and its first quarterly journal, The Vegan News, was issued in November 1944. The founder members were few in number but they had the firm conviction that this was an even better way of life than vegetarianism, since it was kinder to the animals and both healthier and happier for human beings. They felt that there was work to be done to help bring about this improved way of living for all, and so individually and jointly they tackled it.

After the first year a printed magazine was produced, which to-day finds its way on to the public bookstalls. The Society has grown steadily in three years to a membership of about five hundred individuals; it has published and distributed relevant literature, and has recently joined the International Vegetarian Union. The influence of the Vegan Ideal is being increasingly felt both at home and abroad.

It is a matter of some concern and regret that the modern tendency among reform groups is to break away from main societies and work independently for some slightly varying ideal. Such a process of disintegration is to be discouraged as through overlapping and duplication it entails a loss of time, energy and capital. This condition, found within the Vegetarian Movement to-day, must be remedied if Vegetarianism is to develop the full force of its revolutionary powers. The closest co-operation and unity is therefore essential.

All reforms begin with individual conviction and development takes place when two or three are gathered together for the interchange of ideas and mutual stimulation. Local groups of people with similar outlook can achieve much good - but, linked to other groups forming a larger society with one main purpose, their power is increased many fold. If that one large body could concentrate funds and energies, its strength and power would be tremendous and untold progress could be achieved. It is felt that now is the time for such unity to be sought by the various vegetarian societies in this country, and it is here suggested that the formation of a National Vegetarian Council representing all bodies, could co-ordinate vegetarian activities and interests to become the focal point of vegetarianism in the British Isles. This Council could act both nationally and internationally, yet individual member societies would retain their identity and continue their specialised work.

The Vegan Society, for example, has for its fundamental basis the individual conviction that it is wrong to interfere with the balance of Life which pervades all natural things. Mineral, vegetable and animal matter are all interdependent and are kept in their true relationship by the balance of the Life Force. Mineral matter in the form of rocks and water is acted on by the variations of the weather and becomes vitalised when it will support static vegetable life in all its various forms. Animal life is mobile as it needs to seek sustenance in vegetable form and cannot use it direct from the mineral matter. Hence, it is in accordance with Natural Law that Man (the highest of the animals) should derive his sustenance entirely from plant life.

If Man eats meat he is breaking this law and bringing disharmony into the scheme of things. If Man drinks the milk of animals he is further violating the natural balance of life, causing confusion and distress. Such chaotic conditions interfere with the rhythmic flow of divine forces, whereas if Man lives in harmony with natural laws he builds for himself a vital mind within a healthy body and becomes a channel of service through which the forces of good may function.

Life itself emanates from the Divine Source, and m the great plan it is Life alone that has intrinsic value since all else is relative. Life is given to man for his own use and to other things around him for their individual use. Man cannot create Life, therefore he should not destroy it: he cannot store it up for future use, therefore he should not exploit it: he cannot acquire it from others to use himself, therefore he should not deprive others of their use of it. Because modern man transgresses in these ways, there is much sorrow and difficulty in the world to-day. He must learn to respect his own life and put the highest value on all the life around if he is to reform and progress.

Once an individual realises that God-given Life is the greatest of assets he will regulate his daily habits accordingly. He will not interfere knowingly with the lives of others; he will not kill to eat or drink nor for clothing, but will find other more natural ways of feeding and protecting himself. He will not exploit either man or beast but strive to live harmoniously from day to day. Inner conviction will carry him through this change in his daily habits, and the way will become clearer and easier as his conviction strengthens.

The Vegan Society here is built, up of individuals who have acted on inner conviction. Each has chosen the Vegan Way as an expression of personal belief. In other countries, too, there are many people living from choice entirely without animal produce. No doubt they also will become known as vegans and may even organise themselves into groups or societies, If so, it is hoped that any group of people with vegan sympathies, in this or any other country, will communicate with The Vegan Society here with a view to co-operating in the widest possible application of Vegan Principles, and forming a VEGAN INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT that will operate for Peace and Prosperity throughout the Universe.

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