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Dr. Ernest Nyssens

Member of the IVU Provisional Committee, 1909
Congress Organiser 1910, Speaker at the 1913 Congress

The first mention we have of Dr. Nyssens is from The Vegetarian (London), July 7, 1900, referring to the International Vegetarian Congress held in Paris:

There were about 160 present. The chair was taken by the President D. Jules Grand, supported by the Commandant Courmet, Mons. Guillaume de Fontenay, Dr. Roux, M. de Vielleneuve, M. Moran, Dr. Nyssens and Mr. A. F. Hills, President of the Vegetarian Federal Union and others.

The papers were read in English and translated into French by Dr. Nyssens.

The Vegetarian (London), July 14, 1900, printed a letter sent to the VFU Secretary by 'J. Morand, Secretary and Treasurer of the Vegetarian Society of France' stating ". . . we shall hope to have the same pleasure when we meet again at Brussels, in 1901." This was reference to an apparent agreement with Dr. Nyssens and the Belgian Society to host the next Congress. Dr. Nyssens was nominated as an 'Honorary Vice-President' of the Paris Congress and read a paper on "Contribution to the study of Diabetes"

The Vegetarian (London), February 6, 1901, commented further on Dr. Nyssens role at the Paris Congress:

Dr. Nyssens, of Brussels, who is the founder of the Belgian Vegetarian Society, drew the attention of his medical brethren to the good results he had obtained in the treatment of that so-called incurable disease diabetes, to which several of the doctors present responded. Certainly the French Vegetaians have made headway since their first general conference in 1890. And this is all the more encouraging in a country where, unlike England, the consumption of flesh food is not excessive.

Speaking with such men as Dr. Nyssens I have found the confirmation of my opinion, based on knowledge of other parts of the continent, that far more vegetables and fruit are consumed in France than with us. Indeed, in the country districts the people are largely, if not entirely vegetarians in practice. "But," says my friend, "mention the word Vegetarian to them and they are scared."

From the March 1901 issue of The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester):

Foreign Notes, by Mathilde Hompes.
International Vegetarian Conference in Belgium. - Some of us who attended the Paris Vegetarian Conference will remember that a hasty agreement was come to for holding a similar meeting this year in Brussels. A Committee has now been formed in that city, with Dr. Nyssens, the President of the Belgian Society, at its head, to make arrangements for a Conference to be held in June.

From the July 1901 issue of The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester):

Foreign Notes by Mathilde Hompes
The Belgian International Conference. - I regret to learn through our friend Dr. E. Nyssens, of Brussels, that the projected International Vegetarian Congress, which was expected to be held in that city this summer, has had to be abandoned. Dr. Nyssens writes to me as follows: "I understood, last year, at the Paris Exhibition, that the Annual Congress of the V.F.U. should take place in Brussels this year. If this had been so, we should have done al we could to make the Congress a success. As now, the V.F.U. has fixed the Congress in England, we did not see the necessity of having another Congress in Brussels; hence the Belgian Committee has dropped the idea for the present. We might, perhaps, take it up again next year.' I fancy that Dr. Nyssens carried away a somewhat erroneous impression. At least I did not gather that the ordinary Annual Gathering of the V.F.U. would be held in Brussels instead of, as usual, in London. But the English section of the Paris Vegetarian Congress, prompted by Mr. Harry Phillips, certainly did display considerable enthusiasm about having a similar international gathering this year, and it was resolved, and duly carried, that Brussels should be our meeting place. If for some good reason the London Executive has changed its intentions, it owes an explanation to all who helped to pass that resolution. Personally, I have not heard or seen any, and I know others who have not.

The VFU Congress went ahead in London, and this was effectively the end of the VFU as an international organisation as the Continental Europeans, and the Vegetarian Society (Manchester) all distanced themselves from from it.

From The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester), November 1907 (report of a talk given during the Diamond Jubilee meetings of the Vegetarian Society):

And in 1890 Dr. Nyssens, of Brussels (whom we hoped to have with us at our Conference), managed to band together 30 vegetarians, and re-established the Society in France, over which, Dr. Jules Grand has presided since 1899. Those of us who were fortunate enough to visit Paris during the Vegetarian Congress in the Exhibition Hall of 1900, to which Dr. Danjou also alludes, will remember his excellent speech and his modest personality.

As result of the above meeting, it was agreed to form the International Vegetarian Union, which was founded in Dresden the following year, 1908.

The following reports are all from the Vegetarian Messenger, (Manchester).

The next mention have of Dr Nyssens was at the second meeting of the provisional Committee of the newly formed IVU, he had not been present at the first IVU Congress in Dresden:

The Committee of the International Vegetarian Union (A.Meyroos, LL.D., Rotterdam ; Dr Nyssens, Brussels ; Dr Selss, Baden-Baden ; and Mr A, Broadbent, Manchester), met at Rotterdam, on the 14th February [1909].

Later in 1909 the 2nd IVU Congress was held in Manchester, England:

Dr. Ernest Nyssens, of Brussels gave an account of the movement in Belgium, and told how, from their very first meeting consisting of three, they had grown to a very respectable society, which stood well in the eyes of the medical profession. They made much of the scientific aspect of vegetarianism.

Owing to the unavoidable absence of Dr. Danjou, of Nice, which was all the more to be regretted because he was the projector of the International Union, Dr. Nyssens read a long letter from him.

After the Congress the Vegetarian Messenger reported:

Our continental visitors have sent very appreciative reports of our October gatherings to their respective organs. ...

... In La Réforme Alimentaire [Belgium/France] Dr Nyssens is hardly less enthusiastic than our Dutch friend. He says that we "extended to all delegates that hearty hospitality for which Englishmen are noted. Our every desire might have been anticipated ; we were everywhere surrounded by that hearty sympathy which should blind all who work and battle in a common cause towards a common end. We owe them heartfelt thanks, which I here tender in my own name and in that of the societies which I represented. All good things come to an end, and we left the busy manufacturing city of Manchester with deep regret as we said good-bye to our friends. We hope to meet them again in Brussels in 1910, and I hope to give the programme of that Congress in our next issue." Brussels is about to open a Natura-Vigor, it is hoped on December 15 - on the model of the Paris establishment.

-and in a later issue:

Dr .Ernest Nyssens announces that the International Vegetarian Congress will take place at Brussels from 10th to the 12th June next [1910].

At the 1913 IVU Congress, at The Hague, The Netherlands, Dr Nyssens was listed as a speaker but the reports make no specific mention of him. There were no further IVU Congresses until 1923 and later Congress reports make no mention of him.

A visitor to this site sent the following:

I am a remote nephew of Dr Ernest Nyssens. Over the last years I gathered info on my family history. He died in Brussels, March 1956 at the age of 87 years. In his last years he had -reportedly- to quit vegetarianism for health reasons. (Diabetism).

This information would have Dr. Nyssens born in 1869. He would have been just 21 when he "re-established the Society in France" in 1890, 31 when he spoke at the 1900 Paris Congress and 41 when he organised the IVU Congress in Brussels in 1910.

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