International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Message from the Chair of the International Council
from IVU News 2002

For a while now I have had such a mixture of conflicting emotions and feelings. My head has been filled with thoughts and ideas that have been difficult to understand let alone put into words. When I thought about what I would write about for this issue, they all came to the surface. Finding the right words to write was difficult and even now I wonder if I am making my thoughts clear, although to myself they did become a little clearer this evening.

Just over a year ago on January 17, 2001. a very brave and young man peacefully passed away. He was my brother Douglas. From his days as a child with juvenile diabetes, to his end at 38 years of age he faced much pain and suffering. As if the diabetes was not enough, he also had to endure multiple sclerosis, renal failure, osteoporosis and various other afflictions in his final years.

There are many things in this world that I could say "caused" his death… everything from greedy corporations to misguided individuals But all that would just be laying blame… a way of expressing anger. More and more now I realize that that is not, and should not be, my way.

As I sat in his hospital room holding his hand and listening to his steady yet increasingly shallow breathing my only thoughts were of compassion I sat there with him to the end. The world changed enormously that day.

Exactly one week later on January 24 my second daughter was born. There are many things to be said about the beauty of life. She and her older sister (even when acting less than angels) continue to be such joys to behold. The love and compassion I feel for them and my wife is overwhelming at times.

Then on September 10, 2001, I became an official uncle when my sister gave birth to a baby girl. Seeing the joy on my sister's face reminded me once again of the sanctity of life. The very next day the world changed again.

As a Canadian this was the closest I had ever been to something as violent as this. Not only did it make me stop and give pause, it also made me more aware of how long things like this have been going on everywhere around the world. As a species we can be so compassionate and caring one minute only to prove that we can be extremely vicious and hateful the next. Such a delicate balance...but is it balanced?

And as the conflict in the Middle East, Africa and around the world continues the world is still changing. Every day someone somewhere finds justification for the atrocities being committed by themselves and others. But that is all it is, justification… justification to themselves and others to explain why something so wrong is actually right given their own point of view. It is a way to pronounce themselves and others free from guilt or blame. Both individuals and society as a whole do this.

So what does all this have to do with being a vegetarian?

There are many reasons for being a vegetarian. Whether you are a vegetarian for ethical, health, environmental, religious or some other reason you have made a wise choice. One of the most driving reasons I feel, though, for being a vegetarian is compassion. Whether it be for yourself, the people you know, the animals or the world as a whole it is there in one form or another.

Some may say that this attitude is being soft. I disagree and say it is being strong. It is far too easy to blame, to feel anger, to hurt. It is much harder to show compassion and understanding. Anger is easy, compassion is hard. In my mind there can be no 1ustification behind an act of violence towards any living creature -human or otherwise. Whether it is a personal belief or a societal norm it does not make it right. We need to keep this in mind too with regards to aggressive attitudes towards others.

When dealing with meat eaters, how do we approach them? Is the butcher who works down the road a person to be hated? Even if they are a loving and caring parent? Are they simply misguided in this one aspect of their lives? As vegetarians how do we react when we see a family member eating in a destructive manner to both themselves and others?

We have all done things we are not proud of. Things that now with the wisdom of years behind us, we see as being wrong. Does that make us a bad person or just someone who had to take the time to learn? As I said earlier, compassion is a major part of being a vegetarian whether one wants to admit it or not. Many do not see this connection though. In fact I know a lot of very non-compassionate vegetarians.

What kind of world are we leaving to our children when expressing hatred in its many forms is the norm? We are so surrounded by beauty but many fail or refuse to see it. Showing compassion and teaching by example is the only way. Realize your connection with the world and pass on this knowl-edge to the following generations. It is not easy but it is the only thing that will guarantee their future.

These are some of the thoughts I am thinking, as I gently rock my youngest to sleep in my arms. As I listen to her steady breathing I think about the world she will bc facing and the choices she will have to make. I may not have all the right answers for her but I hope I can teach her how to find them through love and understanding.

For a vegetarian (and compassionate) world.
Kevin Pickard