|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Annual General Meeting
from EVU News, Issue 2 / 1996
This year's AGM took the form of a mini-conference and mini-vacation combined and was held in the Pestalozzi childrens village at Trogen near Appenzell in eastern Switzerland. Sigrid had organized everything brilliantly, even the weather despite forecasts to the contrary, the sun emerged from the clouds to greet our arrival and stayed around until we left, when it poured with rain again. Accommodation was in cosy timber-clad houses with three or four rooms on each side of a communal area and well equipped kitchen for midnight feasting on the copious supply of mangoes fresh coconuts brought by certain generous colleagues. Not that the food provided at lunch and dinner riquired any topping up: fresh fruit and salades were always available, and all the main courses and desserts were vegan a laudable effort by a chef previously unfamiliar with this type of cuisine. The views from the windows were picture postcard stuff: lush green grass and wild flowers and small groups of cattle grazing peacefully on the hillside. One shuddered to think of the ultimate fate of the three gentle bull calves who befriended us on one of our walks, but at least they had escaped the infamous veal create system and were enjoying, albeit briefly, the fresh air and freedom to which all sentient creatures are entitled.
In addition to walks in the surrounding hills, time was spent around the village getting to know the 40 or so vegetarians and vegans from all over Europe, as well as the young Bosnian children whose company was a pleasure and a reminder of the atrocities that our species is capable of perpetrating on its own kind as well as on other creatures. There were also excursions to nearby Appenzell and further afield to St. Gallen to see the magnificent cathedral and library, where we slithered around in huge felt slippers on the historic polished wooden floor, admiring the amazing collection of documents and paying our respects to the 3000 year-old Egyptian mummy lying in state at the far end of the library.
So well balanced was the programme that the four days slipped pleasantly by without anyone acquiring the zombie-like appearance characteristic of meeting-sickness, even though a great deal of hard work was actually accomplished. Deferring the 'Ideas for the Future' session from the main AGM till the next morning proved to be a good idea as people came to the subject with renewed enthusiasm rather than at the end of a long session. Among the ideas discussed were the possibility of some kind of Europe-wide action to coincide with World Food Day on 16th October, possibly on the lines of the Great American Meat Out. For this we would need a short but striking text, and contributions in whatever language were invited.
The EVU agreed to support a project showing how a vegan diet could help children with allergies and behavioural problems and seek funding from Strasbourg and Brussels. In this context, the need for a good cookbook for use in clinics, schools and other institutions was clear, as was the need for cookery courses aimed at those catering for such organisations.
The need to counteract the 'tasty' image of meat with graphic evidence
of the sickness inherent in factory farmed animals was also stressed.
At the AGM proper, discussion centred on the need to raise funds without compromising objectives, and on what more could be done to help societies in central and eastern Europe through the twinning scheme whereby the wealthier western societies paid the subscription for their Twins and helped with information and other resources. There was a need to update and streamline relations with the International Vegetarian Union so that European membership and other matters were handled directly by the EVU, to avoid duplication of effort and possible confusion.
The main topic, however, was the next EVU congress, to be held on the shores of lake Garda in Italy, close to the historic Verona and within hailing distance of Venice. Plans were well advanced and the programme would be finalised by July. As it was essential that costs be kept within the reach of as many people as possible, the congress would be in mid or late September to avoid the excessive costs and crowds in July and August. The detailed arrangements were discussed at a smaller meeting on Friday evening after an organ concert of classical and baroque music interspersed with singalong spirituals, followed by a short talk on the humanitarian work of the great 18th century Swiss reformer and educationist Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi from whom the village took its name.
The detailed discussion of the congress programm was a good example of the truly international spirit of the EVU. A group of some half a dozen people, comprising seven nationalities and speaking at least seven languages, managed to deal with a large number of complex matter without any confusion or delay despite the fact that the discussion shifted constantly from English to French to German to Italian to Spanish and back again and even though no one language was common to all participants. Had we brought the mangoes and coconuts along, we could have called it the Polyglots Picnic and what more appropriate venue than multilingual Switzerland where an entire nation state is run on the basis of four national languages.
The same multilingual, multicultural atmosphere prevailed on the last evening, when everyone came together to play indoor games for a variety of attractive prizes, an evening that will remain one of the nicest memories of this four-day pan-European family gathering. How it was possible to arrange such a splendid variety of events and such comfortable accommodation at such a remarkably modest price in a country reputed to have one of the highest standards of living in the world remains a source of wonderment. Well done, Sigrid! Were all looking forward to next time.
AGM 96 Pestalozzi Village Trogen(another view)
From the 16th to the 19th of May more than 40 participants (among them 22 EVU members) coming from Belgium, England, Germany, Italy, Romenia and Spain met in the beautiful Canton of Appenzell in north eastern Switzerland. Everything was organized very well by Sigrid De Leo and even with the weather she had made an agreement for when we arrived in the Pestalozzi Village, beautifully situated on the the hills it was splendid and warm and stayed like that for the whole time. Two guest houses were designated for our use.
On the first afternoon Sigrid took us for a hike which offered wonderful views of the region even down to Lake Constance. After supper we went to the nearby picturesque capital of Appenzell, well worth a visit.
Friday morning a young charming Tibetan woman who grew up in the village introduced us to the story and importance of the childrens village, which got its name from the most famous Swiss person: Heinrich Pestalozzi, educationist and founder of the public school, whose 250th birthday is celebrated this year. A lot of children (mostly orphans) from many different countries have found a new home in the village.
The afternoon was comletely dedicated to the AGM and after supper there was a baroque concert on the organ of the little village chapel. Right afterwards Roswita Sommer from Zurich gave an interesting lecture on the importance of Pestalozzi and Iranschähr, a mystic and sage. Saturday morning there was a discussion about how to promote vegetarianism, with a lot of good ideas.
The main attraction of the last day was the trip on a little tram through a panoramic landscape to St. Gallen, where we visited the cathedral, the monasterys library (the oldest and biggest after the one in the Vatican) and the centre of the old town.
The kitchen staff who spoiled us all the time with delicious vegan meals, had prepared a kind of banquet for the farewell evening. Afterwords there was a social get-together with a game of Bingo where several prizes could be won. Sitting together and talking we brought the last evening to an end. Time passed too quickly and Sunday morning arrived, when we all had to part.
Thanks again to Sigrid for the successful meeting, we are all looking foreward to the next and may they always serve vegetarianism, peace and most of all the suffering animals.
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