|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Report from Malta
On the 5th October the Malta (Island in the Mediterranean Sea) Vegetarian Society (VS) will be 5 years old. How it started is very significant for me personally. I had been practicing yoga for a little less than two years with Ananda Marga and had spoken about starting a vegetarian society for quite a few times with my meditation teacher, an American who was also keen on the idea. It was she who actually wrote the letter in the papers which started the whole thing.
It is ironic that she only stayed in Malta for a couple of months after that, not long enough to even get any credit for the work she had started, because she was posted somewhere else. It may be interesting to you that before she came to Malta, this meditation teacher had been posted in Switzerland before, where she had an Ananda Marga kindergarten (or maybe primary school, I’m not sure). When I saw the picture of the AMURT children from Switzerland in the last EVU news, this all came back to me.
During the few years since its conception, the VS of Malta has been witness to a dramatic shift in the awareness of the majority of the Maltese public. We are proud to say that our involvement in increasing the momentum of this positive shift has been marked.
Our work has been concentrated mainly on printing information i.e. regular newsletters to members, as well as a periodical mostly in Maltese, with some articles in English. We also have fairly regular meetings for members and guests. In these meetings we invite speakers, show videos and share vegetarian food prepared by the members. The response has always been encouraging and our efforts effective.
Our October “Reverence for Life” programme is now established in the calendar of events of other environmental, animal welfare and spiritual groups. All of us join together in an effort to raise people’s awareness regarding the various vegetarian issues. We distribute a lot of information and receive a lot of media coverage.
The people who started the VS were driven mainly by spiritual motivation and to this I attribute the success of the Malta VS so far. Now there seems to be more scope for broadening our horizon and we are happy that with the increase in active members we are also keeping up-to-date with scientific research and can be guided by more than “just” sentiment. In this respect we are grateful for EVU and IVU and other organisations who keep us provided with up-to-date information.
In the beginning it was important for us to have a substantial number of members and our activities were mainly aimed at increasing them. Now it seems that a society with a considerable number of members has its positive and negative aspects. While in a way our views and arguments can bear more weight, an increasing number of members demands much more time and energy in organizational work among already converted people.
There are so many programmes we wish to introduce aimed at various sections of the population ex schools, catering industry, health care, etc. and we now wish to make it clearer to everybody that this is not just somebody’s dream, some strange idealogy based on philosophical complications which people would rather not go deep into, but in fact this is a very practical lifestyle which all of us are capable of following. We have to show that the benefits are real and tangible. Malta is a very small country (population 0.3 million) and till 5 years ago very few people knew what the word “vegetarian” meant. Now at least we can be satisfied that the word is in everyone’s vocabulary. Many have turned vegetarian and the sale of health food has multiplied. We have been invited by other organisations to give talks for their members and many times we have been in radio and TV discussions about the subject of food or animal rights.
We try to be as positive as possible in our campaigns and activities. We try not to be involved in too much provocative protest but instead we have introduced the idea of trying to balance out the cruelty with the love. By bringing out the expression of love that is in everybody one day we will be such a strong movement that the cruelty will just die a natural death.
Of course there are instances when it is our duty to support certain initiatives which protect animal rights. Maltese laws regarding animal issues are still very primitive. In this regard we are teaming up with other groups to propose new legislation which brings us in line with Europe. Many times with the excuse of “tradition” many atrocities have been committed.
On the eve of the 29th June, the feast day of St Peter and St Paul, many Maltese gather at one garden called Buskett and celebrate by killing innumerable rabbits for the traditional dinner. Then on the day at 2.30 in the afternoon, in the scorching sun, a number of racehorses are rushing uphill on a steep surfaced road at Rabat, driven by jockeys who are sometimes too keen on the whip. Lately there has been the introduction of a special prize for the one who shows most care and kindness to his horse in this race, but of course to the one who is least kind there is not much deterrent.
So this year we have decided to issue a press release to condemn all unethical behaviour that carries the excuse of “tradition” (see page 19) or “culture” or whatever. And to keep our positive attitude we are having a vegetarian barbecue on the same night to show to everybody that we can also celebrate without cruelty. We’re hoping it will have some impact.
Katherine Azzopardi, The Vegetarian Society of Malta, c/o Church Avenue, Paola PLA 05, Malta