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Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
October 2008

Interview with a Vegetarian Leader from Argentina
Manuel Alfredo Martí is founder and leader of the Vegetarian Union of Argentina (UVA). Manuel kindly agreed to be interviewed for ‘IVU Online News’ as part of our series of interviews with leaders of vegetarian organizations.

What made you decide to become a vegetarian? When did that happen? How old were you at the time?

One day, in 1974, when I was 18 years old, I was reading a book titled, ‘Course in Naturalist Medicine in 40 Lessons’, by the famous Spanish naturalist, Dr Alfonso. While reading what Dr Alfonso says about carnivorism, I suddenly understood in a single click. Previously, I had never made the connection between meat and the animals from whom the meat comes. My decision to go vegetarian was immediate and absolute; I felt like this is how I should have been eating my entire life. Since that day, 35 years ago, I’ve never eaten meat again.

What made you decide to become active in promoting vegetarianism?

I had long felt that I should do something for the planet, and that something, I decided, would be working to promote vegetarianism. Fortunately, in 1999, I discovered the IVU website. Upon making contact, I came to know David Roman [IVU IC member and webmaster for the Spanish language pages on the IVU website]. David and I began exchanging emails. Due to his fervent activism, I was inspired to found the Argentine Vegetarian Union (UVA). All vegetarians in Argentina owe David a great debt of thanks for all his help. For example, in the early days of UVA, he designed and maintained our website, which IVU hosted. With fellow activists like David, it is easy to feel inspired.

What is it that sustains your desire to be active?

Three goals sustain me: to confront the growing danger caused by global warming, to protect the animals and to care for human health.

What is an obstacle that you face in remaining active in promoting vegetarianism? How do you overcome this obstacle?

There are two main obstacles facing vegetarianism in Argentina. First, we lack economic resources. Second, we face a boycott by the media. Argentina is the country with the world’s highest per capita meat consumption, 70kgs per year. This high rate of meat consumption has a broad impact, above all in the lack of space available to promote and develop our work. We are patiently, very patiently,  struggling to overcome this.

What is one of your organisation’s accomplishments that makes you especially proud?

We are especially proud of our public outreach. In this regard, without doubt, pride of place goes to our hard copy magazine, ‘The Vegetarian/Vegan’ which we have brought out for eight years now and is the first magazine in Argentina and Spanish-speaking countries of America that specializes in vegetarianism. Also, we feel proud to have held four national congresses and are currently organizing the fifth. Additionally, we have a website with between 2500 and 3000 visitors daily - a blog various email groups. Plus, we conduct courses and workshops. Last but not least, we have brought out the Western Hemisphere’s first Spanish language books on veganism.

How do you try to maintain good relations and enthusiasm amongst your organisation’s members?

We communicate regularly with our members, the general public and the media. It is very important to be thorough and to reflect on what we do in order to find even better ways to impactfully disseminate ideas and information about vegetarianism. The spirit of UVA is to unite with other vegetarians, and with anyone interested in this form of life. We encourage everyone to participate in our activities and to feel a part of the work of UVA.

What is one thing that other veg organisations might be able to learn from your organisation?

We are only too happy to connect with other vegetarian organisations, especially new organisations just starting out who might be in special need of advice. You can contact us at uva@uva.org.ar. We believe that it is very important to establish fraternal ties in order to strengthen all of us to continue onwards.

How does your organisation reach out to people who are trying to become veg or who are newly veg?

We make a variety of materials available to anyone who requests them. Our magazine and books are important tools to encourage people who are transitioning towards vegetarianism or who are already vegetarian but are feeling social pressure. These hard copy materials are in addition to our web based resources. For instance, our email groups provide support to those who are taking the first steps towards vegetarianism.

Any final thoughts?

Today, vegetarianism is the most powerful and effective tool that humanity has to confront global warming, to help the animals and to safeguard our health. Therefore, UVA invites our vegetarian friends from around the world to join our campaign: Save the Planet – Change Your Diet .
Perhaps, together we can realize our dreams!