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Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
November 2008

Interview with the New IVU Liaison Officer for Europe

After the recently concluded IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Hildegund Scholvein stepped down as IVU Liaison Officer for Europe and was succeeded by Shabari Monica Saha. This interview serves as an opportunity for IVU members to get to know Shabari, for those who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting her.

1. Hi, Shabari. You are the IVU Liaison Officer for Europe. What does this job involve?

Hi. My job is to represent and provide support to all member organizations and societies in Europe. This could be, for example, something specific that would affect all the groups in Europe or it could be giving advice requested by an individual organization, business or society. The role also involves assisting those groups that are financially challenged. 

2. You also wear and have worn other leadership hats in the vegetarian movement. Please tell us about your impressive hat collection.

I am the Secretary General and Education Project Co-ordinator for the European Vegetarian Union (EVU). Some of my achievements within the EVU include writing a paper entitled, “Organising School Talks in Your Country”; writing articles on the EVU Talks in May 2008 and the IVU World Vegetarian Congress in Jul-Aug 2008; and conducting World Vegetarian Day campaigns for three years in a row.
I am also a school speaker for Animal Aid, which is an animal rights and vegetarian campaigning and education organisation in the UK. As well as the above, on a local level, I have been assistant organiser and a contact for a local vegetarian social and information group for over two years. The group has been running for 13 years. 

3. When and why did you become a vegetarian?

I became vegetarian in 1995, 13 years ago, when I was at university. I had wanted to become vegetarian when I was younger, but I finally did it after a university friend brought home the connection between animals on the field and the reality of what was on my plate and so I was physically sick from eating meat and fish. I then became vegan not too long, about a couple of years, after as a result of learning about the cruelty of the egg and dairy industry. I made the change at all levels, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

4. When did you first become involved in promoting vegetarianism?

 I started going to green fairs, vegan festivals, veggie/vegan food fairs, Christmas without Cruelty Fayre, etc. about 11/12 years ago and signed petitions and collected information for myself and to give to others. I also used and still use the power of purchase to buy products that are cruelty-free, and wrote to companies to check sources of ingredients. However, it wasn’t until several years later that I got much more actively involved in promoting vegetarianism by various methods such as helping at information and vegetarian food stalls, being a local contact for a vegetarian group, informing people about various issues, online campaigning, letter writing campaigning and lobbying, writing press releases and articles, giving school talks, etc.

5. When and how did you learn about IVU?

It was a few years ago. A friend of mine had been going regularly to EVU Talks/Congresses and IVU Congresses for many years and he mentioned about both organisations. He had a back issue of an IVU magazine at a vegetarian stall, which I took to read. 

6. Do you do your vegetarian work full-time, or do you have a regular job, too?

I have a day job as a researcher for a market research company, so I do my vegetarian work in my spare time. 

7. Please tell us about a particularly inspiring moment that you had recently.

It was when I went to the Festival of Life this September in London, which is an event celebrating holistic lifestyles with an emphasis on raw vegan food. I met someone called Paradox, who describes himself as a “one-legged existential stand-up beat poet”. He gave a sequence of thought-provoking and humorous poems and combined those with discussions about whether we can prepare for climate and earth changes and also personal changes.

It was so moving to hear Paradox’s story of how he lost his leg when he hit a rock while jumping into a river during his travels in Mexico some months ago. However, he didn’t allow his disability to prevent him from living his life. Instead he was inspired to be more creative and make people happy through what he does. Some of his performances can be viewed at profile.myspace.com/....201881778 ;
vids.myspace.com/....2037062110

8. The need for vegetarianism has always been urgent, but that urgency seems to be increasing. How can vegetarian organisations respond?

Organisations can do more in terms of bring educational messages to the general public, to schools, to government and non-governmental organisations. Taking a pro-vegetarian attitude rather than an anti-meat attitude is likely to be more favourable in getting more people to listen. For example, giving facts about the health, well-being, and environmental benefits of vegetarianism first and then giving facts about the cruelty involved in the meat industry. Another suggestion for vegetarian organisations would be to work with religious groups, for instance, to influence legislation for improving food and drink labelling and providing supplements and medicines that are free from animal ingredients on religious grounds. 

9. What is one strategy/campaign that you’d like to bring to the attention of vegetarian organisations?

Following the World Vegetarian Day 2008 campaign that I conducted for the EVU, Be Charitable – Do Something for Someone Today, vegetarian organisations can do something similar as an occasional or ongoing campaign. Although this particular campaign was targeted at individuals, organisations could do things like: organising a charity fundraising event, such as a festival or gala dinner, and providing vegetarian food at the event; having an auction or raffle/prize draw where the money raised could go to an animal or human charity; giving public or school talks on vegetarianism, food waste and poverty; and providing information to the public about vegetarian charities, such as vegetarian food aid charities and/or vegetarian orphanages.

10. Please share a vegetarian joke with us.

I found this joke on a vegetarian forum which I just have to share with you. So for all those Mary Poppins fans, here goes:

There's this veggie spiritualist who spends all his time travelling the country spreading the veggie word.

He walks everywhere bare footed and develops very hard skin on his feet. Because he's so busy in his good works, he neglects his dietary needs. This causes his health to decline and results in a serious case of bad breath!

Consequently, he becomes known as the: Super-calloused fragile mystic, hexed by halitosis!