|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
4th International Congress
From The Vegetarian (London), October 2nd, 1897:
- As Others See Us -
THE most truthworthy gauge of the importance and progress of any social movement in this country is, perhaps, the space given to the record of its proceedings in the columns of thc press. The sub-editor is frequently omnipotent and not unusually infallible. The chief reason of his being is to cut down "copy" to such proportions as that abstraction known as "the average reader" will tolerate. This he does with a blue pencil and something of the ideal judicial impartiality inseparably associated with that famous Eastern potentate who strove so touchingly to make the punishment fit the crime, thus anticipating -in a sense- the labours of Lombroso. Of the labours of the sub-editor in connection with the Congress, Vegetarians have certainly no cause to complain. The proceedings have been most excellently reported from day to day, not only in the London daily press, but also in practically every important journal in the provinces, as well as in Scotland and Ireland. Very many of the journals have also devoted a considerable amount of space to editorial comment upon what they understand to be the principles and practice of Vegetarianism ; and, in quite an unexpected number of cases, the comment is by no means unfriendly, but, on the contrary, decidedly encouraging. Even when they contain a considerable admixture of sarcasm and satire, the comments of the general press need not be at all ungrateful to Vegetarians ; for the fact that they are there at all means that the movement is emphatically one to be reckoned with, and that now even the "average reader" is not uninterested in it. All those, therefore, who have contributed to the success of the Congress may well take heart. Its proceedings have done much to enable the press, and through it the public, to obtain - what Matthew Arnold was so anxious that people should get in regard to certain other things - a new point of view with regard to human food. The widely accepted idea that human food is simply "anything eatable" is gradually being found to be no longer tenable and it is more or less dimly recognized, even in the least likely quarters, that certain troublesome inconsistencies are, undoubtedly, involved in the eating of meat. All this is good as far as it goes, and there can be no doubt that it will soon go very much farther. Meanwhile, Vegetarians cannot but feel grateful to the press in general for the attention it has been led to devote to the various proceedings of the Congress is one of the best of auguries for progress in the future.
Before Lunch - and After.
It is, of course, quite impossible to do more than make a few short extracts from the multitude of articles which have now come to hand from all parts of the country. Quotations from the London press alone would fill whole pages. The Daily News, in a serio-comic leader, thinks that such Congresses "are, or ought to be, of interest to all of us, for they serve to mark our progress backwards towards simplicity of living." It proceeds :-
Thus the Daily News, on the 14th ult., obviously distrustful of Vegetarian asceticism, and fearful of being brought back to Napier's "toothbrush and a change of shirts" as an outfit for the voyage of life! Three days later, in describing the Crystal Palace lunch, the Daily News says :-
This is really charming of the Daily News. It would be interesting to learn whether its representative "asked for more," for press-men have notoriously quite as excellent opportunities of cultivating a palate as any Alderman.
"Boiled Cabbage," CannibaJism and Morals.
In quite a number of journals the old notion that Vegetarianism is of necessity a monotonous regime has been quite frankly abandoned, and for this the exhibits at the Congress are no doubt largely responsible. The Daily Telegraph remarks: "Not so many years ago the public were committed to what has been termed the 'boiled cabbage' theory of Vegetarianism. That has become an exploded idea nowadays ; it is a recognized fact that the flesh-abstentient enjoys a really varied diet." When it is remembered that the Telegraph has in past years been one of the most brilliant and tenacious advocates of this same "boiled cabbage theory," the more recent kindliness of our big contemporary is all the more a matter for rejoicing. So, too, the Dundee Advertiser, in commenting on the Crystal Palace luncheon, is constrained to admit that it must have taught the curious a good deal in regard to the artistic preparation of food, and that "the Congress might do more by means of its lunches than its lectures "- not, however, that it has had anything very severe to say about its lectures.
The Daily Chronicle, in addition to several kindly criticisms of the proceedings, published an interesting interview on " Vegetarianism and Athletics" with Mr. H. Light. the Captain of the Vegetarian Cycling Club. The Chronicle's one fear with regard to the spread of Vegetarianism is very curious. "We may wonder," it writes, "what will be done to restrict the breeding of animals, which, if slaughter absolutely ceased, might incommode the human population of the planet." The Chronicle seems to overlook the fact that at present the breeding of animals for human food is largely artificial, and that, even in newly discovered countries where animals have been free to breed, quite unrestricted by slaughter, there is usually room enough and to spare for man. But would not the Chronicl's theory, logically carried out, justify human slaughter also in certain circumstances? Should mankind ever reach the extreme limit of subsistence, one portion of "the human population of the planet " will undoubtedly be much "incommoded" by another. The Chronicle would hardly think humane slaughter justifiable even in such circumstances. If it did, it might easily find "congested districts," not a hundred miles from Fleet Street, where the principle might be carried into practice with equal justification now. The Standard thinks it quite likely that Vegetarianism may possess economic and hygienic advantages, but does not see that "sentiments of humanity and the promptings of the higher instincts" are of much importance in connection with its practice :
The "laws of Nature" as they operate in Shoe Lane would obviously justify canabalism, for under that dietetic régime one animal, to use the Standard's chaste phraseology, "finds nutriment in another" ; and the mere fact that the other happened to have been killed by what the journal would doubtless describe as kind "methods" does not make the proceeding any more lovely or justifiable. In similar fashion the Evening Standard opines that ''it is when the Vegetarians seek to exalt their diet to the dignity of a moral principle that they get out of their depth." But surely an appeal to the laws of Nature in justification of flesh-eating is also an appeal to a "moral principle," and that of the Evening Standard's morning contemporary is found not to work quite so convincingly in practice as it was intended.
Butchers, Cauliflowers, Waists and Wars.
What seems to surprise the Daily Mail with regard to the Congress is that up to the present "the butchers show no sign of concern." This, however is simply the natural result of their professional habits and diet, for those who have made a study of physiognomy in the profession know that it does not as a rule lend itself rapidly to the expression of subtle and poignant emotion. The Globe which does not concern itself with principles does all that could be fairly be expected of it with a malicious allusion to 'cauliflowers of rhetoric," which is altogether charming. The Sun also, one regrets to see exhibits slight cannibalistic tendencies. Vegetarians," it moreover declares, "ought logically to live on chemical extracts of the elemental forces. Perhaps they may some day. But what and where are they, these elemental forces, if not in the fruits of the earth? That doubtless, is the Sun's secret. The writer of the woman's column in the St. James Gazette is much concerned about waists, of all things.
From this most wonderful string of inconsequences it may not unreasonably be concluded that between mixed ideas and a mixed diet there is at least a possible relationship. "For ourselves," says the St. James's Gazette, editorially, "we will take to Vegetarianism when we see herbivorous man conquering the meat-eater." Has the St. James's forgotten the result of the Greco-Turkish war already? The Sunday Times, in a leader, touches sympathetically on several aspects of the Vegetarian movement :-
Ther Weekly Sun, alluding to the variety of Vegetarian foods, remarks that "it became no longer a source of speculation as to what the Vegetarian found to live on ; rather a matter of wonder how in the name of miracles they make choice of a dinner."
The Observer has a humorous leader entitled "A Vegetable Love," in which it suggests that the ox, when no longer required for food, might be brought up in the racing stable, and that the pig might be elevated from his stye and taught the polish of the drawing room! The Court Journal shows that it lives and moves in sphered apart and cannot, therefore, be expected to know very much about these culinary matters. "If," it sagely observes, "the motive for the attempt to supersede leather is purely humanitarian, the idea may meet with some sympathy ; but as Vegetarians are chiefly moved by a consideration of health and longevity it is difficult to see how the vegetable boot or shoe can attain a wide popularity." Really! Not even if it should not happen to wear well?
Alcohol and Porcine Poetry
Only one other of the many provincial press notices can be touched upon. For the most part these ought to be satisfactory in the highest degree to Vegetarians throughout the whole country. The Newsacstle Leader is evidently in two different minds about the merits of the matter. It wonders "why none of our realistic novelists have ever painted the dread monotony of the Vegetarian life." Probably because there is none, though in "David Grieve," Mrs. Humphrey Ward tackles the problem of an unending variety in Vegetarian Menu-making. On the other hand, the plaint of the meat-eater about the samemess of his fare is frequent and loud enough. The Leader says further :-
And yet the writer thinks that the crusade against meat of every kind "is carrying the reform a little too far." One of the most notable discoveries made by the press during the Congress is that alcohol is a purely vegetable product. But in this discovery they, unfotunately, are at variance with the Bacteriologists. Several newspapers appear to have made it simultaneously. "Who," they ask, "ever heard of alcohol being produced from anything but a vegetable?" Possibly no one. But is it not a little amusing to charge Vegetarians, by implication, with having kept the real origin of alcohol a deadly secret all these years? By way of conclusion we quote a few verses from a poem entitled "Pigs in Clover" by "M. T. P." in the World, in which the suggestion already alluded to that pigs might be employed as drawing-room pets is thus wittily treated:-
The future, however, is to be happier :