July 8-14, 2002
Paper presented at the World Vegetarian Congress,
Campaigning in the 21st Century: The Vegetarian Cause
I think that it is extremely vital that as a movement we take stock of where we are going and how best can we promote our cause in the coming years. For this to happen we should get a clear picture of what we are and what we are not. Let us first start with the negatives.
We are not a political party. We are not a religion. We do not have the political clout of the multi national companies. We do not for historical reason campaign like Compassion in World Farming or The National Anti Vivisection Society. Now let us see what we are:
We are a group of like-minded people, united in what we see as the moral high ground we occupy. We like each other’s company. We are good at doing things such as eating out and travelling abroad in each others company. This is my perception of what we are and what we are not. The crucial question now is to ask whether we are content with our lot or whether we should transform ourselves into an effective and committed campaign group. The BSE crisis, the GM crops global warming, the foot and mouth disease all these are issues are a golden opportunity for us to drive our agenda for a vegetarian world.
I will set out what I see is the way forward:
We should actively cultivate and make contact with prominent people from all walks of life, they do not necessarily have to be vegetarian. In our campaigns, we have many times found that people say that their son or daughter is vegetarian. When a person says that you know that you have somebody who is very sympathetic to your cause. Food is our best weapon and the more dinners we can organise at different venues with prominent people the better.
We should attempt to reach out to every section of society and this can be done by forming groups such as vegetarian doctors, lawyers, air-line pilot’s, teachers. Each profession and each organisation should have a vegetarian link. This group may only meet once a year —the important thing is that there should be a group.
Good campaigning is about making use of opportunities as they come along.and this need forward planning. For example, we had booked Hyde Park two years ahead for our millennium rally. The event got massive coverage and some airlines even mentioned it in their in flight magazine. At the millennium rally, we also planted a tree in Hyde Park and for this, we invited the Green Party candidate for the London assembly, who also happened to be vegetarian. At the time, he was just a candidate but a few weeks later he became one of the most powerful figures in London. In the 1980’s when we started organising the vegetarian rallies in Hyde Park it caught the mood of the nation and gave prominent people like Tony Benn to come out in support of vegetarianism
Our literature and magazines should not only sent to members, we should aim to send at least 10% of our magazines to prominent people in all walks of life. By doing this we will win over new people and ‘soften’ up those who are very averse to us. We have on our mailing list Prime Ministers, Princes, and famous individuals. We have had Cliff Richard on our mailing list for many years as well as Richard Branson, Cherrie Booth (from whom we received a nice acknowledgement). We once persuaded the Prime Minister of Guyana to give up meat for a week. This is again because he was on our mailing list.
We should seek out and build contacts with organisations and movements whose members are likely to be overwhelmingly vegetarian. For example, practitioners of Yoga of whom there are millions in this country. The Hindu community, the Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Seventh Day Adventists, Rastafarians, the Animal Rights movement, the Green movement, we should set out at least one day in a year when we should attempt to bring all these organisations together.
It is upon each of us to ask ourselves whether we are doing justice to the seats we occupy or to the philosophy, we espouse. Organisations are important but I believe in the power of the individual. Two committed individuals took on the might of McDonalds and gave them the run of their money. We presented those two individuals with Mahaveer award. I do not re call any other vegetarian movement giving any acknowledgement to these two remarkable people. For many years now we have been giving away Mahveer awards to organisations and individuals who have been working hard for the cause.
We should think nationally and globally while act locally. In the town and city we live, we should make an impact. For example in Croydon, where I live we have organised a Vegetarian lunch every year for the last 21 years and we are known to every agency in the town.
So what do we exactly stand for? At the millennium rally, we read out our vision statement for the 21st Century. It is as follows:
THE MILLENNIUM VEGETARIAN PLEDGE
At a vegetarian rally held on the Friday 31st of December 1999 in Hyde Park, London the following historic declaration and a vision statement was read out:
We hereby pledge to bring about a 21st Century in which the human race will finally make peace with the animal kingdom. Human beings will no longer kill, maim, torture or exploit fellow sentient beings for food or other purposes. Animals will have fundamental rights which will be internationally recognised.
It is clear beyond any doubt that the survival of the human race depends upon the survival of the forests and other natural resources and the animals with whom we share this planet. We pledge to protect them all. We oppose the introduction of animal genes into plant foods.
The human race will reach the pinnacle of civilisation when it extends the hand of friendship and compassion to the animal kingdom and returns to the plant based diet best suited to the moral and physical needs of our species, thus avoiding the related evils of animal exploitation, human starvation and environmental destruction.
At the turn of the 20th. Century and the beginning of the 21st. let us make a tryst with destiny to create a world free of violence towards all living beings that are dependent on our love and compassion. Together let us embark on that journey that will bring about a world in which all animals are treated with mercy and compassion and accorded rights that human beings take for granted.