Vegetarians Form Asian Union -
Vow To Convert Meat-Eaters
By Denis D. Gray
Associated Press
CHIANG MAI, Thailand (AP) - Vegetarians from around the worldpledged Sunday to convert millions of meat-eaters by the end of thecentury and launched an Asian Vegetarian Union.
The Bangkok-based Asian group seeks to foster thestill-fledgling vegetarian movements in many Asian countries andcounter a trend among the continent's youth to ape Westerncarnivorous habits.
More than 400 participants from 30 countries at the 33rd WorldVegetarian Congress concluding Sunday called on vegetarian groupsall over the world to invite people to give up meat for the newmillennium.
A mass pledge-taking ceremony is planned at midnight, Dec. 31.
The congress set a goal of converting at least 5 percent of thepopulation in areas where vegetarian societies exist.
"Apart from being a matter of compassion, it is in humankind'sinterest to adopt a vegetarian diet if we are to avoid starvation,disease, pollution and ecological damage on a vast scale,'' saidone congress official, Nitin Mehta.
Delegates to the meeting of the 110-year-old InternationalVegetarian Union included doctors, nutrition experts, Indianreligious gurus, Western stock brokers and animal-rights activists.
Discussions ranged from the latest studies on ways to treat AIDSwith herbs and a plant-based diet to how the meat industrycontinues to deplete water supplies and convert forest areas intograzing lands.
"We still live in a non-vegetarian world. In a way, vegetariansare aliens, like Martians,'' said Maxwell G. Lee, the union'sdeputy president, a vegetarian since the age of 12.
Lee and others agreed that vegetarianism has grown rapidly inNorth America and Europe, with most converts giving up meat forhealth rather than ethical or environmental reasons.
But affluence and the copying of mainstream Western ways haveincreased meat consumption in Asia, especially among the young.Delegates from China, India and Japan, where a long tradition ofvegetarianism exists, said ways have to be found to counter thetrend.
The Asian Vegetarian Union selected an ad hoc committee to drawup a constitution and organize the first congress in two years'time. The next congress of the International Vegetarian Union isscheduled for 2000 in Toronto, Canada.