GB No. 5-6, summer-fall 1991
I'm a delegate of the Vegetarian Society of Warsaw but also a representative of the informal vegetarian movement in Poland. It should be explained that at present there is no nationwide vegetarian organization in Poland and that this are informal groups which do most of vegetarian activity.
We are the very beginning of vegetarian movement. We only hope, and we will do our best to achieve it, that in the nearest future a strong nationwide society will emerge.
During the proceedings of this Congress we all have got to know much about the achievements of the vegetarian societies from different countries. Surely, we all are happy and at the same time a little bit shocked seeing how much you have done here, in Britain. While preparing this speech I have been thinking of what is best in our activity in Poland, what should we be proud of and what is worth your interest. And my answer to this question is as follows:
My presentation will show you how using very simple means, very limited funds and material resources, founding activity on voluntary work one can achieve really significant results. And the final result, at this stage of development of our movement, the result which can be precisely defined, will be presented at the end of my lecture.
My lecture presents the vegetarian trend which can be best characterized by the words" "Vegetarianism is just common sense and compassion", the trend unconnected with movements of religious character. However, it's necessary to point out that vegetarianism in the post-war Poland begun just together with the popularization of the Far East traditions and first and foremost the influence of Indian culture and yoga philosophy which occurred in the 70's. As far as vegetarianism connected with the Christian philosophy is concerned 7th Day Adventists are very active in this field by publishing books, pamphlets, organizing vegetarian events, courses of a healthy cuisine, lectures and so on. There are also valuable family traditions of that "rational" vegetarian trend going back to the turn of XIX/XX centuries - let me mention the creator of Esperanto - Ludvik Zamenhof.
In the 80's in Poland vegetarianism was a phenomenon constricted merely to small groups of enthusiasts. Two registered Followers of Vegetarianism Society's existed - in Warsaw and in Olsztyn, but their activity was of a rather club character. And the political and social climate was unfavorable for popularization of vegetarian ideas. Communist government impeded any independent social initiatives and by censorship they successfully blocked attempts to publish articles about meatless diet and vegetarianism.
Example: Let me quote the most popular magazine for women - "The Friend":
"...it was 1973. You will not write about this meatless diet - told me my boss. There is a shortage of meat on the market and readers might think we were doing communistic propaganda..." "It was 1989. This article about vegetarian food may sound nowadays like a mere propaganda - said the chief with a disgust."
Two other factors which have been hindering development of vegetarianism are:
first - traditionalism of Polish society in the field of nutrition (the model of nutrition is based on eating meat);
second - the influence of the Catholic Church which supports or propagates the meat consumption, especially during the traditional blessing of food at Easter.
Both Polish dieteticians and physicians have been the declared opponents to vegetarianism, as well.
Under such circumstances, in the end of the 80's, one could observe a spontaneous development of vegetarian movement in Poland. Undoubtly, the first signal of the arising vegetarian consciousness was seen among some youth subcultures which were absorbing the ideas of animal liberation. It was often followed by giving up of eating meat by many young people. The positive influence of e.g. reggae music and later on hard-core subculture is worth to be underlined. The ideas of animal rights and vegetarianism have become popular among the young.
The end of communism allowed theese groups of people to spread out their activity - printing leaflets, posters, even magazines organizing happenings, demonstrations and protests. Here are some examples of it:
In 1989 the Animal Liberation Movement (then renamed to Community of All Beings) was formed. This is an informal group of mainly teenagers from many towns in Poland. The movement started the publishing of a magazine devoted to animal rights and titled SKOWYT (YELP). They have published 5 issues in circulation of about 1000. This movement has contacts with many animal rights' organizations and groups in the world (for example FARM) and it receives and distributes informing materials from the West, e.g. video-films about vivisection, hunting, circus, and leaflets, magazines and other printed matters.
Vegetarian Collective is a name of another informal youth group which came into existence at the same time as Animal Liberation Movement. It was formed in Warsaw, now has its seat in Sopot (on the Baltic coast) where they print a magazine titled BEEK (BLEAT). Up to now the 7 issues, edited professionally, have occurred in circulation of 1000 distributed by subscription and by news-man. This magazine is devoted to animal rights and also to vegetarianism.
Both these movements have organized several street demonstrations, e.g. the protest against vivisection in Warsaw with a march through the Old City to the Institute of Physiology of Warsaw Medical Academy. During this demonstration an interesting exchange of viewpoints took place. Scientists: "You are protesting against the vivisection but are meat eaters". The youngsters: "We don't eat meat, we are vegetarians". Scientists: "It's impossible, for meat is necessary". It is still for scientists to be completely ignorant about vegetarianism.
Many other groups promoting vegetarianism have come into being in all over the country. For instance the club "GAIA" in Wilkowice near BielskoBiała (southern Poland) has proved to be very active. In cooperation with the deeply ecologic group named Workshop for All Beings they prepared the exhibition titled "Why?". This exhibition shows animals and their place in our culture. Posters, photographs, leaflets and other informing materials about laboratory experiments on animals, slaughterhouses, farms etc. were on display. This exhibition is to be shown in some other towns including Warsaw, Bydgoszcz and Katowice.
Similar displays were organized by other groups e.g. in Jaworzno (near Katowice) on the occasion of Earth Day Festival and another one prepared by the Ecological Vegetarian Club in Szczecin (also in Kolbuszowa and ŁódĽ - editors note).
Another way of propagating vegetarianism is prepared by youth subcultures (mentioned previously) and their music. The most spectacular example of it is a tape with the music of the band called "The Street". It is titled "Between Slaughterhouse and a Church" and was produced unprofessionally by young people from Bytom (near Katowice). Among other, such songs as "Meat" and "The 5th Commandment (Don't Kill)" are on the tape.
I would like to present you the text of the first song in my (rather not perfect coarse) translation:
"Arterosclerosis will crush your veins
The heart strokes will destroy your hearts
The reason is - the meat you eat
But lister brother
I don't eat meat
It is not another fancy
To protect all living creatures
The dark room can be enlightened
By the flame if only one candle
Be careful brother
Of what you've been doing with your life
You can abstain from eating meat
Live and protect all living creatures
And the dark room can be enlightened
By the flame of only candle."
In Poland, there are also some fanzins (popular, selfmade papers dealing with the trends in rock music) issued. In these fanzins one can always find some texts about animal rights and vegetarianism.
Now, I would like to present two posters made by another vegetarian group called "The Deal (Creatures) Defense Movement" from Otwock (near Warsaw).
On the first one you can see the photograph of the two pigs and the caption is like this:
"Perhaps - they can't think
Perhaps - they can't speak
But why make them suffer?"
The second one is a poster of "WANTED" type. But this time the cow is wanted. In the center of the poster there is a picture of the wanted cow's "face". The caption is as follows:
"The killer-cow - it kills and eats people (...), it takes away milk - from mothers, it kills children for a reward - without any punishment.
If you know something about the killer-cow please inform the nearest slaughterhouse or butcher's shop. The reward - LIFE!
for a Vegetarian World 2004"
This slogan on the bottom of the poster was invented (coined) by me. It has been reapeted on some posters and some articles in vegetarian and ecological magazines. I believe that such slogans are useful because they encourage people to join us and help to identify with the vegetarian movement.
Now I'm going to tell you about the undertaking which I also have been involved in, namely - Promotion of Vegetarianism Movement. It is a slogan which I invented more than two years ago with the intention to take up such a work which could give concrete results in a short time. Generally, I suggested two ways of activity:
Another example of vegetarian activity is the series of events which started in June - there were two lectures on the first one - one of them by a pediatrician, a film show (FOOD WITHOUT CRUELTY), the guitar concert, tasting of vegetarian dishes, and the book fairy.
In the next part of my lecture I would like to tell you shortly about vegetarian books. In the post-war Poland until 1990 only a few books dealing with vegetarianism were published. The most important were: "Vegetarianism" by the Polish physician Kinga Wi¶niewska-Roszkowska (still the exception among generally meat-loving physicians) and "Protect any life" by Philip Kapleau. Apart from these ones there also were some books about meatless cuisine. So there was an urgent need to publish new vegetarian books. When I learned that Mrs. Grodecka, a writer, a philosopher and a vegetarianer from Warsaw had been trying to publish her two books about vegetarianism for a long time without serious interest from the publishers I decided to set up my own firm and publish these two books. The task turned out to be more difficult than I had expected. Neverthless VEGA Publishers - the firm I run - has published these books: the first one, "Sowers of a better future" - about ecological agriculture and vegetarian nutrition, and the second one: "Twilight of the hunter's consciousness - all about vegetarianism" - both in circulation of 10 000 copies. The books are sold out and we are going to print the second editions soon. At present my firm prepares to the printing of the second editions soon, as well as a few other books including "EATING YOUR WAY TO HEALTH" by Ruth Kunz-Bircher.
Mrs. Grodecka has been popularizing vegetarianism for many years. In her works she emphasizes the moral aspect of vegetarianism. Due to her erudition and experience she also presents precious dietetic advices.
Another author I'd like to tell you about is Mr. Makary Sieradzki the oldest Polish vegetarian - now 92 - and a man of merit. In 1956 he was set free from the Stalinist's jail where he had been put for his guerrilla activity during the war. He struggled against the nazists but not in the communist detachmeet - unsuccessfully for him. His health was completely ruined. Thanks to the vegetarian diet (mainly raw vegetables and fruit) and yoga exercises he regained health very soon. This year his book titled "Life without diseases" has become a great event on the book market. This book, apart from explaining Mr. Sieradzki's health system deals with all the aspects of vegetarianism and the author puts emphasize - again - on the moral issues.
This year a lot of effort has been made to gain access to the radio and television. And this is the point in which the Vegetarian Society in Warsaw has done a good job. These are the results: In May we took part in a popular, nationwide TV programme called "Breakfast TV". It is an "live" programme and has a form of a talk with the guests. The famous Polish pop-singer Czesław NIEMEN, who had been a vegetarianer for 8 years, was one of us. In June we participated in a radio programme called "Radio for You" - very popular in Warsaw. In July we took part in the popular radio programme "Welcome to the Channel 3". In both cases the programmes were live with telephone calls from the listeners. Most reactions to the programme were positive.
This way of propagating vegetarianism is the most efficient one and we will try to continue our cooperation with the radio and TV.
Well, now I'm coming to the end of my lecture and as I told you at the beginning of my speech I will show you the most important results of the efforts of all vegetarian movements in Poland. We have just forced the Polish dieteticians to change their attitude to vegetarianism. For the first time the dieteticians are on the side of vegetarianism though our victory is not complete yet.
I want to present you a video record of the TV programme about vegetarianism which was on juts a few days before my leaving to this congress. This programme may be also considered as one of the results of our campaign to gain the media. There is the leader of the Polish nutritionists, a director of the Nutrition Institute of Warsaw prof. ¦wiatosław Ziemlański among the guests. The video will be presented just as the background of my speech and I will comment on it later on. But first a short digression.
The opinions of Polish dieteticians were as a matter of fact the greatest obstacle in propagating vegetarianism. People used to say: "yes, animals suffer but we can't help it. We are advised by physicians and nutritionists to eat meat". It was the typical opinion. Two years ago Polish dieteticians completely ignored the existence of vegetarian diet and when asked about it used to say that it is harmful to ones' health. In that year prof. Ziemlański said in the interview published in a popular paper that people who don't eat meat are mentally and physically handicapped. His article, titled NOT LUXURY BUT A NECESSITY, in which he was proving the necessity of eating animal protein, especially meat, was published in the magazine LIVE LONGER. And what is worth to be underlined: this article was his response to the growing vegetarian propaganda.
We - vegetarians have been waiting for the reaction of the nutritionists to our propaganda and for the change of their opinions. We thought that they will be forced to make the first step, as all the arguments were on our side. Personally I didn't accept the invitation for a conference about nutrition in Katowice (addressed to the Promotion of Vegetarianism Movement). I answered that until they changed their attitude to vegetarianism no contacts were possible. This tactics - though might seem wrong - has brought awaited results.
In this programme prof. Ziemlań- ski said that he is for the vegetarian diet, though he still insisted that children must get animal protein which however may derive from dairy products or eggs - so meat is unnecessary as food. This public statement is very important for the vegetarian movement in Poland. The very important and difficult barrier has been broken. Now we can concentrate more on other topics though it will take a long time until the majority of Polish physicians and dieteticians accept this point of view.
To conclude: The vegetarian movement in Poland is getting more and more active although it is still small in number. The nearest future will show if we can become a mass and strong movement. And this depends just on ourselves.
And an additional piece of information: I have an appointment with the Breakfast TV programme - the programme about this congress will be shown in TV already in the middle of August.
Thank you for your attention.