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Sunday, 3rd December 2023


Leaders of the UK Vegetarian Society - Milan Shah (Chairman) and Umesh Parekh (Deputy Chairman) speak to www.diverseethics.com about their vision and aspirations

The UK Vegetarian Society has an old history but a predominantly ‘English' membership. You come from the Jain culture which has a very very old tradition of vegetarianism. In your roles, do you see a scope for bringing the two communities together?

The ‘isms' both have ancient roots, but the institutions that articulate vegetarianism and Jainism in society have changed over the years. The Vegetarian Society, founded in 1847, has had an enduring appeal and relevance. Many Jains, such as us, see vegetarianism as core to our personal identity; hence the Vegetarian Society is naturally of interest. The charity's outreach programme includes work to foster a closer relationship with the Indian Origin Communities which includes the Jains.

How did you get elected to such a senior position in a national charity? What in your background and experience helped?

Many people believe strongly in various causes and wish to contribute in some way. The Vegetarian Society has a range of volunteering opportunities, one of which is to consider standing for election to the charity's governing Council. We have both been fortunate to have been re-elected to second terms of office. This year [In 2009/10] we are serving Council as Chair and Deputy Chair. The Jain concept of broader understanding (anekant) acknowledges that there are multiple viewpoints of truth and this has served us well in our roles.

Given the strong attention given to vegetarianism in the presence of global warming and climate change, do you have strategies to widen the remit and really spread this as an ethical way of living and eating?

Whatever is on our plate may be our personal choice, but this has direct consequences for our environment, our health and animal welfare. The Vegetarian Society is an educational charity; its aims are to educate society on the benefits of vegetarianism so that more people aspire to it. We created a booklet titled ‘Why it's Green to Go Vegetarian' which has been so popular that we have had to re-print it twice. In addition we have been working with Sustain and other like-minded organisations in this space to convey how a vegetarian diet can contribute to improving our environment.

How will you promote the spiritual dimension of vegetarianism?

The Vegetarian Society represents all vegetarians regardless of their motivation for being a vegetarian. By adopting an inclusive approach to supporting vegetarians we want to rally more people to the cause and create an even bigger voice for the vegetarian movement. Many of these people will have been encouraged to adopt vegetarianism due to their spiritual beliefs while others may use vegetarianism as a launch pad for their spiritual journey. 

Article added on 16th April 2010 at 2:40pm
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