The Viva Vine: vol #3, no #1: January / February 1994
Editor's Update: Washington Mailing

In early November, 1993, The VivaVegie Society put out a mass mailing of its "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian" to all 540 U.S. senators and congresspeople to their Washington offices. Only 6 responses have come back.

Perhaps it's early. Still, 540 letters represents a lot of people, people who, amongst other things, should be in the business of putting out correspondence.

Why so few responses?

I have a theory.

Elected officials, as we know, usually answer correspondence with form letters. You write them about crime, they have a letter for it. You write them about the deficit, they have a letter for that. I don't think that our representatives have any idea what to do with "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian." No form letter is ready for us. In fact, of the 6 respondents, three (Sen. Coverdell, Sen. D'Amato and Sen. Kennedy) were not relevant to our primary concern -- vegetarianism. We got a Christmas card from Sen. Feinstein, which was nice, but hardly addressed the issue, and one (Sen. Bradley) completely missed our point.

Only one response was thoughtful and showed genuineness. California Congressman Henry A. Waxman's letter appears in the "Grapevine" section on the next page.

What this experiment in civic duty should tell us, I think, is that this notion of vegetarianism is greatly misunderstood, even unknown. Consequently, we vegetarians need more than just a little PR these days on our behalf. We need visibility. We need to become a viable constituency to our government, the media and the general public, something to contend with. We need a written agenda, a platform; and I dare say, we need to take The Vegetarian Party out of mothballs (as I understand it, a vegetarian party did exist at one time!)

About a year ago Vegetarian Times announced that in the U.S. the ranks of those people who consider themselves vegetarian is growing at a rate of 20,000 per week. Do our elected officials, the media, the man on the street know anything about us? Do they know we're here? It's time for us vegetarians to get noisy and be seen, which brings me to my next point. . .

Our Place

It's absurd! Here in New York City we don't have a vegetarian community center.

"What's a vegetarian community center?" you ask.

Well, it's one of those things I bet you'd agree is so obvious that no one's ever thought of it.

It's funny though; when I bring up the idea of a vegetarian community center to anyone who'll listen, heads tilt and then they say, "Yeah! This is New York City. Why don't we have a vegetarian community center?" Then I hear, "What's a vegetarian community center?"

My vision of a vegetarian community center is a storefront in lower Manhattan with tables and chairs for people sipping nut milks and carrot juice; a bulletin board would hang on the wall with a giant calendar filled in with notices of events and outtings --sponsored by local vegetarian groups (the center could be an opportunity for vegetarian groups to form); hiking trips or ski trips would be publicized regularly; there would be a wall full of books and literature about vegetarianism for sale. A singles club would run from the center; the database on the computer would grow daily. The VivaVegie Society would have an office -- a home base. New York 1 (the local cable station) would happen by and do a feature on this new phenomenon, the vegetarian community center. The re-birth of The Vegetarian Party begins here. . . I have a dream tonight.

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