View Full Version : Interview w/Freya Dinshah from vegparadise.com

May 12th, 2004, 09:04 PM
Excerpt from http://www.vegparadise.com/24carrot58.html

"VIP: The word AHIMSA appears in vegan literature and has been an important part of your organization. Can you tell our readers about the origin of AHIMSA and what it means for us today?

FD: AHIMSA is a Sanskrit term meaning non-killing, non-injuring, non-harming. It is compassion in action and has a very positive effect and influence. We do not want to cause pain by our actions and in our relationship with others. It takes discipline to make the right choices. However, AHIMSA is not self-denial, as some may think, but affirmative action benefiting all we care for. It is the principle of kindness, helpfulness, and of loving our neighbor, taught in world religions, and extended to all creatures. It is Reverence for Life.

VIP: What are the goals of the organization?

FD: The goal of the American Vegan Society is to advocate the principles of veganism (ethical, moral, and/or religious abstinence from all animal products, etc.) and the doctrine of AHIMSA (non-slaughter, non-violence), which Jay defined in the anagram:
Abstinence from animal products
Harmlessness with Reverence for Life
Integrity of Thought, Word, and Deed
Mastery over Oneself
Service to Humanity, Nature, and Creation
Advancement of Understanding and Truth

To that end we teach the value of eating plant foods for optimal sustenance, and demonstrate the variety of vegan fare. But vegan practice isn't just diet, it extends to the commodities we use and our attitudes towards others. We choose soaps made with vegetable oil not lard. To avoid leather, shoes are made of fabric and synthetic materials. We are motivated to make positive ethical choices to end the holocaust of animal suffering. Vegan practice promotes a more equitable sharing of the earth's resources so people the world over may have enough to eat, and so that a mantle of vegetation can be preserved to maintain habitat for creatures of land, sea, and air.

VIP: What achievements of the American Vegan Society give you the most pride?

FD: AVS has awakened people's sense of right and wrong. We have not shifted our beliefs to gain popular support. We are a voice for the animals who cannot speak and need to be heard. In a ripple effect, the people we have influenced have in turn influenced others; we are very proud of them. Every time someone tells us of the benefits they have experienced by following the vegan path we are gratified. Many have lost a fear of illness they once had now that they have learned to take better care of themselves. Most importantly their consciences are alive and functioning.

VIP: How does one become a member of the American Vegan Society? What does membership involve? What are some of the benefits?

FD: Anyone interested can become a member of the American Vegan Society. Some members are practicing vegans already, but many are learning and taking initial steps to change their diet and lifestyle from the prevalent norm of animal abuse. Annual dues are $20, or $10 for students/low income. Members receive American Vegan magazine, can order books and videos, may attend meetings, and may visit or phone our headquarters. In turn, members' support of AVS helps us shine a light of compassion for others to see, and respond to inquiries. See http://www.americanvegan.org for more information.

VIP: We understand that the AVS has annual conventions in different locations around the country. What are some of the activities that occur at these meetings?

FD: Conventions and meetings, whether short or long, are an opportunity for fellowship as well as educational and motivational events. Speakers, good food, and entertainment are the ingredients in a recipe for social change. People are strengthened in their beliefs. For a brief time, they have escaped from a world steeped in the gore of meat eating to a pleasant greener existence. They are inspired with a vision to give the world.

VIP: Your group also publishes a magazine, American Vegan, once called AHIMSA. Could you briefly tell us what a reader would discover in this publication? What was the reason for the magazine's name change?

FD: Our magazine has a variety of articles covering many aspects of vegan life. There are news items, book reviews, nutritional information, menus and recipes, opinion and informational pieces. The format is attractive and easy to read.

We changed the name of the magazine from Ahimsa to American Vegan to broaden our appeal with the general public. The word vegan has now entered the general vocabulary. Our members are still very partial to ahimsa and all it stands for. We retain it in our motto: Ahimsa Lights The Way. However, using the word ahimsa as the magazine name was a barrier to some who thought the society represented an obscure religion or sect; not theirs. AVS is inclusive of people of all faiths and none. We are united in the stand and the personal action we take to stop animal suffering.

VIP: We understand you were involved in both the North American Vegetarian Society and the Natural Hygiene Society. Could you tell us about your role in each of those organizations?

FD: In 1973 vegetarians from several U.S. states and Canada invited the International Vegetarian Union to hold a World Vegetarian Congress in the United States. They founded the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) with the dual purpose of hosting the event and providing a forum for vegetarianism in the region. My husband H. Jay Dinshah was asked to take charge of the effort and became the founding president of NAVS. The American Vegan Society provided start-up facilities and staff for NAVS from 1974 to 1980. In addition to office work and feeding a houseful of young enthusiasts, I was catering director for the annual NAVS Congresses until 1980. That involved developing, testing and batching the vegan recipes used by the college food services that we dealt with; they required recipes for making 100 portions. Subsequently the recipes were published in a quantity catering card file Vegetarian Cooking for 100 that was sold to colleges and other institutions across the U.S.

The Twenty-Third World Vegetarian Congress took place in 1975 at the University of Maine. This watershed event was attended by over 1500 people and was covered by the major TV networks and national newspapers. So many vegetarian leaders of the past and present were there: Helen and Scott Nearing, Richard St. Barbe Baker, Henry Bailey Stephens, Ann Wigmore, Rosalie Hurd, Nellie Shriver, Paul Obis, David Phillips, Drs. Gordon and Barbara Latto, Brian and Margaret Gunn-King, Tom Regan, Marcia Pearson, Peter Burwash, Maureen Koplow, Alex Hershaft, Ann Cottrell Free, Madge Darneille and others, the list goes on and on. The event inspired many people to start a vegetarian group in their area or embark on a particular campaign or effort.

The American Natural Hygiene Society, now renamed the National Health Association, is the oldest nonsectarian national organization in the U.S. teaching vegetarianism as part of its health message. Jay and I were members of a local NH chapter in San Diego, California in the early 1960s. Jay was for a time a member of ANHS' Board of Directors, and in 1983 to 1984 served as office manager and then interim executive director when they moved their headquarters from Connecticut to Florida.

VIP: Have you been a vegetarian all your life? When did you become vegan?

FD: My parents decided to become vegetarian before I was born. My sister and I were raised as ovo-lacto-vegetarians. I became vegan through Jay's influence in a gradual process while we were corresponding in the late 1950s and 1960.

VIP: How do your family and friends react to your veganism? Are your children vegans?

FD: My parents and sister became vegan shortly after I did. They had become friends with Dr. Frey Ellis and his family who lived across the street. Dr. Ellis did research published in The Lancet on the health effects of vegan diets, and on vegans' B12 levels. My sister in England and I in the U.S. brought up our children as vegans, and they still follow the vegan way in the main. My friends thought I was giving up too much when I became vegan, but have always been good at providing vegan foods for me on social occasions at their homes. Some friends tell me that my vegan example has helped them.

VIP: After spending your early years in England, have you noticed differences in veganism in the U.K. compared to the U.S.? Have you noticed any changes in society's reaction to veganism in recent years?

FD: In both countries the vegan eating patterns are adaptations of the national food culture with the substitution of bean and lentil dishes, nuts and seeds for eggs and meat; soy, rice, and nut milks for cow milk. I remember nut roasts, a savory mix of whole grain bread crumbs, ground nuts, onion, herbs, as the preferred main dish for special occasions in England, and beans-on-toast the quick option for a meal at any time of day. Savory pies and green peas are popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the U.S. veggie burgers, grilled tofu, and lima beans or succotash, limas and corn, are enjoyed at casual and more formal meals. Ethnic dishes such as curries, hummus and pilafs have entered both countries as our world becomes more cosmopolitan. Far from being restricted, vegans have an ever-expanding menu from which to select!

The public's reaction to veganism has changed greatly over the years. Now a well-balanced vegan diet is recognized as health promoting, whereas being vegan used to be viewed as nutritionally risky. Of course, now as then, the welfare of vegans depends on sensible eating habits. We believe in eating a wide variety of wholesome foods: vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds, which are the basic ingredients from which delicious meals are made. Eating enough calories of the right foods and avoiding junk foods is key to good nutrition.

VIP: Of all of your personal accomplishments, which ones give you the most pride and satisfaction?

FD: I am proud of my children, Daniel 36 and Anne 33. They are compassionate people, and hard workers. Both put in volunteer time with AVS. Daniel likes his job as an EMT in Medical Transport. Anne coaches men's and women's crew at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania.

VIP: What personal goals have you set for yourself in the coming years?

FD: I have found that some goals made public do not see the light of day; they evaporate. Therefore, I am very cautious about saying in advance what I want to do. On the other hand, it can be very helpful on occasion to declare your intentions, as in the case of making resolutions. If, for instance, I tell other people that I am going to eat only uncooked food for a week. Reneging on that promise to myself becomes difficult, and I am strengthened in my resolve.

I am and will continue to make new friends, especially young friends, and to treasure old friendships. I am learning to take advantage of modern communications while at the same time understanding that others do not.

VIP: What organizations do you belong to and support?

FD: Of course I am focused on AVS and we exchange publications and news with other kindred organizations.

I have joined a Toastmasters group to develop my public speaking skills. I am active with the Vegetarian Society of South Jersey and its Vegetarian Neighbors group that meets in this area. We have a local food-buying coop. I am a member of the Beaver Defenders and enjoy visiting Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, which is nearby.

VIP: What leisure activities and hobbies do you enjoy?

FD: I like gardening, reading, and sports such as swimming, and tennis.

VIP: We noticed that you are the author of a few cookbooks. In your busy schedule do you have many opportunities to cook? What are some of your favorite dishes?

FD: Most of my cooking is quick and easy. I prefer to cook from scratch rather than eat packaged foods as a matter of personal taste and to economize. Besides I'm used to self-catering! Even so, I recognize and welcome the wonderful vegan convenience foods that have helped many busy people make a switch in eating habits. We regularly use commercial soymilks and frozen veggie burgers.

I have a good repertoire of soups and stews, and I like to make whole grain breads with my breadmaker. Baked potatoes or steamed rice, with salad, beans or tofu, and green and yellow vegetables are common fare. We enjoy desserts when we have time to make them. Banana ice cream is an old favorite that we've been making since I arrived in the U.S. in 1960. The family likes my pecan pie, apple spice cake, carob cake, fruit jell and cookies. My cookbook, The Vegan Kitchen, has been kept in print through several editions since 1965. "

May 15th, 2005, 09:58 AM
The first url at the top of your post, doesn't work for me!

May 19th, 2005, 03:21 PM
The first url at the top of your post, doesn't work for me!

My fault.... please try again.