Vegetarianism in Portugal: a century of history30 August 2007
Contrarily to what one may think, Vegetarianism is not a recent trend in Portugal, since it is, at least, one century old.
The first presently known reference to promoting Vegetarianism in Portugal dates back to the beginning of the XX century (most likely 1908), with the creation of Sociedade Vegetariana de Portugal (Portugal’s Vegetarian Society), founded in the city of Porto by Dr. Amílcar de Sousa, and located at Avenida Rodrigues de Freitas.
This same society released, in 1909 “O Vegetariano” (The Vegetarian), a magazine described as an illustrated naturologist monthly publication, and directed by Dr. Amílcar de Sousa, a dietetics and nutrition specialized physician. This magazine was published till at least 1915.
Apart from various articles, illustrated with photos of vegetarian adults and children, it conveyed vegetarian recipes and advertisements related to the magazine’s philosophy. Publicity was made to trading fruit, wholegrain bread, alcohol-free wine and other natural food products, naturopathic offices, thermal baths and naturologist resorts. In one of the advertisements, from a 1914 edition, mention is made to a “Maison Végétarienne”; it was presented as a vegetarian, dietetic restaurant, at Avenida da Liberdade, in Lisbon.
Another advertisement from the same edition presented the “Grande Hotel Fruti-Vegetariano (The Fruit-Vegetarian Grand Hotel). It was a one of his kind place in Portugal, located in the city of Porto, at Rua dos Caldeireiros, which provided naturopathic treatments and vegetarian meals.
The magazine was already internationally known in May 1911. Magazine Vegetarian Messenger (published in the United Kingdom from 1849 to 1953), in its edition issued in the same date, mentions Portuguese magazine O Vegetariano. O Vegetariano was also sent to a few subscribers in Brazil and some African countries (Angola and Cape Verde).
Sociedade Vegetariana de Portugal was responsible also for publishing tens of books (some of them translations of foreign authors) dedicated to a healthier lifestyle. The main focus of those books, as well as in the articles published in the magazine, lied in health and social reasons (world hunger, for ex.).
Little is still said on behalf of animal rights or ecology. Some of those published books were:“O Vegetarianismo e Fisiologia Alimentar” (“Vegetarianism and Nutritional Physiology”), by H. Collière; “Dieta Frugívora e Renovamento Físico” (“Frugivorous Diet and Physical Regeneration”), by O. L. M Abramowshi; “O Naturismo” (“Naturism”), by Amílcar de Sousa; “O Vegetarianismo e Moralidade das raças” (“Vegetarianismo and Race Morality”), by Jaime de Magalhães Lima; “A Cura da tuberculose pelo vegetarianismo” (“Tuberculosis Healing through Vegetarianism”), by Paul Carton; “Parto sem Dor”, (“Pain free Childbirth”), by William Taylor; “O Homem é Frugívoro” (“Man is Frugivorous”), by Ardisson Ferreira.
In a 1914 edition of the magazine, a reference is made to a number of 3289 associates of Sociedade Vegetariana de Portugal!
This movement on behalf of Vegetarianism, taking place in the city of Porto in the first two decades of the XX century, had a major contribution from renowned physicians and Porto bourgeoisie's high representatives, defendants of the vegetarian regime and natural health.
From this landmark, left by the Portuguese Vegetarian Society, other naturologist groups have arisen. The core group that settled in Lisbon took the designation of Sociedade Naturista Portuguesa (Portuguese Naturistic Society), and it became official in 13th October 1912. The main founding members were Luciano Silva and Dr. Roberto Neves, and at the time they had 200 associates. Around the 30s, the name was changed to Sociedade Portuguesa de Naturologia – SPN (Portuguese Society of Naturology), which, a few years later, would become a member of the European Vegetarian Union (EVU).
One of SPN’s permanent goals, among others, was to promote Vegetarianism and, for that purpose, they also opened a vegetarian canteen, in the 60s (XXth cent.), for their associates. This organisation also launched magazine “Vida Sã” (“Healthy Life”), which still exists and is distributed for free. SPN is still active to the present day, and it is located at Rua do Alecrim, nº 38 – 3rd, in Lisbon.
During the World Vegetarian Congress organized by the International Vegetarian Union (IVU), which took place in 1923, in the city of Stockholm, Sweden, Portugal’s first representation was ensured by Captn. António Carvalho Brandão.
In the 1926 Congress edition, in London, England, the name of Dr. Bentes Castelo Branco, who even made an exposé on a specific issue, was registered. Until 1950 there is no further mention to Portugal participating in the several IVU’s Congresses.
Only in 1960 Sociedade Portuguesa de Naturologia (SPN) is mentioned. During the 1960 IVU Congress, which took place in Hannover, Germany, Dr. Ângelo da Costa Cabral was nominated as the vice-president in representation of Portugal.
In another Congress, occurred in 1964, Ordem Esotérica Iniciática de Lisboa (Lisbon’s Esoteric Initiatic Order – which seems to have been eventually extinguished) was accepted as IVU’s affilliate. And since 1992, Portugal has had no more representatives in IVU’s Congresses.
In the 60s there were a few disagreements and there was a breaking up between SPN and a large group of associates, who abandoned the organisation and who founded Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa - AVP (Portuguese Vegetarian Association). But later on SPN’s Chairmanship changed and, in the 80s, both organisations were in such good terms that they joined together again and, since SPN had more associates than AVP, the latter merged into the mother-organisation, and its designation, AVP, was extinguished near the proper authorities.
In the last decade of the XX century, many ecologists and animal right activists developed campaigns to make people aware of the advantages of a vegetarian or vegan diet. These were mainly youth-aimed campaigns and they somehow made their way through. Many students have effectively become, not only vegetarians but also activists.
Although in the late XX century there has been quite a good number of activists in the main cities, and a few personal web pages, only in 2001 a project arose to divulge and promote Vegetarianism nation wide: it was called galaxia-alfa.com (Alpha-galaxy). This web project is still run by the founding members and other volunteer collaborators. On the occasion of its 4th anniversary, however, its designation was changed: it was no longer Galáxia Alfa, but instead Centro Vegetariano (Vegetarian Centre). Their activities are mainly developed in or through the Internet, and they include: publishing articles and recipes; releasing periodic newsletters; clarifying visitor doubts and questions; running a vegan selected product online shop. Centro Vegetariano also distributes several informative and recipe books.
In March 2004, monthly magazine Cozinha Vegetariana (Vegetarian Cooking) was launched in the market, by Presspeople’s editing company, with 30.000 printed items. This magazine published around twenty recipes, as well as some information related to a healthier lifestyle. It made vegetarian cuisine accessible to the public in general. From July 2006, this magazine changed its name to Cozinha Saudável e Vegetariana (Healthy and Vegetarian Cooking), and it stopped including only vegetarian recipes.
In July 2004, a new magazine appeared, Cozinha Natural (Natural Cooking), by editing company Mercuriana, with 10.000 printed items. This magazine includes vegetarian, vegan and macrobiotic recipes. Although not as powerfully launched in the beginning as Cozinha Vegetariana, it has been expanding it’s market share and is continuously growing.
From 2002, a few activists tried to found a new vegetarian association, the most promising initiative being now in its early stage. Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa (Portuguese Vegetarian Association) was recently founded. It became official in late 2006, but it has been promoting some activities since 2004.
To sum up, Vegetarianism in Portugal is rapidly reappearing, with new vegetarian restaurants opening, and many of the traditional ones offering vegetarian options. Meanwhile, in the last few years, several companies offering vegetarian products, mainly foodstuffs, have also been created. Many organisations and companies have been organizing and conducting vegetarian related events (trade shows, debates, vegetarian cooking workshops), thus responding to the public’s growing interest in the subject.
The history of Vegetarianism in Portugal is continuously being written, since, just as one century ago, the interest in this kind of food regime and lifestyle remains. And presently, due to a new social, cultural and economical context, there are increased motivations to join Vegetarianism, and the transition from an animal based food diet towards a non animal based food diet, is becoming easier and more accessible to everyone.
Magazine Beijaflor Natural, nº 56, May 2006, pp. 40-41
Translation: "Vanda Viegas"
Link: Sociedade Portuguesa de Naturalogia