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December 2001/January 2002
The Vegetarian Center of New York

By Rachel Cernansky


They say that good things come in small packages. Indeed. One of the most comprehensive sources for information on vegetarian-related issues is found at the Vegetarian Center of New York, home to the city’s VivaVegie Society. Don’t let its small size fool you—it’s filled with a wealth of information. Go in with a question regarding anything relating to vegetarianism, and, guaranteed, you will find an answer, most likely a bigger one than you bargained for. I gave this a try and asked a few questions, beginning with our government’s subsidization of the meat industry. I found files overflowing with tons of information on this topic, with fact upon fact revealing the true story. I didn’t know that billions of our government’s dollars have been doled out in support of the meat industry over recent years, and payments are actually increasing with each passing year.

The answers I found in a search for information on the fish industry were just as jolting. There were issues ranging from by-catch and the victimization of all the “extra” marine life that gets caught in fishing nets to the fish wars between nations that are fought mostly over regulation issues, New Zealand against Japan in particular, who have a rather bitter history in this regard. The environmental aspect of vegetarianism is of course also covered, including such subjects as the destruction of coral reefs and the production of toxins—by both factory farm-generated odors as well as by the American favorite, the BBQ.

As if their file cabinets and books don’t provide enough information, the Center’s computer is also stocked with files on just as many issues. There is a lot of overlap, so that much of what you find on paper you could then email or print out for yourself, but there is a lot of additional and easily accessible information stored on the hard drive. Also worth mentioning is that almost all of the material comes from mainstream sources, which goes to show that oftentimes the information is out there, you just have to look for it. But most people aren’t especially receptive to these sorts of issues; this is where the role of activists come in: To communicate to the general public what is known and proven time and again.

Books are available to read on-site, and as long as they are still in print, can also be borrowed (with a security deposit), and there is a TV and VCR, for screening any of the films they have stocked. A listing of the Center’s resources can be found in the VivaVine, the society’s publication, a complete archive of which is kept in the office. There is also a drawer dedicated to other groups and organizations, so whether you’re looking to do some networking locally or you’re moving across the country and want to contact a vegetarian society in the area, you’ll find some direction here. And for locals, there is a massive binder chock-full of menus from restaurants around the city, from strictly vegan restaurants to “regular” restaurants that simply have a good vegetarian selection.

Thinking of going veg? This should be your first stop for resources on how to make the transition a successful and fulfilling one. There is an endless supply of “how-to” guidebooks and health education books and articles. The Center has only a small selection of the great many vegetarian and vegan cookbooks out there, but they do house an archive of Vegetarian Times with enough issues to quench any thirst for new recipes.

Not only is the Center a great place for the generally curious, it’s an excellent resource for activists, who can use any of the materials readily available. The Center has free copies of “101 Reasons Why I’m a Vegetarian,” one of the most effective pamphlets on vegetarianism—the “one and only mighty convincer” as author and Center Director Pamela Rice describes it. There are all sorts of free pamphlets and flyers to hand out, including VivaVegie’s vegetarian guides to New York City and New Jersey and literature from other organizations; and there’s a bulletin board to post requests for any help you might be seeking. The bulletin board is another resource in itself, overflowing with the latest announcements and upcoming events. You can also leaf through the photo collection that has accumulated over the years. If you’re lucky, Pamela Rice will be in when you stop by and her incredible knowledge will be an asset in itself.

The Vegetarian Center
is located at One Union Square West, #512, Manhattan. The Center houses a nice collection of books, magazines, videos, news clippings, and newsletters from national vegetarian groups. For information, call (212) 242-0011 or visit


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