The Positive Evolution of
An Interview with the President of the San Francisco Vegetarian Society
By Sister Veggie Love, San Francisco, USA (Originally in English)
The first recorded event of the vegetarian movement in the United States took place in May 1850 at a conference held in New York City, which launched the existence of the American Vegetarian Society. 1 Today, many cities in the United States have their own vegetarian societies. San Francisco is no exception. Dixie Mahy, a colorful, energetic, 72 years young retired teacher, is celebrating her 37th year as President of the San Francisco Vegetarian Society (SFVS), and she graciously shared some time with us in the following interview.
Interviewer: Is the SFVS close to achieving its goal of promoting education about the vegetarian diet?
Dixie: We have a long, long way to go, but we have made incredible progress, possibly more than I would have ever expected. My vision, of course, is for the entire world to become vegetarian. Anything short of that is not quite what I would like. But we have made progress. The word “vegan” is now known by many.
Interviewer: That’s a grand goal, for the world to become vegetarian.
Dixie: The SFVS was started in 1968. I was already a vegetarian but didn’t know that a vegetarian group had formed. When I joined in 1969, there were only 30 of us.
Interviewer: Was there a defining moment on your road to becoming a vegetarian?
Dixie: I was born in Utah and was five years old when my father took the whole family fishing. My family was much like other pioneer families that still hunted and fished. My father had no sons and I was the oldest daughter. So my father put the bait on the hook and gave me the fishing rod. We put it in the water, and he helped me pull out the fish that I had caught. I could see the fish swimming around in the lake. But when we unhooked the fish and put it in the basket, it was flopping around.
I don’t know what I was thinking, but all I wanted to do was put the fish back into the water. The fish slowly died. We then went home, cleaned the fish and fried it. When everyone was sitting around eating the fish, I did not want to eat it.
It was very intrinsic for me. Maybe my reaction was from another incarnation or because I was just tuned into the universe. But no one in my family understood why I did not want to eat any animals. My mother was very angry; she thought that I was just a very picky eater. Many people told me that I could not live if I did not eat animals. So as I grew up, I had a hard time eating. I was told that I needed protein and the only sources were meat, fish, chicken, dairy and eggs. Doctors said the same thing: I was going to die if I didn’t eat meat.
I did not understand how it could be that in order for me to live and to have proper nourishment, I had to have animals killed. According to what I was taught, animals being killed to feed humans was in God’s plan; they were only put on Earth to be disposed of. But this kind of programming did not work for me. For the next 60 years I was an agnostic, although I did during this time explore Buddhism, Zen Buddhism and Yoga. I never learned that there was such a thing as a vegetarian diet or the name “vegetarian.”
Interviewer: So you never heard of a vegetarian until decades later?
Dixie: Even when I went off to college and studied history, I didn’t know. It wasn’t in my history books that Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian! And Pythagoras is well known for his mathematics, but he wasn’t well known for his vegetarian diet and healing with herbs in 500 B.C. So, I knew about Pythagoras but didn’t learn anything about him being vegetarian.
Interviewer: Coretta Scott King was a vegan.
Dixie: Yes, but vegetarians were considered nut cases (crazy) when I first became a one after graduating from the University of Utah in 1956. I was living at home, and it was very difficult being vegetarian.
Even when I came to San Francisco in 1956, I was kind of a closet vegetarian. When I was out in public, I would eat the vegetables but I would not make a fuss; I’d just eat what everyone was eating, not wanting to be noticed. I could get away with just eating the vegetables and not hurt anyone’s feelings or look suspicious. I did this because I could not defend myself. I had boyfriends who would make fun of me when I told them that I did not want to eat meat.
Dixie: Yes. It was not until I met my husband in 1957 that my life changed. One day, while we were dating, he prepared a meal containing meat for me and I ate it. Eventually I told him my feelings. Sometime later, I mentioned to him that I really did not like eating meat. And he said, “Why did you not tell me?!” He was very upset. He said, “If that’s the way you feel, then that’s the way you should be!” I eventually married him.
I actually became a vegetarian thinking that I was shortening my life. I thought that I would not live as long as the rest of the population. But if I could be true to my own belief system, I would be happier for as long as I was alive. I might die sooner, but that would be alright.
When I found out about the San Francisco Vegetarian Society in 1969 and got in touch with other vegetarians/vegans, that was so wonderful. I became SFVS’ Vice President in 1970 and started writing the SFVS Newsletter called “VegNews.” 2 Then I became President of SFVS in 1975. In 1996, I retired as president but remained a member of the Board of Directors. Then in 2000 there was a need, so I became President of SFVS again. I just want to be helpful and promote the vegetarian/vegan movement as much as I can.
This year, SFVS held the 7th annual World Vegetarian Day on October 1st and 2nd. John Robins, Howard Lyman (aka The Mad Cowboy) and many others participated. It was a wonderful feeling to put this on; it was like a celebration. Although San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsome is not a vegetarian, he is supportive of the vegetarian movement in San Francisco and has proclaimed October 1st World Vegetarian Day in San Francisco for the second time. 3
Interviewer: One last thing, Dixie. Is there a message that you would like to give to Supreme Master Ching Hai?
Dixie: I would like to extend an invitation for Her to come and make a presentation at next year’s World Vegetarian Day in San Francisco. I would also like to request that the SFVS be allowed to distribute Alternative Living bags, some printed in English with the famous vegetarians, and a few with English on one side and Spanish or Chinese on the other.
San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsome took an Alternative Living flyer at the San Francisco Center’s booth at the San Francisco Asian Fair on Irving Street on June 23, Golden Year 3 (2006) and said that he would take it home and read it.