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Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

From The Vegetarian (London), March 28, 1896:


Mr. Gandhi is just as busy at work in Natal on behalf of Vegetarianism as he used to be in England. The following valuable letter which he contributed to the Natal Mercury is worth reproducing both for its intrinsic value and as an incentive to others to follow in Mr. Gandhi's footsteps in stirring up the public by means of the press.

"To the Editor of THE NATAL MERCURY
"Durban, February 3rd.

"Sir, - As one interested in food reform, permit me to congratulate you on your leader in Saturday's issue on "The New Science of Healing," which lays so much stress on the adoption of the natural food, i.e., Vegetarianism. But for the unfortunate characteristic of this 'self-indulgent' age in which 'nothing is more common than to hear men warmly supporting a theory in the abstract without any intention of submitting to it in practice,' we should all be Vegetarians. For why should it be otherwise when Sir Henry Thompson calls it 'a vulgar error' to suppose that flesh-foods are indespensible for our sustenance, and the most eminent physiologists declare that fruit is the natural food of man, and when we have the example of Buddha, Pythagoras, Plato, Porphyry, Ray, Daniel, Wesley, Howard, Shelley, Sir Isaac Pitman, Edison, Sir W. B. Richardson, and a host of other eminent men as Vegetarians. The Christian Vegetarians claim that Jesus was also a Vegetarian, and there does not seem to be anything to oppose that view, except the reference to his having eaten broiled fish after the Resurrection. The most successful missionaries in South Africa (the Trappists) are Vegetarians. Looked at from every point of view Vegetarianism has been demonstrated to be far superior to flesh-eating. The Spiritualists hold, and the practice of the religious teachers of all the religions, except perhaps, the generality of Protestant teachers, show that nothing is more detrimental to the spiritual faculty of man than the gross feeding on flesh. The most ardent Vegetarians attribute the agnosticism, the materialism, and the religious indifference of the present age to too much flesh-eating and wine-drinking, and the consequent disappearance, partial or total, of the spritual faculty in man. Vegetarian admirers of the intellectual in man point to a whole host of the most intellectual men of the world, who were invariably abstemious in their habits, especiallyat the time of writing their best works, to demonstrate the sufficiency, if not the superiority, of the Vegetarian diet froman intellectual standpoint. The columns of the Vegetarian magazines and reviews afford a most decisive proof that where beef and its concoctions, with no end of physic thrown in, have lamentably failed, Vegetarianism has triumphantly succeeded.Muscular Vegetarians demonstrate the superiority of their diet by out that the peasnatry of the world are practically Vegetarians, and that the strongest and ost useful animal, the horse, is a Vegetarian, while the most ferocious and practically useless animal, the lion, is a carnovora. Vegetarian moralists mourn over the fact that selfish men would - for the sake of gratifying their lustful and diseased appetite - force the butcher's trade on a portion of mankind, while they themselves would shrink with horror from such a calling. They moreover lovingly implore us to bear in mind that, without the stimulants of flesh-foods and wines, it is difficult enough to restrain our passions and escape Satan's clutches, and not add to those diffculties by resorting to meats and drinks which, as a rule, go hand in hand. For it is claimed that Vegetarianism, in which juicy fruits find the foremost place, is the safest and surest cure for drunkeness, while meat easily induces or increases the habit. They also argue that since meat eating is not only unecessary, but harmful to the system, indulgence in it is immoral and sinful, because it involves the infliction of unecessary pain to and cruelty towards harmless animals. Lastly, Vegetarian economists, without fear of contradiction, assert that Vegetarian foods are the cheapest diet, and their general adoption will go a long way towards mitigating, if not altogether suppressing, the rapidly growing pauperism side by side with the rapid march of the materialistic civilisation and the accumulation of immense riches in the hands of a few. So far as I recollect, Dr. Louis Kuhne urges the necessity of Vegetarianism on physiologial grounds only, and does not give any hints for beginners, who always find it difficult to select the right kinds from a variety of Vegetarian foods, and to cook them properly. I have a selection of Vegetarian cookery books (at from 1d. to 1s.), as also treatises on the subject dealing with its various apects. The cheapest books aregiven away, and if any of your readers feel disposed, not merely to admire the new science of healing from a distance, but to put its tenets into practice, I shall be very glad to supply them with what pamphlets I posses on the subject, so far as it relates to Vegetarianism. I submit the followingfor the consideration of those who believe in the Bible. Before the 'Fall' we were Vegetarians 'God said, behold I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed ; to you it shall be for meat and to every beast of the earth and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth wherein there is life. I have given every green herb for meat, nd it was so.' There may be some excuse for the unconverted partaking of meat, but for those who say they are 'born again' Vegetarian Christians claim there can be none ; because their state surely should be equal, if not superior, to that of the people before the 'Fall.' Again, in times of restitution : 'The wolfalso shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt nor destroy in my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.' These things may be far off yet for the whole world. But why cannot those who know and can - the Christians - enact them for themselves at any rate? There can be no harm in anticipating them, and maybe thereby their approach may be considerably hastened.

"I am etc.,
"M. K. Gandhi."