International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


(Director: Natural Therapy Clinic, Bombay. Hon. Director Physiotherapy Clinic of the Victoria Memorial School for the Blind.)

" Your food shall be your medicine, and your medicine shall be your food."

This rare gem of wisdom was spoken over two thousand years ago, by no less an authority than the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, and is as true to-day as when first spoken.

Perhaps there is no field of human thought in which error has been more persistently upheld by acquired habit and education - and often with direct consequences - than human nutrition. We are far wiser in looking after animals than in looking after ourselves. Every stock-keeper realizes that the health of his animals depends on the food which they eat, whereas how many men give importance to the food that they daily consume? Our food is largely spoiled long before it is gathered, and apart from growing mineral-starved food we find that much of it is totally altered in composition. Millers have learnt to take from our grain the surrounding skin, the bran, which is extremely rich in health-giving elements, in mineral substances, and vitamins. Many people live largely on denatured artificial food and to make these foods more attractive to the consumers they are dyed with chemical dyes, processed, sulphurated, adulterated, chemical flavours are added, and they are deprived of their most vital elements; thus men are made to subsist on a scientific abomination. We eat these foods because they are attractive to the eyes and are palatable, and are very convenient, because they can be easily prepared for the table.

These devitalized and demineralized foods lower the vitality and sap the health of the people and thereby they fall a prey to various diseases and epidemics.

Sir Robert McCarrison, the greatest food scientist, who has brought to light the problem of nutrition in India by his research work, has well expressed it : "The right kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of health, and the wrong kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of disease." Not only must persons suffering from disease have proper food, but also must the individual in good health use proper food in the correct proportions if he wishes to attain a high standard of health.

It is desirable, however, to mention. at the outset, that to improve health it is necessary to do much more than give up flesh-meat. Lack of balance in diet with conventional unwholesome cooking is equally harmful, from the health point of view. To many, no doubt, meat has consumed an exaggerated importance, nutritionally. There seems to exist a traditional feeling that meat contains special virtues which make it indispensable in the normal development of vigorous health. As a source of easily digestive protein it ranks high. It also contributes iron and phosphorous in notable amounts ; but human experiments and scientific study of foods by eminent physicians like Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, Dr. Henry Lindlahr, and others, have shown that these essentials can be supplied as liberally and more economically by other foods such as milk, cheese, soyabeans, pulses, and most nuts, McCollum one of the greatest nutritionist says . "We could entirely dispense with meats without suffering any ill-effects whatever."

The underlying cause of practically every disease of the human body is autointoxication or self-poisoning. We exclude from our dietary the flesh of animals because it doubles the work of our organs of elimination and overloads the system with animal waste matter and poisons. Chemical analysis proves conclusively that uric and other uremic poisons contained in the animal body are almost identical with caffeine, thein, and nicotine, the poisonous stimulating principles of coffee, tea, and tobacco. It explains why meat stimulates the animal passions and why it creates a craving for liquor, tobacco, and other stronger stimulants. It must also be taken into consideration that the morbid matter of the dead animal body is foreign and uncongenial to the excretory organs of man; in other words, that it is much harder for them to eliminate the waste matter of an animal carcass than that of the human body.

Moreover, the formation of ptomains, or corpse poisons, begins immediately after the death of the animal. This is a serious matter, since meat and poultry are kept in refrigerators for many days and even months before they reach the kitchen, green and livid looking, and sending forth suspicious odours which have to be doctored with chemicals and spices. Even the artificial fattening processes to which animals are subjected in order to increase their weight and consequent market value are fraught with deleterious effects upon the meat products of their slaughter. It is a well recognized fact that, in most instances. a superabundance of flesh on the human animal (obesity) is synonymous with systemic poisons and incipient disease. Why should we expect better results from this unnatural and inhuman, though unquestionably "profitable," stuffing treatment inflicted upon cattle, pigs, chickens and so forth, just prior to their conversion into food for man?

Still other powerful influences tend to poison the flesh of slaughtered animals. It is now well understood that emotions of worry, fear, and anger actually poison blood and tissues. Fear and anger in the mother poison her milk and, through the milk, her nursing babe. Animals are instinctively very sensitive to approaching danger and death. Fear is one of their predominating characteristics. How excited they must be by the emotions of worry, anger, and fear, after many days of travel, closely packed in shaking cars - hungry, thirsty, tired, scared, angered to the point of madness! Many die before the journey is ended ; others are driven, half-dead with fear and exhaustion, to the slaughter pens, their instinctive fear of death augmented by the sight and odour of the bloody shambles. Think of the wounded deer and rabbit chased by hounds for many miles before death ends their agonies.

If the terrible business of the slaughter-houses were witnessed by people, very few would feel that they could go on eating animals' flesh. The killing of defenceless creatures and the cutting up and disemboweling of their carcasses must have a detrimental effect on the minds of the men and women engaged in the work. It must mean a loss of sensitivity, which surely is one of the most important and precious things in life, apart from the unnecessary suffering inflicted on the poor animals themselves.

One of the most convincing reasons why flesh should be left out of the diet is the fact that it is often a carrier of disease germs. Diseases of many kinds are on the increase in the animal kingdom, making flesh foods more and more unsafe as a source of human food supply. Those who use flesh foods little know what they are eating, hence do not know that not only is flesh meat quite unnecessary but that it is a big price to pay for the nourishment which can be got in a much simpler and cleaner way.

Vegetarianism is a system of diet based upon scientific principles ; it has been proved to be adequate for the best nutrition; it is free from the poisons and bacteria of diseased animals; it is the best diet for man's physical, mental, and spiritual development.

McCarrison, one of the greatest authorities on food, gives what he considers a perfect diet : "A perfectly constituted diet is one in which the principal ingredients are milk. milk-products, any whole-cereal grain or mixture of cereal grains, green leafy vegetables, and fruits. Those are the protective foods. They make good the defects of other constituents of the diet, protect the body against infection and diseases of various kinds, and their use in sufficient quantity ensures physical efficiency."

Apart from the nutritional point of view, vegetarianism springs from n deep inner knowledge that life is sacred and that all living creatures, including the animal kingdom, are here for the purpose of spiritual growth - not for commercial exploitation and parasitic uses (vivisection) by other beings. In most parts of India, where vegetarianism has been practised for thousands of years, the basis has always been religious and ethical, the sacredness of life together with the laws of cause and effect having been early recognized. So whilst considering the vital facts of vegetarianism, the emphasis should also be laid upon the ethical and humanitarian aspects apart from the nutritional.

After all that has been mentioned, I wish to sound a note of friendly warning that the transition from the conventional harmful habits of living, eating, drinking, and so forth to the natural way should not be made too abruptly. It necessitates a, gradual reeducation of the system from flesh foods to fruits and vegetables.

The skillful preparation of food is one of the most essential arts. Anyone who can prepare healthful food appetizingly and deliciously and serve it charmingly and attractively is an artist. Cooking is also a science. To make food appetizing, and at the same time simple and nourishing, requires skill.

Recipes should be tested by three rules (1) Wholesomeness (2) Tastiness and Appeal (3) Nutrition.

The fashionable table set out in all its magnificence, is no doubt a beautiful and tempting shrine at which to worship, but behind the dishes how many are there to realize the demons of rheumatism, gout, pain, headache, diabetes, and innumerable other disorders lying in ambush? Of course long and well established customs are not easily broken, but if one is sincerely anxious to develop his or her life of efficiency, one should learn to be the master of proper eating habits and not be the slave of the palate. "Eat to live, but do not live to eat."

In conclusion I wish to quote again the remarks of Dr. Robert McCarrison, who is also a renowned physician :

"There is no subject more worthy of the consideration of those whose life is spent, or to be spent, in guarding national health. It seem to me that in regard to it we have three obvious duties ; the first to instruct the masses as to what to eat and why to eat it ; the second, to apply the result of our science to the production of natural foods in abundance and cheap distribution, rather than to the erection of institutions for the treatment of maladies due to their want ; the third and the most important, ardently to pursue our investigation and acquirement of knowledge."