International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)


The photograph below shows Gandhi seated at the front to our right, but it is the subject of some confusion. states that it is the Committee of the London Vegetarian Society (LVS) in 1890, they also state that Gandhi joined the Society, and joined the Committee, on September 19, 1890.

The Vegetarian Society's May Meetings, held at Portsmouth, in 1891.
Back row (l-r): Rev. James Clark, E. Dolby Shelton, W. Chudley, William Harrison, Peter Foxcroft.
Middle row (l-r): Miss May Yates, G. Cosens Prior, Mrs. William Harrison and Mrs. Peter Foxcroft.
Front row (l-r): T.T. Mozumdar, Josiah Oldfield, Mohandas K. Gandhi
(From: The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review of September 1936.)

Gandhi stated in The Vegetarian (interview published June 20, 1891) that "I may be said to have known the L.V.S." from the International Vegetarian Congress, held in London, 11-13 September 1890. He also said that he had been reading The Vegetarian (London) for "a year and a half" (ie late 1889) and the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester) for some time before that.

It is possible that he was co-opted onto the LVS Committee on Sept 19, but the LVS AGM was on January 9, 1891, and it is possible that he was elected to the Committee on that date (precise details seem to have been lost). The only reference in The Vegetarian to a photograph including Gandhi was after the meetings in Portsmouth on May 6, 1891 (it was not reproduced in the newspaper but a detailed account of it being taken - outdoors - was given). That report stated that the picture included two Indians, the other beng Gandhi's friend Mr. Mozumdar. The others are probably the delegates and speakers from the conference, not the full LVS Committee (if it was the LVS Committee then Mr. Arnold Hills would have been centre stage).

In February 1891 Gandhi started writing articles for The Vegetarian, a weekly newspaper published independently of LVS but in close connection with it (this is also more consistent with his having joined the Committee in January rather than the previous September). The articles below are reproduced from The Vegetarian, courtesy of the library of the Vegetarian Society UK (publication dates are in italics after each article.).

Photo from The Vegetarian, June 13, 1891.
No indication was given of when it was taken, but probably when he was called to the bar a week earlier, age 21

From other sources:



I do not regard flesh-food as necessary for us at any stage and under any clime in which it is possible for human beings ordinarily to live. I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species. We err in copying the lower animal world - if we are superior to it. - Mahatma Gandhi, his Mission and Message

I hold today the same opinion as I held then. To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man. - An Autobiography, the Story of My Experiments

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
Vivisection is the blackest of all the black crimes that a man is at present committing against God and his fair creation. It ill becomes us to invoke in our daily prayers the blessings of God, the Compassionate, if we in turn will not practise elementary compassion towards our fellow creatures.
- This quote is from 'The Extended Circle, a dictionary of humane thought' published in 1985 by Jon Wynne-Tyson (reproduced with permission) - he gives the source as ' The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism' but we cannot find it in the 1931 talk of that title, but apparently hat title was also used for a book published in the 60's, which collects Gandhi's different writings on vegetarianism - we do not have that and would like to hear from anyone who does as it may give the original context. If anyone can verify this, or any other quotes, quote please contact IVU. We also have an alternative version of this quote as:
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way in which its animals are treated.
- but no source for that either...
However.... way back in 1883 Howard Williams published 'The Ethics of Diet - a Catena' a collection of articles by ethical writers. Williams was a friend of Gandhi at the London Vegetarian Society, and Gandhi clearly states in his autobiography that he read the book in the early 1890s. In the section on Schopenhauer, p.287, Williams quotes Dr. David Strauss (Die Alte und die Neue Glaube) "The manner in which a nation, in the aggregate, treats the other species, is one chief measure of its real civilisation." - so wherever Gandhi might have used his variation of the quote, he did not entirely originate it.

I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merely with the beings called human, but I want to realize identity with all life, even with such things as crawl upon earth. - quoted in Words of Gandhi

I abhor vivisection with my whole soul. All the scientific discoveries stained with innocent blood I count as of no consequence. - unknown origin

"Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good." - unknown origin