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Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

From The Vegetarian (London), February 7, 1891:

Indian Vegetarians

India is inhabited by twenty-five millions of people of various castes and creeds. The very common belief among the Englishmen who have not been to India, or who have taken very little interest in Indian matters, is that all the Indians are born Vegetarians. Now this is only true in part. Indian people are divided into three main divisions, viz :- the Hindus, the Mahomedans, and the Parsees.

The Hindus are again divided into four chief castes viz :- the Brahmins, the Khsytryas, the Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Of all these in theory, only the Brahmins and the Vaishyas are pure Vegetarians. But in practice almost all Indians are Vegetarians. Some so voluntarily others compulsorily. The latter, though always willing to take, are yet too poor to buy meat. This statment will be borne out by the fact that there are thousands in Inidia who have to live on one pice (1/3d) a day. These live on bread and salt, a heavily taxed article ; for even in a poverty-stricken country like India, it will be very difficult if not utterly impossible to get eatable flesh-meat for 1/3d.

The question who are Vegetarians in India veing disposed of, the natural question will be, what is Vegetarianism as practised by them? To begin with, Indian Vegetarianism does not mean the V.E.M. diet [vegetables, eggs, milk]. The Indians, i.e. the Indian Vegetarians, decline to take besides fish, flesh and fowl, eggs, for they argue that to eat an egg is equivalent to killing life ; since an egg, if left undisturbed would, primâ facie, become fowl. But, unlike some of the Vegetarian extremists here they not only do not abstain from milk and butter, but consider them sacred enough to be used on what are called "fruit-days," which occur every fortnight, and which are generally observed by the high caste Hindus ; because, as they put it, they do not kill the cow in taking milk fromher. And certainly the milking of a cow, which by the way has been the subject of painting and poetry, cannot shock the most delicate feelings as would the slaughtering of her. It may be worth mentioning en passant that the cow is an object of worship among the Hindus, and a movement set on foot to prevent cows from being shipped off for the purposed of slaughter is progressing rapidly.

M. R. Gandhi (sic)