International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

From The Vegetarian (London), June 13, 1891:

Mr. Gandhi's Narrative

On your arrival in England of course you were face to face with the flesh eating problem, how did you solve it?

"I was overwhelmed with gratuitous advice. Well meaning yet ignorant friends thrus their opinions into unwilling ears. The majority of them said I could not do without meat in the cold climate. I would catch consumption. Mr. Z. went to England and caught it on account of his foolhardiness. Others said I might do without flesh but without wine I could not move. I would be numbed with cold. One went so far as to advise me to take eight bottles of whisky for I should want them after leaving Aden. Another wanted me to smoke for his friend was obliged to smoke in England. Even medical men, those who had been to England said the same tale. But as I wanted to come at any price, I replied that I would try my best to avoid all these things, but if they were found to be absolutly necessary I did not know what I should do. I may here mention that my aversion to meat was not as strong as it is now. I was even betrayed into taking meat about six or seven times at the period when I allowed my firends to think for me. But in the steamer my ideas began to change, My mother before consenting to my departure exacted a promise from me not to take meat. So I was bound not to take it, if only for the sake of the promise. The fellow passengers in the steamer began to advise us (the friend who was with me and myself), to try it.

They said I would require it after leaving Aden. When this turned out untrue I was to require it after crossing the Red Sea. And on this proving false a fellow passenger said "The weather has not been severe, but in the Bay of Biscay you will have to choose between dath, and meat, and wine." That crisis passed away safely. In London, too, I had to hear such remonstrances. For months I did not come across any Vegetarian. I passed many anxious days arguing with a friend about the sufficiency of the vegetable diet ; but at that time having but little knowledgeof arguments other than humanitarian in favour of Vegetarianism, I got the worst of it, as the friend scouted the idea of humanity in such discussions. At lastI sealed his tongue by telling him I would sooner die than break the promise to my mother. "Hump," said he, "childishness, rank superstition, but since even after coming here you are superstitious enough to believe in such nonsense, I cannot helo you any more, I only wish you had not come to England."

He never afterwards pressed the point seriously except perhaps at one, though ever since that he took me for little more than a fool. In the meanwhile I remembered once to have passed by a Vegetarian restaurant (it was the "Porridge Bowl.") I aksed a gentleman to direct me there, but instead of reaching it I saw the "Central," reataurant, and went there and had some porridge for the first time. I did not at first enjoy it, but I liked the pie which I had for the second course. It was there that I first bought some Vegetarian literature among which was a copy of "A plea for Vegetarianism," by H. S. Salt, after reading which I adopted Vegetarinaism from principle.

Till then I considered flesh to be a superior diet from a scientific point of view. Moreover, it was there that I came to know the existence of the Vegetarian Society of Manchester. But I did not take any active interest in it. I did now and then read the Vegetarian Messenger and that was all. My knowledge of The Vegetarian dates from a year and a half. It was at the International Vegetarian Congress that I may be said to have known the L.V.S. That the Congress was sitting I knew by the kind courtesy of Mr. Josiah Oldfield, who heard of me from a friend, and was good enough to ask me to attend it. In conclusion I am bound to say that during my nearly three years' stay in England I have left many things undone, and have done many things which perhaps I might better have left undone, yet I carry one great consolation with me that I shall go back without having taken meat or wine, and thatI know from personal experience that there are so many Vegetarians in England.