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The Vegetarian World Forum
No. 4 Vol. XI - WINTER 1957, p.46:

M. Bhaktaratsalam

IT gives me very great pleasure to welcome you all, delegates to the concluding session  of the 15th World Vegetarian Congress. It is most fitting that this 15th Congress has been held in our great country, traditionally and historically associated with the philosophy of Ahimsa, mutual tolerance and good-will.

 It was only the other day that His Excellency Shri Sri Prakasa, speaking at Bombay, complimented South India on being the repository and the storehouse of what is culturally the best in India. To me, it represents the very spirit and meaning of humanism, tolerance and good will. Therefore the pleasure is greater, when I welcome you to this city of Madras for the successful conclusion of the great tasks that you have set ahead of you.

 I am certain that the International Vegetarian Union, dedicated as it is to such a noble ideal, will gather greater strength and continue to spread its mission of mercy and good will throughout the world, in the inspiration it is bound to derive from those responsible for running it and those who have associated themselves with this noble cause.

 Vegetarianism is not a -mere dietary habit; it is almost a way of life. It requires a special attitude, sympathy and understanding. The message of vegetarianism is the message of kindness, fellow-feeling, Ahimsa and compassion, which have been handed down to us from the days of earliest known literature in the history of mankind. Nearest to us and perhaps the dearest to us, in this illustrious line, is Mahatma Gandhi on whose philosophy of Ahimsa the greatness of our country rests. As our President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, said the other day in Bombay, this philosophy of non-violence means a readiness to sacrifice oneself, one's own comfort, one's ambitions, for the sake of others. It is in this context that the problem of vegetarianism acquires the importance it deserves and leads us to very serious deliberations. An effective programme, which could influence the human mind, has therefore to be drawn up. The words of the poet who said "Much does it grieve me to think, what Man has made of Man" will only then have a more optimistic ring.

 To us the message of vegetarianism is essentially spiritual and only secondarily, material. With a spiritual and cultural heritage of which naturally we, and all of you who have come here from many countries, are also proud, we cannot overlook this spiritual message of vegetarianism. Many of you may be interested to know that long before man had even thought of the fundamental principles of dietetics, there was a Saint, living on the very shores of his historic city, who bequeathed to us and to the world at large a great literary and cultural heritage in his magnum opus, the 'TIRUKURAL.' Tirukural contains 1330 couplets in which beauty and brevity blend to illumine the path of truth. There is a whole chapter on vegetarianism or non-meat-eating, appropriately interposed between two chapters, one on "Benevolence" preceding it, and the other on "Penance" succeeding it. I may be permitted the liberty of quoting a translation of one of the verses in this chapter, by a well-known scholar of the West, Dr. Pope.

"Who slays nought, - flesh rejects - his feet before
All living things, with clasped hands, adore ".

From the author of the Kural to the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, every one of our great men has conveyed this message of kindness, which fortifies our belief in vegetarianism. Gandhiji's address to the London Vegetarian Society is the best exposition of the moral basis of vegetarianism. Gandhiji studied the possibilities of vegetarianism in such a city as London and in so doing considered that the vegetarians should emphasise not the physical consequences of vegetarianism but explore the moral consequences. Emphasising the normal basis of vegetarianism, he stated that all the physical aspects of vegetarianism essentially strengthen his moral, spiritual and intellectual background, which alone is the basis for the future progress and development of man-kind.

 Primitive man does not appear to have given much thought to nutrition, though he had, with much foresight, realised the importance of a good supply of food. With the development of relatively organised societies, man appears to have developed his keen appetite also. It is not surprising, therefore, that when the ancient reformers of Rome coined this term "vegetarian", (sic) they did not merely think of vegetables or a herbivorous diet, but thought deeply, as to define vegetarianism as a more "enlivening" way of life. If the subject of vegetarianism is therefore approached on ethical considerations, a vegetarian diet, in our opinion, should only include those forms of food which are obtained without causing visible injury and death to other forms of lives.

Vegetarians all over the world are of two classes, those raised on considerations of religion and sentiment and others who are the products of environment and necessity. It would, in such circumstances, be difficult to discuss the detailed aspects of a vegetarian diet in the different parts of the world, as the dietary patterns of people all over the world are determined by the availability of suitable food materials.

THE science of nutrition emphasises a balanced diet as ideal for man, and a balanced diet is one which is adequate in its calorific value. The food as chosen must also be digestible, palatable, available and economic. The question therefore arises whether it is possible to derive full nutrition from a vegetarian meal. I am happy that the answer is in the affirmative, and in this we have on our side the verdict of nutritional experts all over the world.

 On the other hand, there is a clear indication of the fact that the presence in excess of some of the food factors in non-vegetarian food is responsible for very serious disorders of the human body. Generally speaking, a good vegetarian diet, which is properly planned, should provide all the requirements of human nutrition. It should be recognised at the same time, that a large section of the people of this country cannot afford a rich and wholesome vegetarian diet. They therefore depend mainly on grains and roots. In this situation, considering the needs, there is a very strong case for supplementing good diets with cheap supplements, which will provide additional quantities of proteins, minerals, etc., essentially required for the build-up of the body.

 In the view of experts, some of the best sources of proteins are the oil-seeds which are utilised as cattle feed and manure. These commercial products are not suitable for human consumption because these articles are associated with dirt and are unprocessed. By a careful selection and handling we are assured that clean attractive meals can be obtained, which by further processing can be made into high class food supplements. A typical example is the "Multi-Purpose Food" as processed by the Central Food Technological Institute at Mysore, even an ounce or two of which is sufficient to correct the dietary deficiencies of most sections of the people. But the problem of a balanced diet assumes serious proportions only in cases where a vegetarian has to depend on grains or roots or root products alone for this food, as is the case in the densely populated countries of the world. As a long range policy it has also been suggested that even in cases where the main food
is met out of such grains and roots, they can be equally fortified with proteins, etc. An elegant method has been evolved in this country whereby protein from oil seeds is incorporated with tapioca or sweet potato flour and further using these blends, composite foods are prepared which can be consumed in the same way as food grains. These articles of vegetarian food are tried extensively and successfully in areas in this country where the food problem is very acute.

MUCH has been said and written regarding the nutritional properties of milk and its importance in a balanced diet. None will deny the vitalising qualities of milk and its indispensability in our diet. However, it is rather regrettable that the minimum of 16 ozs. of milk for normal requirements and consumption as prescribed is not available to many in our country. In our State the average rate of consumption of milk works to only about 4 ozs. Therefore, the production of more milk has been one of the major preoccupations of our Government for nearly a decade now. With the habit of taking milk spreading more and among our people, it is to be hoped that they will realise that a balanced and nutritious diet need not at all include meat or flesh.

 In our programme for agricultural development in this state, we have given a certain importance for the production of honey and horticultural development. This, though a long range plan, is bound to help in solving the food problems of this state. With all the bountiful blessings of nature such as food
 grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and honey, it should be possible to solve the major food and nutritional problems of not only any one country but of the world as a whole, It is in this context that vegetarianism becomes a faith and not a mere slogan. 

Experts have given the clear finding that not only is a vegetarian diet nutritive and effective as any other non-vegetarian diet, but that it is also much easier to provide the growing population of this country and others as well with vegetarian food at cheaper cost than a non-vegetarian diet. Even on consideration of hygiene, people are paying a very high price for nourishment in consuming deceased or infected flesh, which can be easily avoided by consuming more wholesome vegetarian food. Therefore, considering all aspects of nutrition, biology and hygiene, further evidence is not needed to establish the fact that a vegetarian diet is not only as effective and useful in comparison to a non-vegetarian diet but more so, too.

 "Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground and it explodes into a giant oak. Bury a sheep, nothing happens," said Shaw.  

This consideration of the nutritive, hygienic and biological aspects of vegetarian food leads us on to the economy of food production in the different parts of the world. As one very closely concerned with problems relating to food in this State, I should consider the solution offered by the message of vegetarianism as very encouraging in solving the most urgent problems of the hour in the field of food and agricultural production.  Leaving aside the ultimate philosophy of vegetarianism and its ethical considerations from a purely immediate and entirely materialistic point of view, it is to be admitted that food production in most underdeveloped countries, including India, is sharply behind the increase in human population. It has been said that food production has increased in the world as a whole from 1934-38 to 1951-52 from 14 to 18 per cent. whereas in Eastern Asia up to 1952-53 it has diminished by 1 per cent. Further, the number of people who get less than 2,500 calories of energy value from their food has also increased considerably. As against a 12 per cent increase in population all over the world, food production has increased only by 9 per cent. This has therefore resulted in pressure on land, which is naturally reflected in the inevitable diminution of cultivated land and which is further aggravated by the ravages of cattle and other animals who seek their daily nourishment in green pastures.

THERE is already a fair amount of evidence to show that food-grain production cannot be stepped up indefinitely in keeping with the needs of rapidly growing population. The only way out of such a situation is to produce more food of good quality per acre of land by taking advantage of abundantly yielding crops and by scientific processing. Only then can shortage of food be dealt with adequately on long range basis. Further, it is also understood from details compiled by experts, that for every 100 units of food - grains, grown per acre of cultivated land, the production of milk for same land area works only to 40 units, or 8 units of mutton or 6 units of eggs. Working on this ratio, a non-vegetarian requires 1.63 acres of land area of ground for his food and 1.3 acres of which are employed for raising his needs of meat. Whereas a vegetarian, on the other hand, will require only about 0.5 acres of land for all his nutritional requirements. Therefore, as long as the world continues to make such a wastage there is bound to be shortage of food, with hardly an acre of land left for further cultivation, and the flesheater taking more than his fair share of the available land, thereby condemning his fellow-men to a state of starvation or near starvation. It was from this aspect of everyday practical economics that Mahatmaji took notice of the views of Dr. Aykroyd, the nutritional expert, who stated that the dietary requirements of an adult man per day may be adequately met in our country by 16 ozs. of soya beans, 2 ozs. of dhall, 1 oz. of jaggery, 4 ozs. of greens and 1 oz. Of coconut oil and 6 ozs. of buttermilk, all costing totally probably 5 to 6 annas in the present day. Therefore the budgetary requirements for food alone for an adult man in the present conditions would work to less than Rs. 15 per month, which seems to me an immediate answer for the most pressing problem of the hour. The existing strain on the financial resources of this country, due to import of food, though not great, is considerable tending to threaten our plan of development in other spheres. With the fast increasing gap between the rate of the growth of population and the rate of food production, the position in a few years  time is bound to be precarious. If we have to overcome this difficulty with some success, the only way is the adoption of a vegetarian diet. Further, in a predominantly agricultural State like Madras, where the major emphasis is only on agriculture as the essential means of livelihood, all arguments that can be put forth by one will only strengthen the case of vegetarian diet, especially, in the light of food production and the basic economics of food. We have therefore given the greatest importance to the development and maintenance of certain acceptable levels of agricultural and food production and at the same time have also been careful to improve the quality of our cattle for purposes of milk production. I am very happy to say that our efforts are bearing fruit and before the end of the present plan period we shall be able to achieve the end which we have set for ourselves. Therefore, even on grounds of economics, the case for vegetarianism is only further strengthened.

There are regions in the world where the practice of vegetarianism may be well-nigh impossible owing to the climatic conditions being unfavourable for the cultivation of crops, such as desert areas, the Arctic regions, etc. But we in this country are extremely fortunate in that, Nature is very hospitable and bountiful and has blessed us with innumerable kinds of wholesome and nutritious vegetarian food crops. We reap rich harvests of cereal and pulses, roots and tubers, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca, etc., and divers varieties of vegetables and fruits. We have thus no excuse for resorting to non-vegetarian food on the score of absence of good vegetarian food.

IN some of the temples in this State there is a pretty and picturesque annual festival  during which the temple precincts are adorned with rows upon rows of all kinds of food crops obtained from mother nature, including vegetables, fruits and agricultural and dairy products like ghee and honey, perhaps as a silent and subtle appeal to humanity to realise the richness and range of vegetarian food that God has given us and to eschew all types of food which involve killing of birds and beasts and other forms of life which have as much right to exist as we have.

 In this country the comparatively high cost of non-vegetarian food has compelled large numbers of the poorer sections of the community to resort to vegetarian food out of sheer necessity. Many among the non-vegetarian sections of the population are thus non-vegetarians only in name as they could manage to buy and eat non-vegetarian food only occasionally. This is a very encouraging factor, because this shows that it is not as though the non-vegetarian cannot do or be without non-vegetarian food. He is doing without it quite often, and it would be easy for him therefore to completely eschew it if there is a change of heart in him and he realises the need to change over to one hundred per cent vegetarianism.

 As accepted by such a famous man as Dr. Huxley, the progress of man and his future evolution are going to be essentially intellectual and spiritual. In these days of complex advances in fields of higher technology, man will still have to meet his immediate requirements of food and face the very distressing and acute shortage of food supplies in most countries of the world. I am convinced that with all the technical advances which the human mind has devised, they will all ultimately be used in the production of more food and still more food, so that the children of to-morrow will no longer have to live in a state of starvation. The creative spirit of man will ultimately triumph over the passions of the moment. It is this creative spirit of man which has made him survive these long ages through the phenomenon of natural selection. In such a state of affairs, good-will, kindness, charity and tolerance will, and must be the theme of human progress. In such an atmosphere, the message of vegetarianism is bound to spread and have a definite significance in the future.

Before concluding, let me offer once again a very hearty welcome to all of you, and now request His Excellency Shri Sri Prakasa, who is not new to us, and whose love for us is abounding, to be so kind as to inaugurate this concluding session of the 15th World Vegetarian congress.

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