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

A Conversation between East and West

"You Indians and some of your scruples amuse us," said a western physician friend of mine. "For example, take meat-eating. You will not take any thing which has been contaminated by the touch of meat or animal fat, will you?"

"I certainly will not," I emphatically replied.

"You would not even eat food from dishes in which meat has once been cooked?"

"Not knowingly," I assented.

"You will not even, most of you, eat an egg. But I can give you the essence of meat any day in the year, so long as I call it 'marundu-medicine'. Of all animals your respect for the cow is greatest. Yet you would not mind consuming the equivalent of the liver of one cow daily, so long as it was only c:alled 'liver extract' or even more obscure trade names built from the old Greek word for liver - hepatos or the Latin word ventriculus for the stomach and other small cavities. You will not eat fish, thinking it is polluting, and yet you will bravely swallow any vitamin mixture and gladly eat anything marked 'reinforced by Vitamin D' which may come from some fish oil concentrate. As for eggs, you will gladly eat any powdered egg mixture advertised under the Latin word 'ovum,' 'oval' , or some such modification. Anything is all right, so long as it is disguised in a bottle or capsule as 'good for your health.' But if tomorrow I should say to you, 'Old Chap, I think a course of meat-eating would set you up,' you would choose another doctor. So instead I shall say, 'Have such and such injections' which will contain the essence of many times the meat you could possibly eat and will go directly into that very pure blood stream of yours, and you will willingly submit.. That is how we get around your very flexible scruples."

"But do you really think that is fair to us, Doctor ? " answered my wife.

"You know that me have such scruples. Do you take the trouble to inform us that what you have ordered is from animal sources? Do you let us have free choice in the matter? We have trusted ourselves to your hands. You advise us to take such and such a medicine We do not know Latin or Greek as you do. How can me know that something labelled 'hepa ...' is liver extract from a cow, or that Vitamins A and D probably come from fish oils? Having absolute trust in you, we take, quite innocently, what you have prescribed. Who, then is responsible?"

"You know, Doctor," said I, "I have thought about this thing a lot and have read many interesting books on the subject in the University and other libraries. This time you have hit upon a very vital subject for every one of us who are vegetarians, and also for you doctors to meditate on. I think you have an equal, or even, as my wife intimates, a greater responsibility if unwittingly we take flesh-derived medicine. Personally I believe that every doctor who prescribes these animal extract injections should have his conviction so strongly at heart that he is willing himself to spend his day weekly at the slaughter-house to kill the equivalent of the animals needed for the medicines he is prescribing. Why should others be brutalized for his convictions? Did you know Doctor, some large slaughter-houses in the West will not keep a man killing lambs for more than three months, for they are apt to go insane? I have always held that the man who wished to eat meat should be ready himself to kill the victims of his appetite. I'm of opinion that meat-eaters would soon become vegetarians if service at the slaughter-house were demanded of every one of them. In fact I read an article written the other day by a meat-eater pleading that always cuts of flesh should have some camouflage, so that they would 'be less gruesome to eat' Why should not 'lamb' be given another name as sheep is called 'mutton,' calf 'veal,' cow and steer meat ' beef' and hog meat ' 'pork'? Or why should not heart, liver, kidneys, and brains, most dreadful of all to contemplate, be renamed as the pancreas already is called 'sweetbread' and the stomach of a cow 'tripe'? Do you think such a questioner would serve at the slaughter-house for his flesh? Now honestly, Doctor, would you kill animals in a slaughter-hous in order to gain a licence to prescribe animal injections?"

"I certainly would if an injection of insulin were needed for a well-advanced diabetic. I honestly would, reiterated the doctor.

"Ah, now there we are on difficult ground. But how many times our doctors blithely write out a prescription for insulin when with sensible dietary and emotional control only it is still possible to stay the disease? It is well known to orthodox medicine that the emotions are an important factor in liver and pancreatic troubles. What did doctors do before the discovery of insulin? How many times do doctors prescribe, as routine, liver extract, often when a blood-check up would show only secondary anaemia and a good iron tonic and vitamins would do as well. And even for pernicious anaemia we now have Vitamin B-12. And as regards vitamins, how many times do Doctors in India see to it that the 'Vitamin A they prescribe is either from carotine pro-vitamin A or the fine new synthetic water-soluble A? or that the "D" they prescribe comes from irradiated ergosterol or a bath in the sunshine? Do they not rather take the first 'multi-vitamin' mix in the catalogue, when perhaps even the same manufacturer puts up a non-animal derived preparation as being less liable to irritate or cause allergy? Do doctors in India insist on our getting these non-animal preparations or even inform us of them?"

"But these are very costly, Man - how do you think the village folk could buy these special preparations? Government shark-liver oil is a splendid product and so reasonable that a whole family can take it for a month or so for a rupee or so."

"Now you are shifting your ground, Doctor, to the village folk. As most of them take fish freely, I can see no harm in their taking shark-liver oil. If the life of any fish has to be taken the shark can perhaps be the best spared from our beaches. But we did not start talking about the villagers but about those of us who are vegetarians and would spend extra happily to be sure of products that were not saturated with the aura of killing. Even the villagers will not wish to take 'cow liver' and if you tell them that is what you are giving them, they will probably resist. However, as that is a costly medicine, they are not likely to be overburdened with it.

"But you are not right when you say that we will all take just what the doctor orders. For several years we and a few friends of ours have been deliberately investigating this matter of animal-origin medicines. We have recommended that when small-pox injections are to be made they be done from egg-cultured germs which are also free from the hairy matter that may be found in imperfectly strained cultures scraped from a, poor calf's body. We have been able to get a vitamin-mix made up that is completely free from animal sources and is also very reasonable in price, and we have had the satisfaction of seeing it work as successfully in cases of vitamin depletions any of the usual costly stock preparations. We have seen many cases advised to take liver extract, as a mere tonic precaution, refuse and grow quite well on an adequate diet reinforced by a good iron extract and additional calcium and those splendid liver substitutes, Vitamin B-Twelve and Folic Acid. Several physicians are working with us and it is through their efforts that the manufacturing chemists have favoured us sometimes after we have made effort for several years. We tried long to get Red Palm Oil imported, a most valuable cheap source of Vitamin A, but failed. In the meantime the wonderful new Synthetic A has been discovered, which is as potent us the Animal-Extract A, and cheapest of all Vitamin A products.

"Well I can see you have made a study of it I did not believe you Indians really cared so much. I admire you for your scruples, if they are something really more than pretense. I thought you only clung to old superstitions and that we were helping you when we gave you a way to shut your eyes.

"No, Doctor. The Indian believes in the unity of all life. Especially he would not kill that which must suffer in its death, that is take the life of a sentient, feeling creature. Some of us will not even take that in which life is potential - like the egg - but others do not go so far. Especially sacred to Indians is the Cow us a symbol of that which gives life to the young, Really we are sincere and you physicians will help us most by finding substitutes for animal medicines - many are the drugs once only derived from animal sources that are now synthetic. At least for vegetarians, can you Doctors not insist on prescribing these? Your magnificent research men produced B-Twelve as a synthetic in place of liver. Can we not drop liver therapy once and for all? I believe there are several experiments under way toward a synthetic insulin."

"Why do not your own men tackle the problem. You have fine young scientists here. They know their countrymen's needs. They could work all the more ardently, because they know how intensely you all feel."

"That is a good suggestion. why should we shift all the burden onto you of the West? Well this has been a mutually helpful evening." -PREM

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Partakers of Crime :

"In order you may not be partakers of the crime, use nothing that has been discovered by the vivisectors. You can generally find out. One day in a shop when they offered me some tabloid of a subtance I wanted I saw the name on it and knew that it was the name of a firm that profited by vivisection and I said : 'I can't take that, that is a vivisection product.' And I refused it. The man said: 'Madam I wish everybody would do the same. Why can't you all do it? If you profit by a crime you are partakers in the crime."