International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India

From The Vegetarian, Mar-Apr, 1958:

THE INDIAN CONGRESS
Points from Speeches

Jagat Narain Lal, MA., B.L.
"To-day, there is world-wide talk of international unity, and co-operation in different spheres of life and activity, e.g., social, cultural, political and economic, and numerous organised efforts are being made incessantly in the direction, on different fronts. But, it is indeed, regrettable that a vast majority among the protagonists of the aforesaid world-wide movements and activities do not properly appreciate the basic importance of vegetarianism for the realisation of their respective ideals. In my humble opinion, if the rational philosophy of vegetarianism is adopted by the leaders of political, cultural, social, economic and various such other movements in the world aiming at universal peace, prosperity and happiness, their onerous tasks will be certainly rendered easy.

The noble ideal of Universal Brotherhood, for the attainment of which repeated efforts have been made by man, in different ages ever since the inception of humanity, also demands that the vegetarian movement should be effectively supported in all the countries of -the world and by all the sections of their population. Unless the principle of "live and let live" is followed universally, through the medium of vegetarianism, the desired Universal Brotherhood remain only a Utopia."

Sardar Mohan Singh.
"The shining lights of this land from Buddha, Mahavira and Guru Nanak to Mahatma Gandhi in our day, have all been vegetarians. Vegetarianism in India has never been viewed only as a principle of -dietetics. It has, in fact, been the hallmark of the Indian way of life. To most Indians, a faith in Immanent Divinity cannot be reconciled with the slaughter of living beings for food. Killing of helpless and harmless creatures merely to satisfy one's palate must surely be re-pugnant to every sensitive and conscientious believer in God. Vegetarianism is thus a symbol of man's faith in a loving Creator.

Rashtrapati Rajendra Prasad in his stirring address at the Bombay Session of the Congress laid his finger unerringly on the cancer that is eating into the vitals of humanity - lack of respect for life. As he said, vegetarianism is the answer to the atom and hydrogen bombs. A man who will not kill a bird or animal will surely not drop a hydrogen bomb on innocent men and women. A man who recognises the right of even animals to existence would not be prepared to destroy whole cities through rocket-driven, death-dealing missiles. Vegetarianism, therefore, is not a mere sentimental slogan or a principle of dietetics; it is the highway to peace and progress in the world."

Dr Sampurnanand (Chief Minister, U.P.)
I personally believe that from the point of view of health, vegetarian diet is definitely superior to non-vegetarian diet. If the animal whose flesh is eaten had some disease it is bound to enter our system along with the flesh. If the animal happens to be a mammal its organic structure will be similar to our own and consequently its in system will be liable to have flaws similar to those which can exist in the human system. Diseases which find a nidus in its body can also find a place in our bodies. Similar chemical action can take place in our bodies as well and our nerves can be affected in a like manner. Thus the animal whose flesh we eat can influence our body and mind, and our physical and physiological activities. No special argument should be necessary in support of this statement.

Meat-eating cannot be prohibited merely on the ground that the creature whose flesh is eaten also has life. The thing we call life pervades the entire universe. No human being can exist without eating, and whatever he eats will have life in it. That is why it is said "life is also life's nourishment." It is also possible that every creature might experience some pain at the time when it is being killed. Dr. Jagdish Chandra Bose and other scientists doing research in this field have demonstrated that plants and trees, too, are effected by drugs and that they react in an abnormal manner when pierced or injured. But there is difference between one life and another. The feeling of pleasure or pain is dependent on the nervous system. The more developed and complicated the nervous system, the more widespread and sharply defined is the feeling. The nearer a nervous system is to that of human beings the more capable it is of carrying sensations. Brains similar in construction to the human brain behave in the same way. It is obvious that, as compared to invertebrates, -the vertebrates are closer to human bodies in construction. And among the vertebrates mammals are closer still. That is why the feelings and sensations of mammals are more like ours. We have to eat something. But it would be more graceful for us to eat those things the eating of which involves the least pain to others. From this it is clear that it is better not to eat things which are ordinarily classed as living beings, i.e., animals and birds. And even among these, the more akin the creature is to human beings, the more unacceptable it should be, because its feelings of pleasure and pain will be similar to those of human beings.

Shanti Prasad Jain (Managing Director The Times of India)
Though we are not a nation of cent, per cent. vegetarians, yet on the positive side we have the unique distinction of having in India millions of families where meat or fish or eggs have been taboo for generations. Moreover, even among the families taking a non-vegetarian diet there has been an implicit respect and regard for those who do not take such diet. Vegetarianism has always carried with it a sense of higher level of living. Of course, at times there have been vicissitudes to this way of thinking. With the advent of western education and with a preference to the western way of living, our young men came to have a feeling that the so-ca1led physical superiority of the western races had something to do with their preponderantly animal diet. No less a person than Mahatma Gandhi, in his youth, was influenced by these thoughts. He has described the connected incident very graphically in his autobiography. At that time, and even now, "Protein" was the word that gave a halo of scientific authority and superiority to all foods -prepared with meat. We seemed to forget that all the proteins that we need are abundant in milk, in pulses and in beans. We also forget that our history had many a vegetarian king and hero whose physical prowess proved to be more than a match against the best their meat eating adversaries, sometimes coming from the west."

Muni Shri Jayantilalji
"Not a man but who doesn't seek and endeavour to gain peace and justice for himself. Yet this same man, avowing one religion or the other all the time, would most calmly lay his knife on the neck of dumb and mute animals who, themselves living on grass and garbage, yield milk and go under the plough for him. This inhuman, veritably primitive aspect of his life, man has to foreswear. Until he rids himself of it, abiding thought of peace and justice could not find place in his heart and he will not have the face to talk of those exalted virtues. To talk of peace and amity on the one hand and to ceaselessly run this slaughter of living beings on the other is the height of anomaly and incongruity. This is an ugly stigma on his soul and a denial of his reason. Man has got to abjure it. And the aim of this World Congress of Vegetarians is to deliver the human race of this sin.

I must also address a word to the Government of West Bengal since this momentous Session is being held on their soil. Meat eating is more universal and more prominent in this State than perhaps anywhere else in the country. The practice of sacrificing living animals to deities is also widely prevalent here. Indeed, many religious rites and ceremonies are performed which necessarily involve violence to animals. Lest people conclude otherwise, I would like to make it known to all that even here non-vegetarianism was never a practice with the learned ones or an ideal with the common folk in the past. There have been a number of saints who raised their voices, too, against meat eating. The name of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the most outstanding. So is that of Shri Rain Krishna Paramhansa. The Government of West Bengal would do well to give widest publication to the relevant parts of the preachings of these two saints who are greatly revered by people even to-day."

Sri Prakasa, Governor of Bombay
"We in India are doubtless no strangers to vegetarianism. There are many communities amongst us which are vegetarian by birth, and social and religious tradition, and any talk on the subject certainly sounds quite familiar to us all, whether vegetarians or not. We have, therefore, to be particularly grateful to men and women coming from other lands where, apart from a few persons who by conviction become vegetarians, the population eats meat without feeling that there is anything wrong in it, and even laughs at those who do not do so, or suggest that this should not be done. There is no moral or religious tradition among them, as there is among certain sections of our own people here, that meat eating is morally wrong. We are thankful to them for standing for vegetarianism, and trying to win over as many as possible to the good cause.

The problem of vegetarianism has to be looked at from many standpoints. It is not merely a question of not taking flesh of animals for food; it stands for a definite code of conduct, a way of life, and an attitude of mind. There are many persons in our country who are satisfied by the fact that they do not eat meat them-selves. They feel that their duty is finished with that, and that, therefore, there is nothing that need trouble their consciences. It would not have mattered if things ended there. Many such vegetarians are inclined to lay the soothing unction to their souls that they themselves are very pious, righteous and good while those that are not vegetarians are necessarily evil folk. They are inclined to look down upon those who are not of their way of thinking, and withdraw into their own shells, so to say, feeling happy and pleased with themselves. This further leads to their being indifferent to what is actually going on in the world. They themselves do not take any active interest in the care and protection of animals; they do not see what is happening to these helpless creatures ; and are in many ways unkind, even if that may only be indirectly. They cannot, however, divest themselves of responsibility for the evil that goes on unchecked around them."