|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
19th World Vegetarian Congress 1967
From The British Vegetarian, March/April 1968:
Your Holiness Shri Dalai Lama, Shri Morarjibhai Desai, distinguished delegates, co-workers and friends,
It is indeed a great privilege for me to give you the warmest welcome on behalf of the President of the International Vegetarian Union - Woodland Kahler, Marquis de St. innocent, who unfortun-ately is not able to be with us and also on behalf of the Indian Vegetarian Congress of which I have the privilege of being the President.
I am deeply indebted to His Holiness the Dali Lama who has agreed to speak and to bless our cause. Noble and great, deeply revered by the Buddhist world and by all of us who represent many countries and organisations, our hearts go out to him in gratitude for the support he is giving to this noble cause by his presence. The embodiment of compassion, the Lord Buddha. speaks through him for the voiceless creation who need our pro-tection.
Shri Morarji Desai, Deputy Prime Minister of India is well known to all India and the world but to humanitarians he is a leader of distinction and a pillar of strength. Truly following the ideals of Gandhi, living both by precept and example he gives a courageous leadership to a cause most sorely needing help and a cause by which the blessing of millions of living creatures under-going suffering and torture by the hands of man will be earned.
I know that delegates from every country who have come here today expect India to lead in the practice of its ancient teaching. of Ahimsa. But unfortunately this land of the Buddha, the Lord Mahavira, Guru Nanak, Shri Krishna and many great ones, has greatly changed and our values are now changing also with the tide to materialism that is pervading the world. With the inter-mixing of castes, creeds and nations and with modern education, we are. losing our perspective and are greatly enamoured of western way of life, whether good or bad. You who are from far off countries come to remind us of our heritage and to point out to us that the spirit of real India is being born in the West so that you become great pioneers of the cause of vegetarianism and Ahimsa as applied to the animal kingdom as well. Fortunately there are still millions and millions in India who believe in this way of life and wish to work for it and give a new presentation to the eternal ideals. I am sorry to say that in many ways it is the influence of the West in the form of modern medicine and science that is changing the food habits of our citizens so that before long if we are not very careful this country will turn into a meat eating nation. Science can be answered by science; if the medical profession teaches that meat is the best diet it is taught by those who lack the basic philosophy that life is one, and even if it is natural for a carnivorous animal to feed upon another innocent animal it, is neither natural nor necessary for the human being to eat another living creature. Those of you from far off countries having a background of meat eating have discovered this truth and are examples to us of the pioneer and the new scientist who can prove scientifically that physical health is possible and better by adopting an intelligent vegetarian diet. Since the world as well as modern India is scientifically-minded we need this knowledge and therefore are emphasising it in our Congress. We also realise that this science produces greater happiness within ourselves for we are aware that we do not live by the pain, the fear, the sorrow and torture of creatures that need our compassion and protection and not our exploitation.
I hope by the holding of this Congress in India, that the younger generation of our country will gain much knowledge which will help the to remain and become convinced vegetarians. Also it will help them to realise that they have a great responsibility to the nation. At one stroke many are destroying thousands of years of tradition, of which they should be proud, rather than ashamed of being a vegetarian, it is because we, of the older generation have failed to explain to the younger generation, the reason for our vegetarianism that there is so much ignorance among them. Religion seems to them to be something to be afraid of and avoided and many who wish not to follow any religion consider that the giving up of vegetarianism is the first act of freedom in reality what we must do is to study it on its own merits as a way of life whatever religion or philosophy we may be following. The elders have to explain why religion itself promoted vegetarianism and how, even without the formal religious rules, as a way of life, it is best for those who wish to be an example of right living. To be a vege-tarian by conviction is the best and the lasting way. We have not only not explained or helped the young to understand but on the other hand many parents nowadays even advise their sons and daughters to eat meat when they go abroad.
The example of those who represent the vegetarian societies of the West is the best proof that it is possible to be vegetarian in Europe or elsewhere.
The Indian Vegetarian Congress wishes to launch a youth move-ment for the purpose of vegetarianism in India particularly and I hope this Congress will prove to be of value for the continuation of this work.
Many arguments are put forward for the eating of meat. In India especially no argument is valid. It is a well known fact that a greater emphasis on vegetarianism is the only way to feed the growing population-that the best foods are also available for the health of the body. In this respect I would like to point out that foreign experts who advise the Government and the people of India are generally unaware of the enormous variety of pulses, dhals, nuts, vegetables, etc., which are available in this country- which for generations, our simple people have been eating. They are now discovered by our Indian scientists to be of outstanding food value. I request our foreign vegetarian societies to learn of this and our Government to support and promote schemes that will not merely help us to be vegetarians but to be the right kind of vegetarians. This is our need today. Ignorance is the only reason for ill-health amongst vegetarians.
Questions have been put to me as to what vegetarianism is. According to the International Vegetarian Union, "those who abstain from meat, fish, fowl and any other product obtained by cruelty under any circumstances is a vegetarian."
In foreign countries some vegetarians do take eggs and do not take milk - but in India eggs are generally not considered in vegetarian diet. For those who are meat eaters the first step may be to give up meat, fish or fowl and any other animal product involving cruelty and exploitation and then try to reach the higher -ideal by giving up the use of other animal products like eggs, milk etc., as many of our vegan delegates here have done.
Many of us in India, including myself, consider eggs as non-vegetarian and unhealthy as well. Many of us also feel that taking leads to cruelty and slaugher.
I hope that every effort will be made to stop animal exploitation by the production of more vegetables, fruits, grains, etc., and such products as soya, plant-milk, etc. I am aware that nothing can be forced upon the people, neither vegetarianism nor the eating of meat. Nor do I consider that a vegetarian is a superior being. A vegetarian has many other things to do in order to prove that he is a better individual. But as a way of life, it is my conviction that it is great and true. By promoting this cause we must naturally show tolerance towards all while realising that we are genuinely helping the country to be happier and healthier. Let each one follow his conscience without fear or favour and without prejudice or selfishness.
My special appeal to the Government of India is to help the Indian Vegetarian Congress which will do all it can, to make available every knowledge, contact and support for the promotion of this cause which will not only benefit human beings but will help to show all the peoples of the world that the ultimate achievement of Peace is in the realisation that every form of life is an expression of the One Divine force that directs, uplifts and upholds TRUTH and LOVE.
This World Conference begins its official session here, in Delhi today, after which the meetings will be held in Madras and Bombay. I wish to express my gratitude to the Patrons, members and all others who have given their support to this cause. On behalf of the INTERNATiONAL VEGETARIAN UNION, I particularly thank the Chief Organising Secretary of the International Vegetarian Union for India and the Far East - Shri Jayantilal Mankar - the un-tiring and devoted humanitarian without whose initiative, energy and enthusiasm, this Congress would not have been possible. On behalf of the INDIAN VEGETARIAN CONGRESS, I thank Sri Lala Hansraj Gupta, New Delhi, Shri Radhakissen Kanoriaji of Calcutta, Sri M. Bhaktavatsalam of Madras, Sri Madanlal Somani of Bombay for agreeing to be the Chairman of the respective regions.
Every one of you from eighteen different countries have come a long way for this Congress. I hope you will have a happy time and that in spite of all the strenuous times, you will return happy in the knowledge that India welcomes you warmly and that we are united as one world family.