International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

19th World Vegetarian Congress 1967
Delhi/Bombay/Madras, India

From The British Vegetarian, March/April 1968:

Speech delivered by Shri Morarji Desai, Deputy Prime Minister of India, at the XIXth World Vegetarian Congress held at Mavhmkar Auditorium, Rafi Marg, New Delhi, on Saturday, the 18th November, 1967.

The Deputy Prime Minister of India, Shri Morarji Desai, speakes at the Inaugural Session of the Congress.

Dear Friends,

The International Vegetarian Congress that is being held here today is not the first of its kind and not the first one I have attended. The vegetarian movement is an ancient movement and is not quite a modern one. In the early ages, I believe not much thought was given to what man is and what his real functions should be, and what is the real purpose of his life. But as knowledge began to grow and be acquired, and the real purpose of man and of his existence began to be understood, it was especially in this country, as it is recognised by everybody now, that the difference between man and the animal world lies in the fact that man has been given intelligence and also the ability to consider what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad and what is good for his evolution and what is not.

This enables man to consider that goodness lies not in enjoying what one considers happiness at the cost of others, or by denying it to others or by inflicting harm or unhappiness on other people When one enables others to be happy or when one voluntarily take' upon himself the task of making another person happy, even if an\ unhappiness has got to be undergone to bring about that happiness justified to the extent of saving others from that unhappiness.

This is the basis of all human morality. Whether one believe' in God or not, this human approach holds good at all events. For those who believe in God the matter is simpler still and clearly than anything else: because those who believe in God believe that God is the Creator of the whole Universe and there is nothing that does not come from Him.

Jesus Christ also taught and advised people to do unto others as they do unto themselves. Our ancient Sages and Saints, who gave us our philosophy and culture, of which this country has always been proud and which has been admired by the wide world, told us that we must look upon all living beings as we look upon ourselves. But the philosophy here goes much farther "You treat every living thing as you treat yourself ".


Just as I would not like to be pained by somebody else, I must not pain anyone else. This was the basis of non-violence, which, was accepted in this country on the widest scale possible. Lord Buddha propagated this and it has been accepted by everybody.

I should, however, like to make one thing very clear. Personally, not consider that all violence is immoral and that non-violence is moral; but violence has in itself the germination of hatred, anger and jealousy and therefore deflects persons from the true path and inflicts pain on others out of anger and jealousy.

It is, therefore, a fact that anybody who wants to realise Truth or who wants to be humane, must follow non-violent ways of life, otherwise he will not be able to reach the Truth.

In the ordinary life also, if we ourselves want to be happy, it is a matter of common sense to believe that we cannot be happy by making others unhappy, and from this follows "Vegetarianism".

I do not want to go into its physical reasons: the construction of the human body is different from that of carnivorous animals. But man's intelligence is such that it can be utilised to defend any-thing he does, whether right or wrong.

Therefore, I do not want to emphasise that aspect of the reasons which call for vegetarianism as that which is appropriate for man's food habits. If we do not want to be pained by anybody we must not pain anybody; and how can man consider himself humane if he wants to live at the cost of others.

Therefore, vegetarianism alone can give us the quality of com-passion, which distinguishes man from the rest of the animal world. I do not say that one who is vegetarian is full of compassion and one who is not, is otherwise. We sometimes find people, who are vegetarians, are very bad people. Thus, there are several things which make a man good or bad. From this it follows that con-sideration for other persons or for other living beings is very vital for goodness and want of consideration for other people makes human beings selfish, regardless for other people's good. Although there may be a fairly large proportion of men in this country having adherence to vegetarianism, a great majority of them are by belief non-vegetarian.

I must, however, say that vegetarianism has had its attractions, because there are days when non-vegetarians do not take non-vegetarian food. This would also show that in principle it is granted that vegetarianism convinces us about what is called the spiritual attraction of life. But generally we are attracted more towards the material than the spiritual side. It is not enough merely to disparage non-vegetarianism or to work for stopping the killing of animals. As long as man eats animals how can cruelty to animals be removed. How can there be a humane way of killing animals? I would, therefore, say that for no reason whatsoever, except in self-defence, should one think of killing any animal. As a matter of fact more land is required for feeding animals which are required for eating; but this again is a controversial point.

After all, is it right for those who consider that man, to be man, must be humane, and if that is granted then he should be so towards everybody. One can't be kind to one person and cruel to another. Considering this, therefore, if one wants to be kind, one has to be uniformly kind. From this it follows that vegetarianism has to be the real habit of food for mankind because when one eats a living being how can he be justified? We say that cannibalism is wrong. then all non-vegetarian food is wrong.

There are people who argue that there is life in everything and. therefore, vegetarians are also not really vegetarians. When one breathes there are small insects which are killed. These are all arguments advanced to defend one's self. One has got to choose between the two evils, also between the lesser of the two evils in the matter of food, and therefore vegetarian food has got to he taken by man in order to sustain human life.

Non-vegetarianism does not give more strength. There is no greater strength than that of an elephant, which is a vegetarian animal. It therefore follows that one has to go on persuading people (to take to vegetarianism) by friendliness. Various methods can be considered by which vegetarianism can become more and more acceptable to people so that they take to it voluntarily and no question of any compulsion can be considered in this matter.

There are people who go to the extent of saying that (in vege-tarianism) one should not take milk or honey. I respect them very much; but I would not say that they are wrong. Taking of milk 'r honey can be justified because there we do not inflict any cruelty is we do this in a humane way without killing others.

It will be seen that vegetarianism flows from compassion. We should propagate the values of vegetarianism. We should do it in such a way that those who do not believe in it, should be persuaded :o believe in it, should be persuaded to believe in it without using any harsh words, etc. Thereby we would have a better human society. "We should deal with every living thing as we expect them to deal with us."

I feel it a privilege to come here and be with you and I have, therefore, great pleasure in inaugurating this Conference.