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

From The British Vegetarian, March/April 1968:

Speech of the Sheriff of Madras

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I consider it a great privilege to be asked to speak to so many distinguished vegetarians from different part of the world. As Sheriff I extend a hearty welcome to all the delegates and invitees to this great city where a majority are vegetarians including myself.

India and especially Tamiland is an appropriate place for a meeting of this kind. Our country, I am glad to say, is a nation that feels instinctive sympathy for the confirmed vegetarian and I am sure that you would have felt the atmosphere of cordiality and understanding that pervades this conference. This is in contrast to some countries in the West, where the vegetarian is looked upon a freak, an unusual creature. The great majority of people in India are, of course, not vegetarians. Yet, from ancient days, the creed of vegetarianism has been a respected one in our country. Our ancient religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, stress the import-ance of vegetarianism as an offshoot of Ahimsa, i.e., non-violence in thought and deed. The Philosophy of the Vedanta lays great stress on vegetarianism. The ancient rishis have pointed out that meat-eating will definitely weaken the mind and obstruct spiritual progress. Therefore they recommend the eating of only vegetarian food which will not excite the mind and body.

But it is not only spiritual progress that is affected by meat eating. I am quite sure that all mental progress, the ability to think coolly and concentrate on a subject are weakened by those who indulge in the exotic heavy food of the non-vegetarian. Such people in my opinion think more and more of food only and less on other important aspects of life. Sometimes I feel that the confirmed -meat and beef eater cannot even enjoy the beauty and grace of thc animal world. Where we see a dreamy looking cow, or a graceful deer or a powerful horse, they see no more than a tasty morsel of food. I am convinced that the confirmed vegetarian will have greater peace of mind and more balanced outlook on life than any non-vegetarian.

And what about physical strength? There are some people who say that vegetarians are physically weak. Such people should remind themselves about that greatest vegetarian in the world - the elephant. In the elephant we have a combination of gentleness and strength, a true product of vegetarianism.

Speaking of the animals, I am reminded of the fact that Smi Rukmini Devi is also the Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board; animal welfare is, of course, closely linked with vegetarianism. In our country especially cruelty to animals is sometimes frightening There is so much pain and torture inflicted in killing the unfortunate animals for the table, that one sight will be enough to convert the staunchest addict of meat into a lifelong vegetarian. In fact no one who has at heart the welfare of animals can be non-vegetarian

There are, of course, people who argue that vegetables too have life. These arguments take us nowhere. In fact I find they are often mere excuses to continue to eat and enjoy non-vegetarian food

I think I should mention here that I am not a vegetarian by birth. In other words, I am a voluntary convert to vegetarianism and like all converts from one religion to another, I am something of a fanatic. I am now attached passionately to vegetarianism and it is my desire and fervent hope to remain a staunch vegetarian for the rest of my life.

We vegetarians can be proud of our vegetarianism. Let us remember that those two great men Bernard Shaw and Mahatma Gandhi were also vegetarians. The ancient Tamil saint has stated in his immortal Tirukkural, "One who does not eat flesh will be worshipped by all living beings." Now, more recently, the great Bernard Shaw in his humorous way said that when he died, he would have a funeral procession of all the grateful animals and birds which he did not eat. This, I believe, reflects the feelings of all of us who are vegetarians.

We are of course a minority. The world as a whole is addicted to killing and eating of animals and fish on a very large scale And yet none can deny that vegetarianism is the result of plain common sense and humanitarianism. In our contemporary world which is getting more cruel and more cynical every day, we must frequently hold aloft the banner of humaneness, charity, goodwill. kindness, generosity and a readiness to look upon all lives as equally important. Vegetarianism arises from this simple concept that there is dignity in life itself - that it is wrong for any one take the life of another whether man or beast.

Therefore this conference by its very presence is doing a great service to progressive forces in the world and we can be proud of our association with it.