Vegetarianism, Animalism and Gandhi
Numerous thoughts have been expressed on vegetarianism and animalism and of Gandhi’s meat and egg eating habit [The Island 18.12.08.1 from his childhood. The Story of My Life by M. K. Gandhi as quoted below reveals that he was a vegetarian up to the time he met a friend and temporally consumed meat while he was a student. Nehru’s food habit is revealed in the book An Autobiography - Jawaharlal Nehru is also quoted below.
"A wave of ‘reform’ was sweeping over Rajkot at the time when I first came across this friend. He informed me that many of our teachers were secretly taking meat and wine. There were also some high school boys among them."
"I was surprised and pained. I asked my friend the reason and he explained it thus: ‘We are a weak people because we do not eat meat. The English are able to rule over us, because they are meat-eaters. You know how hardy I am, and how great a runner too. It is because I am a meat-eater. Meat-eaters do not have boils, and even if they sometimes happen to have any, these heal quickly. Our teachers and other distinguished people who eat meat are no fools. They know its virtues. You should do likewise. There is nothing like trying. Try, and see what strength it gives."
"My elder brother had already fallen. He therefore supported my friend’s argument. I certainly looked feeble-bodied by the side of my brother and this friend." "Moreover, I was a coward. I used to be afraid of thieves, ghosts and serpents, I did not dare to stir out of doors at night. Darkness was terror to me. It was almost impossible for me to sleep in the dark, as I would imagine ghosts coming from one direction, thieves from another and serpents from a third. I could not therefore bear to sleep without a light in the room. My friend knew all these weaknesses of mine. He would tell me that he could hold in his hand live serpents, could defy thieves and did not believe in ghosts."
"It began to grow on me that meat eating was good, that it would make me strong and daring, and that, if the whole country took to, meat-eating, the English could be overcome. A day was thereupon fixed for beginning the experiment. It had to be done in secret as my parents were orthodox Vaishnavas, and I was extremely devoted to them."
"So the day came. We went in search of a lonely spot by the river, and there I saw, for the first time, in my life, - meat. There was baker’s bread also. I did not like either. The goat’s meat was as tough as leather. I simply could not eat it. I was sick and had to leave off eating."
"Gradually I got over my dislike for bread, gave up my pity for goats and began to enjoy meat dishes, if not meat itself This went on for about a year. Whenever I had occasion to indulge in these secret feasts, eating at home was impossible. My mother would naturally ask me to come and take my food and want to know the reason why I did not wish to eat. I would say to her, ‘I have no appetite today; there is something wrong with my digestion.’ I knew I was lying, and lying to my mother. I also knew that, if my mother and father came to know of my having become a meat-eater, they would be deeply shocked. This knowledge was making me feel uneasy."
"Therefore I said to myself: ‘Though it is essential to eat meat, and also essential, to take up food "reform" in the country, yet deceiving and lying to one’s father and mother is worse than not eating meat. In their lifetime, therefore, meat-eating must be given up. When they are no more and I have found my freedom, I will eat meat openly, but until that moment arrives I will keep away from it.’"
"This decision I told to my friend, and I have never since gone back to meat."
Jawaharlal Nehru food habits quoted from his Autobiography.
"I have cared little for food fads, and have only avoided overeating and rich foods. Like nearly all Kashmiri Brahmans our family was a meat-eating one, and from childhood onwards I had always taken meat, although I never fancied it much. With the coming of Non-Co-operation in 1920 I gave up meat and became a vegetarian. I remained a vegetarian till a visit to Europe six years later, when I relapsed to meat-eating. On my return to India I became a vegetarian again, and since then I have been more or less a vegetarian. Meat-eating seems to agree with me well, but I have developed a distaste for it, and gives me a feeling of coarseness."