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Does India have the most number of Vegetarians in the World

Jan 12, 2018

Does India have the most number of Vegetarians in the World
Does India have the most number of Vegetarians in the World | Credit: Anna Pelzer

A study published by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) in March 2017 found that beef consumption in America has decreased by 19 percent between 2005 and 2014.

According to The Times reports on a survey conducted by the British Social Attitudes, the British citizens are cutting back on meat following warnings from the World Health Organisation that processed meat such as sausages, bacon, ham as well as red meat can cause cancer.

Are these countries following footsteps of India? Reports say that though the meat consumption in India is rising, 42% of the population is still vegetarian, making the country the lowest consumer of meat in the world. The country's vegetarianism is deeply rooted in its religious beliefs. This does not mean that India has always been a country that never ate meat. In fact, Archaeologists who have examined the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization have accepted that the agrarian society made meat and fish part of their regular diet. The Aryans who arrived later also ate meat and dairy products.

It was only from the 6th Century BC that vegetarianism in the country became popular after the introduction of Buddhism and Jainism. Both the religions are based on 'Ahimsa', which emphasize on respect and non-violence to all forms of life. Vegetarianism in the country is associated with Lacto-vegetarianism, where people eat dairy products but not eggs. Vegetarianism is prevalent in communities such as Jain Community, Lingayat, Brahmins, and Vaishnav Community.

A survey released by the sample registration system (SRS) in 2014, shows that Telangana has the highest number of non-vegetarians followed by West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Kerala. Whereas, Rajasthan has the highest number of vegetarians followed by Haryana and Punjab.

An important trend we notice is that 71 percent of Indians over the age of 15 are non-vegetarian and the percentage of non-vegetarians across the country has dropped from 75 percent in 2004 to 71 percent in 2014. So is the federal government's beef ban and food policing the reason behind the dwindling numbers? Or have Indians decided to become more health conscious? The answer would be subjective. But nutritionists unanimously opine that instead of all the fuss over Vegetarian non-vegetarian food one should make sure to eat a healthy-balanced diet. The dietary guidelines developed by the Indian Council for Medical Research say that a healthy and balanced Indian diet should have cereals, millet and pulses, which are legumes such as lentils, peas and beans. Milk for high-quality protein and calcium, as well as oils and nuts for nutrition and calories are required. Fruits and vegetables are an important source of vitamins and minerals and should be part of your balanced Indian diet. Meat and fish which are high source of protein must not be avoided but could be replaced by eating a diet filled with grains, legumes, vegetables and milk.