In 2012 researchers at Oxford found that early humans who roamed the African Savanna three-and-a-half million years ago had a diet more like a cow, comprising of grass and sedges, than that of a great ape. Australopithecus bahrelghazali chomped through rushes and grasses rather than soft fruits preferred by chimpanzee cousins. The study shows the ancestral human diet diverged from that of the apes much soon than previously thought.
A professor from Harvard University in his study published in Nature magazine states that humans could consume meat 2 million years ago only because they started using stone tools to break the meat into pieces tiny enough to be crushed by molars and swallowed. He deduced that human teeth, unlike the teeth of lions and wolves were not meant to break chunks of raw meat into pieces.

The earliest records of vegetarianism as a concept and practice amongst a significant number of people come from ancient India and the ancient Greek civilisation in Southern Italy and in Greece in the 6th century BC. In both instances the diet was closely connected with the idea of non-violence towards animals (called ahimsa in India) and was promoted by religious groups and philosophers. In the light of knowledge of such ill-treatment meted out to animals, it is not at all surprising that more and more people are choosing a vegetarian lifestyle. The reasons for being vegetarian could be tradition or habit or reasons that are concerned with the environment, health, ethics, or animal rights. However, those who turn vegetarian on the firm conviction of reverence for all life (coupled with or without religious and health reasons) never lapse in their resolve to remain vegetarian, in fact some might go on to becoming vegans.

The Times of India first used the term non-vegetarian in 1878 in a report from one of its correspondents in the UK about some dietary economics in Manchester. At that time the term vegetarian had been around for about 30 years with the launch of the Vegetarian Society of UK in 1847. (Mahatma Gandhi was a member.)

The National Sample Survey Office’s quinquennial 68th round household consumer expenditure survey carried out in India between July 2011 and July 2012 considered the quantities actually consumed of milk and meat (which included fish and egg). The data collected showed that the vegetarian states consumed more milk, but less eggs, fish and meat, and vice versa. The percentage of non-vegetarians in the following states were: Haryana (19%), Delhi (49%), Punjab (23%), Rajasthan (20%), Himachal Pradesh (47%), J&K (was 35% but rose to 74% after the exodus of Hindus), Gujarat (28%) , Uttarakhand (52%), Uttar Pradesh (42%), Sikkim (84%), Andhra Pradesh (includes Telangana) (87%), Madhya Pradesh (37%), Maharashtra (58%), Bihar (73%), Tamil Nadu (81%), Karnataka (64%), Jharkhand (75%), Goa (89%), Kerala (92%), West Bengal (95%), Odisha (87%), Chhattisgarh (64%), A&N Islands and the North Eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) (97%). Click here to see chart showing percentages of non-vegetarians in 2011-12, 2004-05 and 1993-94.


Click here to see the National Family Health Survey – Percentage of Vegetarians in India as of 2015-16. States having more than 40% vegetarians: Rajasthan (71.17%), Himachal Pradesh, Haryana (69.2%), Punjab (58.58%), Gujarat (62.44%), Madhya Pradesh (46.93%). States with 10 to 40% vegetarians: Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, NCT of Delhi, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir. States having 0.2 to 0.9 vegetarians: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura.

According to the UN’s Food & Agricultural Association, 42% of Indian households are veg, while 35% turn veg on certain days of the week. The preference for veg by the majority makes it imperative for the food industry to particularly produce eggless products. In fact, according to the FAO, India has the lowest meat consumption rate in the world.

Interestingly in 2014, menus of fast food outlets in India consisted of 80% veg meal options. (The trend towards vegetarianism was found to be growing internationally as well.)

In Assam too non-vegetarianism is high with 90% of the population eating meat – in 2014 goats were sold at Rs 300 per kg. According to an integrated sample survey of 2007 the state had about 2.77 goats. The number is rising and is expected to double by about 2016 due to the introduction of cross-breeding with the help of the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (a World Bank aided initiative) and the Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project. It is unfortunate that the state is thriving on improving kids to kill.

The total fish production of India in 2013 was 95.79 lakh tonne of which 9.83 tonne (an exotic shrimp variety L Vannamei in particular) was exported mainly to the United States and Thailand. The major fish consuming states are Lakshwadeep, Kerala, Goa and West Bengal. Whereas, the top producing states, are Andhra Pradesh (20.18 lakh tonnes) and West Bengal (15.80 lakh tonnes). Moreover, the share of inland fisheries increased from 50% in 2000-01 to 64% in 2013-14. (Source: Handbook on Fishery Statistics 2014.)

Beauty Without Cruelty hopes that a question of whether people were veg or non-veg will be added in the next Census. We have requested this several times over decades, but every time the reply has been the same, that it will be considered… But in 2016, the Registrar General of India released data based on a nationwide survey covering population aged 15 years and above conducted in 2014. They found 71.6% male and 70.7% female non-vegetarians, as against 28.4% male and 29.3% female vegetarians. Ten years earlier in 2004 they had found 75% non-vegetarians, and 25% vegetarians. Whether or not these figures are accurate, the fact is that people are turning vegetarian.

The Sample Registration System Baseline Survey as on 1 January 2014 stated the following percentages among population aged 15 and above:

State   Veg   Non-Veg
Rajasthan   74.90%   25.10%
Haryana   60.25%   30.75%


Gujarat   60.95%   39.05%
Madhya Pradesh   50.60%   49.40%
Uttar Pradesh  


Maharashtra   50.60%   49.40%
Delhi        39.50%           60.50%
J & K   31.45%           68.55%
Uttarakhand    27.35%           72.65%
Karnataka   21.10%          78.90%
Chhattisgarh   17.95%           82.05%
Bihar   7.55%  


Jharkhand   3.25%   96.75%
Kerala      3.00%            97.00%
Odisha   2.65%             97.35%
Tamil Nadu   2.35%             97.65%
Andhra Pradesh   1.75%   98.25%
West Bengal   1.45%   98.55%
Telangana   1.30%   98.07%

Meanwhile, the OECD Database came out with 2015 total annual per capita meat consumption for India being 2.9 kg capita per year in 2015 of which 1.7 kg is chickens.

More than 97% Indians can be considered predominantly vegetarian as most non-vegetarians eat flesh occasionally – usually in a restaurant once or twice a month only –therefore, almost all the food they eat is vegetarian.

On the basis of the above argument and more an activist with difficulty and after years of perseverance convinced the government not to make it compulsory for vegetarian students to learn non-veg cooking as part of their training in hotel management. Accordingly in 2018 the National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology (NCHMCT) issued a Notification declaring availability of Veg Degree option in 63 Institutes of Hotel Management.

grounds. Also, on most film sets bringing or eating non-veg is forbidden, and those who do are fined for doing so.

Abroad too companies such as WeWork have enforced vegetarianism. Their decision was driven largely by concerns for the environment and animal welfare when in 2018 they announced that they would no longer serve red meat, pork or poultry at their functions and not reimburse employees who wanted to order a hamburger during a lunch meeting. They calculated that they would be saving over 15 million animals by 2023 by eliminating meat at their events.

In January 2018 the IIT-Bombay, Powai banned cooking and sale of non-vegetarian food in its café. It resulted in anger among some students but the institute stuck to its stand staying it was for “health and safety concerns” following the Kamala Mills fire.

BWC was pleased to know in 2018 that school children who bring non-veg are not allowed to share it with children who are from vegetarian families. The trend is spreading fast across India. Some schools tell parents to put stickers on tiffins that contain meat and eggs, whereas some schools ask students to consume non-veg outside the classroom. In short, this ensures that vegetarian children do not inadvertently consume non-veg and it reinforces the fact that veg food is healthy and eco-friendly.

In the 1980s in response to Beauty Without Cruelty’s request, Indian Airlines stopped servicing mithai with varkh. In any case they were serving only veg meals on Tuesdays because on this day of the week fliers hardly demanded non-veg. It therefore didn’t come as a surprise when Air India said in 2015 that it had always served vegetarian meals (however cake slices containing egg as one of the items didn’t qualify being vegetarian) on short flights of less than 90 minutes, all it was now planning on was to serve a hot instead of cold veg meal.

Some vegetarians choose to be so in part because they find meat and meat products aesthetically unappetising. They think that decaying animal parts, whether from a freezer or served in restaurants, can never be as aesthetically pleasing to the senses as the same foods made from wholesome vegetable sources.

This could be the underlying reason why a growing number of people are demanding that non-veg waste from restaurants be disposed off by the municipalities in an incinerator.

Flesh is difficult to digest, but veg foods are easy to digest. Plus fruits and vegetables naturally detoxify the body. A veg diet boosts cardio-vascular health (does not clog arteries) and reduces the chances of getting diseases such as cancer. For umpteen reasons a vegetarian is definitely healthier than a non-vegetarian and therefore lives longer.


In 2015, France’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC is a part of WHO, the World Health Organisation) placed processed meat such a hot dogs (beef) and ham in its group 1 list (which includes tobacco, asbestos and diesel fumes for which there is sufficient evidence of cancer links). Red meat, under which IARC includes beef, lamb and pork, was classified as a probable carcinogen in its group 2A list (it contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in many weed-killers). The IARC found links mainly with bowel cancer and observed associations with pancreatic and prostrate cancer. Furthermore, the IARC cited an estimate from the Global Burden of Disease Project (an international consortium of more than 1,000 researchers) that 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat.

In 2018 the Indian Express’ Health & Fitness Guide stated that the results of a Dutch study showed that high consumption of red and processed meat is independently associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and insulin resistance, regardless of saturated fat and cholesterol intake and other risk factors such as BMI. In other words, people who eat meat are very likely to have excessive fat in their livers and develop NAFLD.

Then in 2019 a new study on cholesterol printed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that it was wrong for people to have chosen white meat over red in the belief that white meat was less likely to lead to high cholesterol levels because there was little difference between the two, and that both red and white meat were equally harmful.

Scientists from the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in Faridabad found that gram positive bacteria is more populous in the gut of Indians than gram negative, as believed earlier. In short the vegetarian diet of rural Indians keeps their gut healthy with good bacteria.

A 2020 study conducted by scientists at the United States’ North-Western and Cornell Universities and published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that eating two servings a week of red meat, processed meat or poultry, was linked to a 3 to 7 per cent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and linked a diet consisting of meat to heart disease and early death. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) also says that meat can cause cancer. A panel of experts writing in the Lancet in January 2020 outlined an “ideal diet” for human health and the planet that said global average red meat consumption should be cut by 50% and consumption of nuts fruits, vegetables and legumes should double.

In India non-vegetarians “love chicken” but how many of them know why broiler chicken is frequently chewy? The condition, according to research undertaken by the University of Delaware and published in the journal Scientific Reports, is called wooden breast syndrome, a metabolic disorder which makes the meat hard and chewy. This is one of the diseases that strike chickens and can adversely affect humans who eat them.

If every one became vegetarian by 2050, about 7 million less would die, and a million more would escape death if vegan because no meat lowers the chances of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancers.

The single most advantageous "green" move an individual can make is to stop eating animals. It is good for the earth and all humans who inhabit it.

Livestock farming produces 8-18% of greenhouse-gas emissions because amazingly high quantities of gasses are belched and farted by domestic animals.

Worldwide 1.3 billion people raise animals. And, roughly one-third of the world’s crop land, water and grain is utilised for feeding these animals even though they are far less efficient than plants at converting nutrients and water into calories.

Litres Water produces   1 kilogram


962   Fruits


1,020   Milk




5,988   Pork
8,763   Mutton
15,415     Beef

Feed   produces   Meat (a second hand food)
1.5 kilograms   1 kilogram Fish
2 kilograms   1 kilogram Chicken
3 kilograms  

1 kilogram Pork

4-6 kilograms   1 kilogram Mutton/Lamb
5-20 kilograms   1 kilogram Beef

(Cows need five times as much
feed to produce 1 kilogram of Meat,
than to produce 1 litre of Milk.)


2017 statistics say that of the world’s approximately 5 billion hectares (12 billion acres) of agricultural land, 68% is used for livestock.

Meat-eating causes starvation. Those who eat animal flesh must acknowledge that it is because of them that fellow humans go hungry. If every one ate grain rather than feeding it to animals and then eating their flesh, there would be enough food for everyone everywhere.

For those environmentalists who on reading this, feel they should eat fish instead of meat, need to be made aware that the UN and FAO have warned that the world’s fish consumption is unsustainable because a third of the oceans are over-fished, particularly in the developing world.

According to a study published in Conservation Letters, at least 300 species of megafauna and vertebrates are being pushed towards the threat of extinction because humans eat meat or consume body parts of species like the whale shark, beluga, Somali ostrich, leatherback turtle and African elephant.

No Meat - No Heat

Some non-vegetarians have been convinced by BWC to support Sundays without Meat for Climate Change. Shifting the world’s reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is no doubt important, but, according to a recent report in World Watch magazine, the world’s best chance for achieving timely, disaster-averting climate change will actually be by eating less meat. Meatless Mondays are quite popular abroad (and moving towards meat once a week) but Beauty Without Cruelty feels Sundays without Meat are appropriate for India. (It would hopefully be one step closer to turning vegetarian, and eventually vegan.)

BWC thanks every one who is spreading the word and appeals to their non-vegetarian friends to give up eating meat every Sunday. (Every day would of course be best.)

If every one quit eating meat, food related emissions would drop by 60%. Those who eat no animals were thrilled to know that the 2016 UN Climate Change Report says meat should be taxed until no one eats it anymore. The recommendation is to save the environment and prevent global warming.

Since the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with the goal of reducing global warming has become international law and India ratified it in October 2016, let us hope one of the actions taken will be to discourage meat-eating.


There are many awards for vegetarians in India and abroad. BWC feels it is up to the people who finance the awards to decide who they would like the award to go to.

It was therefore absolutely shocking when in 2017, years after the Shelar Mama award was instituted in 2006 that some students of the Pune University and politicians strongly objected to the criteria for the gold medal to be issued for excellence in science to a vegetarian and teetotaller.

Getting India to Eat Right

The following has been reproduced from an editorial which appeared in the Financial Express in January 2019:

“A Mint Analysis of NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) data on the nutrient intake of Indians, juxtaposed against a reference ‘ideal’ diet a new Lancet report prescribes, shows Indians aren’t eating right. Indians, both rural and urban, are eating a lot more carbohydrate than Lancet recommends as part of their daily intake, and much lesser protein (from both plant ad animal sources). Fruit and vegetable consumption is also much lower than the recommended amount. While Indians are consuming sweeteners (chiefly, sugar) in lesser amounts than recommended, bad nutrient sources account for over 200 kilocalories (k-Cal), against a total recommended calorie intake of 2,500 kCal. The nutrition ‘gap’ is worse for the rural than the urban population – against nearly every metric (junk food and eating out are two notable exceptions), rural Indians seem to be diversifying their sources of nutrition further, protein intake – higher incomes are correlated to protein accounting for a larger part of the daily diet – remains a problem. In fact, the Mint analysis claims that there is a jump in junk food consumption with rising incomes.

“Diet-related lifestyle diseases contribute a chunk o the non-communicable disease burden in India that now accounts for six out of ten deaths in the country from disease – 16% of adult men and 22% of adult women in India are overweight and childhood obesity is becoming a serious threat. At the same time, 38% of Indian children suffer from stunting.

“Getting India to eat right needs the right policy call on different types of malnutrition. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and the mid-day meal (MDM) schemes have had some impact in curbing stunting amongst children. Given the Poshan Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission), that seeks to reduce the level of stunting to 25% by 2022, tarets adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, it ties up rather well with ICDS and MDM to target under-nutrition. However, on the obesity front, the government (both Centre and the states) are yet to come up with any consolidated policy to fight this.

“In this context, Japan’s experience with using mid-day meals at schools to fight obesity offers an important lesson. Under a government programme, school cafeterias in Japan give students – elementary to senior secondary – wholesome meals that are free of processed and junk food. Parents who can afford to pay can choose to do so; otherwise, school children get balanced, nutritious meal without being charged for it.

“While even the food standards regulator has called for a sin tax on junk food this seems a bad idea a the bulk of consumption of such food is by income-groups where such taxes may not have much impact given it is a matter of taste more than affordability for them.”

Mid-Day Meal Scheme

The provision of giving hot cooked food in all government schools of India began following orders of the Supreme Court in the Right to Food case of 2001. All states in India give it to children up to Class VIII. The Government of India provides food grains through the Food Corporation of India while other costs are shared by the centre with state governments.

In some states like Karnataka and Maharashtra, Akshaya Patra (a religious organisation) provides very wholesome satvik vegetarian food but this has been objected to (by those with vested interests) even though the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad has stated that food without onions and garlic does not affect the nutritional value.

The egg lobby keeps demanding that eggs be included. Luckily they have not always succeeded nor for long periods. BWC had written against them being introduced in states like Madhya Pradesh.

In June 2021 the Kerala High Court put a temporary stay on the order issued by the Administration of Lakshadweep Union Territory (UT) banning chicken and meat (it was being given 4 times a week) from the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. Luckily the number of states providing meat has fallen. Between 2015-16 and 2020-21 only 5 states gave flesh; moreover, it fell to 3 states. Jammu & Kashmir, and Nagaland stopped; and Tripura gave chicken some times only when local social workers provided it.

Not all states gave eggs either. Of the 36 states and UTs, only 15 gave eggs in 2015-16. Since then Arunachal Pradesh, Dadar & Nagar Haveli, and Daman & Diu stopped, whereas Bihar gave them only once a week, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh gave them five times a week, and Odisha, and Puducherry twice a week. Unfortunately, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal were planning on serving eggs in some districts.

Despite demands to serve milk and fruit in the Mid-Day Meal schemes, as of 2020-21 only 11 states served milk, and 6 fruit. In 2015-16 fruit was being served by 12 states.

The Mid-Day Meal Scheme works as an incentive for parents to send their children to school. While this goal has been met to a great extent, the meal has become a substitute rather than a supplement to regular home diet. Fruit should not have been stopped because it is the healthiest of all foods. Just 25 grams of pistachios would work wonders (since they would be costly they need not be given daily) because the child would get the same amount of protein as from one egg plus many other beneficial nutrients.

Veg/Non-veg Symbols

For years consumer organisations and those working for vegetarianism like BWC kept approaching the Government of India pointing out that it was the right of each and every consumer to know whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian ingredients were used by manufacturers in processed foods and so the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 should be amended. BWC’s first appeal was in 1978. Eventually in 2001 a Government Notification made it mandatory for manufacturers to use a symbol consisting of a colour filled circle/dot inside a large square in brown colour for non-vegetarian packaged foods and in green for vegetarian articles.

Then in 2009 as a result of BWC’s continuous appeals to also make it mandatory for carbonated waters to carry the veg/non-veg symbol, these symbols began being affixed by manufacturers on their drinks.

Although BWC considers the affixing of the veg/non-veg symbol mandatory as one of its major achievements (it helps vegetarian consumers and empowers us significantly by giving us the right to question any ingredient whose origin we find doubtful) it has its flaws in as much that BWC’s definition of the word vegetarian is not the same as the Government’s. The brown symbol is to be used “when any article of food contains whole or part of any animal including birds, fresh water or marine animals or eggs or product of any animal origin, but not including milk or milk products, as an ingredient”. BWC would expect to see shellac/lac, honey/bee products, choona/lime and varkh/silver foil to be included in this non-vegetarian category.

In March 2013 the Supreme Court over turned a 12-year old High Court verdict directing cosmetic and drug manufacturers to print the veg and non-veg symbols on cosmetics and drugs, saying that the court had no jurisdiction to issue such directions and that it had already been considered by the Government. In view of this, BWC approached the then Prime Minister and many politicians saying that they were bound to agree it was good that we can easily tell from the green and brown symbols affixed on packaged foods and beverages, whether the products are veg or non-veg. It was the right of all consumers – whether vegetarian or not – to know the contents of products. For example, no religious minded Indian would like to unknowingly purchase products like toothpastes or cosmetics that may contain ingredients derived from animals such as cows or pigs. We therefore requested their help in getting the Government of India to also make it mandatory for manufacturers to affix the green and brown symbols on each and every product consumed internally or used on our bodies like toilet preparations, cosmetics, dietary supplements, medicines, drugs and other pharmaceuticals. By doing so the Government would be acting in public interest and consumers would be grateful that they could make informed choices. However, the then Government of India did not extend the law to cover additional products as requested.

In 2014, the new Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi upon receiving a request from BWC immediately extended the Veg/Non-Veg labeling law to cover cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and toiletries.


BWC’s campaign to make it mandatory for manufacturers to affix these green and brown symbols on each and every product consumed internally or used on our bodies like dietary supplements, medicines, drugs and other pharmaceuticals, continues. We would also like items such as agarbattis, air freshners, candles, adhesives, brushes, crockery and all other consumer products covered because they could contain hidden animal ingredients.

Meanwhile, consumers could buy and use only those products marked with the green symbol (square with dot). They could also write to manufacturers demanding that they affix the veg/non-veg certification on their packages.

Page last updated on 23/08/21