Why Gandhi Was A Vegetarian

From The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, September 1951

Whilst studying in London, Mahatma Gandhi purchased, from a vegetarian restaurant, a copy of Henry S. Salt’s Plea for Vegetarianism. He said:

“It was Mr. Salt’s book which showed me why, and apart from my adherence to a vow administered to me by my mother, it was right to be a vegetarian. He showed me why it was a moral duty incumbent on vegetarians not to live upon fellow-animals.”

“I read Salt’s book from cover to cover, and was very much impressed by it. From the date of reading this book I may claim to have become a vegetarian by choice, and now I blessed the day on which I had taken that vow before my mother. Formerly I had abstained from meat in the interests of truth, and of the vow I had taken, but I had wished at the same time that every Indian should be a meat-eater. Indeed, I had looked forward to the time when I should be one myself, freely and openly, and enlist others to the cause. But the choice was now made in favour of vegetarianism. To spread it henceforth became my mission.”

“I discovered that for remaining staunch to vegetarianism a man requires a moral basis. For me that was a great discovery in my search after truth.”

“I do not regard flesh-food as necessary for us at any stage and under any clime in which it is possible for human beings ordinarily to live. I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species. We err in copying the lower animal world – if we are superior to it. It is wrong to over-estimate the importance of food in the formation of character. Diet is a powerful factor not to be neglected. But to sum up all religion in terms of diet, as is often done in India, is as wrong as it is to disregard all restraint in regard to diet, and to give full rein to one’s appetite. It may not be lightly given up. It is necessary therefore to correct the error that vegetarianism has made us weak in mind or body, passive or inert in action. The greatest Hindu reformers have been the activest in their generation, and they have invariably been vegetarians.”

From Mahatma Gandhi: His Mission and Message

“Vegetarians need to be tolerant if they want to convert others to vegetarianism.”