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Veg or non-veg? Good reasons to go green
3 December 2007 Hervé Bonnaveira

Whether it’s chosen for moral, religious, cultural, environmental, social, economic, culinary or health reasons, vegetarianism is surely the diet most suited for sustainable development.

India is undoubtedly the country that boasts the largest number of vegetarians. During our two month bicycle journey through the country, we’ve adopted vegetarianism because of taste, force, and conviction. TRANSLATED BY Rashaad JORDAN

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One of many non-veg horrors by the roadside

When the boss of a “dhaba” (popular Indian restaurant) displays the menu, it’s not troublesome to ask him:
“Do you have meat?”
He’ll shoot a rather stunned look at you because it’s not a word in his vocabulary. Try again when there’s even an outside chance. When he answers you repeatedly:
“Mutton not available…” then “Chicken not available…,” ask him for his “mix veg curry,” a local dish accompanied with white rice or “chapattis” (Indian bread without yeast or leaven). It’s finally assurance of eating well, not expensively and most of all, not becoming sick. Emphatically refuse all raw vegetables.

Why is it so difficult to find meat in India? It’s a question of religion above all for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. By virtue of the principle of non-violence and respect of life under all forms, Hinduism (comprising 75% of Indians) praises lacto-vegetarian nourishment (without eggs) as an ideal diet. All humans are potentially reincarnated human beings and killing an animal could aggravate one’s “karma.” Cows, in particular, are sacred as they are used solely for noble work: pulling a cart, plowing the land and producing meat, “curd” (yogurt), “paneer” (cheese), and “ghee” (clarified butter) up to their death. In the countryside that we’ve crossed by bicycle, rather omnipresent rearing stays on a family scale: there’s no industrial battery farming.

Indians are thus vegetarians by belief, which is so much the better for them and their health (and us also) as there are fewer cardiovascular risks, cancer, and obesity risks (although numerous other bacterial sicknesses, lack of hygiene and care reduce the average life expectancy to 68.6 years). Indeed, the impact intensive rearing would have in India on the environment would be disastrous.

First, let’s remind ourselves that rearing constitutes true wastefulness of food. Given that an ox is equivalent to about 1,500 meals with what he’s given to eat, another 18,000 meals could be made – which solves problems of malnutrition in numerous countries. Rearing equally consumes a great number of trees. According to the Indian Minister of Agriculture, a hectare of arable land allows 20 tons of potatoes to be produced versus only 50 kg of meat. This increasing need of land to pasture is one of the factors of deforestation.

In regards to water, the pollution of groundwater and rivers is growing through nitrates and fecal bacteria present in animal excrement. In addition, a FAO report (1998) indicates 20,000 to 100,000 liters of water are necessary to obtain one kilogram of beef - ten to fifty times more than for one kg of soy, a healthier food.

This wastefulness and deterioration of local natural resources leads to a worldwide effect. According to another FAO report (2006), the field of breeding gives off greenhouse gas (essentially methane CH4) which, measured in the equivalent of CO2 (18% of the total greenhouse effect), is higher than those produced by transportation! Rearing would be one of the main reasons of climate change.

For more information on vegetarianism, rearing, and its consequences on the environment, click on:

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