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In the Hindu-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey of August 2006, Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar spoke of India's food habits. “The findings [of the survey] show that only 31 per cent of Indians are vegetarians,” they wrote.  — Wikimedia commons
In the Hindu-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey of August 2006, Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar spoke of India's food habits. “The findings [of the survey] show that only 31 per cent of Indians are vegetarians,” they wrote. — Wikimedia commons

In India it is routine to hear “Nice party. They served non-veg” and “Are you veg or non-veg?” We see that the expression “non-veg” does duty both as noun and as adjective. In the former role it can stand for flesh, fish or fowl – the sole essential being that whatever it may be, it is not “veg”.

In the UK, incidentally, “veg” means not vegetarian but vegetable, as in the typical meal of “steak, potatoes and two veg”.

In the late 1970s, it used to give my English girlfriend much pleasure to hear people in India call themselves vegetables: “She did look like an aubergine, you know.”

In the Hindu-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey of August 2006, Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar spoke of India's food habits. “The findings [of the survey] show that only 31 per cent of Indians are vegetarians,” they wrote. “The figure is 21 per cent for families (with all vegetarian members).”

This is in the present. Historians have shown that the people of ancient India, beginning with Brahmins, ate many kinds of meat, including that of cattle.

Therefore, to call India a vegetarian country when over two-thirds of Indians eat meat is imbecility. Yet vegetarianism is assumed to be the norm, encouraged or imposed by the ideologies of religion and caste.

Reprehensible deviance

The prefix “non-” is used to indicate negation or absence. Thus there are words like “non-combatant” and “nonsense”.

It may also be used to mark a negative quality or a deviation from a norm, as in “non-attractive”. In a land of Hindus, a “non-Hindu” is a deviant. In our country, because vegetarianism is wrongly assumed to be the norm, those who eat meat are called “non-vegetarians”.

The expression often has a negative connotation: the eating of meat may be seen as a reprehensible act.

Vegetarianism is known all over the world, but it is considered a harmless eccentricity.

Humans in nearly the entire world eat the flesh of mammals and birds and fishes. We are, as a species, omnivores, never mind all the ersatz Vedic humbug that flies around in Bharat.

It is only in our India that the expression “non-vegetarian” is found. Indians who go abroad get blank stares when they utter it.

No one anywhere says “non-meat-eater” or “non-carnivore”, which would be a good deal more logical.

A meat-eating family living in Ahmedabad in a housing society owned by Jains recently got 40 letters threatening the rape of their daughter as punishment for their “criminal” food habits.

Can you imagine a sattvik pujari living in Birmingham facing a death threat for his food choices: “You eat kaddu, Panditji – you die”?

This article was originally published at and has been reproduced here with permission.

Comments (60) Closed

Aditya(Anand, Gujarat) Sep 10, 2015 02:11pm


Pune-India Sep 10, 2015 02:21pm

Yeah all my friends are non-vegetarian but we eat it occasionally...once in a two weeks

salim langra Sep 10, 2015 02:40pm

Mukul, Very nicely put article, brash, sharp, but the idea behind it is very sensible. Eat and let eat, India has always been so, historically and modern day. Why disturb this good when there are so many genuine ills to sort!!!

AW Sep 10, 2015 02:41pm

India claims to be a secular state, so why ban sale of beef? All kind of meat including beef should be available for purchase; whereas the consumption of it should be left to choice of the individual

Northeastern Indian Sep 10, 2015 03:10pm

I am myself a meat eater but I disagree with your one point of view. you claim that human race is omnivorous. This is utterly wrong. have you ever observed the teeth pattern of Carnivorous, herbivorous and Omnivorous animals? Carnivorous and Omnivorous animals have two frontal sword like tooth both in upper and lower Jaws. Example, Cats, Dogs, Tigers , Lions etc. Omnivorous animals too have almost similar pattern teeth like certain types of Monkeys and Chimps. But our teeth pattern is identical with that of herbivorous animals like Gorillas, certain herbivorous monkeys or even deer, goat or Cows.No sword like frontal teeth. It clearly proves that God has basically created us as Herbivorous creatures though large section of human race including me has become omnivorous.

Aditya(Anand, Gujarat) Sep 10, 2015 03:20pm

@Northeastern Indian

Bravo, the most scientific comment on dawn i have ever read.

Really no sarcasm, i liked your comment

UP WALA Sep 10, 2015 03:23pm

India has most successful secularism all over the world

Harmony-1 Sep 10, 2015 03:31pm

@Northeastern Indian - If you look at the stats on worldwide basis then it becomes only a tiny percentage that don't eat meat. So, no need to impose your ideology on majority. Unlike other animals, humans are an adaptable species and have evolved leaps and bounds since Stone Age (which actually was meat eating era). Your examination of our teeth is not going to make any difference. Let them eat and live the way they like!

Sangan Patil Sep 10, 2015 03:33pm

@Northeastern Indian Brilliant comment

Murali Sep 10, 2015 03:40pm

@Northeastern Indian Not only teeth pattern but the our intestine and the digestive enzymes are similar to Herbivorous animals

Ijaz Sep 10, 2015 03:42pm

Despite what people eat - it is clear that a diet much more heavily weighted in favour of vegetables as opposed to meat (especially red meat) is much healthier.

Therefore vegetarianism should be encouraged not just in India, but also Pakistan (where the wealthy eat excessive amounts of red meat) and the world.

raj Sep 10, 2015 03:48pm

As for the bans its all because of Jain lobby which is small in numbers yet powerful like the jewish lobby. Yet 31% is a good number if compared with countries of the world.

Tony Singh Sep 10, 2015 03:53pm

@Harmony-1 Though I am a meat eater myself, I feel that "NORTHEASTERNINDIAN" does have a point. Either you counter his argument with another rational logic or agree with it. No point looking down upon it. Having said that, I think if humans were born to be only vegetarians, their digestive system would have evolved accordingly. (E.g. stomach and intestine would have been like herbivores- which it is not. Its more akin to omnivores.

Unicorn Sep 10, 2015 03:54pm

there are vegetarians and vegans

Harmony-1 Sep 10, 2015 04:03pm

@Ijaz - Fish is much healthier and has valuable nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids. Eat healthy and varied diet.

N.Sid Sep 10, 2015 04:07pm

Just like Indian society is divided between caste and creed with Dalits(untouchables) and high caste Brahmins lives poles apart, but still called a democratic country. In a democratic country there is no concept of division of humanity and all human beings are equal...they are not in India. Very similar hypocrisy here...just as mentioned in the article.

Harmony-1 Sep 10, 2015 04:08pm

@Tony Singh - What we were eating in Stone Age was a "counter argument"!!!

ZB Sep 10, 2015 04:09pm

@Northeastern Indian. I don't know what your source is but what I have read so far your statments are wrong.

If take into account a) Archeological Record b) Fermenting Vats, c) Jaws (canines function) and d) Intestines. Human can only be Omnivores



Karma Sep 10, 2015 04:10pm

I eat meat 1 or 2 days a week, remaining days vegetarian. So Vegi for most of the days. And no meat on festivals...

Rahim Sep 10, 2015 04:23pm

Vegetarianism is healthy and that is the reason so many people in west are becoming vegetarian.

Dipak Singh Sep 10, 2015 04:24pm

Lot of good comment over here its help me to know something new. special Thanks to NorthEastern Indian. your comment made proud of North Eastern.

Farrukh Sep 10, 2015 04:33pm

what a crap!

Suresh K. Sep 10, 2015 04:43pm

"31% of population of India"- qualifies as a big chunk (which translates to over 320 million). Imagine all of them vegetarians; so not wrong to say India is a vegetarian country. I reckon, a few decades back the figure would have been over 50% of population to be practicing vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is the green way, less impact on planet's resources. Just Google what effort it takes to produce 1 kg of meat versus 1 kg of grains, cereals, vegetables. And don't forget about carbon emissions generated disproportionately by meat production vis a vis growing grains/vegetables.

Einstein Babar Sep 10, 2015 04:47pm

I guess Indian ban on beef is right, the comfortable life today cannot digest such heavy foods. Vegetable is good to eat, less harmful effects and keeps you fit.

M.Saeed Sep 10, 2015 04:56pm

@Einstein Babar : But to force that habit is no any habit!

Akthar Sep 10, 2015 05:16pm

There's a relationship between what we eat & the way we think/act. Though I can't give scientific evidence, I believe the regions with environment that are hot, are in general, "hot/conflict zones(middle east)" while the colder places (Europe), people are relatively cool headed & cold.

I believe, the food intake & environment plays a significant role in the way we live.

Imran Sep 10, 2015 05:21pm

Amount of meat we eat these days is not sustainable. Population will be 10 billion soon and how much meat can we produce and eat. Blindly do not support meat eating & give religious colour to it. Totally disagree with this article and author.

kdp Sep 10, 2015 05:22pm

I am vegetarian only because my forefathers were bad hunters !!!

A Singh Sep 10, 2015 05:35pm

Im totally agreed with northeastern Indian. Human body is certainly not designed to eat meat. Health practitioners are asking people to limit their red meat intake as it increases the chances of getting disease like bowl cancer and other types of cancers. World cancer research foundation recommend 500g red meat limit per week and obviously vegetarian diet is better option for health for humans. Stone age diet was full of meat due to the fact that they had limited options of vegetarian foods and meat was a good source of protein.

Gaurav Arya Sep 10, 2015 05:48pm

I am a Hindu but I just cant do without meat. I have to eat meat almost daily. It can be grilled or roasted during weekdays but during weekends, it has to be biryani, qorma and kebabs. India has another funny dietary group called Eggetarians...those who eat veg and eggs, but no meat.

Just to inform my Pakistani friends most Muslim owned eating joints in Delhi you have to stand in a line to get a seat during weekends. And, a majority of the clients are Hindus. I asked the manager of "Karim" in Noida why they were shut on Tuesday. He said that most Hindus dont eat "non-veg" on Tuesday and so its a slow day for them.

Jaydeepsinh Rathod Sep 10, 2015 06:01pm


Very far from the truth !

All religions/spirituality has spread from the warmer regions. While the nomadic bloodthirsty barbarians like the Mongols & the Turks have come from the cold Eurasian steppes. Moreover the Europeans have fought two World Wars, the bloodiest wars in history.

Burjor Rustomji Sep 10, 2015 06:06pm

India's one third is 400 million people, twice the population of Pakistan. That indeed is a lot of people who do not eat meat. Meat can be white meat too ( chicken or fish). There are now many substitutes for protein.

Gautham Sep 10, 2015 06:25pm

This ranting about being a non-veg or the etymology behind it are purposeless. If you eat meat nobody cares and if you eat just vegetables its nobody's business too, you just need to respect the community rules if you live alongside them. What survey showed or how numbers are cooked up is immaterial. Since there is overwhelming proof that all other countries have meat as a staple diet and we don't have, at least partially, is good enough to call ourselves vegetarians. Full disclaimer: I'm a non-vegetarian and I don't see that word discriminatory.

Agha Ata Sep 10, 2015 07:36pm

"Two third" is a wrong estimation. A lot bigger population living in Indian villages are vegetarians.

san Sep 10, 2015 07:50pm

@Northeastern Indian Wat a superb logical explanation.Kudos.

Dabangg Sep 10, 2015 07:52pm

@N.Sid Democracy mean every citizen has voting rights to elect a government. It has nothing to do with social stature.

Srinath Sep 10, 2015 08:38pm

33% of 1 billion is 330 million! That is nearly as much as the US population. ALso keep in mind that a predominant majority of the meat eating population do not eat it on certain auspicious days of the week and a bulk of the population do not eat meat. So the frequency of meat consumption is even less.

abhi Sep 10, 2015 08:57pm

Dubey ji, Answer lies in your own article. You will not find any other country in the world where 30% of people have never eaten meat. Even the non-vagetrian in India don't eat meat everyday.

Kamlesh Sep 10, 2015 09:38pm

Most of the biryani houses and kebab shops are run by muslims in India and hindus are their biggest customers. There is very less sale on tuesday and saturday becoz hindus generally don't eat meat on these days. Their shops goes down in Navratra ,becoz hindus don't eat meat in navaratra festivals. There are many hindus who claim to be vegan but eat meat in hotels and dhaba. So meat eaters in india are more than what reported in the survey.

Sasa Sep 10, 2015 09:46pm

Indian subcontinent being under British rule, and Indian vegi-eater ,mainly higher cast, mostly were represented to England in early stage of British Raj. This is the reason, India is a Vegi-country in the western world's eyes. Although, India was never a vegetable eater country since Vaidik era which can be read in Veda.

Naser Sep 10, 2015 09:47pm

With growing population and providing meat as a diet all over the world is becoming difficult and resource consuming. Human do not need to stay on the top of food chain any more. Vegeterism is the answer for future food needs.

M.Saeed Sep 10, 2015 10:01pm

@Pune-India : We also have two meatless days in a week in Pakistan, but that is for controlling the fast dwindling cattle.

komberi Sep 10, 2015 11:00pm

Claiming humans to be herbivorous is a humbug and one of the beliefs from the Hindu religion. If we are herbivores, we will die eating meat and that did not happen. Also man hunted from the stone ages and he would not have done that if he was a herbivore. Having said that, we should show compassion to animals and not kill them in vanity and consume their bodies like crazy when alternate food sources have multiplied with the civilization.

Harmony-1 Sep 10, 2015 11:13pm

@Naser - "growing population" is not just affecting the meat consumption, it’s affecting the crops as well with men encroaching on land previously used for crops. So, we will end up eating not just crops but anything that moves on earth.

prasad Sep 10, 2015 11:27pm

So called vegetarians in India are not really vegetarians. In fact many of them consume more non-veg in the form of ghee, dahi, milk, paneer, shrikhand etc. Milk and ghee don't drip from trees. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes as much rampant among them if not more. Concept of vegetarianism started with thinking that plants don't have life until Jagdish Chandra Bose disproved it. Milk is liquid meat. What upsets me is the attitude of so called vegetarians who look down on people who consume meat. I am not advocating to consume lot of meat. A healthy balanced diet should include moderate quantities of whole grains, vegetable, meat and fruits. People should eat according to their food habits in a healthy way. Who are they to dictate people what they should eat or not. There should not be any ban meat (including beef) selling on any day of the year. By the way I am a hindu

Tarun Sep 10, 2015 11:36pm

It was only when humans started cultivating its own food did it move away from hunting and gathering. Humans have evolved to abstain from eating meat.

NY Sep 11, 2015 12:02am

I'm a non veg but eat chicken only once I'm 10 15 days

NY Sep 11, 2015 12:04am

By the way in India meat is generally referred for chicken or lamb/mutton.

NY Sep 11, 2015 12:05am

Beef is not popular in India

NY Sep 11, 2015 12:07am

What is the problem if Indians eat only veg. Veggis find it bit difficult out of India because of limited veg options. Also in India you will pure veg restaurants also

Ramesh Sep 11, 2015 12:33am

If you strictly go by nature, human beings DO NOT have the necessities to hunt other predators. It is an acquired trait. We continue to have very lengthy intestines like other herbivores and we've canine teeth just to munch insects and worms like primates do occasionally. But our staple is grain, vegetables, leaves. This is why vegetarian diet will suit perfectly for us. Human began eating meats the moment they discovered to make tools and it has not helped our environment either.

sanatani Sep 11, 2015 12:54am

According to the 2006 Hindu-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey, 31% of Indians are vegetarians, while another 9% consume eggs.[5] Among the various communities, vegetarianism was most common among the Lingayat, Jain community and then Brahmins at 55%,and then Banias 60% vegeterian and less frequent among Muslims (3%) and residents of coastal states. Other surveys cited by FAO and USDA estimate 50% of the Indian population as being vegetarian. These surveys indicate that even Indians who do eat meat, do so infrequently, with less than 30% consuming it regularly.

RainIsHere Sep 11, 2015 02:48am

Mankind, since the beginning of dawn, has eaten whatever is available around them. People who lived in landlocked plains learned how to grow grains and eat. People who lived in forests or closer to oceans ate meat as it was available easily there and that's who we evolved. Just eat well, whatever you eat.

langada tyagi Sep 11, 2015 06:43am

if china can enforce what to do/not to do in your personal life or rituals, they why india can not?

usman777 Sep 11, 2015 06:55am

none of our business. they can do or not do as they please.

ANSER AZIM Sep 11, 2015 08:25am

Those Indians who are vegetarians are mostly lacto-vegetarians as they use milk and cheese made from animal source. True vegans are rare in India. Industrialization of meat industry is a concern and we are eating more meat than before. This will have serious health issues in the near future. Variety of food pyramid is the ideal solution.

Hamdard Sep 11, 2015 08:26am

It's all about making choices in life. But truth be told .... the human digestive system is most similar to the bovine one ie to cows. We are not genetically programmed to be natural meat eaters.

AJ Sep 11, 2015 09:14am

@Jaydeepsinh Rathod America and UK are certainly in the warmer region or are they? that's what happen when you don't have a balance diet. None of the comments are based on facts on this forum. If anyone referring to scientific research they have to remember it changes constantly. You won't find a single dietitian on this planet who will advice you to live on vegetables only unless otherwise you have a medical condition.

Ash20 Sep 11, 2015 10:35am

I am not sure why writer think that vegetarian is an Indian word. In every major city of the world, there are tens or hundreds of vegetarian and vegan restaurants.

anagha Sep 11, 2015 11:04am

Hello, Non-veg diet in Hindi or other Indian language generally called as "Mansahari" diet that means meat eater. In food technology, meat, milk, honey and eggs are animal products. Those who eat animal product like egg but do not consume meat called as Ovavegeterian and those who consume milk but do not consume meat called as lactovegetarian or in simple Hindi "shakahaari".