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What we can learn from Indian vegetarianism - Vijayendra Murthy



Is it enough the ideology of "not to drink milk", "not to eat meat" or "not to consume garlic and onions" to divide whole societies? The Ayurveda doctor and Indian researcher Vijayendra Murthy proposes an harmonious, peaceful and efficient development of the vegetarian and vegan currents in India and in the world.
 
"I'm a public health researcher and an Ayurvedic doctor. I studied in different parts of the world. I became an Ayurvedic doctor in India, I became a naturopath in New Zealand, I'm a public health researcher from New Zealand and Australia. I'm currently the director of Ayuwave which is a Holistic health care services based in London.
 
I'm here at VegMed 2018 conference in Berlin which is arguably the largest conference that discusses plant based nutrition particularly amongst medical doctors, nutritionists and students of health sciences. My topic is going to be looking at what can we learn from Indian vegetarianism. Obviously India is the largest vegetarian country. If you look at statistics: about 40% of those who live in India are vegetarian. And if I'm comparing countries where I have lived and had connections with, like New Zealand, Australia, Germany and USA and UK and India, the truth is: of all the vegetarians in this 6 countries 96% of vegetarians come from India. So there is something that we can learn about what is the impact of vegetarianism on health and society and on individuals when we consider a country with the longest history of vegetarianism.
 
You know, when any movement is fairly new, particularly vegetarianism and veganism or even plant based nutrition is fairly new in the West, so we start to see that everything that it can do to individuals, to society, to planet is all going to be probably fantastic. But we must understand that when you consider a country like India which has had vegetarianism for more than 4000 years at least, as history has documented it: from Indus Valley civilization to Vedic civilization to colonial India to modern India - we realized that maybe vegetarianism as an ideology is not just enough. It is healthy vegetarianism. And it's healthy veganism which is important when it comes to health of individuals and populations. But more importantly, when we identify ourselves with a particular ideology based on food, it not only unites the society but it also has the danger of dividing the society. For instance, when I was growing up I was brought up by a nanny who I absolutely loved. And my mum had told me that because of the class, the caste that I was born in, I can share everything with my nanny but not food. And my nanny was also vegetarian, I was also vegetarian. The only thing that divided my nanny and I, preventing us from interacting on a social level, particularly we couldn't eat together, is because she was born in a caste where she was allowed to eat onions and garlic and I was born in a caste where I could't even eat in someone's house where they cooked onions and garlic. 
 
And for me, now as a public researcher, as a doctor, as a nutritionist, I understand the reasons why people actually behave in a certain way when it comes to the nutritional choices. But for me as a little Vijay, my brain was thinking: "I love my nanny as much as I love my mum because I just spend more time with her, but why is that?" I could not share food whit her. And that really make me question: is it enough to have an ideology of "I'm not going to have milk", "I'm not going to eat onions", "I'm not going to have meat"? Can it actually divide the society? But interestingly in India vegetarianism even till today is not because people are aware of the evidence base on, its effect on health; it is because how the caste system, the customs instilled amongst Indian caste system, has made them very strict followers of the dietary rules.
 
So we need to be aware that, while we promote vegetarianism and veganism, that we don't divide the society. And how do we achieve that? Is that possible? This is the question we should be asking in the West because now there is a clearer consciousness about people choosing vegetarianism and veganism. But what I see in social media is the hate speech about those who are not vegetarian, who are not vegan. We are dividing the society based on carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. Do we really need to do this in order to save the planet, in order to save humanity? Because the question I ask is: really when we think about sustainability of the planet we are actually talking about sustainability of humans? This planet doesn't need humans. If humans are gone, this planet will be sustained. The planet has always sustained herself. But we talk about sustainability and health which is very human centered. It is all about humans. How can we be healthy, how can we make our environment conducible so that we can live longer and healthier? And at the same time if you are basing this on ideology of a particular -ism in our dietary choices, maybe we are going to create a division in the society which may not, on some ways, maybe good for the physical health of the person, of the populations, but is it going to divide the society. How do we prevent this? Can we learn something about how we can prevent this by taking India? Not just as an example of a vegetarian society but also the lessons that we can learn from a country which has had the longest history of vegetarianism".
 
This video was realised during the International Congress VegMed 2018 in Berlin.
 
This is a video of the web-tv Veggie Channel.
 
Director: Massimo Leopardi
Editor: Julia Ovchinnikova
 

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