Vegetarianism and a Clash of Cultures

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The diet one follows plays a very complex role today in India which hosts a diverse population filled with differences. The discourses on diet in the 21st century India are not only filled with religious, medical, social and moral arguments but are also politically charged. In particular, the conflict between the Vegetarian and the non-vegetarian discourses seem to be never-ending. This paper concentrates particularly on the vegetarian diet which has been prominent in the social, cultural and religious history of India.

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The definition of Vegetarianism according to the Oxford dictionary is “The practice of not eating meat or fish, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons”. Vegetarianism traces back to the early 4th century and has its roots in ancient civilizations of India and Greece. As the world is moving towards veganism which stemmed from vegetarianism it is important to discuss the history of vegetarianism in India. The ancient Indian culture was majorly influenced by their religious beliefs which also shaped their diet practices. Many of the Indian religions advocated the view that animals are not meant to be harmed or killed. Ironically it was this factor that made India fall prey to the British Empire’s speciesist beliefs. This research paper resolves to analyze the British’s attitude towards India on the construct of vegetarianism. In this research paper, I will use Christine McKinnon’s definitions of hypocrisy and hypocrite and also the denotative meaning of Hypocrisy to analyze the British’s behavior towards India

The Clash of the Cultures:

The British considered food as a significant bearer of national identity after their Language. Food was considered to be a marker of class and status which in turn provided a key to the hierarchy of races or nations (Gregory, 2007). Vegetables were associated with certain classes. The onions were considered as the staple for the poorest, whose strong and uneducated stomachs required their stimulus (Gregory 2007).

The English loved their beef. They bred cattle for meat rather than for dairy trade. According to New Moral World, an early socialist newspaper in the United Kingdom, Britain was a heavy consumer of meat in Europe. Meat eating was woven intrinsically into their culture that they associated it with being “English” and possessing “manly English virtues”. The English also identified meat with a man being fit and healthy. For a manual laborer being fit is what will land him a job to provide for his family. This sequentially prompted the consumption of meat to avoid being interpreted unfit for the duty of providing his family. “The Roast Beef of Old England” an English patriotic ballad was written by Henry Fielding for his play The Grub-Street Opera, which was first performed in 1731 clearly portrayed the English’s notions on meat eating.  

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Vegetarianism and a Clash of Cultures. (2019, Jul 01). Retrieved December 8, 2022 , from
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