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THE MORAL BASIS OF VEGETARIANISM
02. Unfired Food
(In the course of a letter from Coonoor, dated 26-7-1929, addressed to Gandhiji in connection with his experiments in dietetics, Dr. R. McCarriso had written as follows: )
“One of the great fault in Indian diets are at the present day is their deficiency in vitamin A, in suitable protein and in certain salts; and the greatest nutritional need of India is the freer use of good milk and its products which supply these factors. There can be no doubt in the minds of those of us who have devoted a life time to the study of nutrition that milk is one of the greatest blessings given to mankind. And to one like myself, whose work is to learn the truth and spread it, the scarcity of this food in India and the lack of appreciation of its value are matters of grave concern. Do not, I beg of you, decry it; for a pint of milk a day will do more for Young India than most things I wot of. It is, for example, to deficiency of vitamin A that we owe so much disease of the bowels and lungs, so much disease to the bladder (such as ‘stone’ ) and so much anaemia in this country.
I am glad you are interesting yourself in the matter of food and I agree with much that you say. But let me assure you that a little more ‘fortissimo’ on the ‘milk’ and milk products theme’ will do great good when you are leading the orchestra of Truth.
P. S. when next you make an Andhra tour, avoid “the extreme weakness”, which overtook you in your last one, by taking a pint of milk a day!
(Commenting on Dr. McCarrison’s letter Gandhiji wrote as under: )
I publish this letter thankfully and wish that other men versed in medical science would also guide me. In making the experiment, I may trying to find out the truth about food in so far as it is possible for a layman to do so.
As for Dr. McCarrison’s argument about the necessity of animal food. I dare not as a layman combat it, but I may state that there are medical men who are decidedly of opinion that animal food including milk is not instinct and upbringing I personally favour a purely vegetarian diet, and have for years been experimenting in finding a suitable vegetarian combination. But there is no danger of my decrying mild until I have obtained overwhelming evidence in support of milk less diet. It is one of many in consistencies of my life that whilst I am in my own person avoiding milk, I am conducting a model dairy which is already producing cow’s milk that can successfully compete with any such milk produced in India in purity and fat content.
Notwithstanding Dr. McCoarrion’s claim for medical science I submit that science I submit that scientist have not yet explored the hidden possibilities of the innumerable seeds, leaves and fruits for giving the fullest possible nutrition to mankind. For one thing the tremendous vested interests that have grown round the belief in animal food prevent the medical profession from approaching the question with complete detachment. It almost seems to me that it is reserved for lay enthusiasts to cut their way through a mountain of difficulties even at the risk of their lives to find the truth. I should be satisfied if scientists would lend their assistance to such humble seekers.
Young India, 15-8-1929
As a searcher for Truth I deem it necessary to find the perfect food for a man to keep body, mind and soul in a sound condition. I believe that the search can only succeed with unfired food, and that in the limitless vegetable kingdom there is an effective substitute for milk, which every medical man admits, has its drawbacks and which is designed by nature not for man but for babies and young ones of lower animals. I should count no cost too dear for making a search which in my opinion is so necessary from more points of view than one. I therefore still seek information and guidance from kindred spirits.
Young India, 22-8-1929
If one may take ripe fruit without cooking I see no reason why one may not take vegetables too in an uncooked state provided one can properly digest them. Dialecticians are of opinion that the inclusion of a small quantity of raw vegetables like cucumber, vegetable marrow, pumpkin, gourd, etc. in one’s menu is more beneficial to health than the eating of large quantities of the same cooked. But the digestions of most people are very often so impaired through a surfeit of cooked fare than one should not be surprised if at first they fail to do justice to raw greens, though I can say from personal experience that no harmful effect need follow if a tola or two of raw greens are taken with each meal provided one masticates them thoroughly. It is a well-established fact that one can derive a much greater amount of nourishment from the same quality of food if it is masticated well. The habit of proper mastication of food inculcated by the use of uncooked greens , therefore, if it does nothing else, will at least enable one to do with less quantity of food and thus not only make for economy in consumption but also automatically reduced the dietetic himsa that one commits to sustain life.
Therefore, whether regarded from the viewpoint of dietetics or that of Ahimsa, the use of uncooked vegetables is not only free from all objection but is to be highly recommended. Of course, it does without saying that if the vegetables are to be eaten raw extra care will have to be exercised to see that they are not stale, over-ripe or rotton, or otherwise dirty.
Young India, 15-11-1928