Why India Has The World's Lowest Meat Consumption Per Person

India is home to the largest vegetarian population in the world, with more than 60 percent of Indians preferring to eat plant-based foods. 60 percent of Indians prefer to eat plant-based foods, and the media in India has called this trend a "vegetarian revolution."

The country's first law on health (the Indian Calcutta Municipal Corporation Act) was passed in 1866, requiring all hotels to provide at least two vegetarian meals a day. This dietary change has several contributing factors, including the country's going meat- and dairy-free for religious and cultural reasons, as well as a rise in awareness about nutrition. But what made such an impact? Let’s look at some of the driving forces behind India's vegetarian revolution.

 Vegetarianism in India: A History

Vegetarianism in India is an age-old tradition and has been practiced by many cultures and religions across the world. The first reference to vegetarianism in India is found in the Rig Veda, a collection of ancient Vedic Sanskrit texts that date back to around 1500 BC. The Ramayana, a Hindu epic poem, is thought to have been written around the same time period by the Hindu sage Valmiki. Both scriptures encourage eating a plant-based diet and are thought to be the basis of vegetarianism in India.

India was self-sufficient in food production by the 13th century, and the early medieval era saw the widespread cultivation of apricot orchards in northern India. However, an important food production revolution started under the Mughals, who introduced the cultivation of chickpea (also known as Bengal gram and tufted vetch) and lentils for food. The Mughal emperor Akbar (1542–1605) was the first to encourage their cultivation of protein-rich and nutritious vegetarian dishes and even had an inscription in their honor. The chickpea and lentil crops provide protein, fiber, and essential minerals and vitamins, which are lacking in meat and dairy products. This was the era when pulses and legumes such as chickpea, urad, moong, garbanzo, and lentils (masoor, rajma, arhar, masoor, toor, and channa) started getting cultivated. The Mughal emperor Akbar (1542–1605) encouraged protein-rich and nutritious vegetarian dishes, and even had an inscription made in their honor.

 The "5-a-day" fruit and vegetable diet of India

 The Indian government’s "5-a-day" fruit and vegetable campaign has greatly encouraged people to make healthier choices. In 1965, the campaign was launched to encourage the country’s citizens to consume more fruits and vegetables. India is home to more than 1.2 billion people, and in order for the nation to be more economically and environmentally sustainable, the government has called on all citizens to eat more of the "5 a day." The five-a-day campaign has encouraged people to make healthier choices over the last 50 years. Later, more nuts, seeds, whole-grain cereals, and pulses were added to the campaign.

 India's Eat Right Campaign

The world is seeing a rise in the number of people becoming vegetarian and vegan for the betterment of their health, the animals, and the fight against climate change. Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare started the #EatRightIndia campaign, where it asked Indians to choose plant-based foods in the fight against climate change and sustainable living.

Vegetarianism is being advocated in a big way by the government, which is endorsing locally grown seasonal produce to reduce the carbon footprint. Going vegetarian helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions because meat products account for 18% of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

In addition to spreading the word about the benefits of a healthy diet, the government is building more open-air markets and food courts where fresh fruits and vegetables are easy to buy.

 The health benefits of meat- and dairy-free foods

The fear of diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease reduced the consumption of meat, fish, and dairy products. People now tend to favor "whole" foods that are rich in fiber and other nutrients and are considered healthier than processed foods. This growing food awareness has led many people to choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. People in India are becoming more aware of the health benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet, and more and more of them are switching to a plant-based lifestyle.

 School cafeterias and midday meals in several parts of the country now feature more vegetarian options and have started catering to students who wish to consume a plant-based diet. This is a result of the increase in vegetarianism in India, where more and more people are adopting a plant-based lifestyle. Central and state governments have also started promoting plant-based diets in schools and colleges by providing free food to students who want to eat fewer calories and are more health-conscious.

India is home to more than 1.2 billion people, and in order for the nation to be more economically and environmentally sustainable, the government has called on all citizens to eat more plant-based diets. The religious and cultural practices of avoiding meat and the government’s push for a plant-based diet have done an effective job of encouraging people to consume more fruits and vegetables.