Over 1.5 billion people in the world do not eat meat mainly because they want to lower their environmental footprint. In 2022 the Plant Based Foods Association declared that while 79% of both Gen Y (millennials born between 1981 and 1994) and Gen Z (those born between 1995 and 2009) already eat plant based foods, Gen Z eat more.

In 2012 researchers at Oxford found that early humans who roamed the African Savanna three-and-a-half million years ago had a diet more like a cow, comprising of grass and sedges, than that of a great ape. Australopithecus bahrelghazali chomped through rushes and grasses rather than soft fruits preferred by chimpanzee cousins. The study shows the ancestral human diet diverged from that of the apes much sooner than previously thought.

A professor from Harvard University in his study published in Nature magazine states that humans could consume meat 2 million years ago only because they started using stone tools to break the meat into pieces tiny enough to be crushed by molars and swallowed. He deduced that human teeth, unlike the teeth of lions and wolves were not meant to break chunks of raw meat into pieces.

The earliest records of vegetarianism as a concept and practice amongst a significant number of people come from ancient India and the ancient Greek civilisation in Southern Italy and in Greece in the 6th century BC. In both instances the diet was closely connected with the idea of non-violence towards animals (called ahimsa in India) and was promoted by religious groups and philosophers. In the light of knowledge of such ill-treatment meted out to animals, it is not at all surprising that more and more people are choosing a vegetarian lifestyle. The reasons for being vegetarian could be tradition or habit or reasons that are concerned with the environment, health, ethics, or animal rights. However, those who turn vegetarian on the firm conviction of reverence for all life (coupled with or without religious and health reasons) never lapse in their resolve to remain vegetarian, in fact some might go on to becoming vegans.

The Times of India first used the term non-vegetarian in 1878 in a report from one of its correspondents in the UK about some dietary economics in Manchester. At that time the term vegetarian had been around for about 30 years with the launch of the Vegetarian Society of UK in 1847. (Mahatma Gandhi was a member.)

Practically all vegetarians in India, including those who call themselves “pure” vegetarians, include milk and dairy products in their diets but no other animal products (with the possible exception of honey). Such vegetarianism is termed lacto-vegetarianism and its practitioners called lacto-vegetarians.

In honour of “pure vegetarians” on 19 March 2024 Zomato, a popular food delivery company, announced “India has the largest percentage of vegetarians in the world, and one of the most important feedbacks we’ve gotten from them is that they are very particular about how their food is cooked, and how their food is handled. To solve for their dietary preferences, we are today launching a ‘Pure Veg Mode’ along with a ‘Pure Veg Fleet’ on Zomato, for customers who have a 100 percent vegetarian dietary preference. ‘Pure Veg Mode’ would consist of a curation of restaurants that serve only pure vegetarian food. Our dedicated Pure Veg Fleet will only serve orders from these pure veg restaurants. This means that a non-veg meal or even a veg meal served by a non-veg restaurant will never go inside the green delivery box meant for our Pure Veg Fleet.”

The National Sample Survey Office’s quinquennial 68th round household consumer expenditure survey carried out in India between July 2011 and July 2012 considered the quantities actually consumed of milk and meat (which included fish and egg). The data collected showed that the vegetarian states consumed more milk, but less eggs, fish and meat, and vice versa. The percentage of non-vegetarians in the following states were: Haryana (19%), Delhi (49%), Punjab (23%), Rajasthan (20%), Himachal Pradesh (47%), J&K (was 35% but rose to 74% after the exodus of Hindus), Gujarat (28%) , Uttarakhand (52%), Uttar Pradesh (42%), Sikkim (84%), Andhra Pradesh (includes Telangana) (87%), Madhya Pradesh (37%), Maharashtra (58%), Bihar (73%), Tamil Nadu (81%), Karnataka (64%), Jharkhand (75%), Goa (89%), Kerala (92%), West Bengal (95%), Odisha (87%), Chhattisgarh (64%), A&N Islands and the North Eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) (97%). Click here to see chart showing percentages of non-vegetarians in 2011-12, 2004-05 and 1993-94.


Click here to see the National Family Health Survey – Percentage of Vegetarians in India as of 2015-16. States having more than 40% vegetarians: Rajasthan (71.17%), Himachal Pradesh, Haryana (69.2%), Punjab (58.58%), Gujarat (62.44%), Madhya Pradesh (46.93%). States with 10 to 40% vegetarians: Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, NCT of Delhi, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir. States having 0.2 to 0.9 vegetarians: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura.

According to the UN’s Food & Agricultural Association, 42% of Indian households are veg, while 35% turn veg on certain days of the week. The preference for veg by the majority makes it imperative for the food industry to particularly produce eggless products. In fact, according to the FAO, India has the lowest meat consumption rate in the world.

Interestingly in 2014, menus of fast food outlets in India consisted of 80% veg meal options. (The trend towards vegetarianism was found to be growing internationally as well.)

In Assam too non-vegetarianism is high with 90% of the population eating meat – in 2014 goats were sold at Rs 300 per kg. According to an integrated sample survey of 2007 the state had about 2.77 goats. The number is rising and is expected to double by about 2016 due to the introduction of cross-breeding with the help of the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (a World Bank aided initiative) and the Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project. It is unfortunate that the state is thriving on improving kids to kill.

The total fish production of India in 2013 was 95.79 lakh tonne of which 9.83 tonne (an exotic shrimp variety L Vannamei in particular) was exported mainly to the United States and Thailand. The major fish consuming states are Lakshadweep, Kerala, Goa and West Bengal. Whereas, the top producing states, are Andhra Pradesh (20.18 lakh tonnes) and West Bengal (15.80 lakh tonnes). Moreover, the share of inland fisheries increased from 50% in 2000-01 to 64% in 2013-14. (Source: Handbook on Fishery Statistics 2014.)

Beauty Without Cruelty hopes that a question of whether people were veg or non-veg will be added in the next Census. We have requested this several times over decades, but every time the reply has been the same, that it will be considered… But in 2016, the Registrar General of India released data based on a nationwide survey covering population aged 15 years and above conducted in 2014. They found 71.6% male and 70.7% female non-vegetarians, as against 28.4% male and 29.3% female vegetarians. Ten years earlier in 2004 they had found 75% non-vegetarians, and 25% vegetarians. Whether or not these figures are accurate, the fact is that people are turning vegetarian.

The Sample Registration System Baseline Survey as on 1 January 2014 stated the following percentages among population aged 15 and above:

State   Veg   Non-Veg
Rajasthan   74.90%   25.10%
Haryana   60.25%   30.75%


Gujarat   60.95%   39.05%
Madhya Pradesh   50.60%   49.40%
Uttar Pradesh  


Maharashtra   50.60%   49.40%
Delhi        39.50%           60.50%
J & K   31.45%           68.55%
Uttarakhand    27.35%           72.65%
Karnataka   21.10%          78.90%
Chhattisgarh   17.95%           82.05%
Bihar   7.55%  


Jharkhand   3.25%   96.75%
Kerala      3.00%            97.00%
Odisha   2.65%             97.35%
Tamil Nadu   2.35%             97.65%
Andhra Pradesh   1.75%   98.25%
West Bengal   1.45%   98.55%
Telangana   1.30%   98.07%

Meanwhile, the OECD Database came out with 2015 total annual per capita meat consumption for India being 2.9 kg capita per year in 2015 of which 1.7 kg is chickens.

Since there are no statistics available with the Census authorities and the Government of India to authenticate the number of vegetarians/non-vegetarians, surveys have been privately conducted for the benefit of sponsors by drafting and asking misleading questions to a chosen sample section of the population.

If someone eats non-veg once in a while, or has had non-veg even once in his/her life time, the survey agencies have labelled him/her as a non-vegetarian. Unfortunately, the media has been publishing such biased statistics without checking facts. The questionnaires used are never made available to the public, nor are the sponsors of the surveys known.

First and foremost, if there were so many more non-vegetarians than vegetarians in India, we would have found an equally large number of meat shops in the country. Many more persons others than livestock agriculturists would have been butchers and meat sellers. There would have been no pure-veg restaurants or caterers. In reality, you will find many “only vegetarian” restaurants/hotels in India but you will never find any only non-veg restaurant anywhere since those that serve non-veg foods also serve veg foods.

Every thing considered, it is a known fact that in India most of the people who eat meat, eat it occasionally: at the most once a week, or once a fortnight, or rarely. They don’t eat non-veg during festivals or on auspicious occasions. Moreover, the meal in which they eat non-veg is not entirely non-veg, but only one dish is, the rest of the meal remains vegetarian only.

So if a so-called non-vegetarian person eats 1 meal in a week which is non-veg, it is just 1 of 21 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner: 3 meals x 7 days). Secondly, since s/he has only 1 non-veg dish during that 1 meal a week, non-veg comprises of only one-third of that 1 meal. In other words, out of 63 (21 meals x 4 portions per meal) s/he is eating 62 vegetarian portions a week. Thus s/he is basically a vegetarian as main choice of food and could be labelled an occasional non-veg person.

On the basis of food habits of Indians as explained above by an activist, CA C R Luniya (BWC life member) who says we can conveniently and correctly conclude that more than 90% Indians are vegetarian. He has with difficulty and after years of perseverance convinced the government in 2018 not to make it compulsory for vegetarian students to learn non-veg cooking as part of their training in hotel management. As of 2022 the Vegetarian Degree option in Hotel Management was available for students in 74 Institutes of Hotel Management of Central Government all over India.

There may be more than the following two 4 and 5 star hotels in India that are labelled pure vegetarian:

The Grand Bhagwati or TGB at Ahmedabad is pure veg and 4 star. No non-veg food from outside is allowed to be consumed and since Gujarat has prohibition, alcohol can only be sold to permit holders.

Whereas, the Country Inn & Suits by Radisson located in NCR, Delhi is not strictly pure veg although it claims to be so. They themselves do not cook or serve non-veg this 5 star hotel, but they permit guests to order non-veg food from outside on condition that they themselves take delivery of the food at the hotel gate! Sounds so ridiculous on several counts: what about the leftovers and washing of dishes since the staff is prohibited from even touching any food other than vegetarian; and how would other veg guests like looking at flesh and smelling it. In fact, they might be visiting only because it serves no meat.

grounds. Also, on most film sets bringing or eating non-veg is forbidden, and those who do are fined for doing so.

Abroad too companies such as WeWork have enforced vegetarianism. Their decision was driven largely by concerns for the environment and animal welfare when in 2018 they announced that they would no longer serve red meat, pork or poultry at their functions and not reimburse employees who wanted to order a hamburger during a lunch meeting. They calculated that they would be saving over 15 million animals by 2023 by eliminating meat at their events.

In January 2018 the IIT-Bombay, Powai banned cooking and sale of non-vegetarian food in its café. It resulted in anger among some students but the institute stuck to its stand staying it was for “health and safety concerns” following the Kamala Mills fire.

In 2023 separate tables for vegetarians students were allocated in an IIT-Bombay mess. And a fine of Rs 10,000/- was imposed on the student who protested.

BWC was pleased to know in 2018 that school children who bring non-veg are not allowed to share it with children who are from vegetarian families. The trend is spreading fast across India. Some schools tell parents to put stickers on tiffins that contain meat and eggs, whereas some schools ask students to consume non-veg outside the classroom. In short, this ensures that vegetarian children do not inadvertently consume non-veg and it reinforces the fact that veg food is healthy and eco-friendly.

In the 1980s in response to Beauty Without Cruelty’s request, Indian Airlines stopped servicing mithai with varkh. In any case they were serving only veg meals on Tuesdays because on this day of the week fliers hardly demanded non-veg. It therefore didn’t come as a surprise when Air India said in 2015 that it had always served vegetarian meals (however cake slices containing egg as one of the items didn’t qualify being vegetarian) on short flights of less than 90 minutes, all it was now planning on was to serve a hot instead of cold veg meal.

Some vegetarians choose to be so in part because they find meat and meat products aesthetically unappetising. They think that decaying animal parts, whether from a freezer or served in restaurants, can never be as aesthetically pleasing to the senses as the same foods made from wholesome vegetable sources.

This could be the underlying reason why a growing number of people are demanding that non-veg waste from restaurants be disposed off by the municipalities in an incinerator.

Flesh is difficult to digest, but veg foods are easy to digest. Plus fruits and vegetables naturally detoxify the body. A veg diet boosts cardio-vascular health (does not clog arteries) and reduces the chances of getting diseases such as cancer. For umpteen reasons a vegetarian is definitely healthier than a non-vegetarian and therefore lives longer.


In 2015, France’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC is a part of WHO, the World Health Organisation) placed processed meat such a hot dogs (beef) and ham in its group 1 list (which includes tobacco, asbestos and diesel fumes for which there is sufficient evidence of cancer links). Red meat, under which IARC includes beef, lamb and pork, was classified as a probable carcinogen in its group 2A list (it contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in many weed-killers). The IARC found links mainly with bowel cancer and observed associations with pancreatic and prostrate cancer. Furthermore, the IARC cited an estimate from the Global Burden of Disease Project (an international consortium of more than 1,000 researchers) that 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat.

In 2018 the Indian Express’ Health & Fitness Guide stated that the results of a Dutch study showed that high consumption of red and processed meat is independently associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and insulin resistance, regardless of saturated fat and cholesterol intake and other risk factors such as BMI. In other words, people who eat meat are very likely to have excessive fat in their livers and develop NAFLD.

Then in 2019 a new study on cholesterol printed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that it was wrong for people to have chosen white meat over red in the belief that white meat was less likely to lead to high cholesterol levels because there was little difference between the two, and that both red and white meat were equally harmful.

Scientists from the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in Faridabad found that gram positive bacteria is more populous in the gut of Indians than gram negative, as believed earlier. In short the vegetarian diet of rural Indians keeps their gut healthy with good bacteria.

A 2020 study conducted by scientists at the United States’ North-Western and Cornell Universities and published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that eating two servings a week of red meat, processed meat or poultry, was linked to a 3 to 7 per cent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and linked a diet consisting of meat to heart disease and early death. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) also says that meat can cause cancer. A panel of experts writing in the Lancet in January 2020 outlined an “ideal diet” for human health and the planet that said global average red meat consumption should be cut by 50% and consumption of nuts fruits, vegetables and legumes should double.

In India non-vegetarians “love chicken” but how many of them know why broiler chicken is frequently chewy? The condition, according to research undertaken by the University of Delaware and published in the journal Scientific Reports, is called wooden breast syndrome, a metabolic disorder which makes the meat hard and chewy. This is one of the diseases that strike chickens and can adversely affect humans who eat them.

A study by Lucknow’s Queen Mary Hospital in January 2023 found that in the previous 10 months pesticides in breast milk had led to the death of as many as 111 newborns in Maharajganj district. Pesticides present in breast milk of non-vegetarian mothers were thrice as much as compared to vegetarian mothers. The cause was non-veg food and also chemical farming.

If everyone became vegetarian by 2050, about 7 million less would die, and a million more would escape death if vegan because no meat lowers the chances of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancers.

The single most advantageous "green" move an individual can make is to stop eating animals. It is good for the earth and all humans who inhabit it. Plant diets have a lower environmental footprint.

Livestock farming produces 8-18% of greenhouse-gas emissions because amazingly high quantities of gasses are belched and farted by domestic animals.

Worldwide 1.3 billion people raise animals. And, roughly one-third of the world’s crop land, water and grain is utilised for feeding these animals even though they are far less efficient than plants at converting nutrients and water into calories.

Litres Water produces   1 kilogram


962   Fruits


1,020   Milk




5,988   Pork
8,763   Mutton
15,415     Beef

Feed   produces   Meat (a second hand food)
1.5 kilograms   1 kilogram Fish
2 kilograms   1 kilogram Chicken
3 kilograms  

1 kilogram Pork

4-6 kilograms   1 kilogram Mutton/Lamb
5-20 kilograms   1 kilogram Beef

(Cows need five times as much
feed to produce 1 kilogram of Meat,
than to produce 1 litre of Milk.)


2017 statistics say that of the world’s approximately 5 billion hectares (12 billion acres) of agricultural land, 68% is used for livestock.

Meat-eating causes starvation. Those who eat animal flesh must acknowledge that it is because of them that fellow humans go hungry. If everyone ate grain rather than feeding it to animals and then eating their flesh, there would be enough food for everyone everywhere.

For those environmentalists who on reading this, feel they should eat fish instead of meat, need to be made aware that the UN and FAO have warned that the world’s fish consumption is unsustainable because a third of the oceans are over-fished, particularly in the developing world.

According to a study published in Conservation Letters, at least 300 species of megafauna and vertebrates are being pushed towards the threat of extinction because humans eat meat or consume body parts of species like the whale shark, beluga, Somali ostrich, leatherback turtle and African elephant.

In 2022 Haarlem, Netherlands decided to ban starting 2024 meat advertisements in order to cut consumption due to climate crisis. It was the first province to vote for an advertising ban on meat, fish and fossil products. Two other municipalities Bloemendaal (North Holland) and Utrecht (4th largest municipality in the country) voted to also ban the advertising of meat and dairy products in public places.

BWC was very pleased to know in September 2022 that 3 Jain religious trusts of Mumbai had filed a PIL in the High Court saying that advertisements for non-vegetarian food should be banned in print, electronic media and internet since it was in violation of the right to life, to live in peace and to privacy. The PIL also seeks a direction to print a warning on packaged non-veg food stating “Consumption of non-veg food is harmful to health and environment.”

No Meat - No Heat

Some non-vegetarians have been convinced by BWC to support Sundays without Meat for Climate Change. Shifting the world’s reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is no doubt important, but, according to a recent report in World Watch magazine, the world’s best chance for achieving timely, disaster-averting climate change will actually be by eating less meat. Meatless Mondays are quite popular abroad (and moving towards meat once a week) but Beauty Without Cruelty feels Sundays without Meat are appropriate for India. (It would hopefully be one step closer to turning vegetarian, and eventually vegan.)

BWC thanks everyone who is spreading the word and appeals to their non-vegetarian friends to give up eating meat every Sunday. (Every day would of course be best.)

If everyone quit eating meat, food related emissions would drop by 60%. Those who eat no animals were thrilled to know that the 2016 UN Climate Change Report says meat should be taxed until no one eats it anymore. The recommendation is to save the environment and prevent global warming.

Since the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with the goal of reducing global warming has become international law and India ratified it in October 2016, let us hope one of the actions taken will be to discourage meat-eating.

A 2012 Class VI CBSE textbook titled New Healthway: Health, Hygiene, Physiology, Safety, Sex Education, Games and Exercises while stating the benefits of a vegetarian diet, lists some of the characteristics found in non-vegetarians: “they easily cheat, tell lies, forget promises, they are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes.” It may be true that they do these things more easily, but BWC feels it would have been better to promote vegetarianism without condemning non-vegetarians.

BWC was pleased to know that the Government of India issued a Notice in January 2023 winding up the National Meat and Poultry Board which had been established as a society under the Food Processing Industries in 2009.

In October 2023 the Joint Charity Commissioner of Pune region issued an order directing removal of the word “National” from the name “National Egg Coordination Committee” which was a registered trust and an association of poultry farmers. This was because the use of the word “National” led to confusion misleading people into believing that it is a government entity.


There are many awards for vegetarians in India and abroad. BWC feels it is up to the people who finance the awards to decide who they would like the award to go to.

It was therefore absolutely shocking when in 2017, years after the Shelar Mama award was instituted in 2006 that some students of the Pune University and politicians strongly objected to the criteria for the gold medal to be issued for excellence in science to a vegetarian and teetotaller.

Getting India to Eat Right

The following has been reproduced from an editorial which appeared in the Financial Express in January 2019:

“A Mint Analysis of NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) data on the nutrient intake of Indians, juxtaposed against a reference ‘ideal’ diet a new Lancet report prescribes, shows Indians aren’t eating right. Indians, both rural and urban, are eating a lot more carbohydrate than Lancet recommends as part of their daily intake, and much lesser protein (from both plant ad animal sources). Fruit and vegetable consumption is also much lower than the recommended amount. While Indians are consuming sweeteners (chiefly, sugar) in lesser amounts than recommended, bad nutrient sources account for over 200 kilocalories (k-Cal), against a total recommended calorie intake of 2,500 kCal. The nutrition ‘gap’ is worse for the rural than the urban population – against nearly every metric (junk food and eating out are two notable exceptions), rural Indians seem to be diversifying their sources of nutrition further, protein intake – higher incomes are correlated to protein accounting for a larger part of the daily diet – remains a problem. In fact, the Mint analysis claims that there is a jump in junk food consumption with rising incomes.

“Diet-related lifestyle diseases contribute a chunk o the non-communicable disease burden in India that now accounts for six out of ten deaths in the country from disease – 16% of adult men and 22% of adult women in India are overweight and childhood obesity is becoming a serious threat. At the same time, 38% of Indian children suffer from stunting.

“Getting India to eat right needs the right policy call on different types of malnutrition. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes have had some impact in curbing stunting amongst children. Given the Poshan Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) that seeks to reduce the level of stunting to 25% by 2022, tarets adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, it ties up rather well with ICDS and MDM to target under-nutrition. However, on the obesity front, the government (both Centre and the states) are yet to come up with any consolidated policy to fight this.

“In this context, Japan’s experience with using mid-day meals at schools to fight obesity offers an important lesson. Under a government programme, school cafeterias in Japan give students – elementary to senior secondary – wholesome meals that are free of processed and junk food. Parents who can afford to pay can choose to do so; otherwise, school children get balanced, nutritious meal without being charged for it.

“While even the food standards regulator has called for a sin tax on junk food this seems a bad idea a the bulk of consumption of such food is by income-groups where such taxes may not have much impact given it is a matter of taste more than affordability for them.”

Mid-Day Meal Scheme

The provision of giving hot cooked food in all government schools of India began following orders of the Supreme Court in the Right to Food case of 2001. All states in India give it to children up to Class VIII. The Government of India provides food grains through the Food Corporation of India while other costs are shared by the centre with state governments.

In some states like Karnataka and Maharashtra, Akshaya Patra (a religious organisation) provides very wholesome satvik vegetarian food but this has been objected to (by those with vested interests) even though the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad has stated that food without onions and garlic does not affect the nutritional value.

The egg lobby keeps demanding that eggs be included. Luckily they have not always succeeded nor for long periods. BWC had written against them being introduced in states like Madhya Pradesh.

In June 2021 the Kerala High Court put a temporary stay on the order issued by the Administration of Lakshadweep Union Territory (UT) banning chicken and meat (it was being given 4 times a week) from the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. However, in September 2023 the Supreme Court junked the appeal challenging the order saying that under the Food Security Act there was a vested right for Mid-Day Meals, but not so for the menu which was an administrative matter. Luckily the number of states providing meat has fallen. Between 2015-16 and 2020-21 only 5 states gave flesh; moreover, it fell to 3 states. Jammu & Kashmir, and Nagaland stopped; and Tripura gave chicken some times only when local social workers provided it.

Not all states gave eggs either. Of the 36 states and UTs, only 15 gave eggs in 2015-16. Since then Arunachal Pradesh, Dadar & Nagar Haveli, and Daman & Diu stopped, whereas Bihar gave them only once a week, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh gave them five times a week, and Odisha, and Puducherry twice a week. Unfortunately, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal were planning on serving eggs in some districts.

Despite demands to serve milk and fruit in the Mid-Day Meal schemes, as of 2020-21 only 11 states served milk, and 6 fruit. In 2015-16 fruit was being served by 12 states. In July 2022 the Karnataka state government who had in the past given up the idea, declared that they would be serving eggs as part of the Mid-Day Meals in schools. Not only BWC, but many other organisations and individuals strongly objected on ethical, religious and cultural and even nutritional grounds. Contrary to what people are told, eggs are not nutritious as compared to fruit which could be inexpensive and easily available bananas. Poultry farms have a big supply as compared to market demand of eggs, and therefore these excess eggs are being introduced to school children.

The Mid-Day Meal Scheme works as an incentive for parents to send their children to school. While this goal has been met to a great extent, the meal has become a substitute rather than a supplement to regular home diet. Fruit should not be stopped because it is the healthiest of all foods. Just 25 grams of pistachios would work wonders (since they would be costly they need not be given daily) because the child would get the same amount of protein as from one egg plus many other beneficial nutrients. BWC has informed this to ISKCON’s Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO that supplies Mid-Day Meals, for their consideration. They run 65 kitchens across 14 States and 2 UTs providing over 18 lakh children with freshly cooked vegetarian meals on school days.

In August 2023 the Maharashtra state government decided to distribute raisins once a week as part of the Shaleya Poshan Ahar or Mid-Day Meal scheme. Grapes that had not been sold due to falling prices but processed into raisins and the government wanted to help the grape farmers by buying them.

Then in January 2024 the Shree Mumbai Jain Sangha and the BJP’s spiritual cell vehemently opposed the decision to serve eggs to school children in Mid-Day Meals.

In view of this, BWC also sent an e-mail to the Project Management Unit of Poshan Abhiyaan (GOI) requesting them to send an Advisory to all States and UTs against serving eggs in the Mid-Day Meals.

Soon after the School Education Department of Maharashtra issued a circular to say that a red dot should be put on the identity cards of those children whose parents had agreed to them being given eggs in the Mid-Day Meals, and a green dot on the identity cards of those children who had not been given permission i.e. were vegetarian. Furthermore, if 40% demanded bananas (or any other fruit) then all should get bananas, no eggs should be given.

In response, BWC wrote to the Maharashtra State Minister of School Education pointing out that eggs should not be served to any children since it would lead to unnecessary confusion and trouble. Veg children may by mistake be given eggs or can even be tempted to try them. We also drew his attention to the false claim that eggs were nutritious and stated how unhealthy they were in the long run. We suggested either a fruit like banana, pistachios or raisins be given to ALL students instead. (Raisins were surplus, there being a recent request from traders for the state government to purchase them again for distributing under the Mid-Day Meals.)

Mid-Day Meals need to undergo social audits and evaluation of nutrition to bring transparency and accountability to the schemes through appointed agencies that verify the following requirements are met:
Regularity of serving meals
Quality and quantity of food
Nutritional status of meal being given
Availability of kitchen-cum- stores and the utensils
Hygienic and safe cooking area as well as mode of cooking
Quality, quantity and transportation of food grain
Stock and safe storage of food grain and other food items
Cooking cost and its availability and consumption of meals
Cook-cum-helpers’ payment of honorarium and their appointment
Scheme passbooks and monthly expenditure
Availability of potable water, toilets, soaps for hand wash, plates, clean dining area
Health records, including distribution of medical and health cards
Cross-verification of official records with primary data at the community and school level
Record for tasting of the meal by at least one teacher
Social inclusion
Sitting together and eating, ensuring no discrimination is made
Emergency Medical Plan
Attendance registers, beneficiary or scheme registers, financial registers
Instances of corruption
How to develop monitoring strategy to record visits and read out the findings during SMC meetings
Any grievances

Veg/Non-veg Symbols

For years consumer organisations and those working for vegetarianism like BWC kept approaching the Government of India pointing out that it was the right of each and every consumer to know whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian ingredients were used by manufacturers in processed foods and so the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 should be amended. BWC’s first appeal was in 1978. Eventually in 2001 a Government Notification made it mandatory for manufacturers to use a symbol consisting of a colour filled circle/dot inside a large square in brown colour for non-vegetarian packaged foods and in green for vegetarian articles.

Then in 2009 as a result of BWC’s continuous appeals to also make it mandatory for carbonated waters to carry the veg/non-veg symbol, these symbols began being affixed by manufacturers on their drinks.

Although BWC considers the affixing of the veg/non-veg symbol mandatory as one of its major achievements (it helps vegetarian consumers and empowers us significantly by giving us the right to question any ingredient whose origin we find doubtful) it has its flaws in as much that BWC’s definition of the word vegetarian is not the same as the Government’s. The brown symbol is to be used “when any article of food contains whole or part of any animal including birds, fresh water or marine animals or eggs or product of any animal origin, but not including milk or milk products, as an ingredient”. BWC would expect to see shellac/lac, honey/bee products, choona/lime and varkh/silver foil to be included in this non-vegetarian category.

In March 2013 the Supreme Court over turned a 12-year old High Court verdict directing cosmetic and drug manufacturers to print the veg and non-veg symbols on cosmetics and drugs, saying that the court had no jurisdiction to issue such directions and that it had already been considered by the Government. In view of this, BWC approached the then Prime Minister and many politicians saying that they were bound to agree it was good that we can easily tell from the green and brown symbols affixed on packaged foods and beverages, whether the products are veg or non-veg. It was the right of all consumers – whether vegetarian or not – to know the contents of products. For example, no religious minded Indian would like to unknowingly purchase products like toothpastes or cosmetics that may contain ingredients derived from animals such as cows or pigs. We therefore requested their help in getting the Government of India to also make it mandatory for manufacturers to affix the green and brown symbols on each and every product consumed internally or used on our bodies like toilet preparations, cosmetics, dietary supplements, medicines, drugs and other pharmaceuticals. By doing so the Government would be acting in public interest and consumers would be grateful that they could make informed choices. However, the then Government of India did not extend the law to cover additional products as requested.

In 2014, the new Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi upon receiving a request from BWC immediately extended the Veg/Non-Veg labeling law to cover cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and toiletries.


BWC’s campaign to make it mandatory for manufacturers to affix these green and brown symbols on each and every product consumed internally or used on our bodies like dietary supplements, medicines, drugs and other pharmaceuticals, continues. We would also like items such as agarbattis, air freshners, candles, adhesives, brushes, crockery and all other consumer products covered because they could contain hidden animal ingredients.

Meanwhile, consumers could buy and use only those products marked with the green symbol (square with dot). They could also write to manufacturers demanding that they affix the veg/non-veg certification on their packages.

Pro Veg Advt can be viewed on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHdLRrUocOA

Page last updated on 25/03/24