India: a vegetarian’s mecca. This seems to be the stereotypical image envisioned when thinking of this culturally Hindu society. But are globalization, a growing middle class, and the urge to emulate western ways eroding this traditionally ethical lifestyle?
As people of developing nations ascend the socioeconomic ladder, the tendency is to want what the western world has- name brand clothes, fast food restaurants, big box shopping malls, and meat at every meal.
India’s non-veg population is growing rapidly with meat consumption more than doubling over the last decade This trend is namely seen among the urban youth, who regularly frequent one of the many American fast-food chains across India, and who feel eating meat is a modern, contemporary activity. One journalist has even gone as far as describing traditional vegetarians as India’s new social “pariah.”
But is there more than meets the eye? Underneath the layer of “cosmopolitan” non-veg diners, there seems to be a rapidly growing movement of ethical reconsideration- a reclaimed ahimsa if you will- those questioning not only India’s new meat-eating habit, but other forms of animal agriculture as well. From organizations such as India Vegan to the India Vegan Society to vegan potluck groups popping up in cities all over the country, to newly opening vegan restaurants- even Bollywood is joining forces with PETA to create a vegan cookbook . One journalist asserts that veganism has blended seamlessly into India’s mainstream lifestyle. And to speak to the movement’s success, even those American fast-food chains are curbing to consumer demand for animal-free options- McDonald’s and Subway have both opened entirely vegetarian restaurants-both the first in the world. Pizza Hut stands behind its 100 percent veggie pies, and even KFC is jumping on the veg bandwagon and will soon be offering plant-based options.
The world is learning the devastating consequences of diets high in animal products and developing nations are slowly but surely losing their appetite for meat. As the western world reduces its meat demand, and as India’s ethical consumers up their plant-based demands, will India’s cosmopolitan view of meat be nothing other than a short-lived trend? Will the rising middle class and urban youth, following the ahimsa trail blazed by their nonconformist counterparts, soon be emulating the western world’s demand for veg options?
…Which, for India, is nothing less than reclaiming traditional roots.
(Read Brighter Green’s India Policy Paper, Veg or Non-Veg: India at the Crossroad, to learn more regarding India’s current dietary shifts.)
Photo courtesy of reidmix