India is a nation of meat-eaters — they are mostly men

News: According to the NFHS-5 data, a staggering 83.4% of men and 70.6% of women in the 15-49 age group are non-vegetarian. Thus, the NFHS does not support a contention that India is primarily a vegetarian nation.

Statistics in the NFHS-5

(A) Consumption of non-vegetarian food

The percentage of the vegetarian population has declined by a 5 percentage-point from the 21.6% recorded in the NFHS-4 to 16.6% recorded in the NFHS-5. However, in the case of women, the reduction was almost insignificant. It was recorded 29.9% in NFHS-4 and 29.4% in NFHS-5

Globally, the proportion of those who are vegetarian would, at best, be 8%. But the kind of gender skew found in India is an exclusive feature of the country. It is not replicated anywhere else.

(B) Consumption of alcohol

There has actually been a 7% decrease in the consumption of alcohol among men aged 15-49 between the NFHS-4 and NFHS-5 data.

Other Arguments which reject India being a vegetarian society

Archaeological and anthropological data do not give any credence to the claims and assertions that India is a vegetarian society.

The Vedas too do not support this narrative. In fact, it is unequivocally held that it was unviable to depend only on vegetarian food anywhere in the world even during the Vedic times.

Description about Vegetarianism and Non-vegetarianism

Firstly, it is wrong to say that people only consume meat. All such people who consume non-vegetarian food also consume pulses, grains, vegetables, fruits and the like. Such people should have to be categorised as omnivorous because their food is derived from both animals and plants.

Secondly, some sections/groups have deviated from an earlier omnivorous form of food intake. They refrained from animal food. They are defined as “vegetarians”. Vegetarianism has been projected, particularly and almost exclusively in India, as something pious, saintly, virtuous and righteous.

Why more men consume non-vegetarian food?

One, there are more opportunities to eat animal food outside of the home than at home. Men have more opportunities to go outside. They often eat in restaurants. It is rare to find single women (or even a group of women) dining by themselves in restaurants in most parts of India.  Therefore, men have a lot of autonomy as well as anonymity at the same time to eat non-vegetarian food in restaurants than women.

Second, on the home front, women face gender discrimination, women often get deprived of certain kinds of food.

Third, there are many religious or cultural reasons for avoiding certain foods. It applies, at times loosely, and sometimes exclusively, to women.

Fourth, Indian society is primarily patriarchal. The process of socialisation is so biased in favour of men. Men exercise control over almost everything, including women’s piety and related dietary observances.

Source: The post is based on an article “India is a nation of meat-eaters – they are mostly men” published in the Indian Express on 26th May 2022.

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