What percentage of Hindus are vegetarian?
January 15, 2008 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Is there a reliable source (preferably online) for the percentage of Hindus in India who are vegetarian?

I am Indian non-vegetarian who is tired of seeing being Hindu conflated with being vegetarian, most recently in this New York Times article (scroll down to the end of the part about restaurant Devi). As far as I know, a substantial percentage of Indian Hindus are vegetarian but probably not as high a percentage as perceived. One probable reason for this could be that higher caste Indians are more likely to have the means to travel abroad for higher education and are also more likely to be vegetarian.
I tried to access the Indian Census to see if they had this information but their website seems to be down.
posted by peacheater to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
According to a 2003 study referred to by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization 42% of Indian households are vegetarian. It doesn't mention religiosity, but if you follow up on related works from the cited article's authors, there might be something.
posted by Nelsormensch at 1:15 PM on January 15, 2008


43% of religious Hindus are vegetarian; 28% of non-religious Hindus are vegetarian

source: Hindu-CNN-IBN state of the nation survey
posted by desjardins at 1:29 PM on January 15, 2008


Non-religious hindus?
posted by The Carolingian at 1:51 PM on January 15, 2008


Nelsormensch, thanks for pointing that out -- I actually looked at that same page after googling, but managed to overlook that line.
desjardins, thanks for the link to that very interesting survey. Guess that answers my question.
Carolingian, the survey authors use non-religious Hindus to refer to Hindus who never worship. Sounds oxymoronish, but it is a way of referring to cultural Hindus who might still adhere to Hindu food practices.
posted by peacheater at 2:05 PM on January 15, 2008


Just to nitpick, there's also a distinction between veg and "pure veg". "Pure veg" Hindus (and, presumably, Jains etc) extend their dietary restrictions to exclude eggs, caffeine, alcohol, and I think at least a few other things - like garlic & onions, from memory. I believe it's an upper-caste thing, maybe only really practiced by Brahmins.

Non-religious hindus?

That might relate to the concept that Hinduism doesn't recognise conversion. You're either born a Hindu or not, nothing you can do about it. I'd guess that a "non-religious Hindu" is somebody born of Hindu parents (therefore, technically a Hindu) but who doesn't believe in God. Or Gods, as the case may be.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:42 PM on January 15, 2008


I assume the survey is all-or-nothing, but my impression is that a lot of non-veg Hindus may come across as veg because

(a) eating veg may be the safest way of avoiding beef in some circumstances (one of my best friends is Hindu, and employed this tactic in university residence)

(b) some Hindus are vegetarian at some times, e.g. abovementioned friend is veg two days a week and on certain holidays.
posted by sarahkeebs at 2:58 PM on January 15, 2008


Non-religious hindus?

The Carolingian, meet my dad. Born Hindu, educated scientist - as a result, a non-religious Hindu.

Secular Jews, non-religious Hindus: when religion has been tied to ethnic descent, the language can get imprecise.
posted by Dasein at 3:01 PM on January 15, 2008


It is indeed possible to be possible to non-religious/atheist and a Hindu.
posted by sk381 at 5:40 PM on January 15, 2008


I think the connotations of being a non-vegetarian for a Hindu in India are different than for a typical person in the US. For the former, it means, "do you ever eat non-veg food?", and an affirmative answer doesn't translate to a majority of meals containing non-veg items. I'd bet, considered in terms of proportion of non-veg meals among all meals consumed, Hindus are squarely vegetarian.

/non-veg non-religious Hindu in India
posted by Gyan at 1:45 AM on January 16, 2008


The link provides a lot to chew on initially, but covers a lot more of the nuance in the commentary that follows.

I always found it strange growing up for peope to assume I was vegetarian when my family ate meat, fish or fowl in almost every meal (except breakfast, but not for any religious reason) and that everyone from my parent's region in India (Orissa) did the same. Of course I understood, when I was younger, that many "other types" of indians were more likely to be vegetarian. I also came to understand that people from the communities (whether region, caste, religion) that were more llikely to be vegetarian were typically over represented in the West.

It is pretty clear that most Hindus are not vegetarians but this is oviously lost on some due to the demographic shifts in 'indians that westerners encouter' vs 'actual indians' as well as inaccuracies in education about India that are probably still around.

I still found it pretty funny when co-worker at a new job quickly put away the chicken leg she was eating when I strolled by her desk, assuming that it would offend me or ruin my day.
posted by nayak52 at 11:02 PM on February 10, 2008


Also, I prefer the term Secular Hindu to Non-Religious Hindu. It connotes the same as 'Secular Jew', and as people are familiar with that term, why confuse?
(unless you are in India and "secular jew" is not a term you have encountered)
posted by nayak52 at 11:07 PM on February 10, 2008


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