By Robert Cohen Executive Director Text Only

Portrait of a great human

Gandhi's Greatest Personal Tragedy

Mahatma Gandhi's namesake, Maneka Gandhi, today leads the
'Notmilk' movement in India. Dr. Gandhi began the modern-day
animal rights movement in India, and once served in the
Indian govenment as the Minister of Animal Welfare. Her
rescue work has resulted in liberating thousands of abused
animals after uncovering accounts of animal torture and
abuse in 590 so-called research facilities. Today, she is
India's single most powerful anti-dairy voice, and her
'Notmilk' movement is growing.

In 1891, 22-year-old Mohandas Gandhi passed the bar exam and
earned his law degree. His passive activism was developed 23
years later while helping his countrymen attain rights under
an apartheid policy applied to Indians living in South

In 1914, Gandhi returned to India with a lung disease,
pleurisy. His doctors advised that he drink cow's milk, but
India's spiritual leader-to-be refused. The same advice was
offered to Gandhi in 1918 after he developed a serious case
of dysentery accompanied by high fever.

Although Gandhi had made a lifelong vow to never drink cow's
milk, the illness nearly took his life, and he made a
compromise by drinking goat's milk. In his autobiography,
Gandhi admitted that his habit of drinking goat's milk "has
been the tragedy of my life."

At age 71, Gandhi reflected upon his NOTMILK philosophy by
writing the following (p. 381) in his autobiography:

"I had long realized that milk was not necessary for
supporting the body, but it was not easy to give it up.
While the necessity for avoiding milk in the interests of
self-restraint was growing upon me, I happened to come
across some literature from Calcutta, describing the
tortures to which cows and buffaloes were subjected by their
keepers. This had a wonderful effect on me."

At 21 years of age, Gandhi vacationed at the farm of fellow
vegetarian, Leo Tolstoy. At Tolstoy Farm, Gandhi came to
understand that milk from cows was not the perfect food for
humans. On page 382 of his autobiography, Gandhi wrote:

"It was during this time that we had the discussion about
milk. Mr. Kallenbach said, 'We constantly talk about the
harmful effects of milk. Why then do not we give it up? It
is certainly not necessary.' I was agreeably surprised at
the suggestion, which I warmly welcomed, and both of us
pledged ourselves to abjure milk there and then."

For the final meal of his life on January 30, 1948, shortly
before he was assassinated, Mohatma Gandhi dined on cooked
vegetables, oranges, and goat's milk.

Robert Cohen, author of:   MILK A-Z
Executive Director (
Dairy Education Board

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