The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eggs veg' They don’t grow on trees

Oct. 7: It has baffled eggheads, divided political parties and forced the Mahatma into an ambiguous stand. Now Bilaspur High Court has settled the original chicken-and-egg question: Are eggs vegetarian or non-vegetarian food'

The court ' finding real meat in petitioner Manohar Jethari’s argument that eggs don’t grow on trees and hence are fundamentally different from the eggplant ' has pronounced them a kind of non-vegetarian food.

It has given the Chhattisgarh government and state municipalities two months to earmark a particular place in each town where eggs can be sold along with chicken and mutton ' and not anywhere else.

This brings Chhattisgarh into the league of Madhya Pradesh ' another BJP-ruled state ' where the sale of eggs is banned in six “holy cities”: Maheshwar, Maihar, Amarkantak, Orcha, Chitrakoot and parts of Ujjain.

Jethari, a lawyer from Raipur, offered several arguments, one being that “its (an egg’s) seeds could not be harvested in an agriculture field”.

The pro-egg Ramesh Warlyani, state Congress spokesperson, reacted to the judgment by posing a few tricky questions of his own. “In popular perception, eggs are vegetarian. A sterile egg never develops into a chick. Therefore, he who can drink milk should have no objection to taking sterile eggs.

“Eggs are a cheap and rich source of protein. Unlike fish, mutton and chicken, they do not pose hygiene problems,” he said.

State CPI secretary C.P. Bakshi said the curbs on egg sale would hurt tribals and the poor. “Many tribals sell it on streets. Many labourers and daily wagers eat eggs from vendors since they can’t afford to go to a dhaba.”

In 1931, Mahatma Gandhi had told the London Vegetarian Society: “Milk is an animal product and cannot be included in a strict vegetarian diet' A layman does not consider milk to be animal food. On the other hand, eggs are regarded by the layman as a flesh food. In reality, they are not. Nowadays, sterile eggs are also produced.”

Raipur resident A.R. Farishta’s take on the subject is: don’t put all your vegetarians in one basket. There are, he said, many types of vegetarians.

“Some do not eat meat but consume milk, cheese, butter or yogurt. Some avoid meat but do take eggs and milk. Another set does not eat meat and milk but eats eggs. And there are those who won’t take even milk, cheese and honey and won’t wear leather,” Farishta said.

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