- ಕೃಷ್ಣ ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಿ - Krishna Shastry
- ಪ್ರಾಣಿ ಹಕ್ಕುಗಳು, ಶುದ್ಧ ಸಸ್ಯಾಹಾರ, ಪರಿಸರ, ಆರೋಗ್ಯ ಇವೆಲ್ಲವನ್ನೂ ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ವೀಗನಿಸಂ ಎಂಬ ತತ್ವದಲ್ಲಿ ನಂಬಿಕೆ ಇಟ್ಟಿರುವ ಒಬ್ಬ ಸರಳ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ ನಾನು.
ನನ್ನ ಇತರ ಆಸಕ್ತಿಗಳೆಂದರೆ ನೀತಿಶಾಸ್ತ್ರ, ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ನೀತಿಸಂಹಿತೆಗಳು, ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ಆರೋಗ್ಯ, ಆವಿಷ್ಕಾರಗಳು, ವಿಜ್ಞಾನ, ಕನ್ನಡ ಭಾಷೆ, ಭಾಷಾನೀತಿಗಳು ಇತ್ಯಾದಿ.
I am a simple Kannadiga following veganism, that cares about animal rights, pure vegetarianism, environment and health.
My other interest include ethics, public healthcare, public policies, innovation, science & technology, Kannada language and linguistic policies.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Let’s take a look at couple of references first.
Here is an excerpt from one of the articles in DXE site:
"Robert Fogel, the Nobel Prize winning economist, is famous for exhaustively researching the data on slavery and finding that, surprisingly, economic factors played almost no role in its disappearance. To the contrary, slavery was a massive, profitable, and growing system, right up to its abolition in the 1860s. But if slavery didn’t end via economics, how did it end? In short, moral and political mobilization."
However, when I tried to look at Robert Fogel's works, this is what I find in the Wikipedia itself
"In 2000 Fogel published The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism in which he argued that America has been moving cyclically toward greater equality, largely because of the influence of religion, especially evangelicalism. Building on his work on the demise of slavery, he proposed that since evangelicalism was largely responsible for ending the institution he found to be economically profitable, that religion would continue to fuel America's moral development. Fogel diagrammed four "Great Awakenings", called (by others) "The Fogel Paradigm." "Fogel’s paradigm is drawn from what he believes are cycles of ethical challenges America has undergone provoked by technological innovations that create moral crises that, in turn, are resolved by evangelical awakenings."
My interpretation about Robert Fogel’s reference by DXE
Robert Fogel did highlight that human slavery was ended in spite of being profitable. And DXE also highlights that initiatives such as offering alternative products & services (i.e. without human slavery involved) did not influence lot of social change; DXE says consumer activism was then and still is waste of time.
My take on consumer activism: I have a different belief in this regard. In short, let me just say that I am one among those who believe that all forms of activism is critical and should go hand in hand to ensure success, and this includes consumer activism also. I am not saying this because I am the founder and a shareholder in a vegan restaurant. That is not at all clouding my judgement here.
Instead, DXE calls for rational thought process and urges us to spend our efforts "in most effective and scientific way to ensure maximum impact" instead of succumbing to our gut feelings or trying to fulfill our own personal wish list. And they conclude that creating more activists and building the activist community is the key to large scale and rapid transformation.
For a moment, let’s assume that this is indeed the best and only way to go forward. But then, why ignore the connection that Robert Fogel discovered i.e. connection with evangelicalism? Why DXE does not consider evangelicalism or any other religion as the most effective tool to build activist community? Let’s ponder upon this more. (In any case, it’s not nice to reference someone’s work in a half-baked form, I feel).
At this point, I would like to make one thing very clear – the objective of this article is not to criticize DXE. I have respect towards the courage displayed by numerous DXE members, and their focus towards scientific thinking. I am just trying to extend that scientific thinking and trying to see whether veganism can really spread at great speed without religious connection.
Role of religion in social transformation
One need not be a great scholar who has studied world religions in depth, to say that religion is the only thing that has resulted in mass social transformations (without force) again and again throughout the history, in all places around the world. Religion is the only thing that captured and retained people’s interest over several generations. Of course, today industries and technology are also playing key role in social transformations (and perhaps single handedly competing with all world religions at the same time), but religion is much more time tested tool. History has shown numerous instances around the world where a new religion shook up the status quo and spread like storm, drastically changing the behaviour of masses. Even today, new spiritual leaders are able to pull the crowd, often in hundreds of thousands, and influence several social changes among them.
Not all religions have performed at the same level, due to various reasons. And worldwide, many people have committed lot of atrocities also in the name of religion. That said, religions have also helped stabilize and unify countless wandering-diverse human minds. They have acted as guiding principles when humans were in doubt or distress (this mattered to rich and poor alike), and often helped needy people in materialistic way also (this mattered to poor the most), and overall helped bind everyone together and preserve the order. In other words, they have acted as support systems. And this binding principle has helped countless religious/spiritual belief groups to be able to keep their personal differences aside and build institutions that matter – hospitals, schools, hostels, temples, marriage halls, orphanages and many charity activities. Even today, religious/spiritual institutions/leaders gain vast popularity in a quick timeframe, transform people's lives, and consistently show the capability to attract public funds.
Even among vegan community, Loving Hut by Supreme Master Ching Hai has turned out to be the most successful vegan restaurant chain so far. Recently, in one of the small towns in India, Jains were able to put political pressure and ban meat from that village entirely. Cow slaughter is banned in several states of India due to Hindus. That’s the power of a religion.
Achievements of vegans staying away from religions
Today, most vegans stay away from religions and are either agnostics or even atheists. That’s mainly because none of the world religions preach principles of veganism to the extent vegans wish they did. Some references in religious texts are pro-vegan, and I see vegans trying to use them to influence social change wherever possible, but unfortunately the same texts often contain contradictory remarks also and frustrate vegan activists when other people use those arguments to stay non-vegan.
For example, in India Hindus worship cows. Even if vegans point at the hypocrisy in their treatment, at best Hindus agree that they need to be treated better. But they don’t easily agree that cow is like any other animal, has its basic rights, it was not meant for domestication etc. Here religious scriptures where god Krishna drinking milk etc. become severe bottlenecks in convincing them about veganism. Similarly, other contemporary world religions have their own set of bottlenecks when it comes to veganism. Lastly, most of the spiritual leaders around, don’t whole heartedly endorse veganism, perhaps for the fear of losing many followers.
Hence, most vegans think that it is better to stay away from religions and they also think that appealing to sensibility of people is the best and only way to spread veganism. After all, vegans have achieved/witnessed many victories so far without having to create a new religion or trying to embrace an existing one with reforms (a vegan offshoot of Jainism perhaps would be quite interesting – ‘vegan jains’ is an evolving community). Historically speaking, ban of evil Sati system in India did not happen with the help of a new religion, India didn’t secure freedom from British with the help of religion. Same way, vegans didn’t need the help of religion to ensure ban of animal testing on cosmetics in India or ban of Jallikattu. So, one might think why bother about religion at all.
However, we do need to ponder upon few things:
1. Vegan community has not built a great support system so far. When someone is in doubt or distress, some online vegan community or some of the fellow vegans whom we meet in vegan events, some FAQs in some websites, and some vegan doctors in case of diseases – that’s all vegans have today. Lack of structured support systems (institutions + leaders) is a big missing piece. There are many systems in budding stages, but they need help from fellow vegans in terms of tanu-mana-dhana to accelerate the growth, and vegans have not started coming together in big numbers to ensure that yet.
2. So far vegans don’t have a single example to showcase anywhere in the world where the concept has gained popularity among the common people (of all income levels) in huge numbers, forget about propagating such belief system to further generations. This is also a big missing piece in the puzzle.
One might say that veganism is pretty new and this judgement is too harsh. However, progress of veganism definitely pales in comparison to the growth that many successful religious or spiritual groups have achieved (even in modern times). But we can definitely do better if we join hands, join forces.
Best way forward
Does it mean that vegans also should start and popularize spiritual groups and human support systems to ensure maximum impact? I don’t have strong opinion on the former one (nonetheless I would be happy to see progress in that direction also), but latter one is definitely important to touch maximum number of hearts and transform them. With or without the help of “religion”, we should continue to appeal to the sensibility of fellow human beings, and at the same time we should also focus on building great support systems. I sincerely hope that vegans come together and accelerate this movement in much bigger ways in coming days.
Note: Many vegans might not agree to this and say that this is not about us, this is about animals. I don’t agree with that. It is about us and them both, wellbeing of everyone and our entire environment. So, unless our “system” supports the needs (if not greed) of fellow human beings who are in trouble, it just won’t work.