- 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.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
In India, there are plenty of people with anti-cow slaughter sentiments. Most such people will readily agree with you about cruelty on cattle due to modern dairy industry practices. A good percentage of such people will also agree with you that animal sacrifices or other kinds of animal abuses in the name of religion is bad. However, the moment you try to advocate veganism, you will see a huge disconnect. If you try to highlight that consuming milk is neither good for health nor promotes wellbeing of animals, then your relationship with them almost goes for a toss.
And at the end of the day, vegans will leave the scene with anger & frustration, labeling those people as hypocrites. On the other hand, those other people will also end up with some kind of suspicion about vegans – they will consider veganism as impractical, unnatural or stupid, and some would even think it is a conspiracy against ancient Indian traditions/beliefs, conspiracy against Hinduism etc. This last part is what the primary subject for this article.
Who is fueling this disconnect?
Disconnect, disagreements, conflicts & misunderstanding between different sets of people with similar sentiments & goals is not uncommon. Sometimes it happens because different people are at different levels and progressing at different pace, or because they believe in different paths towards the same goal. And this phenomenon is not unique to India. Even in western world, we can see constant disconnects and disagreements between animal welfare activists and animal rights activists, or between traditionalists and those who speak for animals, and so on. However, in countries like India, that have rich-long history, indigenous practices and huge diversity, these problems manifest with much more complexities.
As I see, 2 kinds of human nature fuel these disconnects, causing conflicts & misunderstanding:
1. Intentional: Greed & selfishness
2. Unintentional: Ignorance & narrow perspectives
To be more specific, here are some examples of types of people from Indian context:
1. People with blind pride about ancient India & culture-religions of India
Some of the modern day Indians think highly of ancient India without any concrete knowledge in that area. They often fail to separate out good & bad from ancient Indian practices, and simply generalize that everything from ancient India has profound scientific meaning and hence good etc. Many of these people are also highly critical about any concept or tradition that originated from west, while ironically they don’t feel like leaving most of the comforts & conveniences offered by western style industrial revolution.
Similar blind faith in Indian culture/traditions sometimes gives rise to fraudulent spiritual/cultural leaders also, and cause many modern rational people to look down upon Indian traditions, culture.
2. Selfish politicians & industrialists
No need to elaborate on this I guess. These people will do lots of things to divide and rule.
3. Westerner “thinkers & reformers” who think they know it all
It is quite common for western think-tank to feel that “poor & illiterate” Indians need to be “uplifted” from their ignorant state, stupid traditions etc. They don’t make any efforts to understand good parts of the diverse Indian culture, they generalize and oversimplify too many things, and try to address “symptoms” rather than the “root cause”, just like western medicine.
Further, some of these people actively contribute towards converting such “downtrodden” people to Christianity also, which further turns the whole situation bad to worse.
4. Foreign forces who don’t want India to rise
There are strong allegations that many people/institutions from developed world with vested interests are determined to constantly demoralize India, prevent development-progress, keep people divided and much more... why? Simply so that they can continue enjoy richness & comfort that they are currently enjoying. Apparently, often these kinds of things happen in the pretext of “helping” and in many other cunning ways. It is not such an unrealistic theory, isn’t it?
Activists who work on unmasking these kinds of “conspiracies” lament that sometimes ground level innocent people (often Indians) are not even aware of the malicious intent, and they even join hands with such forces, thus unintentionally causing more problems. Vicious conspiracies by British when they ruled India have left deep wounds and feeling of distrust among many Indians, and some of the “quite believable” modern conspiracy theories regarding powerful nations also make this a realistic possibility.
5. Last but not least, vegans with half-baked knowledge
Veganism is a long, never ending journey and it is quite natural to have imperfections – some lack wholistic picture, some don’t have patience, some get carried away by emotions instead of strategy, some live in denial about their own cruelty footprint & hypocrisies and still try to look down upon others, some have no idea about local culture or roots, some offer no solace or solution to suffering humans and so on. Often, people with these kinds of imperfections cause lot of unintentional harm in their journey, by creating hate & unhealthy divide among the society. (Well, no revolution can happen without some kind of divide, so this is very tricky aspect indeed.)
Few words about “Foreign funded” NGOs – Example of Greenpeace
The ongoing Greenpeace controversy is a good example in this context. When it comes to sustainability, the concept itself doesn’t get resentment from any Indian, because respecting nature is deep rooted in our culture. Even then, there are many people who voice against Greenpeace, why?
People in power seems to think and propagate the idea among public that Greenpeace’s funding sources have malicious intent against India. On the other hand, many activists think that government is corrupt and oppressing Greenpeace for selfish reasons. How will common people like us easily know the truth? It’s very hard. When we are pushed to take some sides, it becomes really difficult.
My personal take on Greenpeace:
- Real intentions of fund sources, no idea, hence no comments.
- Ground level activists: Most of them seem to genuinely care about environment conservation, at various degrees.
- Common people: Eagerly want more and more comforts & conveniences of the western world, even if it is at the expense of environment “to some degree”.
- Government: Their focus is on (votes of) common people who aspire ‘development’. Adopting “sustainable development” techniques might be too risky for them, or at least that’s what they think. They don’t want to take chances and simply might want to replicate western “success” model, slightly fine-tuned to Indian context. Can they be blamed? I guess not.
Overall, there are often controversies regarding NGOs within India also, but these foreign funded NGOs get a special status & coverage whenever controversies pop up. Considering that the existence of foreign forces who don’t like India’s uprising is a very realistic possibility, I am not at all surprised about this way of thinking by many Indian intellectuals.
Another example – coverage by Liz Jones regarding elephant torture in Kerala temples
Being a long term vegetarian, mostly vegan also – I guess Liz Jones is indeed genuinely concerned about animal welfare/rights. However her recent piece on torture on elephants in Kerala temples is questionable at several levels.
Here is the original article:
Now, here are 3 interesting rebuttals:
Points to be noted:
1. The rebuttals don't promote animal rights and only talk about welfare to some extent, so I don't support them totally. But they raise so many important points and give insight, so must read.
2. After reading the original article and rebuttals in detail, it is quite clear that the original article is not a responsible journalism, nevertheless it calls for boycott of elephant interaction by tourists, which is good.
At this point, I don't know which source is more credible. Maybe the original goal of the “British lady” is not to portray India and our culture in bad light, but it certainly has evoked seemingly legitimate angry responses even from the people who gave her information for the article. If a journalist gets rebuttals from people who initially acted as supportive informants, then there is a lot she needs to learn, no doubt.
Nevertheless, I hope many people genuinely work towards liberation of all these temple elephants, or at least better treatment if their rehabilitation is indeed impractical (as one of the rebuttal articles highlighted), and totally stop this practice in future.
More on “western conspiracies”
There are many westerners who genuinely like India, spend lot of time here, understand many things, and honestly try to contribute their time, effort, money in various ways. Many of them even feel a deep spiritual connection with India. Some of them don’t want India to repeat the same mistakes that their own home countries did (and are still continuing to do), and deeply wish that Indians preserve their environment, indigenous practices etc.
But due to above controversies and theories, often all westerners are branded alike, looked upon with suspicion when they try to do something good for India, especially if it’s something disruptive and unconventional. Indians with radical thoughts who support these kinds of westerners also often get labeled as ‘slaves of westerners’ or ‘brainwashed by westerners’.
This trend can be seen in the area of veganism also, and unless vegans acknowledge this, it is hard to popularize veganism among masses. We (vegans) try to do something with genuine intentions, with lot of enthusiasm, but majority of the people around us don’t bother to embrace veganism, since it’s not perceived as an “Indian thing”.
Note: The documentary “India’s daughter” also was criticized by many Indian intellectuals for various reasons, but since it’s not related to animals and environment, let me not get deeper into that subject. However, the pattern is similar – many Indians feel offended when foreigners talk about negative side of India, and feel that those foreigners should mind their own business and fight against inequalities in their own countries instead of meddling with other cultures.
Story of Amit Vaidya and “miracles” of cow products
Here is another example, below story is a simple copy paste from what I got in WhatsApp. A clear inference from this is that promoting concepts such as lacto-vegetarianism, cattle based organic agriculture, protecting desi cow species, natural healing using cow products, yoga etc. – all these resonate very well with the idea of "ancient India which was great once upon a time" and such movements get support from various corners in various forms. But concepts such as veganism is often looked upon as impractical, unnatural, stupid or even conspiracy of western world to destroy Indian roots further.
Amit Vaidya lived the American dream. A Gujarati, born and brought up in the US, with a Ph.D. in economics, he worked in the entertainment industry’s business department. “It was an active but not a healthy lifestyle as I was an overachiever,” says Amit. His dreams “were shattered” when a few months after his father’s death he was diagnosed with first stage gastric cancer. “The fall was great as I had risen to great heights when I was 27.”
Opting not to do surgery, he went in for “aggressive chemo radiation” in New York. Two years later he went into remission. Within two months of his recovery, his mother was diagnosed with grade three brain tumour. “Nothing worked and I lost her too. Away in a foreign land, being the only child, I felt lonely and a scan showed my cancer had returned after 18 months. This time it showed up in my liver. Nine months later, in 2011, reports showed I was not responding to treatment and the cancer had spread to my lungs too,” he says emotionally.
Doctors told Amit that his life too was just a matter of time. “Not wanting to burden my friends, I started planning my funeral. Facing death was not frightening as I had seen death in its face. Seeing the grace with which my mother let go of her life, gave me the courage to accept death. In a cinematic way, I was excited that I would be reunited with my parents. I got on a self destructive path as I had nothing to live for,” says Amit.
He started “micromanaging his last moments and his funeral. “I also wanted to come to India once. Being a Bollywood junkie I wanted that cinematic touch of meeting my extended family here before my death.”
Soon he planned a trip to India. “Part of me thought I would die even before my feet touched the ground. There was some irony in the fact that my parents born here made US their home and died there. And, I, who lived there, would come to India and die here. It was like a full circle.”
The meeting with his relatives was “emotional”, but as “they had their own challenges, they were aghast when they discovered that I was critically ill. Doors were shut. I was again all by myself,” recalls a shattered Amit.
“When I lived in Delhi with a friend I was told about alternative therapies. Their love and care for me made me greedy again for life. An aunt also told me about an Ayurvedic hospital in Gujarat that claims to cure cancer in 11 days for just a rupee! Having nothing to lose I wanted to give it a shot.”
So off he went and explains that the treatment was disciplined with yoga, meditation and he was made to drink a mix of “desi cow milk, curd, ghee and gobar, go-mutra. I was to drink it on an empty stomach. For years everything tasted like saw dust because of the chemo. It was easy to drink something that smelled and tasted as it should. Others there were traumatised by this. I kept faith and did it diligently. I saw no change but felt no worse either.”
Scans showed that the cancer “had not spread”. Amit then went back to the hospital and lived there for another 40 days. Reports showed the cancer had decreased. “Wanting to continue the therapy,” Amit stayed with a farmer, who opened his house to Amit. “He offered me a tiny shack on his farm, a cot, a goshala with desi cows, a well and a toilet. I continued the therapy and after months was able to walk. Over time, walks became jogs, jogs became runs and I started finding joy in my mind. The villagers had time for me, which was the best gift I got, especially when I needed time to heal.”
After 18 months Amit claims he is cancer free and decided “on planning to live his life instead of planning a funeral. I now talk to people about my journey and that healing is possible. I make time to spend with cancer patients. It is all free. I have started an NGO called Healing Vaidya.”
He does not plan on going back to the US as “this country has given me much. I have learnt that people here don’t value what it can offer.”
Amit has written Holy Cancer – How A Cow Saved My Life, (Aditya Prakashan, Rs. 495) which was launched in the city recently. The book is available in book stores. For more log on to healingvaidya.org
Most vegans are atheists – another huge problem
Most vegans are highly driven by rationalism, scientific thinking etc. along with having deep respect-concern towards animals & nature. They have high tendency to be atheist or agnostic. But Indian culture is strongly tied with religions, and this also poses a huge problem. Once again, this causes many people to perceive vegans as weird, driven by western "madness".
What can vegans do better?
1. Try to change the system from within, not from outside
I very well understand that being part of oppressive systems can be very painful. And being part of systems in which you don’t have any belief (i.e. atheist getting involved with a traditional-religious ceremony) might feel quite repulsive. And it is quite natural for reformists to feel that entire old system needs to be uprooted and we need to have a fresh start. However, that’s naïve way of looking at things, and in a diverse-complex societies like India, vegans need to learn how to be part of the social systems around them and improve it from within, instead of showing the way from outside. Easier said than done, but I now believe that we need to make bigger efforts in this direction.
2. Start focusing on wholistic lifestyle, not just superficial veganism
The moment you start digging into the areas of sustainability, growing your own food etc. you will automatically get connected with the ground reality deeply and also understand the good/bad in both Indian and Western way of doing things. Overall, this gives better perspectives about your own efforts to spread veganism.
3. Key to convince that Vegan-Organic farming is better than cattle based organic farming
Unless vegans get into food growing sector and demonstrate success stories, there is no easy way to convince even reform-oriented, liberal Indian think tank.
Here is one article by me that proposes a unique framework on how urban vegans and rural non-vegans can connect and work together:
Another article that lays out practical strategy to create a vegan revolution in India:
This article gives food for thought – just because you turned vegan, can you shrug off from the past “crimes” and responsibilities?
This recent article ponders upon whether veganism can be promoted in large scale without religions connection: