Andhra Dussault tells us why meat eating is on the rise in India and what we can do to curb it.
With rising incomes, growing westernisation, better infrastructure and powerful lobbies promoting meat-eating as a status symbol, its consumption in India is increasing like never before. Intake of poultry, mutton and beef is on the rise in the world's most vegetarian country, and also of by-products, like dairy items and eggs. To be vegan - avoiding eating meat, fish and all animal products - does not mean being 'fundamentalist' or 'extremist'. Eating habits or behaviours are more or less conscious and responsible. Veganism is a personal choice based on awareness of certain issues related to the way we eat. Here are seven reasons to stick to a vegan diet.
1. We don't really need it: Here the faith of the rat-eater community with no other option or the poor villagers surviving off their buffalo's production is not at stake. We middle and upper class urban Indians are the ones fuelling the demand for meat, eggs and dairy products. What we purchase comes from big companies. We have the power to choose a vegan lifestyle if we wish to.
2. It pollutes the environment: Industrial farming is a major polluter affecting climate change. Methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen are three gases which increase the greenhouse effect and are massively produced by industrial farming. Water, air and land are polluted by the excreta of livestock which contains toxic chemicals and even arsenic, contaminating the whole ecosystem and the entire food chain.
3. People are hungry: Huge quantities of land, water and energy are required for animal farming, while the country is facing a crisis of availability of these resources. On top of that, it takes many kilos of grains, between four and 16 according to different studies, to produce one kilo of beef and a lot of extra land, water and energy. Half of India's maize production feeds industrial farm animals, while millions of Indians go hungry and suffer from malnourishment.
4. It's cheaper and healthier: A vegan diet is cheaper. But what may be even more economical are the savings on healthcare later, avoiding obesity, diabetes and heart disease which are on the rise in urban India. A vegan diet helps you maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index, and is likely to keep you alive and healthy longer. Many have even reversed illness through a vegan diet. Bill Clinton is one of the most famous recent examples.
5. We stop torturing of animals: Industrial farm animals are bred in extremely cruel and inhumane conditions. Animals have a nervous system and feelings too. When a calf is taken away from its mother, to be sent to the slaughter house, the cow cries in anguish for days. Like us, cows produce milk for their off-spring. How legitimate is it to continuously and forcefully milk a cow to satisfy our desire for milk, cheese, ice cream or chocolate?
6. To shun vested interests: Huge lobbies have been promoting the consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products, to make money. Many studies promoting meat and dairy products as good proteins are backed by meat and dairy industries. Boycotting these products is a nice way to take say "no thanks" to these interests.
7. It's more ethical: Why should animals be tortured and the environment be depleted, putting even are own species at risk, merely to satisfy our taste buds? We eat meat, fish, eggs and dairy products because we find them tasty and/or because we were conditioned to eat them. We can easily replace the nutritive value of those products by healthier non-animal products, provided we make a little effort and have will power.