Imagine sitting in your balcony on a bright winter morning with a steaming cup of tea and eggs for breakfast, as your dog lovingly snuggles close to you…
This idyllic picture of a laid-back morning is not uncommon, yet we often fail to see the dichotomy in our actions – when we love some animals and cause others suffering.
Even though most Indians worship cows, feed their neighbourhood dogs and love animals, we are largely oblivious to the torture innocent animals are subjected to for milk, butter, eggs, meat, woolens, honey and other animal-derived products. The simple act of buying these products ends up funding practices and abuse we otherwise admonish.
While many believe that consuming eggs does not harm animals, few know that hens are gentle and highly intuitive creatures bred in “battery cages” for production of eggs in large numbers. A battery cage house puts five to ten birds in a single cage such that each bird has less space than a single A4 size piece of paper. Many of these birds will not have the chance to spread their wings in their entire life. Another common practice at poultry farms is that of ‘forced moulting’, wherein all food is withheld for about 12 days and water for about 1-2 days to force the bird to ‘moult’ which makes them ready to lay more eggs. This extremely stressful procedure makes hens highly susceptible to Salmonella infection which poses a serious health risk to consumers like us. The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), along with other petitioners is fighting a case in the Delhi High Court to end the use of battery cages for egg laying hens.
Let’s take milk for instance. FIAPO’s recent national investigative report, “CATTLE-OGUE”, revealed how most cows raised in dairies are intensively confined, leaving them unable to fulfill their most basic natural needs, such as nursing their calves, or being able to walk freely. Treated like milk-machines, dairy cattle are often genetically manipulated and pumped up with antibiotics and hormones in order to produce more milk. They are even forced to stand in their own urine and feces which is not only degrading but also extremely unhealthy. Being a largely unregulated sector, the condition and upkeep of dairy animals undoubtedly raises questions on the safety of the milk that we so innocuously consume in the name of taste and health.
Animals are sentient beings, i.e., they feel, perceive and experience things like pain and happiness just like human beings. As with all for-profit enterprises, the meat industry also aims to increase its revenues and cut costs. The end result is that animals raised for meat are treated purely as commodities, with no interest in their wellbeing. For example, chickens raised for meat are routinely pumped with growth hormones to accelerate weight gain. This causes unnatural growth which strains and cripples their skeletal systems. The average breast of an 8-week-old chicken is seven times heavier today than it was 25 years ago. The last moments of these animals are also extremely painful as they often end up being butchered in full view of others of their kind who are left bleeding unto death.
Following a plant-based diet – by eschewing dairy, eggs, meat and other animal products, is not only compassionate, but also healthier for humans. Adopting a plant-based diet improves health, and can even allow people to wean themselves off prescription medications. Medical research indicates that lifelong vegetarians and vegans are likely to visit hospitals 22% less often than their meat-eating counterparts. Cardiovascular diseases have also shown to be prevented by adopting a plant-based diet, as high levels of cholesterol, (completely absent in plant based products), are one of the leading contributors to such diseases. It is common knowledge that to reduce bad cholesterol levels in our body, we need to avoid trans fats, saturated fats and dietary cholesterol; which are largely present in dairy, meat, eggs, and fish.
Due to a higher intake of complex carbohydrates and fibre and a lower intake of saturated fat, people who do not consume animal products have been found to be more resistant to Type-II diabetes as well. There is strong evidence that diabetes is linked to diet, and the ability of cow’s milk to initiate Type-I diabetes is well documented. Many major lifestyle diseases have been found to be caused by high consumption of animal products. These include – obesity, PCOD, infertility, joint pain, anxiety, thyroid, and so on.
If you’re interested in lowering your overall carbon footprint, veganism is one of the simplest and most effective choices to make. A study conducted in 2011 reported that half of the world’s grain was fed to animals in the meat and dairy industries. Routinely, over 90% of all soy grown in the world is fed to animals being farmed for meat, eggs and milk. Producing animal products in bulk also puts tremendous pressure on water, land and air quality. It is clear then, how India, the world’s largest producer of milk, is also the 4th largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world. It’s not too alarming then, for the quality of air we breathe to have deteriorated so drastically.
While more than 3 million children die due to hunger each year, one fourth of all grain produced by third world countries is now given to farmed animals in their own countries and others. With rising global food and water insecurity due to environmental and socio-economic problems, the only sustainable way of living is to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
So this year in 2018, choose kindness and health by trying veganism. Check out the #Don’tGetMilked campaign to know how you can impact your life, the lives of animals and that the environment by going vegan.