During my Christmas vacations away from school, I was sitting in a reading room where the ceiling was made of glass in a hotel at Varanasi, and I was reading the novel ‘Kafka on the shore’ that I had just started some days ago. There was a part in the book in which a character named ‘Johnnie Walker’ used his magical flute to enchant and capture all the cats from a nearby locality. He then smoothly slit through the chest of each cat, taking their hearts out while licking the oozing blood and chewing every bit of it as if he was eating a piece of fruit.
This instance from the novel shattered my heart as I could never imagine myself killing or eating any of my pet animals, whether cats or dogs. Suddenly, another thought struck my mind; why am I only empathetic towards pet animals? Would I be able to do what Johnnie did to any animal?
The answer was, no. I observed a shift within because I had been going through the practices of ‘Transformational Leadership’ at school. I observed that my actions and beliefs were getting influenced by some force within me. In this case, it was compassion.
So, here’s my hypothesis – if I kill an animal, it’s like taking away a life. When I constantly operate from this space, the value of life for all the animals decreases. This applies to any life, including human beings. Hence, in the long run, my relationship with the entire ecosystem becomes transactional and it further impacts my belief system and the question ‘what is life?’. That was the moment when I turned vegetarian and started valuing life.
As I was going through a transformational phase of being a vegetarian, I attended a session on impact evaluation. During this session, one of my colleagues who is working on a project called “Dignified life for the cattle” discussed the problem of ‘Annapratha’. He explained that after the lactating period gets over, farmers leave their cattle stray or send them to slaughterhouses. To deal with this issue, his team is working on several interventions like shelter homes for these stray cattle, creating an enterprise where they can sell the products made of cattle’s urine and dung.
But, it was difficult for me to accept the solution they were proposing. My mind was shouting to voice the question “Why are these cattle stray in the first place?“. To explore more of this issue, I started reading between the lines to find the real story. I came across several articles which stated how consumerism has made humans practice techniques which are inhumane in nature. Following are some common practices for milk production:
The issue is not restricted to the lives of cattle but is affecting the entire planet. Facts support that 1/3rd of the world’s entire fresh drinking water is consumed in producing animal products. Cattle contribute 18% of the total global greenhouse emission by releasing methane, which is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2.
After exploring, reading and through conversations, I came to the conclusion that this issue is not simple or linear; it’s a systemic issue. Only collective action will help us to reduce the social and ecological harm happening as a result of the animal husbandry.
I am not blaming cattle herders for performing such practices. They are bound to operate in this manner because of consumerism. If they do not continue, it will be difficult for most of them to survive as milk production is their primary or only source of income.
I would like to conclude by saying that “milk is a luxury” because it is coming to our homes in small packets with pictures of smiling cattle. But we need to ask ourselves the question – for whom is milk a luxury, cattle or humans?
After analyzing and studying facts and critiques, I was able to come up with a solution for myself. The solution was giving up my luxury by turning vegan.
I would urge you to question “is it justified to exploit the life of other beings directly or indirectly for your personal gains?”
In the end, I would just like to add that it has been months since I have turned vegan and the experience has been amazing. You may face some difficulties in the beginning due to a change in diet but you will get accustomed to it with time and will start enjoying the process. Once you start appreciating the efforts you are making, you will encourage others to do the same. Nevertheless, the feel-good factor will keep your serotonin levels high because you are working for a good cause.
Your consciousness will not only develop towards your diet but in your day to day activities as well. You will try to be mindful of the words you use and the tone while interacting with others as you will not want to hurt them intentionally or unintentionally. You will try to be conscious of your actions and to reduce your negative participation in creating a just and equitable society.
I hope to see more people join the cause and hold hands together to work towards a better tomorrow.