This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sriranjini Raman. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Veganism In India Through The Lens Of Caste, Culture And Climate Change

WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

With veganism being the fastest growing food trend in 2019 in India, it is really picking up and making a difference environmentally, but the discourse around activism and choice often fails to acknowledge caste, poverty, and access.

To what extent is our consumption cruelty-free? Not all plant-based products and food consumed are cruelty-free.

As a university student exposed to the global and political schemes of the world, this ‘Veganuary’ made me realize the implications of being vegan in India. Most of us start our journey after being influenced by the powerful graphic documentaries and the internet. A vast majority of the information consumed on veganism comes from privileged people in western countries.

As a vegan in India, I’ve come to realize the discourse on the veganism movement in India is still very whitewashed, failing to acknowledge the cultural intricacies and history of India.

For those who are victims of structural violence and oppression on a daily basis, such as low-income groups and marginalized peoples, food choices and veganism is the last of their worries. There are also the Adivasis and indigenous tribes in our country who have been the original stewards of the land for centuries. These cultures respect and value natural resources, taking only what they need, maintaining balance in the ecosystems, in spite of their animal consumption.

To what extent is our consumption cruelty-free? Not all plant-based products and food consumed are cruelty-free. Farm and factory workers are often subjected to poor labor conditions and low wages. Exploitative industrial agriculture destroys ecosystems, traditional agricultural systems and causes diseases. Concern for animal rights and environmental rights are the primary reasons to become vegan. Industrial agriculture is the second biggest cause of climate change after the burning of fossil fuels.

Historically, meat has been essential in many cuisines. Vegan discourse often fails to acknowledge the traditional reliance on meat and appropriates recipes. One might not be able to afford plant-based food when animal products and by-products are cheaper, more economical and affordable, especially in the lower-income groups. Classism and casteism should not be ignored while combating speciesism.

Shift to veganism in India depends on a number of socio-economic factors, including class, caste, and accessibility.

Taking care of the earth, water, soil, ecosystems and non-violence is an inherent responsibility valued in most religions and cultures. Industrial farming and animal agriculture have led to blatant exploitation which has deeply impacted the treatment and consumption of animals. So, do we blame it on the religion and cultures, or the system? Personally, I think governments can influence the treatment and production of foods but has no authority to ban foods.

Intersectionality is vital for veganism. For the marginalized and oppressed, veganism is far away, and we need to improve our efforts at making it accessible. Moving forward, the animal liberation and vegan movements in India must acknowledge and participate in the anti-caste, pro LGBTQIA+ and anti-ableism movements, question the structures of class, caste and capitalism and be mindful of the privilege of being vegan.

As a vegan, I know that changing my diet and consumption choices has helped me reduce my ecological footprint, but only when I am mindful of the origins and production of what I consume. Buying groceries from the local market instead of the supermarket in the mall, supporting co-operatives and self-help groups, supporting artisans and cottage industries should all be included in the veganism discourse.

Community-supported agriculture, shopping and eating local and traditional foods, avoiding fast foods and fast fashion, supporting ethical consumption and promoting human rights, animal rights and environmental justice should be the essence of the movement.

I am enthusiastic about the future of veganism in our country and how plant-based diets can contribute to climate change mitigation. We need food production systems that are sustainable, inclusive and nutritious, which keep up with climate change, retain cultures and build resilience.

Featured image via Flickr.
You must be to comment.
  1. Shiva Bavamala

    Veganism is not a food trend. It is a lifestyle choice. I could go on to list 25 other factual inaccuracies in your article.

    Extremely poorly researched article which seems to think veganism has to focus on everything from farm labourers’ wages to casteism to LGBTQ rights !!!

  2. Palak Mehta

    With all due respect, this article needs a lot of fact-checking. Veganism has attracted a lot of conscious entrepreneurs who go all the way to ensure the products are ethical, zero waste, cruelty-free and sustainable too. Check out to find vegan alternatives to Indian meat dishes. Each positive step matters, we don’t have a planet B. And veganism is the easiest way to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

More from Sriranjini Raman

Similar Posts

By Ecochirp Foundation


By Krithiga Narayanan

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below