This photo depicts the story of Lord Mahavira meeting the angry serpent Chandakaushik whom he met while meditating in the forest. He is so filled with compassion that he does not harm the snake. When the snake bites him, milk issues forth from his foot. He is as filled with love for the snake as a mother is for her child.
One should not injure, subjugate, enslave, torture, or kill any living being including animals, plants, or insects — Respect for all living beings is Non-Violence. – Ächäränga Sutra – Bhagawän Mahãvira
There are five acts or deeds, which should be known and avoided. They are:
• Tying animals where it could hurt them, or putting them in cages where there is no freedom
• Beating them with sticks or any other means
• Piercing their nose, ear, or amputating limbs or any part of the body
• Making them carry a heavy load
• Depriving them of food and shelter
–Pratikraman Sutra, Lesson 7 on Non-violence
As Jains we have abstained from meat and eggs for thousands of years. Our practice of ahimsa has lacto-vegetarianism as a moral baseline.
So now, why vegan? Here we’ll cover the hinsa involved in milk products. We’ll do a separate post on eggs. On a Jain site, we hope we don’t have to explain what’s wrong with meat!
We can read the words as they’ve been passed down through Lord Mahavir’s disciples and consider in modern times, would Lord Mahavir have told us it is OK to consume milk? Consider this question as you read the facts.
A cow raised for her milk is forcefully impregnated yearly, and her babies are taken away within few days. She is either pregnant or lactating 9 or 10 months out of every year only to have the cycle repeat once she gives birth.
Certain amounts of pus and blood are legally permissible in milk. We use this milk in pujä and other ritual.
Dairy cows are no longer vegetarian. Along with grains, they are fed unnatural, high-protein diets – which include dead chickens, pigs, and other animals.
Using powerful hormones, the cows are forced to produce 6 to 8 times as much milk as they naturally would. Also in spite of heavy use of antibiotics, these animals develop mastitis, open wounds and other infections.
A cow’s natural lifespan is about 20 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are slaughtered after only 4 or 5 years, and their meat turned into pet food or hamburgers. Or in India, their meat is exported.
All calves are taken from their mothers within few days. Female calves become dairy cows and Male calves become veal. They are kept confined, many in dark, tiny crates, where they are kept almost completely immobilized so their flesh stays tender. They are slaughtered in about six months.
Transport and Slaughter
Nearly every adult cow around 5 years of age and almost every male baby cow will be shipped to a slaughterhouse and killed. When transported in hot weather, many cows collapse in the heat; in the cold, cows can freeze to the sides of the truck until workers pry them off with crowbars. Cows are shot in the head with a steel bolt gun meant to stun them, but often this fails to render them insensible to pain. Dairy cows may be conscious when they are shackled, hoisted, and cut.
Many organic or local dairies advertise with pictures of happy cows. In reality, “organic” only means that the cows are fed organic food and are not given antibiotics and growth hormones – but all the while, they are still abused, slaughtered around 5 years of age, many times kept in small restricted areas, and their newborn calves are taken away for veal. Buying organic milk or local milk does nothing to reduce cruelty or abuse of cows and their calves.
“My Visit to A Dairy Farm”
“[In May 1995] I visited a dairy farm located north of Burlington, VT… [it] supplies all its milk to Ben and Jerry’s … It was extremely difficult for me to watch the cows’ sufferings during the milking… sometimes traces of blood got mixed with the milk… The evening I was there, the farm was shipping three baby calves to a veal factory. The mother cows were crying when their babies were separated from them. I can still hear the cries of the mother cows…” (Pravin K Shah, Raleigh, NC)
Violence to the Environment
Over 30 million tons of fecal matter is created by California’s 1.5 million dairy cows each year. In fact, just one 1,200-pound dairy cow alone produces 120 pounds of wet manure per day, the same amount of waste as 23 humans. However, there are no toilets, sewers, or treatment plants to speak of. Manure lagoons from livestock make up nearly 1/3 of all human related methane emissions in the world. Dairies are the single largest source of water pollution and air pollution in San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties in California.
Violence to Ourselves
Studies from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that dairy products may increase body weight. Some studies have linked prostate cancer, breast cancer, asthma, allergies and diabetes risk to dairy products. Studies on heart disease in Asian Indians have shown that intake of dairy food contributes to the unexpected increase in heart disease risk in Indian vegetarians. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s research shows that a plant based diet can reverse heart disease and Dr. Neal Barnard’s patients reversed diabetes through a low fat vegan diet. The new president of the American College of Cardiology lowered his cholesterol by adopting a vegan diet and advises his patients to go vegan.
All the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in cow’s milk, without the excess fat, cholesterol, hormones, and antibiotics can easily be obtained in plant foods, especially dark green leafy vegetables. Protein needs can be met with a variety of beans, nuts and legumes. Non-dairy milks and whole soy products can be a healthful addition to the diet, with studies showing that the consumption of soymilk and tofu reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Use of antibiotics in factory farms is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance in humans which results in increasingly difficult to treat disease resulting in suffering, disability and death.
From a karmic view point, wouldn’t it make sense that when we harm others, we harm ourselves?
Prepared by members of the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago and the Jain Center of Northern California