Dr. Brianne Donaldson, scholar of Jainism, recently wrote an article about the cultural blindness of our response to slaughterhouse workers. In the Covid19 pandemic, the mental health of farmers was deemed worthy to support. However, “essential” slaughterhouse workers are traumatized every day.
As she says, ” If killing animals is this traumatic, why have anyone do it? Far from “essential” business, slaughterhouse work destroys animals and corrodes the well-being of people. Since nearly all humans living in the industrialized world can live well and healthy without animal flesh, the time has come to transition away from a practice widely acknowledged to be a source of personal trauma and social harm.”
She also gave an engaging 40 minute interview the role of animal agriculture in the Covid19 pandemic.
As Dr. Donaldson describes, it is often immigrants and refugees that work in slaughterhouses. Back when I worked on refugee health, I, too found that the resettlement agencies in NC had placed the refugees from Asia into slaughterhouse jobs.
I try to eliminate both plastic packaging and eat local and vegan. This quiz tells us that it would take 11 years of minimizing plastic to achieve the same climate benefiting effects as going vegetarian. We know that going vegan is even better! Here’s the reference
The article accompanying the quiz makes the important point that we can choose to prioritize those actions that make the most impact on the climate; in addition to choosing a vegetarian diet, limiting airplane trips, having less children. They also note that those in the US and Canada contribute far more to climate change than those in India. However, authors of the Lancet article cited in this NY Times piece suggest that poor people in countries such as India NEED animal protein. Iron deficiency anemia is an example of a micro-nutrient deficiency that people recommend meat eating to address; however that can create iron overload in a way that plant iron in green leafy vegetables and nuts do not. While Jains will not make these arguments for eating meat, we do the same regarding milk. It is the type of argument that a Jain sadhvi made about why she does not recommend veganism to the community. “They don’t have access to green smoothies”, was her variation on the theme.
This is our cultural blind spots at work. We can summon the will to transform our agricultural system to cultivate a greater variety of plants, and to reform our economic system to ensure that people have access to enough quantity and variety of food, including a variety of sources of plant proteins and sufficient micro-nutrients, including iron. Let’s not fall into the trap of assuming that traditions of cruelty and convenience are the only way to meet human needs.
This is a guest post by Sunny Jain an MBA Candidate who is a leader in US Young Jain Professionals
I’ve heard the story one too many times of my vegan friends
abandoning their diet while visiting India either due to misinformation or
perceived difficulty. Some would say it’s too difficult and would rather just
enjoy food there, and others falsely believe that the dairy industry in India
is humane (would be interested in educating you if you’re one of those people
spreading fake news).
Before my trip to India, I decided that I would be the one to
break this mold and wouldn’t give in like everyone else does, and I readied my
battle armor as I boarded my flight.
10 days in, I found being vegan in India extremely reasonable
and not as awful as I originally thought it would be. In addition to eating
lavishly and trying almost any and every street food I laid my eyes on, I had
the opportunity to attend Mumbai’s first and largest vegan food festival.
Here are a few tips I want to share with those who plan to remain vegan while in India:
Dealing with Aunties and Uncles
Don’t hesitate to speak up and tell them in advance what you can
and can’t eat. To them, it’s like some unusual variation of the Jain diet
that they may not entirely comprehend
Aunties are notorious for being pushy and persistent when it comes
to eating home-cooked food, but they’ll respect your dietary restrictions
without question (at the end of the day, you’re the guest and they want to
cater to you!)
Just say: “no doodh (milk) and no ghee (butter)”
By default, food labeled “vegetarian” in India doesn’t have eggs
in it, so it’s just a matter of avoiding butter and milk
The Plane Ride to India
When purchasing to your flight, you’ll have an option to request a vegan meal. Depending on the airlines, you may have to do some digging and click the “Extras” tab to select a special meal type, ask for VGML, this is an international airline code for vegan meals.
Important: You must request a vegan meal 24 hours in advance before the flight or you will be out of luck
If that happens, just let the flight attendant know (they’re usually super accommodating and will find something for you – even if it’s as little as providing you with snacks and fruits/vegetables during the flight)
The vegan meal I received was delicious: quinoa rice with tofu and red sauce, a fruit cup, salad with vegan ranch dressing, bread, and vegan butter
It was so fire that I took a photo of it just to share on social media
If you’re able to survive the first connecting flight, the airport in Amsterdam has great vegan options
Soy Milk (“Soya Milk” in India)
The first thing you’ll want to do when you reach in India is get a
hold of soy milk wherever you’re staying
This is important because you’re going to be offered chai
multiple times a day so it’s good to let them know in advance to make it with
One option is to either ask your family in India to get some in
advance before you arrive, or you can buy some yourself
Soy milk is very accessible and readily available
Can be found at almost any decently big grocery store. If you
can’t find it at a location, just walk next door because all the grocery stores
tend to be next door to each other
I found regular unsweetened soy milk, chocolate soy milk,
hazelnut milk, and rice milk
When converted to USD, you’ll spend about 6 bucks a box
I would recommend getting a few extra boxes to last your time there. Vegan milk doesn’t spoil so it makes sense to stock up
SoFit Soya Milk is a famous Indian soymilk brand endorsed by John Abraham
Pau Bhaji is a staple street food you’re going to want to indulge
in. However, it’s usually served drowning in butter
I watched in disgust as a street vendor tossed entire slabs of
butter (un-human amounts) into the Pau Bhaji, and used another slab of butter
to wipe down with pau
There’s legit more butter swimming in it than actual bhaji
Fortunately, there’s an easy workaround which will allow you to enjoy street Pau Bhaji without the animal cruelty. It is completely acceptable to demand Pau Bhaji with no butter (remember: they’re catering to you, not vice versa). Tell them what you want, and 9 times out of 10 they’ll deliver
In their continuous process of making and replenishing bhaji, they’ll just serve you bhaji from the batch they cook before adding butter. This goes for pau as well.
Indian McDonald’s and Burger King
Request any veggie burger or wrap and subtract the cheese and mayonnaise
I would choose a food item that comes with other stuff like tomatoes and lettuce so you don’t end up with a plain burger with just the patty and onions (those burgers are already pretty simple as is)
If you’re a daring and adventurous foodie like I am, try out the Maharaja Mac
Ask a nearby Aunty about which desserts have ghee or made with milk. Should knock out about 75 percent of your options, but you’ll always find something worthwhile
For me, it was Kaju Katri and fresh Jalebi cooked in oil
Avoid sweets with Warakh (the silver coating on top) because it’s associated with animal cruelty
Vegan Friendly Indian food
Below are some great food items I tried in India which are vegan
South Indian food
Home Food (Moong, Daal, Sabji)
Burger King Burgers
Pau Bhaji (without Butter)
Feeding Biscuits to Stray Dogs
This is something I wish I realized early in my trip and recommend
to all my friends
Purchase a few packs of biscuits and carry it around wherever you go
Comes at about 10 rupees at any stall or store (converts to mere
pennies in USD)
As you travel and explore the city, hand biscuits to any stray dogs
These poor dogs on the streets are malnourished and hungry/thirsty,
and will gladly accept any food you give them
You can just place them on
the floor and make a kissing sound to get their attention
Vandhana gave three thoroughly researched and well delivered talks at JAINA 2017, of which we are posting two. The first talk was regarding the suffering of farmed animals with an emphasis on dairy and egg production. The second talk, for a Women’s Forum program, connected the exploitation of female animals in milk and egg production with the moral choices Jain women can make to avoid the violence.
This short film made in India about milk reminds me a lot of our year in India. We saw cows eating plastic garbage daily, and saw various organizations that considered giving kids a daily glass of milk as a great service. It is great to see Kuntal Joisher, the first vegan to climb Everest who we met at in Milipitas in the movie. Also Nandita Shah from Sharan who we saw speak in Ahmedabad.
Today we met Sunny Gurnani at the Oakland VegFest. Sunny is the founder of GoVegan.in, a company in India that sells organic soy-milk, tofu and ice-cream. While we were in Ahmedabad last year we regularly got soy-milk from them (see the next post about it.
Here is a picture of the assorted of Soy Milk we purchased from them in Ahmedabad.
Dr Jina gave a talk at the 11th anniversary of the Jain Center of Northern California on the Ahimsak Diet. The slides are available here:Ahimsak Diet and Nutrition and you can see the talk at the following YouTube links: