I was born in the state of North Carolina in the US. Every meal I had up until about four years ago had body parts, animal secretions or both in them. This is still seen as normal, especially in the south of the country. You see, in the south, there is a whole culture, one where people proudly display stickers andlicense plates on their cars and trucks with pictures of happy pigs along with the word “barbeque”. There are billboards on the sides of roads advertising things like steak, cheeseburgers, chicken, tacos, fish, milkshakes… On and on it goes, billboard after billboard after billboard, all of them screaming out to us, “In the name of our profits and your desires, participate in this violence!”. The same message over and over again one after the other. Not only do we have billboards screaming these messages at us, but, for some reason, the advertisers seem to think the more body parts and secretions they put between two slices of bread, the better these things they are advertising will be to those that consume them. In actuality, there is a culture of more (more violence/more harm) equals better, and many restaurants in the country are cashing in because of it.
About four years ago I went vegan. Why? I saw footage from a film called “Earthlings”. This film is not for the faint of heart, as it dives deep into the dark details,showing us what goes on in the hidden places that the meat industry, dairy industry, and fishing industry need to thrive. By the way, a little sidenote here about the dairy industry, something that is important to know: the meat industry and dairy industry are tied together, not exactly two separate industries as many seem to think, they are pretty much one and the same. More here on that.
Now, back to the film… What changed my heart, the thing that went deep into me, was seeing a cow in a slaughter chute on her way into the area of the slaughterhouse where they put a bolt through her skull. Can you imagine the fear she was experiencing, the trauma? I couldn’t help but think of the smells, the sounds, the things she saw, what was happening inside her mind and body because of all this. I didn’t know what to do with what I was deeply experiencing due to this, so I did the only thing I knew to do, I paced the floor. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. My whole body felt like it was quaking. That day I made the decision to never participate in any of these things again, and I never did. Fast forward to the year 2020. This is where Jainism enters the picture.
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.
We have just posted the Jain declaration on the climate crisis as a new page. Please read and consider it and on this day of Samvatsari for Svetambar Jains, consider if you’d like to endorse it and make any commitments. There is an endorse button at the top of the page. Above for illustrative purposes only. This is not the pledge associated with the Jain declaration.
Sailesh Rao of Climate Healers places our going vegan as the #1 thing we can do for the plant.
The book Drawdown and its associated website gives details of solutions in all different sectors.
My co-author, Sudhanshu, also describes the top 8 items you can do to address the climate crisis. Continue reading →
This year at the JAINA convention, I spoke about having Ahimsak lifestyles for health. Not only does that mean vegan, but also climate friendly. I found a couple of articles today that draws a parallel between individual prevention of disease and prevention of climate catastrophe. It’s always harder for people to act to prevent harm than to react to harm that occurs. However, on this eve of Paryushan, it’s time for us to reflect and act in order to prevent widesspread himsa. Here is the article about prevention and another, associated with the picture, is about what we can do on a broader scale.
Paryushanand Das Lakshanparva are just around the corner. Starting on Friday, September 6th, Jains all over the world will increase their level of spiritual intensity.
My childhood Jain Centers included Norwood, Massachusetts and Houston, Texas. I now live in Massachusetts with my husband and four children and have been practicing veganism (food, clothing, even my car is leather-free) for 2 years. Last year, I attended a lecture in Mumbai where a Jain marajsaheb spoke to us about the dairy industry as it applies to Jainism. It inspired me to reach out to all of you.
As you may know, the Jain Center of Southern California decided this year not to allow dairy in the temple due to the incredible suffering animals go through in order to produce ghee/milk, etc. They made an inspirational video which is worth watching;
Unfortunately, many other Jain centers today still use dairy products (whether it is ghee in pooja or food served). In our private homes we must respect a person’s wish to do as he/she pleases. However, our Jain center is shared by a community of people seeking to observe and follow Jainism, and more specifically ahimsa. In order to follow ahimsa to the highest level, I ask that you observe a non-dairy practicefor 18 days (September 6 – September 23). In addition to your individual practice, please sign a petition to end the use of dairy products in our Jain temples. This will magnify your good personal choices so that we can do better as a community.
I recently participated in a very interesting conference call organized by a Buddhist organization, Dharma Voice for Animals, featuring Bruce Friedrich as a speaker on how to be an effective advocate for animals. For me the most valuable his points was that by being effective advocates, we multiply the effect we have in the world. As individual vegans, we save many animals, and the more we persuade others, the more we may influence policies and markets that have the potential to save many more animals. This is a link to his talk: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9HcKdrP4xcPZ1NSWWRLaGVxczg/view?ts=5999fb11
How to make the biggest impact in conversations? He recommended to have a truly interactive engagement by asking questions and staying empathetic when talking with non-vegans, using the Socratic method. Another participant shared this YouTube video by another activist on using the Socratic method.
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.
Jain Society of Toronto celebrated Jeevdaya day on June 29. The event was organized by the Jeevdaya group an informal group set up to educate and involve Jain Community in compassion activities. There are several words to describe “compassion” in our tradition(Jeevdaya,Karuna,Pranatipat virman). This is fundamental to Jainism.
It was a whole day event. Dr. Tushar Mehta was the Master of Ceremonies for the event.It started with a presentation by Dr. Tushar Mehta on the health benefits of a plant based(vegan) diet.
Next, Sanjay Jain made an excellent presentation on Jeevdaya describing how his convictions grew over the years as he was confronted with choices. These choices led him to abstain from pearls, silk, leather, wool and eventually dairy. At every stage he was enthusiastically supported by his wife Prachi.Sanjay also arranged a display with ten posters and several models which described how current practices in food industry involve extreme cruelty. This was very well received.