Category Archives: Activism

From “Earthlings” to Ahimsa, An American Journey to Jainism

by Kenny F.

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.

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Animal Agriculture and the Pandemic: Jain scholar sees beyond our cultural blind spot

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.

So what do I mean by cultural blindspot?

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Consider how to help the earth this Paryushan

Earth pledge

 

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

Climate Change and our Lifestyles

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.

 

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Petition to end the Use of Dairy in Jain temples: A Pre-paryushan plea by Nirva

Dear readers,

Paryushan and Das Lakshan parva are just around the corner. Starting on Friday, September 6thJains 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;

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m.youtube.com/watch

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 practice for 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.  

https://www.change.org/p/lets-end-the-use-of-dairy-products-in-our-jain-temples

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How to Talk with Non-vegans

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 Bala, Mercy For Animals attorney speaks powerfully at JAINA 2017

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.

Show your compassion this Thanksgiving by supporting animals at your local panjrapols!

Animal sanctuaries in the US, like panjrapols in India, protect, feed, and provide medical care to farm animals.  They

  • Rescue animals such as cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chicken, turkeys and rabbits that would have been killed for food
  • Educate people and promote vegetarianism
  • Support laws that reduce animal suffering
  • During events such as Thanskgiving they heighten awareness of animal slaughter and hold events to instead support these animals

If you’d like to help, you can  

 

  • Visit them in person
    • Animal Place is in Grass Valley, northern CA.
    • Harvest Home Sanctuary is near Stockton, CA
    • Farm Sanctuary is in Watkins Glen, NY and Orland, CA.
    • THere are many other worthy organizations throughout the US but our familiarity is more with the ones in CA
  • You can send a check or donate online directly to the organization.

Jeevdaya Day in Toronto

by Professor Kirti Shah

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.20140629_121004

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.20140629_164045

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dallas teenagers articulate connections between veganism, reduction of methane and conservation of water

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Below are some articles written by the pathshala students on veganism and related topics

VEGANISM

Not only does the dairy industry cause immense pain to the tortured animals like cows and chickens, but it also leads to a large amount of water consumption, land degradation, climate alterations, and gas emissions. While it only takes one acre of land to produce 40,000 lbs of cherries, potatoes, and other fruits and veggies, one acre of land can only produce 250 lbs of beef. At the same time, there is more land necessary to maintains animals rather than planting fruits and vegetables. 70% of water is used on farming and of that, the water that is used to clean waste is dumped into the ocean which pollutes the water and kills many sea creatures. From a Jain standpoint, the cows and chickens which produce milk or eggs receive horrible treatment and are forced to live in confined areas where they can’t even move. Most of the time these animals are beaten by the farmers and the cows are continuously kept pregnant to maintain milk production. The calves are then sent to slaughter houses. While many Indians may question the health aspect of becoming a vegan, it is proven that dairy products are not necessary for the survival of a human after the stage of a baby. There are many alternatives to dairy such as soy and almond milk, soy cheese, and various other products from whole foods or central market. By converting to veganism, you would be saving the environment as well as  shedding the karma that each soul acquires by encouraging the dairy industry.
– Shivani Daftary

METHANE
Methane is an odorless and colorless gas made by anaerobic bacteria on land and deep in the ocean. It is the 2nd most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere second to CO2. Natural gas and petroleum systems are the largest source of CH4 emissions from industry in the United States. Domestic livestock such as cattle, sheep, and goats produce large amounts of CH4 as part of their normal digestive process. Methane is generated in landfills as waste decomposes and in the treatment of wastewater. Upgrading the equipment used to produce, store, and transport oil and gas can reduce many of the leaks that contribute to CH4 emissions. Methane can be reduced and captured by altering manure management strategies at livestock operations or animal feeding practices. Not eating foods that promote this industry to grow will also help. Emission controls that capture landfill CH4 are an effective reduction strategy. Also, reducing the amount of waste that you produce can decrease the size of landfills over the years.

– Reena Maheshwari

WATER

Even though 75% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, only 2.5% of it is fresh and 2/3 of that it frozen. This makes water an extremely precious resource, something that many people fail to understand. A huge number of large rivers including the Colorado, Rio Grande, Ganges, and Nile are no so over tapped by humans that they discharge little to no water into the sea for months. In addition globally our water use has been growing at twice the rate of population growth in the last century and here in the United States, twice the global average is used. Over tapping also causes countless freshwater species to die and they are becoming extinct at twice the rate of saltwater species. Clearly, over using water is a huge crisis and measures must be taken in order conserve water. Vegetarianism is actually very beneficial in conserving water; livestock accounts for more than half of all the water consumed in the United States.

– Prachi Shah