Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Veganism must become a political movement. At the moment it is nowhere near that, anywhere in the world. And the fault lies with vegans themselves.

What is the current state. Capitalism has made it easy for every human to literally eat up the world. Every animal species, every forest, every ore in the ground  every fish in the sea, has been turned into trivial things to fuel an insatiable greed. And, as soon as one species becomes extinct we find another one. Our oceans are now full of jellyfish who have filled the emptiness caused by taking a billion fish out of the ocean every month. Hugely poisonous and of no edible value, 7 nations have, nevertheless, got together to see what they can turn jellyfish into. As mammals and birds dwindle, the food companies are promoting insects as the “new” protein.

What can a vegan do?

To begin with, stop buying. Everything you buy, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, has its consequences and impact. Forests are cut down to grow cotton for T Shirts and soyabean. Each death of a tree means the death of thousands of animals and birds. Cotton is grown with the worst pesticides in the world. Those destroy millions of lives annually, and poison the waters. So, what is ethical ? Wearing cotton ? Or not wearing silk because it boils thousands of silk worms alive ? Choices have to be made intelligently, and the best choice is to keep your wants to a bare minimum. You do not need more clothes, shoes, or cosmetics. You do not need facecream. Vegan- or non-vegan- consumer capitalism is responsible for the destruction of the entire natural world. Veganism means addressing all these issues. Less consumption—not more—should be part of every real vegan's mantra.

Not only are you creating more wealth for the wrong companies, but you are also adding to the burdens on the same earth you wish to save. Vegans who believe in eating/using/buying/exploring the exotic are simply another exploitative group. People who drop lipsticks made at home, to buy chia butter lipsticks, have not factored in how much it costs in terms of fuel to get the chia butter to the factory. And no one is checking whether pesticides and chemical fertilizers have been used to grow the chia. So, the halo that the vegans have put on their own heads is uncalled for. European companies have replaced chicken wings with jackfruit wings for vegans. But jackfruit goes all the way from Asia to England.

Vegans, who believe that backpacking to the wildernesses is about sustainability, are fooling themselves. Eating carrots while entering the last domain of animals and birds, defecating and urinating, spreading germs and clearing pathways for themselves- this is not veganism. This is consumerism.

Secondly, vegans must realize that they should not confuse veganism with all the other labels. Unfortunately, it is competing: not with meat, milk and leather, but with “organic” “locally sourced”. Most retailers say that they have stopped advertising “organic” and replaced it with “vegan”. It is hopelessly confused with healthy, raw food and gluten free. The advertising agencies are toying with your head, and making all the wrong mental associations, by providing completely unnecessary items with the vegan label. By making vegan products look young and vibrant , they have created an image that associates vegan with health. Social media blogs are about how pretty the food should be, rather than where it comes from. You cannot eat avocados from Mexico or Kenya, beans from Brazil, blueberries from the US and goji berries from China, and be vegan. Mexico makes more money from exporting avocado than it does from petroleum, and is cutting down its forests to make way for planting more avocado trees. So what did the vegan achieve? Veganism is not a casual consumer choice. Deciding to go vegan and choosing gluten-free bread are not the same thing. But it has degenerated into that.

Vegans must make political lobbies and compete with Carnism. Carnism, the capitalist philosophy of eating meat and using animals, has caused global warming, with 15% of greenhouse emissions coming from cattle farming alone. And then is the deforestation by clearing land for animal farming. The amount of food needed to raise cattle represents a massive waste of land and grain, with 80% of world soymeal used to feed animals. The world is in its end stage and it has taken us just 200 years of carnism to get there.

Veganism must be a form of boycott, with individuals/communities refusing to put money into harmful industries. You can no longer be a Jain who is vegetarian at home and has a factory that produces gelatine or plywood. Veganism, if it wishes to be environmentally useful, should hold these companies to account, by undermining their profits, and encouraging the development of entirely new sustainable food systems and agriculture.

The Vegan Community Needs Less Consumerism And More Compassion. It needs to put the animals first again. Don’t go shopping, support the building of forests, animal sanctuaries, liberate animals from exploitation - like not buying medicines that are needlessly tested on animals - don't go to zoos, vote for green politicians, refuse to let trees be cut for trains. Put activism over entrepreneurship. And don’t make the excuse that first you will earn money through producing vegan products, and then you will spend it on saving the world.

If vegans would merely replace animal-based production with a vegan market, without challenging the violent logic of capitalism. According to Peter Gelderloos the famous anarchist activist and writer “What if everyone or nearly everyone in wealthy countries adopted a vegan diet? The meat industry would collapse, but other industries and capitalism as a whole would continue, leaving us with the contradiction of a vegan society liberating animals in the limited sense understood by the critique of factory farming, but destroying the environment nonetheless, and all the animals with it”

 “…a world without slaughterhouses could still be a colonialist one, engaging in excessive consumerism that destroys the lives of non-captive animals through habitat destruction and pollution and other forms of environmental devastation.”

Forget focusing just on your own consumption practices, and get onto anti-speciesist politics. What do I mean? Don’t replace cow’s milk with soy or almond milk. Drop all three and put the money into a shelter and a march against the export of meat. The abolition of animal exploitation is part of a wider struggle for social justice.

Imagine if Mahatma Gandhi’s independence struggle had made the wearing of Khadi its sole purpose as a way to defeat the British. We would still have been labouring under British rule.

The struggle has to be a political one. You have no impact if you go the consumer route. The government doesn’t care which lipstick you buy. It will be a thousand years before you, as consumers, make any dent in the lipstick market which has not reduced the number of lipsticks that use beeswax and gelatine but expanded it to meet your lipstick needs. But if you were to make a group that votes determinedly for people who will stop meat export, and shut down slaughterhouses, and legislates on what lipsticks can be in the market, then your veganism would have some meaning.

While becoming vegan is important in the step towards saving the planet, the minute you go looking for "cruelty free underwear", you have lost the battle. You don't need more goods, vegan or otherwise, that deplete resources, pollute ecosystems, fill landfills, and kill free-living nonhumans — you need less of everything.

Veganism is about dismantling a system that depends on the enslavement and abuse of nonhuman lives. If you are to be vegan then be so in every capacity; reducing or eliminating your travel, your reproduction, consumption, waste. You need to be politically informed and active and engaging others, being willing to take a stand and speak out . And you need to rescue animals. 

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Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Yellow fin tuna products sold in the U.S. are being recalled, through an order by the Food and Drug Administration, because they can cause a type of food poisoning called scombroid fish poisoning. This happens when people eat fish that's contaminated with high levels of histamine, a compound that causes allergy like symptoms.

The contamination occurs when the fish are not properly refrigerated and bacteria break down the fish's flesh, resulting in high levels of histamine. Symptoms of scombroid fish poisoning can include a tingling or burning sensation in the mouth, facial swelling, rash, hives and itchy skin, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, flushing of the face, headache, faintness, sometimes with blurring vision, abdominal cramps, wheezing or other breathing problems, a tight feeling in the throat, or a metallic or peppery taste in the mouth. Symptoms of Scombroid poisoning typically begin within 5 to 30 minutes after eating the fish, and last a few hours. In some cases, symptoms can persist for a few days. Sometimes antihistamines can help. In severe cases, a trip to a hospital emergency room is necessary for care with IV fluids, oxygen or other medications and treatments. Histamine poisoning can be life-threatening in persons with conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Symptoms related to histamine poisoning can also be similar to those of coronary heart disease, increasing the possibility of an invasive medical intervention if misdiagnosed. There is insufficient knowledge about it in the medical community in India.

Some kinds of fish contain naturally high levels of the chemical histidine. This chemical is converted to histamine by bacteria. Unrefrigerated, or improperly transported, fish of the families Scombridae and Scomberesocidae (e.g. tuna, mackerel, bonito), are commonly implicated in incidents of histamine poisoning, which leads to the term, "scombroid fish poisoning", to describe this illness. However, certain non-scombroid fish, mahi-mahi, bluefish, and sardines, anchovy, herring when spoiled, are also implicated in histamine poisoning.

Histamine is a naturally occurring compound that helps regulate specific functions of your digestive, nervous, and immune systems. If you’ve ever experienced an allergic reaction, you’re probably familiar with common symptoms associated with elevated histamine levels, such as nasal congestion, itchy skin, headaches, and sneezing. You may also ingest histamine through your diet – it occurs in certain foods like cheese, wine, pickles, and smoked meats.

The Tuna samples, that have caused this recall, had histamine levels above the Food and Drug Administration regulatory level of 50 ppm (levels were between 213 and 3245 ppm). In most cases, the tuna used to prepare burgers and salads was frozen and thawed more than once before serving. Tuna ground for burgers and sandwiches can be susceptible to both, temperature fluctuations and bacterial contamination. Tuna is served raw as sushi , sandwich fillings and salad, and cooked as filets, steaks, burgers. Tuna is canned in oil, brine, water, and  sauces, and used for sandwiches and salads. Some parts of the meat are used as canned pet food. Canning retains any histamines that may have been produced by bacteria.

Tuna is brought to cities from both local and international waters. It is supposed to be refrigerated from the minute it is caught. But most Indian fishermen bring it in the hot sun to port only a few hours later. From there it is supposed to go in refrigerated trucks and this takes 7-14 days. The fish meat is put into freezer bags and stored in freezers for 2 to 4 days until served as salads, steaks, filets or burgers. It is taken out at intervals to be ground into patties, and restored in the cooler until cooked and served. This requires several freezing and thawing cycles. These food-handling practices are common to all restaurants that serve tuna. Inadequate refrigeration, dirty grinders, are some of the problems discovered in restaurants. Histamine poisoning from fish is probably the principal cause of morbidity from toxic fish consumption worldwide.

Histamine development is more likely to occur in raw, unfrozen fish. Because the fish might appear and smell normal, the consumer is unlikely to identify a problem before eating the fish. Once the bacteria have formed the enzyme histidine decarboxylase, histamine production can continue even if the bacteria are killed. The toxins produced are heat stable and, once formed, are not destroyed by cooking, smoking, or freezing.

Tuna are especially vulnerable to temperature fluctuations, because their average body temperature when caught tends to be several degrees warmer than that of other types of fish.  Thin pieces of fish, such as the belly meat used for ground tuna and salads, are more vulnerable to temperature fluctuations. Violation of storage and temperature controls are also more likely with tuna used for salads and burgers, because pieces are stored over a longer period than filets and exposed to multiple thawing and refreezing cycles. The grinding process, used to make tuna burgers, can contaminate the fish by either mixing histamine-forming bacteria into previously uncontaminated material or by increasing the temperature of the tuna through mechanical friction.

Currently, tuna are caught in gill nets, which causes the fish to get bruised and injured when they try to fight their way out. By the time the nets are hauled, and catch sorted, many hours pass after death and histamines build up.

Histamine levels should remain below 100 ppm, which is possible when tuna is frozen immediately after catching, but in tropical countries with poor freezing facilities, levels are known to rise above the acceptable threshold, even if the fish remains above 4 degrees Celsius for five minutes. In India, tuna are sold in the open, with no ice (along with seerfish and mackerel).

Tuna is now being pushed by this government. Till now, most of it was sold in Kerala and Goa and is not among the most preferred species in the domestic market, because it is not traditionally caught.  It is being promoted for domestic customers through the Ocean Partnerships for Sustainable Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation, a World Bank/GEF-funded project, and  The Bay of Bengal Programme Inter-Governmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO), headquartered in Chennai. The Indian seas, according to the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, have nine species of the fish. But the tuna that are brought in are not maintained well. Indian vessels are relatively small, do not use on-board refrigeration, and depend on ice, which limits the amount of fish that can be properly stored. This is being sought to be changed, so that more tuna can be caught. The object is to compete with the US and France.

But, is this the time to promote a fish that is considered dangerous to health?

Tuna is known for its mercury content. Many fish species carry high levels of the metal mercury — a dangerous contaminant that can affect the nervous system. Pollution has raised mercury levels in our oceans. This mercury is consumed by fish and converted to a toxin known as methylmercury. Fish, like tuna, are high on the food chain. They consume other contaminated fish, compounding their mercury levels.

Children are vulnerable, as their developing nervous systems are particularly vulnerable to mercury’s effects. In March 2004, the United States FDA issued guidelines recommending that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children, limit their intake of tuna and other predatory fish.  A January 2008 report revealed potentially dangerous levels of mercury in certain varieties of sushi tuna, reporting levels "so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market."

While fish like bass, carp (rohu), cod (gobru), lobster, snapper, have moderate amounts of mercury and are advised to be eaten less than six times a month, and not by pregnant women and children, tuna ranges from medium (Canned Chunk light) to high (less than 3 servings a month) Tuna (Canned Albacore, Yellowfin) to highest mercury (avoid eating) : Shark, Swordfish, Tuna (Ahi). Among those calling for more warnings, about mercury in tuna, is the American Medical Association.

Environmentally tuna is about the worst fish to eat.

Dolphins swim beside several tuna species. Tuna schools associate themselves with dolphins for protection against sharks, which are tuna predators. Commercial fishing vessels exploit this association by searching for dolphin pods. Vessels encircle the pod with nets to catch the tuna. But the nets entangle dolphins, injuring or killing them. 1 million tonnes of tuna are caught annually, but the 'bycatch', which is fish that is discarded because it is not tuna, runs into millions of sharks, turtles and other oceanic fish.

According to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Indian Ocean yellow fin tuna, Pacific Ocean bigeye tuna, and North Atlantic albacore tuna, are all overfished. A 2010 tuna fishery assessment report, released in January 2012 by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, supported this finding, recommended that all tuna fishing should be reduced. In 2010, Greenpeace International added the albacore, bigeye, bluefin and yellowfin tuna, to its seafood red list, which are fish in danger of becoming extinct. The bluefin, are now considered by IUCN as critically endangered.

Research shows that increasing ocean temperatures are taking a toll on tuna in the Indian Ocean, where rapid warming of the ocean has resulted in a reduction of marine phytoplankton.

Is tuna what India needs on its plate ? 

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Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

I have just returned from an amazing assembly of a 100 very special people with visionary ideas, inventions and research who gathered at the request of Alexander and Nicole Gratovsky at Delphi, Greece. The Gratovskys are Russian anthropologists who are using their wealth to explore the nature of consciousness and the purpose of mindfulness. They believe, on the basis of their research, that the key to survival on the planet are dolphins and whales, and the more we kill them the closer we are to the end of the world. 

After listening to their remarkable TED talk I believe them too. They are not dreamers but practical scientists who live in Tenerife, which is a meeting point for cetaceans, so as to be able to pursue their research with these remarkable beings. They believe that the dolphin is more intelligent than human beings, and far better adapted to saving the world, and they have opened Dolphin Embassies all over the world to represent them. Their site is My friend Dr Ashok Khosla, who has spent his life finding practical solutions for a successful rural economy and runs Development Alternatives, is the Dolphin Ambassador in India. I would like to apply to be one of the people working in this embassy- and so should you. They have a Dolphinity World Festival where they teach about the mind and languages of cetaceans, show documentaries – I saw a deeply moving one that they have just made and show you how to experience personal contact with the universe.

This is what I learnt from the Ted Talk:

50 million years ago Earth’s water was inhabited by cetaceans. Many million years later another species of being, humanoids emerged. But strangely, while the Earth is 70% water, which is three dimensional and feeds life, the humanoids chose islands of land.

People and dolphins have much in common. Both of us are air breathers : dolphins come up to breathe. We have the largest and most organized brains – but dolphins more than people. Both are individuals with specific personalities and unique features. They both pass the scientific mirror test of self awareness (recognizing yourself in the mirror) but dolphins can do it as soon as they are born . Humans can only do it after we are about 1.6 years old. They sing, have a sense of humour, curiosity, wonderment, memory, the ability to learn, a language. The dolphins and humans are the only species that make love face to face, and do it not to propagate the species but for the joy of it.

Both pass the most important test for intelligence: non reactive behaviour. They are both guided not by external factors, but by an internal moral code that overcomes even the instinct for self preservation. Both believe in love, friendship, empathy that goes beyond momentary self interest.

But this is where the similarities end.

Humanoids, or people, multiplied at an astonishing rate. While their destruction of Earth was initially slow, in the last two centuries the development of technology has not been to improve their well being. It has all been aimed at destruction. Humans chose to want to master nature and in the process destroy it.

Dolphins want to interact with nature and use love as their means of preserving it. While they are never asleep, being aware even when they are resting, dolphin actions have three features : play as a means to pass on information, love as a source for every action, and a respect and embracing of their surroundings. Imagine if we could be like them in our approach. People simply want to create and consume material objects and value their success by the amount they have of what they do not need. Dolphin culture is simply to own nothing but to rejoice in each other, the planet and the universe.  They have a complex social interaction and use their brains , hearts and highly developed organs of perception to receive and transmit.

Another important difference that makes them superior to us is that their culture of passing on of knowledge is entirely stable. Ours is so unstable that it depends totally on temporary social contracts, and is often lost or questioned by each generation. Do you remember where your grandmother used to get her food from ? No. But dolphins pass on each bit of knowledge and remember it.

Another feature of intelligence is language. But while ours is now so convoluted, and unstable, that we talk in codes and mostly lie, their language is direct and in perfect harmony with their mental and emotional state.

We, as a species, are entirely disconnected from nature and we make sure that our children move away as quickly as they can. We have no more play – the swings and see saws of childrens’ playgrounds are not play, but simply things to do to use up time. We have forgotten why we came to the planet, what can make us happy. Instead, we have destroyed more than half the species on the planet and polluted 9/10th of it. Most of our non renewables are exhausted. We are the unhappiest we have ever been. At any given point there are over 100 wars going on - local, national and international. In every village in my constituency there are at least 30 fights every week over land, walls, animals, caste and whatever else we can think of to make ourselves more miserable. There are over 20 million attempted suicides every year from loneliness and sickness.

The nobleness, the gentleness, the pure joy that dolphins and whales radiate, makes me cringe to be a human. They suffer, as we do, from depression, but that is usually brought on by external events like the loss of loved ones or the loss of freedom. A new feature of mass suicides is now a part of dolphin culture, but that is brought on by the unbearable acoustic pollution of their environment.

But even more important than who dolphins are, the Gratovskys and their scientific teams have discovered that cetaceans are the only species that are keeping us from total and instant destruction, by preserving our water and air. They bring up chemical compounds from the depth of the oceans to the surface that form two thirds of the planet’s air. Biologists call it the big biological pump. The songs of the whales, which represent the strongest and most harmonically organized sound, have a therapeutic influence on polluted and deformed water (anyone who does not believe this should look at Dr. Masaru Emoto's work, which was laughed at earlier but has now proven to be true).

Annual meetings of cetaceans in different parts of the globe are key events that decide the planet’s survival.

We have just a few Gangetic dolphins left in our rivers. But no government has made any effort to conserve them. Instead, we encourage net fishing and this entangles their gills and kills them, as they cannot surface to breathe. While we and China are decimating our own dolphins and giving Padma Shris to people who write books about them, Japan , Denmark and Norway are doing their best to kill the rest. Japan refuses to obey the world decision not to kill whales, and sends out whale killing fleets every day for no reason, since they don’t even eat them. Denmark’s Faroe Island’s have an annual festival in which they herd hundreds of dolphins into an inlet with their boats and then every human, including children, get into the water and stabs them repeatedly till the entire inlet is full of blood. No reason except the desire to kill. Norway has also decided to kill cetaceans.

Do we not realise that the end of cetaceans is the end of us. In that remarkable book, So Long and Thanks for the Fish, (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy) written by Douglas Adams as a philosophical look at the viciousness of mankind, the dolphins simply decide to leave the planet and, as they go, the world disintegrates.

Become a dolphin ambassador immediately. It means changing yourself to live in harmony with your surroundings, with a lack of want for material things, and going forward to do good for the planet. Don’t eat fish if you want the fishing fleets, that wage war on the creatures of the sea, to stop. Plant trees and nurture them. Meditate. Don’t fight – make a joke of everything. Teach yourself and your children the value of all species. Take an active position against Japan, Norway and Denmark and, if you can do nothing else, write to their embassies here. See the Gratovsky’s Ted Talk on You Tube ( TEDxSadovoeRing – YouTube.  ) It will change your vision. 

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Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

A few months ago a Veganfest was held in Delhi. It was attended by hundreds of young, affluent, well read and enthusiastic people. The speakers were from all over the world. But each one represented a company that was making vegan products: mock meat, cosmetics etc. There were no philosophers, no one to define what veganism could and should be. It was a consumer event.

That is what worries me about the rapidly spreading vegan movement. It is simply about buying “something else”. It was meant to be transformative, something that would make the world a gentler, happier place, save animals and reduce suffering. Instead it is yet another fashion statement.

Let us look at the impact of veganism on the food industry. If 5% of the US and Britain are vegans then meat consumption should have dropped by that amount. Instead it has increased by 10%.

In fact, the meat industry has embraced veganism as another way to make a quick buck. All meat chains have added a few vegan items to their menus. No restaurant has lost any customers due to veganism (which they should have), they have added new ones. Vegans go to Mc Donald's and order a vegan burger – which helps keep Mac Donald’s profits rolling so that they can kill more animals and make more meat burgers. Look at the economics. Greggs is a meat sausage roll company. They started a vegan sausage roll and their profits went up by 58%.  But if customers were simply switching from the meat to the plant-based sausage roll, profits would have stayed the same. Has their meat production dropped? Not by one roll.

Papa John’s, the meat and dairy pizza chain, has also seen a boost from its vegan “sheese” range which it launched on the same day as its hotdog version.  “Our vegan customers like to share on social media how happy they are that we are catering for them.”

Every supermarket has opened a vegan section. But it is nothing compared to their meat, cheese and dairy sections. Ice cream giants have non dairy ice cream – but they also sell dairy ice cream. Burger King now has a vegan burger. Has this changed the people eating meat burgers ? No. Burger King customers continue to buy beef burgers. But now vegans and vegetarians come through the doors too. They have simply widened their customer base, not changed habits or spending choices. The vegan movement, that should be doing all it can to put animal killers out of business, is now handing over its money to them. Do Burger King, Mac Donald's and KFC have a special fund into which they put vegan money in order to rescue animals, or clean up the planet? No, the core business of these corporations is animal slaughter for food. By financially supporting them, all vegans do is fund their ability to continue their environmentally damaging meals. If a burger chain offers one vegan option, you are not 'flexing your vegan muscles' by giving them your money. You are falling into their capitalist trap. Likewise, giving money to leather boot companies that also have boots made of polyurethane plastic in every colour. The company that sells both has now doubled its sales in leather.

Vegans seem to believe that we can simply spend our way to animal liberation and saving the planet. All you have to do is descend on supermarkets and restaurant chains, stuff your trolleys and stomachs with vegan products and suddenly the world will become a better place for all species. But you don’t end exploitation by handing your money to exploiters. All you do is bankroll further exploitation. Vegans are not here to make the shopping aisles bigger, but to end exploitation. You cannot spend your way to paradise.

This emphasis on buying different versions of the same products, from the same companies, has led to masses of clever advertising jugglery by companies. All the things that were always vegan, now have a vegan label on them : vegan beer, vegan sofas, even a vegan massage. Something that was called a soya protein shake is now a vegan protein shake. More restaurants, more clothes, more brands of cosmetics. Basically, it is just “greenwashing”.

For instance, Body Shop is where rich vegans buy their cosmetics from. But Body Shop is owned by L'Oreal, one of the largest testers of animals in the cosmetic world. Body Shop is simply their outlet to capture the vegan consumer. Dairy-free ice-cream from Ben & Jerry's may sound good, but it is owned by Unilever, the villains of vivisection.

That vegans are being taken for a ride, on the “vegan consumer train”, is obvious. Last year Daiya, the maker of vegan cheeses, sold their company to a Japanese pharmaceutical company that tortures animals for "research." So many companies have built their business on veganism and then sold out to larger non-vegan conglomerates. Companies don’t care about the rights of animals, they care about the wallets of their owners. Corporations view the earth, nonhumans and humans, as capital to profit from and exploit.

Vegfests should not be simply about food, community and entertainment. Veganism is not a trendy lifestyle, or something that you can show off with to other people at social events. Today, vegan magazines are just about food recipes and advertisers: clothing, travel, cosmetics. Not a single magazine or even blog, undertakes to grapple with the real issues of veganism – education, government policies, critical thinking, speciesist language (you pig/dog/swine !) capitalism, non human rights, the animal industrial complex. Should our Indian exports be solely based on meat/eggs and milk ?

Veganism is now the 21st century version of California’s Haight –Ashbury hippie cult. Handled in an irresponsible style, and quickly seen as a drug fuelled protest, this serious anti war movement of the 60s was short lived. Veganism now is seen as a temporary fad adopted by youthful, rebellious, teenagers in search of “self expression”. Like all fads it, unfortunately, belongs to a teenage world and will be outgrown in adulthood.

Going vegan is one tool which can be used to undermine the huge impact commercial animal agriculture has on our planet’s health, climate and biodiversity. But the simple eating of vegan food alone isn’t necessarily going to undermine these practices. What we eat, how it is produced, and the amount we consume, all are questions that need to be answered as we transform food production. These questions are not answered when our dietary choices boil down to choosing the latest cool vegan option. Vegans needs to be wary about how the switch to plant-based diets can be easily incorporated into existing unsustainable food systems, making it not the lifestyle of ecological warriors but simply another mainstream consumer choice. 

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Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Some of our judges are now beginning to understand what animal cruelty does to a nation and act on it.  Acting Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, Honourable Justice Rajiv Sharma, has written some of the finest judgements on animal cruelty. These should be taught to all judges that come for training, in specific subjects, to Bhopal. Justice Sharma is known for expeditious disposal of cases and his concerns for nature and environment. Justice Sharma has delivered landmark judgments, such as granting living entity status to the Ganga and the animal kingdom. And, when the mind deepens and expands, it understands injustice and suffering for all, so I am not surprised that Justice Sharma has also delivered important judgments such as deletion of caste from FIRs, directives for preventing suicides by farmers, abolishing age-old system of solitary confinement for death penalty convicts, and a series of other reformist orders in the realm of education, health and mental health.

Now comes the judgement from the Chief Justice Sanjoy Karol and Justice Arindham Lodha banning animal sacrifice in the temples of Tripura. The public interest litigation was filed by a former judicial service officer, Subhas Bhattacharjee, last year. This is a welcome judgement, because it clearly understands the greed of priests and the economic roots of inventing such a ritual. It also understands that barbaric rites have no place in a civilized society – not even when they go under the banner of “culture”. For the first time in 525 years there will be no sacrifices at the Durga Bari temple in Agartala. And that is wonderful.

All over the world the judiciary is taking note of animal cruelty, and intervening in areas where the executive is too lazy, indifferent, or too vote conscious to intervene.

On August 19th, 2019 the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) released a resolution regarding animal cruelty, and its link to other forms of violence. This is what the resolution says :

"Empirical research demonstrates a direct link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence, including partner abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse. In homes where serious animal abuse has occurred, there is an increased probability that some other type of family violence is also happening. The NCJFCJ is committed to upholding the rights of all parties and victims, the safety of all family members, and the safety of the community. Animal cruelty is a crime of violence and may be indicative of past or future violent acts.".

Researchers have found that 43 percent of U.S. school shooters, between 1988 and 2012, had histories of animal abuse.

The NCJFCJ recognizes that in the context of juvenile and family court cases, including cases of domestic violence, the court should consider the welfare of abused animals in reaching its decisions. There is a demonstrated link to the safety of human beings at the hands of the animal abuser, when animals are subjected to cruelty. Abuse of a companion animal is one of the four most significant risk factors for someone becoming a domestic abuser, and is an indicator of the use of controlling violent behaviours. Eighty-nine percent of women, who had companion animals during an abusive relationship, reported that their animals were threatened, harmed or killed, by their abuser. Children who exhibit cruelty towards animals are more than twice as likely to exhibit violent behaviours.

“As judicial officers, it is our responsibility to consider the importance of animals as family members in juvenile and family law decisions,” said Judge John J. Romero, Jr., NCJFCJ president. “The NCJFCJ is calling for judges to consider the time and resources necessary to address animal cruelty allegations associated with cases that come before their bench to achieve just results and prevent future violence against both humans and animals.”

The NCJFCJ will collaborate with animal welfare organizations and experts to develop, and make available, educational resources and trainings to assist judges in better understanding the issues and implications of juvenile and family court cases involving animal cruelty.

Earlier this year, the NCJFCJ and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) held the first-ever judicial convening on animal cruelty. The meeting resulted in the resolution and the creation of the new technical assistance bulletin, Animal Abuse Issues: What Juvenile and Family Court Judges Need to Know,

providing guidance for judicial officers regarding the link between animal cruelty and family, and interpersonal violence; animal cruelty in relation to family violence, child abuse and neglect, juvenile offender, and elder abuse cases.

Judges all over the world are in a unique leadership position to spearhead an understanding of the link between animal abuse and other forms of violence. Their judgements can lead to sustainable solutions to build safer communities for both, humans and animals alike.

Are they the only law enforcement people that think that animal crime and crime in general are related ? No.

From January 1st, 2019 , acts of cruelty against animals are now counted alongside felony crimes like arson, burglary, assault, and homicide in the FBI’s criminal database. The Bureau’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is now collecting detailed data from law enforcement agencies on acts of animal cruelty, including gross neglect, torture, organized abuse, and sexual abuse, from 18,000 city, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies. Their studies show that cruelty to animals is a precursor to larger crime.

In the United States, a sheriff is an official in a county, or independent city, responsible for keeping the peace and enforcing the law. Many sheriffs have the role of a police chief. The National Sheriffs’ Association has been a leading advocate for adding animal cruelty as a data set in the Bureau’s collection of crime statistics. The association for years has cited studies linking animal abuse and other types of crimes—most famously, murders committed by serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz. The organization also points out the overlap animal abuse has with domestic violence and child abuse. “If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human,” said John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association. “Identifying and analyzing animal cruelty crimes will provide an important tool for law enforcement. People need to shed the mindset that animal cruelty is a crime only against animals. It’s a crime against society. By paying attention to these crimes, we benefit all of society.”

If you know any judges, please cut this article out and send it to them. 

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