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The Vegan Movement

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. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Become a Dolphin Ambassador

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 www.dolphinembassy.org. 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. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Judgments on Animal Cruelty

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. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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