Why vegan? – a personal account

[Note: I also wrote an article for The Alternative magazines about my reasons of being vegan: 8 reasons why I choose to be a vegan. ]

Why did I turn Vegan? A question I face every time I refuse a cup of milk-tea. It has been a year now since I turned vegan completely, so I find it is a good time to publish this long pending post.

What is Veganism?

Essentially, a vegan is a set of choices stemming from a simple logic: Any being that feels pain should not be put to pain. Thus, a vegan avoids all animal products: Milk & its products, meat, eggs, honey (substituting them with their plant-based versions for taste, if desired), wool, leather, fur, pearl, silk, etc. In my view veganism is an extension of progressive movements like those against slavery, racism and gender inequity. The enslavement and exploitation of a class of sentient beings – on the morally irrelevant basis that they do not belong to our species – must end.

Milk and Cruelty

It was only during breast-feeding related discussions of community health fellowship I came to know that breast milk is not an endless resource and stops after a few years of pregnancy! (Believe me, I know a lot many techie friends who still don’t know this!). Somehow it din’t occur to me to apply same logic to the cows too. Adithya, a friend (also a medical doctor) introduced me to the concept of veganism and later I started reading and understanding more about it. And that was the starting of a year long step-by-step journey towards compassionate changes.

I never imagined that a cow would be forced into pregnancy repeatedly throughout her lifespan (either through artificial insemination or by a common bull) and injected with strong bovine growth hormones that give her painful stomach cramps. When she yearns to feed her baby, the milk, that’s actually made for the calf, is stolen by us, humans. As if that’s not enough, male calves are directly sent to slaughter house and females are kept alive for milk. How can we justify all this torture just because we humans have acquired an addiction to ‘milk’? We are not satisfied with our share of our mother’s milk and still want more, so we steal from someone else’s mother, which happens to be a cow here, even when we grow up, and can supplement our bodies with all kinds of other foods. (A must watch video). No mammalian specie, in nature, drinks milk of another specie, nor does any animal specie drink milk after the age of weaning!

Environment and Hunger

Non-vegetarians often have this misconception that they are saving food for vegetarians by eating animals! Now, did you know that for getting 1kg of beef it takes almost 10-12 kgs of grains? (3-4 kg for chicken). Almost 50% of maize in india and 80% of soy, maize in US goes to cattle feed. The whole process of feeding grain to cattle and than eating meat, seems too inefficient taking huge amount of land, water, fertilizer and other resources. Even international agencies like UN produced a report in 2010 urging people to move towards meat and dairy free diet.  [Video] In 2006, UN-FAO had also brought out a 400 pages of report detailing the impact of livestock on environment and stated that it’s responsible for a substantial part of total GHG emissions. [Full report here]. Raising cows and buffaloes for milk also takes enormous amounts of grains and water. Milk today is consumed more in the form of cheese, paneer, ghee, butter etc.

Personal transitioning

I have always been enslaved to my sweet tooth, and have enjoyed all kinds of milk based sweets, ice creams, pastries etc.  Hence when I found out the brutality behind milk and recognized the fact that milk itself is so needless for my body, I tried to come up with many possible arguments to refute  these claims. I reckon this initial reaction only came out of my own insecurities about losing those delicacies that had become an integral part of my diet. It took me a while to digest the facts and internalize them. While traveling further in many rural place, I found out that all the cruelty related aspects recorded by others are not some isolated incidents. Meanwhile Pulkit too was exploring the idea of turning vegan. Both of us still believed that cow’s milk is good for us health wise. With regular pain-killer intake, Pulkit felt (factually incorrectly in hind sight) that he should continue 1 glass of milk, but he stopped all things he consumed merely for taste (sweets, paneer, ice creams etc). I never had a habit of drinking raw milk, so I started cutting down other things one by one, beginning with cheese and paneer dishes.  It took us 2-3 months to become complete vegans (Pulkit also stopped raw milk later). The first 2 months seemed difficult, but later on we never realized when it became just a way of life!

It only took me a month to learn a few tricks of vegan living and thereafter it was pretty easy to find vegan alternatives of all my favourite stuff everywhere. There’s no reason to miss sweets, ice-creams, cakes, cookies, curd, cheese etc., as everything today can be made or bought in vegan version. all tips for transitioning to vegan diet. can be found here. I have also written many article containing numerous simple and healthy recipes. Here is a complete list of my such articles.

Please read this neatly compiled common questions in case you are planning to go Vegan. Sharan has a very helpful health booklet for the beginners (free download). For hostel students, Arun, an IISc student has devised some excellent guidelines.

Vitamin B12 and D Vegans or non-vegans, deficiency in Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D is very common today, due to our clean diet and increasing pollution (that’s blocking UV-B rays of the sun). Read all about Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D (the links also have supplement information). People deficient in Vitamin D should start the supplement and vitamin B12 is something that everyone would need to have as supplement. 

Speciesism  (discrimination based on the type of species)

The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.
-Alice Walker

I recently read about human slavery in Rome and other countries in the past. It was disgusting how they treated fellow humans , but I see very little progress in the attitude today. We have simply replaced humans with animals, the rest remains the same! Some argue that it’s natural for humans to feel more for their own species. That’s perfectly fine as long as we don’t derive our happiness at the expense of another innocent species. We may be more powerful than the other species, but then Brahmins are also more powerful than Dalits in most of rural India, yet we don’t believe that Brahmins have a right to dominate Dalits, do we? If a powerful specie is entitled to exploit a weaker species, by that logic a powerful gender should also be justified to dominate a weaker one. But then, why do we, educated and civilized people, stand up proudly for gender equality?

Human civilization has been going through a long process of evolution. We started off with many things right but some wrong. Sexism, racism, human slavery, hunting animals for fun, patriarchy are some of them. In time, we have recognized some of these mistakes and corrected them, yet there are many more to correct. Veganism, in my view, is just one of those pending corrections.

Vegan for good health!

It was during the time of exploration, when we were searching for nutritional replacements for Pulkit, we met Parag, a Plant based Nutritionist in Bangalore who gave me two books ‘The China Study‘ and ‘The Food Revolution‘. These books along with Sharan‘s Peas Vs Pills workshop broke so many nutrition related myths.  I was fully convinced that milk is not only needless for human consumption but can also be harmful for human health!

Ingredients of the cocktail called ‘Milk’!

Milk – by dictionary definition means “A white liquid produced by mammary glands of female mammals for feeding their young”. Right, all mammals produce milk for their babies (not for humans! We humans seem to think everything is made for us!) Hence milk is tailor-made for that particular specie.  For e.g., growth rate of a calf is 4 times higher than that of human baby, hence nutrients such as protein, calcium etc are also 4 times higher. These high-levels of protein and calcium are not suitable for humans. Besides, all the sources of animal protein are coupled with high amount of saturated fat that’s linked to rise in cholesterol level and results in various lifestyle diseases. And in fact doctors like Nandita Shah, Neal Bernard, Caldwell Esselstyn and John Mcdougall have been reversing diebetes, heart diseases etc just by healthy vegan diet! (More resources are in the end of the post). Besides, isn’t the animal protein based food (milk, meat, egg) the only source, that can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in its raw form?

What about Calcium?

This is the most frequent question I get. It’s actually a myth that milk is the best source of calcium, something that came out of advertisements by dairy industries and white revolution in the country. Almost anyone with basic nutrition training knows that protein inhibits calcium absorption, and milk is nothing but full of protein (casein which is also mucus forming). In fact below snapshot of calcium comparison between plant based foods and milk would tell you how much misled are we by the industry funded research and advt. campaigns. I sustained entire 9 months of my vegan pregnancy on vegan food without any calcium supplements and I never had calcium deficiency related problems!

calcium

Our anatomy and meat-eating

When I talk to some friends about eco-friendly lifestyle they rhetorically ask “so do you want us to live like caveman?” (as if avoiding plastic and cycling etc. resembles to life of a caveman!). Ironically, when I talked to same people about veganism they asked “But humans have always been eating meat since caveman’s time!” – But we are not Caveman anymore! We are far more evolved  and civilized and have discarded loads of things that cavemen were naive enough to adopt.

I have not found a single person who’s able to hunt and kill even a rabbit without tools and then tear it apart, and eat with all the blood without cooking! What would a 2 years old hungry child pick up when offered raw carrot, and live chicken? Our basic human instincts match mostly of that of herbivores.  But we forcefully train ourselves to change those instincts when we grow out of the innocence of a child. (read Comparative Anatomy of Eating by by Milton R. Mills, M.D.)

If slaughter-houses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian – Sir Paul McCartney (detailed video)

It also makes me wonder why we love one some animals as pets and kill others to eat! After all, both have same feelings and desire to live!

Plant and pain

“So you eat plants, don’t they too feel pain?” – A question primarily non-vegetarians ask (more often than not, merely to win the argument). As per dominant scientific opinions while certain plants certainly respond to stimuli, none can feel pain due to a virtually non-existent nervous system. Contrast that to animals who even feel psychological pain (e.g., dairy cows let out cries of anguish for days every time her calf is forcibly taken away and deprived of its righteous milk). Secondly, even if we hypothetically assume plants to be capable of perceiving pain, non-vegans still would kill/hurt more as farm animals don’t drop from heavens, they are bred/farmed using a massive amount of plant based food and natural resources. Besides life of a plant is drastically different than that of humans or animals. For e.g, when you pluck a leave, it grows back (doesn’t happen with any animal body part). Most plant parts are needed to be eaten or used so that they can propagate by means of pollination.

No deprivation what-so-ever!

Becoming vegan has never been easier. From sweets, chocolates, cakes & ice-creams to curd, paneer, cheese, pizza and tea/coffee, almost every taste you are used to can now be enjoyed without animal ingredients. Find all the where-to-find, how-to-make pointers and other practical tips on Dairy alternatives, Vegan products, Eat-out options, Recipes & more.

Vegan-cake, made by me!

Cooking vegan dishes is my new-found hobby! Find many of my recipes in articles here. Here are some of my favorite vegan culinary websites:

Good communities on the web that help with transitioning:

More resources on vegan nutrition:

Posted on February 2, 2012, in Bits of my life, Eco, Food and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Your right we are far more evoloved now. Cavemen didnt do everything right!and back then they had no choice and we do!

  2. Sejal,

    I am very happy to have found your blog on Indian vegans. I am currently trying to transition to veganism, and wondered what you use in place of ghee.

    Thanks in advance.

    Sonali
    http://www.dicenspice.blogspot.com

  3. Well written, nicely articulated and logical post. To add to it, despite our thousands of years of cave habits our teeth are not same as those of other animals such as dog or lion. Our teeth still resemble those of a cow or an elephant. Evolution has changed us enormously over millions of years, but still our teeth have not evolved for eating flesh. Same logic goes with our intestine. Our intestine like carnivore animals does not secret same amount of acids either.

    I argument, which is not usually proposed by non-vegetarians…is about geography, climatic conditions etc. Few hundred years ago, when there was no global trade, perennially cold countries where farming is/was literally impossible or extremely hot countries, deserts etc where no water and other favorable climatic conditions exists. Though such countries are very few but perhaps these countries went on to become power house and went on to conquer the rest of the world. So specially in India it became a thing of pride and fashion to eat what the masters eat/ate.

    But still I feel animal instinct is something not very easy to conquer, while some feel there’s no need to conquer it at all. All animals are blessed with or developed something unique which helps them to survive but human being, perhaps the least blessed physically with a developed brain, used his brain to his advantage to conquer and rule other animals. Slowly when survival become a non-issue, eating different animals became a thing of pleasure, amusement etc….

  4. Wow.. an eye opening post.. It has forced me to rethink about my food eating habits !!!
    thanks buddy for sharing this info with us

  5. hi, very well written.

    just wanted to add that may be this is not true for all milk companies. for example Amul collects milk through villagers who own cows and these villagers may not treat cows as badly as its shown in these videa..

    but i do agree that overal we need stricter laws and regulations. point is – who is going to implement it?!

    • Hi Chetan,

      I too had the same doubts as yours, that may be its not true everywhere. But what I have discovered is, that the cruelty aspect is same, in various levels everywhere. Amul, mother dairy are one of the biggest in fact. These cooperatives provide veterinary services to farmers, whoever enrolls with them. And the moment that chain starts, all they provide is kits for artificial insemination, hormones etc.

      Besides, all the farmers today, do not really think of calf’s need for mother’s milk. There’s no real way to ensure that the calf has had enough milk and now its your turn! (can you do that with a human baby?)

      Secondly, the cow is always forcefully made pregnant, and stays pregnant throughout her life. Pregnancy is a nightmarish affair, specifically for these domesticated animals. Imagine the whole life of pregnancy! No one asks the cow when she wants to have the intercourse and become pregnant! If that would happen with us women, it’ll be a gross violation of human rights! Moreover, the male calves are most of the time sent to slaughter house or used for veal (illegally) or for leather. Sometimes they are skinned alive, for a particular softness in the leather. Is there really any need for such a torture, for our greed of rasgullas, ice cream and cakes?

      The bottom line here is, cow’s milk for her baby, not us! we had our milk, and we are not babies anymore. It’s not cow’s fault if we haven’t learnt to grow up with our diet!

  6. nicely written sejal. just found the time to read what you’ve written. hope all’s well.

  7. Can you add details about “Egg” please.

  8. Nice Blog with nice concept. Hope it will motivate many readers to reduce at least their meat consumption if not to change …Keep it up…

  9. Loved your post. I have been supporting vegetarianism, but had never thought of becoming Vegan. In the western world where vegetarianism = Vegan, I have been a Vegan but otherwise I do consume milk and curd. Your post is inspiring me to attempt being a Vegan.

  10. Though I am a vegetarian and I don’t drink milk but I can’t do without curd. Any substitutes for that.? And as you’ve written all the lovely sweets made with milk :p

  11. Hi Sejal – new to this blog and loving the articles.. this one especially is quite detailed.. I have been thinking of turning vegan for quite some time.. I dont use animal products apart from milk.. and mainly curd..
    the link above might give a good alternative.. thanks for sharing..

  12. i seeing this bioge i have become 75\% veg

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