On Veganism

by Tara* Kaushal Renee-Somerfield-Save-the-Earth-300

Why I think it is the only food and lifestyle philosophy that aligns with my value-systems.

So shall we get the calls of “hypocrite” out of the way?

I am not a vegan (eats and uses only plant matter). I've spent my adult life oscillating between being a lacto-ovo-vegetarian (vegetarian, plus dairy and eggs), pescetarian (lacto-ovo-vegetarian, plus seafood) and omnivore (eats both plant- and animal-origin food). (I'm calling out the way I've used these terms, as there are so many types and definitions: eg, in Indian Hindus, ‘pure veg' usually means lacto-vegetarian.)

Truth is, veganism is the only food and lifestyle philosophy that aligns to my belief systems; and food is the only aspect of my life in which I am a blatant hypocrite, where my actions don't match my words. With a personality that's “guilt-prone” (my therapist's words, not mine), it bothers me no end that I am not even a committed vegetarian; niggling guilt and disappointment tinge the pleasure of a good steak. I cannot believe my lack of will power, that my tongue and hedonism (and laziness) win in a battle against my beliefs.

So what are the beliefs that point me straight to a vegan lifestyle?

Anthropocentricism: Let's consider, first, the mediocrity principle, the opposite of anthropocentricism. What is the place of humanity in The Grander Scheme of Things? We are, for all our self-aggrandisement, no more than one species on earth, and one of millions in the universe. If we are no more or less than the animals who co-inhabit earth with us, we don't—shouldn't—have rights over them.

Let's say one believes the opposite, that humans are the most significant species on the planet, the very pinnacle of evolution, the Masters of the Earth. One could take an anthropocentric belief system to mean that we are the rightful owners of everything that lives—or see that it grants us agency, great power… and great responsibility. In a situation where we can control the fates of other species, how should we treat them? If you had a kingdom, what kind of monarch would you be?

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In The Name Of The Holy Cow…Yet Again…

by Gautam Pemmaraju

On January 7th news publications ran reports of a young Muslim cattle trader being harassed by members of the Hindu right-wing Bajrang Dal in Madhya Pradesh. A group stopped 25-year-old Anish Aslam Kureishi, son of a cattle trader of Chhindwara district, on December 31st, who was ferrying cattle. The men demanded money from him and on his refusal, they damaged his pick-up truck, dragged him to a village close by, beat him up, shaved part of his head off, as well as one eyebrow and half his moustache, and left him there tied to a pole. While the group claimed that the cattle were headed to an illegal slaughterhouse, the father of the waylaid man stated that they were meant for sale at a nearby market, and his younger brother said that they often paid off the Bajrang Dal to escape harassment. There have been subsequent reports quoting the police and administration that the entire family has been involved in illegal cattle transport. Holy-cow

This incident followed a widely reported amendment to the state’s cow protection laws that received presidential sanction on December 22nd. The amendment, as several commentators have pointed out, extends the scope of the already stringent anti-cow slaughter laws, which expressly prohibits the killing of cows, by increasing the jail term for those caught killing cows, transporting or selling beef, to up to 7 years. In addition, the BJP led government, by way of this amendment, also invests public officials with extraordinary powers to enter, search premises on suspicion of cow slaughter and beef storage, as well as to make arrests. The burden of proof is also transferred to the accused, making this law not only dangerously harsh, but also of dubious constitutional character. The Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s ‘dream’ has come true, according to the state’s Culture & PR Minister, who further added that the administration was keen to enforce the provisions of the Act ‘in letter and spirit’.

Several commentators have been quick to attack the draconian provisions of this already pernicious Act, pointing out that they mimic those of anti-terror laws. The BJP led central government has in the past also attempted ‘more robust application’ (read here and here) by attempting to amend law to bring detention under the ambit of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which was repealed by the Congress led UPA government in 2004.

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