In the last year, I have tried to go vegan six times and failed. The maximum I’ve lasted on a Vegan diet is two weeks. May be I lacked motivation, may be I lacked discipline. But when I recently met some people who have been vegan or vegetarian for many years now, I happened to ask them, if they had any regrets about all the amazing food they were missing out on. And one of their replies was possibly the best vegan quote ever made.
“My only regret about going vegan, is not doing it sooner.”
I’m a pescatarian (someone who doesn’t eat meat, but does eat seafood). And this is not a conscious decision. So when I heard, that people actually pledge to eat or not eat certain foods for health, animal welfare or other reasons, I was intrigued. I also thought ‘people just want to make a movement out of everything these days.’ Exaggeration, activism, unnecessary hype are some of the things that came to my mind when a girl I met told me she isn’t going to consume dairy products for the rest of her life.
Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.
But the more I learnt, the more the subject interested me. Which brings me to today’s feature.
Soumya Bhat, a HR professional from Bangalore, is my first feature today. Her struggles along her vegan journey are both shocking and inspiring.
“I turned vegan around two years ago, and what led to that was a video I watched of a cow being transported from a dairy farm and then being slaughtered. It was artificially inseminated, made to deliver calf after calf, and all just for milk and meat. I was a girl that liked her cheese. I used to even eat my dosas with cheese.I couldn’t be part of this ruckus anymore. I cried myself to sleep that night, that’s how scarred I was.
How did people around you react to your sudden change of mind?
Well, some people thought it was a phase, some said I was emotional and impractical. Some even thought this was my new weight-loss plan. But I guess, the small steps that I maintained consistently helped me. I switched to Soy milk, ate more spinach and I worked at keeping my diet balanced. Results? Better hair, better skin and better living. But most of all, I felt good. People say veganism is bad for health in the long run, but that’s just a myth. I am perfectly healthy now.
Do you have cheat days?
There are nights when I question what I am doing and just want to stuff my mouth with a double cheeseburst. Especially on the days Dominos’ has a buy one get one free offer. Sometimes I watch awful videos of animal slaughter to remind myself why I am doing this. But no, I don’t have cheat days anymore. I don’t feel the need to cheat. There is nothing to cheat on anymore. This is who I am.
What can you tell me about your pets?
“I have two pets, Cookie and Shadow. Both are rescue puppies that have changed my life. When cookie came home, he was a street pup who was shaking and was so terrified. But today, he is the only one that watches TV shows with me , or waits up when I come home late. Shadow grew up on the streets. Despite that, now she never wants to go back. She is possessive of me, doesn’t even like me playing with other dogs. I am so lucky that they chose my street to grow up in.”
Soumya is a crusader for animal welfare and she is content that she is doing her bit. She also supports Voice of Stray Dogs (VOSD) in their work. Veganism might have taken away pizzas and ice creams, but has given her a much clearer conscience.
My second feature today could easily be the cutest vegetarian you’ve met.
Kushal Hebbar, is an engineering student at BNMIT, Bangalore. I first met him after his PETA nomination. Kushal is now in the running in a PETA contest called ‘Cutest Vegetarian Next Door’.You can vote for him here: http://www.petaindia.com/blog/vote-for-cutest-vegetarian-next-door/ This boy doesn’t waste time. No sooner did I ask him about his journey , he says,
“Human greed is a terrible thing. So many things to choose from but somehow we manage to find a way to harm animals; creatures that can’t voice their concerns or pain.
This happened in Mysore. There was a house being constructed opposite my house and on its terrace was a kitten which was being picked on by 3 crows. My grandmother called me to show me what was happening and the next moment I was climbing on top of that terrace through the drain pipe that ran up on the side of the house just to shoo those crows away and save that kitten. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just did it because it felt right. I was young I didn’t know what animal welfare was, I didn’t know what PETA was, all I knew was that cat was in trouble. I’m sure many of us have these instances where we managed to save an animal and we felt good about ourselves. But then the same people grow up and say “My god that mutton kebab was so good”.
‘Glass Walls’ is a video that changed my perspective completely. [ Click here to watch GlassWalls ] The documentary throws light on how animals are treated in slaughter houses and it is painful. I sent it to a lot of friends, many of them watched it and replied saying it was hard for them to watch, few non-vegetarians said “that video made me want to stop eating meat”, but there were some non-vegetarians who watched the first 20 seconds of the video and shut it off because they knew what the rest of the video was going to be about. If you are not man enough to watch a video of animals being treated unethically how do you manage to be proud of eating meat? “
Alex Seltmann, a student of medicine from Jena, Germany is a practising vegetarian and when I asked him for his favourite dish he says it’s a “Kartoffelpuffer” which is a potato pancake.
“As a German, you find meat and fish on the table every single day, every single meal. It is just so normal. When I worked in India for an year, it was the first time that I could see in every restaurant, that the dishes containing meat or seafood or even eggs were marked red! Since it was easy for me to live as a vegetarian in India, I started. And I fell in love with the aesthetics of cooking vegetarian dishes, I just love well-made vegetarian dishes! Secondly the meat production system disgusted me since a long time, so it was a relief to stop supporting it, as well as to stop contributing to the huge environmental costs, especially in a meat-eating country like Germany. Lastly, as a medicine student, I know about the health benefits I get out of the vegetarian way of life – so all in all, there are absolutely no regrets.”
Ranjini Rao, who is a student at BMS College of Engineering, Bangalore, is currently running an animal welfare project and is a staunch vegetarian.
“A man was mauled by a tiger! A boy was trampled by an elephant..”,such incidents draw the ire of people and “inhuman” behaviour of these voiceless creatures are condemned! As unfortunate as they maybe, no one bats an eyelid when they see chickens in a poultry farm, cows being butchered, people running over strays or hunting wild animals. Such incidents which remain as musings in the minds of few is one of the reasons why I decided to stay vegetarian and S.P.A.W. is an organisation I started in my college which brings together people who believe in giving a voice to our fellow creations.”
What I learnt from this encounter was fairly simple. These people have a ‘Belief System’. No matter how small the impact, they want to bring change. Remember, belief is a key. And what you believe in, decides what doors you unlock.