It triggered a couple of my own posts on Facebook that were intended to open a dialogue on animal abuse. They served their purpose. I refrained from commenting on my own thread, and my friends were able to keep it up well, but here I am, writing down what I feel aboout the issue, and I think will respond to most of what my friends had to say.
Before I move forward, I will make it clear that I am not a vegan, neither am I vegetarian. I prefer vegetarian to meat or fish, but that is a choice of my palette and not a choice made out of my love for animals.
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, man could not grow all kinds of food everywhere. For people to survive on coasts, fish was good, for those in mountains sheep, goats and yaks were good, for the tropics, plants served the purpose and for deserts it was camel or horse meat. Oh, and in Scandinavia, it’s moose meat.
Having said that, today we have an easier choice, we don’t rely on ourselves for our food, we buy it off the shelves and we can make it as cheap or expensive as we wish. We can choose to be as carnivorous or herbivorous as we choose, yet many of us choose to eat meat at all times. And many of us ask others to give up meat.
My friends have argued endlessly with me for years now, those who are vegetarians, and those who turned so out of love for animals. They claim that animal protein is not needed by us humans. They argue that eating meat makes us hot headed, while vegetarianism makes us calm and rational. They have argued that if non-vegetarians wanted, they could and would give up meat and live healthy.
And I have argued back. To defend my point, I turned vegetarian for two years. No meat. No egg. Only legumes and plant protein. I landed up in the doctor’s office with a massive hormonal imbalance, borderline diabetes and a long list of pills every day. Not to mention acute hairfall and dermatology problems. It wasn’t one doctor, it was multiple doctors and their verdict was the same: I needed protein in the form my body was used to consuming.
The truth is, the human body adapts itself to diet. As a child if you’ve grown up on meat and eggs, taking it away all of a sudden will land you in hospital, because your body is unable to process plant protein as efficiently as animal protein. Reverse the situation: turn a vegetarian into a meat-eater and their bodies will convert most of the meat into cholesterol, but process plant protein more efficiently. You want to turn vegetarian, feed your kid no meat but for the love of God don’t kill yourself for an ideology.
In my opinion, everyone has the right to their palette, but everyone also has an obligation to the environment. The environment ecosystem is a food chain. As my dad famously (or not) said once, if man didn’t eat animals, we wouldn’t breed as many animals and still, the number of cows, chicken and fish would remain constant on the planet because someone would still eat them.
We not only consume but also breed animals for meat. We have controlled their population in the way we desire, a complex chain of demand and supply and a separate ethical question in itself.
My point being, that humans are not indiscriminately killing cows, chicken, fish or turkey. We are also breeding them and the eco-system isn’t impacted by this consumption. If all our kids chose to give up meat, the demand would decrease, the production would reduce and eventually, the eco-system would still be balanced. It is, really, a matter of choice and not obligation.
Yes, it hurts to watch them dragged to the slaughter house, but hey, it hurts a plant when you chop off its fruit, or shear it for corn or wheat or rice. Just because plants don’t have a stronger visible response to stimulus doesn’t mean they don’t feel the same pain that animals do. The truth is, we humans are also part of the food chain. Left to nature we would still hunt, and thanks to science we are creating our own food be it livestock or agriculture.
Animal abuse is different. We cannot recreate rhinos and tigers or breed them at ease. We can never bring the dodo back. We cannot artificially create an elephant. Yet, man will poach them indiscriminately for ivory, for fur, for entertainment. We don’t need to kill a dog or a cat. Yet, we do so as an act of ego centrism.
It pleases the ego-centric man at the center of his universe to believe he can do whatever he wishes with other living creatures on this planet, irrespective of the consequences. An animal will not kill without purpose. Man does. And it pains me beyond comparison.
A few years ago, professors and their wives at IIT Delhi started a campaign to kill all stray dogs in the campus. Some would run little pups over with their cars and laugh about it, some would try to poison their food, others would just stone them. Needless to stay, many of those professors were religious, pious, vegetarian.
They were educated, they taught their children about extinct species for their grade 1 homeworks, and they conspired against a group of animals, who’s language they have perennially failed to understand.
And I would like to believe that a 15-year-olds threats to turn them over to the cops stopped them from fulfilling their mission, although my dad was asked to reprimand his daughter by the IIT director for sending .. uh, threats and vulgar notes to the conspirators. I regret nothing.
Vegetarianism is a matter of choice, but vegetarianism does not guarantee a love for animals. Loving animals has more to do with respect for those who share our planet than just not eating meat. Ideally, I would love to see demand for meat going down eventually as food sufficiency increases, but that is for our future to decide.
I will continue to fight and protest animal slaughter for fun, for a fancy Burberry fur coat, or a stuffed deer-head in a proud hunter’s living room. It’s gory. It’s acting God on a planet where we are nothing but mere players in a bigger, confounding cosmos.