Globalization has changed our lives. With a changing culture, the food on our plate has become diverse. Sometimes that comes with a change in the philosophy of eating, too!
Among the many ‘isms’ popular in the 21st century, veganism enjoys a special status. Food is an essential part of our lives. Supporters portray veganism as beneficial to both health and the environment.
Veganism’s benefit to health is questionable. It can be difficult to obtain adequate protein on a vegan diet.
Its benefit to the environment is also debatable. It depends largely on belief that raising meat increases greenhouse gas emissions and so could cause dangerous global warming. But empirical evidence for dangerous warming is slim.
Some proponents, though, also say veganism is strongly rooted in Eastern religions. Is it?
Pantheism (Hinduism is a popular version) plays a vital role in the spread of veganism. It promotes non-violence against animals. But pantheistic beliefs are diverse. Individual Hindu sects consume meat.
Indeed, a 2014 survey revealed that 71 percent of Indians, 80 percent of whom are Hindus, eat meat. It follows that most practicing Hindus are not vegans.
Beef consumption was also common in ancient India. It was approved by kings and well documented in their literature. That can’t be blamed on a “barbaric” culture. Ancient India had a highly civilized culture with strong religious, artistic, and literary traditions.
So faithful Hinduism doesn’t require veganism. But public misconception and false propaganda vilify meat consumption.
In India, veganism-inspired movements recently took a deadly turn. Controversy over beef consumption has led to widespread lynching of people caught slaughtering cows or possessing meat or leather.
Ninety-seven percent of these incidents took place after the current government came to power in 2014. Incidents increased in 2017 after the federal government banned cattle slaughter.
Cow vigilantes in many areas took the law into their own hands. They were on a mission to punish those guilty of beef consumption. They killed 28 people in 63 incidents in seven years.
Widespread fear of lynching has crippled the beef and leather industries. A few states ruled by the central government have imposed more severe laws against beef consumption.
Countries around the world face a different challenge. Animal rights activists advocate for a ban on meat consumption. Veganism has become a religion in itself—in some cases, ironically, a violent one!
People are free to practice veganism. But they should not impose it on others. Certainly, it must not be allowed to undermine the Rule of Law and strip people of their rights.
Guest Contributor: Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in New Delhi, India.