This is a long over due post. I am hoping, though, that our marriage is not too stale a news yet :). Jay and I got hitched on 10th December in Ahmedabad, which we both hail from. Here are some of the highlights of the wedding:
- In accordance with our vegan lifestyle, in the wedding too, we avoided all animal products (including milk, ghee, paneer, cheese, butter, curd, eggs, meat, honey, leather, silk, wool) in every aspect: food, clothing, footwear and even rituals!?
- The menu contained delicious plant based dishes, including soy milk based vegan ice-cream, tofu (soya paneer) sabji, delhi-chat with plant-based curd, vegan tea, dairy-free kaju katli, vegan gajar halwa and egg-less & dairy-free cake.
- Ghee was replaced with sesame (til) oil in the rituals.
- No silk or leather was used in the dresses/footwear. We found non leather shoes at Bata shops. It was equally easy to find artificial silk sarees (which don’t cause silk worm to suffer/die and are cheaper too). Got makeup from Lotus Herbals.
- We had initially thought of not sending wedding invitation cards at all to save paper, but we liked the idea proposed by a friend that we should use the cards to communicate to people why the wedding and our lifestyle are vegan. For all my Gujarati friends, here’s the card in Gujarati.
The response we got to the vegan menu was amazing. Most people could not make out the difference between the vegan curd we had kept with chaat and dairy curd. One of my friends had soy-milk tea and asked another friend how come there is tea at a vegan wedding (He couldn’t discern that the milk was not animal-based)! Similarly, people told us how tofu and paneer taste the same (And, tofu i.e. soy paneer is much healthier, and of course, cruelty-free). Other vegan alternatives such as soy-based ice cream, dairy-free sweets (kaju katli, gajar halwa) and vegan cake were also savoured a lot. My relatives later told my mother that even after eating a fair amount of food, they did not feel very heavy. Well, thats the magic of vegan food :D.
What was equally encouraging was the reactions to the reasons for being vegan. A number of people said they were deeply moved when they read in the wedding card about the severe animal suffering caused by milk products and eggs in India. [Here’s a 5 minute video about it]. Many had no idea earlier that for any cow to produce milk, she has to be raped into a pregnancy and delivery first. And, since any financially viable dairy/tabela needs every cow to produce milk continuously, she has to be forced into a constant, body-breaking cycle of pregnancy, birthing and milking! A lot of people also recognized the massive health benefits of being vegan. Since animal products are responsible for most of our cholesterol and saturated fat (while containing no fiber), many found it intuitive that being vegan helps prevent and cure many of today’s major diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, high BP and osteoporosis (bone weakness).
Here are two excellent links offering practical pointers for smooth vegan living:
This tale began about 7 years ago, when we (Jay and I) met each other in the first year of college. I fondly remember how we used to talk for hours and hours about various things, ranging from routine stuff to serious issues like feminism and environment. With every chat, our mutual admiration grew. I realized that he had that rare quality of thinking logically and responsibly, without any prejudice in his mind – something that was very important for me. We saw that both of us were open to new things, and had the courage to adopt them. Because of this strong compatibility, we were sure that we are a perfect match :). After our B. Tech., Jay moved to Bangalore to pursue his Masters from IISc, and I moved to IIIT Hyderabad. During those three years of long distance relationship, we saw each other grow substantially. Now we are united again in Bangalore, and all set to tie the knot!
About two and half years ago, we came to know about certain facts which brought a crucial change in our life: We adopted the vegan lifestyle (for the ethical reason). Initially, we didn’t know that veganism is the best choice for our own health as well. But, after going through the biggest study ever to link food and health [Undertaken by Oxford University, Cornel University, etc.] and many other resources, we realized that milk, eggs and meat are not only completely unnecessary for humans, but are actually harmful. Like all other animal products, milk & dairy products (like ghee, cheese, paneer) are very high in cholesterol and saturated fat, while containing no fiber. Hence, they cause hyper tension, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. Actually, we already knew much of this: Whenever our relatives had problems like bypass surgery/heart attack, the doctors asked them to stop taking ghee and other milk products right away. So, why not quit milk and other animal products right now? Why wait for the diseases? After becoming vegan, I have continued to eat (coconut/cashew/soy/almond-milk based) ice-creams and sweets. But, since these desserts are dairy-free, I no longer have to worry about the fat present in animal milk! My food now is not only yummy, but healthy too 🙂 .
We always knew that we never wanted to harm animals, but, like most people, were unaware that milk too leads to animal killing and cruelty. Before becoming vegan, we had the misconception that a cow/buffalo “gives” milk (which is a totally wrong assumption)! It did not occur to us that, like a woman, a cow is also a mammal. Hence, every cow has to get pregnant and deliver a baby to be able to produce milk! And, since nature intended cow’s milk for her baby alone (and no one else), it only lasts for a limited time post delivery. But, for any dairy to survive, every cow needs to provide milk continuously. Hence, she is forced into a constant, unbearable cycle of pregnancy, delivery and milking! We saw several documentaries showing the horrific cruelty that milk causes: How cows are impregnated through a rape or awful artificial insemination, the death of male babies which are useless for milk production, the pain of cows (mothers) after they are separated from their babies, and much more. This 5-minute clip shows some of the misery suffered by cows. Thus, it was crystal clear that drinking milk is completely unethical, and must be stopped. As you think more about it, you wonder why humans picked cows for milk. Hormonally and biologically, the milk of a cow/buffalo is totally unsuitable for humans. So, why did people not opt for the milk of monkeys or gorillas, who are biologically way more compatible? That’s because cows are gentle, and can easily be exploited!
Vegan living is also vital for conserving the environment and reducing word hunger. Animal products deplete resources such as land and water massively, since the animals have to bedaily fed and hydrated all through their lives. Growing loads of crops for animals and then feeding on them is a grossly inefficient way to feed ourselves: It takes up to 10 kg of grains to produce 1 kg of animal food!
For the above (and many more) reasons, our lifestyle and our wedding are completely vegan. In the wedding, we are going to have sweets and ice-creams made out of plant-based milks like coconut milk and soya milk, along with a tofu (soya paneer) subji and chat with peanut curd/soya curd. Not only are these dishes cruelty free; they are also cholesterol-free and yummy. For rituals, we are going to use sesame (til) oil instead of ghee. We are also avoiding silk and leather in our clothes and footwear. Yes, the use of silk, leather, wool, honey and other animal products also results in severe animal cruelty and killing! Plus, they can be easily avoided or replaced. Jay has bought a pair of shoes which look exactly like leather, but are cheaper and more durable!
Let’s all think about this issue in an unbiased and open-minded way. Being vegan is a win-win-win decision: for our own health, for animals, and for the environment.
Simple cashew cheese spread
Ingredients: ½ cup cashews soaked for at least 3 hours; 3-4 cloves of garlic; salt and black pepper to taste, pinch of turmeric
Procedure: Blend all the ingredients in the chutney jar of the blender with a little water. Add water one spoon at a time, and blend till its consistency becomes creamy. Refrigerate it overnight for better results. [Optional: Add 1.5 tablespoons of nutritional yeast if available. It can be ordered from Bon appetite in Pondicherry. Since only a little amount is required at a time, a 150gms jar lasts for almost 6 months.]
Plant based milks
One can make milk out of various nuts, seeds, beans etc. Some examples are soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, coconut milk, peanut milk, oat milk. The best thing about plant based milks is that they are cholesterol free and growth hormone free. Hence, they do not cause high blood pressure and heart disease. They don’t promote diabetes, either.
Nut milks [from cashews, almonds and peanuts]
- ½ cup almonds/cashews/peanuts
- Water (2 cups for cashews/almonds, 3 cups for peanuts)
- Wash and soak nuts in water (almonds overnight, cashews/peanuts for 3-4 hours).
- Rinse well and blend with water. First make smooth paste with little water, and then add the rest of the water.
- Sieve with a thin cloth (optional).
Blend grated coconut with equal amount of lukewarm water. Sieve the mixture with a thin cloth. Save the fiber. Once all the milk is extracted, repeat the procedure with the fiber, and a little water to extract the remaining milk. Discard the fiber.
4 cups water, ½ cup uncooked rice (white or brown) or 1 cup cooked rice
- Cook rice and water until very soft.
- Let it cool and put mixture into blender or food processor. Blend until very smooth.
- Let it stand for at least 30 minutes, and then pour the liquid on top into another container. Be careful not to let the sediments in or strain it. Refrigerate. It can be kept for at least 48 hours. Serve cold.
- Use 2 cups of lukewarm cashew/peanut milk. (While using peanut milk, let it boil fully, and then let the temperature come down).
- Add 2 teaspoons of curd as a starter, and mix well. (This can be conventional dairy curd or curd saved from last batch of peanut/cashew curd.)
- Keep overnight. Save 2 spoons of this curd in the freezer to use as a starter for the next batch.
- Peanut curd tastes great with raita, curd-rice, buttermilk etc. For eating curd alone with salt/sugar, cashew curd is a better choice.
Simple vegan fruit-based ice-cream
Blend ½ kg of any pulpy fruit (such as mangoes, chickoo) with a handful of cashews (or even lesser) and 2 spoons of sugar (or according to taste). Let it blend for 3-4 minutes. Freeze the mixture for at least 2 hours, and scoop!
- 1 cup slightly overcooked rice (optionally it can be smashed a little)
- Peanut curd – quantity according to taste
- Salt to taste, Jeera(cumin) powder – 1tsp
- Cumin seeds – 1tsp
- Grated carrots, according to taste, finely chopped mint leaves
- Grated ginger, Finely chopped green chilli
- For tempering – cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves, red chilli, white urad dal, chopped green chillies (3-4)
- Finely chopped coriander and mint leaves – 1tbsp
- Lemon according to taste
- Boil rice with water (take 3 times more water than rice)
- When rice is half cooked, add carrots, ginger, mint leaves, cumin seeds, salt and cumin seeds powder when rice is half-boiled. Mix rice and curd together. Add green chili, ginger, jeera powder and salt.
- In a bowl, take a spoon of oil (optional), and add mustard & cumin seeds. Once they pop, add other tempering ingredients, and pour over the curd rice mixture.
- Add curd and lemon according to taste.
Pointers to more vegan recipes
This article outlines vegan living, 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. Not many people know that – like meat – milk, eggs and other animal products also lead to animal killing and torture! Even in traditional Indian tabelas/dairies, cows have to be subjected to unbearable repeated forced pregnancies and a lot of other misery. Hence, vegans also avoid all dairy products such as milk, paneer, cheese, ghee, butter & curd. So, food wise, a vegan eats nothing from a mother, nothing with a face. Vegans refrain from animal-tested products too, to the extent possible. 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.
Ethics aside, vegan living is also critical for our own health, and that of the environment. There is compelling evidence that cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high BP, asthma, bone weakness and obesity can all be prevented or reversed through vegan eating. Plus, you can achieve all of this without sacrificing your favourite tastes: Be it sweets, chocolates, cakes, ice-creams, curd, paneer, cheese, pizza or tea/coffee, almost every dish you are used to can be found/made without animal ingredients! Read on for details:
- Milk: A source of immense animal suffering
- The acute misery caused by eggs and meat
- “But, don’t plants feel pain too?”
- Vegan food: The healthiest choice
- Exposing the calcium & protein myths
- Vegan for the environment and food security
- Conditioned vs natural
- Renowned vegan personalities
- Leather, wool and silk are NOT cruelty-free byproducts
- Does it harm employment? Not at all
- Agreed, but what about mosquitoes?
- Vegan alternatives exist for almost everything!
Milk: A source of immense animal suffering
The cow (or the buffalo), a mammal like us, has to become pregnant and deliver a baby to be able to produce milk. And, her milk flow lasts only for a limited period after delivery. But, for any tabela/dairy to be financially viable, every cow in it needs to produce milk continuously. Hence, she has to be forced into a constant, body-breaking cycle of pregnancy, birthing and milking! The repeated impregnation is done either through a rape by a common bull, or an equally torturous process called artificial insemination, exposing the cow to diseases. The cow’s babies, the rightful owners of her milk, are largely deprived of it. Since male babies are commercially useless to the dairy, they are either starved or sold to be slaughtered or skinned (often alive for soft leather)! Like humans, cows are deeply attached to their babies. Yet, calves are separated from their mothers, who are subsequently seen letting out cries of anguish for weeks! Milk is mostly extracted through machines, which often run even after the cow’s udders are empty, resulting in a lot of pain. She is injected with hazardous growth hormones like Oxytocin, causing her severe stomach cramps and bone weakness. Kept constantly pregnant and/or lactating, dairy cows get spent very quickly. At less than half their natural age, they are either thrown out on the streets to die eating plastic, or brutally hurled into trucks, which transport them to slaughter houses to die as atrocious a death as their lives have been. This 5-minute video, shot across various Indian tabelas/dairies, shows all of these barbarities taking place routinely.
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The acute misery caused by eggs and meat
Chickens grown for eggs & meat are stuffed in awful, tiny cages, inside a stinking compound containing scores of other birds. To reduce the losses caused by the stressed birds’ pecking, they are de-beaked (i.e., their beaks are chopped off with a hot blade) at a very tender age! A few agonizing months later, the birds are butchered barbarically in full view of their terrified fellow victims! The egg hatcheries (even the ‘free-range’ ones) brutally kill all male baby chicks, since they can’t lay eggs, and don’t grow fast enough to be raised for meat. This 3-minute clip of Indian poultry farms depicts some of the shocking horrors suffered by chickens. The tale of misery is equally sad for pigs, goats, fishes and other animals raised for meat.
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“But, don’t plants feel pain too?”
This is a totally flawed argument. If plants feel pain, that’s actually yet another reason to be vegan! That’s because a user of animal products consumes many times more plants than a vegan does. A non-vegan sits higher on the food chain, consuming not just meat, eggs & milk, but also the plants fed daily to the farm animals for their entire lifetimes! Thus, consuming every kg of animal food also involves the consumption up to 10 kg of grains. Therefore, eating plants directly i.e. eating vegan does the least damage to plants too (not just animals).
Vegan food: The healthiest choice
Milk, eggs and meat account for most of our cholesterol & saturated fat, and contain no fiber. Contrastingly, plant foods are rich in fiber (essential for good digestion), and contain no cholesterol. These facts are among the several reasons behind the following alarming summary from a number of independent studies, including the biggest study ever to link food and health [Undertaken by Oxford University, Cornel University and others under the name ‘The China Study’]:
Milk, eggs and meat cause or aggravate many dreaded diseases including
heart disease, high BP, cancer, asthma, diabetes and bone weakness.
In other words, vegan food does way more than the removal of excess body fat, and improvement of fitness/energy & digestion. It is actually essential for good health. ‘The Last Heart Attack’, a CNN documentary, features Bill Clinton, who has cured his heart disease through healthy vegan food. It also has the testimonies of many eminent doctors/scientists who advocate plant-based food. The awareness is rising in India too. Dr Nandita Shah has successfully solved a lot of diabetes and heart disease cases merely through healthy vegan food! Moreover, animal foods are alarmingly high in antibiotics, pus & pesticides. The pesticide concentration is much higher in milk, eggs & meat than that in vegetables. Recently, the Food Safety Authority of India found 68% of India’s milk contaminated with pesticides, detergents, etc.!
Exposing the calcium & protein myths: There’s absolutely no nutrient that vegan food cannot provide [B12 deficiencies are equally likely in non-vegans]. As substantiated by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, milk protein actually leaches calcium from the bones, resulting in bone weakness! Plus, humans absorb only 32% of the calcium in cow’s milk. Even in calcium content, milk is surpassed by dozens of plant foods: leafy green vegetables (like coriander, methi, radish, curry patta), til (sesame seeds), ragi, almonds, rajma, peas (e.g., chana), moong sprouts, soya products like tofu, etc.
The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis (bone weakness)
are those boasting the highest consumption of dairy products!
If you consume enough calories, you are bound to get enough protein! That’s why protein deficiencies are mostly found in malnourished people. In fact, excess protein leads to serious harm. Anyhow, there are plenty of protein-rich plant foods: all pulses (dal), soy products, all legumes [peas like chana, beans such as rajma, etc.], almonds & other nuts, seeds, and more. In fact, there have been quite a few world-class vegan athletes and body builders, ranging from two-time Olympian Seba Johnson (a vegan since birth), to long-distance runner turned renowned bodybuilder Robert Cheeke (another long-time vegan). Many have also sustained babies and pregnancies on totally vegan food, and are healthier for it!
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Vegan for the environment and food security
Animal products deplete resources such as land and water massively, since the animals have to be daily fed and hydrated all through their lives. Growing loads of crops for animals and then feeding on them is a terribly inefficient way to feed ourselves: It takes up to 10 kg of grains to make 1 kg of animal food! As much as 50% of India’s maize becomes cattle feed. A UN study deems animal products culpable for a whopping 70% of the world’s agricultural land, 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions, and considerable deforestation. Our non-vegan choices lead to the breeding (i.e. birth) – and subsequent torture & killing – of 10s of billions of farm animals (several times the entire human population) in one year! In a nutshell, there is simply not enough land and water to sustain the world on animal products.
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Conditioned vs natural
Ever wondered why milk and eggs are the only unbranded foods being advertised? That’s because natural, instinctive foods like fruits and veggies never need to be marketed. What would a small (unconditioned), hungry child pick up when offered carrots, and a live chicken? Our so-called canine teeth do not make us omnivorous, as canines are also found in several herbivores (e.g., gorillas, horses, hippos). From laterally moving jaws to long intestines, humans possess a dozen physiological traits that make us plant-eaters, not omnivores. A real omnivore’s arteries are never clogged, but heart disease through clogged arteries caused by animal products is the biggest killer of humans! As for milk, is there any species in nature drinking another species’ milk, or any milk at all post infancy? Each animal’s milk is tailor-made for her species by nature. Hence, hormonally and biologically, the milk of a cow/buffalo is totally unsuitable for humans. Finally, since we breed (i.e. unnaturally produce) the farm animals we use, going vegan will bring the animal population down to the natural state.
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It is ironic that many of us avoid racism/sexism, but unconsciously practice an ideologically synonymous ill: species-ism, i.e., the exploitation of one species by another. When it is not fair to hurt beings from other races & genders, how is it fair to enslave and torment beings from other species (that too merely for pleasure, not survival)? Why should justice & kindness be confined to humans when animals too can feel pain equally acutely? What we are doing to animals is worse than the human slavery that was prevalent not so long ago. Imagine being given birth just to be enslaved & tortured for life! That’s exactly the story of the billions of farm animals that we produce (breed) every year! Thankfully, we successfully overcame centuries of conditioning to abolish human slavery, to choose ethics over history. It’s high time we overcome the conditioning & indifference concerning animals too, and take the next leap in our ethical evolution by eradicating animal slavery & oppression.
“Animals exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans,
just like black people were not made for whites, and women not for men.”
Renowned vegan personalities
Here are some interesting anecdotes/quotes from a few of the many eminent vegans. Tobey Maguire (‘Spiderman’), a staunch vegan, doesn’t allow anyone wearing animal skin (e.g., leather) in his house. He even sent back a Mercedes with leather seats. Another inspiration is former Citibank vice president Philip Wollen, for whom, being vegan is ”to be able to look in the mirror without feeling profoundly ashamed”. ‘Avatar’ director James Cameron’s initial motivation for going vegan was environmental conservation. He terms the avoidance of animal products as the “single biggest thing that an individual can do to combat climate change”.
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Leather, wool and silk are NOT cruelty-free byproducts
Milk production is the most common source of leather. Since male calves have no use for a tabela/dairy, most of them are used for leather. They are often intentionally starved, so that can be skinned quickly. Indians are the worst offenders, as our indiscriminate dairy consumption has made us the largest exporter of cow leather! Leather makes up half of all profits of many slaughter houses. Thus, leather (and wool) buyers make meat much cheaper. Wool also causes many atrocities such as flesh stripping on sheep. A silk cloth leads to the exploitation and killing of tons of silk worms.
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Does it harm employment? Not at all
A vegan world will not have fewer jobs. The reduced employment in the animal products industry will be compensated for by increased openings in the vegan products industry. Jobs decline when the demand diminishes. But, veganism doesn’t reduce the demand; it only changes the demand. And, history shows that the market is very adaptable. Besides, from tobacco to chemical weapons, there are many unethical things wherein people are employed, but, do we approve of such things? No, because there exist enough cruelty-free means of employment.
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Agreed, but what about mosquitoes?
The idea is to try one’s sincere best to cause the least amount of cruelty necessary for survival. So, rather than hurting or killing mosquitoes, we prefer to keep them at bay through cleanliness, mosquito nets and/or repellents. Besides, it’s one thing to inflict pain in self-defense or accidentally, and totally another to do so when there’s no necessity.
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Vegan alternatives exist for almost everything!
Being vegan is easier than ever. Avoiding animal products does not mean giving up yummy food. From sweets, cakes, chocolates & ice-creams to curd, paneer, cheese, pizza & tea/coffee, pretty much everything that you are used to can be enjoyed without milk & eggs! Find all the where-to-find, how-to-make pointers and other practical tips on Dairy alternatives, Vegan products, Eat-out options, Recipes & more.
There are tons of recipes that use [cashew, coconut, soya, almond] milk to veganize everything you love! Tofu (a healthier taste substitute for paneer), milk-free chocolates, vegan biscuits, soya milk, etc. are readily available in the market. Many cities also have outlets for vegan ice-creams and cakes. As for eating out, restaurants of every cuisine serve dishes that are devoid of dairy, eggs, meat & honey.
Like food, other choices can easily be cruelty-free too. There are ample options for non-leather furniture, footwear & accessories. Shampoos, soaps & cosmetics involving no animal testing/ingredients are also readily available. Wool, silk, fur and honey can be easily substituted or avoided too. To sum up, veganism involves no deprivation at all! The following will make your vegan life even smoother:
- Practical tips: Dairy alternatives, Vegan products, Eat-out options, Recipes & more
- Facebook groups for information/help on veganism [Open not only for vegans, but anyone interested]: Pan-India, Bangalore-specific
- Contact details: Ruchi [firstname.lastname@example.org], Jay [9483709867, [email@example.com]
No being that feels pain should be put to pain.
Let us alter our choices to uphold that!