As a vegetarian I often faced questions such as “what about chicken?” or “you don’t even eat fish?” I would appease those questioning my actions by saying, “well at least I am not VEGAN!”. I tried to reassure those around me that I wasn’t one of those freaks. Those extremists that spent their time reading labels and judging others. I didn’t want to be too different; I still wanted to be invited to sit at the table with the cool kids.
So for years I happily refrained from eating anything/anybody who had to die for my dinner, but ate as much cheese as I could get my hands on. I knew very little about veganism and why some chose that lifestyle. But I knew that “Vegans” were social outcasts who only wore black and had lots of piercings. Way too extreme!
It’s not difficult to understand why some abstain from consuming the flesh of an animal, but to not want to consume animal byproducts is a little harder to grasp. One day I met lovely family who had chosen to devote their lives to saving animals. I immediately looked up to this family and was impressed with the good that they were doing in the world. They were smart, funny and saving animals! How cool! Suddenly I found out that they all were vegan! Such commendable, intelligent, and civilized people, VEGAN? I decided that maybe it was time for me to do a little research and find out what caused some people to go to such extremes.
I wasn’t surfing for very long before I was overwhelmed with horrible facts, figures and images of the animals that produce dairy and eggs. My eyes were wide and my heart sunk with all of this new information before me. To eat an animal meant that someone had to be killed, but to eat the byproducts of an animal required that someone had to live a long hard life as a slave. The mothers that produce milk and eggs for us have drawn-out lives filled with entrapment, mutilation, and rape.
The hens who produce our eggs are confined to a tiny cage in a dark building for their entire lives; until their bodies are so worn out they can produce no more.
For a female cow to produce milk she must be kept in a constant cycle of being impregnated, giving birth, having her baby taken away, and then having her milk drained. These mothers are treated like nothing more than milk making machines. Nothing about their lives is fair nor natural. They are artificially inseminated, caged, and hooked up to a machine that takes their milk. Their tails are often cut off so that they don’t get in the way or contaminate the milk. After several years like this, once they are physically and emotionally spent these mothers are also sent to slaughter. Their brothers at least would have been put out of their misery years before.
All of this so that we can drink the milk what is naturally intended for baby cows. Now I ask myself which is really the extreme?
In north India there is a holy city called Rishikesh. It is a paradise for yoga loving vegetarians. The respect for cows fills the air here. As they roam freely, visitors and residents alike gently stroke their foreheads and offer them treats of fruits and vegetables. Through the streets traffic patiently waits for the noble beasts to pass.
Here especially, the cow is considered sacred and no meat is allowed in the entire city! But plenty of milk is consumed. I decided to pop into a small family run dairy just off of the main drag in Rishikesh. I figured that if anywhere in the world mother cows would be treated well it would be here. If there was anywhere that I could have a guilt free cheese sandwich it should be here. The following photos are from this small family run dairy.
Why Vegan? Now a days veganism is gaining popularity. Celebrities, business people, and rebellious teenagers alike are choosing to abstain from animal products. Most people are turning to veganism for health reasons. For me, I am vegan for them.