Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Vegan in India - Vegetarian Paradise

For the last couple of months I was in India. While it
is very easy to thrive on a vegetarian fare, it was
really very challenging for me, to be a vegan in
India.

In India , vegetarian diet is synonymous with
lacto vegetarian diet. For thousands of years, Indians
have consumed milk and milk products such as
buttermilk, yogurt and ghee(clarified butter)
regularly. These days supermarkets across India are
not only flooded with traditional milk
products such as ghee, and buttermilk but also cheeses
and flavored milks.

My parents tried to convince me that "cow's milk" is
nutritious. They were shocked when I told them I don't
eat anything that has milk and milk products. They
were curious to know why I avoid milk and milk
products. I tried explaining about how cows are
treated as "milking machines". They just could not
understand the cruelty involved in producing diary milk. Everyone from my parents to siblings and friends to relatives considered me weird for not
including milk or milk based products in my diet.

My parents were worried and concerned about my health.
People in India believe that to lead a
healthy lifestyle, everyone should include some milk
or milk products such as buttermilk, yogurt or ghee in
their diet. I really wish if everyone could read, The
China Study
to know about the negative impact of milk and milk
products on our health.

Once my mom made crispy dosa(rice and lentil
pancakes), which was laced with copious amounts of
ghee(clarified butter). She was so mad at me when I
refused to touch the dosas. My father once bought my
favorite sweet, mysore pak, from a popular sweet
store, in Bangalore. Of course, I could not eat that
sweet because the package said, "made with pure ghee".
In India, people shower you with milk based items if
they like you.

I gave my mom some tips to veganize some recipes. My
mom made Badam burfi and Mysore pak
Well, my parents were thrilled that I got to indulge
some delicious vegan sweets. They were also so
surprised by the fact that it is pretty easy to
veganize some Indian sweets.

Many people in India thrive on lacto-vegetarian fare,
because they associate only meat with cruelty.
An article about the modern production of milk in India.

I used to see old cows and bulls roaming about the
crowded streets in search of food in Bangalore. The
result of numerous bulls, is the result of the
thriving diary industry in India. I wonder why people
still don't associate "cow's milk" with cruelty.

Decades ago male cows or bulls were used to plough the
fields. But, these days tractors have replaced bulls
to plough the fields. Most of the bulls have no use in
Indian society these days.

People in India assume that milk producing cows
are well taken care by the farmers. As the demand for milk
is growing every day, farmers inject cows with oxytocin harmone,
so that they produce more milk.

Along with Peta, there are only a handful of animal
welfare organizations in India. So, people are not aware of the
cruelty involved in production of milk. The
consumption of milk and milk products by everyone from
children to adults has increased by many fold in the
past decade. In short, cow's milk is considered to be
gift to mankind.

For days I explained to my father about the cruelty involved in diary industry and the negative impact of livestock on our environment. I also discusses about
the positive health benefits of the vegan diet.

While I tried to convince my father that vegan diet is best for our health
,my father tried to convince me that diary milk is indeed good for our health.
He felt that if baby cows are allowed to drink all the milk the cow produces,
the baby cow will die by drinking huge amount of milk.
My father, who comes from an agricultural background,
felt that human beings were indeed saving the lives of
baby cows, by consuming some of the milk. The milkman
who gives milk to my parent's home, also told that
baby cows will fall sick if they drink more milk. I was
shocked to hear this new "theory".

I asked the milkman about the oxytocin harmone injected
to cows. He told that he injects his cows with
oxytocin harmone rarely. An article about usage of oxytocin harmone in cows.

My father somehow wanted me to get rid of my vegan
diet. He read some passages from hindu
scriptures, where cows are considered as mother.
Infact Hindu religious rituals often call for milk and
milk products such as ghee and yogurt. Even the
ancient art of Indian medicine -Ayurveda, considers
milk, ghee, butter and yogurt to be of great
nutritional value. In a nutshell, Indian culture
deeply revolves around milk and milk products.

The word "vegan" is not common in India. Pure
vegetarian, means a person who consumes milk and milk
products, but not meat and eggs. Visit these websites ;Hinduonnet
, IBNLIVE
, Hinduonet1 , and Hindustantimes
http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=6a34a112-ac3c-4133-9295-0c52efbd980f

India is a goldmine for vegetarian food. And millions of
recipes can be easily veganized .It is possible to thrive on a vegan diet in India.
But, you can't find dairy-free icecream and
chocolates. Most of the Indian sweets in upscale
stores will be drenched with either milk or ghee.

To know more the horrible conditions of cows in India,
read article1 and article2.

16 comments:

Vaishali said...

Kumudha, I am traveling to India next month, and I have also been a tad worried about my diet. Despite being vegetarian-friendly, the Indian diet simply does not favor vegans. And you're right- there is little knowledge of the cruelty toward milk-producing cows. I do hope that as animal activists make this and other cruelty-related issues more visible, more Indians will willingly give up dairy. And meat.
I am glad to discover your blog- I thought I was the only Indian vegan out there in the blogosphere, and it was getting kind of lonely :)

Theresa said...

Welcome back, Kumudha. It sucks that you had to deal with such entrenched misconceptions about the role of dairy, but I'm glad you were able to stand your ground and hopefully impart some wisdom into the people you spoke with. I can't believe people think baby cows will get sick if they drink too much milk! I wonder if they think the same about cats or dogs or even humans?!

Rural Vegan said...

Welcome back, Kumudha! That must have been very frustrating to have to explain the dairy industry over and over, to no avail. I hope that you were able to at least plant a seed into some minds, so that veganiam isn't a new concept anymore & maybe they will be more open to it when they hear it again.

Urban Vegan said...

Kumuhda! I'm so glad you're back. I missed you.

And I;m so sorry it was so hard for you in India and with your families. Families can be the hardest. My family just thinks I'm "weird."When they express concerns about myu health, I express concerns about theirs--dairy consumption can be linked to diseases of oversuncumption liek heart disease and cancer.

When I was in India, I had no problem. Restaurants made food for me with oil and no ghee. But I had no family to contend with l)

I feel sorry for the cows in India, and also the elphants and the "dancing bears." There is cruelty everywhere, but luckily, there are caring, informed people like you everywhere, who srtive to make the world a better place.

Welcome back!

Madhuram said...

Thought provoking post. Being a lacto-vegetarian myself, it's going to take some more time for me and many others to switch to a vegan diet. As you have mentioned we associate milk with good health, strong bones etc. That's how we have been brought up and that's what has been instilled in us.

ANJALI J. said...

Hey 1st time at ur blog. U have a good collection.
U know what, im sooooo happy to see ur blog and ur profile, for 2 reasons
1st bcos ur blog is a vegan blog like mine.
2nd I stay 20 mins away from Canton, MI :)

Susmi said...

My God what you've written is pretty much exactly what I wen through with my grandma, uncles and aunts after I came back to India and told them about my veganism!! (Thank God my mom's more supportive and my dad is too in his own way!!)
But now that they've seen me living happily here for the past 3 years, the people around me seem to understand it much better.
I constantly bake my vegan cakes/cookies and make vegan chocolates for people so they appreciate the decadence that we Vegan can actually live in :)

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Vivacious Vegan said...

This is really interesting to me. I am perplexed about your dad's theories about baby cows drinking too much milk. It saddens me to see people with so much misinformation but I'm happy that you're out there trying to help them understand the truth.

Ann said...

Very good post, it really picturised what I been thru' while I was in India.I have recently joined the league of Vegan from Vegeterian :)
Thanks for 'The china Study' easy to convince my husband from not taking/making indian brewed coffee :)

Reeze said...

Hey
Loved your post- I am from Bangalore too and recently became a vegetarian. I am on the verge of becoming vegan and was looking for people who were vegans in India-you spelled it out perfectly, even though India is a goldmine for vegetarians they are the most lactose dependent country in the world ;) I live in San fran now (a super vegan freindly place) and was thinking baout all the crazy looks I am going to get when I tell someone I cant cant eat their curd rice!!
I am glad you are so pro active about the cause. The sad thing is that even with India making up almost half the worlds vegetarian population, it is more ingrained in the culture rather than a choice people make solely because of cruelty. I wish more people are inspired by you!

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I've been there twice and it's a beautiful country. I just like their supermarkets because they've got to many products. 23jj

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