Open Windows

Giving up meat
made me feel
remarkably cleansed
from inside.

In Conversation

GAURI MAULEKHI

Animal rights campaigner, IN

January 1st, 2021

 

Gauri Maulekhi is an animal rights advocate and a Trustee of Maneka Gandhi People for Animals [India]. Ms Maulekhi does a stellar job incorporating her wisdom, compassion and determination to serve animals. Through her documentation of the plight of abused and exploited animals, Ms Maulekhi advocates for animal rights. By embracing a vegan diet, she teaches us the benefits of mindful-kind living—for our health and soul. Gauri Maulekhi is the recipient of the Nari Shakti Puraskar, India.

 

How has following your heart led you to afford animals the lives they deserve—of respect, security and kindness?

Getting a job would have been a means to an end, which appears to be an end in itself.

Following your heart is a journey.

Working for animals seemed to be the most natural thing to do. I want to believe following my heart has contributed to setting up systems and a precedent, helping some animal lives. I hope to do much more before I die.

 

You are an animal rights crusader and a vegan. What does it take, on an emotional and psychological level, to immerse yourself in the suffering of animals?

It [being an animal rights crusader] takes a huge toll. Though over the last two decades, I have learnt to shield myself from cruelty inflicted on animals, it’s heartbreaking. Recently, as part of the government inspection team, I inspected two export-oriented slaughterer houses, where buffalos were being slaughtered. I had to focus on violations of law with a straight face, and not react to the buffaloes’ throats being repeatedly slit. To look into the eyes of the animals who were waiting for their turn in the lairage…all I could do was apologise to the animals from my heart.

 

[We pause]

 

The people who butcher, breed and milk, and are driven by huge profits are vicious; their hearts have abandoned them. So at that time [of watching an animal being killed], a display of weakness is not allowed. Animals slip through your fingers, right in front of you, and you can’t do anything, but my team and I have decided not to let that determine our future actions. We will make 100 attempts to get one success — to save an animal.

 

What are the fundamental rights of animals in India?

There are no fundamental rights for animals per se, but the constitution in Article 51A(g) and the government on Article 48A states that it’s the fundamental duty of the animal’s owner to be compassionate. Plus, the Honourable Supreme Court has said that animals are entitled to five freedoms—from hunger and thirst; discomfort; pain, injury, or disease; fear and distress and freedom to express normal behaviour.

 

But human beings do just the opposite of freedom for animals—we inflict suffering.

Yes, we are not complying in most situations.

 

To what extent does continuous, forced impregnation traumatise cattle?

In India, cattle reproduction is mostly through artificial insemination [AI]—natural cattle reproduction is hardly 10% to 15%—which is objectionable and disgusting. The alarming matter is that AI is not conducted as prescribed in the veterinary protocol; instead, semi-trained para-vets—hired by the state government, on the instructions of the central government—perform AI. Para-vets barely train for a week and start as insemination specialists. These para vets establish themselves as doctors in villages, treating and operating on cattle. Quackery has increased manifold because of this AI syndrome in India.

There are two types of veterinary procedures. A minor veterinary practice involves dressing a wound, putting on a horseshoe, etc. In contrast, a major veterinary practice involves puncturing the skin and dealing with internal organs, which only a qualified veterinarian can only conduct. But the state governments have made an anomaly for AI and castration, except in the cases of chief ministers cows where a veterinarian performs artificial insemination.

 

Who performs AI in dairy industries?

The dairy development industry hires armies of para-vets, who end up puncturing the cows’ uteruses, which causes internal bleeding. Within 10 to 15 days, the cows die; no one is held accountable.

 

How painful is the procedure—of men inserting their bare hands into cows and buffalos’ uteruses? 

AI is extremely traumatising for cows (she has to be restrained); it’s as traumatising as it would be for a woman if a hand were shoved up her vagina.

What is oxytocin?  And why are cattle injected daily with oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a naturally produced hormone in the body of any female mammal. At the time of childbirth, oxytocin is produced in larger quantity to cause contractions—to push the baby down. Oxytocin is naturally produced when a cow or a buffalo is having a baby. If the oxytocin production is low, a veterinarian can administer oxytocin to cause contractions, pushing the baby out. Once the calf is born, the mother cow holds up the milk, not releasing it for the dairy owner. As a recourse, dairy owners jab the mother cow with a dose of oxytocin, which immediately causes contractions in the uterus and due to sheer pain—which is like labour pain—the cow or the buffalo lets the milk down. Oxytocin is injected every day, twice a day, to induce labour pain.

 

In instances when I notice a calf separated from his/her mother and tied at a distance or locked away in a shed, and question the owners on the same, they explain: “The calf will drink up all the milk.”

Exactly. If a female calf drinks milk, what will the dairy owners sell?

 

How very sad.

The saddest part is how the restrained cows attempt to escape at the sight of the injection being loaded with oxytocin, and people standing right there, with their containers to buy milk, not objecting.

 

From where do dairy owners source oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a schedule H drug and must be procured with a veterinarian’s prescription. However, dairy owners purchase oxytocin—in 100 ml plastic vials with nonsense labelling like Fata Fhat and Takka Tak—from a chain of illegal manufacturers.

Stern measures must be taken against these illegal suppliers. The dairy owners must go to jail for committing this cognisable offence; this matter is long ongoing in the Honourable Supreme Court.

Oxytocin a matter of great concern—in addition to injecting it in cattle, it’s being injected into

the vegetables we consume—to make it ten times bigger.

For the past ten years, we have conducted extensive workshops across the country [India], with the police, the animal husbandry departments, and people. Everybody seems to have seen a cow being injected with oxytocin, yet nobody lodged a complaint against this cognisable offence [under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act as well as section 12 of the Principal Act].

 

Who uses more oxytocin—the independent cow owner or the large dairy farms?

Dairy farms use more oxytocin. In the olden times, the farming practices were far more ethical—if the calf died, the cow owners would calm the cow, and she would let the milk down. But these days, dairy farms don’t have the patience to handle cows; they have to get the milk in time for the cooperative milk gaddi [vehicle].

 

Do dairy farmers use mechanised milking systems in India?

No. In India, dairy farms employ manual milking, which is a concern, as the daily wage labourers are not taught correct milking methods. Labourers, with their dirty hands, pull at the nipples too hard leaving the cattle in excruciating pain, giving the cow mastitis [inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue]. Often cows are rendered so useless—she grows cysts in her uterus and can’t produce milk—and they are sent for slaughter.

 

World over, the dairy and meat industry is savagely cruel, yet they present an image of joyful and wholesome cattle. Indians claim to worship cows, yet they are okay with the enslavement, suffering, trauma and eventual cow slaughter. How do we justify our cruelty and denial?

Our actions are about double standards and hypocrisy. We worship the elephant—lord Ganesha—but we torture elephants in temples and circuses, and make them beg. Cows and hens are the most abused animal species in the whole world, followed by pigs and to some extent, goats (goat rearing is not confined).

The scale of the problem makes cows the most abused animal—cows are tethered their entire lives; continuously impregnated; forced through cycles of childbirth; separated from their calves, and eventually slaughtered.

How can the human race live knowing they cause so much pain, let alone justify the scale of cruelty inflicted on cows and buffalos that are blessed with such sensitivity? Cows and buffalos are attached to their offspring’s and other cattle in their herd.

 

Female cows, when no longer viable, are eventually sent to slaughter. What happens to male cattle?

Male calves, a-day-old, are sent to slaughter.

Most often, owners of a male calf will abandon the calf, leaving it to graze on garbage and die, or tether the calf in deserted areas to die—because slaughtering cows and their progeny is not allowed in most India states.

 

Which states permit the slaughter of cows and calves?

Kerala and West Bengal permit the slaughter of cattle. In the northern states, cows and their progeny that are non-productive or less productive are transported in an exodus to West Bengal and Kerala, where they are slaughtered. Approximately 20 million cows and their progeny are illegally exported from India to Bangladesh for slaughter. The entire economy in Bangladesh is based on leather and meat, which are illegally exported from India.

 

Under what conditions are cattle slaughtered?

The slaughter of animals, for consumption by humans, is permissible under the law and must be conducted within a defined legal framework. The most prominent statute is the Food Safety and Standards Act [2006] followed by the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals Act, and the Environment Act, and Water Act. These Acts, together with the rules surrounding slaughterhouses, are expected to produce meat fit for human consumption. However, not one slaughterhouse in India functions as per law.

Take chickens; there are hardly any slaughterhouses; chickens are displayed in meat shops for people to choose and slaughtered on-site, with other chickens watching. Imagine the adrenaline flow through their bodies and the stress endured by viewing and hearing their own in pain.

Butchers become dehumanised. Sometimes chickens are not directly slaughtered—the live hen is first dipped into boiling water, so its feathers stand up, making it easy to pluck them out. I don’t know how people can—

 

Consume a brutally killed animal?

Correct. How can people cause agonising pain for a meal? How important can a meal be?

There are different methods to kill cows and buffalos, each one a shocking sight—from illegal slaughter conducted in fields and back yards to the side of the roads in West Bengal and to butcher shops in Kerala, where a cow or a calf tied to a meat shop is slaughtered right then for your order of two kilos of beef. There are also places where sick animals—from tuberculosis, or foot and mouth diseases, are slaughtered and sold to unsuspecting consumers.

 

How are cattle killed for export slaughter?

India has more than 35 export slaughterhouses, killing nearly 1000 buffalos a day. The whole culture of mechanisation is more painful for the animal than manual slaughter.

 

Why?

A mechanised slaughterhouse has a ritual box—once the animal enters this box, it’s tilted 180 degrees, immobilising the animal. Then some minority chants, eventually slitting the throat in the jugular, and immediately the hind legs are tied to a chain, tilting the animals upside down.

The animal is not allowed to die, to achieve a fixed dilated pupil on the floor—the animal struggles on a conveyor belt moving from station to station where its hooves, horns, and tails get chopped off one by one at every station. If a slaughterer is chopping tails, he is doing just that all day. Sometimes these animals are alive until the skinning station [where the skin is removed from their body]; they struggle on the conveyor belt. These slaughters—who I would loathe calling human beings—are dehumanised.

 

Is the cruelty inflicted on vulnerable creatures the result of abysmal poverty—of the dehumanised dehumanising?

Poverty doesn’t make you cruel. But yes, butchers and their families have been dehumanised. We have seen plenty of four and five-year-old children in the municipal slaughterhouses or the back yards of illegal slaughterhouses assisting their butcher parents to dress buffalo carcasses. Butchers have decided the course of action for their children and believe they must get accustomed from childhood to kill animals. The child has no fear of blood, weapons, machetes, and knives; what type of person will this child grow up to be?

 

It’s my understanding that butchers tend to be anti-social, engaging in domestic abuse and highly deviant behaviour.

Exactly. Several researchers, American and Indian, have established that slaughter areas are crime hubs—the maximum amount of crime takes place in these localities; people who don’t have a problem puncturing an animal’s skin with a knife, are less apprehensive in harming a human being. Butchers are a different species; I would not want to identify with them as fellow humans.

 

What is the difference between sanctioned and illegal slaughterhouses? And why is it essential to shut down illegal slaughterhouses?

Two types of licenses are mandatory for slaughterhouses—one is from the state pollution control board and the other from Food Safety and Standards. In addition, export slaughterhouses have to obtain a registration from the agricultural export authorities, making it legal.

Take Delhi [Capital of India]; it has one licensed slaughterhouse in Ghazipur, where they slaughter buffalo, goat, and sheep. I wonder why the government decided to make a buffalo slaughterhouse in Delhi because no one in Delhi consumes buffalo.

 

Are saying entire Delhi has only one legal slaughterhouse?

Yes. So 100% supply of chicken in Delhi comes from illegal meat shops.

 

Does this supply—of chicken from illegal meat shops—include luxury hotels in Delhi?

Taj, Leela and Hyatt [luxury hotels in India] serve chicken procured from illegal slaughterhouses.

What’s the story behind the buffalo slaughterhouse in Delhi?

The buffalo slaughterhouse in Delhi is a scam. The slaughterhouse lobby is a highly moneyed coterie. For instance, a company called Alana Sons must have bribed people—the government spent two crores in constructing a slaughterhouse. And once completed, the government conveniently gave the buffalo slaughterhouse to another private company to run it, which exports buffalo meat.

So Delhi Government took the money from the taxpayers, used it to make a slaughterhouse and then gave it as a gift to a private company, which uses the slaughterhouse for exports and making money for itself. And the people of Delhi, who are the taxpayers, are still getting meat from the roadside.

 

Vegans (primarily) and vegetarians—who respect and value animal individuals—must be distressed and outraged to learn their tax money is used to slaughter animals.

Correct. India’s constitution says that the Government of India has a responsibility to regulate slaughterhouses; regulation doesn’t mean construction. Construction or infrastructure for any business has to be created by the market forces—whoever wants to run the business should build the slaughterhouses.

 

That’s what a sane person would expect.

Yes. But the Municipal Corporation Acts of the state have given themselves the obligatory duty to construct slaughterhouses. We have recently convinced the Uttar Pradesh government to amend their Municipal Corporation Act—that the government should not invest the taxpayers’ money to build slaughterhouses, as only half the population will use the slaughterhouse.

 

Wouldn’t it be less than half the population? Jains don’t eat meat—

Jains don’t eat meat, but Jains run a lot of slaughterhouses.

 

It’s shocking to learn.

Yes. Jains operate tanneries too. Most of the tanneries in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh are owned by Jains.

Coming back to the slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh, earlier they were investing 200 crores a year to build more and more slaughterhouses, but now, it’s come down to zero. Delhi Government invested in the Ghazipur slaughterhouse back in 2010-2011, but this mechanised slaughterhouse doesn’t serve to elevate animal cruelty; it only facilitates speedy slaughter for export. 

The Gazipur slaughterhouse is just as filthy as any other slaughterhouse. Veterinary checks—ante-mortem or post-mortem—are not conducted at meat shops. Take chickens; our footage has caught people banging chickens against the wall, flinging them into a mountain of half-dead chickens. And these chickens are loaded into trucks weeks in advance. No one checks if the chickens had fractures, which turned into gangrene or whether the chickens have tumours, and all of Delhi is eating this chicken.

And time and again Delhi has influenza outbreaks or something else, and the government comes up with some knee jerk reaction of extermination after which everything goes back to normal, whatever normal is.

There is a district in Uttar Pradesh called Unnao—

 

I have heard of Unnao; precisely because of the Unnao Rape Case [A 17-year old girl was gang-raped on June 4th, 2017 and subsequently set on fire on her way to court on December 5, 2019].

Unnao is an extremely criminal place—rapes and murders are a daily occurrence. Unnao has the maximum number of massive export slaughterhouses, about six, and though Unnao is on the banks of river Ganga, it doesn’t have potable water—the groundwater has gone forever bad.

 

The reason being?

Slaughterhouses, even ones that have ETP [Effluent Treatment Plant] don’t run it to maximise profits. There is not even 2% compliance of the law in slaughterhouses in India, so running an ETP, ensuring slaughterhouses don’t cause pollution, is a far cry. The slaughterhouses dump into rivers or drill a hole into the ground to dispose of the untreated water, blood, and refuse, which then mixes with the groundwater. The groundwater in Unnao has turned brick red.

 

The groundwater is literally blood.

It is [the groundwater is blood]. The same thing [slaughterhouses polluting water] happens in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. I spent two days in that district; it’s impossible to even bathe with the tap water—the vast amount of slaughter makes the red water stink of carcasses.

The slaughtering community in Muzaffarpur is a class by itself; they are incredibly criminal and are into cattle smuggling. It has been established that the Muzaffarpur slaughtering community is into terror funding—the HuJI militants, who were arrested in Assam during the 2008 blasts, admitted their primary source of income was cattle smuggling and illegal butchery of cows.

The proceeds of illegal slaughterhouses are invested in other criminal activities—from human trafficking to drug peddling, and from arms and ammunition to spurious liquor. Fact is also cattle are smuggled after stuffing their stomachs with packets of drugs.

Are you referring to dead cattle?

No, live cattle.

 

How do traffickers stuff cattle stomachs with drugs?

Cattle are made to swallow packets of drugs, and on reaching the destination, cattle are cut open to remove the packages with drugs.

 

What facilitates animal trafficking across states?

Routes and police chowkis [stations] are compromised. At times, a regular looking farmer will walk five or six bulls, in a specific direction, and you will not suspect that the stomach of these cattle is stuffed with consignments of narcotics. At other times cattle are overloaded in containers on vehicles closed from all sides.

 

For being a cow worshipping country, India is the world’s largest beef exporter.

Correct. There are two classes of meat in India—the domestic slaughterhouses, which are primarily unorganised, with district-based, city-based unions (most of the slaughter consumption is for meat shops) and the export-oriented slaughterhouses, which are fortress-like structures you cannot enter.

 

To keep the operations secretive?

Yes. In the municipal corporation, domestic slaughterhouses run on the principle that a meat shop owner can use their electricity, water, and hooks to conduct the activity, dress the carcass, and take it back to his shop.

First of all, these municipal slaughterhouses should have stunning facilities; they don’t. And second, statutorily meat shop owners must have deep freezer facilities to store the meat; they don’t. Instead, meat shop owners cover the carcass with fly-infested wet cloths in their dirty shops.

 

I saw your video dated 16th October 2013. Your composure and authority stand out against the landscape of cowardice police, who were uncooperative in assisting you with inspecting the illegal slaughterhouse in Inamullah building. When the police refuse to help and dissuade someone like you, who has authority, what is the common man’s plight in India?

Trust me, that day when I was in the jeep, I had no authority whatsoever. I am not part of any government, nor am I a politician. You don’t need a sanction from a department to take action against a criminal offence; you need to know your rights and the legal situation of the crime you are trying to check. Everyone was aware that hundreds, if not thousands of animals were slaughtered in Inamullah building every day, and three truckloads of blood were sent out from that slaughterhouse.

 

Where were they [illegal slaughterhouse] sending the cattle blood?

The slaughterhouses sell the cattle blood to chicken and fish feed manufacturers.

 

How did you get access into the illegal slaughterhouse?

I wanted to videograph the rampant illegal slaughter, so I went to the DGP [Director General of Police] asking for police protection. The DGP not only refused to give me police protection, but he also prohibited me from going to Inamullah building and tried every bit not to let me enter the Inamulla building.

No one, not even the police beat constables, had entered the Inamullah building, as they were scared of being beaten up. I hired two bouncers from an equally criminal place and took them instead—to ensure I don’t get killed, and I documented the entire operations (Children were playing football with calf heads.).

The illegal slaughterhouse owners assumed I was an officer (I am only a non-government person who knows the law) and tried telling me their problems—about the power cut and drains. I went back for a second time, and then the third day, and they had no option but to shut down the slaughterhouse.

 

Were the police bribed to turn a blind eye?

Oh, surely the police were paid, and this corruption goes right to the top. The profits are enormous in slaughtering animals. A conservative calculation shows that illegal slaughter of one buffalo earns you up to 50,000 rupees. So if five to six buffalos are slaughtered, why wouldn’t they give 50,000 rupees to a constable?

For 50,000 rupees, the police constable will look the other way for rape.

You believe one must first have the right information and then the conviction to follow through with issues. Do you apply the same principle to stop animal sacrifice?

Yes, I do. After my marriage, I visited a temple in Uttarakhand with my in-laws, where I witnessed an animal being sacrificed. I didn’t in my wildest imagination think that they were going to slaughter the baby lamb, and when I did, I was appalled. Every cell in my body knew that the baby lamb had to be rescued from being slaughtered, but at that time, I ran away from the situation.

When the opportunity presented itself in 2009 and 2010, I decided to take action. The law states that you cannot slaughter animals in a public place or any site other than a licensed slaughterhouse. Besides, the Indian penal code provides a provision that you cannot create a nuisance in a public place. And killing animals in a public religious place was a nuisance to me, causing me mental agony.

If an animal doesn’t have rights under the law, at least I can enforce mine; with this in mind, we started filing cases against three temples—in Chamba, Nainital, and Dehradun. Since those police cases weren’t going anywhere, I decided to go to the high court and file a PIL [Public Interest Litigation]. At that point, all the lawyers laughed at me: “This is a deeply religious sentiment; you are a madwoman to stop it.” The lawyers refused to help. So I decided to work a little harder, do more homework and fight the case independently. I was the petitioner in person (the law is evident), and we won—animal sacrifice was banned across the state.

 

How incredibly impressive!

 

What is the point of animal sacrifice?

Majority of the time temple committees and the priests mislead gullible people to sacrifice animals. In Uttarakhand, many mothers and wives of men who are joining the Army and Navy take to animal sacrifice—to keep their men safe. You won’t repeat slaughtering if you break that cycle and know your son is fine.

 

Is animal sacrifice banned only in Uttarakhand or all over India?

After the High Court of Uttarakhand passed judgment, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh followed suit. The Supreme Court too passed an interim order stating if animals have to be slaughtered, it has to be done as prescribed in the law.

The most significant animal sacrifice used to take place in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. A couple of years back, we transformed the Kullu animal sacrifice mela [fair] into a blood donation camp, advocating: “If you need to shed blood, why don’t you shed your blood, and for medical purposes.”

 

I quote you: “Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, bull races in Maharashtra, buffalo and bulbul fighting in the northeast, cockfighting in Andhra are not traditions. These are excuses for gambling, sadism and dirty politics.” Why does a cruel segment of society—who demands access to modern ways of life—refuse to evolve into mindful and kinder ways of living; instead, they resort to inciting violence against the vulnerable, justifying barbarism?

I missed out dogfighting in Punjab. Earlier, animal fights could have been for entertainment purpose as rural setups didn’t offer much. And with their lack of imagination, villagers could only think of torturing animals.

In the last couple of decades, inflicting violence on animals has turned into

a major economic activity, albeit illegitimate.

It’s an open secret that violence against animals is linked with gambling and the high stakes run into tens of crores. The poor people are the organisers who charge a lot of money to rear and keep these animals ready for a fight—a jallikatu or a bull-racing event. Prominent politicians participate and gamble on the suffering animals. And to create that mass hysteria and euphoria, people join without realising the consequences.

The Nagaraja judgment, in the Supreme Court, started with a harmless boy sitting with his father watching Jallikattu in Madurai; the bull ran amuck and gored him to death.  The father approached Madurai high court: “My boy got killed. Stop Jallikattu; it’s unnecessarily killing people.” For the first time, Justice R Banumathi banned the traditional jallikattu, which was followed by appeals and appeals.

 

What makes actors support sadism and brutality?

It was shocking to see celebrities in Tamilnadu who have a responsibility to oppose Jallikatu, create mass hysteria and stand up for Jallikatu. To go with the winning team and justify violence against vulnerable animals probably gives these celebrities some sense of achievement.

 

Why do women, from whom you would expect a degree of sensitivity, participate in and justify barbaric cruelty inflicted on animals?

People have deep-rooted insecurities with their customs, and they are not confident enough to think that they can survive change. The entire protest on Marina beach [Chennai, Tamilnadu] was orchestrated—people with vested interests provided Wi-Fi and cell phones charging stations, and food too. If people were united and protests could happen the way Jallikatu did, we would have a much better country. Indians remain quiet on the real issues because nobody is driving the scene.

 

Can you elaborate on your statement: “Being cruel is a conduct disorder. Violence towards weaker living beings is closely linked with domestic and social violence.”

Enough published peer review research establishes that sensitive people have a lower capacity to hurt a living being. Whereas, if you are numb to animals’ agony—eating animal carcass that died a painful death, thinking the carcass is delicious—you can hurt a dog or a cat, and you will be numb towards the pain you cause your wife, your servants, and the people on the road.

When we were hunters and gatherers, killing animals came naturally. As the human species is evolving, we are better equipped mentally, psychologically and spiritually not to hurt animals.

Codified laws state that kicking an animal or a human being is a crime, so of course, inflicting pain against animals is a conduct disorder. People who are abusive to their pets are just as abusive to their wives, and children. Sometimes cruelty is used to inflict domestic violence—for instance, the husband will beat the wife’s pet dog to show he can harm her as much as the dog.

 

Why is it challenging to implement laws in India?

Because of financial aspects.

 

So more people have to gain from laws not being implemented?

If the government shuts down all illegal slaughter in the country, first, cartels will approach the government, bribing and greasing hands, and second, all kinds of economic setbacks would be cited, and finally, everybody would give way.

Any action by the government is entirely vote or money-oriented. When the government gives gas cylinder subsidies or makes toilets, they get the public vote. Animals don’t vote, so the government has nothing to gain by protecting animals, or from the marginal community who speak for animal welfare.

 

Indians talk about ahimsa being a vital tenet. Yet, we brutally torture animals in a multitude of ways? What is wrong with the Indian psyche?

It’s hypocrisy to the core. We [Indians] tom-tom about our culture, Buddhism, ahimsa and Mahatma Gandhi; in reality, we are selfish people doing what is convenient.

I don’t think this, or any other government could remain majoritarian—continue to do what will bring them into power next time—by focusing 10 to 20 years ahead, thinking where the methane will go or how to protect the environment.

 

Where does the moral progress of India stand?

Indians are two-faced, spineless hypocrites.

We say a lot of things, especially our politicians, and do another. In a democratic set up with a billion opinions, India has no direction. Animals and the environment are not a priority.

 

How can one assimilate healthy information?

First of all, you find the information for which you are looking. Sometimes people find it convenient to search for chicken tikka recipes when they can easily find reasons not to eat chicken tikka.

The bedrock of Indian society is the concept of karma; I believe in karma. You should not indulge in activities that take away from the goodness with which a child comes into the world. Actively look for ways to make things better, not only for people but also for the environment, your pets and animals around you. And learn to keep your karma balanced.

The other thing is, I used to be a non-vegetarian—the type who used to make fun of vegetarian people, and I never thought that I would give up meat. My parents being vegetarian never stopped me because I was a rebel of sorts. I must have been in class 12 when I had the information [about the cruelty inflicted on animals], and saw things; I thought a little deeper than my peers and knew how intrinsically wrong it is to cause the death of an animal just for a meal.

 

To satiate your taste buds

Yes. It was a slow transition, over a year, to give up non-vegetarian food.

 

It’s commendable you share your journey. Your truth gives hope to youngsters who are either in certain circumstances or are addicted to the taste of meat, to realise that Inflicting cruelty on animals is wrong on every level.

Correct. It was more difficult back in 1994 when no plant-based alternatives were available in India; now there is enough and in excellent flavours.

 

Across states, not the capital [of India], the selection of plant-based products is meagre. Does the lobby for slaughtered animals keeps vegan manufactures out of the system?

The government didn’t push up the plant-based manufactures enough. We have just partnered with the ministry of food processing industries to promote clean, plant-based meat.

Your biggest reason to switch to a plant-based diet should be: “How can I sink my teeth into

the flesh of something that had parents?”

Do you have hope from future generations?

Knowing everything the way I do, and experiencing that pain on a day-to-day basis, doesn’t make me hopeful all the time. But at the core of my heart, I know that the end of cruelty against animals is an evolutionary eventuality. Our future generations will recognise how insane it’s to kill another living being, in the same manner we are appalled when we look back at slavery, human sacrifice, and untouchability.

 

How has the shift to a plant-based diet influenced you and your way of being in life?

I was a lactose intolerant child, so I never had milk products. And I have never broken a bone in my life; my height is average, and my teeth are fine.

Giving up meat made me feel remarkably cleansed from inside. I am not showing two faces to myself—I don’t claim to be a good human being while simultaneously sinking my teeth into somebody’s flesh. A consistency has come into my life, which gives a lot of peace of mind and makes me feel a lot better to walk my talk. You cannot be a compassionate, kind human being when you are the reason for the unnecessary death of an innocent creature.

 

Thank you for following your heart.

Thank you.

 

Learn more about Gauri Maulekhi.

 

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