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Can Veganism save the Future of India? India is reeling under the combined pressures of acute poverty, pollution and diseases

By Varda Mehrotra

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The issue

India, the largest democracy in the world, also has the largest number of people living below the poverty line, i.e., 276 million as per the World Bank. We witnessed 8 million deaths in 2016 due to air pollution from industries, transport and biomass. A recent WHO study said that 1 in 4 Indians will die of lifestyle diseases, before they reach the age of 70.

Among a plethora of problems we are facing, India is reeling under the combined pressures of acute poverty, pollution and diseases. It's hard to imagine how a change in dietary preference can then be the answer to some of the most confounding problems of our times.

Poverty in India

India is primarily an agrarian economy, where most farmers are dependent on crop and livestock for livelihood. Barring the thousands of farmers who have committed suicide due to financial burden, thousands more suffer at the hands of the milk industry. Ever since the white revolution- the milk industry has seen tremendous growth. But what the government does not account for, while giving subsidies to make milk cheaper, is that the dairy industry is not an easy and profitable endeavour.

In fact, the picture of happy cows giving away their milk is the biggest lie and an agenda of the industry which we have been made to believe. In reality, farmers who buy animals and sell their milk barely making enough to sustain themselves and give no heed to the condition and health of the animals whose milk they steal. Most backyard dairies do not provide animals with proper care and medical necessities. If the animals are unhealthy — the farmers end up selling them with the least concern of their well being, despite the notion of our nation worshiping the "holy cow'.

Most farmers sell the male calves or let them starve to death because they can't profit off of them. Also, there are not enough gaushalas to sustain the 441 million dairy animals in the country. The nation ought to consider how ethical it is to produce and market dairy products given the current scenario which these animals and farmers are subjected to.

Combating Pollution

While striving for a greener tomorrow, we often forget one of our biggest nemesis –"Animal Agriculture' - which happens to be the second largest contributor to global warming and subsequently, climate change. Not only is India the 3rd largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, but it also has taken a reluctant stance to minimise the devastation.

Animal agriculture is responsible for 30% of world's greenhouse gas emissions and India with its 441 million cows and buffaloes is a major contributor to this figure. Cattle, confined in one place, generate copious amounts of waste, releasing toxic greenhouse gases like methane- which is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. India's annual global contribution to greenhouse gases is 13 million metric tonnes a year- for a country as concerned about the rising levels of pollution; we should consider what we're consuming and how it's being produced.

The process of milk production is one that requires huge amounts of water. One litre of milk requires 1020 litres of water and 1 kilo of meat requires 5000-20,000 litres of water. If we truly care about the air we breathe and the condition of our rivers- we should be abstaining from consuming any animal products, along with implementing sustainable methods of waste-disposal. Our failure in doing so will eventually lead to many dead-zones in our water bodies and oceans. However, environmental problems are not the only cause ringing alarm bells in India. One major concern of the nation today is the shocking number of people affected by lifestyle diseases.

Health & Lifestyle Diseases

5.8 million Indians are affected every year from lifestyle diseases such as- osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, polycystic ovaries, and cancer which are either directly or indirectly related to the consumption of various animal products from cheese to meat. However, instead of limiting our consumption of these products, our consumption patterns seem to be skyrocketing- a result of both clever advertising and misinformation. Take this for example, contrary to popular belief, osteoporosis cannot be cured by drinking animal milk because the calcium in animal milk is not easily broken down by the human body and hence is not absorbed as nutrition. Surprisingly, most doctors refrain from saying that dairy and meat are the leading causes of cholesterol, coronary disorders and diabetes.

Thankfully, some doctors are coming to the forefront and debunking myths associated with health and consumption of animal products. Dr. Nandita Shah is one such doctor working to combat one of the most common diseases in India- diabetes; and has successfully reversed this illness in her patients by putting them on whole food plant-based diet. Dr. Shah, Nari Shakti Puraskar Awardee, who has been supporting FIAPO's DontGetMilked campaign, which focuses on creating mass awareness on the lies of the dairy industry laid some insight on the matter, "Diabetes is not caused due to excessive consumption of sugar but due to insulin resistance caused by fat deposits. All animal products contain huge amounts of fats which are in no way beneficial to human health and contribute to multiple diseases".


Veganism is a lifestyle choice in which one excludes all animal products from their consumption. That includes meat, eggs, dairy, leather, wool, honey and anything else derived from animals.

If we as a nation reduce or eliminate consumption of animal products, the number of animals bred in factory farms will dramatically be reduced thus saving huge amounts of water, reducing waste, increasing grain available for human consumption and relieving our environment of toxic green house gases. This shift, will also impact human health in a positive manner and pave the way for a healthier India.

Never before has so much depended on the personal choice of the citizens of a nation, if we as compassionate and mindful humans decide to not indulge in consumption of animal products, a lot can change for India.

Varda Mehrotra

Director, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations

Varda Mehrotra is the Director of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations.
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