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It's true that I haven't been blogging as frequently as I should this year. I had to take a temporary hiatus from the blogosphere because a lot has happened in the past few months. The beginning of this year has been a hectic time for me. I have written and published my first book, rebranded my business website, and also taken some valuable time off for personal reflections and development.

Now that the storm has largely blown over, I’ll be able to devote more time to doing what I love: blogging and animal advocacy.

1) Writing my first book.

I have known that I wanted to be a writer since childhood, but a published author? Only in my wildest dreams. Then, over the last few months, I started to feel a creative surge awakening within me. I began writing creatively more than ever before, at one point even averaging 2,000 words a day. I couldn’t hold it in, and as I continued, a story poured out of me. My new book, I Am the Ocean, is a travelogue about a low-budget road trip I took down to the United States in my early twenties. I travelled by bus, slept on couches, stayed in hostels, met some amazing people, and saw some unforgettable things. The book is also filled with spiritual insights that I realized along the journey. In an upcoming blog post, I will be sharing how I went about writing and publishing the book. Be encouraged; writing a book is an extremely rewarding experience and not as daunting as it may seem. For Canadian authors, there are a lot of cool perks that our government provides us to help us along. 😉

2) My new business website.

I started Blossoms, my freelance business, shortly after graduating from university. Now that my business is a couple of years older (as am I), I thought it would be fitting to rebrand the website. It felt especially appropriate now that I've taken a turn in my career, delving into authorship. I also wanted to make the site more content and blog focused so that I can connect better with my readers, something that has always been really important to me.

3) Personal development.

Over the past few months, I have been writing prolifically and taking a new turn in my life and career. Although it has been a productive few months, it has not been without a toll on my stress levels. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist, as writers and editors tend to be, and I have had a lifelong habit of pushing myself. I learned the importance—the necessity—of taking time to myself to unwind. Relaxing is so crucial to maintaining your physical and mental wellbeing, especially since the mind and body are so profoundly connected. And of course, when you take the time to relax, your writing will be all the better for it!

This New Year has been very productive, life changing, and exciting for me. I can't wait to see what the rest of 2016 has in store, and I look forward to sharing it with all of you.

 

freelance writer book cover

It is a melancholy object to those in this great land when we find our friends and family falling ill due to the incompetencies of the food industry, resulting in mad cowE. coli contaminationsalmonelladioxin poisoning, etc. Our people, instead of being able to get our protein in a safe and healthy way, are made to either depend on the pre-packaged products sold to us by food companies, or hunt our own game, or sell ourselves to a nutrient-deprived vegetarian lifestyle.

I think it is agreed by all parties that hunting game may not always be practical, giving thedeplorable state of wildlife a very great additional grievance. While wildlife is on the decline, the world faces a human population crisis. Therefore, whoever could find a fair, cheap, convenient method for feeding our growing population would deserve so well of the public as to be considered a preserver of humankind.

But my intention is very far from being confined to only providing a healthy nutritional source for the public; it is also to improve the condition of the world as a whole by transforming a large number of otherwise burdensome people into productive members of society.

I have been assured by a very knowing scientist that healthy people provide a delicious, nourishing, and wholesome source of protein, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled.

There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme. It will prevent overpopulation. For first, it will provide a great alternative to the much contested issue of birth control. Birth control policy planning can be a complicated political matter. However, abortion rates will rapidly decrease once people become aware of this safe, convenient alternative. If families are uncomfortable with eating their own offspring, they can purchase their nourishment from government-regulated vendors.

Secondly, not eating factory-farmed animals, which are cultivated in the most unsanitary of circumstances, will save humans from a variety of diseases, so long as the flesh is well-processed, and the stock is well-fed and kept isolated from contamination, pre- and post-harvest.

Thirdly, having this regulated and healthy protein source available provides an excellent alternative to a vegetarian lifestyle, which has been growing in popularity as these health scares become more frequent. Although becoming vegetarian may seem like the most logical of options on the surface, a rise in vegetarianism would actually put the planet in imminent danger, causing poor health in humans and wreaking environmental havoc on our planet’s dwindling flora.

I profess that I have no other motive than the public good of humankind.

*Click to read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”

I was first inspired to start writing about animal rights last spring, when I found out that Maharashtra, India had banned beef. I shared a link to a news article on Facebook, and while my friends usually tolerate my animal rights shares, this time people disagreed. My cousin, who is herself a vegetarian, called me out for supporting the ban (which I actually think should be international, and apply to all animals) and said that by supporting this ban I was infringing on the rights of others. Although she chooses not to eat meat, she supports people who do.

There are many people who believe animal rights infringes on the rights of humans.

Just like there were many people who don't support women's rights (what about the men?!), gay rights (they're destroying marriage!), or civil rights (if black people can also get good jobs, where will whites work???), there are also scarcity-minded people who are worried that if we care about animals, we will somehow stop caring about ourselves.

This myth is so unfair and so unfounded that I vowed to spend the rest of my life trying to dispel it. I had all of these thoughts welling up inside of me, and I just knew that if I didn't get them out, I would go mad. I started a blog, and I wrote about my feelings about the beef ban.

A few days later, I was harassed.

Someone who really loved beef and felt passionately about it contacted me through my cell phone, and wrote me some very strange ad hominem attacks via text message:

twitter rage 2twitter rage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found it strange that the perpetrator chose to attack me from a religious angle, since I did not mention religion in that post at all. It was a little creepy, but I shared the texts on Twitter and moved on. After all, the best way to deal with bullies is to expose them.

Some months later, I also earned the wrath of The Cattle Network. I was featured in one of their articles, wherein my writing was called "a rambling diatribe." I wasn't able to make much more sense out of the article than I could from those peculiar texts. After doing a little bit of research on the writer, I found out that he routinely attacks vegetarians and vegans online.

When I first started writing about animal rights, I didn't realize that there were so many beef advocates who felt so strongly about maintaining their current way of life. But then again, Cowspiracy revealed that over 1,000 activists have been killed in Brazil, all in the name of killing cows, so I guess it shouldn't be too surprising to me.

It's a little scary, but it's a matter of life and death for these animals, who are unable to use a voice of their own.

radha krishna

When I say I'm vegetarian, a common reaction from some religious people is, "But didn't God put animals on Earth for us to eat?" As they have grown up believing that animals are food and not friends, they seem genuinely confused as to why anyone would refuse to eat something granted to them by God. I was equally confused by their reaction: why would God want humans to harm any of his other creations? To better understand this sentiment, I decided to research a couple of key scriptures: the Christian Bible and the Hindu Gita. Here are a few choice quotations.

The Bible

Here is a quote from Genesis 1:29: "And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.'"

Romans 14:21 purports vegetarianism even more clearly: "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak."

There is also the Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." It doesn't say "Thou shalt not murder."

Many people claim that the Bible frequently mentions that humans have "dominion" over the animals, but this means that we should protect and care for them. They are not to be killed or eaten.

The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita (17:8, 17:10) describes the types of foods preferred according to one's qualities: "Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one's existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart," and, "Food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness."

The Gita is aligned with the Bible's assertion that flesh is unhealthy and "weakens" the human body, while juicy, fatty, wholesome foods (fruits, nuts, grains, etc.) promote vitality because they are full of life; meat is dead matter that elicits darkness as it contains no life force ("praan" in Sanskrit).

What kind of food does God himself prefer? In 9:26 He tells us, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it."

Note that the Sanskrit word for "accept" is "asnami," which also means "eat."

Moreover, Chapter 5 of the Gita acknowledges animal (and human) rights, with the statement: "The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste]."

According to the spiritual texts of two of the world's major religions, God did not put animals on Earth for human consumption, but to live in harmony with us as we are both a part of nature. To kill is the ultimate act of disrespect, and we should therefore do no harm to any of God's creations. He loves us all.

*Note: This post also appears on TheDodo.com and my sister site, samitasarkar.com.

I wrote about my revelations on the cruel dairy industry, which I had on a recent trip to India, and submitted the post to a few publications. One of the responses I received was priceless, so I had to share it with you all:

Dear Samita,

Thanks for your mail, and glad you have chosen to be a vegetarian.

Hope being a vegetarian brings you great peace, love of the cows and the good lord.

The organization that wrote this is Care for Cows, a cow protection organization based in Vrindavan, India.

"Peace, love of the cows and the good lord" is exactly what the vegetarian diet has given me. It is a compassionate diet that affects consciousness in subtle ways over time. The longer that I have been on this diet, the more compassionate and affectionate to animals that I've noticed myself becoming. It has gotten to the point where the smell of a barbecue  revolts me and I can easily find my eyes welling up when I read heartwarming posts on The Dodo.

Another member from the same organization, who was CC'd, added:

Humans need to go back to the house cow where families keep their own, knowing each by name or even sharing them as some groups are doing with other caring families.  Cows respond with showering their abundant treasures upon the Earth when they are treated with the love and kindness they deserve.

I hope someday to have my own cow(s). In the meantime, I live vicariously through other people, by looking at photos and videos of cows.

Proof that cows are smart:

At the 5:00 mark in this cute video, the little girl's mom says she wants to stop eating beef:

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As an animal lover, I have been a vegetarian for many years. The only animal products that I would eat were milk and honey. I followed a typical Indian diet that was high in fruits, dairy, rice and dal. In Hinduism, cows are a special animal, so many Indian dishes are made with dairy—especially desserts. However, when I was in my 20s, and my menstrual cramps started to become unbearable, I cut milk out of my diet.

It was a difficult transition to make, but I felt like I had no choice. Instantly, the cramps were gone. During the months I refrained from drinking milk, I had mild periods. When I would “slip,” the extreme pain would return. Once, it was so painful that I was paralyzed in bed all morning.

I started to look into what’s in our milk. Canadian dairy cows can legally be fed steroids, antibiotics, and even food containing animal parts. In fact, the Ontario government recommends feeding dairy cattle up to half a kilogram of tallow per day. Tallow is a common source of fat for dairy cows. Milk can also contain trace amounts of pesticides. This is all information I gathered freely from Canadian government websites.

Then I read Mad Cowboy, an exposé written by former American cattle rancher Howard F. Lyman, which was all the more shocking than anything on any government site. He reveals that although cattle are no longer fed other cattle due to FDA regulations, they regularly munch on ground horse, chickens, and the blood and fecal matter of their own species. Inedible parts of slaughtered animals, along with road kill and euthanized pets, are dumped into giant grinders , cooked (so that the fat rises to the top and can be skimmed for use in cosmetics), dried, and pulverized into powdered “concentrate” for livestock feed. A quarter of this concentrate is composed of fecal matter. There is no animal too diseased, cancerous, or putrid to be ground.

I wasn’t able to find any information related to this matter on any Canadian government website, but since just last February we had our 19th case of mad cow, something wasn’t right. Government sites were adamant about not using bovine growth hormones for dairy cows, and when someone on albertamilk.com asked about why calves were handled so roughly, the response was met with out-and-out denial. But was it true? Were Canadian dairy standards really so top-notch, given the short, five-year life expectancy of a Canadian dairy cow?

In fact, the Alberta dairy site even went so far as to claim that dairy, veal, and beef cows were all treated with the utmost respect and concern for their wellbeing. While the Albertan site stated that most male calves never become veal (although they are still separated from their mothers at young ages for “safety” reasons, and can even legally be shot if they get sick), an Ontario dairy site stated that most male calves were in fact raised for vealA Quebec study exposed inhumane handling of calves as commonplace. Unless there is a substantial market difference between each Canadian province (which the government actively claims there isn’t), someone is lying.

In Melanie Joy’s book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, she mentioned that economists warn about what can happen when any industry has a concentration ratio upwards of 4 companies controlling over 40% of the market (known as “CR4”): competitiveness declines and consumer protection weakens as public service intertwines with private interests. Conglomerates are able to set prices and determine food quality. There are 450 milk processors in Canada. Three of them process approximately 80% of the nation’s milk—far exceeding the CR4 threshold.

When I stopped eating dairy products, this essentially made me a dietary vegan. Although I was following a plant-based diet, I didn’t agree with the vegan philosophy that drinking milk was unnatural and that momma cow’s milk should be only for her babies, regardless of how well the cows are treated. According to Vedic (ancient Indian) tradition, there are seven mothers:  our birth mother, our guru’s wife, the wife of any priest, any nurse, the queen, Mother Earth, and Mother Cow. There have been instances of cows giving their milk to not only humans, but monkeys and cats. No one who has ever owned a dairy cow would say that cows don’t like to be milked. Cows are loving, motherly animals and hold a special place in Indian culture. When loved and treated well, they will happily give their excess milk to humans after their calves have had their fill. Dairy products are commonly used in Hindu rituals, as a sacred food produced by a sacred animal. I just could not get behind the vegan argument that drinking milk was fundamentally wrong.

I voiced these feelings to a vegan associate one day, and was met with this response:

I don't think it's right that we use our culture as an excuse to do harm unto animals and our planet. To me it is not right that these cows are exploited and are treated as property. They deserve a free life. Vegetarian isn’t enough.

He compared the Indian culture of loving, respecting, and even worshipping cows with the Western culture of slaughtering cows to eat meat. He then told me about all of the cruelties that dairy cows face in the West: being artificially inseminated (raped), being separated from their babies so the babies can be sold for veal, and being chained to milking machines and/or cooped up in crowded barns. Then, when they have nothing left to give, being sent to a slaughterhouse. These were all realities that I had read about when I conducted my research, but I didn’t see any of these things as necessities in the dairy farming industry. Surely, things could change. What if there was a place where things were already being done differently?

If I ever doubted whether or not a vegetarian diet was sufficient, all of my doubts flew out of the window last month when I went on a pilgrimage to Vrindavan, India. Vrindavan is the holy land of Lord Krishna, the cowherd boy, who used to play in the forest with cows, calves, and other boys.

Today, cows still roam freely in Vrindavan, a city full of goshalas (cow sanctuaries). Milk products (also called ahimsa milk products, which translates to nonviolent or harm-free milk products) are obtained from these goshala cows, also known as “protected cows.” These cows are loved, cherished, never separated from their calves, and never slaughtered. Because they are free to wander the streets during the day, when I was in India, I made sure I pet at least one cow a day. Interaction with cows was a regular part of my life. I photographed and took video footage of dozens of them. There were so many beautiful varieties of cows. They were both free and protected in the holy city, where they were lovingly treated as pets.

Because I had the opportunity to spend a limited amount of time in this radical place, where cows were actually treated as living beings, I was free to eat whatever I wanted without the guilt or harm to my health.

Any time I got a chance to eat at Govinda’s restaurant (Govinda is another name of Lord Krishna, which translates to “one who gives pleasure to cows”), I would always order something with lots of dairy: pizza, cheese cake, or just a glass of hot milk. The milk tasted phenomenally different from anything I’ve ever had in Canada, where this goshala institution is not only unheard of, but illegal.

After I had a taste of milk at Govinda’s, “the best and highest quality” Canadian milk suddenly seemed bland and watery. It felt like I was drinking milk for the first time. It was so rich and full of flavour.

When I returned to Canada, and my time of the month arrived, it was just as mild as it had been when I had completely refrained from milk.

Vegetarian is enough. We just need to start treating cows right.

Photos of Indian cows:

A goshala in Mayapur, India, where cows are protected.

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Milch cows and calves are not separated. (Mayapur, India)

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Cows relax in a goshala in Mayapur.

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A young sweetheart!

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A beautiful protected bull in Vrindavan, India.

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A herd of protected bulls.

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Cows and human chilling out together as friends. (This was taken in a Krishna temple in Vrindavan.)

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A man with a large bull, approximately 6' tall. (Vrindavan)

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Footage:

I shot this video of goshala (protected) cows in Vrindavan, India.

 

Further reading:

http://www.albertamilk.com/ask-dairy-farmer/ive-started-buying-organic-milk-based-on-the-assum/

http://www.albertamilk.com/ask-dairy-farmer/what-do-dairy-cows-eat/

http://www.dairyfarmers.ca/what-we-do/programs/canadian-quality-milk/

http://www.dairyinfo.gc.ca/pdf/referencemanual.pdf

http://www.docsdrive.com/pdfs/academicjournals/ijds/2007/104-115.pdf

http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Food-technology/Biotechnology/Novel-foods/What-you-need-to-know-about-pesticides.aspx#.VlNqD3arTIU

http://www.fao.org/prods/gap/database/gap/files/1334_GUIDELINES_FOR_FEEDING_DAIRY_COWS.HTM

http://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(10)00097-4/abstract?cc=y=

https://www.milk.org/Corporate/PDF/Students-FarmCare_DairyCows.pdf

In the summer of 2015, I felt like I was going insane.

I'm a big lover of road trips, and I love exploring what I consider to be the most beautiful country in the world: my homeland of Canada. But as I drove through the countryside and passed farmer's field after farmer's field, seeing beautiful cows grazing or lying around or frolicking adorably, something inside me snapped. I couldn't bear the thought that in a year or two, most of these cows wouldn't be around any more. No matter how great their lives were, they would meet a horrifying end in a slaughterhouse. This gruesome thought tainted the pristine beauty of every sight I saw that summer on my countryside road trips.

I wondered how an amazing country like Canada with such a profound regard for democracy could allow this system of slavery and slaughter to continue. It is so well hidden that most of us don't even notice it, let alone question it.

These thoughts inspired me to start snapping pictures and taking video footage of cows before it was too late. In this way, I could immortalize them and honour their memory.

Basically, I was harnessing my insanity through whatever creative outlets I could. I took a stab at shooting and uploading my first video on YouTube: a bizarre homage to some local cows. I also wrote a short story themed somewhat around cows and what I saw that summer.

I spend a lot of time thinking about cows. They are truly amazing animals that give us so much, and expect so little in return.