måndag 1 april 2013

Veganism, jainism, Ahimsa, non-violence, dairy-industry is Himsa

My notes from a lecture (see link below) by Gary Francione at a Jain-conference:
[Garys website: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/ ]
During that time we started to hear about non-violence. Dr. King started about non-violence and Gandhi. We heard about Gandhi in history-class.. He was important in relation between Britain and India. We started hearing about him. Non-violence is a cool idea. It fits in our opposition towards the war. It was a total abstract concept for me. It was a word, a concept, it meant nothing. 

It was in 1978 that I started to understand what Ahimsa meant. Someone challenged me, you eat meat, you believe in non-violence, you should go to a slaughter-house. It was an absolutely horrifying experience. Up to that point of my life, it was the most horrifying experience that I had. .. Still when I am in periods of stress, I still have nightmares about that slaughter-house. .. I went to a veal-slaughterhouse. The way veal calves are raised. They are raised in these tiny crates. Most of them can’t walk because of this. They are dragged. According to American law you are supposed to stun them., so that they can’t feel anything… But that doesn’t work very well. You have to use electrical prod. Many cows start to get conscious when people start cutting in. I walked out there as a completely different person. I realized that violence is a part of my life. Every time when I am eating meat, I am a part of this. Then I start to thinking about what non-violence is. It started to become part of my life. I started thinking about what non-violence meant. It wasn’t just that it was bloody and horrible. It was the violence that I was responsible for. I started to study more about violence. That is when I came to Jainism. I knew nothing about Jainism. I have heard about it. I had silly stereotypes. There wasn’t at the time a great deal of literature written in English that was good. I read what I could. I encountered Ahimsa. Ahimsa is the principle. I thought it is just wonderful.

I continued to consume dairy. I didn’t know you could live a healthy life without eating dairy. At the time I bought into the propaganda that you needed to eat it to get protein, in particular if you didn’t eat meat. I told my mother in 1978 that I was becoming a vegetarian. She said you are going to die. People were calling ‘Please eat meat, you are going to die’. It was 1982. I had a conversation with a vegan friend. She said there is no difference between dairy and meat. She gave me a book, I read it, it was a Saturday in October or November in 1982. I have not eaten a dairy-product since that time. I changed my behavior, since it couldn’t be justified.
I continued to wear the leather-products I had until they wore out. I stopped buying wool, I stopped buying silk.
The book was called Fettered Kingdoms by John Bryant. I was very impressed by his book. Later I met him in London. He said I am a little embarrassed, I am not vegan anymore. He said ‘I find it too difficult’. Gary said ‘If you are finding it too hard to be vegan in Britain, you are not trying enough.’ He wrote to me: ‘I am moving to become vegan again’ Gary said: ‘ Better late then never’.
I think we have a tendency to think that it is okay to eat dairy products, because you don’t kill the animals for dairy. Meat and dairy are connected. If you are supporting dairy industry you are supporting meat industry. You got to keep impregnated the cows. The male calves become ‘veal calves’. The veal industry kills over a 1 million of veal calves in India each year, because of the dairy industry in India. They are producing all of these veal calves. You sell them for meat. Dairy cows natural life span of 30 years. We kill them after 5-6 years.
Animals used for dairy are kept alive longer. They are treated anywhere as badly.
To say that dairy doesn’t involve death is wrong as a factual matter.

It is not just a matter of killing, it Is a matter of suffering. If you look at Acaranga sutra, it is written quite clearly, ‘The Arhats and Bhagavats of the past, present, and future, all say thus, speak thus, declare thus, explain thus: all breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.
I carry Acaranga sutra in that book. It is a marvelous book. I have read it enough times, so that parts are memorized. It is a marvelous books. It contains the primarily ethical principles of Jainism.
It is quite clear – it is just not killing, it is making animals suffer.  There are some animal organizations that have labels ‘certified humane’ ,etc.
Can you reduce suffering, maybe, you can a little.
If you have two slave owners, one beats his/her slave 9 times, and another 10 times.
[Criticizing “humane milk”, etc.: ] Is it himsa – violence – to use another human being? Is it alright to own another human being. The answer is No. Is it alright to beat that person once. No.
There are some organizations that telling free-range eggs are better, etc.
All is torture. Some of it may be less torture. I don’t know which is worse. It is torture in both cases .
On a conventional dairy calf- the calf is taken away directly. Organic dairy farm –calf is taken away in 5 or 6 or 7 days.
The mother gets very upset.
When they are going to take the babies, the mothers will as a group try to protect the baby.
Jainism is clear you can’t intentionally use Ahimsa. It is absolutely clear we can’t do this. It is a matter of not just killing, but also suffering. Suffering is a part of dairy. We can’t consume animal products without Himsa – violence.

Plants are alive – they have the sense of touch. Obviously we should consume as few plants as possible. We other commit suicide or we die. There is a difference. Jains recognize there is a difference between 1-sense-organism compared to a 5-sense-organism. Although I think plants are alive. Even the Jain scholars recognize there is a huge difference between a plant and a 5-sense animal. One has a mind that doesn’t exist in the 5 sense-organism. Plants don’t have a nervous system. What goes on with a plant is qualitatively difference to what goes on with an animal.  We all recognize the difference. If I cut a lettuce, compared to cutting a chicken – you would recognize there is a difference between the two.
When I ask ‘Why not vegan’. Some say ‘it is tradition’.
Jainism celebrates rationality. We [as a society] have been doing lots of bad things for a long time: racism, sexism, etc.

There were people at that time that had 50 wives. He didn’t condemn them. He said things are wrong. He didn’t condemn them.

(..) There is not a situation of necessity for survival.
Some people say ‘There is a compromise. We can’t avoid all violence.’
If that argument works then it is okay to eat meat. That argument doesn’t work. If that works then the people how said ‘I would like to eat meat’ would be justified.

[Discussing  principle of Anekantavada]: All substances are constantly in the state of changing. We cannot understand everything. It doesn’t mean that truth is relative. Truth is complex. Truth is hard to understand. We should never use violence to get people to accept our truth.
There is a story of an elephant. Some people were touching the elephant and feeling different parts. There is an elephant. That is truth. There is a truth, truth is not relative.
Ahimsa is truth. If truth is relative, there can be no dharma. ..

It shouldn’t matter if it is inconvenient. There was no shuttle at the airport. I walked up to an Indian person. He asked: Are you here for the Jain-conference. They were travelling at the train. 30 years ago soymilk was horrible. No, there are many good soymilks, great non-dairy ice-cream.  You use soy-margarine. You don’t have to use gee.  He said: ‘I can tell the difference between soy-milk and gee-milk when I drink tea. I rather have the soymilk, because I know I don’t engage in Himsa.’.  I don’t want the milk-taste badly in enough to engage in Himsa. If everything here was made without milk, you wouldn’t notice. You really wouldn’t notice. In the end, what really matters is the world principle. Can we ever justify violence with the only reason of ‘pleasure’¨.

Everyone was upset with Michael Vick because he was engaged in dog-fighting. His students said: It is terrible what he did. The dogs were fighting. Why? Michael Vick enjoyed it. Students: That wasn’t good enough. ‘Pleasure’ isn’t good enough’ He said: Are you vegan. What is your excuse? You don’t need animal products to be healthy. Animal agriculture is more responsible for global warming than all fossil fuels for transportation.

‘Pleasure’ is no different from seeing Michael Vick engaging in dog-fighting.
… It was a profound talk. He said Ahimsa is Karuna. It is I am going to positively interact with you. It is live and help live. The positive notion of Ahimsa.  I was so impressed by him. As Jains we should be in the forefront of fighting rasism, sexism , in the forefront of the ecology-movement.
I would like to add to this, we ought to be in the forefront of the animal rights-movement. We should stop bringing domesticated animals into the world. I live with 5 vegan rescue dogs. I love dogs. If they were 2 dogs left and I owned them, we would not continue to domesticate animals.
Stop interfering with the animals in the wild. The animas should not be in our glasses, not in our food.
Never do intentionally harm. Don’t steal.
Jainism prohibits stealing.

The cow does not give us the milk and the butter. We take it. We steal it from her baby.
I am not making any moral judgment about you. That is violence. I spend my life talking to omnivores, people eating fish, meat and eggs. When I am with Jains, I feel I am with family. You are 95% there people [i.e. in using non-violence]. It is only the milk, the ice-cream, the gee that you have to stop with.


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