Veganism, as a lifestyle and ethical choice, is gaining steady popularity in India, with more and more people engaging actively in what can be termed the Indian Vegan Movement. The motto is to eat clean and go green.
For us Indians, food habits are more of a cultural and emotional revelation than a dietary choice. Being a Bengali, it is expected out of you to have a natural inclination towards fish, just as a Punjabi ought to be raised on a healthy dosage of ghee and butter. But, the trends are slowly shifting to more healthy living.
“Being a vegan doesn’t hamper your body-building abilities. There is no dearth of alternative sources to animal proteins. If you think being a vegan will make you frail, think again,” remarked Neerajan Saha, a vegan activist and follower from Kolkata.
— EatVeg (@raceybaby) May 2, 2017
What is veganism?
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose, as defined by The Vegan Society. Veganism also encourages denouncing zoo or aquarium visits, or taking part in dog or horse racing or shows.
— cecil thounaojam (@cecilthojm) May 6, 2016
Indian celebrities are also taking the vegan route. Popular Indian actress, Richa Chadda is an active vegan. In a report published by PETA, she stated, “I have turned vegan (it suits my body, I’ve never felt healthier) and my diet is gluten free.” Director Kiran Rao is also an acknowledged vegan, who influenced husband Aamir Khan to turn vegan on his 50th birthday. “At the end of it, I was convinced that vegans are way ahead of non-vegetarians and even vegetarians,” reported Aamir Khan, upon watching a video on vegan diet and its benefits brought to his attention by Rao.
Dr Alok Mandal stated, “Vegan diets are a recent fad in India but is a prevalent practice abroad. The reason being the lack of substitutes and choices for maintaining a proper vegan diet. Either that or its too expensive; not everyone can afford that here. We need cheaper, better alternatives. But from a health point of view, a vegan diet can be all encompassing contrary to popular myths. The key is to find the right balance of nutrients.”
Social media is playing an active role in promoting veganism in India. Nayan, who was a meat-eater was invited via Facebook to an event in Mumbai where they served vegan snacks, tea with tofu pakodas (tofu balls). “I realised that it’s not that bad and never turned back to my old diet since that day. More than the food habit, I realised how ignorant I was to turn a blind eye to animal rights violation through my everyday lifestyle choices. It shook me and changed me and I decided to take the green pledge.”
Is Veganism limited to dietary choices?
We had a tête-à-tête with Abhay Rangan, founder at SARV (Society for Animal Rights and Veganism) and Veganarke, a Bangalore-based start-up manufacturing healthy plant-based choices to dairy.
— Abhay Rangan (@AbhayRangan) January 1, 2017
How are you involved with the Vegan Movement in India?
When I was 16, I started a non-profit society for animal rights and veganism (SARV) and we have advocated about 250 campaigns so far, mostly by youth volunteers, with more regard to Bangalore. About a year and half back, I started a company called Veganarke, which is a profit based model; that combined with the non-profit model of SARV maintains the balance. The aim is to redefine society’s notions of food and making vegan options affordable to those living in Bangalore (for now). Our peanut curd, for example, sells for INR 60-a-litre.
Do you feel being a vegan is more of a dietary choice or a moral choice?
Fundamentally, I look at veganism as more of a political stance, because when you make it a diet choice, you make humans the focus of veganism, which it is not. Animal torture, slaughter, in millions of numbers, throughout the year, should ideally be the focus. Although changing the diet is a significant part of being a vegan, it is not what the spirit of the movement is about.
Rangan concluded by stating, “We have a long way to go before we reach the goal of animal liberation. There are a lot of active movements happening in different parts of the country, especially in the metropolitan cities. More friends are coming up with vegan alternatives, be it in terms of food or lifestyle products. Most importantly, there are a lot of dialogues about animal rights in India, at the moment that is slowly seeping into the mainstream.”