With the popularity of veganism increasing by the day, many devotees have reacted to the movement’s avoiding bovine foodstuff as an attack on Vedic culture and cow protection.
This is understandable considering the vegan avoidance of cow products, milk included. Nonetheless, shouldn’t their revulsion to cow slaughter be regarded favorably within the devotional community?
Is renunciation of milk the real problem? Let us postulate that if we can convince vegans that they should drink milk from protected herds, then what would be the ensuing result? Practically-speaking, non-violent dairies wouldn’t be able to supply even a thousandth of one percent of this market.
As such, the opportunity for vegans to introduce dairy into their diet isn’t realistic. Therefore, until there is a feasible supply of ahimsa product, this criticism is hypothetical.
My experience reveals that many devotees do not realize the complexities of protecting cows. The ratio of “unproductive” cows to milkers averages between 15 or 20 to 1. This translates into 19 cows requiring support for each milker. The demands of financial solvency forces bloodless dairies to levy an additional tariff reflecting the cost of the non-milkers’ safekeeping. These extra charges are intentionally born by the ahimsa marketplace and are tangible reflections of a strong commitment to cow protection and non-violence.
Nearly one-third of the world’s cattle population resides in India. The country -- a leading exporter of meat and leather – is simultaneously predisposed to cow protection. Unfortunately, this schizophrenia is a disgrace to the country’s heritage and indicative of the many challenges to ahimsa cow care.
It is an interesting conundrum considering that cow slaughter is largely illegal throughout the Indian subcontinent. Adding to the ordeal is that the dairy industry continues to expand at a rate of 15% compounded annually.
So, shouldn’t we be thankful that countless cows and bulls are no longer slaughtered at the hands of a demonic industry thanks to veganism?
On our part, the argument to follow a Vedic standard would be more productive if vegans were encouraged to offer their food to Lord Krsna? That would direct the vegan movement towards a practical goal and result in a spiritual synergy amongst the communities.
It is well known that Srila Prabhupada allowed the consumption of commercial milk due to its being an integral part of a devotional cuisine. From my perspective, I’d be surprised if His Divine Grace would object to a plant-based diet if the foodstuffs are being offered to Lord Krishna.
The challenge to followers of Prabhupada’s teachings is to expand the current, narrow focus of devotional life. This seems to be a large part of the problem. Integrity will be shown by widespread implementation of rural communities which embrace food production and cow protection as sacrosanct.
Until then, we are just whistling Dixie and hollow words will neither curb the recent vegan wave, nor satisfy Srila Prabhupada’s comprehensive instructions on developing a spiritual lifestyle.
There is obvious room for improvement on both sides.