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Why I choose to be vegan

Vegan living is a set of choices stemming from a simple logic: Every sentient being – human or not – deserves not to be hurt. Thus, a vegan rejects all forms of animal exploitation – for food, clothing, entertainment, etc. So, being vegan means avoiding milk & its products, meat, eggs, honey (substituting them with their plant-based alternatives for taste if desired), wool, leather, fur, pearl, silk and all other animal products/use.

Not many people know that – like meat – milk, eggs and other animal products also lead to animal killing and torture! Even in traditional Indian tabelas/dairies, cows have to be subjected to unbearable repeated forced pregnancies and a lot of other misery. Hence, vegans also avoid all dairy products such as milk, paneer, cheese, ghee, butter, cream & curd.

Every sentient being - human or not, animal or insect - deserves not to be hurt
Vegans do not visit zoos, circuses. They refrain from animal-tested products too (unless unavoidable). At its ethical core, veganism is similar to movements against racism, sexism, etc. The enslavement of a class of sentient beings – on the morally irrelevant basis that they do not belong to our species – must end.

Being vegan is a win-win-win proposition, in terms of human health, environmental sustainability and animal suffering avoidance.

Ethics aside, vegan living is also critical for our own health, and that of the environment. There is compelling evidence that cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high BP, asthma, bone weakness and obesity can all be prevented or reversed through vegan eating. Plus, you can achieve all of this without compromising on your favourite tastes or clothing needs. Be it sweets, chocolates, cakes, ice-creams, curd, paneer, cheese, pizza or tea/coffee, almost every dish you are used to can be found/made without animal ingredients! Read on for details:

The acute misery caused by eggs and meat

De-beaking with a hot blade: A part of the routine torture endured by checken in IndiaChickens raised for eggs and meat are stuffed awfully in tiny cages or a stinking compound containing scores of birds. To reduce the losses by the agonized birds’ pecking, they are de-beaked (i.e., their beaks are chopped off with a hot blade) without anesthesia at a very tender age! At the end of their miserable lives, the birds are butchered barbarically in full view of their terrified fellow victims! The egg hatcheries (even the so called ‘free-range’The tale of suffering is equally sad for fish, goats, pigs and other animals raised for human use ones) brutally kill all male baby chicks, since they can’t lay eggs, and don’t grow fast enough to be raised for meat. This 3-minute clip of Indian poultry farms depicts some of the shocking horrors suffered by egg and meat chickens. The tale of suffering is equally sad for fishes, goats, pigs and other animals raised for humans.
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Milk: A source of immense animal suffering

A cow undergoing articifial insemination - an atrocious experienceThe cow (or the buffalo), a mammal like us, has to become pregnant and deliver a baby to be able to produce milk. And, her milk flow lasts only for a limited period after delivery. But, for any tabela/dairy to be financially viable, every cow in it needs to produce milk continuously. Hence, she has to be forced into a constant, body-breaking cycle of pregnancy, birthing and milking! The repeated impregnation is done either through a rape by a common bull, or an equally torturous process called artificial insemination, exposing the cow to diseases. The cow’s babies, the rightful owners of her milk, are largely deprived of it. Since male babies are useless for milk production, they are either starved or sold to be slaughtered or skinned (often alive for soft leather)! Like humans, cows are deeply attached to their babies. Yet, calves are separated from their mothers, who are subsequently seen letting out cries of anguish for weeks! Milk is mostly extracted through machines, which often run even after the cow’s udders are empty, resulting in a lot of pain. She is injected with hazardous growth hormones like Oxytocin, causing her severe stomach cramps and bone weakness. Kept constantly pregnant and/or lactating, dairy cows get spent very quickly. At less than half their natural age, they are either thrown out on the streets to die eating plastic, or brutally hurled into trucks, which transport them to slaughter houses to die as atrocious a death as their lives have been. This 5-minute video, shot across various Indian tabelas/dairies, shows all of these and other barbarities taking place routinely.
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“But, don’t plants feel pain too?”

This is a totally flawed argument. If plants feel pain, that’s actually yet another reason to avoid animal products! That’s because eating animal food (indirectly) takes many times more plants than eating plants directly does. A non-vegan consumes not just animal products, but also the plants fed daily to the animals for their entire lifetimes! Up to 5 times more grains are required to produce the same amount of calories through animals as through direct grain consumption. Thus, avoiding animal food causes the least harm to plants too. Besides, the majority view among scientists is that plants can not feel pain, as they don’t have a central nervous system.

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Vegan food: The healthiest choice

Milk, eggs and meat account for most of our cholesterol & saturated fat, and contain no fiber. Contrastingly, plant foods are rich in fiber (essential for good digestion), and contain no cholesterol. These facts are among the several reasons behind the following alarming summary from a number of independent studies, including the biggest study ever to link food and health [Undertaken by Oxford University, Cornell Univ. & others under the name ‘The China Study’]:

Milk, eggs and meat cause or aggravate many dreaded diseases including
heart disease, high BP, cancer, asthma, diabetes and bone weakness.

Milk, eggs and meat cause or aggravate many dreaded diseases including heart disease, high BP, cancer, asthma, diabetes and bone weakness.In other words, vegan food does way more than the removal of excess body fat, and improvement of fitness/energy & digestion. It is actually essential for good health. ‘The Last Heart Attack’, a CNN documentary, features Bill Clinton, who has cured his heart disease through healthy vegan food. It also has the testimonies of many eminent doctors/scientists who advocate plant-based food. The awareness is rising in India too. Dr Nandita Shah has successfully solved a lot of diabetes and heart disease cases merely through healthy vegan food! Moreover, animal foods are alarmingly high in antibiotics, pus & pesticides. The pesticide concentration is much higher in milk, eggs & meat than that in vegetables. Recently, the Food Safety Authority of India found 68% of India’s milk contaminated with pesticides, detergents, etc.!

EMany of the world’s biggest/strongest animals (like elephants, horses and rhinos) are totally vegan. Do they lack bone strength, calcium or protein?!xposing the calcium & protein myths: There’s absolutely no nutrient that vegan food cannot provide [B12 deficiencies are equally likely in non-vegans]. As substantiated by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, milk protein actually leaches calcium from the bones, resulting in bone weakness! Plus, humans absorb only 32% of the calcium in cow’s milk. Even in calcium content, milk is surpassed by dozens of plant foods: leafy green vegetables (like coriander, methi, radish, curry patta), til (sesame seeds), ragi, almonds, rajma, peas (e.g., chana), moong sprouts, soya products like tofu, etc.

The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis (bone weakness)
are those boasting the highest consumption of dairy products!

If you consume enRobert Cheeke is one of the many successful bodybuilders who consume no meat/eggs/milk, proving that we need not torture & kill animals to tone up our bodies.ough calories, you are bound to get enough protein! That’s why protein deficiencies are mostly found in malnourished people. In fact, excess protein leads to serious harm. Anyhow, there are plenty of protein-rich plant foods: all pulses (dal), soy products, all legumes [peas like chana, beans such as rajma, etc.], almonds & other nuts, seeds, and more. In fact, there have been quite a few world-class vegan athletes and body builders, ranging from two-time Olympian Seba Johnson (a vegan since birth), to long-distance runner turned renowned bodybuilder Robert Cheeke (another long-time vegan). Many have also sustained babies and pregnancies on totally vegan food, and are healthier for it!
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Vegan for the environment and food security

Animal products use up resources like land and water massively, since the 10s of billions of animals that we breed every year have to be fed & hydrated daily all through their lives. Growing loads of crops for animals and then eating animal-based food is a terribly inefficient way to feed ourselves: It takes up to 10 kg of grains to make 1 kg of animal food! The UN finds that animal agriculture uses up a whopping 50% of the world’s grains, and enormous deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions & energy depletion! As much as 50% of India’s maize becomes animal feed. There’s simply not enough land and water to continue using animal products. A huge contributor to climate change, our non-vegan choices also cause a lot of air pollution [animal farms release harmful gasses like H2S & methane], water pollution [through farm runoff] & soil degradation.
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Conditioned vs natural

No species in nature drinks the milk of another species, or any milk at all post infancy!Ever wondered why milk and eggs are the only unbranded foods being advertised? That’s because natural, instinctive foods like fruits and veggies never need to be marketed. What would a small (unconditioned), hungry child pick up when offered carrots, and a live chicken? Our so-called canine teeth do not make us omnivorous, as canines are also found in several herbivores (e.g., gorillas, horses, hippos). From laterally moving jaws to long intestines, humans possess a dozen physiological traits that put us closer to plant-eaters than omnivores. Arteries of omnivores in nature are never clogged, but heart disease through clogged arteries caused by animal products is the biggest killer of humans! As for milk, no species in nature drinks another species’ milk, or any milk at all post infancy. Each animal’s milk is tailor-made for her species by nature. Hence, hormonally and biologically, the milk of a cow/buffalo is totally unsuitable for humans. Finally, since we breed (i.e. artificially produce) the animals we use, going vegan will bring the animal population way down to the natural state.
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Species-ism

It is ironic that many of us avoid racism/sexism, but unconsciously practice a similar injustice called species-ism, i.e., the exploitation of animals not belonging to the human species. When it is not fair to hurt beings from other races & genders, how is it fair to enslave and torment beings from other species (that too merely for pleasure, not survival)? Why should justice & kindness be confined to humans when animals too can feel pain acutely?

“Animals exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans,
just like blacks were not made for whites, and women not for men.”

What we are doing to animals is analogous to the human slavery that we cringe at the thought of. Imagine being born just to be enslaved & tortured for life! That’s exactly the story of the billions of animals that we breed into existence every year. Had these victims been humans, we’d have called this an unprecedented genocide. And, this one is being powered by ordinary people! Thankfully, most of us successfully overcame centuries of conditioning to shun human slavery. We need to again choose ethics over history, and take the next leap in our ethical evolution by eradicating animal exploitation. Millions already have.

The question is NOT ‘Can they reason or talk?’. It is ‘Can they suffer?’.

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Renowned vegan personalities

Tobey Maguire aka ‘Spiderman’ is a staunch vegan who doesn’t allow anyone wearing animal skin (e.g., leather) in his house. He even sent back a Mercedes with leather seats.Here are some interesting anecdotes/quotes from a few of the many eminent vegans. Tobey Maguire (‘Spiderman’), a staunch vegan, doesn’t allow anyone wearing animal skin (e.g., leather) in his house. He even sent back a Mercedes with leather seats. Another inspiration is former Citibank vice president Philip Wollen, for whom, being vegan is ”to be able to look in the mirror without feeling profoundly ashamed”. ‘Avatar’ director James Cameron’s initial motivation for going vegan was environmental conservation. He terms the avoidance of animal products as the “single biggest thing that an individual can do to combat climate change”. Germany’s strongest man, Patrik Baboumian, is vegan!
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Leather, wool and silk are NOT cruelty-free byproducts

Your leather sofa has blood on it!Milk production is the most common source of leather. Since male calves have no use for a tabela/dairy, most of them are used for leather. They are often intentionally starved, so that can be skinned quickly. Indians are the worst offenders, as our indiscriminate dairy consumption has made us the largest exporter of cow leather! Leather makes up half of all profits of many slaughter houses. Thus, leather (and wool) buyers make meat much cheaper. Wool also causes many atrocities such as flesh stripping on sheep. A silk cloth leads to the exploitation and killing of tons of silk worms.
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The cruelty caused by consuming honey

Honey is nothing but bee-vomit. It is the bees’ buffer food. During a bee’s lifetime, she makes only about one teaspoon of honey!  To make just one pound, a bee colony flies over 55,000 miles! Humans ruin all that, destroy their homes (hives), and steal their critical food security. This process also injures and kills many bees. Bee keeping too causes enormous pain and death. The queen bee’s wings are often cut off to ground her. Scores of bees are kept in a small box, and many routinely get crushed to death.
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Does it harm employment? Not at all

A vegan world will not have fewer jobs. The reduced employment in the animal products industry will be compensated for by increased openings in the vegan products industry. Jobs decline when the demand diminishes. But, veganism doesn’t reduce the demand; it only changes the demand. And, history shows that the market is very adaptable. Besides, from tobacco to chemical weapons, there are many unethical things wherein people are employed, but, do we approve of such things? No, because there exist enough cruelty-free means of employment.
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Agreed, but what about insects in the house?

The idea is to try one’s sincere best to cause the least amount of cruelty necessary for survival. So, rather than hurting or killing insects, we prefer to keep them at bay through cleanliness, nets and/or repellents. Besides, it’s one thing to inflict pain in self-defense or accidentally, and totally another to do so when it is avoidable.
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Vegan alternatives exist for almost everything!

As a vegan, you will never feel deprived of tasty food!Being vegan is easier than ever. Avoiding animal products does not mean giving up yummy food, comfortable clothing, enjoyable entertainment, etc. Sweets, cakes, chocolates, ice-creams, curd, paneer, cheese, pizza, tea/coffee – pretty much everything – can be enjoyed without anything animal-derived! Find all the alternatives, recipes, vegan products, eat-out options and tips on A complete practical guide to delightful vegan living.

Plant based milks made from cashews, almonds, coconut, soy, peanuts, rice, etc. can veganize any dish you love! Tofu (a healthier taste substitute for paneer), milk-free chocolates, vegan biscuits, soya milk, etc. are readily available in stores. Many cities also have options for vegan ice-creams and cakes. As for eating out, restaurants of every cuisine serve dishes that are devoid of dairy, eggs, meat & honey.

Like food, other choices can easily be cruelty-free too. There are ample options for non-leather furniture, footwear & accessories. Wool, silk, fur, pearls & honey can be easily substituted or avoided too. Shampoos, soaps, cosmetics and other lifestyle products involving no animal testing/ingredients are also readily available. To sum up, veganism involves no deprivation at all! The following will make your vegan life even smoother:

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“If you think it’s difficult for you to be vegan,
imagine how terribly difficult it is for the animals that you are not vegan!”

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Winds of Change

More than a month has elapsed since I decided to undertake arguably the most drastic switch of my career thus far. Those readers connected to me through FB know already of my move to take up a position with Microsoft, Hyderabad, in the Bing group. The new job has felt like an entirely uncharted territory so far. I am no longer in the comforting cocoon of computer vision, and it has taken me a while to get used to that. After all, it’s something I had been immersed neck-deep in for over half a decade. Having said that, I am not at all averse to information retrieval or machine learning, and once I have learnt the ropes, I look forward to solving interesting problems therein.

Initially, I had confined my job search in Hyderabad to computer vision profiles. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have even applied to Microsoft at that stage, had it not been for the insistence of few ultra-zealous consultants. However, it soon dawned upon me that there were precious little vision-based opportunities in the city unless I was willing to take a considerable pay cut. Thankfully, things panned out favourably in the MS interviews, the first and only set of interviews I needed to give this time around.

The decision to switch was dictated by manifold reasons, the most compelling of which was an Ankylosing Spondylitis treatment I am undergoing in Hyderabad, entailing daily visits to the clinic for a few months. That was closely followed by the fact that Sejal and (to a slightly lesser extent) I had become sick and tired of Noida. Moreover, Hyderabad presented me with the opportunity to reunite with my little sister Ruchi, an MS-by-Research student at IIIT-H (Btw, it’s uncanny as to how much our paths have overlapped – including school, bachelors college, masters college, engineering branch, and most importantly, ideology).

As much as I look ahead to what Hyderabad and Microsoft have in store for me, this is an apt time to reflect on the 2+ year stint in Noida with Kritikal Secure Scan – an IIT-D incubated small (70-odd-employee) firm. Hands down, KSS’s was the best job profile I have ever had (MS included). I thoroughly relished devising algorithms for real-life computer vision problems. The balance between research/exploration and coding was spot on. To cap it all off, I got the opportunity to lead a team in exploring and implementing computer vision algorithms. The only down side was that owing to a lack of peers at my level in the organizational hierarchy, I couldn’t develop any friendships to write home about (though I got acquainted with some great blokes). I guess I was reluctant to get overly casual with my boss, and those who reported to me were no different :). From early indications, MS seems to offer a brighter scenario in that regard.

Despite having already devoted a good chunk of the post so far to ‘why Hyderabad’, I’ve actually saved the best for the end: bridge – a captivating (mind) game of cards :). It’s been just a shade over two months in the city, and I have already played nearly as much bridge as I probably did in all my time in Noida! I reckon, this change of fortunes should be attributed to having a few Gujarati folks to hang out with. Over the years, I have denounced a couple of the typical Gujarati attributes (such as indiscriminate reverence of all things abroad), but I also value some (such as business enterprise and insights). May be, our preference to spend our leisure time playing is something I should add to the latter list :).