Gyan in the Hindi language means ‘knowledge’ and VEGYAN is an endeavour to share knowledge about veganism through a Q&A column published on Page 2 every Saturday in Greater Jammu, a daily newspaper available both in print and online:

Naina Kohli

A. Almond milk has emerged as one of the favourite alternatives to dairy milk because of various reasons. It is rich and creamy and tastes good in all hot and cold beverages. It is very easy to make at home and since we generally need little of it, it does not work out as expensive as people think it is. Almond milk, like all plant products, is free from cholesterol and like all non dairy milks, is free from casein and lactose. Above all, since it is cruelty free, it is a great choice for vegans and those transiting to veganism.

Rahil Kalra

A. While there are plenty of foods that are vegan by default, some of the best alternatives to flesh, eggs, milk, dairy products and honey include mock meats, tofu, plant milks, peanut butter, maple syrup and so on.

A. Humans do not even belong to any natural food chain on land or in water. We simply create direct food links with the animals whose meat we want to eat, who in majority are the ones we especially breed into existence.

Siya Malhotra

A. Almond milk is one of the easiest plant milks to make at home. Just soak a handful of almonds for a few hours (it is economical to use broken almonds), throw the water, take off the skin, grind to a smooth paste with fresh drinking water, add some more water and strain through a muslin cloth or a fine sieve to get one cup of homemade almond milk. For best results, grind the paste once again with more water and strain. The leftover almond paste can easily be added to whatever is being cooked for the day. In case you want the almond milk for cereals or desserts, then don’t even bother straining it so that the fibre remains there itself.

A. In olden times, animals were used as a mode of transport, but now that mounting and entering the marriage venue on a horse is a mere formality, we can easily do away with this practice. Horses used for such occasions are kept all year long in sheds on ropes that are so short that they are hardly able to move.  Standing constantly in their own waste, their feet become sore and infected. And when taken for such functions, all decorated as display items, they go insane with all the loud music, the bright lights and surging crowds.So that they do not react, the horses are often drugged and their ears blocked. It is high time we stopped such cruelty in the name of tradition.

anu Devi

A. A few lifestyle changes are needed to go vegan. We need to choose cosmetics and other products that are neither tested on animals nor contain any animal derived ingredients, we have to avoid the use of animals for entertainment, work and as pets, and we need to abstain from flesh, eggs and milk in diet.

It is easy to find a vegan cake at any confectionery. All you have to do is to look for an eggless cake and ensure that it does not contain butter or dairy cream. Very often, cakes are made with vegetable oils since they are cheaper and decorated with dairy-free, oil-based cream since it does not turn sour. Alternatively, you can bake a vegan cake at home. There is now no dearth of easy-to-follow recipes online.

If gym enthusiasts want to build strength, stamina, endurance and muscle mass, they should eat close to a horse, not a lion. While a balanced whole food plant based diet comprising of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds can fulfil all the nutritional requirements of a human body, gym enthusiasts can pay special attention to soybeans, soy milk, tofu, oats, almonds, peanuts, peas, potatoes, sprouted green lentils, roasted chickpeas and other such high plant protein and non heme iron rich foods.

There is absolutely no difference between a vegan and a plant based diet because vegan itself implies a 100% plant based diet with no animal based foods whatsoever. A vegetarian diet, in its strictest sense, is meant to be fully plant based too, but vegetarians are flexible and barring flesh, most include animal milk and honey, while some even consider fish and eggs as vegetarian.

We need to understand that animals exist for their own purpose, not ours. We have no right to inflict physical, sexual, mental and emotional pain upon those we use against their will and without their consent. Animals are innocent, helpless and vulnerable and it is time humans began to respect and regard them instead of abusing them for experimentation, work, entertainment, as pets, for products and as sources of food. Being vegan means to no longer participate in such exploitation of other animals.

The first and foremost reason for people to go vegan is ethics. Once exposed to the cruelty in our use of innocent animals for any purpose, people no longer want to participate in such brutality because it goes against our basic nature of love, compassion, respect and justice for all living beings. The reason to go vegan in diet also includes the awakening that consumption of animal based foods is quite unnatural, absolutely unnecessary and very unhealthy for the human body. The latest and urgent reason why people are choosing to go vegan in diet is environment, since statistics have clearly shown that animal agriculture is the single largest contributor to climate change, depletion and destruction of natural resources, loss of wildlife and species extinction, besides of course, being a cause for world hunger, ill health and a violent mindset.

No not really, because a change in consumer preferences simply leads to the opening of new businesses and job opportunities. As is happening now, with more and more people going vegan and the market expanding swiftly, employment opportunities in this sector are visibly rising. In fact, the poor who do menial work in factory farms, butcheries, tanneries and other animal related industries, where conditions are appalling and the incidence of zoonotic diseases high, would surely be better off finding employment elsewhere

Being vegan means to choose cruelty free cosmetics, toiletries, clothes and accessories. It also means to say no to the use of animals for experiments, work, entertainment and as pets. And lastly, being vegan means to consume foods and beverages that are fully plant based. It is not difficult at all to be vegan because many products, foods and beverages are already vegan by default, and with veganism growing rapidly, cruelty free options are getting easier to find.

It is indeed a tough task to break habit, taste and health benefit notions around milk and milk products, especially in India where it is also considered a part of our culture. However, the steadily increasing number of people quitting dairy once they realise it is unethical, unnatural, unnecessary and unhealthy for human consumption and the growing number of dairy substitutes now available in the market are both positive signs that veganism is poised to become more than just mainstream.

While the main focus is on shifting consumer preferences to change the dynamics, there is no harm in persuading workers, producers and retailers to opt out of animal based businesses on ethical grounds. While there are plenty of opportunities available otherwise, there are a growing number of people across the world simply making a cruelty free switch in the supply line. So, now we have animal agriculturists and butchers involved in mock meat production, leather manufacturers using plant based raw materials, dairy farmers and milkmen harvesting and selling plant based milks, and so on. Examples like these and statistics of the expanding vegan market can help motivate those dependent on animal use to go vegan in earning their livelihood.

Plant based foods are rich in carbohydrates and are the only source of fibre. Coupled with plant protein and mostly unsaturated fats, the vegan diet offers the best nourishment for the human body in the least quantity. In India, if not fruits and nuts, at least vegetables, grains, legumes and seeds are easily available and relatively cheaper. Access to simple, traditional vegan foods and beverages can help fight malnourishment in India.

Firstly, it is disrespectful to treat animals as commodities who we can buy and sell for pleasure or profit. Secondly, the pet trade industry indulges in extremely cruel and unethical breeding practices. And thirdly, because of their genetic makeup, the food we give them and the environment they live in, most dogs invariably end up suffering from acute physical and physiological ailments. Being vegan means not to participate in the use of animals for any purpose.

There are at least two core benefits of adopting a vegan diet. Firstly, livestock farming is one of the biggest contributors to the depletion and destruction of natural resources and for causing climate change. Human consumption of a fully plant based diet has the least impact upon the environment. Secondly, since antibiotic resistance and many diseases are increasingly being linked to animal based foods, a fully plant based diet is proving to not only help eliminate such risks, but also help in building better immunity and good health for humankind.

Vegan is a person who refuses to participate in the use of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. Vegan also refers to a diet or a food, beverage, cosmetic and all products that are free from animal use.

Yes, plants suffer when they are pulled out of the ground, but none of us worry about them until we are confronted with the suffering we cause to animals. It is us who have divided the living organisms into the Plant kingdom and Animal kingdom based on differences such as, unlike animals, plants do not have a central nervous system and so do not feel the same pain and so on. Moreover, all animals are heterotrophs, which means we are designed to eat only living organisms. So when a carnivore kills an animal and a herbivore kills a plant, they do not sense the pain that they are causing to those organisms. The point therefore is that, if we, as humans, are comfortable to kill and eat plants, but most of us are not even able to watch an animal being killed, then we must align our actions with our nature and go vegan.

Being vegetarian is not good enough because even a ‘pure’ vegetarian who abstains from flesh and eggs, may still be using products of violence such as leather, silk, fur and cosmetics tested on animals or containing animal derived ingredients. Moreover, as a follower of ‘ahimsa parmo dharma’, it also becomes imperative to quit items like dairy, honey and wool once the cruelty in them is exposed. Veganism, which seeks to exclude exploitation of animals for food, clothing, work, entertainment and so on, is nothing but a way of living based on the same philosophy of nonviolence but consciously extended towards all living beings.

Yes, as long as our plant based meals are healthy and balanced, we can never have a deficiency of protein. In fact, the composition of human mother’s milk is an indication of how our body needs more carbohydrates and fats than protein. It is obvious that the hype around protein has been created to boost sales of eggs, flesh and supplements. The horse, known for power, strength, stamina, agility, endurance and all the physical characteristics that bodybuilders, sportspersons and athletes look for, is a prime example of how a fully plant based diet satiates all nutritional requirements of herbivorous animals like us. Not only is excess protein bad for us if we cannot burn it, but animal protein and protein powders are hazardous for our health and wellbeing. The bottomline is that instead of worrying about getting enough protein from a vegan diet, we should cut back on excess protein, animal protein and protein powders.

Vegan cosmetics are those that have neither been tested on animals nor do they contain any animal based ingredients. Billions of animals are used in laboratories to carry out torturous tests at the end of which the animals are either killed or left to die slow agonising deaths. Cosmetics may also contain ingredients that are cruelly derived from animals. The list of companies that make vegan cosmetics is available online. It is also easy to identify such cosmetics because they carry a cruelty free logo or a statement that says so.

Every living being needs a nutritious diet with plenty of sunshine and exercise to be healthy. A vegan diet that includes the six basic plant food groups, namely fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds can provide optimal nourishment for a human body and a growing child may actually benefit from such a diet. It is a myth that calcium is available only in the milk of another animal. Calcium is a mineral that is found in soil and the direct and richest source of calcium for us are plant based foods.