Pravin Shah -- Raleigh, NC
Two years ago (May 1995), I visited a dairy farm located on Route 2 about 20 miles north of Burlington, VT. The dairy owns about 150 cows and supplies all its milk to Ben and Jerry for ice cream. Ben and Jerry Company is considered to be an ethical company in the dairy industry. I do not know whether they owned the dairy or not.
Here is the summary of what I saw and learnt:
It was milking time (5:00 p.m.) and the machine was milking the cow at 3.5 minutes per cow, without regard to how hard it was on the cow.
It was extremely difficult for me to watch the cows' sufferings during the milking. To extract the last drop of milk, sometimes traces of blood got mixed with the milk.
Every morning hormones are injected into the cows to increase their milk yields. Since cows produce the most milk during and after pregnancy, they are kept pregnant for their entire fertile life through artificial insemination.
The pregnant cow delivers a baby after nine months (same as human does). If a male calf, of no use to the dairy industry, is born, he is shipped to the veal industry within two or three days of birth. The evening I was there, the farm was shipping three baby calves in a truck to a veal factory. The mother cows were crying when their babies were separated from them. I cannot forget the scene and can still hear the cries of the mother cows.
The veal industry is the most cruel meat industry in the world. It produces very tender meat for delicacy meal. The baby calves are raised in the darkness in a very confining crate, which allows practically no movements, and are fed an iron-deficient diet. This way the meat stays very tender and properly textured. They slaughter the baby calves after six months. There is enough literature available about the cruelty in the veal industry.
Within two months of delivery, the cows are made pregnant again. I did not have the stamina to watch the process of artificial insemination that the farm was showing off to us.
About four to five times a year, this farm would take the cows outside for a walk. Otherwise, the cows are tied in one place and they have no choice but to defecate where they are confined. It badly stunk when I was there; the farm would wash the confinement areas once or sometimes twice a day, and the remaining times the cows would then live in their own waste.
The life expectancy of cows is about 15 years. However, after 10 years, their milk production drops significantly so these cows are sent to the slaughterhouse for meat.
Last year (Nov. 1996) I visited India and also visited a dairy farm near Bombay. I observed similar things; overall, things were actually probably worse because there are few enforced regulations.
In the past (before the birth of a high-tech dairy farm) in India, cows were treated like a part of the family, and after feeding the baby calf, leftover milk was consumed by humans. However, as my daughter Shilpa always says, cows' milk is for baby cows and not for humans or their babies; no other animal consumes the milk of another species. We do not have the right to consume cow's milk for our benefit, and furthermore milk and its products are not essential for our survival.
As I learned about cruelty in the dairy industry, I at first found it hard to believe. On a personal level, I feared that it would be impossible for me to become vegan. How could I eliminate milk, yogurt, butter, ghee, and cheese from my diet? To become vegan means that I cannot drink tea, eat any Indian sweets, pizza, milk chocolate, ice cream, eggless but dairy-containing cake, and many other items.
However, needless to say that the dairy farm tour made me an instant vegan.
Look at my Health Report: I was 55 years old when I became vegan. I had a concern that my health may suffer if I stop using dairy products. However, after becoming vegan I feel more energetic. I do not have any calcium deficiency. However, one should monitor his or her own body chemistry after becoming vegan. My doctor is very pleased with my results and has not put me on any vitamins or calcium substitutes. Following is the summary of my health data after I became vegan:
Before Vegan (1995) After Vegan (1997)
Cholesterol 205 160
HDL 34 42
Triglyceride 350 175
Nonviolence is the highest principle of our religion. However for our survival, the religion permits certain violence only by the lay people.
Our scriptures clearly indicate that:
For our survival, the survival of our ascetics, and the survival of our religion (scriptures, temples, libraries, upasrayas etc.) limited violence to one sensed (Ekendriya) souls such as vegetables, water, fire, earth, and air are allowed only by the Jain lay people (sravaks and sravikas).
However, under any circumstances violence to two to five sensed (Tras) souls such as animals, birds, and humans are not allowed even by the lay people.
Ascetics should be totally nonviolent.
The cow is a five-sensed (Panchendriya) animal and cruelty to a Panchendriya animal is considered the highest sin and is totally prohibited even by the Jain lay people (Sravak and Sravikas).
In today's environment I do not see the difference in cruelty between meat and milk production. In the production of meat, cows are killed instantly. However, during milk production the cows are not killed instantly but they are tortured badly during their prime life and ultimately slaughtered before the end of their natural life. The dairy cows have no chance to escape from this cruelty.
Usage of Dairy Products in Jain Temples:
Both Swetambar and Digambar sects use milk and its products in temple rituals. This is an old tradition and as I mentioned above that in the past the milk was not produced using the modern day dairy technology which tortures the cows and ultimately slaughters them.
One should reevaluate the usage of milk in the temple rituals under the new technological environment. The tradition should not be followed blindly. The highest Jain principle of nonviolence should not be compromised under any circumstances.
With regards to Swetambar tradition I can definitely say that no scriptures support the usage of milk in the temple rituals.
When we consume dairy products for our personal use, we are personally responsible for our actions and the resulting karma or sins. However, when we use and allow others to use dairy products in the temple, the entire community is involved in committing the highest sin.
The intention of our rituals is to inspire us to grow spiritually and become more religious. The net outcome of the rituals should result in the reduction of our ego, greed, anger, lust, and attachments. Dairy products are not essential in the rituals to accomplish the above result. We can substitute the regular milk with simple water or soya milk, and sweets with various types of dry nuts and grapes.
Our youths will appreciate such changes in our rituals.
If you would like to further discuss with me, please call me at 919-469-0956 or send me E-mail with your telephone number.
Pravin K. Shah
President, Jain Study Center, Raleigh, NC
401 Farmstead Drive, Cary NC 27511-5631 USA
E-mail -- firstname.lastname@example.org
My Visit to a Sugar Factory...
Last month I visited the Domino Sugar's Baltimore Refinery. I was shocked to see that they use bone-char (it is actually roasted animal bones) to decolorize and to remove the unwanted color from the organic, inherent in the sugar syrup. Spent bone-char is regenerated by roasting in kiln, to remove the organic. The clear liquid sugar is then evaporator concentrated and sent to be crystallized in large vacuum-pan vessels. I am sure, there are other processes to remove organic, which do not involve animal organs or animal extracts. I was not aware that the raw sugar is refined using animal-bones. (We discussed this sensitive issue in-depth in April-June-1997 issue, page 14.
Apparao T. Lengade -- Ellicott City, MD