The World Economic Forum has just concluded another session held in Davos, Switzerland. While the whole world waited nervously for Donald Trump´s speech, which could cause either anxiety or optimism, some other issues did not get the focus they deserved.
What is striking is that a country, India, which has had the largest population of vegans and vegetarians both in numbers and in percentage, is feeling the compulsion to become meat eaters in the name of tolerance
Donald Trump fortunately said, “America first does not mean America alone.” The world could heave a sigh of relief that, finally, America was not heading for isolationist policies, or at least that is our immediate impression. What ought to have been given more attention is the Global Risks Report of 2018, which was also a subject of debate at Davos. There are primarily a few pressing challenges facing us in 2018 that I will mention here. Extreme weather events and temperatures, accelerating loss of biodiversity, natural disasters, cyber attacks, data fraud or theft, and pollution.
The World Economic Forum highlighted that out of the list of 5 risks most likely to happen in the next 10 years, extreme weather tops the list of most threatening events. It should not surprise anyone that 2017 was a year of hurricanes, and extreme weather conditions were experienced almost all over the planet. Record high temperatures have been registered in many cities of the world. Paris is struggling with high levels flooding. Florida in the USA was hit with a hurricane and storm that caused huge damage to life and property. The past year was one of the hottest years recorded since we started measuring temperatures systematically. Forest fires, drought, and even the war in Syria, are attributed to climatic change.
Yet, no one asked a simple question: What can we, as individuals, do to minimize or reduce this deforestation, air pollution and water contamination?
We know now that a meat eater’s diet requires more land and water and helps create a culture of indifference. A meat eater needs 2.5 times the amount of land than that of a vegetarian and requires 5 times the amount of land than that of a vegan who eats a plant-based diet.
I have been fortunate to meet Harvard-educated psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy, whose book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows introduced the concept of carnism, the invisible belief system that conditions people to eat certain animals. She was in Copenhagen conducting a workshop on how vegans could communicate more effectively and improve their relationships both to other vegans and non-vegans in this complex world. She wants us to seriously challenge this meat-eating culture as it requires us to think irrationally and disconnects us from our natural empathy for animals and creates disastrous climatic conditions for our children.
Melanie Joy has authored several books, including her latest book: Beyond Beliefs, A Guide to Improving Relationships and Communication for Vegans, Vegetarians, and Meat Eaters. More and more young people in Denmark are dropping the meat-eating culture and turning to veganism and vegetarianism.
What is striking is that a country, India, which has had the largest population of vegans and vegetarians both in numbers and in percentage, is feeling the compulsion to become meat eaters in the name of tolerance. If India is becoming wealthy, the logic goes, then it should also increase its meat consumption, and the rich and the middle class should copy the wasteful, environmentally destructive habits which the Western countries finally want to get rid of.
What is paradoxically worth noting is that meat consumption is drastically decreasing in Denmark. Alternativet is a new political party advocating less meat consumption. It was voted into Parliament in the latest election. I had the opportunity to meet Christian Poll, a member of the Danish Parliament from the same party, who is the spokesperson for the party´s food policies. He proudly mentions that he has become a vegetarian and so is his family. His party is predicted to do even better in future and takes its inspiration from many aspects of Indian life like meditation and yoga.
Melanie Joy plans to visit India. She has met Maneka Gandhi, who is a Minister in the present Government in India. I hope Melanie Joy can convince India and Indians that the long-cherished culture of biodiversity, veganism and the understanding of how it psychologically affects us will convince the country of the largest number of vegans and vegetarians that they should stick to their age-old food habits.
The best ambassador of veganism is Melanie Joy, who has now travelled to more than 39 countries and is spreading the culture of compassion and intelligent eating. 36.5% of Americans are obese. It is the country in which Melanie Joy grew up. But if you looked at the crowd that gathered to listen attentively to what Melanie Joy had to say at the workshop in Copenhagen, there was not one obese person.
Veganism is for all, it is healthy, it reduces the risk of getting heart disease, it protects the planet, it protects the animals, it creates a culture of compassion and understanding, and most important of all, it helps abolish the culture of insensitivity and violence. If you kill to eat, then violence will run through your veins, somehow. If the most immediate threat for all us in 2018 is extreme weather events, then the way to address them is to become vegan. The soil that will no longer be used as a grazing area for animals can be cultivated as forest. I have fallen in love with the idea of plant-based food. Going green makes real sense.
What does not make sense is that a country that for ages has championed the rights of animals and stayed vegetarian, suddenly wants to throw away this golden opportunity, and its elites have started believing that tolerance means eating more meat. Indians need to listen attentively to Melanie Joy when she visits India in the near future.