By Adikarta Das
Veganism is a very fast growing diet. In the US there was a 500% increase in Veganism in the last 3 years; up from 1% in 2014 to 6% now. In the UK over half a million follow the diet, up from 150000 in 2007.
There are 3 main reasons. Health, ethics and environmental. There is much more information available now, as to the health hazards of eating meat, and there is much more awareness of the cruelty of factory farming and the meat industry. The meat industry is also an environmental health hazard.
The fact that so many young people especially are so ethically minded is very good. Mindfullness has become a very popular concept. Many are horrified at the way the commercial dairies treat the cows, and do not want to contribute to the cows suffering. This bodes well for the future. Lord Buddha Himself exhorted His followers to be vegetarian. Whether He wanted them to be vegan is something we will discuss later.
As far as health, there are many studies attesting to the fact that a vegetarian diet is healthier than a meat based diet, especially a red meat diet. Red meat means lamb, beef, pork.
So, at least it has been proven that the vegetarian diet is healthier, but what about the vegan diet, which means no animal products at all, including milk products, honey, eggs, etc? Well, it really depends on who you have faith in. And this is the real point of my article. Where does your faith lie in all of this?
There is an abundance of conflicting evidence to support both sides of the argument. Vegan or lactose vegetarian.
I have a friend here in Florida, who works at the University of Florida, as a research associate, who has been involved in researching the enzymes in raw milk that are proven to fight cancer. This is not the first evidence found to support the claim. There are other innumerable studies done on the health benefits of milk.
Then the vegans have their evidence that claims that all milk products are bad for the health. One very important fact to remember is the gulf of difference between commercial dairy products, that are mainly taken from type A cows, where the milk has been pasteurized or homogenized, and which degrades the quality of the milk as well. Type B milk, is derived from Indian breeds with humps, Guernsey, and most Jersey cows. The health benefits of type B milk are far superior to type A.
It is a fact that good milk from grass fed cows has miraculous health benefits. It is renowned for vitamin B12,iron and calcium, which are all essential for strong teeth and bone density, digestion, skin lustre, and brain development.
One of the reasons commercial dairy has become so questionable is because when it’s processed it changes the chemical structure of the milk, and often people are found to be lactose intolerant. This is on top of the fact that commercial dairies use large quantities of antibiotics and other unnatural drugs to cure diseases in the cows caused by unhealthy dairy practices. Cow feed can also be unhealthy, and this also degrades the milk. Drinking cold milk is also not easy to digest.
I read an article recently about how the British health authorities were very concerned about the rise of veganism in the UK. The consensus was that young people who adopted the vegan diet were more likely to have health issues in later life.
So with all this conflicting information what is the truth?
It is definitely a fact that most dairies do abuse the cows purely for financial gain. But is it a fact that dairy products are actually unhealthy? In my own experience, having maintained a small herd of Jersey cows fro the past 23 years, I can only say that I have been fortunate enough to have not had any medical issues at all, except for a hernia procedure, and an occasional cold. Since we aspiring devotees see through the eyes of the scriptures; what is their view, and what did Srila Prabhupada himself say.
Mother Cow and Mother Vedas.
A Vaishnava is someone, as we know, who accepts Krishna, or Vishnu to be God. We haven’t seen God, but we have faith in His existence. Why do we have such faith? The simple answer is because of the Vedas. The Vedas are the basis for everything we do and believe. Krishna Himself attests to this, ” Vedas ca sarvair aham eva vedyo ,” By all the Vedas I am to be known. How could we possibly have known for instance, that Krishna had 16000 wives, or 100 of thousands of cows? Or that Krishna consumed large quantities of butter and yoghurt. Quite simply we wouldn’t.
Srila Prabhupada, himself said that books were the basis, and specifically that his books were the law books for members of ISKCON. If we, as followers of Srila Prabhupada accept his books as the basis, there should be no disagreement about the importance of cows, and their by products. The following are a few random quotes, that reinforce this.
Srimad Bhagavatam. Canto 4, Ch 21, verse 44.
“Whoever acquires the brahminical qualifications-whose only wealth is good behavior, who is grateful, and who takes shelter of experienced persons– gets all the opulence of the world.I therefore wish that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His associates be pleased with the brahmans class, with the cows, and with me.”
Purport. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshiped with the prayer name brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca. Thus it is clear that the Supreme Personality of Godhead respects and protects the brahmanas and brahminical culture, as well as the cows; in other words wherever there are brahmanas and brahminical culture, there are cows and cow protection. In a society or civilization which there are no brahmanas or brahminical culture, cows are treated as ordinary animals and slaughtered, at the sacrifice of human civilization.The specific mentions the word gave by Prthu Maharaja is significant because the Lord is always associated with cows and His devotees.In pictures Lord Krishna is always seen with cows and His associates such as the cowherd boys and the gopis.
Purport. In this verse, the cultivation of bhakti-yoga is compared to many material activities.. By friction one can get fire from wood. By digging the earth one can get food grains and water, and by agitating the milk bag of the cow, one can get nectarean milk. Milk is compared to nectar, which one can drink to become immortal. Of course, simply drinking milk will not make one immortal, but it can increase the duration of one’s life. In modern civilization, men do not think milk to be very important, and therefore they do not live very long. Although in this age men can live up to 100 years, their duration of life is reduced because they do not drink large quantities of milk. This is a sign of Kali yuga. In Kali yuga, instead of drinking milk, people prefer to slaughter an animal and eat it’s flesh. The Supreme Personality of Godhead in His instructions of Bhagavad Gita advises go-raksya, which means cow protection. The cow should be protected, milk should be drawn from the cows, and this milk should be prepared in various ways. One should take ample milk and thus one can prolong one’s life, develop his brain, execute devotional service, and ultimately attain the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As it is essential to get food grains and water by digging the earth, it is also essential to give protection to cows and take nectarean milk from their milk bags.
Letter to Rupanuga 12. 7.75.
” Our cows are happy, therefore they give plenty of milk. Vedic civilization gives protection to all the living beings, especially the cows, because they render such valuable service to human society in the shape of milk, without which no-one can become healthy and strong. In your country the dog is protected, and the cow is killed. The dog is passing stool and urine in the street, he is considered the best friend of man, and the cow is all pure, stool, urine, and milk. but they are taken to the slaughter house and killed for food. What kind of civilization is this? Therefore we have to preach against all this nonsense.”
Ayur Veda is part of the Atharva Veda. It is eternal and beginingless. According to Ayur Veda the cow is our mother. She is the backbone of Vedic culture.
According to Ayur Veda there is no food more nutritious than cow’s milk. That is why another name of milk is nectar.Cows milk contains every nutrient that is required for the growth of the human body. It increase the physical, mental, and spiritual power of human beings. It slows down the process of ageing and cures many diseases.It increases intelligence and strength, it removes fatigue, checks giddiness, regulates the breathing, reduces coughing, removes hunger and cures fever.
There are so many other quotes from the Srimad Bhagavatam, and Srila Prabhupada’s other teachings that say over and over again about the importance of the Holy cow in society, that make it crystal clear about the importance of the cow, and it’s value to human society.
In our endeavor to spread Krishna consciousness, we have to take into account modern trends and habits. Because so many young people embrace the Vegan diet for the right reasons , it is important to respect their integrity. They are often sincerely trying to do the right thing. So it might not be a good idea make a big issue of it. However, it’s very important to know what is the ideal lifestyle choice, especially where health issues are at stake.
I, have personally longed for the day where we could supply unlimited ahimsa milk products to everyone, especially the children born in devotee families. I think that a vegan diet especially for a child could be very harmful, although ill health may not be apparent for some time.
My fervent hope is, that, once the vegan diet has proven to not be ideal, and the importance of milk products is better accepted, all those who became vegans, not just as a fad, but really on compassionate grounds, will get together with us and help establish large scale cow protection. After all if 6% of US citizens are vegans, that’s approx 18 million vegans. With their help maybe we really could establish some serious cow protection.