An anti-speciesist Independence Day narrative
One of the great things about our Independence Day is that it puts the spotlight on a critical right – the right to freedom. So, let’s dig a little deep into what it entails.
Freedom’s not for free
Being free essentially means not being made to do anything against one’s consent. But, this is just one side of the coin. What’s perhaps more apt today is the fact that the right to freedom comes with the responsibility of ensuring that you do not infringe upon anyone else’s freedom. For example, I have a right to water, but at the same time, I also am obligated to ensure that I don’t waste or over-consume water, so that the right to water of other beings, including those yet to be born, is not violated. It’s crucial to remember this responsibility aspect of the right to freedom at all times.
What does being a nationalist imply?
The other day I was asked what patriotism means to me. Well, obviously, it has many facets to it. But, for me, being a nationalist is, first and foremost, about striving to make sure that no harm comes upon any inhabitant of the country because of me. That means being fair to all Indian residents – being fair to women, being fair to people from other races and castes AND being fair to beings from other species. I want to reiterate that animals – including cows, chickens, fish, pigs, bees, sheep and silk worms – too inhabit our country.
Slavery to the tune of 10s of billions of victims per year
Humanity has ethically evolved a lot and eliminated many deep-rooted unjust traditions such as human slavery. Yet, there are billions who are ruthlessly denied the fundamental right to freedom. They are bred into existence only to be enslaved, tortured and killed. Their only fault is that they are NOT human! Don’t all beings-that-feel-pain deserve to live free from slavery and suffering. I must underscore that freedom – for animals and for that matter humans – means not just freedom from being held captive, but also the right to lead an undictated life, a life in which an animal is not forced into anything against her consent/wishes.
Though our natural instinct is to be fair, centuries of conditioning have made many of us unmindful of or indifferent to the constant misery of our non-human fellow animals.
One of the most crying social justice issues of our time
The issue of human oppression of animals is one of the most pressing, one of the most vital ethical issues of our time, for two reasons:
1) Sheer magnitude of its victim count: 10s of billions of land animals are forced into this world every single year, only to be our lifelong slaves, only to be tortured mentally and physically, until their premature brutal deaths. Add to that the annual misery of countless marine animals. If these victims were human, this would be deemed as a mass torture of unprecedented proportion, some would say the largest ever holocaust, one that is still ongoing, one that is powered by ordinary people like you and me.
2) The victims are the most vulnerable: Unlike humans who can possibly retaliate against their oppressors, animals are unable to fight back. These defenseless victims depend entirely on our being ethical for their liberation.
Let’s change our lifestyles so as to end our contribution to animal slavery
In view of the scale and powerlessness of animal victims, it’s imperative for us to not just stop participating in their oppression, but also to become champions of animal rights. It’s high time we recognized the fundamental moral obligation we have to grant the right to freedom to all sentient beings, regardless of who belongs to which species. And, it’s high time we made our lifestyles aligned with that ethical obligation. You and I – ordinary individuals – play a very powerful role here. Through simple lifestyle changes, you can not only liberate scores of animal lives, but also shrink your environmental footprint and substantially improve your health.
So, what is this antidote to animal slavery & exploitation? It’s veganism. A vegan rejects, as far as practically possible, all things animal for food, clothing or any other purpose. The vegan lifestyle excludes 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. 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 & curd. So, food wise, a vegan eats nothing from a mother, nothing with a face. Vegans refrain from animal-tested products too, to the extent possible.