My friend Sagar wrote the message below. He sent it to many of us last year. I saved it in order to send it out this year. I’ve had so many responses to the one and only reply I received about it; I had to share them.

Below you’ll find the message by Sagar, followed by the message from my anonymous friend. The comments that followed will appear in the comment section below the post. 🙂 Please feel free to add your tuppence!

The message I forwarded which was originally written by Sagar: –

Dear friends,

As many of you will know, Paryushan, the Jain festival of penance and forgiveness has begun.

During this festival, members of the Jain faith traditionally fast and participate in pratikraman. For lay members, fasting often entails avoiding activities that are traditionally thought to cause more himsa than others, such as eating root vegetables.

In today’s complex society, the process of milk production causes far more suffering and killing than typically meets the eye. Dairy cows are forcefully and artificially inseminated to stimulate pregnancy and milk production. They are immediately separated from their offspring at birth. Any male calves that are not reared for veal or beef are slaughtered immediately after birth (since they have no intrinsic value to a dairy farmer), and their sisters are forced to go through the same agony and suffering as their mothers. A dairy cow could live up to 30 years in a natural environment, but will almost always get slaughtered before the age of 10, as her milk yield drops, and it is no longer financially viable for a farmer to use her for milk production (or anything else).

It is the unfortunate (and inconvenient) truth that our consumption of milk and other dairy products contributes to the above processes. In light of this, it seems natural that Jains (adherents of Ahimsa) should acknowledge and consider the suffering caused to cows in the milk production.

So…. why not give up dairy products this Paryushan?

For more information, please see the following documents addressing the reasons to give up / reduce animal product usage, alternatives to dairy products, and possible health concerns:

Problems with dairy products: http://sagarkiritshah.googlepages.com/ProblemswithAnimalProducts.rtf
Alternatives to dairy: http://sagarkiritshah.googlepages.com/DairyAlternatives.rtf
Health concerns: http://sagarkiritshah.googlepages.com/Healthconcerns.rtf

Many members of the Jain community have made steps to completely remove dairy and other animal products from their diets in order to reduce their himsa footprint. If you would like to find more, or have any questions about reducing dairy from your diet (over Paryushana or longer), please feel free to [email protected], or join the Jain Vegans e-group by e-mailing [email protected]

If you think giving up all dairy products will be too difficult, please consider reducing dairy products. For example, you could have two dairy free meals a day, or try and just replace milk and chaas with soy milk or rice milk. Every little step will help reduce the harm and suffering caused.

Please forward this message on to anyone who you think would find it relevant or of interest.

Micchami Dukkadam (sorry for any offence or harm caused by this message),

Sagar Shah

The reply from my anonymous friend: –

I want you to consider the result of this action.

The dairy farmer is in business for money.
His sales of milk and milk products drop.
He starts making losses on his dairy farm.
He thinks. There is more demand of beef than dairy!
He changes his farm to beef farm.
Presently he sends his bulls to the abattoir because they are of no use.
If the cows also become of no use to his dairy profits?
Then of course he will fatten them with hormones and non-eatables!
He will send the cows to the abattoir with the bulls.

By not using dairy products ARE YOU DOING ANY FAVOURS TO THE COWS?

This is a deception being spread by a few who do not respond to the above thought process.

What do you think? Any comments?

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9 Comments

Vinit · September 6, 2010 at 12:56 am

This alternative view is self-deception, based on a false understanding of the economics of the dairy business. Regardless of which parts of the cow and how much of its by-products we consume, the profits of each component support the entire enterprise. By taking part of one, we support the whole. By this logic, one could justify abusing a slave before working him to death. The fallacy in these arguments is that they assume that the total output must remain the same, that the same amount of meat must be produced. In reality, if the profits from dairy were removed because no one demanded the milk, the price of meet and other by-products would rise, demand would fall, and overall production would have to adjust downwards. Some farmers would have to reduce their work, or find other types of work. There’s nothing undesirable about such an outcome.

This isn’t just my opinion. Any basic understanding of business / finance would lead to the same conclusion, and the meat industry itself acknowledges it:

Selling the byproducts means the difference between profit and loss for the industry…”
– Dr. Beitler, American Meat Institute

Any rationale like the one below is false in my judgment. From Jain perspective, it’s even worse than outright ignorance, because one is doing it knowingly, and on top of it, trying to justify it by self-deception in order not to face the truth.

Regards,
V

Ashvin · September 6, 2010 at 12:57 am

As a believer in Karma, I would not wish harm to any creature. Therefore I would suggest all humans to adopt this thinking. However, if they do not then their souls will remain in this constant cycle of birth and re-birth. Therefore, to me an issue of economics does not arise.

Michami Dukkdam

Ashvin

Maynard · September 6, 2010 at 12:58 am

This is a partial view with many layers and lots of contingencies.

If we are to systematically STUDY the prospects of abolishing all animal agriculture for all time, the issues transcend or reach beyond the mere consideration of shifting to vegan diets.

No doubt, in many cases, there are some sentient beings who suffer in any shift from one type of economy to another. That happens whenever we change our methods of healthcare, education, religion, law, etc.

Maynard

Mansukh · September 6, 2010 at 1:02 am

Dear Heena,

A farmer, whether a dairy farmer or not, is in business for money like any other business enterprise. The demand for milk is heavy and that is why cows are in a perpetual state of being pregnant by way of artificial insemination. Their feed, although naturally vegetarian, is supplemented by the farmers with meat leftovers to increase the yield of milk. This is happening not only in UK but world over, including India, supposedly the land of non-vioence. Many years ago when I was in India nearly 700,000 litres of milk was poured down the gutters as this was cheaper than distributing milk to children in Schools. Amul Dairy near Anand in Gujarat is the biggest of its kind produces so much milk that it makes milk’s byproducts, e.g. cheese and exports the surplus to neighbouring S. Asian countries. India is the largest exporter of milk. Amul’s production methods are the same as in UK and male bulls, newly born as well as old ones end up bin slaughter fouses. Cow’s average life in normal environment is 25-30 years butthey too end up in slaughter houses when their productivity is diminished at around 3-5 years of age. The most modern slaughterhouse, Al Kabir in Hydrabad was built by a Digambar Jain family and they claim that they slaughter animals in a humane way that does not cause any pain to the victims. This slaughter house was built some 20+ years ago at a cost of Rs. 65 Crores!

Not so long ago in India Bulls were hard working animals on land as they were used in ploughing the land for growing crops, cotton and cash crops like onions and garlic. They were well looked after by farmers as they were part of his wealth. When they became a burden to farmers they were sent to an animal sanctuary (Panjarapore) where they were treated humanely, fed and watered and also veterinarians were employed to take care of them until natural death. Insofar as cows were concerned they were treated as sacred animals and well taken care of. They were not artificially inseminated but milk surplus to calf’s requirement was used by the owner’s family and surplus was sold to the neighbouring society. Some milk was used to make butter milk for free distribution to whoever wanted it. These cows were not fed any animal products and survived for almost 25 years when they too, as with bulls, sent to animal sanctuary where their welfare was looked after.

This does not answer your question directly but gives you an idea of what the practice was like in our ancestral homeland. Cow dung when dried was used as fuel in most of the rural households. It was also used, instead of cement, to plaster the walls and floors of homes. This practice served two purposes, (a) the house was always warm in bitterly cold winter and (b) it remained cool during unbearably hot summer.

However nowadays most of the society values everything in terms of money and profits totally oblivious of the plight of other living beings. In India the skin of an animal who has died a natural death is used as Ahimsa leather to manufacture leather goods.

Venugopal · September 6, 2010 at 5:04 am

Dear heena dont worry paryushana will come in to affect in its own by seeing the cost of dairy products and milk . Its the nature which controls us not we , when it feels its too much you can see it by its change . What is this just like any other thing which all know they are doing wrong but still does . People pours liters of milk into the river just to please god and as for me i will try to stop it

atul bafna · September 6, 2010 at 5:58 am

cow raised for her milk is forcefully impregnated yearly, and her babies are taken away within a few days. She is either pregnant or lactating 9 or 10 months out of every year only to have the cycle repeat once she gives birth.
Certain amounts of pus and blood are legally permissible in milk. We drink this milk and use it in puja other rituals.
Dairy cows are no longer vegetarian. Along with grains, they are fed unnatural, high-protein diets, which include approximately 20% meat from dead chickens, pigs, and other cows.
Using powerful hormones, the cows are forced to produce 3 to 4 times as much milk as they naturally would. Also, despite the heavy use of antibiotics, these animals develop mastitis, open wounds and other infections.A cow’s natural lifespan is about 20 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are slaughtered after only 4 or 5 years, and their meat turned into pet food or hamburgers.
Milk
There are many alternatives available in nearly every major grocery store, including soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and hemp milk sold under the brands of Silk, Westsoy, Rice Dream, or Pacific Foods. To make almond milk or other nut milks, all you need is soaked almonds, a blender and a sweetener if you choose.

Sagar Shah · September 6, 2010 at 7:52 pm

The anonymous commenter fails to see that all dairy cows end up in the slaughter house anyway. Milk subsidises the price of meat by giving an additional source of revenue to the farmer.

sahil shah · September 7, 2010 at 3:45 pm

the arguements stated above largely rely on the principle that in acting in a certain way (not eating animal products in his case) will not make a significant change to the situation, or might even worsen the situation as other members of society will not follow the same principles. i propose that this reasoning is not a valid explanation of not acting in that specified manner as in refraining from acting in that manner, you are indeed contributing to the current state of affairs.

it is unrealistic to expect that every person will act in the same manner as you or will follow the same teachings as you, and i know of no religion or teaching which believes all people will follow it. so we have to love with this principle as granted – a fact of life, if you will. therefore it is wrong to alter your behaviour to act in a manner other than you would have if all people were to act in the same manner.

basically, you dont want to stop eating animal products because if you do more cows may suffer which defeats the purpose of not eating animal products in the first place. fair enough, but in doing so you are going against your own accepted teachings which explicitly restrict you from eating animal products. so in a way this can be seen as a meeting point of 2 sides: the desire to live by explicit teachings by directly following them, and the desire to achieve the ultimate goals of these teachings even if that means acting in a manner contradictory to the teachings themselves.

it’s up to you what side you take, but in my opinion the former is more important than the latter. if we are told not to do something, then why do it? interpreting what the scriptures want to achieve is playing a role of importance far greater than yours. and as with any situation there can always be more than one interpretation, so you end up with many different efforts to achieve a common goal – all equal, but none unified.

I dont know the answers, i just propose the problems . . .

Sagar · September 19, 2010 at 10:19 pm

1. If you purchase and drink milk your actions are directly subsidising meat and contributing to cows going to the abattoir. Full Stop. If you do not drink milk, purchase leather, or buy meat, you don’t.. Most reasonably intelligent economists/social scientists would be able to argue that in long term, the price of meat and aggregate meat production would probably go down if milk demand goes down. This is because the subsidy to the meat industry will go down (see this link if you are unfamiliar with the concept – http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_'joint_supply‘ – Note that milk subsidising and lowering the price of beef is the most commonly known/cited relationship among economists with respect to the economics of joint supply).

2. Anyway, most jain vegans, while not being required to, also donate money and support animal sanctuaries which take on animals (mostly cows and bulls) which would have otherwise been sent to the slaughterhouse. This is more than most other jains. Note that Jains in India and the Amul coopertive have been involved in the set up of slaughterhouses in India.

3. I’m not sure what this guys position is and how familiar he is with bovine farming in India. As you may know, I worked for ICICI and developed a loan product for farmers in rural India, and did most of my fieldwork in Gujarat. It is only there that I realised how bad dairly farming is in India. You can see my observations here: http://www.herenow4u.net/index.php?id=68140. Anyway, I learnt enough in India to see that the views of the person below are deeply unfounded.

A) Just because cows have been milked for thousands of years it doesn’t make it morally acceptable or correct. People from Africa were used as slaves for hundreds of years (and slavery in general has been around for 1000s). Does that mean that slavery is ok and morally acceptable?

B) The notion that cows have always produced more milk than the calves can drink is also unfounded. Most cows that are used for dairy production are used because they have been selectivly bred to generate very high milk yields. Other varieties of bovines were disregarded. Selective breeding programmes to enhance dairy yield per cow are much more advanced in the US and Europe (US cows on average produce 15 x more per day than the typical indian cow).

C) The idea that calves get all that they should do is also wrong. In the west, all bull calves should be drinking their mothers milk. Do they get it? No. Why? Because they are killed at birth or sold for meat. Thats the first instance of stealing. Note that this practice is encouraged by Dairy cooperatives in India such as Amul. Moreover every dairy farmer I spoke to in India, told me the calves they kept needed to be tied away from their mothers as otherwise they would drink most of the milk and there would be very little left over for humans.

D) Whoever told this guy that cows will get ill if you don’t take milk from a cow only gave the person only half a picture. Have you ever heard of a woman (whos baby died shortly after death or who had an advanced miscarriage) getting ill because all the milk was not taken from her breasts? No. Exactly. But yes, there are some cows who are bred so that they have completely oversized udders, and Yes, they may suffer from lameness and mastittis if you do not remove some of the milk. The key here is to gradually reduce the amount of milk taken until the cows stops producing milk or drastically reduces the amount it produces.

E) And just becase cows produce (for whatever reason) produce more milk than their calves may be able to produce, it does not mean that we should take the milk. Would the person here find it acceptable to take milk from other humans? If so, would the person find it acceptable taking from a woman whose babies have been delibarately killed/stolen died and therefore are producing excess milk.

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