7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018

Stop killing animals...

I've always loved grocery shopping. I enjoy it so much that I routinely take a break everyday to do just that. So when my friend passed the task of accompanying her mother to the grocery store to me, I gladly accepted.

Little did I realise that my otherwise delightful trip would end up a nightmare.

After the vegetables were bought, my friend's mum suggested we get some chicken.

I agreed but didn't know yet that it meant visiting the slaughterhouse.

For someone who grew up eating frozen meat, I never really gave a thought what went on behind the finely cubed chicken pieces in food.

I was soon to witness a live demonstration of what exactly transpired at a slaughterhouse.

First, the fowl to be slaughtered was chosen. It was painful to watch as a rather timid hen that was cooped in a tiny cage was picked to be killed.

Next, the bleating bird was pinned to the weighing machine to determine its price.

At this point, I turned my back to the bird and shut my ears.

I was informed they would slaughter it inside so I can't see, but it was still the last place you would want to be as the bleating was pitiful.

Keeping my palms firmly pressed against my ears, I tried to hum, whistle and even make random attempts at talking to my friend's mum but nothing could drown out the dying bird's sounds.

The worst part of the slaughter was the chilling silence that came after the bird's cries reached a crescendo.

It's the closest to what you might feel after you've witnessed a murder.

Sir Paul McCartney once said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everybody would be a vegetarian.

I didn't become one the same night.

Not wanting to appear fussy, I randomly moved chicken pieces around my plate but lost the appetite to eat them.

It just felt wrong, almost cannibalistic to eat something that you saw and heard a few moments ago.

Over the next few days, even after I had stopped thinking about it, I gradually found myself avoiding meat.

I had become vegetarian and then a vegan even without thinking I was turning into one.

I only realised it fully when a friend took me to task about my eating habits.

Vegans are weird, socially inadaptable people, I was told.

You can't enjoy food or eat out in company because a vegan would want to ensure there was no milk or egg in the dishes.

It was freakish to be someone who doesn't drink milk, widely considered the most wholesome food you could have.

And how was it humanly possible to live without butter, cheese and yoghurt?

I told my friend that I didn't miss it, but the protracted argument that went on for some hours to convince me I was wrong underscored the widespread misunderstanding and even discrimination vegans and those into ethical eating face everywhere.

Coffee shops in the West may have vegan options, but though there are only eggless options in Mumbai, they are limited and often bland.

Apart from soy, most supermarkets in the city don't stock nut milk, which is a healthier alternative to cow milk.

Though Indian religions have long eschewed killing of animals for food, veganism is not practised widely.

It is difficult to be vegan, but ethical eating brings with it sensitivity to living creatures and the environment.

Sir Paul was right, maybe if not for glass walls, should all slaughter houses have speakers we'll think twice before killing animals.

* Ms Gnana is a former Bahrain resident now studying in Mumbai.

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