Jains and the promotion of vegetarianism and animal welfare in the UK
There are over 5 million Vegetarians and 50,000 Vegans in the UK. There are tens of thousands of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish people who actively campaign to promote a vegetarian and vegan of life and compassion towards animals. For me all these people are Jains and so the population of Jains in this country is not just 35,000 but 5 million! However we have to reach out to these people and sadly we as a faith community have done very little to extend our hand of support to promoters of Ahimsa in this country.
The Young Indian Vegetarians society has been working in this field for over 35 years. Around 15 years ago some 15 English women went on a hunger strike for 5 days outside the ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries building in London.They were protesting against the export of live animals from UK to other countries. On the day they ended the fast we served them hot food right outside the building on the pavement. There were tears of joy in their eyes and so much respect for the Jain community. We have organised mass vegetarian rallies and presented Mahaveer Awards to people who have tirelessly worked for animals. Among the recipients of the Mahaveer Award are late Tony Benn, present leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn, Uri Geller and many less well known people who are fighting for the rights of animals. All these people have come to appreciate Jainism and many say that if they were to be born again they would want to be born as Jains! We also presented the awards to Swami Ram Dev, Maneka Gandhi and Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, this got us huge coverage in India and reminded the people of India of the importance of vegetarianism. There are hundreds of animal sanctuaries in this country. Most of them are run by dedicated individuals who are struggling due to lack of finance. We support many such sanctuaries but we could do much more. We supported an animal sanctuary in Burwash, Sussex for 20 years. It was run by a dedicated English couple. They bought many animals from slaughter houses and looked after them. They were cows, horses, sheep and donkeys. Cows can live up to 35 years but they had a cow which lived for 45 years simply because of the love and care she got! This couple had not taken a single day off in over 40 years. We sent them £700.00 every month. Many Jain organisations help us by giving us money from their Jiv Daya fund. However if all Jain organisations supported us we could support many more sanctuaries. For the last 32 years we have been organising a Christmas Vegetarian lunch for our English friends. The impact that this has in promoting vegetarianism and friendship with the host community is worth its weight in gold. For a while I persuaded Navnat Vanik Association and Oshwal Association to organise similar events. They were a great success but they have stopped. So what do Jains need to do to become more pro active? First of all become familiar with every vegetarian, vegan and animal rights group in this country. Here are some organisations that we should be supporting:
Animal Aid: Promotes vegetarian and veganlife style. It exposes cruelties to animals in slaughterhouses and in laboratories where cruel experiments are carried out on animals. They are also campaigning to stop horse racing in which horses suffer a lot and retired horses face slaughter or neglect. By becoming a member you will support this organisation and get their magazine. There are opportunities for Jains to help in collecting funds through street collections which is organised regularly. YIV has worked with this organisation for many years.
British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection: BUAV has been campaigning to abolish the experiments carried out on animals. We have worked with them to ban the export of monkeys from Mauritius which are used for experiments in the UK and other countries.
League Against Cruel Sports: worked to ban fox hunting and campaigns to stop bull fighting, shooting of birds for fun and many other cruelties to animals.In 2015 we presented two of their members with Mahaveer awards. These two individuals were monitoring a illegal fox hunt taking place and were attacked by hunt supporters. At the risk of their personal lives these heroes continue to monitor illegal hunts and provide the evidence to the police. One of them is a vegetarian and the other is a vegan.
Viva!: A very active and successful organisation promoting vegetarian and vegan way of life. The founder Juliet Gelletly is the recipient of our Mahaveer Award.
Compassion in World Farming: CIWF works to bring in stringent laws to reduce the suffering of farm animals. They have had many successes. A Europe wide ban of small pans in which pigs are kept has come into force. Battrey cages in which hens were kept has been banned. A whole set of rules for the welfare of animals that are being exported have also come into effect. The more difficult it becomes for those who abuse animals the more such practices will stop. I have been a trustee of this organisation. In 2015 CIWF collected tens of thousands of signatures and held a rally outside the Nepalese embassy to protest against the ritual killing of animals. Nepal has since banned this festival. For those who say that there is nothing we can do, this is a very good example of how you can win against overwhelming odds.
The Vegetarian Society of the UK: A well established society with branches all over the country. They are always looking for people to join the national committee. YIV has a very good working relationship with VSOK .
The Vegan Society: Based in Birmingham, Vegan society promotes a completely animal free diet. This meets the Jain dietary standards in that they do not consider eggs or honey as consumable. The Jain Vegans are doing a splendid job of working with the Vegan Society. More Jains should should give up milk and dairy products.
Quaker Concern for Animals: They are Christian vegetarians who have great respect for Jains. I am a patron of the organisation.
Royal Society for the Protection of Animals: A high profile organisation which prosecutes animal abusers and also gives shelter to abandoned pet animals.. Plenty of opportunities to volunteer.
Catholic Concern for Animals: Actively promotes compassion to animals among the Catholic community. We have good working relationship with them.
Apart from the above organisations we support :
Animal Protection Agency ( www.apa.org.uk ). They monitor the illegal sale of birds and the general abuse of Parrots and other birds.
Hillside Animal Sanctuary ( www.hillside.org.uk ). Absolutely amazing people looking after hundreds of animals, many of them abandoned or rescued from slaughter houses. We send them £500 every month.
International Fund For Animals ( www.ifaw.org) They rescue animals like bears, elephants from countries where they are abused.
Mare and Foal Sanctuary, Newton Abbot.
Animal Care in Egypt: They educate the local people in taking care of donkeys which are used as a means of transport.
The Mahew Animal Home. ( www.mahewanimalhome.org )Network for Animals: Rescues dogs in Philippines where they are killed for food.
Peta ( People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). High profile organisation which promotes vegetarianism and fights the fur trade and all animal abuse. They would welcome Jain volunteers.
The Dog Trust: Gives shelter to abandoned dogs and finds loving homes for them.
World Society for the Protection of Animals: Rescues abused animals like bears, horses and donkeys where ever they are abused.
There is a whole world of cruelty to animals, birds and aquatic animals. They are abused in circuses, laboratories and so called sports. Jains should be actively involved in every aspect of cruelty to animals. We should set a personal example by avoiding buying leather goods and anything in which animals would have suffered. Do not eat honey, figs, do not go to meat restaurants even if they serve vegetarian food. Support vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Avoid milk as milk production is associated with beef production. Try and do at least one compassionate deed a day like feeding birds. At every opportunity try and persuade others to give up meat eating. Above all make sure that your children or grand children never eat meat, fish or eggs.
Every Jain has to look within and become proactive as days, weeks and years are passing away and such a opportunity may not come in our future births!
Nitin Mehta MBE
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