Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Joining the band of vegans

When you ask people whether they know what veganism is, all you get is, "Huh! Sorry, I didn't get you." But it's a concept that's fast catching the fancy of a number of people who want to go beyond just being a vegetarian. For the uninitiated, a vegan is a person who chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products.

Vasudha Louis, 33, an animator, has been a vegan for the past 14 years. "When I was a child, I had seen a chicken being cut and couldn't stand the sight. I stopped eating meat and gradually eggs too," she says. When Vasudha read Maneka Gandhi's book Heads and Tails, she decided to follow the vegan lifestyle.

Amruta Ubale, 26, an education officer with the NGO Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) has been a vegan for the three years. She was brought up as a vegetarian and after knowing about the cruelty in the milk industry she decided to be a vegan. "As a vegan, I refrain from using silk, honey, leather and wax. I don't use pearl jewellery. Vegans also don't use cosmetics and toiletries, which are tested on animals or have an animal base," she says.

Being a vegetarian isn't easy, as one has to face many problems at social gatherings. "Many a times people would pass remarks, which I had to ignore," says Vasudha. Initially, Vasudha's in-laws could not understand her veganism as they are die-hard non-vegetarians.

Vegans substitute milk and milk products with soy products. For example, instead of having a milkshake they have a soy shake and instead of having paneer they have tofu. "When you go out to eat, it is easy to find vegan food in the Indian and Chinese cuisines," says Amruta. BWC works with industries, which manufacture vegan products and spread awareness on the same. Nowadays, restaurant joints and coffee shops offer vegan food and beverages.

Reports suggest that consuming vegan food may lead to certain deficiency. But vegans find an alternative to this by substituting meat with green leafy vegetables or dry fruits to get proteins and iron.

Clinical nutritionist, Dr Nupur Krishnan says, "I do not believe in a complete vegan diet as people have to be careful of what they eat." She advises consuming a lot of soybean products and pulses. "The food pyramid guidelines need to be followed by the vegans in order to remain healthy," she says. There are many healthy vegan recipes that can be found on the Internet. Websites such as indianvegan.com give an insight on how to remain a vegan and what products are vegan-friendly. A vegan does not support zoos, circuses, animal driven carts, animal riding, caging birds, keeping wild or domestic animals as pets for selfish ends.

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