17/11/2015 8:46 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Why You Should Follow A Plant-Based Diet

vegetables box
Veniamin Kraskov via Getty Images
vegetables box

What do Aamir Khan, Alia Bhatt, Ellen DeGeneres and Carl Lewis have in common? All of them eschew meat, eggs, dairy and other animal-derived foods. But plant-based meals aren't just for the famous. Everyone can choose more plant-based options, and in so doing make a conscious choice to take a stand for animals, the environment and their own health.

Across the world, animals bred in factory farms for mass consumption are raised in conditions designed to maximise production with little regard to their welfare. In the report "The Welfare of Intensively Confined Animals in Battery Cages, Gestation Crates, and Veal Crates," Humane Society International assembled research that chronicles the cruelty in factory farms. Egg-laying hens, which are sentient, intelligent animals with notable cognitive abilities and complex social bonds, are confined in small, wire enclosures known as battery cages that prevent them from exhibiting natural behaviour such as perching, scratching and dust bathing, causing great stress. They also tend to be susceptible to skeletal disorders and liver damage, among other diseases.


Photo Credit: HSI

In the pork industry, gestation crates -- metal cages with concrete floors measuring 7ft (2.1m) by 2ft (0.6m) -- are used to confine pregnant sows, causing immense physical and psychological distress to the animals. Many of the animals suffer from reduced muscle mass and bone strength, which is worsened by successive pregnancies. The flooring affects their joints and can cause lameness and floor lesions. Pigs are, in fact, curious, intelligent animals who love to explore their surroundings. However, when incarcerated in these inhumane conditions, they show symptoms of psychological disturbance such as bar-biting and 'sham chewing'.


Photo Credit: HSI

In a report titled "The Welfare of Animals in the Meat, Egg, and Dairy Industries" The Humane Society of the United States describes the cruel treatment of cattle in the dairy industry. Cows are repeatedly impregnated to keep up milk production, and may be injected with hormones to increase the yield. Calves are weaned prematurely, and the milk is diverted for human use. While suitable females may be inducted into the industry, males are usually slaughtered. Having been repeatedly milked, the cow's yield decreases sooner than it naturally would. These "spent" animals are then disposed of.


Photo Credit: HSI

India has been increasingly adopting intensive farming practices and ranks high among the world's meat, milk and egg producers. In "Livestock's Long Shadow", the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations states that the amount of animal waste which is used as manure may exceed the ability of the soil to absorb it, and can thus leach into soil and pollute water resources and cause other environmental problems. The FAO also estimated in a follow up report that, globally, the animal agriculture sector contributes nearly 15% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Figures released by the Indian government indicate that emissions of GHGs from livestock amounted to 63.4% as opposed to those from rice cultivation at 20.9%. Referring to findings from a report, "Carbon Footprints of Indian Food Items", an HSI fact sheet notes: "The production, processing, transport, and preparation of an Indian, non-vegetarian meal including mutton collectively emits nearly twice the GHGs as that of a vegetarian meal that excludes dairy products and eggs."

Studies by the Harvard School of Public Health show that a plant-based diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and natural vegetable oils may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes.

We at Humane Society International advocate for compassionate eating -- or the Three Rs: reducing our consumption of animal products, replacing it with healthy plant based foods, and refining our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards. There is enough evidence to show that when you choose more humane meals, you're pledging for a better world for animals and yourself.

Moreover, plant-based meals can be a treat to your taste buds as well. Here's a mithai recipe that captures the flavours of the festive season and celebrates kindness towards animals. HSI has also collated a list of delicious and cruelty-free recipes which can be found here. Have a happy meal, and a compassionate one at that!

Khajur Gajar Halwa (carrot and date pudding with coconut and cardamom)


• 6 medium-sized carrots, peeled

• 1 can of light coconut milk (about 1 and ½ cups)

• 6 green cardamoms, bruised

• ½ cup of dates, seeded and cut into small pieces

• 1/3 cup powdered jaggery or raw cane sugar

• ½ cup of coarsely ground almonds (can be a mixture of almonds and pistachios)


1. Place the carrots in a food processor and process until finely chopped.

2. Place the coconut milk in a wide heavy bottomed anodised pan and bring to a simmer.

3. Add in the processed carrots and the cardamoms and simmer on medium low heat for 1 and ½ hours. About halfway through the process you will need to add in one cup of water. The objective is to cook the carrots until they are soft and have the consistency of a chunky puree.

4. Add in the powdered jaggery or sugar and the dates and cook (for about 5 minutes) until the jaggery or sugar is completely melted and absorbed.

5. Stir in the powdered almonds and serve warm.

Recipe Source:

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