The Anglo-Indian writer and Nobel Laureate, Rudyard Kipling wrote of young men dying in WW 1:
“And if they ask you why we died; tell them that our fathers lied”.
That legacy of lies continues today.
Everything we think we know about the meat and dairy industry is a preposterous lie.
The world is crying out for two things . . . Leadership and the Truth.
Today, I will simply tell you the truth. Fearlessly and forcefully. That is what the Sanskrit word Satyagraha means. “The Truth Force”.
Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. It takes courage to stand up and speak. It also takes courage to sit down and listen.
There was a time when my favourite food was filet mignon and lobster. . .For which I am profoundly ashamed of today. So, what made me decide to leave the world of lobsters and Lear jets – in exchange for shelters and slaughterhouses?”
- Take nothing but pictures.
- Own nothing but memories.
- Leave nothing but footprints.
- Kill nothing but time.
Something happened to me.
I heard the screams of my dying father as his body was ravaged by the cancers that killed him. And I realised I had heard those screams before.
In the slaughterhouse, on the cattle ships to the Middle East and the dying mother whale as a harpoon explodes in her brain as she calls out to her calf.
Their cries were the cries of my father. They were identical.
I discovered when we suffer, we suffer as equals.
And in their capacity to suffer, a dog is a pig, is a bear, is a boy.
I recall the words of the Greek poet Horace “Change only the names and my story is also about you.”
Four letter words like “meat” “milk” “hunt” “wall” “cage” and “kill” are examples of another four-letter word. “Hate”.
Our initiative is called Kindness Sans Frontières. (Kindness without Borders). We cross these borders of nations, politics, trade treaties, tribes, race, and religion. But we also cross the bloodiest border of all: The Border of Species. You see, these man-made arbitrary borders are useless measuring devices.
If you jump out of a ‘plane, it may be nice to have an altimeter to measure your altitude.
But wouldn’t it be better to have a parachute? We have only one planet. One life. One parachute.
In human history, 100 billion people have ever lived; 7 billion are alive today; And we humans torture and kill 2 billion land animals every week. And we stab and suffocate 1 billion ocean animals every 8 hours. If we humans were killed at the same rate, we would be exterminated in one weekend.
Trillions of fish are ground up into pellets to feed livestock. Vegetarian cows are now the world’s largest ocean predators.
- The oceans are dying in our time. By 2048 all our fisheries will be dead. The lungs and the arteries of the earth. Oceans sequester more CO2 than all forests of the world combined.
- 10,000 entire species are wiped out every year because of the actions of one species.
- And we now face the 6th mass extinction in cosmological history.
- If any other organism did this a biologist would call it a virus.
- It is a crime of unimaginable proportions.
There are two Peak Predators on the planet – Humans on land and Orcas in the ocean.
In the 20th century, humans killed 200 million members of their own species. Orcas killed none.
Do not expect protection from our Governments either.
In the 20th century, 100 million people have been killed, by their own governments.
Victor Hugo said, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come”.
But I say, “There is nothing more destructive than bad idea whose time has passed”.
The time for Meat has Passed. The time for brutality has passed; the time for violence has passed.
The Jains are lucky. Their ascent up the ethical mountain is easier still. I feel there is not a Jain alive today who remembers the first time they heard the word “Ahimsa”. Perhaps it was earned in the loving arms of their mothers, and imbibed with their mother’s milk, the only milk nature intended for a human being.
I spoke in the European Parliament in Brussels, The Israeli Knesset Parliament in Jerusalem, The Parliament in The Hague, The Parliament of World Religions in Australia and the JAINA Conference in California. And in every speech, I stated clearly:
“The most beautiful word ever written in any country, in any language, at any time in human history, came from India”. In the Upanishads 3,000 years ago. Ahimsa – Non-Violence to ANY living being.
It is beautiful, not because it describes our nationality, our politics, our religion, our diet, or our lifestyle.
But because it describes our CHARACTER……. It says we reject violence in all its forms; in our streets, our workplaces, our homes, our hearts – and at our dining tables.
But it means a lot more. It means avoiding violence in our thoughts as well.
Twenty years ago, I decided to start describing myself as “Ahimsan” – both as a noun in a passive sense, and as a verb, in an active sense. Of course, it takes “knowledge” to abstain from inflicting violence on another living being. But to be “Ahimsan”, it takes “wisdom” to avoid inflicting harm on ourselves as well – with negative thoughts.
Sportsmen sometimes make mistakes under pressure in the field of play during stiff competition, and in the glare of the public eye. But the truly great ones, studiously avoid inwardly directed “negative thoughts” at themselves. Their inner calmness is not an act. It is the “Ahimsan” spirit at work. That is the difference between “Valuable Knowledge” and “Ahimsan Wisdom”. The former “knows”. The latter “does”.
The “Ahimsan” mind gently and calmly washes away our own negative thoughts, directed at ourselves – even though nobody else is aware of them.
My goal is to make India’s gift of Ahimsa a truly global phenomenon.
Therefore, I am no longer just a sports-loving Australian male, Christian, husband, son, ex-investment banker. I am “Ahimsan”. And I fervently believe “Ahimsa” is not only the most beautiful of words, but also the most powerful of all words as well. Because, if we live by it, Ahimsa is our “Last and Best” chance of living a peaceful, ethical, healthy, authentic, and sustainable life. “Ahimsa” gives us humans, if not the absolute right, then at least the right to wish that we survive this century.
Without Ahimsa, we are irretrievably lost.
Without Ahimsa, our rights vanish.
Without Ahimsa, this may indeed prove to be our final century.
We may be Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, or Jew (or no religion at all). But if we are to live a truly authentic life, we must share common ground without sacrificing our other beliefs. That beautiful meeting place is “Ahimsa”.
So my day-to-day life is simple. The food I eat, the shoes I wear, my clothes, my belt, even my watchband, have no animal products in them. Nobody died to satisfy my needs or desires. And I am as well fed, clad, and cared for as anyone else on the planet.
The world will soon see “Ahimsans” as responsible, respectful, educated, enlightened and elegant people. We treat others graciously. We consume gratefully. We behave modestly. We tread gently upon the earth. And we take nothing for granted.
If recent history has taught us anything, it is this. The moral high ground is vacant. The time is ripe for a statesman to step up to the crease and lead us forward into an Ahimsan world.
Of course, it takes a great deal of courage to do so. Please remember. For every man who is just a little bit brave, there are a million who will step aside to let him prove it.
India is the only country in the world where animal protection is enshrined in the National Constitution. Article 51A [g] of the Indian Constitution states “It shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the Natural Environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures”.
Of course, my mission is not just about Animal Rights. It is also about Human Wrongs.
Animals Rights is now the greatest Social Justice issue since the abolition of slavery.
Ahimsa is a revolutionary event more powerful than the Industrial Revolution, The Reformation, the Hubble telescope, or anything conceived by Galileo, Copernicus, Einstein, Darwin, or Freud.
Because it protects the most precious of all things. Life.
The growing Vegan Movement and the “Ahimsans” are on the right side of history. They are creating The New Enlightenment, The Second Renaissance.
In the West we learn The Golden Rule from the New Testament of Jesus. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. And it is in the DNA of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and it anchors the deepest, impenetrable foundations of Jainism.
But the eternal question remains. Can a few people who actually understand the immortal idea of “Ahimsa” make it a practice in the rest of the world, as natural as breathing?
I believe they can. Because they must.
The anthropologist, Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that few committed people can change the world. It is the only thing that ever has”.
- There are only 13 million Jews in the world. But they play a vibrant role in international affairs. Look at the number of Nobel Prizes they win every year.
- Trix and I sat in the Stadium at the Olympics. Full of pride. As Australia won more Medals than every country in the world, except the US and Russia.
- Tibet’s population is only 3 million. But who has not heard of the plight of the Tibetans?
But there are over 600 million vegetarians and vegans in the world.
That is bigger than the US, England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Canada, Australia, Israel – combined!
If they were one nation, they would be bigger than the 27 countries in the European Union!!
- They are bigger than NATO
- They are bigger than OPEC
Despite this massive footprint, they are still drowned out by the raucous hunting, shooting, killing cartels who believe that violence is the answer – when it should not even be a question.
This is how a deceitful journalist at a conference twisted my innocent words.
“Mr Wollen, I’m surprised a man of your standing would say that:
- Meat is murder.
- Livestock production is unethical.
- There will be no peace until we stop killing animals.
- Industry is unattractive.
- Animals are like human children.
Cannot you see how offensive this is to our “conservative rural” audience.
This was my “diplomatic” counterpunch. “If you are going to quote me, please do so honestly.
I did say:
The commandment “Thou shalt not kill’ applies to the murder of any living being. It was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai. As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.” But that was Leo Tolstoy.
I did say:
“The roots of cruelty are not strong – just widespread. But a time will come when inhumanity protected by custom will succumb to humanity championed by thought. A man is ethical only when all life is sacred to him”. But that was Albert Schweitzer, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
I did say:
“As long as we kill animals, there will never be peace. It is only one step to the concentration camps of Hitler and Stalin. There will be no justice as long as a man with a knife can destroy someone, simply because they are weaker than him.” But that was Isaac Singer, a Nobel Prize Winner.
And yes, I admit I did have something to say about animals and children.
“The wolf will lie down with the lamb, the leopard with the young goat; the young lion with the young ones of the herd; and a little child will lead them. But that came from the Prophet Isaiah.
And no, I did not say anything about greed and ambition. That was not me. That was Jesus. Blame him. He said: “Behold the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. King Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these”. And for good measure, he added “Whatever you do to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me!”
So, are you, as a “journalist”, suggesting that your “conservative rural” audience is offended by Nobel Prize Winners and the Prophets? Or should I just go home – and burn my books? I seem to recall this was a strategy favoured by Pol Pot.”
Well, the journalist was speechless. He attacked me for being “radical”.
We need another radical Copernicus and Galileo to remind us that we humans are not the centre of the universe. Animals are not just other species. They are other nations. And we murder them at our peril.
The astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s picture from the Voyager Spacecraft showed the tiny, microscopic pinhole from space.
He described Planet Earth as “Our beautiful Home. Our Pale Blue Dot. Suspended on a Sunbeam”.
Human beings comprise 30% of the biomass of land animals. Slaughterhouse animals 66%. Wild animals in nature are decimated down to 4%.
70% of all the birds on the planet are in cages awaiting slaughter.
We have turned the Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Planet Earth into Bloodstained Planet Slaughterhouse.
The great historian, Barbara Tuchman defined Folly as “acting against our own best interests”.
Occam’s Razor, named after the 14th Century Jesuit, said, “When presented with many possible solutions to a problem, the simplest solution is best”.
Let us apply these tests to the meat and dairy industry.
Forest depletion by these industries costs 3 times as much as the global financial crisis.
- Zoonotic diseases, like SARS, Mad Cow, Avian Flu and COVID 19 spread from caged animals threatening a pandemic to rival the Black Death which wiped out half of Europe. The Centre for Disease Control in the US estimate that 60% of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals; and more terrifyingly, 75% of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals. The World Bank says that ONE influenza pandemic alone would cost $ 3 TRILLION. A million deaths from a zoonotic disease Covid-19 in six months seems to render even the most loud-mouthed lobbyist mute. Their silence is deafening.
- Meat and dairy are killing us with cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. Harvard University says One Third of early deaths could be prevented by not eating meat.
- India accounts for 70% of the world’s cardiovascular disease, due to increasingly sedentary lifestyles, the slavish attraction to Western fast-foods and their manic addiction to dairy.
- Medicare and bad diets have bankrupted the once-wealthy US. They will need $8 TRILLION invested in Treasury bills just to pay the interest. And it has precisely zero!! They could shut every school, university, army, navy, air force, and Marines, the FBI and CIA – and they still will not be able to pay for it.
- How big is 8 TRILLION dollars? That is how much the whole of Asia needs over 10 years for all their Electricity, Roads, Water, Telecommunications, High Speed Rail across China, ports in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. . .and the New Silk Road from Central Asia to Europe.
- It is 4 times as big as India’s GDP and double the total reserves of India and China combined!
- My TV debate on the ABC to “Get Animals off the Menu” went viral with over 30 million viewers and independently translated into 20 languages. Oxford University calculated that if adopted, it would save 30 Trillion dollars in health and environmental damage alone!
- Antibiotics pumped into animals cause Anti-Microbial Resistance in humans – which will kill 10 million people per annum by 2050 and cost the global economy $100 Trillion. If you thought 8 trillion was BIG, what do say about 100 Trillion – and that is from Anti-Microbial Resistance alone! This is 60 times what the Whole World spends on aircraft carriers, missiles, bombs, bullets, drones, destroyers, tanks, planes, mines, guns, and spies.
Water is the new oil. Nations will soon be going to war for it.
- Underground aquifers that took millions of years to fill are running dry. As a teenage boy scout, I drilled my first well in Bangalore and struck sweet water at 80 feet. Today, at our orphanage nearby, we are 800 feet – and sucking mud. In China at 3,000 feet the drill-head is still dry.
- You would be outraged if 10 jumbo jets crashed every day. Well, the same number of children die every day from water-related diseases.
- The mighty Colorado River, the Rio Grande, the Indus, and the Yellow Rivers frequently no longer reach the sea. Sucked dry by the meat and dairy industry.
- While 4 billion people suffer from water scarcity.
- It takes 50,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of beef.
- It takes 1,000 litres of drinking water to make I litre of milk and a dairyman makes 28 cents a litre.
- 1 billion people today are hungry. 20 million people will die from malnutrition. Cutting meat by only 10% will feed 100 million people.
- Going Vegan ends malnutrition forever.
- Poor countries sell their grain to the West for hard currency while their own children starve in their arms. And the West feeds it to livestock. . . So, we can eat a steak? Am I the only one who sees this as a crime?
- Every morsel of meat we eat is slapping the tear-stained face of a starving child. When I look into her eyes, do I remain silent?
- If everyone ate a Western diet, we would need 2 Planet Earths to feed us. We only have one. And she is dying.
- The earth can produce enough for everyone’s need. But not enough for everyone’s greed.
- Greenhouse pollution from livestock VASTLY exceeds that of transport – planes, trains, trucks, cars, and ships. Their methane is 24 times more potent than CO2.
- The melting Siberian permafrost is now a ticking time bomb. When it releases its sequestered gas, the game is over.
- The Himalayan ice fields, (correctly called the 3rd pole) irrigate half the world’s population through the Ganges, the Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangstse, Irrawaddy, Mekong, and Yellow Rivers. These glaciers are melting fast.
- I presented these numbers in a speech to 2,000 wealthy Indian entrepreneurs in the Rajiv Gandhi Centre in New Delhi, including the great economist from the “Cambridge School”, Amartya Sen, India’s Nobel Prize winner in Economics.
- I mentioned to Mohammad Younis after he won the Nobel Peace Prize that all the good that he had done with Grameen Bank would vanish when Bangladesh drowns.
- We had dinner with Al Gore and discussed the same numbers.
- I delivered a speech in Melbourne with Dr Peter Doherty, Australia’s Nobel Laureate in Medicine.
- No argument from 4 Nobel Laureates. Only from the meat lobby.
- So, Upton Sinclair was right “It is impossible to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it”.
- We freak out in the West when 1,000 refugees arrive on our shores. Imagine greenhouse gases hitting 500 parts per million: or a 3-degree temperature rise, creating 100 million eco-refugees. This calamity will reshape the geopolitical landscape forever.
We are facing the perfect storm.
If any nation had developed weapons that could wreak such havoc on the planet, we would launch a pre-emptive military strike and bomb it into the Bronze Age.
But we cannot. Because it is not a rogue state. It is an industry Meat. The good news is we do not have to bomb it. We can just stop buying it.
So, George Bush was wrong. The Axis of Evil does not run through Iraq, Iran or North Korea. It runs through our dining tables. Weapons of Mass Destruction are our knives & forks, and increasingly nowadays, our chopsticks. The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones. This ignoble industry will end because we run out of excuses.
Veganism is the Swiss Army Knife of the future. One instrument solves our Ethical, Economic, Environmental, Water, Health problems – and ends Animal Cruelty forever.
It rearranges the “furniture of your mind”.
And farmers are the ones with the most to gain. Farming will not end. It would boom. Only the product line would change.
Believe me. Veganism is the engine of redirected economic growth.
- Governments will love us.
- New industries would emerge and flourish.
- Health insurance premiums would plummet.
- Hospital waiting lists would disappear.
Indeed, the American Medical Association called for meat to be banned in all hospitals. The World Health Organisation strongly recommends a Vegan Diet.
The plant-based food industry is growing rapidly. Even at this early stage it, contributes $14 billion to the US economy; created more than 60,000 jobs; pays its workers US$13,000 more than the average American salary; pays $1.1 billion in tax; produces one tenth of the greenhouse gas emissions as beef. And gets no subsidies; 40 investors with $2 trillion in assets called on global food companies to replace animal protein with plant protein.
And Veganism gives us “THE PEACE DIVIDEND”.
I addressed the Parliament of World of Religions in Australia.
“The Peace Map is drawn on a menu. Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the presence of Justice. Talking of Peace while killing animals is like loving literature and burning books. They are mutually exclusive ideas. Justice MUST be blind to race, colour, religion and to species. If it is not blind, it will be used as a weapon of terror. And there is unimaginable terror in those ghastly gulags we call factory farms, a vile place where, as Lord Acton said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
We need a new kind of Jurisprudence – a New Legal System. “A Court of the Conscience”. A court where justice is administered fearlessly regardless of the consequences, reflecting Piso’s “Let Justice be done, though heavens may fall”.
I have learned that:
- A man is measured not by how much money he makes. But how much of it he is willing to give away. Particularly to strangers.
- If you wish to increase a man’s share of happiness, do not increase his possessions. Simply decrease his desires.
- Socrates and Epicurus were right. An unexamined life is not worth living.
- You do not find your character on Wall Street. It lives on the Road to Damascus.
- My heart resonates to the poet WH Auden “If equal affection cannot be. Let the more loving one be me”.
I speak to audiences in many countries. All good, caring people who genuinely want to change the world.
As long as they do not have to change themselves. But life does not work that way. First, we change in our hearts. And then the world follows. Men and women of integrity must speak out. And act courageously.
Is it not better to light a candle than to curse the darkness? All the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of a single candle.
I believe another day is dawning. And when I close my eyes, I can feel her heartbeat.
It won’t be easy. Do not be afraid. Remember Gandhi’s words:
“First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you. Then you win”.
Let’s not re-live history. Let’s make history.
Because that is what leaders do. . . They make history.
So, I ask you to join the battle in the war that decency cannot afford to lose.
Because, in the end only 3 things matter.
- How deeply you loved.
- How gently you lived.
- And how gracefully you let go of things that were not meant for you.
Our animal cousins have survived millions of years of evolution. They have earned the right to share this planet in peace. They have waited long enough.
The brutes and bullies have been Goliath. But David is coming.
Maybe he is one of you?
And if not you, who?
And if not now, when?