India and Islam Are Vegan Strong

When actor and activist Sadaa Sayed was little, she was traumatized by seeing a goat slaughtered for qurbani and immediately stopped eating meat. She realized that killing and eating animals is not required by Islam, and now that she’s vegan, her family’s Eid al-Adha celebrations are 100% animal-free. For Eid 2020, PETA India joined forces with Sayed—who owns a vegan eatery called Earthlings Cafe—to donate vegan biryani, made with nutrient-rich soy chunks, to 750 children in orphanages throughout Mumbai.

The word “Islam” in Arabic is derived from the infinitive sa-la’ma, the root word for salam, which means “peace,” and salam is exactly what being vegan is all about. Verse 23:51 of the Qur’an warns, “O messengers, eat from what is good, and do righteous work. I am aware of what you do.” implying that Allah (swt) knows when we consume impure things such as meat, eggs, and dairy from both small and industrial-size farms, in which animals are cruelly enslaved from birth, sexually assaulted, and confined in filth before being violently transported to slaughterhouses and executed for their body parts.

Many Muslims today are vegan, like Sayed, because they relate to the oppression, discrimination, and violence that countless animals are forced to endure on farms and in slaughterhouses. They consider animal rights to be a social justice issue, like racism, discrimination, and poverty. Vegan living is also deep-rooted in the history of Islam: The first Muslim community in seventh-century Arabia hardly ate animal flesh, and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) mostly consumed dates and barley. Ali, his cousin, is said to have stated, “Do not make your stomach a graveyard of animals.”

Thanks to heightened awareness of animal welfare, environmental, and health issues, the vegan economy is booming in India and worldwide. The public cannot get enough tofu, tempeh, nut cheeses and milks, vegan meats, apple honey, flax eggs, nutritional yeast, and other vegan products, and new innovations are constantly hitting the market. In fact, the demand for vegan foods and beverages is so high that, according to Polaris Market Research, the global plant-based meat market is estimated to reach $35.4 billion by 2027. A report by Grand View Research estimates that the global dairy-alternatives market will be worth $52.58 billion by 2028, and Bloomberg Intelligence has projected that the plant-based food market will surpass $162 billion by 2030.

India has the world’s lowest rate of meat consumption: 75% of Indians are lactose intolerant, and statistics show that, in the last decade alone, the number of vegans in that country has grown by 360%. Traditional dishes are easily veganized by using simple alternatives such as vegan milks and meats, and healthful vegan staples like legumes and grains are readily available. In addition to Sayed’s Earthlings Cafe in Mumbai, vegan eateries are popping up everywhere, including Carrots in Bengaluru, Bodhi Greens in Dharamsala, Elysian Delights in Gurugram, and About Vegan in Jaipur. PETA India’s free vegetarian/vegan starter kit can be ordered online, and there are vegan tours, conferences, cooking classes, social media groups, and online retailers such as Vegan Dukan, Urban Platter, and VeganMall.

Consumers have a wide variety of delicious dairy-free milks to choose from, including oat, coconut, soy, cashew, and almond milks, thanks to India’s abundance of vegan-friendly crops. And consume they do: From 2017 to 2018, the dairy industry lost US$1.1 billion, while during that same period, vegan alternatives including oat, almond, coconut, and rice milks gained $1.6 billion. A market analysis by TechSci Research projected that India’s dairy-alternatives market will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 20.7% to reach $63.9 million by 2024. Bengaluru-based Goodmylk makes its “mylk” from cashews, oats, filtered water, sunflower oil, sodium bicarbonate, and guar gum. Many vegans make nondairy milks at home, which is cost-effective and eliminates preservatives.

Sriganesh Radhakrishnan, a research scholar at the National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli, refutes that it’s expensive to be vegan. “Since I do not buy honey, milk products, meat or leather, my budget is lower than any family member. Even if I visit restaurants with friends, my bill is the lowest,” he says. “Associating veganism with elitism is a stigma against people who follow veganism.”

Many people choose to enjoy vegan foods for health reasons. A 2019 survey conducted by Rakuten Insight, involving 6,934 respondents, revealed that 52% of Indian respondents consumed plant-based foods and 50% considered those foods to be healthier. And they were correct: Consuming vegan foods can improve human health and even reduce the risk of suffering from cancer, heart disease, and strokes. According to the U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, being vegan reduces a person’s risk of developing diabetes by 62%, their chance of being hospitalized because of a heart attack by 33%, their risk developing of heart disease by 29%, and their risk of developing cancer by 18%. If everyone went vegan, we could save up to 8 million human lives by 2050.

Instead of making our stomachs “a graveyard of animals”—who think, feel, and value their lives, just as humans do—we can sacrifice human violence and cruelty to animals on Eid al-Adha (and every day) by enjoying delicious, nutritious vegan food. Let us not forget that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also said, “There is a reward (ajr) for helping any living creature,” and going vegan certainly helps animals—a single vegan spares nearly 200 animals each year.

"There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end" - Al-Qur'an, 6:38
"Whoever is kind to the creatures of God, is kind to himself." - The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), narrated by Abdallah bin Amru in Bukhari and Muslim collections