PETA to Osmania University: Use Mock Beef for Upcoming Festival

04 December 2015

The following letter was sent to Smt. Ranjeev R Acharya, IAS, I/c Vice-Chancellor, Osmania University, Hyderabad by PETA India in response to some of their students reportedly planning a “beef festival”:

Dear Smt Acharya:

I am writing from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India to suggest a solution with regards to the upcoming controversial beef festival that is reportedly being planned by some of your students for 10th December 2015 that should satisfy the desires and sentiments of all: to require the use of plant-based faux beef which would be just as tasty but far more healthy than red meat, instead of beef from cows or buffaloes. 10th December is Human Rights Day, but it is also International Animal Rights Day. The two important events share a date because human rights and animal rights goes hand-in-hand.

American civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr had said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. As long as we as a society accept the “might makes right” mentality and allow discrimination against those different from ourselves — whether in ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or species — we are aiding and abetting the forces responsible for human slavery, the denial of women’s and gay rights, factory farming and other abuses to both animals and human beings, and we will never be able to guarantee respect for our own right to live free from suffering.

In other words, if we accept and condone the torture and killing of an individual simply because that individual is different from us — in this case, of a different species — what’s stopping someone else from doing similar to us based on the same twisted logic? The students’ desire to hold a festival essentially celebrating the torture and deaths of once living, thinking, feeling beings runs counter to their claims of caring deeply about respect for differences and personal choices and concern for minority communities.

Using mock meat instead of the flesh of animals who had valued their lives just as much as you or I do would teach students a valuable lesson: that when everyone who is affected by a decision does not enjoy the same freedom from harm, it is no longer a simple matter of personal choice. Like any victim of a person who chooses to murder, animals in the meat industry are victims of cruelty.

Consider this: Chickens on factory farms are crowded by the thousands into sheds that reek of ammonia from the accumulated waste in which the animals are forced to stand. These birds never see the light of day and are denied everything that is natural and important to them. They and other animals killed for food are crammed into vehicles for slaughter in such high numbers that many break their bones, suffocate or die en route. At slaughterhouses, workers often hack at the throats of cattle, goats, sheep and other animals with dull blades. Fish are suffocated or cut open while they’re still alive on the decks of fishing boats. What about the animals’ personal choice to not want to suffer?

And unless Osmania University students have been living under a rock, they would know that from a health perspective, we need beef like we need cigarettes: in other words, we don’t. In fact, we are better off without it. A study by the Cleveland Clinic in the United States revealed consuming beef, bacon and lamb leads to the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. Bowel cancer is also more common among people who eat considerable amounts of red and processed meat.

And as there is no requirement for anyone of any religion or background to consume beef or any other animal product, the only real reason left for people to want to consume beef is for the texture and a fleeting moment of taste. The use of mock meat instead of meat from animals for the festival can satisfy these desires.

The planned beef festival can also be used as an opportunity by Osmania University for students to be asked to consider that people who eat meat are helping to take away the right of everyone to live on a healthy planet. In 2010, a United Nations report stated that a global shift toward a plant-based diet is necessary to save the planet from the worst effects of climate change. That’s because meat production is a major contributor to the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change. India is already suffering from climate change’s disastrous effects, including a warming climate, changing rainfall patterns, droughts, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and an increased risk to food, energy and water security. This means that meat-eaters’ choices are negatively affecting us all.

Peter Singer, professor of ethics and philosophy at both Princeton University and the University of Melbourne, points out that “the most blatant racists or sexists think that those who belong to their race or sex have superior moral status, simply in virtue of their race or sex, and irrespective of other characteristics or qualities.” The same could be said for heterosexuals who discriminate against homosexuals. This is a prejudice, Singer explains, that survives because “it is convenient for the dominant group”. He also says that if we ignore or discount the interests of animals simply on the grounds that they are not members of our species, the logic of our position is similar to racism or sexism — it is speciesism.

We urge Osmania University to take the opportunity of Human Rights Day and International Animal Rights Day to urge its students not to be speciesist, and to have respect and compassion for all.

PETA would be pleased to work with Osmania University in bringing the above lessons of compassion to its students and in holding a “beef” festival using vegan (plant-based) mock meat.

I respectfully request your response on this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Poorva Joshipura, CEO, PETA India