(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 06 September 2016, Cape Town, South Africa, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.9.26)
Veganism is considered to be holier-than-thou and vegans are sort of telling the rest of the world that we are not compassionate at all, that we are contributing to the slaughter of cows by that fact that we are so lusty and cannot control our tongues. We are so attached to milk products – pizza, ice-cream, butter, etc. and in this way, the Hare Krsnas are contributing to cow slaughter. So what do the Hare Krsnas have to say…?
Well, there are two sides to the story. One side of the story is that we say to the vegans: My dear vegans, you are toothless tigers. Do you really think that you are going to stop animal slaughter? You are dreaming. In this way, it will not happen. Why would people take to your vegan philosophy? Just by moral preaching? Don’t you know that only a small percentage of the world is moral!? The rest of the world would rather let it ‘all hang out’. My dear vegans, we respect you for your idealism but your solution is a material one and therefore it cannot succeed as it lacks the transcendental perspective.
You may not like our argument but still consider it for a moment. Do you realise that if we take milk from any cow, we will offer that milk to Krsna and when that milk gets offered to Krsna then the cow gets eternal benefit. Even if that cow is undergoing temporary suffering in a horrible situation and will be slaughtered, still it will get eternal benefit. Therefore it is better to offer the milk of the cow to Krsna than to fast from milk altogether.
It is only now, for the time being that we are in a society which is upside down, which is all gone astray. Eventually we must manage again to take care of our own cows and more cows must be protected. Cow protection is essential and then we can take the milk of these protected cows and in this way, we can change society. But in the meanwhile, we do not fast from milk because milk is such essential food and not just for bones and calcium, it is also required for finer brain tissue development.
Srila Prabhupada was very adamant about this. In the United States, once there were additives in the milk including vitamin D which generally comes from a non-vegetarian source, often from cod liver oil, and so the devotees were wondering about drinking that milk and Prabhupada said not to worry about it and have it! With the special mercy of Lord Caitanya, there will be protection somehow or other, in this state of emergency.
Nowadays, in Iskcon, veganism is on the rise – more and more Hare Krsnas are turning vegan. This is very interesting! And the vegans say that the milk coming out of the factories today is not even milk anymore; it is just reconstituted chemicals and if Prabhupada was here today, he would tell us to be vegan. I am not so convinced about that and it is a problem, in this whole debate to be vegan or not, to put words in Prabhupada’s mouth. Well, he is not here right now so let us just stick to what he said and NOT to what he would have said because if we go that way, then maybe he would have said, “Today, four regulative principles would not work so let’s have three.” Then we going to be on a slippery slide and I do not know where we are going to wind up.