Published on September 17th, 2014 | by Alicia Silverstone
Sharon is world-renowned yogini, creator of the Jivamukti Yoga method, an author, vegan, and animal rights activist (among many other things!!) Her cookbook Simple Recipes for Joy hits shelves today!
What is your food philosophy?
Sharon: Live simply; make compassionate choices when it comes to food. The best way to uplift your own life is to do all you can to uplift the lives of others. If we ourselves want to be free and happy then by enslaving and harming animals we will not be able to achieve our goal. What we do to others will come back to us. You can’t expect to be happy by causing unhappiness to others. When we have a choice it is always best to choose kindness. Veganism is simply the kinder choice.
Why is it important to bring joy to your plate in addition to your life?
Sharon: What you eat should not just be “good for you” but it should contribute to your happiness—it should make you a happier person. Everything we do should contribute to happiness. The SAD diet—(the Standard American Diet)—can only make you sad. Eating meat and dairy products is the SAD diet. It causes heart disease, cancer, diabetes and makes you fat. Raising animals for food destroys the environment. And those animals are not happy– they are enslaved and live humiliating, fearful lives of abuse and tremendous suffering. Billons are murdered every year. That’s a lot of suffering—all for no good reason. Veganism turns sadness into joy—Simple Recipes for Joy!
Many people are under the impression that cows need to be milked, and that it’s a natural. Some even feel it’s cruel NOT to milk them. What are your thoughts on this?
Sharon: A cow, like other mammals (including human females), doesn’t give milk unless she is pregnant or has given birth to a baby. The milk her body produces is intended to provide nourishment for her baby. In our modern dairies, calves never get to nurse from their mothers longer than a few hours—if that. They are taken away and fed synthetic formulas laden with growth-stimulating drugs and other pharmaceuticals, while we steal the milk for ourselves. Farmers profit financially from this theft and degradation. We are the only animals who steal and drink the milk from other species.
Dr. Benjamin Spock, a leading authority on child nutrition, printed an apology in the eighth edition of his best-selling book Baby and Child Care for ever suggesting feeding cow’s milk to babies. He also advised a vegan, plant-based diet for children, writing that children can get plenty of protein and iron from vegetables, beans, and other plant foods and thus avoid the fat and cholesterol in animal products.
Similarly, as cows are sacred to yogis- what do you make of milk and ghee being considered perfect foods for a yogi?
Sharon: Yoga may have originated in India, where the cow has been revered as sacred for thousands of years, but times have changed since Lord Krishna played his flute for the cows of Vrindavan. There are factory farms in India now. European cows have been inbred with the native cows of India, resulting in a short-legged breed that is no longer useful in the heavy work of pulling carts or plowing fields. This doesn’t limit the ability of the cows to produce milk, but approximately half the calves born are male. What happens to all the male calves being born in Indian dairies? Their bodies wind up in the large black market focusing on beef and the sale of other products derived from cows. India is the leading exporter of leather to America and Europe. The tanning process involved in the manufacture of leather is highly toxic and maims or kills thousands of people every year as well as contributing to environmental pollution. Since it is illegal in many Indian states to kill a cow, there is currently much denial and secrecy surrounding the exploitation of cows in India.
In regards to the organic milk industry, many feel that it’s completely separate from the doom and gloom of slaughterhouses. How do you inform others that it’s still just as unkind to consume?
Sharon: Cows that are fed organic food are still kept as slaves on farms, regardless of whether it is a large corporate factory farm or a small family farm. As a yoga practitioner with some understanding of how karma works, you have to ask the question, “If I am seeking liberation, will it serve my purpose to rob other beings of their freedom?” We ourselves can never be free if we rob others of their freedom. Besides, every dairy cow, no matter what she has been fed, ends up in the slaughterhouse. Milk is not a benign by-product.
Thank you Sharon!! Your wisdom and activism are both enlightening and inspiring.