Vegan group on why lifestyle is more than just a diet

El-Rahim Jaffer strongly believes in a number of causes behind veganism, but only one motivated him to become a vegan — to fight for animal rights and their protection.

He stretched out his cause by creating Rwanda Humane Society- a vegan group whose vision is to treat animals with compassion, respect and set them free from cruelty. 

 

According to them, veganism seems to be way more than just not eating animals or their products. It’s a way that renders personal growth and most importantly, promotes relationships between animals and humans.

 

Understanding veganism

 

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.

Why this is important, is that it prevents unnecessary suffering that has no moral justification because animals too are entitled to have rights, thus should not be regarded as mere commodities.

And so they believe that by carefully choosing their diet, they can create a kinder world for all by fostering respect for animals.

Jaffer says being vegan is avoiding the discomfort, suffering and death of animals unnecessarily and so their treatment of animals (as vegans) reflects who they are as individuals and a society.

“I stopped eating meat because of animal cruelty and the more I educated myself, the more I realised that what I was doing doesn’t make sense. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to eat animal flesh to survive, but it was all the pain and suffering that happens to those animals for the sake of my enjoyment that’s not worth it. That’s what pushed me to make a decision,” he says.

Aside from promoting harmony in society, he says veganism is accompanied with a number of health benefits.

“I have never felt so good in my life in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. These things bring more clarity and mindfulness in everything that you do. You start becoming more aware of what’s happening around you and realise there are many more problems in the world and most of them could be solved by being vegan.”

Yves Nsengiyumva, one of the members of the group, says they mind about veganism because some people have decided that animals be exploited in a normal world.

“We are just humans and animals are just animals and live here enjoying their freedom like the rest of us. There is a wrong that needs to be corrected so that’s why animal rights are relevant today,” he says.

“The recent technology in farming called intensive livestock production has worsened the conditions in barns and animals have been the beneficiaries of the unprecedented cruelty of farmers and slaughterhouses. Our ancestors tried to live in harmony with animals and with the scarcity of resources, they turned to free range farming but not in a million years would they have imagined what we’re doing to animals,” Nsengiyumva says.

He recalls seeing someone slaughtering goats in a non-humane way and it got him thinking of his contribution and complicity in this kind of action. 

“The answer was clear, if we cut the demand there will be no supply, hence no animal abuse.”

He says, those who are against their lifestyle as vegans are mostly driven by guilt, hence criticise their choice, but this is because they don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions, and those who understand it are too weak to act or quit meat consumption.

His choice has come with benefits, he says, adding that he now consumes less chemicals that come with meat. “My mind is at peace knowing that no other sentient animals are in cages waiting to be my meal. I am learning more about the animal kingdom and how to become a global citizen mindful of what surrounds me.”

Nsengiyumva also adds that he has learnt that he is not the centre of the universe, and that he is here to serve his purpose and so are animals, and that his body doesn’t need meat to function.

Call for the world to evolve 

Citra Mohammed, an entrepreneur and owner of Afia Organics, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, says humans are constantly learning new things, adopting and creating new realities.

“So decisions we made thousands of years ago don’t have to be our standard today. I am still learning how my body works and adapting to changes. So as a society, it’s a positive thing to be open to new things and allow ourselves to move with the times,” she says.

Mohammed explains that veganism is as simple as ‘live and let live.’ It’s based on a principle that we are not here to kill and torture other creatures that have the same fight or flight and a natural instinct to live and to survive as we do. 

“There is no regard for the rights of animals if we are putting them on our plates when there are endless amounts of choices other than meat and dairy products. We live in a world that was created to serve us with abundant fruits and vegetables and legumes to keep us healthy and strong.”

Autumn Marie Farj is a vegan for holistic health reasons but nonetheless, respects the cause of fighting for animal rights.

She understands that some communities have a long connection of living off the land and also living in harmony with animals and eating some of those animals as a deep part of culture. They do it out of reverence or tradition, she says. 

“That is very different from the mass industrialisation of animals that has happened in the last several decades. And as much as I don’t like what people do to animals, I don’t like how people treat fruits and vegetables either with pesticides, harmful chemicals, additives or colourants. So for me it is the whole spectrum.”

She says that in her journey as a vegan, she has learnt that ‘you seriously are what you eat.’

“The more you listen to your body and pay attention to it, the more you become aware of how what you eat affects how you feel. Not just non-vegan foods but too many starches, fried foods, processed foods.”

dmbabazi@newtimesrwanda.com

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