Veganism

Many people consider veganism—the practice of not eating or using any animal products—an ideal, healthy, nonviolent diet. Some vegans avoid milk for health reasons, while others do so as a reaction to the suffering of cows, and they boycott the meat and dairy industry. Some even say it’s unnatural for humans to drink the milk of another animal.


Many people consider veganism—the practice of not eating or using any animal products—an ideal, healthy, nonviolent diet. Some vegans avoid milk for health reasons, while others do so as a reaction to the suffering of cows, and they boycott the meat and dairy industry. Some even say it’s unnatural for humans to drink the milk of another animal.

Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad-gita that ahimsa, nonviolence, is most perfectly applied according to spiritual principles. For example, Krishna encourages Arjuna to fight—despite Arjuna’s pacifist protests—
by reminding him that freedom from negative karma comes only by acting according to the directions of the Supreme.

The teachings of Krishna consciousness emphasize the many transcendental benefits of milk. The Vedas say the cow is one of the mothers of mankind; cow’s milk and its many preparations are a key part of the recommended diet for human beings. Milk is considered essential for the proper development of the human brain, enhancing our ability to understand and apply spiritual knowledge.

Srila Prabhupada, founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was aware of the exploitative nature of the modern dairy industry. In his books and lectures, he repeatedly condemned the slaughterhouse economy as the crux of all the world’s problems and urged his followers to establish self-sufficient, agrarian economies centered on cow protection.

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He also taught that milk is necessary for the cultivation of spiritual consciousness. Krishna, the Supreme Person, the Absolute Truth, is fond of cows and milk products; when we attempt to please Him by making offerings of love based on His stated preferences—such as He gives in Bhagavad-gita 9.26—everyone benefits. Human life is meant for serving God; humans also have a natural responsibility toward cows, which needs to be healed and reestablished on a higher level rather than abandoned.

Cows naturally give an average of ten times the amount of milk required by their calves, so milking by humans is far from unnatural; it’s a necessity. Ancient histories say that prior to the modern age man was traditionally a caretaker of cows; economies were local, agrarian, and based on milk products from cows as well as grains produced with the help of bulls and oxen.

Cows whose milk is offered to Krishna make spiritual benefit. The same principle applies to plants whose fruits, vegetables and flowers are offered to Krishna, and even to manufacturers of other things—such as automobiles and printing presses—used in Krishna’s service. If something can be used in Krishna’s service yet isn’t, that is called phalgu-vairagya, insufficient or false renunciation.

Veganism, a relatively recent philosophical innovation, is an understandable reaction to mistreatment of animals—and may also be medically necessary in some cases—but the eternal teachings of Krishna consciousness are intended for the ultimate benefit of all living beings, at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances.