(Featured image: cat living at Norbulingka, a Tibetan community which runs an all-vegetarian hotel. Photo courtesy Eva, used under CC BY-ND 2.0)
Many years ago, the Jain and Gujarati community in Mumbai controlled the stock market to a large extent. They entered into an informal pact among themselves that they would not invest in or encourage investment in companies that had anything to do with non vegetarian products. Unfortunately this pact has broken down and now Jains invest in soap companies that use animal flesh, gelatin that is made of cow bones and thousands of other products that kill millions of animals monthly. Some Jains even export meat. One extremely famous stock market investor had come to me ten years ago. He wanted to start an Ethical Fund – he would only invest in environmentally ethical companies and all his investors would be told why and which one. He thought that, with this process, he would be able to encourage companies to be more responsible towards the environment. His plan fell apart because he couldn’t even make a board of respectable people! Then he got busy making money and forgot about saving Earth.
But in the meantime, the world has moved ahead and each company is under pressure to do some good besides earn money. Countries should be put under the same pressure.
The consumer should now be making ethical choices himself. A large number of Apps and sites on the Net are catering this growing consumer base. For instance hundreds of people I know buy only grain and lentils from Organic shops which deliver to the house – something unheard of, even five years ago. I do the same. Some have organic vegetables delivered once a week and eat only those vegetables that in season locally. Some search the Net for organically grown fabrics and dyes – organic fashion companies are now exporting from India earning crores. Many years ago I started Ahimsa silk and didn’t do very well. Today I would do much better.
A site in Europe, www.veggie-hotels.de, run by Thomas Klein from Berlin, lists all the vegetarian hotels across the world and it is accessed at least 10,000 times a day. It has been nominated for the Green Tech Awards – one of the best start up awards to get in the world. People are encouraged to send in the names of hotels. I sent the name of Norbulingka which is one of the nicest and most aesthetically pleasing vegetarian hotels I have stayed in, in Dharamshala. It is run by the Tibetans and doubles as a very superior art training centre. Delicious food. Indians could send in hundreds of names.
The ethical traveler now needs to take decisions that change the world. To decide where to go for their holidays. And if they decide not to go to a particular state and country, to actually let the travel agency and country know why they are not going.
For instance I have three on my hit list at the moment. Within India, don’t go to Kerala just now. Everybody in Kerala seems to be killing dogs or hiring people to kill them. Everyday pictures of killed dogs being dragged and thrown into garbage heaps comes in one paper or another. Thousands of people across the world have cancelled their holidays in Kerala and shifted to Karnataka and Goa. Kerala has responded by attacking all the people who cancelled their holidays and some minister has started a counter email asking Keralites across the globe to “send tourists.” It would be better if they simply calmed down, stopped this savage killing and started the sterilization programme which is the only way to reduce bites and the population. I love Kerala and it breaks my heart to say something so negative about it.
Of the countries that should be boycotted one is Mauritius. Mauritius is the only country in the world that exports thousands of monkeys to laboratories across the world for experimentation. Dozens of monkey breeders have now become monkey factories. These poor animals are grown like vegetables and then sent in boxes across Europe where they are subjected to unimaginable tortures. In 2014 alone, Mauritius exported 9000 monkeys. All across Europe a campaign is underway to stop people from going there. A survey, commissioned by Cruelty Free International, found that 53% of those interviewed who have been, want to go or would consider going on a holiday to Mauritius would not want to visit or revisit the island because of this or would reconsider choosing Mauritius as a holiday destination after learning about the island’s monkey trade.
The country where few people go but even fewer should go is Denmark which has the Faroe Islands. Last month they had their ritual killing festival – which they do every year – they herd whales into a corralled area and then they get into the water and kill thousands of these harmless and beautiful sentient intelligent beings with spears and swords and anything that pierces skin. The entire area is bathed with blood. This year they killed over 1000 and arrested 10 people ( some Indians among them ) who had gone from Australia to try and stop the killing. India’s people have sent over 5 lakh emails to the Danish Embassy here over the last ten years. Over 3 million people have sent in such anguished objections. The government is impervious to the fact that ocean creatures belong to the world and whale killing is banned by international treaty. Japan should be boycotted as well for doing exactly the same thing.
China should be boycotted for killing our tigers, elephants, seahorses, sharks, pangolins, musk deer, dogs, cats and every other animal you can think of. It is shameful that our businessmen are leaving India and starting their factories in a country that thinks that India is simply a resource for poaching animals and turning them into quack medicine and skin.
It is not just Kerala, India itself has been asked to be boycotted this year. An article in the Daily Mail has said that hundreds of elephants have been taken from the wild and beaten and tortured in camps so that they could be used for the tourist trade. Over 100 elephants have died of torture. The government is ignoring this – in spite of the fact that thousands of letters have come in and senior Members of Parliament from England have written expressing their anguish. We should be doing something to stop these camps. In fact the elephant should be now taken out of private hands totally.
Indians are now traveling a lot. We can now change the world for the good by making travel choices and making them public. Start by writing to your own government about these elephant camps.
I definitely agree with your position that travelers need to think through the ethics of where and how they travel. However, the practice of bycotting entire regions or nations because of something inhumane that occurs there strikes me as a dangerous proposition, at least from my perspective as someone from the United States. The reason I say this is that it seems to me that people in the United States are already prone to focusing on forms of animal cruelty that occur in other parts of the world, while turning a blind eye to the many that occur here in their home country. I see a lot of people commenting online, for example, who are enraged over dog meat being eaten in Korea but who never think twice about the cruelty that occurs in factory farms in the U.S.. This sort of thinking seems to reinforce a perception of the murderous, barbaric ‘other’, and it is often coupled with apparent racism. It seems to me that refusing to visit those areas would only further reinforce this type of thinking.
I think it’s probably true that you could identify some boycott-worthy inhumane practice towards animals in most areas of the world. I just worry that travelers boycotting other areas because of cruelty not only would continue to view those regions as inferior and full of inhumane barbarians, but also that in refusing to travel there, they may miss out on opportunities to understand why inhumane practices occur. We also lose the potential for dialogue between the ethical traveler and the people who live in the region where cruelty towards animals is occuring.