The General Thimayya Memorial Lecture - Keynote Speaker Philip Wollen - Bangalore - India
Peace, Ethics, Occams Razor and India’s Gift of Ahimsa.
Colonel Ellis, Brigadier Mittal, Admiral Shekhawat, Lieutenant General Jetley, Air Marshal Wollen, respected members of General Thimayya’s family, distinguished members of the Armed Forces, honoured guests who have travelled from across the nation to be here, past and present Cottonians, ladies and gentlemen.
I am deeply honoured to be with you today.
And I congratulate Mr Aditya Sondhi and his remarkable team of OCs for honouring the truly great man, our beloved General Thimayya.
I salute you all.
When I look around this auditorium today, filled to the gunwales with generals, admirals, air marshals, brigadiers, jurists, writers, ambassadors, artists, captains of industry, scientists, surgeons, philosophers, poets, academics, even a cosmonaut, and so many Present Cottonians I wonder why I don’t feel at all intimidated.
To the contrary, I feel at home, attending another assembly of Cottons class mates - with bright eyes, engaging smiles, and the quiet self confidence of clear minds and greyer hair. And looking up into those lights and cameras, I now see the full extent of our school auditorium which would shame most Opera Houses in the West.
It is a homecoming. And I pause to catch my breath.
And while doing so, I take the opportunity to formally and officially say “I forgive India - for beating Australia in the cricket”.
And hope you don’t intend to make it a habit.
My topic today is Peace, Ethics, Occams Razor and India’s Gift of Ahimsa.
40 years ago, behind the chapel was a small jungle. As a boy, I was fascinated by the complex spider webs and small creatures that lived there. I would gently touch each strand and try to predict how the shape of the web would change. Touch one strand and the web changes forever. It always changed in unpredictable non-linear ways.
I called it “My Enchanted Web”. It taught me that, in life, everything is connected to everything. We are all inextricably linked together.
At Cottons I did a lot of thinking. Unfortunately, in Mr Singh’s Physics class I would think about the Periodic table in Chemistry. In Mr Carrapiet’s Chemistry class I would think about Differential Calculus. In Mr White’s Math class I would think about Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth. And in Reverend Thomas’ Scripture class, I would think about girls. . . . . I enjoyed Scripture very much.
And I learned from Mr Holman what Kafka meant “Books are precious keys, to locked doors, of secret rooms in your own castle”.
Cottons gave me confidence. And India gives me hope.
Many years ago I wrote to a friend at the UN in Geneva. “India is a clever country. They understand that in diversity there is strength. A Muslim President, Sikh Prime Minister, Opposition Leader Hindu, the Congress party leader is Italian, and a woman, a cricket team of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, coached by an Australian vegan. India is the United Nations - with better grammar”.
The Icelanders have a wonderful story in folk lore of Skidbladnir, a mythical ship. Apart from its gigantic size, it had two qualities that make it unique. One, when it was becalmed on the water, it could summon up a breeze from any direction to take it where it wanted to go and two, it could be folded up so small and so light, it could be carried in your pocket.
Imagine that! A ship that could take you wherever you wanted under any conditions and so small, it weighed nothing.
This is the most profound metaphor for an education I could imagine. Like the ship, an education weighs nothing, and it can take you wherever you want to go.
Bishop Cottons was my magical ship. And it took me safely on many dangerous voyages.
You can take the boy out of Cottons. But you cannot take Cottons out of the man.
Eight years before the school was started there was a war in India. Historians wrongly called it the Indian Mutiny of 1857. It was no such thing. It was India’s First War of Independence.
The 15th of August is an important date in Indian history. She reclaimed her freedom - and won it with non-violence. Coincidentally, August 15 was also my birthday. I was born with freedom. And freedom is our most precious value.
They say the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. And Cottons is described as the Eton of the East.
So will the battle to preserve India’s independent values be won on the playing fields of Bishop Cottons?
I hope so.
Because our values guide our actions. Our actions shape our habits. Our habits build our character. And our character sets our destiny.
It all starts with our values.
And I got mine at Cottons.
I learned here that a man is not valued by how much money he makes. But how much of it he is prepared to give away, particularly to strangers.
And in my career, I learned that a man does not find his character on Wall Street. It lives on the Road to Damascus.
King Lear, late at night on the cliffs asks the blind Earl of Gloucester
“How do you see the world?”
And the blind man Gloucester replies
“I see it feelingly”.
So do I.
They say Americans go to war to learn about geography. I have found a better way. I go where I am needed. To hungry children, suffering animals, and a dying planet. Like my “Enchanted Web” behind St Peter’s Chapel, we are all linked together.
The ancient map makers wrote on the borders of their Known World “Beyond this point there be dragons.”
The dragons are still there. That is where I live.
In Africa 12 year old boy soldiers kill their neighbours with AK 47 rifles
In China, 7,000 magnificent moon bears, limbs torn off in traps, are imprisoned for 26 years in steel coffins welded shut, as catheters drip bile into a bucket which the Chinese drink. The bears are in constant agony, suffering claustrophobia, and can’t move. They try to self mutilate themselves - so their jailers chop off their claws at the quick - and their teeth are smashed out. The bears go insane.
In Korea, dogs are beaten to death in the market. The butchers believe that fear and suffering makes their meat tastier.
In South Africa, 5,000 tame orphan lions, are drugged and killed with guns, spears and hunting dogs - for sport!
In Canada, 300,000 baby seal pups are clubbed and skinned alive on the ice, their tiny hearts still beating.
In my own country, Australia our animals are sent on death ships to the Middle East, where their eyes stabbed out and tendons slashed.
In China, dogs are suspended on hooks and skinned alive to make trim in fur coats.
Dairy farms spew poisonous chemicals into the oceans creating hypoxic “Dead Zones” totalling 1 million square kilometres, killing plants, coral and ocean animals. The ocean bed is a moonscape, the seas a toxic soup of acid.
Necklaces of long lines, some of them 100 kilometres long, strangle the globe with 10 billion steel hooks killing albatrosses, turtles, dolphins and other animals.
In the past 8 years 90% of our big predators (sharks, tuna, codfish) have been wiped out.
Millions of majestic sharks are torn from the sea, their fins hacked off, and then thrown overboard to die thrashing agonising deaths - so rich Asians can drink shark fin soup.
Bear cubs in cages have their paws chopped off in front of restaurants advertising bear paw soup.
90% of the small fish are ground up into pellets to feed livestock. Vegetarian cows are now the world’s largest ocean predator. Cows eat more fish than sharks and seals combined.
We treat the ocean as our private pantry and public toilet. The Pacific Gyre is so full of plastic, junk and human faeces it has created a floating dump bigger than India.
My wife and I walked from the Oberoi to Bishop Cottons. I calculated the amount of rubbish on just 2 roads exceed 750 tons. One day it will all be in the Indian Ocean. Killing and poisoning the marine ecosystems for 100 years. I urge all the young people to read about “The Tragedy of the Commons”. It will explain to you why small Indian villages are spotlessly clean - and cities are not.
The oceans are dying in our time. By 2048 all our fisheries will be dead. The lungs and the arteries of the earth. The ocean sequesters more CO2 than all the worlds forests combined.
Human beings torture and kill 2 billion animals every week. That is 2 thousand million. Remember that hideous number.
30,000 entire species are wiped out every year because of the actions of one species. We are now facing the 6th mass extinction in cosmological history. This time it is man-made.
If any other organism did this a biologist would call it a virus.
It is a crime against humanity of unimaginable proportions.
You would not believe it unless you see it.
When I show my film footage, strong men break down in tears and hug their children. I won’t show it to you. Unless you want me to. I guarantee that you will wake up at night, as I do, screaming with nightmares.
But if you want to see a brief film, please watch “Earthlings” on the internet. It will give you a small idea of what I am talking about. I think it will help you understand.
If we taped the oral history of the powerless their screams would drown out the sound and fury of the Big Bang.
The truth hurts. But it must be told. That is what General Thimayya did.
That is what Cottonians do. We tell the truth.
Fearlessly and forcefully.
That is what the Sanskrit word Satyagraha means. The Truth Force.
Rudyard Kipling wrote of young men dying in WW 1:
“If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied”.
Everyone in this room knows by heart the words of Pettigrew.
Shoot straight and true
House of Pettigrew
Forward our best endeavour
Aim for the right,
Keep it in sight
Soiling our honour never.
A grand old House
In mind and spirit strong,
Its cause is good, its motto bright
Or Pakenham Walsh:
Making our best endeavour
Smiling we fight or fall
So we'll all pull together
With nothing untrue or false
And we'll work to the end of our tether.
Or these words:
Muster on the side of right,
March like warriors to the fight,
Mark the foe, and strike with might
Nec dextrosum Nec Sinistrorsum
Well, I have marked my foes. My cause is good. I will work to the end of my tether. Nothing I say today is untrue or false.
I give you my word.
Edmund Burke, the statesman and philosopher wrote “For evil to prevail, all it takes is for good men to do nothing”.
Doing nothing is not an option for Cottonians.
I have long admired Count Moltke, the Prussian general, a soldier who preferred to think, rather than speak. Like all good soldiers, a man silent, in seven languages.
But I have travelled a long way to be here to deliver more than a message. It is a battle cry to arms.
It takes courage to stand up and speak. It also takes courage to sit down and listen.
The wise Chinese have a word for it. "Zhengyou" - listen to a friend who tells you the truth - even if it hurts.
I am at war. And I go to battle unarmed. My only weapons are my words.
But words are powerful.
The most beautiful word ever written in any country, in any language, at any time in human history came from India. In the Upanishads 3,000 years ago.
Ahimsa . . . . . . . . non-violence to any living being.
It is just a word.
And words are powerful.
When the same word has the same sound and the same meaning in different human languages it is called a cognate word.
“Night” - has the same sound and the same meaning in English, French, German, Swedish, Russian, Sanskrit, Portuguese, Italian, Icelandic and in 24 other languages
“Star” - has the same sound and the same meaning in English, Hindi, French, Greek, Latin, Swedish, Persian, Kurdish, and in 26 other languages
The Hebrew “shalom” and the Arabic “salaam” for peace are also cognates.
Why do I tell you this?
I heard the screams of my dying father as his body was ravaged by the cancer that killed him. And I realise I have heard these screams before.
In the slaughterhouses, on the cattle ships to the Middle East and the dying mother whale as a harpoon explodes in her brain as she calls out to her calf.
Their cries are the cries of my father.
I discovered that Cognate words apply not only to human languages. Screams are identical in any language, human or non human.
When we suffer, we suffer as equals.
And in their capacity to suffer, a dog is a pig is a bear. . . . . . is a boy.
Words are powerful.
But our words have been hijacked.
The word “negro” comes from the poetic Latin, “niger”. Soon becoming the abusive term “nigger”.
The word “Humane” has been twinned with “slaughter” to become “humane slaughter”. There is no such thing.
“Genocide” has been sanitised into “ethnic cleansing”.
The Japanese kill whales they do not need, in waters they do not own, for meat they cannot sell, for a taste they do not like and call it “research”.
The sign of the cross, the crucifix, 1,000 years before Jesus, was used in Asia and Europe to mean “do good” or “good luck”. It is now banned in public places because Hitler hijacked it and called it the Swastika.
We need new words.
Victor Hugo said “there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come”.
We need new ideas.
The past has not served us well. And we are not bound by it. Our past is not our future.
There are over ONE trillion, trillion stars and planets in the universe.
And, as far as we know, on only one of them is there life. And it has been home to every person, plant, or animal that has ever lived, and every one we have ever known or ever loved. It is what Carl Sagan called “Our Pale Blue Dot”. It is our home.
And she is dying; While self important human beings play politics.
Arbitrary lines separate nations, religions, and species. Look at the maps of 50 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The borders are drawn with meaningless, straight lines, reflecting colonial pasts, the end of the Ottoman Empire and the politics of “Divide and Rule”.
Four letter words like “wall” “cage” and “kill” are examples of another four letter word. Hate. Walls keep cruelty in and kindness out . . . the walls of Israel, China, Berlin and Guantanamo; The Gulag Archipelagos, Abu Ghraib in Baghdad, and the steel cages of animals; Dante’s Inferno without Beatrice for his love, or Vergil as his guide; Where the marketplace of ideas is a fantasy; where ignorance trumps intelligence. The Orwellian world where good is bad, power is virtue, and kindness is a crime.
Our latest initiative is called Kindness Sans Frontières. . . . Kindness without Borders. We cross these borders of nations, race, and religion.
But we also cross the bloodiest border of all: The Border of Species.
You see, these arbitrary borders are useless measuring devices. If you jump out of a ‘plane, it may be nice to have an altimeter. But, wouldn’t it be better to have a parachute?
We have only one planet. One life. One parachute.
So my goal is to make India’s gift of Ahimsa a truly global phenomenon.
Henceforth, I am no longer just an Australian, male, Cottonian. I am Ahimsan. A new word . . . . And words are powerful.
We may be Indian, Australian, American, English, or Palestinian. We may be Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain or Jew (or no religion at all).
But if we are to live a truly authentic life we must share common ground without sacrificing our other beliefs. That beautiful meeting place is “Ahimsa”.
Because it describes our character.
It says we oppose violence in everything we do.
The food I eat, the shoes I wear, my clothes, my belt, even my watchband, have no animal products in them. Nobody died to satisfy my needs. And I am as well fed, clad, and cared for as anyone else in the room.
The world will soon see Ahimsans as educated, enlightened and elegant people.
We can do it. There are only 13 million Jews in the world. But they play a vibrant role in world affairs. Tibet’s population is only 3 million. But who hasn’t heard of the plight of the Tibetans under the boot of Beijing?
But there are over 600 million vegetarians in the world. And most of them are Indian!
That is bigger than the US, England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Canada, Australia - combined! If we were one nation we would be bigger than the 27 countries in the European Union!!
Despite this massive footprint, we are still drowned out by the raucous huntin’, shootin’, killin’ bombin’ cretins who believe that violence is the answer - when it shouldn’t even be a question.
We must name them; shame them; and defeat them. Like the noble minds who fought to end slavery, apartheid, child labour, honour killings and circumcision of girls. Who got equal rights for women and Australian aborigines.
We must stop killing and start living.
Scientists describe “Chaos Theory” and the “Butterfly Effect” as a butterfly flapping her wings in the Amazon jungle - affecting weather patterns in Africa, typhoons in the South China Sea and hurricanes in Nebraska. Small events have massive, unpredictable, non-linear consequences. Remember my Enchanted Web behind the chapel?
I ask people. “If you folded a piece of paper only 50 times, how thick would it be?” And I get varying answers . . . as thick as a ‘phone book . . . as tall as a ‘fridge . . . . . as high as a block of flats. . . . . All of them wrong.
Well, let me tell you. . . . It would reach the sun. . . . . 90 million miles! And if you folded it one more time it would reach all the way back to earth again.
So, if we double our efforts just a few times we can change the world.
I am not a patient man. Patience is an overrated virtue - when lives are at stake.
I describe myself as a “Venture Capitalist for Good Causes”. My strategy is to give away everything I have with warm hands. . . . . and die broke. So far, I am right on budget! Hopefully, my actuarial mathematics isn’t faulty.
I see the world crying out for two things. . . . Leadership and the Truth. We desperately need powerful people to lend us their power - not simply give us their money.
Oprah Winfrey could shut down Chinese bear bile factories in a heartbeat. If she told her viewers to stop shopping at Walmart it would happen. China does more trade with Walmart than it does with any country in the world bar six. If Walmart was a country it would have a GDP in the Top 20 in the world. Oprah wouldn’t have to negotiate with the Chinese government. Walmart would!!
Tiger Woods and Nelson Mandela could shut down canned lion hunting in South Africa.
Rupert Murdoch could shut down Australian live animal exports to the Middle East.
Religious leaders could shut down religious sacrifice - dare I show you footage of the streets of Cairo running with blood, or camels in Pakistan being slaughtered on the beaches during Eid?
India’s exciting new breed of entrepreneur could end poaching, and the senseless slaughter of community dogs.
Bollywood could shut down the slaughterhouses and child labour.
To those who doubt the power of committed people, remember what we did to the asbestos industry, a powerful and devious industry with massive resources and political clout. It took one man, my friend Bernie Banton, who did it. And he did it from his deathbed.
Just close your eyes, and imagine what the powerful people in this room could do - if they put their collective minds to it. They would change the world.
The renowned anthropologist, Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a few committed people can change the world. It is the only thing that ever has”.
But we live in a world of sloppy thinking and media sound bites. It reminds me of Hannah Arendt’s book “Eichmann in Jerusalem”. She coined the term “the Banality of Evil”.
This is how a journalist twisted my innocent words:
“Mr Wollen, I’m surprised a man of your standing would say that:
meat is murder,
a little old lady with a budgerigar is offending God,
livestock producers are unethical,
there will be no peace until we stop killing animals,
industry is unattractive,
Animals are like human children.
Can’t you see how offensive that is to our rural audience?”
This was my “diplomatic” counterpunch:
“Well, for a journalist, you have certainly bludgeoned the English language to death. But if you are going to quote me, please do so accurately.
I did say:
“a robin red breast in a cage, puts all heaven in a rage”.
That came from the poet William Blake in Auguries of Innocence
And by the way, it was the Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon Him, who said “a sparrow does not fall from the sky without Allah knowing”.
I did say:
The commandment "Thou shalt not kill' applies to the murder of any living being. It was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai."
But that was Leo Tolstoy.
I did say:
“The roots of cruelty are not strong - just widespread. But the time will come when inhumanity protected by custom will succumb to humanity championed by thought. A man is ethical only when all life is sacred to him”.
But that was Albert Schweitzer, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
I did say:
"As long as we kill animals, there will never be peace. It’s only one step to the concentration camps of Hitler and Stalin. There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife and destroy those who are weaker than him."
But that was Isaac Singer and a Nobel Prize Winner.
Being a Jew, steeped in the cultural experience and history of the Holocaust, he was a cautious man trained to choose his words wisely. He knew that the Nazi camps of Auschwitz, Dacchau and Buchanwald were modelled on the animal slaughterhouses of Chicago - before the war even started!
And it was Pythagoras who said “It was the blood of animals that first stained our weapons”.
And yes, I admit I did have something to say about animals and children.
“The wolf will lie down with the lamb, the leopard with the young goat; the young lion with the young ones of the herd; and a little child will lead them.
But that came from the Prophet Isaiah.
And no, I didn’t say anything about greed and ambition. That wasn’t me. That was Jesus. Blame him. He said:
"Behold the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. King Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these”. And for good measure, he added “Whatever you do to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
So are you, as a journalist, suggesting that your rural audience is offended by Nobel Prize Winners and prophets?
Or should I just go home - and burn my books?
I seem to recall this was a strategy favoured by Pol Pot.”
Well, the journalist was speechless. But he did understand. I was on solid ground - backed up by the finest minds who ever lived.
As I travelled around the world I found people eating animals of every description. A veritable smorgasbord on a murderous menu. I discovered there were thousands of animals that I didn’t eat . . . . . . dogs or cats, bears or bats, tigers or turtles, horses or hamsters, reindeers or rats.
So I added only 5 animals to this list. . . . . cows, sheep, pigs, birds or fish. It was so easy.
I didn't crave lamb any more than I craved lion; I didn't miss beef any more than I missed baboon. I didn't miss chicken any more than I missed cheetah. I didn't miss pork any more than I missed porcupine.
The results were astonishing. I have boundless energy. I exhaust people one third my age. My memory improved. I am never sick. I discovered that animals were more than collective biology. Each had her own unique biography. It was no coincidence. It was inevitable that I would live a happy life.
A happy life! Isn’t that what we all crave?
Epicurus said “If you wish to increase a man’s share of happiness, do not increase his possessions. Simply decrease his desires”.
Animals have no possessions. They have nothing. On this basis, they must be the happiest of all God’s creatures. Until we came along.
Carl Sagan imagined cosmological time compressed into one year. So the Big Bang occurs on 1st January. The whole year passes. The sun, moon and stars arrive on New Years Eve as the clock starts chiming midnight. After that came the animals.
The “Johnny come lately”, bi-ped, human mammal, belatedly shows up at one second to midnight, arrogantly proclaiming that everything that had occurred in the past was divinely planned, with his precious needs specifically in mind.
This tortured logic must surely offend our intellect. We need another Galileo to remind us we are not the centre of the universe.
Science shows that we share a common ancestor with the chimpanzee. Let me introduce you to her. She is closer than you think.
Imagine we all stand up and extend our arms out to our mothers. And she extends her hand to her mother who does the same to her mother and so on. Each of our ancestors linking hands together.
By the time this chain reaches Chennai our ancestors will be holding hands with the ancestor of today’s chimpanzee.
And that is true of every human being from the Queen of England to the humble labourer.
We are cousins. All of us, sharing the same Chaucerian Pilgrimage, through every civilisation.
Mahatma Gandhi understood civilisations. On a visit to London, he was asked by a journalist “Mr Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilisation?” And Gandhi, a witty man, replied “My friend, I think it would be a very good idea.”
But things can change fast.
15 years ago the Worldwide Web was nothing. Today it is everything.
In 1961 Kennedy’s announced to the world that the US would put a man on the moon in ten years. NASA wasn’t even consulted. Their Lunar Module prototype had less computer software than I have in my car today. But they acted. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
And here is the second punch line. The average age of the flight engineers in the Apollo 11 control room in Houston was 26 years. So those young men were only 18 when Kennedy made his call. Will the Present Cottonians in the room be as dynamic as those young American boys in response to my call today? I hope so. The stakes are higher. Much higher.
So please don’t hold back. Make the commitment and give it all you have got - no half measures. As Confucius probably didn’t say “Jumping across a chasm in two leaps is not a very good idea”.
Believe me, India can profit from Ahimsa.
She can “product differentiate” herself from 180 other nations. Every businessman knows the value of differentiating his product from his competitors. Let me give you one simple example. Just think about the “fine dining” industry. A client of mine assembles a group of wealthy friends and each year they, and their extended families, go on a “foodies tour” sampling the gastronomic delights of Paris, Rome, New York, Barcelona, Tokyo, Shanghai and London. They spend a fortune on these extravagant trips. To be fair to them, they are serious gourmands and do know a lot about food. . . . . . and money is no object when indulging their passion.
At a party at one of their homes, I discovered that India wasn’t on their radar screens. I questioned their intelligence. I said “India has the best food on the planet - bar none. Compared to India, Parisian food is airline food”. I told them how the master chefs of the Oberoi Hotels in all the major Indian cities had given my wife private cooking lessons after the hotel dining rooms had closed. I then described in great detail the massive range of vegetarian “regional” dishes that India had to offer. They listened intently - and last year they came to India.
India was a revelation to them. And they are coming back - because, as they described it, “we barely scratched the surface”. And an unintended bonus, one of them now wants to organise a golfing tour of India as well.
India has already won with hi-tech. One needs look no further than Nandan’s company, Infosys.
She has already won with low tech. Let me illustrate the point with an example. The world’s most efficient company, Motorola uses Six Sigma - and rightly boasts only 1 process fault per 3 million operations. It is a brilliant achievement. Only one company does it better. It has 1 error per 6 million operations. And it is. . . . . Indian! It is the dhubbawallas in Mumbai, delivering Tiffin to office workers using a complex network of bikes, trains and chits. They are more efficient than IBM, Microsoft, BMW and Boeing.
It is now time for India to win with mid-tech. And that means the biggest industry in the world - the food industry. Believe me, the road ahead for India is not paved with pot holes - but with possibilities.
Indians rightly admire her entrepreneurs and cricketers. It is now time to honour her Chinny Krishnas as well.
So I plead with you. India must not become a photocopied clone of the West. She must protect her civilised values.
The moral high ground is vacant. The time is ripe for a statesman to step up to the crease and lead us forward into an Ahimsan world. Remember. Please remember. For every man who is just a little bit brave, there are a million who will step aside to let him prove it.
Imagine that beautiful day when the Indian Prime Minister announces on the floor of the United Nations “India, the Ahimsan country - where bloodshed is banned”. Do you know that India is the only country in the world where animal rights are enshrined in the Constitution? Animals Rights is now the greatest social issue since the abolition of slavery. It is about time!
At the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, India put on the Closing Ceremony called “A Taste of India”. It was spectacular. 100,000 Australians in the Stadium rose to their feet and cheered. It was on the front page of the newspapers. “If this is a taste of India, the Games in Delhi will be a feast”. You must have been very proud.
Shortly afterwards, India was again on the front page of newspapers around the world - and U Tube. They read “Barbaric massacre of community dogs in Bangalore”. Images of community dogs, who had peacefully shared the streets of ordinary Indians for centuries, being swung on wire and bashed to death against the wall, are seared into the memories of people around the world. And this happened in Bangalore.
My blood ran cold. Newspapers around India carried my article condemning the authorities for their cruelty and for damaging India’s good name. It is all the more galling because India invented the ABC / CNVR program which is lauded all around the world.
Isn’t it ironic that it was Gandhi who said “A nation is judged by the way she treats her animals.” I repeat that in case you missed it. . . . A nation is judged.
The Philosophers in the audience would have studied “Occam’s Razor”, often referred to as “The Law of Parsimony”. The 14th Century priest, William of Occam said “When presented with many possible solutions, the simplest solution to any problem is best”.
Russia’s new “vacuum bomb” is more powerful than a nuclear bomb without the nuclear fallout. They described it as “environmentally friendly”. Occam’s razor would ask. “More friendly than no bomb at all?”
We waste billions on cruel experiments on animals to cure diseases caused by - eating animals.
We spend billions to stop cows releasing greenhouse gas so we can - eat cows (Methane is 24 times more potent than CO2. - and some mathematicians calculate it at 70 times!).
Zoonotic diseases are spreading from animals to humans - among them bird flu, SARS and mad cow disease. And there are over 30 other zoonotic diseases facing us today. Scientists predict that if factory farming continues, we face a pandemic to rival the Black Death which wiped out half of Europe.
70% of Americans are obese or overweight. So they spend billions on invasive surgery to hack it off.
Medicare has bankrupted the US. David Walker, the top Auditor of the US government, the man who signs off on the national accounts of the whole country, says they will need $8 trillion invested in Treasury bills just to pay the interest. It has precisely zero!! Or as I would say as a little boy. Ludoos.
Medicare commitments are greater than the entire deficit since the beginning of the Republic since 1789. They could shut every school, university, army, navy, air force, and Marines, the FBI and CIA - and they still won’t be able to pay for it.
And just to demolish any suggestion that economic growth can fund burgeoning deficits, David Walker points out that they would have to grow their economy 4 times faster than their fastest growth rate in history - and do it for 75 consecutive years to even have a chance! It is a mathematical impossibility!!
Now, imagine India’s position - which is even more dramatic!
More people each year are joining India’s expanding middle class. They quite rightly expect improved medical care. People are living longer, demanding better quality health care, which comes at a higher cost. As more people see themselves as being entitled to better hospitals and clinics the drain on the public purse will mount rapidly.
You don’t need to be a demographer or an economist to crunch these numbers. All you need to frighten the daylights out of any bureaucrat is basic math and a spreadsheet. If they try to dismiss you as being a crank, don’t argue with them. Just punch their key assumptions or variables into the computer model. Their outcomes will be equally terrifying.
A leading cardiologist, Dr Kasliwal wrote in the Lancet Medical Journal “Lifestyle diseases pose a greater threat to India than HIV/AIDS. In 2 years India will account for 60 per cent of the world’s cardiovascular diseases.”
Scant regard is paid to Prevention. After 7 years at medical school, a US doctor would have only 4 hours of lectures on nutrition! That’s how long it takes me to play a round of golf! If I offered to teach you to play golf, would you feel comforted knowing I had only played one round in my entire life? More tellingly, would you trust me with your life - based on my golfing experience?
Harvard University says that the optimum amount of meat for good health is precisely ZERO.
So having big health budgets while still eating meat is madness. . . . like governments putting ambulances at the bottom of the cliff.
Occam’s Razor would solve these problems with 3 words “Don’t eat animals.”
Simplicity personified. Prevention is better than cure.
As Einstein famously said "We can't solve problems by using the same thinking we used in creating them."
So how smart are we, really? Let’s examine the evidence.
The great historian, Barbara Tuchman studied the major wars in history. In her book “The March of Folly” she defined Folly as “acting against our own best interests”.
The folly of meat threatens our food, water, and border security:
Water is the new oil. Nations will soon be going to war for it.
Underground aquifers that took millions of years to fill are running dry in the past ten years. As a boy of 16 I drilled my first well at Banneraghatta, not far from Bangalore, and struck sweet water at 45 feet. Today, at our orphanage in Yellahanka we are 800 feet - and sucking mud. The same is true around the world. Water is scarce.
It takes 4,000 glasses of precious drinking water to make I glass of milk - while we will soon be drinking recycled sewage.
It takes 50,000 litres of drinking water to produce one kilo of beef.
To produce one cow takes enough drinking water to float a battleship.
1 acre of arable land produces 100 kilos of beef – and 20,000 kilos of potatoes.
800 million people today are hungry. 20 million people will die from malnutrition. Cutting meat by only 10% will feed 100 million people. Eliminating meat will end malnutrition forever.
If everyone ate a Western diet, we would need 4 Planet Earths to feed them. We only have one. And she is dying.
The US imports 300 million pounds of meat from South America where 75% of the children under 5 are malnourished. I am sure you already know the alarming numbers that apply in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh. What are the odds of a government imposing a tax on meat?
Food prices are skyrocketing. Thai rice traded at USD 197 per ton. It went up to USD 1015. A 5 fold increase in 5 months.
Poor countries sell their grain to the West for hard currency while their own children starve in their arms. And the West feeds it to livestock. . . . so we can eat a steak? Am I the only one in the world who sees this as a crime? Every morsel of meat we eat is slapping the tear-stained face of a starving child.
The meat industry doesn’t give a damn. They don’t care if the car ends up in the ditch, as long as they get to drive.
Forests are being destroyed to grown grain for ethanol in cars. One tank uses enough grain to feed a starving child for a year. When I look into her eyes, should I be silent?
The earth can produce enough for everyone’s need. But not enough for everyone’s greed.
The Native Americans have a saying “We don’t inherit the land from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children”. It is a debt that the meat industry has no intention of honouring. A fraud by any reckoning, it is the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the planet, this generation, and those who might follow. . . . . . to say nothing about the billions of animals killed in the process.
The meat industry is bankrupting and killing us.
The UN FAO report entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow shows that greenhouse gas from livestock is far greater than transport . . . . . planes, trains, trucks, cars, and ships. Al Gore got the Nobel Prize for “An Inconvenient Truth” - well deserved of course - but, being a cattleman, he conveniently forgot that the IPCC, a joint Nobel Prize Winner, was chaired by an Indian vegetarian. Dr Pachauri, a first class mind, roundly condemned the livestock industry as a major culprit.
Livestock’s methane emissions will cause more global warming in the next 20 years than all our dirty coal-fired power stations.
Forest depletion costs 3 times as much every year as the current financial crisis which has brought rich nations to their knees.
The melting Siberian permafrost is now a ticking time bomb. When it releases its sequestered gas all bets are off. The genie will be out of the bottle.
Scientists forecast that Arctic summer ice would disappear in 40 years. Then revised to 8 years. Now they are saying it could be 2 years.
The Himalayan ice fields, (correctly called the 3rd pole) irrigate half the world’s population through the Ganges, the Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangstse, Irrawaddy, Mekong and Yellow Rivers. What happens when they melt? And they are melting - at a rapid and increasing rate. And let us not forget, floods destroy roads, rail, communications, ports and power grids. They also produce vector borne diseases - and economies collapse.
Mohammad Younis won the Nobel Prize for micro-credit at Grameen Bank. It was a simple yet brilliant concept, giving employment to small family businesses. I see myself as being the other side of Mohammad’s coin. I protect their environment and health - and he creates their jobs. A partnership made in heaven. But if the world does not heed the message I am so desperately trying to send today, all the good that Mohammad and Grameen have done will vanish when Bangladesh drowns.
We freak out in the West when 1,000 refugees arrive on our shores. Imagine greenhouse gases hitting 550 parts per million; or a 3 degree temperature increase. This wipes out Photosynthesis - and crops die. These estimates are no longer considered unlikely. Some scientists are already saying it is locked into the system already. Melting polar caps and glaciers will create 1 billion eco-refugees. This calamity will reshape the geopolitical landscape forever. And all the armies in the world will not stop it. Remember, soldiers do not shoot civilians. Ask any soldier in this room. Not a single one will disagree with me. This crisis will need the collective wisdom of a thousand peace-keeping General Thimayyas - and men like him are rare.
When I graduated from Cotton’s the world population was 3.5 billion. Today it is 6.5 billion. When a Present Cottonian sitting in this room delivers the General Thimayya Memorial Lecture it will be 10 billion.
If some scientists are right about the tipping point, we are facing the perfect storm. If it is true, no Present Cottonian in this room will ever give deliver the General Thimayya Lecture. If that doesn’t chill your blood?
If any nation had developed weapons that could wreak such havoc on the planet, we would launch a pre-emptive military strike and bomb it into the Bronze Age.
But we can’t. Because it is not a rogue state. It is an industry. Meat. And we are its customers. The good news is we don’t have to bomb it. We can just stop buying it.
George Bush was wrong. The Axis of Evil doesn’t run through Iraq, or Iran or North Korea. It runs through our dining tables. Weapons of Mass Destruction are our knives and forks.
The peace map is drawn on a menu. Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the presence of Justice.
To destroy a nation, you don’t need to bomb its command and control systems. Simply destroy its values. Because our values are all we have.
Of all our precious senses, Sight, Touch, Hearing, Smell and Taste, the least important one is the sense of Taste. But for that alone we are prepared to kill 2 billion innocents every week - and destroy ourselves and the planet as well?
If slaughterhouses had glass walls, nobody would eat an animal again. The penny will drop. Animals are our friends. Not our food. We have a duty to protect them.
Politicians lie when they say “That is the price we pay for progress”. It is the cost of not rocking the boat. Of catering to vested interests and lobby groups. It is the cost of cowardice and the fruit of failure.
In the 19th Century, brown Native Americans were killed and black Africans enslaved. Labour in a cage. Today wild animals are killed . . . and domestic animals enslaved. Food in a cage. Columbus, revered as he is in the US, was not universally seen as a hero. In his journal he writes “The natives are peaceful, loving and honest. They will make excellent servants”. The meat industry says “Animals are docile, powerless and voiceless. They are delicious.” Let us choose our heroes wisely.
It just occurred to me that there is a certain synchronicity at play. As you know, I was born on India’s Independence Day. But I should also say that my father was born on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. And the highest award I every received was on Australia Day, the 26th of January, India’s Republic Day. It was also the day I decided to publicly condemn the use (abuse) of animals in laboratories.
We share 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees. And drug companies torture millions every year in labs. Did you know that the Malay word “orang-utan” means “man of the jungle”.
In their book “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”, Sagan and Druyan tell of actual laboratory experiments where monkeys were forced to choose between shocking other monkeys or starving. The monkeys starved rather than shock others.
How many people do you know who would do the same?
Mahatma Gandhi, my beloved hero, said “Of all the black crimes that man commits against God and Creation, animal experimentation is the blackest."
A notorious animal lab in the West said “If you make life too uncomfortable for us we will move our operations to South Korea, South Africa or India”. India???? Is India to be become a sanctuary for barbarism which the West won’t tolerate? My blood runs cold.
I am rarely surprised by how little people know. But I am constantly surprised by how little they care.
The trial lawyers in the room would understand Kafka’s book, The Trial. He writes “Defendants are the loveliest of all people. It cannot be their guilt which makes them beautiful because no guilt has been proven. It must be the cruel process which brings them to their predicament.”
Well, if Kafka is right, the animals in the laboratories and slaughterhouses are even lovelier still. They are not even defendants. But they have already been condemned - to a hideous death. No writ of Habeus Corpus. No defence. No appeal. Nothing. And the cruel process is devised by us.
The average American will eat over 4,000 animals in their lifetime. I urge everyone to visit a slaughterhouse and peer through the bars of these gulags of despair. And then tell me that one overweight carnivore is worth the precious lives of 4,000 tortured souls. I dare anyone to take up this challenge.
You see, cruelty (and meat eating) is something we learn. It is unnatural. I have a standing bet with anybody. Put a child in a room with an apple and a bunny. If she eats the apple and is cruel to the bunny, I will buy you a new car. So far I have had no takers.
A biology professor would compare the size of a rat's brain with a dog, chimp and human brain. He would say, "See how the brains become larger and the convolutions on the neo-cortex are more pronounced?”
He would offer this as “proof” of the superior intelligence of humans.
The human brain is approx 1300 cc. The Orca brain is 6,000 cc and the Sperm whale brain, the largest brain to ever evolve on this planet is 9,000 cc.
And all mammals from mice to men have three lobes to the brain. The exceptions are the cetaceans - dolphins and whales. They have four lobes and the fourth lobe is primarily involved with thinking and communicating, the very qualities we admire in great minds.
And we slaughter them! See the footage of thousands of whales and dolphins being herded into the Japanese bay at Taiju - and beaten to death in the shallows. The entire bay is blood red.
Dostoevsky asks in “The Brothers Karamazov”. Is the suffering of one child worth all the wealth in the world? He answers an emphatic No.
Well, what if that child was an ape? For an ethical man it would make no difference at all. True ethics are blind to race, colour, religion or species.
Politicians attacked me for saying “Milk is the “new asbestos”. I countered with science, film footage and the literature of great minds. So they called me a “radical”. I asked “What can be more radical than killing?”
They had no response - so they questioned my patriotism! I am a patriot, but in the mould of Mark Twain. I support my country always - and my government when it deserves it.
It seems everyone wants to change the world - as long as they do not have to change themselves. Life does not work that way.
In human history, only 100 billion people have ever lived. And we blithely kill 2 billion innocents every week? The meat industry kills more powerless animals in one year than every human ever born. This morally bankrupt industry will one day be like the Soviet Union. We will wake up one morning. And it is gone.
It must end because it is useless. The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. The meat industry will end because we run out of excuses.
Enlightened people will change the world. We now have vegetarian societies in the Middle East. We have the Grand Sheikh Al Ahzar in Cairo agreeing with us on animals transport - and issuing a fatwa. I delivered the keynote address to the Islamic Council in Australia. When I finished, the imam came over and embraced me and whispered in my ear “You give me hope”. He gives me hope too.
Let me say a few words to any young men who may still harbour a desire to continue eating animals.
We know that physical and mental fitness are the hallmarks of successful and significant people. And we know that sloppy thinking is intolerable.
For the macho young men who believe that meat eating is a “manly” trait let me swiftly consign that nonsense to the rubbish bin.
The Ironman Triathlon is the toughest event in the world. A 5 km ocean swim, 180 km bike race, followed by a 43 km marathon race. All on the same day. Olympic athletes have collapsed and have been hospitalised.
Dave Scott, a strict vegetarian won it six times - and ten times in the top five. His mantra when competing with meat eaters? “Outrun him; outthink him; outlive him”.
What about Martina Navratilova (18 Grand Slam singles, 31 doubles, 10 mixed, 9 Wimbledon singles) Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Murray Rose, or Paavo Nurmi to name but a few. As an exercise, count the number of world records and Olympic Gold Medals won by vegetarians. It will astonish you.
I will concede that not everyone aspires to be an elite sportsman. But surely everyone here wants a healthy life?
So let me give you a test in cognitive thinking. If I told you that using Software A was 3 times more likely to guarantee you a pass in your examinations than Software B, which one would you chose? After all, you are rational, educated young men. The answer is pretty obvious. Software A is what any rational person would choose.
Well, you now know that the risk of fatal breast cancer and prostate cancer is over 3 times higher for meat eaters. I’ll repeat that. THREE times higher for meat eaters.
What kind of diet would an intelligent, rational person chose? Would you choose meat knowing that you are THREE times more likely to fail in the most important examination of your life? Only a profoundly misinformed (or deliberately obtuse) person would continue to eat animals.
The risk of a heart attack in the West is 50% - the same as tossing a coin. For Indian vegetarians it is a miserly 4%.
So what kind of diet would you, a rational person, choose? And remember, we are not talking about a mere exam. We are talking about your life - and a hideous death. What diet would a rational, educated man choose?
As educated and ambitious young men, you are taught to value the opinions of the greatest minds that ever lived. So think about the vegetarian intellectual - Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Schweitzer, Leo Tolstoy, Sir Isaac Newton, Gandhi, Tagore, Voltaire, Asoka, Bernard Shaw, Leonardo da Vinci, and Henry Ford. The list is endless.
What did these great minds know that you don’t? Or expressed another way, what do you know that these great minds do not? What blinding insight do you have that they do not?
Is it any wonder that recent studies reveal that vegetarians have higher IQs than carnivores?
For the benefit of young men who still believe that eating animals is acceptable, remember that you will soon be looking to the young women in this audience for future wives.
Believe me, the world is changing. Particularly in matters of love and relationships between men and women - a subject I am sure has crossed your mind. Educated young women today are looking for young men who have more than just good marks in exams. They are interested in young men who can do more than simply conjugate verbs, perform calculations of differentiation and integration, explain Boyles Law, recite Newtons Laws of Thermodynamics or write lines of computer code.
These young women will be looking for husbands who are rational, caring, compassionate and responsible. They will quite rightly expect their husbands to live healthy lives. They will want husbands who care for the environment; their children's future; our precious water resources; the oceans; their nation; and who are committed to non-violence. They will seek good men - good role models for their children - not just good wage earners.
If you are irrational, uncaring, reckless, and self centred, believe me, you won’t even be on the radar screens of these young women. They will be looking for better men.
The same is true of potential employers. If they see you as a person who is so irrational, so resistant to change in the face of overwhelming evidence, so self absorbed in your taste buds, do you honestly think they are going to entrust their enterprises to you? Think about it. These are serious people who are building enterprises that go beyond next quarter’s financial results. They are building organisations that last forever. They don’t gamble with their companies.
Unless you measure up to the high standards of educated women and enlightened employers, you better get used to the idea that you are destined for a lonely, unhealthy life, working at low paid jobs in government departments, praying for a pension. Not an edifying thought is it? Look around this room at those who preceded you at this institution. They are people who have left their mark on the world. How do you think you will rank against them when you sitting in their seats?
If you young boys are really are so irrational, what are you doing at Cottons anyway? It is time to get a grip on life. Use your intelligence. It is never too late to find your character.
Eating animals is a dying business. So get out of it while you can.
Changing our diets will unlock opportunities too.
The paradox is that farmers are the ones with the most to gain. Farming won’t end. It would boom. Only the product line would change. Real farmers would make so much money they wouldn’t even bother counting it. And it will attract more capital. Village schools will blossom. Rural people will stay at home on the land because it offers more opportunity than unfamiliar crowded cities.
My hope is that the next billionaire will build a Vegetarian version of McDonalds. My tip is that he will be Indian. Mostly likely from Gujarat.
Governments will love us. New industries would emerge and flourish. Health insurance premiums would plummet. Hospital waiting lists would disappear.
I often say, we’d be so healthy; we’d have to shoot someone just to start a cemetery!
During the Cold War, before perestroika and glasnost, on the midnight train from Brussels to Berlin, I crossed the border behind the Iron Curtain. Armed guards locked the doors, covered the windows and terrified me with sub machine guns. I felt the crushing weight of human evil; insanity in dark places. I remembered Joseph Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness. And I remembered the slaughterhouses.
That night, on that rail car, I became a terrified animal. I think I know how she feels. Frightened; Powerless; Betrayed. Your beliefs, your values, your prejudices, your perspectives all change when you have faced your own murderer. Socrates was right. An unexamined life is not worth living. I dare you. As an experiment, place yourself in a dark cupboard for an hour and imagine that it is your permanent fate. With no chance of reprieve. Imagine yourself as the terrified animal. It won’t kill you. It will make you think more deeply than you have ever thought before.
The smell of death lingers on the island of Corrigador, in the Philippines. Fearing capture by General MacArthur, 5,000 young Japanese soldiers leapt off a cliff, committing suicide rather than face Emperor Hirohito in chains. Did you know that in the 20th Century 100 million people have been killed - by their own governments?
But we live in an age when there are few great minds like Gandhi, Einstein, Tagore, Wilberforce, Vivekananda, or Jefferson. The current “zeitgeist” will not last forever. Cruel and foolish cultures will be exposed. Ignorance is not an incurable disease.
But first we must have the courage to confront our own demons truthfully.
Pieter Niemöller, the German priest, philosopher and U Boat captain spent 8 years in prison for condemning German intellectuals for being cowards.
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me.
And there was no one left to speak out.
Men of integrity must speak out. And we must act - courageously.
Is it not better to light a candle than curse the darkness? All the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of a single candle.
The last sentence in Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby reads:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly - into the past”.
I ask you, are we to live forever in a sick and smug past?
Let’s not re-live history. Let’s make history.
That is what Cottonians do. . . . . We make history.
So today I call on the Academic Staff, Present Cottonians, and leaders from every walk of life in this room to publicly renounce meat in their homes, companies and institutions.
It is the very least we can do for our nation, our children, ourselves, our animals and our planet.
Then we can proudly say to the world:
“Indians do not bomb people in hotels or railway stations, or kill animals in slaughterhouses or laboratories. We have good minds, pure hearts and clean hands”.
Do not be afraid. You are joining a battalion of noble “Thimayya minds”.
You are on solid, holy ground.
Remember Gandhi’s words:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you. Then you win”.
Gandhi would have understood “Nec Dextrorsum Nec Sinistrorsum”.
They are only words - and words are powerful.
Ladies and gentlemen, our animal cousins have survived millions of years of evolution. They have earned the right to share this planet in peace. They have waited long enough.
The brutes and bullies have been Goliath. But David is coming.
Maybe he is in this room?
Maybe he is one of you?
If not you, who?
And if not now, when?