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In all my 30 years on this planet, I’ve never eaten beef or pork, and I have no intention of ever doing so. As a Hindu, I grew up considering all beings holy, especially the cows. I’ve eaten chicken and lamb before I turned vegetarian in my early 20s (and I am trying hard to give up the  fish I eat occasionally), so I am no preacher. But anyone who has met these beings in person would think twice about eating their meat. Hopefully.

During a recent trip to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, I got a chance to mingle with these wonderful animals. It was not only an amazing experience but a spiritual one on so many levels. The Sanctuary, which rescues farm animals from cruel slaughter houses and factory farms is located in Willow, NY and ensures that the chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, goats and the ducks all live the rest of their lives in harmony. They’ve been saved from spending their short lives in cramped cages awaiting their excruciatingly painful death. At the farm, they roam around free, eating grass, soaking up the sun and enjoying the company of four and two legged friends. The turkeys even get a special meal around Thanksgiving in the farm’s annual ThanksLiving event.  And the pigs just love getting their bellies rubbed.

Those who eat meat justify it in any way that makes them feel good about their choices- God put them here for us, we need to eat them to be healthy, killing them after raising them organically is okay- are some of the excuses. The meat and dairy industries try very hard to sustain themselves by feeding us a load of garbage through media (in some cases literally- did you know that your cheese burger could have bits of shit in it?) Anyway, there may never be a time on human dominated Earth where animals are not killed for food, fur, experiments and for hunting pleasure. It’s a sad reality. But I am happy that there are places like the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen and California, and good souls who are taking care of rescued animals and advocating for their rights.

Right before we left the farm, we visited the goats, including the three legged Albie that was featured in the NY Times Metro Section. They all gathered around us, wanting us to pet them. Two young pearly white goats, named Jacob and Edward by a Twilight fan, caught my attention. As I rubbed their backs and chatted (a habit I formed thanks to my dog), their golden eyes glimmered and I could just tell they were basking in the attention. As I sat next to them, one of them raised his front leg and put it on my thigh a few times, as if trying to communicate with me his gratitude. It was such a simple act, yet so endearing. For a moment, Jacob felt like my own pet. He was happy I was there, and so was I.

Recommended Reading:

Skinny Bitch: A No-Nonsense, Tough-Love Guide For Savvy Girls Who Want To Stop Eating Crap And Start Looking Fabulous! by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Why We Love Dogs Eat Pigs And Wear Cows by Melanie Joy

Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food by founder of Farm Sanctuary Gene Baur.

Donations and sponsorships are always welcome at these farms.

Thank you for reading.

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My (very) personal essay “On Skirts and Chopped Noses” is now for public viewing at Voices from the Garage. My writing professor always says to write about humiliating experiences. I wrote this essay after going through one of the most embarrassing moments in my life, but what I went through doesn’t even compare to the story of the woman that I write about.

Concord’s unprecedented recent ban on the sale of bottled water, spearheaded by an 82-year-old named Jean Hill was recently overturned by the Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. This is indeed a sad reality in a nation facing one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Oil floating in our oceans is hard to digest, but used plastic bottles discarded into our great blue seas at an alarming rate are not even an afterthought for those reaching for that Poland Spring or Aquafina.

Growing up in India, a developing country where water is scarce and sacred, I learned to appreciate the ease I could get a clean glass of water in New York, a city I’ve lived for over ten years. At our Long Island home we use filtered water and my steel reusable bottle accompanies me everywhere else. Whether on a hike, bike ride or at my work desk, it keeps my water fresh and tasting good. In my 30 years of drinking mostly tap water, I have yet to get sick from it.

If I can happily do it and stay healthy, so can the general populous. The outrage by some of the residents of Concord is unfathomable. Some are complaining that the government is taking away their basic rights. Some even went as far as to saying that tourists will go thirsty if bottled water is not sold in their local stores. What they fail to realize is that rivers in small towns like theirs that the multi billion dollar bottled water industry is tapping into to sell for a high price while their tax money is going into city water treatment facilities that provide clean water for free.

Filtering and boiling water are perfectly safe alternatives for those who worry about unsafe tap water. Considering that some of the bottled water is simply filtered tap water neatly packaged in plastic containing varying degrees of BPA, linked to causing a myriad of diseases from liver cancers to infertility, water in your kitchen seems safer. Packaged water doesn’t equal holy water.

Those who can’t give up their Fiji or Evian bottles proudly claim they do their part by recycling. 90% of the billions of bottles thrown into the waste stream either end up in our oceans or in countries like the one I grew up in. Every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists and will continue to long after we are gone. Recycling is noble and the pre-used material might end up in our jackets or cars, but it might also end up on our dinner table in the form of fish that have consumed the chemicals in plastic scattered in our oceans.

Laws are good, but its only common sense to steer away from plastic and onto safer options such as refillable steel bottles. Not only is it good for our planet and body, it is good for our wallet too. I spent 15 dollars on my Kanteen Klean steel bottle two years ago and it saved me hundreds I would have spent on Evian or Dasani. I have never had a problem asking a pizza place or a coffee shop to fill it up with chilled tap water. Folks are more than willing to oblige and what’s better is they never charge me for it.

The bottled water market barely existed thirty years ago and now is the largest in the world. According to Fast Company magazine, we spend more on Fiji, Aquafina and the like than iPods or movie tickets. It is time for us to change our habits so stores will opt to selling reusable water bottles rather than single use plastic ones. Just like we gave up Walkmans for iPods, we can change with the times and carry a reusable bottle. If an 82 year old can advocate reusable bottles, we can do it too. We can even give steel water bottles as gifts to our friends and family and get some green karma.