Food For Life and Dairy
A Meat and Dairy Industries Article from

All of God's creatures have rights, a fact that most people don't seem to recognize. This includes both human and non-human animals, but not all of them can speak for themselves. As we continue to disregard the value of the lives of the billions of animals we eat, we also are destroying our air, land and water.


Paul Rodney Turner, Executive Director, FOOD FOR LIFE
December 2014

With volunteers serving up to 2,000,000 free plant-based meals daily to schools, as well as from mobile vans and to disaster areas, FOOD FOR LIFE is now the largest food relief in the world, eclipsing even the United Nations World Food Programme.

Food for Life has been a passion of mine for over 30 years now. From the very first day I joined the ashram and decided to be a monk, I was thrust into the kitchen to help cut vegetables for the cooks and then ride 1.5 hours to the Food for Life (Gopals) cafe where I would then serve people their free lunch. I can still recall the smell and excitement from those early days. I was eager to learn as much as I could and I worked with some of the best chefs in the Hare Krishna movement. However, looking back on how we did things then I can now see that our standards of hygiene were nowhere near what we have today and the ingredients we used were also not always pure. Today, most Food for Life kitchens set an extraordinarily high standard in the catering industry.

When I finally got the chance to start my own Food for Life project I wanted to make one thing very clear — we had to focus more on quality than on quantity. In fact, this principle became one of the critical “ingredients of success” in a book I later wrote called, HOW TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL FOOD RELIEF PROJECT (formerly known as the The 10 Ingredients of Success). The fact that Food for Life Global is today the largest distributor of cooked plant-based meals in the world is all the more astonishing when you consider that our focus from early on has been on quality and not quantity.

What I like

Food for Life Global offers a unique solution to world hunger in that we are attempting to address the root cause — spiritual inequality — through the indiscriminate sharing of pure plant-based meals as an expression of universal love and respect. The fact that this project has roots in the world’s older hospitality culture lends credibility to this authentic approach to solving hunger and poverty. Furthermore, since Food for Life only distributes plant-based meals offered in devotion (prasadam) as outlined in our standards, it is philosophically consistent in demonstrating that ALL sentient beings are alive with purpose and should therefore be honoured. After all, even in the harvesting and preparation of plant-based meals there is violence, so FFL volunteers will first offer the food in devotion, beginning with intuitive cooking, to cleanse away the negative karma.

Intuitive cooking is the process of preparing meals without tasting or enjoying them through smelling before the sanctification of the meal is completed. It is a challenging task when preparing meals for tens of thousands of children, but that is our standard. In fact, some kitchens prepare up to 65,000 meals a day!

This extra effort to provide the purest meals to our recipients is what sets Food for Life apart from all other food relief organizations, even those that also serve vegan meals. The fact is, although the physical ingredients may appear to be pure, in most cases they are tinged with some kind of violence before coming to our hands and this energetic contamination also needs to be cleansed.

What I don’t like

Commercial dairy cows are raped, abused and killed for their milk.

Although Food for Life Global is founded on these solid spiritual principles, some FFL projects fail in their ethical consistency. I am specifically referring to ISKCON’s general openness to allow the use of commercial dairy in making the plant-based meals in their temples and some FFL projects, simply because ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada gave a conditional allowance during the formative years of the institution, until such time that his spiritual movement could provide their own milk offered by their own protected cows.

As a result of this stubborn stance on dairy, I found myself in a rather awkward position of trying to honour and respect the tradition and institution I got my training from, while dealing with the overwhelming evidence against the use of dairy presented to me by my vegan friends. It has not been easy trying to please these two very polarising views.

Food for Life dairyI therefore coined the phrase “Krishna-dairyian” to distinguish my personal stance on the use of dairy, meaning, I will only use dairy IF it has been willingly offered by a protected, family-owned cow that will never be slaughtered. Of course, that kind of milk is indeed rare, and so for the most part I am 100% vegan, but such milk does exist.

Now, another issue here is that in using the word “Krishna” in my nomenclature, I have sometimes made my vegan friends assume that I am supporting ISKCON’s very liberal stance on dairy. I do not. I have spent years and have had numerous debates with the top Hare Krishna leadership about how wrong it is to use any kind of dairy product in Krishna temples or FFL projects that have been procured from businesses that rape, abuse and kill cows. There is absolutely no justification for this behaviour. Sadly, even with all the evidence clearly laid out many ISKCON followers still obstinately reject a dairy-less diet.

To be honest, it has been beyond frustrating for me to have to deal with such stubborn people all these years. But, it has also been frustrating dealing with out-spoken vegans that outrightly reject the ancient dairy tradition and the natural symbiosis that can exist between humans and bovine. Just because what we see today with cows and bulls is abusive, does not mean that a healthy and respectful symbiosis is not possible or that it has never existed. History clearly shows that it has.

Time to change

Food for Life dairy

But times are very different now and one thing we all have to accept is change. Nothing ever remains the same. Nothing. Things evolve, adopt, adjust, and change according to time, place and circumstances. And therefore the same should apply to ancient traditions. So why do organizations like ISKCON hold so strongly to ancient ways when they are clearly not working, irrelevant or unsubstantiated? Could it be pride? Each person can answer that question themselves.

So I want to reassure our donors that for as long as I am directing this non-profit, FFLG will never condone or financially support the use of commercial dairy in any of our food distribution programs. The good news is that the majority of the meals Food for Life affiliates distribute (up to 2 million meals daily) are in fact pure plant-based and do not contain any dairy.

We encourage you this holiday season to stay with Food for Life Global and support our efforts to bring the purest plant-based meals to the world and our unique message of spiritual equality.

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