Changing the World Through Relationships Between People of Different Races, Ethnicities, Cultures, Religions and Nationalities

I recently had the pleasure of chatting to two dear friends who are in a loving and happy relationship despite the fact that they are from two different cultural backgrounds albeit within the same religion. This fortunate encounter reminded me that it is not just inter-religious relationships that cross boundaries, test limits and set new standards for this world, but that there are all types of people building bridges of love across all our social boundaries all around the world. It was also a reminder to me of how these kinds of relationships can teach people that associate with these pioneering couples, be it friends, family or colleagues, how love can and does transcend social and cultural groupings and that destroying these “mind-made” boundaries can and does bring more love and joy into our lives.

There may be trepidation over differences and stress over social acceptance; but it is clear to recognise the opportunity these relationships present to the couple and to those who are in contact with the couple, to learn how to love more openly, to practice reducing your ego, to experience and enjoy the diversity that God has created in this glorious planet and hopefully, to discover that different is not that different at all.

If you have found yourself in a committed relationship with somebody who is not from the same country, culture, language, race, religion or ethnicity as you, and you are worried about upsetting the “normal” in your family or friend circle, remind yourself of the opportunity you are presenting to the people you love, for spiritual growth through learning to love more expansively. Think further to the children that the two of you may produce that will not learn these boundaries from the start and will get to experience love without the fear society impresses on us. Understand the value of your position as an example to others of how the world should operate, that is, loving all without the obsession over differences in nationality, race, culture, religion or differences in sexual orientation.

Let us value each other for the souls within each of us and let us live with the hope that others will have the courage to do the same through our loving example.

By Natasha Subbiah

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The Truth About the Meat Industry

What are the consequences of our preoccupation with choosing meat over vegetable proteins?


Impact on Food Security

Farm animals are forcefully bred often using crude and cruel methods of artificial insemination, to create a much larger population than would normally occur in nature. These animals have to then be fed both food and water for the duration of their lives before they themselves are turned into food. Therefore, in the meat industry, larger amounts of food are used to make smaller amounts of food. As a result, a meat meal takes a lot more resources to produce than a vegetarian meal. This ineffectual process of food production is robbing the world of food instead of supplying it with food. If more people chose vegetarian or vegan food sources and fewer animals were bred for the meat industry, then more food will be available for our starving masses and many a humanitarian crisis could be averted. Instead, according to Farm Sanctuary SA, over 50% of the world’s grain and 71% of the world’s fresh water is fed to animals in the meat industry.


Impact on Environment

Meat production uses more water than crop production alone since the animals (which are bred into existence for the meat industry) have to be fed water and, more significantly, the crops that are used to feed them have to be grown using water. Furthermore, faecal matter from livestock production is polluting our remaining water resources.

According to the United Nations report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow, “In all, livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the land surface of the planet.” It is therefore a key factor in deforestation, soil degradation and loss of biodiverse habitats. At a time when climate change looms as one of humanities’ biggest threats, the report also states that the livestock sector is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a higher share than for which transport is responsible, as well as 64% of anthropogenic (as a result of the influence of human beings) ammonia emissions which contributes significantly to acid rain and the acidification of ecosystems. The well sited report goes on to state that, “In the United States, with the world’s fourth largest land area, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55% of erosion and sediment, 37% of pesticide use, 50% of antibiotic use, and a third of the loads of Nitrogen and Phosphorous into fresh water resources.”

This extensive report does not cover the impact overfishing has on our underwater eco-systems or the impact of fish farming on chemical and antibiotic pollution. Fishing methods are not selective and as a result predators such as sharks and dolphins are also not immune to the fishing nets. The oceans are not able to multiply its biomass as quickly as we are fishing it, this has a knock on effect on reefs and other ecosystems.


Impact on Health

An article produced by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine references several studies proving the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. It states that vegetarians are 40% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters. In particular, colon cancer risk can be increased by roughly 300% with the regular consumption of meat products.

Other studies show that low fat, high fibre vegetarian or vegan diets also help prevent heart disease and can even reverse atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) when combined with other interventions. However, heart diets including lean meats, dairy and chicken are much less effective, usually only slowing down the process of atherosclerosis.

Vegetarian diets can also lower blood pressure (within just two weeks of changing diet), prevent and sometimes even reverse diabetes, prevent gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis, as well as reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

Breastfeeding mothers who are vegetarian have been found to have fewer environmental pollutants in their breast milk. The Physicians Committee which combines the expertise of more than 12000 physicians, go so far as to say that, ” A vegetarian menu is life extending.”

Perhaps the most scary part of the meat industry is it’s reliance on antibiotics (used because of the poor conditions animals are kept in), which is arguably causing the spread of antibiotic resistant strains of viruses and bacteria. It is said that 80% of antibiotics in the U.S. are used by the meat industry. As a parent who’s children had to rely on antibiotics in the past, this strikes fear in my heart.


Animal Cruelty

Most farmed animals endure severe forms of suffering including tail docking, castration, debeaking and teeth clipping (all without anaesthetic). These sensitive animals are often kept in extremely overcrowded, poorly ventilated, filthy sheds with no room to even spread their wings. They are then slaughtered at just a fraction of their natural life span or, as in the case of many egg laying hens, they die of sheer exhaustion after being genetically and nutritionally manipulated to lay more eggs than any hen would under natural circumstances. These voiceless creatures, who many believe God entrusted to us, receive little or no compassion as they are forced to endure more than any of us would, for the sake of our cultural norms or individual desires.

All things considered, one cannot help but conclude that the welfare of farmed animals are more closely linked to our own welfare than we would care to admit.

Alternatives to Cow’s Milk

Do you or a loved one suffer from cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance? Or have you or a loved one chosen the noble route of going vegan? No idea what to cook? I was there when my son was diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy and both he and I had to go dairy free. There are alternatives to cow’s milk that will help keep you going in the kitchen. Do take note that these milks cannot be the main source of milk for infant feeding as with cow’s milk, however, they can be used for cooking and food preparation. Remember that breast milk is the best source of milk for your infant. This is the experience I have had with the milk alternatives I have tried:


Almond milk

Almond milk tastes great in desserts but is not suitable for savoury dishes because it is very sweet. You may even find that you have to omit or reduce the amount of sugar you use in your dessert recipe. I have heard of unsweetened almond milk but have yet to find it in my grocery store. I have also found it to be significantly more expensive than other milk alternatives.


Soya milk

Soya milk is a versatile milk and can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes. However, it does have a stronger flavour than cow’s milk which can come through in lightly flavoured dishes. Soya milk is easy to drink by the glass when in the form of a milk shake but that is probably not the healthiest option especially for diabetics or those watching their weight. Also, my dietician has mentioned that soya milk is contraindicated for babies with cow’s milk allergy since there is close cross linking which can sometimes trigger a soya milk allergy. My paediatrician’s wise advice is to consume everything in moderation to manage allergies.


Rice milk

Rice milk is lightly flavoured with a lovely scent and a hint of sweetness. It can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. However because it is slightly sweeter than cow’s milk, you may want to increase the savoury element in your dish and decrease those elements that add sweetness (for e.g. onions) to try and achieve a balance in savoury dishes. I was using rice milk for many months without questioning it’s safety because it was listed as an option for cooking with by a paediatrician we had visited, but I have recently read that there is some controversy over rice milk since rice milk and other rice products were found to have higher than average levels of inorganic arsenic. The truth on the matter… even the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) does not seem to have made their mind up on the subject yet. I have two cartons of rice milk in my cupboard and I am not sure what to do with them either…


Coconut milk

Coconut milk is often my milk alternative of choice. Coconut milk is a versatile milk which can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. It is often used in curries and is a popular ingredient in Thai cuisine such as the famous Thai green curry. Coconut milk adds a creaminess to your dish that most other milk alternatives do not. Some may prefer coconut milk over cow’s milk whilst others tire easily of the coconut flavour it often imparts. I would recommend it to balance acidic curries, in desserts and for use in your toddler’s cereals. It is also high in saturated fat which is an important component for your growing child’s brain.