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The meat of the matter

Westview freshman raising beef-industry awareness one pledge at a time

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Westview High School freshman Aditya Jain, third from right, talks to volunteers about distributing fliers related to his beef and dairy industry-related Eagle Scout project. At the tender age of 14, Aditya Jain understands change often works best when approached incrementally, using education rather than coercion to alter perceptions, habits and societal standards.

The Westview High School freshman is applying that concept to raise awareness regarding cruelty and inhumane standards of the modern beef and dairy industries.

“Even small amounts end up making big differences,” he says. “I’m not really working against the (beef) industry, but educating about the cruelty in the industry and the way we’re (supporting) that with consumption. I’d like to see changes in the first stages, with more recognition and education out there, so people can see what’s happening and start to question it for themselves.”

For his Eagle Scout community service project, Jain is sharing information and seeking pledges from those willing to abstain from beef or dairy consumption in the next year.

By designating this Saturday as “Holy Cow Day,” Jain, a member of Boy Scout Troop 208, hopes to gain a plethora of pledges from those taking part in Cause + Event Portland/Bethany, an annual community run that allows runners to donate to social causes that speak to them.

Jain’s booth will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the event at Bethany Village Centre, 4708 N.W. Bethany Blvd. Packets may be picked up at 7 a.m. for the 5k run and walk, 10k run and half-marathon, which start between 9 and 9:30 a.m.

Likening his project to grassroots-type events that turned into larger movements such as Earth Day and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Jain decided his beliefs were worthy of an Eagle Scout project.

“We did a lot of research into the mechanics of the industry, and have come to the conclusion that an effective way to save lives in America is to convince people to not consume products of cow cruelty — namely beef and dairy — even if only for a day,” he says.

Each pledge not to consume beef for one day, he concludes, gives a cow two more days to live, while a pledge to avoid dairy provides a cow one-fourth of an extra day.

Among the facts that disturb Jain about the beef industry is that a cow’s natural lifespan of about 25 years is reduced to five years in the industry, with a marked deterioration in quality of life in that short time.

“By that time, they’re in such a horrible state that they can’t be used for anything else,” he says.

Jain’s family subscribes to the North Indian-based Jainism religious movement advocating non-violence abstention from meat eating. His devotion since childhood was reinforced by singer Paul McCartney, who’s served as an activist against beef industry and animal cruelty practices for decades.

“Probably one of the things that inspired me most was Paul McCartney saying, ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everybody would be vegetarian,’” he says.

Jain is working on the project with the Jain Society of Oregon and Southwest Washington’s Youth Jain Leader program to raise youth awareness and involvement. In addition to starting a website, Jain has distributed informational fliers in local neighborhoods about the event and the pledge, which those interested can sign up for during Holy Cow Day/Cause + Event Portland. He’s already accumulated close to 200 pledges to abstain from dairy or beef for at least one day, which by his calculations increase a cow’s life by 220 days.

“People are usually very open to the idea after they first learn about it,” he says. “At first they tend to be unreceptive, but once they’ve read about it, they become more receptive.”

That includes the leadership of his scout troop and Eagle Scout committee, which approved Jain’s proposal and will evaluate the results of his project.

The eight-year Bethany resident is hopeful “Holy Cow Day” will become an annual event, and carry on through his training of other students and scouts even after he’s gone away to college. In the meantime, he’s content to share the facts and let people come to their own conclusions about the highly corporatized state of the beef and dairy industries.

“I’m definitely not trying to get people to change what they believe,” he says. “I just want them to get sort of educated and take a stand by pledging, even if for one day, as a message to the cruelty and the way these products are made.

“It’s kind of like Earth Day, where I take one day and reduce my consumption of water, and create less pollution,” he adds. “It’s the same idea. Let’s take a stand for one day and reduce our meat and dairy consumption.”

Holy Cow

What: “Holy Cow Day,” part of Cause + Event Bethany run, to raise awareness regarding animal cruelty in the beef and dairy industries by asking for one-day pledges of meat or dairy abstention

Host and creator: Aditya Jain, a Westview High School freshman, as part of his Eagle Scout project for Troop 208

When: Saturday, Sept. 13, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Where: Bethany Village Centre, 4708 N.W. Bethany Blvd.

Website: holycowday.com


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