Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
Interview with the Leader of Young Indian Vegetarians
Continuing our series of email interviews with leaders of IVU member societies, here is an interview with Mr Nitin Metha, leader of Young Indian Vegetarians - www.youngindianvegetarians.co.uk – a UK-based organisation. Nitin is the recipient of numerous awards, including The ‘Glory of India’ award presented by the India International Friendship Society. Recipients are honoured for their outstanding leadership in the field of promoting India and Indian culture in the United Kingdom, thereby making Mother India proud. Previous recipients of the award include: Mother Teresa, cricketer Sunil Gavaskar and film star Dev Anand.
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What made you decide to become/remain a vegetarian? When did that happen? How old were you at the time?
I was born vegetarian, being Jain.
You are a leader of a member society of IVU. How long have you been a leader of this organisation?
What made you decide to become active in promoting vegetarianism?
I was born in Kenya. One day aged around age 7, I threw a stone at a dog, who screamed in pain. Instantly, I knew I had hurt him, and I was determined to never again harm any animal.
Also, at around the same age, I witnessed a group of older boys in Kisumu, Kenya, my home town, who came across a tortoise and started hitting the tortoise’s shell with a hammer. A few years later, it hit me as to what they had been doing, and I was determined to stop any human violence towards animals.
What sustains your desire to be active?
The movement has taken over my life in the best possible way. I have gained so much in every way, even though I have no desire to gain. It is like some spiritual force is guiding me.
What messages do you use to encourage young Indians to remain vegetarians, if they have been vegetarian since birth, or to become vegetarians, if they currently are not?
I am constantly changing strategy as circumstances require. In the 80's we used to organise huge rallies in Hyde Park (London) and other outdoor venues. Nowadays, we often give Mahaveer Awards to famous celebrities. Our award is considered very prestigious, but we do not give the award only to the famous. We also give the award to individuals who work behind the scenes for animal welfare and compassion.
How is the situation of Indian vegetarians different outside of India compared to inside India? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each context?
The advantage is that the Indians abroad are vegetarian by conviction and as such unlikely to revert to meat eating. The disadvantage for Indians abroad is that unless the parents instil vegetarian values from childhood, the children will grow into meat eaters.
What is one of your organisation’s accomplishments that makes you especially proud?
We are internationally known, and we have persuaded thousands of people to move towards vegetarianism. We are considered experts in the field, and our Mahaveer awards are sought after!
How do you try to maintain good relations and enthusiasm amongst your organisation’s members?
We do not have a formal structure; we come together for projects and go away till the next project. By being innovative, our supporters are kept interested.
What is one way that your organisation cooperates with other veg organisations?
We have excellent relations with all like-minded groups. It is simple: praise them, appreciate them, whenever they need you, you support them. In return, all organisations have a lot of goodwill for us.
Do you have any fundraising tips for other organisations?
Do good work and blow your trumpet! We send our newsletters to hundreds of people free of charge. The goodwill created helps in getting donations. For example, our Mahaveer awards are given to well known individuals. They feel honoured, and don’t mind supporting us when needed.
What is one thing that other veg organisations might be able to learn from your organisation?
Be completely honest with yourself. Are you making an impact? Measure it. For example, we have as many as 20 individuals who pledge to go vegetarian every year. For me, that is a measure of success. How much media exposure are you getting? If you are not setting and meeting achievable goals, then be brutally honest and change!