Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
Interview with IVU International Council Member Saurabh Dalal
Saurabh Dalal has served on the IVU International Council for many years. Currently, he is the Council’s Deputy Chair. Saurabh kindly agreed to be interviewed for ‘IVU Online News’.
What made you decide to become a vegetarian?
Becoming vegetarian was a decision that was made for me by my parents since birth. The decision to become vegan was my choice and that happened in Dec 1991. The latter helped me realize something of the difficult process in order to make such an immense lifestyle change.
What made you decide to become active in promoting vegetarianism?
Since my family has followed the Jain religion whose foremost principle is Ahinsa (non-violence), I had been raised with a strong respect for all living beings. I naturally grew up feeling that non-human animals never wanted to suffer, no different than what we humans would want. Since I felt so strongly from an early age that eating animals wasn’t right, that they suffered and were killed even when there were alternatives that did not require such large-scale injustice, I wanted others to “see” what my family saw. I felt that it was my duty and responsibility to do so which is l why I still do it today.
When and how did you first hear about IVU?
I first heard about IVU around 1991, after I became active in the local Vegetarian Society of DC (VSDC, Washington DC) through one of its most important figures, Madge Darneille. Madge had also been active as a founder of the Vegetarian Union of North America (VUNA) and the Assistant General Secretary for IVU. She recruited me to get involved in VUNA shortly thereafter and then also in IVU over the years. Meeting then Honorary General Secretary Maxwell Lee a couple of years later at a continental Jain convention sparked my interest further in IVU.
4. In addition to your role with IVU, you are also active in promoting vegetarianism in the Washington, DC area and in North America generally. Please tell us about that?
I started volunteering with VSDC in early 1991 and immediately met some wonderful people that inspired me to go vegan. Over the years, I became more involved in VSDC because I felt strongly about change happening at the local level as part of grass roots awareness and community-building. I was also asked to get involved with VUNA because it needed people who were energized to do something beyond the local level to get groups to share ideas and strategies to become more effective. Working in numerous, different roles in VSDC has helped me become a better activist and also see the importance of a group like VUNA.
5. Is promoting vegetarianism a full-time job for you, or do you have another job too?
Promoting vegetarianism isn’t a “full-time job” for me but since it is such an important part of who I am, I feel I am always involved in promoting the idea. Currently, I work in the telecom industry in the area of fiber optic communication systems, allowing me to combine two fields I’m fascinated with: Physics and Mathematics. I’m fortunate to have been able to choose my jobs so that I’m not overwhelmed by work and can be involved in other non-profit activities. My job provides me with stability so I can volunteer my time in the areas that are most meaningful to me.
6. What is an obstacle that you face in remaining active in promoting vegetarianism? How do you overcome this obstacle?
The world desperately needs help in so many areas that I feel it's less a question of remaining active but more of where to focus. With great support from my family, I am really fortunate to be involved in many related activities but do find it hard to determine how to optimize my time and energy for greatest impact.
7. What is a recent veg-related event that you particularly enjoyed?
One of my favorite activities is outreach/tabling, i.e. grass roots dissemination of information directly to people. VSDC had such a table for the huge Earth Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington DC on Sunday 19 April 2009. It’s an adrenaline rush when you see first-hand the idea of being vegan register with many people you don’t know. It’s also a welcome challenge to find the right few words to say to make a person stop and think, even if only for a moment, and take information.
8. What is one thing about yourself that most or all of your IVU friends do not know?
I was very shy growing up and it has taken a lot for me to overcome that over the years, especially when speaking to larger groups. I’m motivated because we all can have an impact on those around us and the more each of us is ready to stand up for ideas that are important, the more the world can change.