The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had constituted a task force in September last year to recommend guidelines and provisions on vegan products in India. Shankar Narayan, Founder President, Satvik Vegan Society (formerly Indian Vegan Society), is one of the seven members of the task force, and is actively working towards achieving the laid down objectives. The Vegan Indians caught up with him to understand more about the task force and his Satvik Vegan Society. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
FSSAI constituted the Vegan task force in September this year. What is the main purpose behind constituting such a task force?
The main purpose of the Task Force is to recommend a system for certification for packaged vegan foods in India.
With regards to policies and guidelines, where do you think vegan products ecosystem stands right now in India? What more needs to be done?
As far as policies and guidelines for vegan products in India are concerned, nothing exclusive exists as of now. Policies applied today are the same that are applicable for vegetarian/lacto-vegetarian products. Everything needs to be done, including vegan packaged food certification, vegan restaurant certification, vegan lifestyle products certification and vegan services certification.
In India, vegan products are targeted at a very niche audience and have still not become mainstream. What needs to be done to achieve that?
More consumers will lead to more demand, and more demand will create a bigger market. Only a bigger market will be able to make vegan products mainstream. To achieve this, the message of veganism and awareness around it have to reach more people. When people know why is it important to go vegan, they will change voluntarily.
Do you think commercialising veganism will make it lose its value or will it help people in adopting veganism easily?
Today, everything is commercialised. This is the age of commercialisation and marketing. Though veganism is part of our ancient Indian ahimsa philosophy, which needs to be practiced for its own sake, in this age when everything has a price tag, promoting veganism commercially is desirable.
How is Satvik Vegan different from Vegan?
Veganism is primarily about eating plant food or practicing ahimsa or non-violence if our diet. Extending ahimsa to fellow human beings and practicing values of truthfulness, simplicity, politeness, etc, and working towards becoming an ideal human being in every way possible is Satvik Veganism.
What is your organisation doing to promote Satvik Veganism amongst the masses?
There are several activities that we undertake on a regular basis. We organise an annual Satvik Vegan Festival every year in August and we have started a monthly Satvik Vegan Satsang also. Besides this, we disseminate information to the general public through our website, vegan festivals talks, social media etc. Our aim is to encourage people to become better humans and better vegans.
A lot of people find it difficult to embrace a vegan lifestyle. What stops them according to you?
I believe that a person finds it difficult to embrace veganism because of his education and upbringing. If children are taught to lead a value-based life, they will not hesitate in adopting something good even if it means that they have to sacrifice something. Our materialistic education also needs to include values and life skills so that the coming generations grow up to be ideal humans.