If you’ve ever had the rare opportunity to meet someone who undoubtedly embodies the animal rights movement in its most pristine form, then you know how inspiring it can be.
Saurabh Dalal spent the first five years of his life in India before moving to the United States with his parents and older brother. As a young boy, growing up in the suburbs of Maryland provided all the comforts of a stable home and community.
Remembering a positive childhood experience himself, Saurabh also recalls several of his peers feeling marginalized, harassed, and even bullied. Ostracized because of their skin color, customs, and interests, they were made to feel like outcasts – frequently insulted and abused.
In Saurabh’s eyes, and surely in many of our own, this easily translates into today’s human-to-non-human animal classification or caste system.
Even as a young boy Saurabh found this to be exceptionally unjust.
From his very beginning, born into vegetarianism as part of his family’s dedication to the principles of Jainism, Saurabh’s parents had instilled in him principles of Ahinsa (non-violence), kindness, and respect, and to work to bring people together and build a better world.
The ancient Indian philosophy of Jainism, formulated as a reaction to and rejection of the caste-based beliefs of Brahmanism, teaches the universe is made up of six eternal substances.
One, and the most relevant here, sentient beings or souls should resonate with most of us. Its indisputable correlation to our movement’s mantra, “non-human-animals, just as human-animals are sentient beings and therefore should not be exploited by us in any way, shape, or form,” is undeniable. The other five consequently are united and represent the non-living.
In the mid-to-late 80’s Saurabh was introduced to The Vegetarian Resource Group and PETA. These were the first groups he had heard of that promoted a relatively new concept called veganism.
In 1990 Saurabh began to attend Veg Society of DC (VSDC) events. “This is where I met many wonderful people and was inspired to get involved,” says Saurabh.
In 1991, at the age of 26, Saurabh became an ethical vegan.
“Becoming an ethical vegan was a revelation that made perfect sense as part of the Jain principles my parents raised me with.”
Since being vegetarian had been such a strong part of his identity and upbringing, being vegan, encouraging others, and promoting it became his new passion.
“The movement at that time had a lot happening,” says Saurabh. Even though there were only a few very active organizations, he remembers there was an abundance of information, campaigns, books, publications, and videos. “The literature and materials were very basic compared to today,” he adds. “But it was an idea and a movement whose time had come.”
Academically, Saurabh’s interests are in engineering and physics, both of which he holds graduate degrees. To this end, his work with engineers and scientists has provided him with experience on ways and information that would best effect change in behavior and lifestyle.
With his grasp on what it truly means to live with intention and an unsealable heart, Saurabh would be the perfect architectural candidate, if there was such a position, for the future of our movement.
…and not a pie in the sky notion…Saurabh spends significant energy towards non-profits while managing an extremely busy schedule. Priorities, planning, and time management are of the utmost importance to him.
Composed and with a watchful eye, Saurabh speaks in reassuring tones. His demeanor is absent of judgment but offers firm recommendations of what he believes could elevate our movement to an even higher level of success.
Rich in Gratitude
When asked to provide three major benchmarks in his life, Saurabh responded with: values, support, and opportunities – all of which he is immensely grateful for.
Saurabh believes when you feel passion for something so important it resonates with all that you believe, and you feel motivated to live it and promote it, opportunities arise. This is evident as he has been in high demand with a number of groups over the years.
Today, Saurabh continues to be an indispensable part of building VSDC into a vibrant organization. He has been asked to serve on the advisory board of more than a dozen organizations, as well as having founded VegFest DC in the 1990s, and partnered events as International Vegetarian Union World Congresses, American Vegan Society & Vegetarian Union of North America Events, London Vegans, Jain Associations in North American conventions, Young Jains conferences, Young Jains in the UK, and about ten Jain centers in North America.
Saurabh believes veganism is aligned and poised to manifest a level of respect and inclusiveness for ALL living beings that no other lifestyle demonstrates.
He emphasizes this way of life helps the planet by vastly reducing humankind’s negative impacts, while at the same time healing and nurturing us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
To Our Young Activists
“Open yourselves up to learning many aspects and viewpoints of a situation, think critically and assess as objectively as possible (not because some ‘expert’ says so).
Maintain a positive attitude that keeps the energy level strong, and keep working to make the world better.
Keep remembering that what we are working towards is among the most important activities we can do for our world today; we need everyone to do the best each can do. We each have our shortcomings – they need to be acknowledged and we need to work to overcome them. Find others you can work with so you do not feel alone and then keep working. Assess and plan well so the actions we take are effective, efficient and longstanding.” ~ Saurabh Dalal
Saurabh believes that people need to feel and be empowered. Leaders and experts have their place but we need not always defer to them. Disagreements and spirited dialogue will occur, but for assumptions to be challenged, critical thinking and respect must be at the forefront of all interactions.
“We must begin to look beyond any organizational interests and consider the bigger picture of the AR movement,” adds Saurabh. With excitement and momentum, we need to continue finding ways to support new vegans and make it even easier to become and stay vegan.
Saurabh firmly believes in abolition and dedicates the majority of his advocacy time to organizations that are aligned with this philosophy. At the grassroots level, he enjoys leafleting and engaging people. With organizations, he works on a more strategic level, planning, aligning activities, and building infrastructure.
His strong interest in ethical investing over the years has resulted in a recent advisory position with The Vegan Investing Club.
Thankfully the vegan economy is rising and The Vegan Investing Club is helping everyday vegan consumers invest in products and companies that are congruent with their core beliefs.
We look forward to Saurabh addressing more audiences across the country in the very near future. If you are offered an opportunity to attend one of his seminars, we urge you to take full advantage.
Regardless of your religious or non-religious beliefs, veganism is truly a spiritual journey. With compassion, empathy, and regard, being vegan is rooted in our connection to all life within ourselves as well as externally.
Allow yourself, as Saurabh has, to feel that connection and let it guide you toward your greatest purpose.
Follow Saurabh on Facebook.