India has a new green ambassador. Grasim Mr India 2003 Rajneesh Duggal, the new face of apparel major Raymond Suitings, is the star of a new campaign for the NGO People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Beneath the tagline "Body by Bhindi", the vegetarian model-turned-actor has tattooed a brilliant green imprint of his favourite vegetable, the lady's finger. He recently bared his toned muscles to reveal the tattoo for PETA's campaign for the safety of animals and promotion of vegetarianism worldwide.
Celebrated photographer and fellow-vegetarian Jatin Kampani shot the advertisement.
Rajneesh has been nominated as one of the "Hottest Vegetarians Alive" in a PETA India Web poll.
"One does not have to eat meat and eggs to get enough protein. You have soya for that and legumes and pulses are packed with protein. I have seen meat-eaters struggling with their weight, but I have no problems keeping fit," said Rajneesh.
Rajneesh, a state-level judo champion and athlete, became a vegetarian 12 years ago after seeing chickens being slaughtered in a butcher's shop.
"It was really gross and made me sick," he said. "After hearing about the cruelty involved in raising and killing animals for food, I started advising all my friends to become vegetarians."
One of the major campaigns of PETA is to promote vegetarianism.
"We have online missions and email campaigns to espouse the green cause. We also have an analysis online campaign, where people can express their views and even petition the government about animal safety," Puja Joshi, spokesperson for PETA, told IANS over phone from Mumbai.
PETA has roped in several celebrities to endorse vegetarianism, the most famous being Baywatch star Pamela Anderson. She does not consume any product that contains meat and animal protein, a PETA official said.
Other PETA campaigners include Hollywood actress Alicia Silverstone, Chelsea Clinton, daughter former US President Bill Clinton, fashion designer Stella McCartney, daughter of Beatles singer Stella McCartney, and cricketer Anil Kumble.
The organisation was formed by a group of animal lovers in 1980.
The latest PETA campaign is to save the chicken and ensure better living conditions for the poultry bird that happens to be a global delicacy.
"Millions of chickens spend their lives cooped up in tiny battery cages in huge factory warehouses which contain as many as 1,500 to 2,000 cages.
"Each cage holds six to seven birds which are packed so tightly that they cannot spread their wings. Nine-day-old chicks have their beaks hacked with a searing blade in a process that is called de-beaking. The hens lose their feathers because of stress and develop sores and bruises," PETA said in a press statement highlighting the plight of the poultry bird.
Actor R. Madhavan, another vegetarian and animal lover, said: "Chickens may not be cute and cuddly as other animals, but they still feel the pain like you and me. It's simple - I love animals, so I don't eat them."
Rajneesh said: "The best thing you can do for animals, mother earth and your own well being is to become a vegetarian."
Eating meat, say experts, not only affects health but also the environment. In a 2006 report, the United Nations said raising animals for food generated more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Senior United Nations Food And Agriculture Organisation officer Henning Steinfeld said the "meat industry was the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems".
Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide and according to the UN, the meat, egg and diary industries account for 65 percent of the world's nitrous-oxide emission.
India, says PETA, figures high on the list of countries that consume fatty cholesterol-laden meat and, according to studies, has one of the highest rates of heart disease and diabetes in the country.