An Indian-origin couple building a multi-million dollar mansion in Melbourne, who have run into a dispute with their construction workers over eating ham sandwiches and meat pies during work, are adamant that they do not want their religious sentiments to be hurt.
Pankaj and Radhika Oswal, the vegetarian couple, who are building a dream house including a swimming pool, did not want their construction workers to partake meat on the site.
"Meat eating is creating bad karma and you are also creating a vicious cycle," Radhika, who along with her husband owns vegetarian fast-food chain Otarian, said.
"It's destroying us environmentally, economically and socially. I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I've always been a vegetarian so I have always felt strongly about it. First, because of religious reasons, but then later because I realised the greater good associated with it," said Radhika, who in past accused the meat industry of "raping the earth".
Pankaj, who is in New York this week helping Radhika prepare for the launch of her vegetarian fast-food chain, Otarian, defended the meat ban, saying "This is our home".
But, the Western Australian Construction Union have taken up the cause of the workers, saying that in the country they had full right to take food of their choice.
According to media reports from Perth, the couple are spending ASD 70 million on the sprawling estate in what is consider would be the biggest home in Australia on the most expensive block of land. The mansion is located in the exclusive suburb of Peppermint Grove in Perth.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union Western Australian Assistant Secretary Joe McDonald said the ban was "absolutely wrong".
"She still wants them to build her ASD 70 million mansion, but she's telling them what they're going to eat ... it's wrong," he said, adding "I respect everybody's right to practise their religion, but I totally disagree with anyone forcing it on others.
"That has caused more wars and destruction throughout the world than anything else I know of. If people are working on the job and they want to have a ham sandwich or a bacon and egg sandwich, they should have one."
Workers on the site yesterday said there was one small shed at the bottom of the site which they were allowed to eat meat. A source close to the Oswals, who did not want to be named, said some workers had continued to eat meat on the site "just to spite them".
The house, expected to be finished at the end of 2011, will have a gymnasium the size of a regular Perth house, a beauty salon, an observatory, parking for 17 cars and a swimming pool 10 times bigger than the average back yard.