A week from now Mumbai will witness a unique wedding. Shasvathi and her groom are to tie the knot with their four legged friends for company. Curious? So was I. A post on Facebook lead me to Anand Siva’s profile who had shared the story of his daughter Shasvathi’s vegan, eco-friendly wedding where the guest list includes pets. Not just that, it's a strictly no-silk no-leather wedding and guests have been asked to refrain from wearing or carrying any animal products. I promptly spoke with Anand to know more about what inspired this decision. We heard about the vegan wedding you are planning for your daughter. How did the idea come about? What is the message you want to spread? We are a family of vegans, and have been anchored in that completely. We have never served non-vegan food to our guests, and have never shied away from advocating it. The wedding was no exception – the first conversation we had as we discussed the wedding with the groom’s family was making it clear there’d be no deviation. And our message was clear – we need to be responsible for reducing suffering, and no better time than a conventional event to show all of us can. Considering traditional Indian weddings lay a lot of emphasis on food, was it difficult getting your family and relatives to agree with a vegan wedding? This was not my choice, but the family’s belief. And we are beyond influence of any emotional pressure from family or friends. As far we are concerned, it was, is and will always be non-negotiable. When did you take up veganism? How did you learn about it? Is your daughter and the groom also vegan? I became vegan in 2011, and the family joined in soon after. I learnt of veganism after a workshop I attended that year and then saw a video by Peta on horrors in the Indian dairy industry, followed by a visit to a farm in Mumbai. My whole family, excluding my mother and mother-in-law is vegan. My son-in-law is not yet one, but his mother has already taken that step – we are so delighted and proud of her. What according to you are the benefits of veganism? There are two reasons veganism helps. Foremost, because I think it is a natural lifestyle to be vegan. No other animal drinks milk all its life and never the milk of another animal. And because we consume milk and milk products in colossal quantities, milk production has become a farmed industrial product. This means from the time a cow is made pregnant unnaturally to increase the production of milk, there’s corporate greed, corruption, unscrupulous acts, drugs, and artificial boosters – everything involved in milk production to increase output at low costs. This results in a huge number of diseases in humans. Second, is by consuming animal products, we are encouraging mass suffering, torture, killing of millions of animals – and are directly inflicting pain on lives simply because we believe we are superior and have more authority to impose our views and greed on them. What does the vegan wedding menu look like? While most of the traditional South Indian dishes remain intact, they’ve all been substituted with either of or a combination of peanut milk, soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk and coconut milk – and curds thereof. We have also included some traditional dishes like tofu salad to give a taste of what most people consider ‘real food’. Guests will get to taste one of the world’s best vegan ice creams too. People often assume that it's very difficult to enjoy food as a vegan because so many options are cut down. Did you feel you’re missing out on taste or nutrition? We have never been more delighted about our experiments with new food options before. Like cheese with a combination of sweet potato and carrot, or curd from soy milk, and pasta with cashew paste and organic herbs. This has resulted in our food getting healthier, lot less in oil, organic and completely cholesterol free. How many pets do you have at home? Tell us a little about them. We have 4 dogs and 10 cats and this remains a floating number as more come and go during rescues and adoptions. Our animals are all rescues, except for the first one, Hobbes, whom we ‘bought’. To say we regret buying is wrong, because Hobbes changed our lives – he taught us compassion, opened our eyes to the world of pain and suffering out there. After that, all our animals have been rescues and ones that adopted us as parents. Are your pets also fed a vegan diet at home? Do you think a vegan diet does justice to their constitution? We didn’t see a point in petting some and killing others – so we had no second thoughts about making them vegan, With a combination of vegetables and fruits and supplements like Apple Cider vinegar and coconut oil, we have ensured they stay healthy and energetic. You have also invited friends to bring along their pets for the wedding, which is pretty unusual. How did the idea come about? Our dogs and cats are as much our family as the rest of us – we don’t take a family holiday unless we can take them along; their needs and comforts take priority. A wedding is a celebration and we couldn’t think of doing it without them. And since this is our view, we wanted other friends and family to know we respect their pets as family too. Have you had to make any special arrangements to allow pets in the wedding? If the family is around, pets need no special arrangement. We are making special arrangements to educate guests on living with pets, demonstrating true love and ensuring they get a feel of their love. Because we will be busy attending to guests, a friend who is an animal trainer will be around to manage pets. Except for Simba, who is a blind dog we adopted, the rest of them will be roaming free and mingling around in an area ear marked for them, in the wedding lawns. What food will be served to the pets? They will have organic rice, organic steamed vegetables – sweet potatoes, pumpkins, papaya, beetroot, carrots plus a feed of Benovo which is a specially formulated vegan diet for pets. Would you call yourself a vegan evangelist or an animal rights activist? I’m a believer in being a vegan and extremely vocal about it. Since I stand up for animal rights, I suppose being called an activist seems appropriate. Though I call myself an earth lover, which is why the wedding is also about being eco-friendly and plastic free. Here's wishing Shasvathi and her groom a happy married life from all of us!