Archive by Author | Ian McD

VegHist Ep 6: Hinduism. On Indian Vegetarianism, Vaishnavism, Satvik, and Mahayana Buddhism; with Sanjukta Gupta, Deepak Anand, and Ranjan Garavu; at Ananta Vasudeva Temple, Bhubaneswar and Nalanda Mahavihara

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In the first millennium CE, Indian vegetarianism advances from an ascetic fringe to a mainstream high-status lifestyle.

Episode 6: Hinduism

How did vegetarianism permeate Indian society? Ian tracks the changes in India’s religious life during the first millennium, following the vegetarian strands of the tapestry that we now call Hinduism.

Ian travels to a temple to Vishnu in eastern India to understand the importance of vegetarianism to his worshippers. He talks to theologians and historians in Oxford and Delhi about the factors that caused the change. He uncovers heated arguments about vegetarianism and animal advocacy in the leaves of India’s sacred texts. And he explores the medieval Buddhist monastic university of Nalanda, in the company of a lecturer from its modern namesake.

Play or download (42MB MP3) (via iTunes)
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Vegan Politicians: Kerry McCarthy MP on Brexit

As the British public make their biggest decision in a generation, Ian asks Kerry McCarthy MP about the potential impact of Brexit on animals.

Vegan MP on EU Referendum

In this special short extra edition of the Vegan Option, Ian catches up with longstanding vegan MP, and main official opposition spokeswoman on farming and the environment, Kerry McCarthy. How does she think animals would vote? (And, for that matter, how will Ian?)

Play or download (17MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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VegHist Ep 5: Flesh and Spirit. On Egyptian monasticism, Early Christianity, Plutarch, Neoplatonism, and Manicheansim; with David Grummet, Nicholas Baker-Brian, Michael Beer, and Fr. Abouna Yostas St. Athanasius

Icon of hirsuite naked man with halo

In the eastern Roman Empire, several faiths and philosophies agree on one thing; that you need to eschew flesh to live a life of the spirit.

Episode 5: Flesh & Spirit

Not all Romans celebrated pagan sacrifices or the bloodthirsty arena. Some Romans followed the semi-mythical vegetarian Pythagoras, or neoplatonist philosophers who preached a vegetarian contemplative life.

In the melting pot of Jewish mythology, Greek philosophy, and the worship of Jesus many forms of Christianity emerge. Some of them advocate vegetarianism. The lost world religion of Manichaeanism took ideas from India and was led by a plant based priesthood that would last a thousand years.

Alexandria in Egypt is the epicentre of many of these contemplative movements. Ian visits a valley in Yorkshire that still echoes with the traditions of the ancient Egyptian desert – the Coptic Christian monastery of St. Athanasius. He discovers why the monks pursue that life, what it means to them, and how they maintain some of the original vegetarian traditions of the Egyptian desert fathers.

Play or download (43MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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Call for Volunteers

As well as your generous support during the Kickstarter, I’m grateful to the many who have given practical help to put the project together – from translation of a Hindi-speaking guest and French-language documents to the extremely evocative theme music.

If you have relevant skills or time, there are a number of ways in which you could become part of this project and make a real difference to its success and impact. Specifically, I am looking for help with transcription, music sourcing, design, animation, and acting.

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Jeremy Hancock, voice actor

Man with beard and headphones, behind a microphone, smiling

Jeremy Hancock lends his voice to men arguing for (or against) vegetarianism in the west. You heard him as a range of characters, from Plato to Pythagoras, in episode three, and as a Greek ambassador to the Mauryan Indian empire in episode four. He’ll play a range of Roman and Greek thinkers in episode five.

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Vegan Pizza in India: The Philosophy Club café

During my recording trip to India, I discovered an amazing vegan café in the city of Ahmedabad, in the strongly lacto-vegetarian state of Gujarat. I review it in this guest post for the food blogger Fat Gay Vegan.

VegHist Ep 4: Ashoka. On India’s animal advocate Buddhist king and the spread of the śramanas; with Bharati Pal and Suchandra Ghosh; at the Kalinga rock edict, India

A sculptured elephant walks out of the stone. Brahmi "pinman" script is superposed on the background. There is a Buddhist pagoda in the background.

In the largest ancient Indian empire, at the height of its power, its Buddhist king advocates for animals in his edicts, and tries to change India for good.

Episode 4: Ashoka

In the fourth century BCE, the śramaṇa movement (anti-violence anti-ritual ascetics) has produced three religions: the vegetarian Jains, the freegan(ish) Buddhists, and the mysterious (and now vanished) Ājīvikas. The Mauryan Empire is absorbing almost all of the subcontinent, from present-day Afghanistan to the Bay of Bengal.

At its height in the middle of the third century BCE, the king – Ashoka – has edicts carved in stones and columns across the realm. Alongside the rulings and propaganda you might expect, his edicts oppose the slaughter and abuse of animals.

Ian travels to the Indian Museum in Calcutta to speak with historian Dr Suchandra Ghosh. And he visits a hillside that looks down on the battlefield that – King Ashoka says – turned him way from violence forever, and where Ashoka erected an edict that still stands today.

Play or download (44MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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Ian and Prof Hugh Bowden in the British Museum

Man in jumper with Greek mosaic design talks to Ian by cases of ancient Greek artefacts.

Prof Hugh Bowden talking with Ian in the British Museum.

VegHist Ep 3: Pythagoreans. On the Cults of Orpheus and Pythagoras in Ancient Greece; with Hugh Bowden, Michael Beer, John Wilkins, and Armand D’Angour

Ancient Greek men on hillside, playing music to welccome the dawn.

In Ancient Greece, vegetarianism belongs to a secretive subculture – amongst the mystery religions of Orpheus and the musical mathematical cult of Pythagoras.

Episode 3: Pythagoreans

The Greek philosophers knew about vegetarians. But they were part of cults associated with the mythical figure of Orpheus, and the guru of harmony and number – Pythagoras. The people who introduced the concept of reincarnation into Greece.

In the British Museum, Ian talks to Hugh Bowden, the head of the classics department of King’s College London and mystery religion specialist. There, Prof Bowden examines what its artefacts of Greek life and death tell us about attitudes to animals. Including – some suspect – an Orphic pocket guide to Hades.

Play or download (43MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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