Meat ban by Indian-origin billionaire stirs row

Sunday, March 28, 2010

PERTH - Indian-born billionaire Pankaj Oswal and his wife Radhika have told workers building their $70 million mansion in this Australian city that they should not consume meat on the site, stirring a controversy with a construction union hitting out at the ban.

The massive mansion, located in the exclusive suburb of Peppermint Grove here, is expected to be finished at the end of next year. It will have a swimming pool 10 times bigger than the average back yard, an observatory, a gymnasium the size of a regular Perth house, a beauty salon as well as parking for 17 cars, Perth Now reported Sunday.

The Taj-on-Swan mansion is likely to become the largest home in the country, on the most expensive block of land.

The Western Australian construction union criticised the ban on building workers eating ham sandwiches and meat pies at the building site.

The ban was “absolutely wrong”, said Joe McDonald, who is Western Australian assistant secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

“She still wants them to build her $70 million mansion, but she’s telling them what they’re going to eat… it’s wrong. 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,” he was quoted as saying.

Workers said there was one small shed in which they were allowed to eat meat.

Perth Now quoted a source close to the Oswals as saying that some workers had continued to eat meat on the site “just to spite them”.

Pankaj, who is currently in New York to help Radhika prepare for the launch of her vegetarian fast-food chain, Otarian, defended the meat ban.

He said: “This is our home.”

Radhika has earlier charged the meat industry with “raping the earth” and said: “Meat eating is creating bad karma and you are also creating a vicious cycle. 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.”

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