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What I wish I had been told when I first became vegan

LeftistConfessions

When I first seriously considered going vegan it was suuuper daunting. I didn’t really know any other vegans, my friends were omnivores as were my family and my whole life I had been brought up eating meat and dairy and boy did I love it. I could of easily drank two pints of milk a day and given a choice of what to have for dinner, every time I would choose steak steak steak. But after admitting to myself why this was wrong I forced myself to make the change. This is just a brief list of things which I wish I had been told when I first became vegan. (I hope its not to buzzfeed-y).


I do not own this                    

 

FIRST up  – Educate yourself. You better prepare yourself for a whole heap of judging and doubting and interrogation from non vegans. Its just the way it goes. I became vegan thinking…

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Close to home…

I grew up in rural Herefordshire, entrenched deep in its farming community.  So this article strikes a very poignant chord for me as it goes to the heart of one of the hardest conflicts I have being a vegan with my background.  How can I be comfortable with and respect my friends and family who make a living doing something I intrinsically believe is cruel and wrong?  A lot of my farming friends are sadly turning to this form of factory farming of chickens in order to try and stay financially afloat.  I have huge sympathy for how hard farmers are finding it to make a living – especially the potato and dairy farmers, many of whom are going under all over the UK or having to diversify away from what they have done for generations.  But does that excuse them turning to such a depraved method of farming?  Who am I to think badly of someone trying to keep their family above water?  At what point do their immediate needs have to take priority over my ethical ideals?

As a passionate vegan everything about this form of factory farming appalls me – both ethically and environmentally.  But whilst famers feel they have no other option, they are going to continue down this route of desperate mass farming which only spells out bad news for us, the animals and the environment.  The responsibility ultimately lies with the consumers.  When will we wake up to the effects our everyday choices have on the world at large?    When will we stop demanding cheaper and cheaper meat and dairy products in greater and greater quantity at the expense of our own personal health, the animals’ rights and the health of the environment.

The below article is from George Monbiot’s website and was published yesterday in the Guardian:

Fowl Deeds

The astonishing, multiple crises caused by chicken farming.

(By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 20th May 2015)

Man holding a chicken

It’s the insouciance that baffles me. To participate in the killing of an animal: this is a significant decision. It spreads like a fungal mycelium into the heartwood of our lives. Yet many people eat meat sometimes two or three times a day, casually and hurriedly, often without even marking the fact.

I don’t mean to blame. Billions are spent, through advertising and marketing, to distract and mollify, to trivialise the weighty decisions we make, to ensure we don’t connect. Even as we search for meaning and purpose, we want to be told that our actions are inconsequential. We seek reassurance that we are significant, but that what we do is not.

It’s not blind spots we suffer from. We have vision spots, tiny illuminated patches of perception, around which everything else is blanked out. How often have I seen environmentalists gather to bemoan the state of the world, then repair to a restaurant in which they gorge on beef or salmon? The Guardian and Observer urge us to go green, then publish recipes for fish whose capture rips apart the life of the sea.

The television chefs who bravely sought to break this spell might have been talking to the furniture. Giant chicken factories are springing up throughout the west of England, the Welsh Marches and the lowlands of the east. I say factories for this is what they are: you would picture something quite different if I said farm; they are hellish places. You might retch if you entered one, yet you eat what they produce without thinking.

Chicken factory

Two huge broiler units are now being planned to sit close to where the River Dore rises, at the head of the Golden Valley in Herefordshire, one of the most gorgeous landscapes in Britain. Each shed at Bage Court Farm – warehouses 90 metres long – is likely to house about 40,000 birds, that will be cleared out, killed and replaced every 40 days or so. It remains to be seen how high the standards of welfare, employment and environment will be.

The UK now has some 2,000 of these factories, to meet a demand for chicken that has doubled in 40 years*. Because everything is automated, they employ few people, and those in hideous jobs: picking up and binning the birds that drop dead every day, catching chickens for slaughter in a flurry of shit and feathers, then scraping out the warehouses before the next batch arrives.

The dust such operations raise is an exquisite compound of aerialised faeces, chicken dander, mites, bacteria, fungal spores, mycotoxins, endotoxins, veterinary medicines, pesticides, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide. It is listed as a substance hazardous to health, and helps explain why 15% of poultry workers suffer from chronic bronchitis. Yet, uniquely in Europe, the British government classifies unfiltered roof vents on poultry sheds as the “best available technology”. If this were any other industry, it would be obliged to build a factory chimney to disperse the dust and the stink. But farming, as ever, is protected by deference and vested interest, excused from the regulations, planning conditions and taxes other business must observe. Already, Herefordshire County Council has approved chicken factories close to schools, without surveying the likely extent of the dust plumes either before or after the business opens. Bage Court Farm is just upwind of the village of Dorstone.

Inside chicken factories are scenes of cruelty practised on such a scale that they almost lose their ability to shock. Bred to grow at phenomenal speeds, many birds collapse under their own weight, and lie in the ammoniacal litter, acquiring burns on their feet and legs and lesions on their breasts. After slaughter they are graded. Those classified as grade A can be sold whole. The others must have parts of the body removed, as they are disfigured by bruising, burning and necrosis. The remaining sections are cut up and sold as portions. Hungry yet?

Plagues spread fast through such factories, so broiler businesses often dose their birds with antibiotics. These require prescriptions but – amazingly – the government keeps no record of how many are issued. The profligate use of antibiotics on farms endangers human health, as it makes bacterial resistance more likely.

But Herefordshire, like other county councils in the region, scarcely seems to care. How many broiler units has it approved? Who knows? Searches by local people suggest 42 in the past 12 months. But in December the council claimed it has authorised 21 developments since 2000§. This week it told me it has granted permission to 31 since 2010. It admits that it “has not produced any specific strategy for managing broiler unit development”¤. Nor has it assessed the cumulative impact of these factories. At Bage Court Farm, as elsewhere, it has decided that no environmental impact assessment is neededɷ.

So how should chicken be produced? The obvious answer is free range, but this exchanges one set of problems for another. Chicken dung is rich in soluble reactive phosphate. Large outdoor flocks lay down a scorching carpet of droppings, from which phosphate can leach or flash into the nearest stream. Rivers like the Ithon, in Powys, are said to run white with chicken faeces after rainstorms. The River Wye, a special area of conservation, is blighted by algal blooms: manure stimulates the growth of green murks and green slimes that kill fish and insects when they rot. Nor does free range solve the feed problem: the birds are usually fed on soya, for which rainforests and cerrado on the other side of the world are wrecked.

There is no sensible way of producing the amount of chicken we eat. Reducing the impact means eating less meat – much less. I know that most people are not prepared to stop altogether, but is it too much to ask that we should eat meat as our grandparents did, as something rare and special, rather than as something we happen to be stuffing into our faces while reading our emails? To recognise that an animal has been sacrificed to serve our appetites, to observe the fact of its death, is this not the least we owe it?

Knowing what we do and what we induce others to do is a prerequisite for a life that is honest and meaningful. We owe something to ourselves as well: to overcome our disavowal, and connect.

www.monbiot.com

* Total purchases for household consumption (uncooked, pre-cooked and take-aways combined) rose from 126 grammes per person per week in 1974 to 259 grammes in 2013 (see the database marked UK – household purchases).

§ BBC Hereford and Worcester, 15th December 2014

¤ Response to FoI request IAT 7856, 13th August 2014

ɷ Herefordshire County Council, 22nd December 2014. Screening Determination of Bage Court Farm development, P143343/F

Quote of the day…

“There’s a strange idea around that it is worse to be ethically inconsistent than to be consistently unethical”

#lovethis

Exactly how I feel when someone rolls their eyes at me for nabbing a tiny square of non-vegan chocolate once in a blue moon just because I ruddy well feel like it

Or when I’m desperate for a coffee and can’t fnid anything other than cow’s milk so steal a splash and people raise an eyebrow as if to say ‘oh, not so ethically minded after all now are we?!’.

The Green Party on Animal Welfare

I voted for the Green Party yesterday.  I believe in voting in line with your values and therefore, regardless of how they would perform nationally, I knew that this was the only party that I could vote for with a clear conscience.

Below is where they stand on Animal Rights issues.  In a world where I feel almost entirely alone in my thoughts on this it is an enormous relief to find a party that feels the same way:

Animal Rights

Background

AR100 The expansion and development of human society has inevitably affected the lives of many other species. Disruption to their lifestyles has been both accidental and deliberate and has resulted in suffering, death or even extinction. The prevailing assumption that animals can be used for any purpose that benefits humankind is not acceptable in a Green society.

Long Term Aims

AR200 To eliminate the wholesale exploitation of other species, foster understanding of our inter-relationship in the web of life and protect and promote natural habitat.

Short Term Aims

AR300 To stimulate public awareness of the rights and needs of animals, to pass appropriate legislation to act by both informing the electorate and implementing suitable district policies.

Policies

AR400 As part of the Environment Commission (see PL410), a section will be set up dealing with the welfare of all animals, wild and domesticated, to oversee their treatment and make appropriate recommendations.

AR401 Local Authorities to provide a local Animal Rights Officer with adequate staff to oversee animal warden schemes, etc., and to liaise with the Animal Welfare Department of the Environment Commission.

AR402 To take pressure off wild animals by voluntarily limiting our population, by actively discouraging and penalising pollution and by preserving and restoring stable habitats. (see ‘Pollution’)

AR403 In the UK, close to a billion farm animals are slaughtered for food every year. Many of these animals are farmed intensively, kept in cramped conditions and denied the freedom to express natural behaviour. High levels of frustration, distress, injury and suffering are common and painful mutilations are routinely carried out to reduce risk of injury. Antibiotics are used routinely to prevent outbreak of disease, resulting in antibiotic resistance and threats to human and animal health. Animals are often transported long distances to slaughter and suffer inhumane conditions both during transport and at the time of slaughter. Besides the impact on animal welfare, high levels of consumption of meat, dairy and other animal products in developed countries are ecologically unsustainable and are linked to many chronic health conditions (See also FA650FA666).

AR404 The Green Party will phase out all forms of ‘factory farming’ and support a transition to small free-range units, mixed rotational farming and extensive grazing (see FA660-661). We support the highest levels of animal welfare in farming and shall ensure that the ‘Five Freedoms’ listed in the Animal Welfare Act are applied to all farm animals. In particular we shall press for maximum stocking densities and appropriate environments for all farm animals in order to permit expression of natural behaviour. We shall prohibit all caged rearing of poultry, including ‘enriched cages’. We shall prohibit all painful mutilations such as beak trimming of poultry and tail docking of pigs.

AR405 In recent decades, genetic selection has continually increased yields from farm animals, often resulting in endemic welfare problems, such as mastitis in cows and bone fractures in chickens. The Green Party will place limits on the ‘genetic yield’ of farm animals and will encourage farmers to use traditional breeds. 

AR406 The Green Party will phase out routine and prophylactic use of antibiotics in farm animals. We shall maintain a ban on the use of growth hormones and imports of food from animals treated with growth hormones. We support a ban on the use of GMOs in animal feed and oppose all genetic modification of animals (See FA720 and AR420). We shall maintain a ban on the use of, and importation of products from, cloned animals and their offspring (See FA666). We shall press for EU and international rules permitting restrictions on imports from countries with lower animal welfare standards (See FA502(c)).

AR407 The Green Party will seek to minimise live transport of animals and will work through the EU and locally to end all live exports for slaughter and fattening. We shall prioritise smaller, local abattoirs, prohibit piece-rate payment of workers and otherwise improve market and slaughterhouse conditions.

AR408 Undercover footage has revealed significant animal suffering in UK slaughterhouses, including animals slaughtered for organic meat. Mandatory CCTV will be required in all slaughterhouses. This will act as a deterrent and provide evidence for animal abuse prosecutions.

AR409 Overfishing and the harmful effects of fish farming are devastating marine ecosystems. Several billion fish are killed annually to feed the UK population, often by methods causing extreme suffering, and millions of fish are kept in cruel conditions in intensive fish farms. The Green Party will work for an end to overfishing, practices harming the marine ecosystem and avoidable by-catches (see MC323-330). We shall prohibit intensive fish farming (see FA657, FA660 and MC341) and restrict the use of fishmeal for animal feed (see FA661). We shall extend the Animal Welfare Act to cover all fishing activities.

AR410 A reduction in the consumption of animal products would have benefits for the environment, human health and animal welfare. The Green Party will support a progressive transition from diets dominated by meat and other animal products to healthier diets based on plant foods, through the use of research, education and economic measures, coupled with support for more sustainable methods of production such as organic and stockfree farming.

AR411 The Green Party will ensure that high quality, nutritionally balanced vegetarian and vegan menu options are widely available and promoted in all public sector establishments such as schools, hospitals and care facilities (see ED190, FA222, HE322). We shall ensure that catering and nutrition for vegetarian and vegan diets is included in all catering certificates and that lessons in preparing nutritious vegetarian and vegan food are included in food technology courses.

AR412 The Green Party will make it illegal to import and/or sell foie gras andany product that is the result of force-feeding.

AR413 To prohibit the import, export and sale of all fur, whether wild caught or factory farmed, and to ensure a ban on fur farming in the UK stays in place. The import of other animal products such as ivory, reptile skins and whale oil, will be prohibited.
AR414 In the UK, millions of animals are used each year in experiments which can cause great pain and suffering. There are significant differences between the physiology of animals and that of humans and the reliance on animal testing and experimentation increases the risks of adverse reactions and hampers progress. A large proportion of animals are used for non-medical testing and for duplicate research which could be avoided. There are now many techniques available for testing of chemicals, drugs and medical procedures and for researching disease that do not use animals. However, these alternatives are often not used and are not adequately funded or supported.

AR415 The Green Party would ban all experimentation and research which harms animals, including harmful procedures used to obtain animal-derived materials. ‘Harmful’ is defined in this context as ‘having the potential to cause pain, suffering, distress, lasting harm or death in animals, except where it is designed to benefit the individual animals concerned

AR416 Government research funds will be transferred from animal tests to non-animal technologies, including epidemiology, computer models, micro-dosing, imaging, DNA chips, microfluidics chips and the use of human tissue. Much greater use will be made of epidemiological evidence and clinical data. Greens would also fund more research into prevention of disease, looking at diet, environment, family history and lifestyle.

AR417 The Green Party is opposed to the harmful use in education of animals and of animal-derived materials where the animals have been killed specifically for this purpose. The Party supports the replacement of the use of animals and animal material with methods such as models, mannequins, mechanical and computer-based simulators, films and interactive videos, plant experiments and observational and field studies, and human studies including self-experimentation. The Party supports the educational use of animal cadavers and animal-derived materials where these have been ethically sourced, such as animals who have died naturally and animals who have been euthanased for humane reasons.

AR418 The Party is opposed to the wholesale breeding, manipulation and destruction of those animals who are chosen as companions to the human race. We will introduce measures to regulate the care and conditions for such animals including a two-tier system of dog-licensing [breeding and non-breeding], licensing of all animal breeders and dog owners, subsidised spaying and neutering, the implementation of good animal warden schemes and a prohibition on the import of exotic animals for the pet trade.

AR419 The Green Party would introduce a requirement that all dogs be microchipped. It would be a legal requirement that when the animal was sold or ownership transferred the owner’s details be updated on the database otherwise the owner listed on the database would be deemed to be responsible for the dog.

AR420 The Green Party will end puppy farming by banning the sale of young puppies and kittens unless the mother is present.

AR421 Patents will not be granted on any animal and strict controls will be introduced to prevent genetic manipulation for profit or curiosity. (see ST363)

AR422 To extend the 1911 Protection of Animals Act to protect both captive and non-captive animals from unnecessary suffering. This will be used to prohibit hunting with hounds, shooting, snaring, coursing and various other abuses of our animal population. The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to all blood-sports. We oppose the killing of, or infliction of pain or suffering upon, animals in the name of sport or leisure, and will work to end all such practices.

AR423 To amend the Firearms Act to prohibit the use and private ownership of firearms and lethal weapons, such as air rifles, crossbows, etc., except on registered premises.

AR424 In view of the fact that animal acts in circuses are cruel and degrading to performer and observer alike, we will immediately prohibit the import of, and sale from other sources of, all animals to circuses. We will immediately prohibit the use of animals in circuses and will encourage the re-homing of all existing circus animals to sanctuaries or other suitable establishments with relocation to the wild wherever possible.

AR425 To abolish zoos and private collections of animals except where they are for the benefit of the animal concerned. Licences will only be granted to establishments involved in either captive breeding of endangered species for eventual return to the wild or else those offering genuine sanctuary to animals unable, through injury and other cause, to be returned to the wild and where their living conditions are as close as possible to the animal’s natural habitat.

AR426 The Green Party will end the exploitation of animals in horse racing, greyhound racing and all  situations where animals are commercially raced. There would be an immediate ban on the use of the whip in horse racing and in jumps racing, and on the use of a non-linear track in greyhound racing. A single regulatory authority would be put in place for each sport, tasked with establishing and enforcing strict welfare standards. There would be a requirement for full traceability of all animals involved in racing  throughout their lives (using microchip technology where applicable) and full publication of injury and  death statistics. These statistics would be used as evidence to close dangerous tracks and ban trainers with poor records. Breeding and import of animals for racing will be tightly regulated and monitored to  improve welfare and prevent over-breeding. There would be regulation on the conditions and times of  transportation of animals used in sport as well as the housing of all animals. A high level of compulsory levy  would be imposed on all betting, to be used solely for welfare improvements.

AR427 The Green Party will endeavour internationally to initiate and develop an Animal Rights Division within the United Nations Organisation.

AR428 The Green Party opposes all lethal or harmful uses and treatment of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises). In particular, whaling is a premeditated, deliberate and unnecessary cause of animal suffering. It is not justified even if supposedly undertaken as ‘scientific research’ or ‘subsistence hunting’ rather than for commercial profit. It endangers the survival of various cetacean species. The Green Party condemns those governments who seek, through the International Whaling Commission and otherwise, to continue whaling. We call on all governments to outlaw whaling. The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to all lethal and harmful commercial utilisation of cetaceans. This includes all whaling, so called scientific whaling and any whaling conducted under the cover-all of ‘aboriginal subsistence whaling’. The Green Party opposes any move to end the current moratorium on commercial whaling. We call on all nations to declare the waters under their control havens from whaling, to provide sanctuary throughout those waters for cetaceans, and to co-operate in achieving global sanctuary for cetaceans in the longer term.

AR429 Xenotransplantation: The Green Party would abolish research into, and the practise of xenotransplantation (the transplantation of nonhuman animal organs, genetically engineered or otherwise, into human beings). Treating nonhuman animals as “spare part” factories is both immoral and inhumane, and is therefore completely unacceptable in an ecological society. Xenotransplantation is yet another instance of corporate profit being prioritised over public health and the rights of nonhuman animals. Xenotransplantation carries the grave danger of virus transferral from nonhuman animals to humans, raising the real possibility of the unleashing of an epidemic amongst the human population.

The Green Party would promote more sensible and effective approaches to enhancing health, such as preventative health measures, increasing the pool of human donors, research into artificial organs, and the surgical repair of damaged organs.

Amazing Vegan Burgers!

These are sensational and well wroth the effort.  Recipe from One Green Planet

Sweet Potato Burgers With Green Tahini [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Serves 12-14

Ingredients

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • ½ red onion
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1 cup packed cilantro or parsley (or half and half)
  • 
3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 3 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes (1½ cup), steamed or baked, peeled and mashed
  • ¾ cup quick-cooking oats

Green Tahini Sauce:

  • 
1/2 cup tahini
  • ½ cup water
  • 
juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint, cilantro, and parsley (or your favorite fresh herbs)
  • 
1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Preparation

Burgers:

  1. In a food processor pulse and chop the red bell pepper and red onion. Pour the chopped veggies into a large mixing bowl. Place the chickpeas and cilantro/parsley into the food processor and blend until the chickpeas are a thick mealy texture. Pour into the mixing bowl with peppers and onions. Place the garlic, almonds, and spices into the food processor and blend until the almonds are a crumbly texture. Pour into the mixing bowl.
  2. Mash the sweet potato with a fork, or place it in the food processor and blend until smooth. Pour it over the contents of the mixing bowl followed by the oats, and stir well to combine the ingredients. Season to taste with more sea salt and spice.
  3. Place the burger batter in the refrigerator to firm up for an hour or longer.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°, and line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop about ¾ cup of the batter into your hands and form into a tight patty. Place the patty onto the baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining batter. Make sure that the patties are not too close to each other on the baking sheet (2 inches separating is good). Bake for 40 minutes, or until cooked through. After removing them from the oven, allow the patties to cool for at least 15 minutes before trying to remove them with a spatula or your hands.
  5. Serve with green tahini on bread, lettuce, or solo. Bon appetit!

Green Tahini Sauce:

  1. Place the tahini, water, lemon, herbs, and sea salt into a blender. Blend until smooth, slowly add in the olive oil.