7 Ways Eating Meat, Dairy and Eggs Destroys Motherhood

This article strikes a chord with me as I’m now just over 5 weeks away from my own personal D-Day!

Farmed animals care about their babies, and include some of the most devoted mothers in the animal kingdom. In many cultures, cows symbolize a sacred maternal figure, while we call the nurturing and (sometimes overly) protective people in our lives “mother hens” for a very good reason. Yet animal farming is fundamentally built on the destruction of motherhood. Every year, billions of farmed animals are forcibly bred into existence for the sole purpose of being exploited and killed for their flesh and secretions. Female reproduction and mothering are constantly violated in order to produce meat, milk and eggs we have no biological need to consume. In fact, a nutritious plant-based diet is shown to be far healthier than a diet that includes animal products, and delicious plant-based versions of meat, eggs and dairy products can be purchased in stores or prepared in your own kitchen. In the sections below, learn more about farmed animal mothers and their babies, and what you can do to help them. 1. Dairy All animal farming exploits motherhood, but there is perhaps no more egregious violation of motherhood than dairy farming, in which females of another species are forced to become pregnant and carry their babies for nine months, only to have them ripped away at birth in order for humans to steal the milk intended for them. Cows’ milk is for baby cows. Human breast milk is for young developing humans. We have no more need to drink the breast milk of a cow than we do the breast milk of a cat. Taking mothers’ milk from other animals is not only unhealthy and unnecessary, but entails a great deal of cruelty, even on small and so-called humane dairy farms, like the one in the video below.

Watch here

Profitable dairy production depends on a constant cycle of impregnating cows to keep them at peak lactation, then taking away the calves for whom the milk is intended, typically within the first few hours of birth. Researchers have found that merely five minutes of contact between a cow and her newborn calf is sufficient for the formation of a strong maternal bond. Calves who got to spend only 24 hours with their mothers continued to recognize and uniquely respond to recordings of their mothers’ calls.

“The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf. The mother was allowed to nurse her calf but for a single night. On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn – only ten yards away, in plain view of the mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth – minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days – were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain.” —Dr. Michael Klaper


Female calves spend their first six weeks to two months of life isolated in hutches with none of the maternal care or nurturing they crave. Male calves are sold to be slaughtered for veal or cheap beef. The cruel veal industry only exists as a result of the dairy industry.

2. Eggs

many male chicks in garbage bag

At the hatcheries that supply female chicks to factory egg farms, small farms, and backyard egg enthusiasts alike, male chicks are killed shortly after birth by being ground up alive in giant macerators, gassed, electrocuted, or left to suffocate in garbage bags and dumpsters. Because male chicks will never lay eggs and are not the breed sold for meat (meat chicken breeds have been genetically manipulated to grow much more breast muscle and flesh), they are considered worthless to the egg industry, and so are disposed of as trash. Destroying male chicks is standard practice worldwide (see the 5 second graphic video below). Every year, global hatcheries combined kill approximately 6 billion newborn chicks.

Even the most rigorous humane labeling certification programs in the U.S., Certified Humane, American Humane Certified, and Animal Welfare Approved, permit the killing of male chicks at the hatcheries which supply their egg farms with laying hens. Laying hens themselves spend 2 miserable years crammed into cages so small they cannot even spread their wings, churning out an unnaturally high rate of hundreds of eggs each year without ever getting the chance to hatch or mother a single chick.

3. Pigs

In a natural environment, pregnant sows leave the social group a few days before birth to look for a safe, secluded space for building a nest. Sows are very selective about their nest sites and may travel for miles before choosing a spot. Once the site has been chosen, the sow digs a hollow in the earth and fills it with soft grass, leaves and twigs.

gestation crate joanne mcarthur

But on factory farms, breeding sows are confined and immobilized for most of their lives. After being artificially inseminated, they spend the entire four months of their pregnancy in “gestation crates,” metal stalls so narrow the sows can literally never turn around, and can’t lie down without portions of their body protruding outside the bars. Sows lie and stand in these maddening conditions night and day for 16 weeks. These intelligent, playful animals, whom animal behaviourists rank as more intelligent than 3 year old children, frequently become so depressed that they grow unresponsive and lie unmoving with vacant stares. Others go insane, biting the bars of their crates and obsessively banging their heads against the metal doors. When they are ready to give birth, mother pigs are transferred to “farrowing crates” that are equally restrictive. Once again they cannot turn around, and must lie or stand on slatted metal flooring covered with their own urine and excrement. This is highly stressful for sows, who are extremely fastidious animals and, when permitted, always establish separate toilet areas far from their nests. Piglets can reach their mothers to nurse, but sows can perform none of the maternal behaviours that come to them naturally. Baby pigs are taken from their mothers at 2 to 3 weeks of age. After 2 to 4 years of repeated artificial insemination and pregnancy, breeding sows are brutally slaughtered and replaced. The video below is from a slaughterhouses that turns breeding sows into sausage.

Watch here

While life is better for pigs on some small and so-called humane farms, even on these farms mother pigs are helpless to protect their newborn piglets from practices so cruel they would be illegal if done to dogs or cats. See our feature, Bacon: A Day in the Life to learn more. 4. Chickens for Meat In a natural environment, chicks would spend much of their first weeks peeping out from under their mother’s wings, or exploring by her side, feeling nurtured and protected. Check out this clip for a beautiful reminder of where we got the term “mother hen”:

Watch here

But chicks raised for meat never know their mother’s warmth or experience the sense of security and belonging they instinctively seek. Instead they are hatched by the hundreds of thousands in massive industrial incubator drawers stacked ceiling to floor. Life from the moment of birth is a mechanized horror show in which newborn chicks are treated like cogs in a machine: thrown, dropped, sucked through chutes, and, if they are sickly or too small, ground up alive.

Watch here

5. Cows for Beef Researchers who have studied cow-calf relationships in semi-wild herds and in domestic beef cattle observe the same pattern: the strongest and most lasting social bonds among cows are between mothers and their offspring, and these relationships persist long after the calves have matured. In both domestic and semi-wild herds, cows consistently prefer their daughters and sons as grazing companions for many years. “The birth of a second, third, or even fourth calf failed to disrupt the close association between the cow and her older offspring.”

mama kissing baby cow 1

Although calves raised for beef get to stay with their mothers much longer than calves born to dairy cows, they are still separated far earlier than would ever naturally occur, at only 6 or 7 months of age. Because they have bonded so closely, this separation is devastating for both mother and calf. In fact the process is so traumatic that calves frequently become sick and many die; complications from weaning are the second greatest cause of death in beef calves. The cruel spiked nose ring was originally invented as a way to minimize loss of beef calves by allowing them to stay with their mothers while forcibly preventing them from nursing. Watch what happens on the day these calves are permanently separated from their moms.

Watch here

On one farm blog, a farmer’s wife writes of the weaning period: “The other day I made the mistake of opening the curtains at the kitchen sink and spotted the calves lined up at the corral fence and their mommas lined up on the other side. Nose to nose, they were positioned like prisoners during visitation!” 6. Turkeys The very first thing baby turkeys do when they have hatched from their shells is look and call for their mothers. Turkeys are very family oriented. In natural conditions, turkey hens are devoted mothers who care diligently for their babies. Young turkeys, known as poults, learn crucial survival information from their mother, including what to eat, how to avoid predators, the layout of the home range, and important social behaviors. But on commercial farms, turkeys are hatched in incubators and crammed into warehouses with thousands of other motherless poults. It is confusing and hard on young turkeys to never know a mother figure. Check out this amazing clip of a hatching newborn turkey immediately searching for, and bonding with, his adoptive mother—who just so happens to be a man.

Watch here

In addition to never getting a chance to mother their babies, turkeys on breeding farms are horribly abused. Modern day turkeys have been bred to grow so grotesquely large that they can’t even mate naturally. Commercial turkeys are “artificially inseminated”: the industry euphemism for roughly restraining female turkeys, turning them upside down, and violently shoving syringes of semen into their vaginas.

One worker describes his brief stint at a turkey hen breeding facility in Missouri: “The birds were terrified, and beat their wings and struggled in panic…Having been through this week after week, the birds feared the chute and bulked and huddled up. The drivers literally kicked them into the chute…I have never done such hard, dirty, disgusting work in my life: 10 hours of pushing birds, grabbing birds, wrestling birds, jerking them upside down, pushing open their vents, dodging their panic-blown excrement and breathing the dust stirred up by terrified birds.”

7. Goats

Watch here

Goat’s milk, cheese and other goat’s milk products involve the same cruelty as dairy farming of cows. Kid goats are taken from their mothers, males are killed for meat, and both males and females are subjected to excruciating mutilations without pain killer or anesthesia. These include castration, disbudding or dehorning, and ear notching. The video above shows standard hot iron disbudding (removal of sensitive tissue that would grow into horns) on a small dairy goat farm.

Stella would have been dead by Christmas. In late December, a slaughterhouse owner bought her and several other “spent” dairy goats at a stockyard. Like all female goats in dairy production, they had lived their short lives in a cycle of impregnation, birth and lactation. Their babies were taken from them immediately after birth, the girls to be raised as replacements, the boys to be auctioned for meat or disposed of by some other fatal means. After a few years of this, the dairy goats’ bodies were worn out, and their milk production declined. It was then their turn to face the auction and the kill floor. It was a normal day at the slaughterhouse until Stella went into labor. Unaware that one of his purchases was pregnant, the facility owner was taken by surprise. And then he was taken by another emotion. Seeing the tender devotion between the mother and her newborn kid, he decided to let them live. Stella and her newborn baby were spared. The slaughterhouse owner reached out to a relative who had worked at Cornell University Hospital for Animals, and she knew exactly where the goats could go to be safe. She contacted our New York Shelter, and we were quickly on our way. When we arrived to rescue the goats, we found another mother goat who had recently given birth as well. We then asked, and the slaughterhouse owner agreed, to let them live too.” -read the full story of Farm Sanctuary’s rescue of Stella the goat and her baby, Abigail. What It Means to Exploit Motherhood People sometimes defend the exploitation of farmed animal motherhood by saying things like, “Some pigs are careless mothers and will crush and even kill their piglets without gestation crates. We’re protecting the piglets.” Or, “The maternal instinct has been bred out of dairy cows. Some will not feed their babies properly or will even ignore them entirely. We’re protecting the calves by taking them away from their mothers.” These arguments are not only disingenuous, they’re illogical. If we follow their logic to its natural conclusion, then we would be forced to note that many human mothers are careless mothers, neglectful mothers, abusive mothers — and many human mothers even kill their babies. (1) If the existence of instances of poor parenting or the killing of babies by some farmed animals is an excuse to enslave, confine, and exploit billions of farmed animal mothers (and to eat their babies), then, since so many human mothers neglect and kill their babies, are we also justified in exploiting all human mothers and taking their babies away to harm them? If not, then this line of reasoning doesn’t bear up. Farmed animals care about their babies and are good mothers despite the fact that some pigs accidentally crush their babies, just as most human mothers are good mothers despite the fact that many mothers intentionally kill their own babies. It is wrong to exploit the motherhood of any creature. You can reject the violent exploitation of motherhood and of all animals by living vegan. Leading public health organizations all over the world are now catching up with science in acknowledging that a vegan diet is healthy and appropriate for individuals at all stages of life.


Fish don’t feel…?

A lot of people tell me that they struggle to feel compassionately about fish.  On the sliding scale of animals that we can empathise with, fish come pretty low… above woodlice possibly but way below pigs and partridge! 

Yes they don’t resemble us much and don’t display the biggest array of emotions or facial expressions!  But I think we all have the ability to recognise suffering and I challenge you to watch this footage and not feel enormously sad and angry. 

Play Video

 Once you’ve finished watching this, if you’re someone that enjoys eating fish then I’d ask you to think about how the fish you eat are killed.  Think about how the billions of fish that are killed every year for human consumption die.  And sit with those thoughts for a little while.

Some other videos that might make you reconsider whether it is cruel to eat fish…

This one


This one with Joaquin Phoenix is pretty thought provoking

Please sign this petition to help get CCTV installed in all slaughterhouses


“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”

– Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney’s famous words ring true for anyone who’s glimpsed the terrible things that happen to animals in abattoirs. But in the UK, far from having “glass walls”, most abattoirs are not even properly monitored, allowing shocking abuse to happen behind closed doors.

Watch this video to see how important it is that slaughterhouses are monitored… be warned it contains upsetting footage

Animal Aid investigated nine randomly chosen UK abattoirs and found breaches of welfare laws in eight of them. Animals were kicked, slapped, stamped on, beaten, punched, burned with cigarettes and picked up by their fleece and ears and thrown into pens. The footage showed inadequate, botched and multiple stunning and the sadistic use of stunning equipment to “punish” animals.

Neither the government-appointed, on-site veterinarians nor the abattoir operators had detected a single illegal act that was filmed.

That’s why we’re getting behind an online petition to make closed-circuit television (CCTV) mandatory in all abattoirs – the first step towards creating transparency and stopping workers from getting away with abusing animals.

CCTV would act as a deterrent to those who would otherwise abuse animals and would also provide evidence for prosecutions when staff did harm them. Although it won’t end animal suffering in abattoirs, it is an invaluable tool that would help veterinarians and animal welfare officers protect animals from gratuitous abuse, incompetence and negligence.

We need to reach 100,000 signatures on the petition to make sure it is debated in Parliament and to ensure that politicians take this issue seriously. Please sign the petition today and help build the momentum by sharing it as widely as possible.

Sign the petition here!

Animal testing is on the up…

Earlier this month the Home Office released statistics on the number of experiments on animals conducted last year. It’s not good news.

(video still) monkey with injuries being restrained by a person

Peta reports –

In 2013, animal testers in Great Britain used more than 4.01 million animals in experiments, a 52 per cent increase since 2000. The number of experiments was the highest in a generation – a  step backwards for scientific progress in this country and a catastrophe for the millions of animals who live and die in laboratory cages.

Most of these animals lost their lives because of genetic engineering experiments, an imprecise, inefficient and unreliable “Frankenstein science” in which mothers undergo invasive procedures to insert or delete certain genes in their offspring. Only 3 to 5 per cent of all animals born actually carry the genes of interest, and the rest of the babies are usually killed soon after birth. Of the ones allowed to live, the young often die prematurely or are born with unpredictable behavioural and physiological abnormalities, such as increased sensitivity to pain, malfunctioning organs, susceptibility to seizures or rampant tumour growth. There were also dramatic increases in the number of experiments conducted on monkeys and guinea pigs.

Statistics can never reveal the full extent of suffering endured by each and every one of the individuals who were poisoned, cut open, blinded, electrocuted or infected with deadly diseases in barren, windowless prisons. We don’t even know the full extent of the abuse, as experiments on animals in the UK are currently shrouded in a veil of secrecy – something that we’ve been working hard to change.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s no excuse for this hidden massacre. Although animals have the same capacity to feel fear and pain that humans have, our physiology is vastly different. And that is why animal experiments are not good science.

Evidence recently published in the BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal) demonstrates that experiments on animals systematically fail to benefit humans. Instead, they lead to expensive and fruitless clinical trials, which can endanger human life, cause millions of animals to suffer, cost billions of pounds and lead researchers away from possible beneficial therapies.

Forward-thinking researchers have succeeded in developing reliable alternatives to harming animals. For example, new “organs-on-chips” contain lab-grown human cells which mimic the structure and function of human organs, while MatTek’s EpiDermTM Tissue Model, a 3-dimensional, human cell–derived skin model, replicates key traits of normal human skin.

These are the types of innovative projects that Britain needs to invest in. Instead, the preoccupation with archaic, unreliable and unethical tests on animals is dragging down scientific progress – and taking millions of animals with it.

Why I don’t wear wool…

I don’t wear wool for much the same reasons that I don’t eat meat or dairy – I can live perfectly happily without it and so why would I not choose to avoid it altogether when there is so much inherent cruelty necessary to produce it.  I have read too many reports, watched too many documentaries, subjected myself to too much heartbreaking undercover footage to allow myself to turn a blind eye any longer. 

Anything which is trying to profit from restricting, harming or interfering with an animal’s life is inherently problematic because when turning a profit is the aim then the animal’s welfare inevitably gets compromised.  As with other industries where animals are raised for a profit, the interests of the animals used in the wool industry are rarely considered. Flocks usually consist of thousands of sheep, and individual attention to their needs is virtually impossible. Many people believe that shearing sheep helps animals who might otherwise be burdened with too much wool, but without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes.

Australia produces about a quarter of all wool used worldwide. Within weeks of birth, lambs’ ears are hole-punched, their tails are chopped off, and the males are castrated without anesthetics. Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the welfare of the sheep. Says one eyewitness: “[T]he shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals … I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or their fists until the sheep’s nose bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off …”

In Australia, the most commonly raised sheep are merinos, specifically bred to have wrinkly skin, which means more wool per animal. This unnatural overload of wool causes animals to die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles also collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, and the hatched maggots can eat the sheep alive. To prevent this so-called “flystrike,” Australian ranchers perform a barbaric operation—mulesing—or carving huge strips of flesh off the backs of lambs’ legs and around their tails. This is done to cause smooth, scarred skin that won’t harbor fly eggs, yet the bloody wounds often get flystrike before they heal. Every year, hundreds of lambs die before the age of 8 weeks from exposure or starvation, and mature sheep die every year from disease, lack of shelter, and neglect.

Mulesing is an incredibly cruel practice and as soon as I read about this I knew that I would never buy anything made from or containing wool again.  Even if I could ensure that the wool products I was buying were not from sheep that had been mulesed (which is almost impossible to do) why would I want to support this industry in any way.  It’s much the same reason I wouldn’t wear fake fur – I don’t want to be seen to glamorise, promote or support the wearing of fur, fake or real, in any way whatsoever.  

Google Mulesing to find out more about it and if that doesn’t make you question whether or not you should be wearing wool then have a look at this week’s undercover investigation into the cruel reality of sheep shearing that is going on throughout Australia today. Undercover reporters gained employment in 19 different shearing sheds across Australia and filmed the goings on… It is not easy reading or watching I warn you but if you are someone who buys/wears wool clothing then you have a right to know what cruelty and abuse you are unwittingly paying for and supporting…

The RSPCA has launched an investigation into footage that allegedly shows the severe abuse of sheep in numerous Australian shearing sheds.

The animal rights group Peta has released video it says was taken covertly in 19 shearing sheds in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The footage shows sheep being roughly handled, punched in the face and stamped upon. One sheep was beaten with a hammer while another was shown having a deep cut crudely sewn up.

Peta said its investigators obtained had the images after gaining employment with farms and shearing contractors over the past year.

Claire Fryer, a campaign coordinator at Peta Australia, declined to tell Guardian Australia the exact location of the shearing sheds, citing concerns about the safety of the whistleblowers.

“I can say, though, that abuse was witnessed in each of the 19 shearing sheds and that a total of 70 staff were documented abusing sheep,” she said.

“We didn’t see any vet care for any of the sheep and despite, them putting up no resistance, they were horribly abused. Sheep are very gentle animals and this was terrifying for them.

“Shearers are unusually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast, rough work which cuts the bodies of sheep. Put simply, there is no such thing as humane wool. We’d urge Australians to leave wool out of their wardrobes entirely.”

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA confirmed it was investigating whether the video shows breaches of animal welfare laws, but would not put a timeframe on these deliberations.

“The vision made publicly available by Peta overnight shows sheep being beaten with shearing handpieces and thrown down a chute,” the RSPCA said.

“The allegations are serious and will be investigated by RSPCA inspectors as information comes to hand for potential breaches of the relevant state animal welfare legislation.”

Penalties for breaching animal welfare laws vary by state. For example, in NSW, the maximum penalty is a fine of $22,000 or five years in prison.

Barnaby Joyce, the federal agriculture minister, said questions needed to be asked about the way Peta obtained the footage and why it held on to it for so long before releasing it.

“One of the questions I ask is with the up-close shot of the man hitting the sheep, which is obviously exceptional and cruel and in many instances would be immediate dismissal, where exactly was the camera?” Joyce told the ABC.

“Did the person know that they were filmed? Were they actually part of process? There are lots of questions that need to be asked.”

WoolProducers, the peak body for the wool industry in Australia, has been contacted for comment on the footage.

The Victorian government recently pledged to introduce new “ag gag” laws, which would crack down on the ability of animal rights activists to covertly film alleged abuses on farms.

Producers of eggs and pork have called for stricter penalties for people who obtain access to farms in order to film activity there. Andrew Spencer, chief executive of Australian Pork Limited, told the ABC in May that intrusions had been “very distressing” for farmers. He added: “It’s like having your house burgled.”

The Greens criticised Joyce, who recently indicated his own support for a form of “ag gag” law.

“Mr Joyce’s attack on Peta is a crude attempt to avoid cleaning up farming practices,” said the Greens senator Lee Rhiannon.

“He wants to punish people who expose cruelty to animals with harsher penalties than to those who actually commit the violence.

“Undercover investigators play an important role as exposure of animal cruelty helps highlight the need for improved farming practices.”

The governments reaction to this – to try and tighten the laws on people filming undercover – just sums it all up.  Animal welfare is bottom of the agenda.  Protecting their export businesses, economy and reputation is all that matters.  They don’t give a s*** about animal rights and it disgusts me.  The only comfort I have is that I can say that I no longer contribute to this and I hope that the more people are told about this the less wool people will buy and the more animals will be spared.



Revealed: the dirty secret of the UK’s poultry industry

Today, the Guardian has published their report on an investigation into the food hygiene standards of the poultry industry – in particular to the prevalence of campylobacter in two thirds of our fresh retail chicken. 

How many undercover and public investigations to we need to read about before we change our eating habits.  If not from an animal welfare perspective, then from a health and hygiene point of view.  It’s staggering what we can turn a blind eye to in a stubborn effort to avoid facing up to the truth. 

Here’s the report:

Three of the UK’s leading supermarkets have launched emergency investigations into their chicken supplies after a Guardian investigation uncovered a catalogue of alleged hygiene failings in the poultry industry.

Undercover footage, photographic evidence and information from whistleblowers has revealed how strict industry hygiene standards to prevent the contamination of chicken with the potentially deadly campylobacter bug can be flouted on the factory floor and on farms.

Specific incidents identified in the last month include a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.

Poultry offal piles up during a pump system failure at the 2 Sisters factory in Anglesey.

The evidence prompted Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer to launch emergency investigations into their chicken sources over the last week.

The concern centres on the bacteria campylobacter, which at the last count was present in two-thirds of British fresh chicken sold in the UK. Although the bug is killed by thorough cooking, around 280,000 people in the UK are currently made ill each year by it and 100 people are thought to die. Contamination rates are known to have increased in the past decade.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), however, decided on Wednesday to shelve a promise to name and shame supermarkets and processors for their campylobacter rates. The climbdown comes after “push-back” from industry and interventions from government departments.

One source said they had been told Number 10 had raised concerns about the communication of the results, fearing that they could provoke a food scare similar to that triggered when the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie warned that most of British eggs were contaminated with salmonella in 1988.

The Guardian’s five-month investigation uncovered a series of alleged hygiene failings in the chicken industry.

The allegations have been made against two of the largest UK poultry processors, 2 Sisters Food Group and Faccenda. They relate to two factories owned by 2 Sisters that supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and to farms and an abattoir owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

The allegations are that:

Chickens which fall on to the floor have repeatedly been put back on to the production line at two 2 Sisters sites. They company denies this ever happens and says all chicken from the floor is correctly disposed of as waste.

Breakdowns led to high-risk material – feathers, guts and offal – piling up for hours on separate occasions while production continued at a 2 Sisters factory in Wales. The company says they did not stop the line because they had to consider the welfare of chickens waiting in crates to be killed.

Another breakdown led to the water in scald tanks at the same site not being cleaned for three days, so that around 250,000 birds passed through dirty water after slaughter. The company says this was an isolated incident that lasted only one day, bacteria counts were checked and were acceptable.

According to a whistleblower chicken catcher, biosecurity rules to stop the spread of campylobacter in chicken sheds at Faccenda were regularly ignored by workers when he was employed there. Faccenda says this is not true and it has invested heavily in a highly trained and motivated workforce.

Campylobacter contamination has plagued the poultry industry for more than a decade and has got worse in that time.

The FSA ordered new tests for campylobacter amid worries that there had been no improvements in rates. Results were due in June, and as recently as March the FSA’s chief executive, Catherine Brown, publicly vowed to press ahead with “steely determination” despite push-back from industry.

On Wednesday, however, Brown asked the FSA board to reverse the previous decision to publish campylobacter results for named supermarkets and processors every quarter. The board heard that there were now concerns, not raised previously, that the sample size for one quarter’s data was insufficiently large to be statistically robust.

Brown insisted that the threat of exposing campylobacter results had made supermarkets and chicken processors take notice of the FSA’s concerns about contamination for the first time, but said the industry had not so far made the changes in production needed to reduce campylobacter on any scale.

“Time is upon us for everyone to work out how they are going to stump up money to make the interventions on [the production] line,” she told the meeting.

The eight members of the board were divided on the proposals, leaving the chairman and former president of the National Farmers’ Union, Tim Bennett, to use his casting vote to quash the plans to name companies for the moment. They are looking at separate proposals to urgently increase the testing of retail chicken.

Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA, said ahead of the board meeting: “Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers. We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.

“If we publish the results piecemeal, other people might draw unwarranted conclusions from partial data and we don’t want consumers being misled or confused.”

Erik Millstone, a food safety professor at Sussex University, condemned the board’s decision. “In the last few years the Food Standards Agency has been under a great deal of pressure from the government and the food industry to ensure that it only provides reassuring messages, and especially that it should say nothing that could provoke any ‘food scares’,” he said. “But the FSA was created to protect consumers, not to protect the food industry, or to give ministers a quiet time. This decision shows that its independence is entirely illusory.”

The executive director of Which? magazine, Richard Lloyd, said: “The Guardian’s investigation raises serious concerns. Tackling campylobacter has to become a much bigger priority for supermarkets and their suppliers as it is responsible for thousands of cases of food poisoning and the deaths of 100 people every year. It’s therefore disappointing that the FSA has gone back on its commitment to publish in full the quarterly data on the levels of campylobacter in supermarket chickens, when it is clearly in the public interest to do so. The FSA must put consumers first and operate more transparently than this.”

Although the public are mostly unaware of it, the scale of campylobacter contamination and the number of people it makes ill each year have been well-known among industry bosses, retail directors and government officials for more than a decade. The annual cost to the economy is a staggering £900m, making a significant dent in the £3.3bn the poultry industry claims to contribute to Britain’s GDP. Up to 80% of campylobacter infections are attributable to contaminated poultry.

The points in the chicken production chain at which contamination occurs are clearly understood, but during the past decade the picture has got worse. In 2003 the FSA reported that 56% of chicken on sale was infected. By 2008 that had increased to 65%.

The decision over whether to name and shame the industry is a vexed one. The stakes are high – consumers are likely to shun poultry in supermarkets with the worst scores. Cleaning up would require money, experts say, and poultry firms and retailers are locked in to an economic structure of their own making in their race to produce the cheapest possible chicken.

In the factory

The Guardian has investigated the weak links in the chicken chain, gathering material from undercover film, photographic evidence and whistleblowers.

Just last month – on a not untypical day, according to sources – at a vast chicken abattoir in Anglesey owned by the UK’s largest poultry company, 2 Sisters Food Group, something of the nature of the problem is revealed. Tesco, M&S and Asda are among the customers for chicken for ready meals supplied from this site.

The pump system has broken down again, and the channel that is supposed to drain away the innards from the tens of thousands of chickens killed and processed each day for supermarket orders has been blocked for a prolonged period. Guts and offal extracted during a process called evisceration are piling up to form a gory heap of high-risk material. The floor around is wet with blood. Campylobacter is carried in the guts and faeces of chickens and evisceration is one of the key points in the processing chain at which contamination occurs.

“That’s unbelievable, it just shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” said Ron Spellman, the director general of EWFC, which represents meat inspectors across the EU, when we showed him pictures the Guardian had obtained of the incident that had been described to us. Spellman was a poultry inspector for 12 years.

“They should stop the line and clean up. But that costs money, and the process is generally run so hard and fast, if a line is down too long they don’t have enough hours in the day to fulfil their supermarket orders. And if they don’t meet orders, they lose the contract.”

In Spellman’s view, the driving down of prices is a key part of the problem. “The supermarkets have got to have some responsibility because they push harder and harder on price. There is this perception that supermarkets somehow keep the industry honest and hygienic, but what we’ve seen is that it doesn’t work,” he said.

Modern poultry processing is a production line business. Birds are hung upside down on a moving conveyor belt of shackles at the beginning of the abattoir, and in a sort of food Fordism, carried seamlessly through every stage from slaughter to washing, chilling, cutting and packing at high speeds. Large abattoirs typically run lines at a rate of 185 to 195 birds a minute, or nearly 12,000 an hour.

Intensive poultry farms typically give each bird less floor space than the size of an A4 sheet of paper.

On the evisceration line, guts are scooped out by automated metal fists. Today’s chickens are bred to fatten fast to a standard 4lb (1.8kg) size in six weeks, but as units of production they are not as obligingly uniform as car parts. If the machine is not adjusted to different crops of birds as they come through, the metal fist can burst the guts, and then any campylobacter is automatically spread to bird after bird. Adjusting machinery or stopping the line to clean up takes time and costs money.

On a separate occasion last month in the same factory, workers witnessed another breakdown. Workers say these are repeated events. This time it was the pump feeding the flume of water that is supposed to carry feathers away from the plucking machines.

The defeathering machines are another high-risk point for campylobacter infection. Slaughtered birds pass first through a scald tank of warm water to loosen the feathers and then through a series of whirring rubber fingers which pull the feathers out. The feathers themselves can be contaminated with faeces, the fingers put pressure on the birds and can squeeze out more faecal matter, and the fingers can become impregnated with bacteria.

In the steamy atmosphere, campylobacter from the feathers can also become airborne. Removing the feathers promptly through the drains is a vital part of food safety, but the evidence provided to us suggests they had piled up for hours as production was allowed to continue at the Anglesey site.

Across the industry, the water in the scald tank is generally only changed once a day, so that by the end of a shift it can become a soup of chicken faeces and dirt. This used to be a high-risk point, but the water is now kept hot enough to kill bacteria. The foam that forms on the top, however, is cooler and bacteria can survive here, according to Spellman, with each bird passing through it as it goes on its way.

Scald tanks on the left with chicken debris on the floor. Photograph: Guardian

At the Anglesey plant, sources told us of an occasion last month when there was another breakdown. They said the scald tank was left uncleaned for two nights, so that three days of fresh birds – more than 250,000 chickens – were processed through the same dirty water.

Our sources told us that managers were made aware of these different breakdowns, but said the lines must be kept running because they had to meet targets.

We asked 2 Sisters why the lines had not been stopped for cleaning when these incidents occurred. The company told us that it and the vets had to make difficult decisions when there were breakdowns in the evisceration, defeathering and scald tank parts of the line. These required weighing up contamination risk with the welfare of chickens waiting in crates to be slaughtered.

The company denied that the scald tank had gone uncleaned over three days of production, saying it was an isolated incident which lasted only a day, and that it had tested for bacteria counts at the time and found they were acceptable.

2 Sisters bought the Anglesey factory last year when it acquired the UK operations of the Dutch poultry group Vion. Despite being one of the largest meat processors in Europe, Vion had decided to leave the UK market altogether after years of extremely tough trading conditions.

The industry runs on slim margins from the retailers and main fast food companies. Making a profit depends on being able to process very large volumes. That has driven not just the speed of production but also the concentration of ownership. Just four companies account for most of the UK market.

The alleged repeated breakdown of good hygiene at Anglesey appears dramatic, but our investigation has found problems elsewhere that help account for the rate of campylobacter on our chicken.

We had been told by insider sources in several different factories that one reason campylobacter rates remain stubbornly high was that across the industry there was a gap between companies’ policies on good hygiene and auditing systems to check for it, and the reality on the factory floor during long shifts and intense production.

Our reporter went undercover to look for a job in a chicken factory to find out what it was really like. He found one at another 2 Sisters poultry factory in Scunthorpe. This site supplies Tesco, Sainsbury’s, KFC and Aldi among others.

He witnessed carcasses with traces of faecal contamination that had made it through to packing for sale. Insider sources with expertise in food safety have told us this is common across the industry and is even unavoidable given the way chicken is processed. 2 Sisters said this allegation did not “reflect reality” and that the company had strict controls on carcass contamination which would remove them from the food chain.

Workers are trained to bin any meat that falls on the floor, where it could be contaminated, but our reporter saw staff pick it up and recycle it in to the production line on repeated occasions when preparing orders.

In one episode of almost grotesque comedy, a carcass that had fallen on the floor was run over by a worker pushing a trolley of crates, before our reporter saw it eventually being scooped up and lobbed back into production by a supervisor who then wipes their hands on their coat rather than washing them. We do not know where the chicken ended up. He was told it was going to Birmingham, where the company has another plant that debones chickens and processes them.

Jamie Pritchard worked as a meat cutter at 2 Sisters’s Anglesey site last year before leaving to join another meat company. He says during his time there he too saw workers picking chickens off the floor and putting them back in to production instead of throwing them into the waste bins. When auditors were present, he said, this never happened and line speeds were slowed down.

“If there’d be a site audit everything would be absolutely perfect, the line would be running at the correct speed. The carcasses would be clean, there’d be no faeces inside, but on the days when there wasn’t an audit, things would pile up and drop on the floor. If there was a visitor, you’d be told to put them in the bin ‘for not fit for human consumption’. But on days when there wasn’t an audit, basically, just wipe it down and put it back on the line.”

Reviewing footage of the incidents at Scunthorpe for us, Spellman said they were unacceptable. Those incidents, he said, suggests a culture in the factory that does not care that it is producing human food.

2 Sisters denied this could have happened. The company said it had stringent procedures for handling meat that falls on the floor, and only a team of trained waste operatives is authorised to handle it so that it never goes for human consumption. In a statement, the company said: “The allegations about our processing sites at Scunthorpe and Llangefni [Anglesey] are untrue, misleading and inaccurate. Both sites have British Retail Consortium ‘A’ grade Food Standards certifications, based on a number of announced and unannounced visits. In addition, we and our customers carry out a number of audits of our operations. None of these audits have uncovered any concerns about our hygiene standards or food safety.

“Our Scunthorpe site has already surpassed the FSA’s 2013 targets to reduce campylobacter levels, and continues to work towards the 2015 target. We [have been] praised as sector-leading by the FSA .”

We asked the company what its campylobacter results were. It said that 61% of the Scunthorpe chickens in the FSA survey tested positive for campylobacter. It added that 37% were contaminated in the middle range of bacteria levels and 2% were heavily contaminated. Across the company, 19% of 2 Sisters chickens were heavily contaminated, its director of communications, Nick Murray, told us.


The trouble with campylobacter starts even earlier in the chain. One of the key risk points is on the farm.

Standard chickens are raised in large-scale industrial farms where as many as 40,000 birds may be reared at a time in “crops” that take around 42 days to reach slaughter weight. To maximise return on capital invested in floor space, it is common practice to overstock sheds with chicks at the beginning of the cycle and then send in teams of catchers to thin out some of the birds so that the rest of the chickens have just enough room to meet regulations on stocking densities as they grow to full slaughter weight. Each bird has less floor space than the size of an A4 sheet of paper.

When teams of chicken catchers go from farm to farm and enter the sheds, there is a high risk of cross contamination and flocks being colonised with campylobacter.

Strict rules on biosecurity are supposed to reduce the risk, and extra measures have been introduced in the last couple of years. By the end of 2013, however, they had had little impact, according to an FSA report. It suspected from research that they were not being followed consistently by producers.

Paul Sadler was employed by Faccenda, another of the UK’s largest poultry suppliers whose customers include Asda and Nando’s. Sadler worked there as a chicken catcher for almost 15 years until he left last year.

Sadler claims that supposedly strict processes were flawed and frequently flouted.

“As far as biosecurity [goes], they used to pay lip service, the emphasis [being] on trying to demonstrate that they complied with the legislation or good practice rather then actually following it. For example, they would have disinfectant baths outside each shed, which in principle, each catcher would dip their boots in before going from one shed to another. The problem was that baths were there and no one really used them.”

The Guardian has obtained internal Faccenda documents highlighting how the supply of birds can exceed capacity at the abattoir and how some end up stored in crates overnight. The FSA has identified stress during transport in crates as a danger point for campylobacter spread because the birds defecate more, spreading the bacteria.

Faccenda says it never plans to do this but has left birds overnight on 11 occasions this year because of mechanical problems. The chickens were, however, slaughtered within the regulation 12-hour maximum, the firm said.

Faccenda told us that the allegations about biosecurity lapses were untrue and that it had invested heavily in good wages and training to make sure staff were highly motivated to follow the rules. It added that it was playing a leading role in tackling campylobacter, working closely with the FSA, and had invested more than £1m in projects to reduce it.

We asked Faccenda for its FSA campylobacter results, but it said it had not yet been given them. The supermarkets and restaurant groups told us that they take the subject of campylobacter and hygiene very seriously, and that they would investigate our findings.

As recently as March, the FSA board said campylobacter was its top priority. It was adamant then that consumers had the right to know, as test results came in, which supermarkets and processors had the worst levels of contamination, so that they could vote with their feet and shop elsewhere. The FSA’s director of policy, Steve Wearne, told us that naming and shaming was necessary to make the industry take the issue and the agency seriously.

We asked him why the agency was letting the industry off the hook now.

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly form retailers and producers. We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish the results of the retail survey with all the names, when we’ve completed it next summer. If we publish the results piecemeal, other people might draw unwarranted conclusions from partial data and we don’t want consumer being misled or confused.”

The government knows which supermarkets’ poultry is most contaminated, but for now we remain in the dark, despite the fact that two out of every three chickens we buy could still make us ill.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “The Guardian’s investigation raises serious concerns. Tackling campylobacter has to become a much bigger priority for supermarkets and their suppliers as it is responsible for thousands of cases of food poisoning and the deaths of 100 people every year.

“It’s therefore disappointing that the FSA has gone back on its commitment to publish in full the quarterly data on the levels of campylobacter in supermarket chickens, when it is clearly in the public interest to do so. The FSA must put consumers first and operate more transparently than this.”


We all know it really… but choose to ignore it for convenience…

I remember very clearly the day that my mum took her favourite horse to the abattoir.  She came back in absolute pieces and still shaking.  She hadn’t been remotely prepared for what an emotional and hideously cruel ordeal it would be.  Like the rest of us – we picture clean and efficient places where animals are delivered and know very little of what awaits them and are then efficiently, humanely and as painlessly as possible stunned and then slaughtered.  Well this is sadly a long way from the truth!  Animals are not stupid and they know exactly what is going on. This was mum’s horrified account of the moment she arrived with Zeb on the lorry and tried to unload him into the slaughterhouse yard. 

Zebedee (a 25 yr old thoroughbred ex-racehorse) refused to come out of the lorry.  He was visibly shaking with fear, his legs buckling beneath him, his head rearing up and his eye balls rolled back so all you could see was the terrified whites of his eyes.  Several men had to use a long elasticated rope which acted as a harness to loop around the back of him and pull him off the lorry.  Mum couldn’t watch any longer…

Would you commit any animal you cared for to this end?  No I thought not.  So why pay other people to just so that you can eat meat?  It makes no sense at all. 

Hollywood power couple to launch sustainable plant-based diet campaign

This article was published this month on the Guardian website.  Great to see two such influential figures grappling with such a contentious issue in such a proactive and informative way. 

Director James Cameron and wife actress Suzy Amis at the Oscars in 2010

Film director James Cameron and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, a former actor and model, are planning a global campaign to persuade people to move towards a plant-only diet (where no animals or animal products are consumed) in order to sharply reduce global carbon emissions and improve their health.

The Hollywood power couple, who met on the set of Titanic, changed their diet overnight more than two years ago. They warn that society is addicted to eating meat and dairy and that the issue has been largely ignored, even by environmental NGOs.

They hope their project, which is still at a very early stage, “will turn the needle” in raising people’s consciousness particularly in the US, which they believe is trailing Europe in recognising the dangers. “At the moment we are at the genesis of creating the project and collecting the science behind it so we’re both steeped in the research and the data,” Amis Cameron tells the Guardian.

“The project will include many different modes of communication that will reach as many different demographics as we possibly can from children to 90-year-olds. We want to bring awareness around the connection between livestock production and our environment to leave the planet a better place for our future generations to grow up in.”

The couple initially quit eating meat and dairy for health reasons and Amis Cameron points to studies coming out of China from doctors and scientists that she says shows a strong connection between the consumption of animal products and major health problems such as heart disease and cancer.

As they delved further into the subject, they recognised that the meat and dairy industry is also the elephant in the room when it comes to climate change.

Amis Cameron says that while all the transportation in the world accounts for around 13% of greenhouse gas emissions, the combined impacts from livestock production accounts for nearly 15%. “Jim and I have talked many times about being able to create education for people around this subject,” she says. “People are not aware because nobody talks about it. We’re just constantly being told we need animal protein, we need milk for calcium and it’s actually all a fallacy.

“We have an addiction to consuming animal products and it’s hurting our environment. One simple thing that everyone can do, starting right now, is to reduce or eliminate the consumption of animal products because of the amount of water that it takes to produce a gallon of milk or a hamburger, the amount of land that is being cleared and all of the biodiversity being lost just to either grow grain to feed the animals or for grazing. About a pound of meat equals one acre of the rainforest.”

Amis Cameron says momentum is starting to build around highlighting the issue and says she is heartened by recent studies in the UK showing the importance of reducing meat consumption. Last week the journal Climatic Change published a major study in the UK which found the dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat eaters were more than twice as high as for vegans.

She is highly critical of major corporations for spreading misinformation and for advertising unhealthy foods and says those companies that fail to act will come under increasing pressure from customers. “We’re constantly sent information about being consumers, about unhealthy foods to eat,” she says. “We’re bombarded by big corporations with messages that we have to consume more, thereby creating more trash. We’re sent commercials about ridiculously unhealthy foods that not only hurt our bodies but hurt the planet and drive up prices for healthcare.”

The huge success of her husband’s film Avatar, a film with a strong environmental thrust, shows that it is possible to change people’s awareness about ecological issues, says Amis Cameron, and the couple believe it is imperative that they put their influence to good effect.

“We all know how powerful film can be and people’s consciousness was certainly tapped into in Avatar, the most successful film in the history of the world,” she says. “It started a big conversation around the environment. I think people are afraid of starting conversations and sometimes think it’s better just to leave that elephant in the room and tiptoe around it. That’s certainly not Jim’s style and it’s certainly not my style, and it’s not our style together. Even if we’re going before our time, we’re not afraid to start a conversation.

“Jim is off doing Avatar 2, 3 and 4 right now and I’m off doing education and fashion and we completely come together on the plant-based piece and it just all dovetails beautifully. We use our strengths in the areas that we have them and then we have found this beautiful common land, and we’re both right in the middle working together.”

Amis Cameron created an environmentally focused private school in California back in 2006 because she was unable to find appropriate education for her children and the 140 pupils are now producing fresh fruits and vegetables and are expected to move entirely to plant-based meals next year. Four more schools in the US and abroad are in the pipeline.

She has also been seeking to influence the fashion industry through the creation six years ago of the Red Carpet Green Dress design contest to create an environmentally and socially responsible dress for the Oscars.

10 vegetarian and vegan blogs you need to know about

1. 101 Cookbooks
One of the grand dames of the blogosphere, Heidi Swanson began 101 Cookbooks in 2003 with the aim of working her way through her vast collection of books (that’s where the 101 bit comes in). Now, 11 years and one New York Times bestseller later, Heidi still cooks from her books, but it’s her own wholegrain, vegetarian recipes that really shine.

2. Tinned Tomatoes
Also known as the Scottish Vegetarian, Jaqueline cooks for her young son and vegan husband, while also running the Dundee branch of the Clandestine Cake Club, so her site is a great source for the sweet-toothed, vegetarian or not. She also does a great line in curries and pub grub – think roasted veg vindaloo and vegetarian haggis pasties.

3. Sprouted Kitchen
Created by California-based couple Sara and Hugh Forte, Sprouted Kitchen’s super healthy, wholefood recipes will leave you glowing green from all the good living, or green with envy of their lifestyle. Either way, Hugh’s stunning photography and Sara’s personable writing style make it one to bookmark.

4. The Veg Space
Hertfordshire-based Kate Ford has been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, and it really shows with her extensive and varied repertoire. Recently awarded best veggie blog by Vegetarian Living, her stuffed naan breads and toffee apple and peanut pudding are definitely on the to-eat list.

5. The First Mess
Brought up on a farm, educated at a cookery school and now working in restaurants, Canadian Laura Wright has a heartfelt passion for produce, and an enthusiasm for cooking that’s explored through mostly vegan, and often gluten-free eating. The dirty chai pancakes are a must.

6. Naturally Ella
Erin Alderson’s path to seasonal vegetarian living was preceded by a lifetime of fast food and processed meat, until her father had a heart attack at the age of 45. Despite the circumstances, this blog is far from preachy – Erin’s refreshing approach to vegetarian cooking feels more like a journal, less like an example. Her tex-mex-inspired recipes are particularly good.

7. Veggie Runners
Mother and daughter Jayne and Bibi Rogers from Leeds are as as fanatical about running as they are about vegetarian food, but if you’re not 100% committed to either of those things, don’t be put off – there’s a great mix of healthy, protein-packed mains, and more indulgent sweet treats.

8. My New Roots
Toronto-born, Copenhagen based Sarah Brittain is of the Kinfolk tribe, so this is a good place to start if aspirational is your thing. Also a holistic nutritionist, this blog makes for a great read, and Sarah’s recipes are actually refreshingly simple and straight-forward.

9. Ramsons and Bramble
Ramson and Bramble, created by a vegetarian chef, is a step closer to indulgence than some veggie blogs, but all the better for it. With a great mix of savoury and sweet, this lady is an out and proud cheese fanatic, and it shows. Courgette, feta and fresh herb fritters make the perfect summer dinner.

10. Post Punk Kitchen
This fun, vibrant vegan blog from Brooklynite Isa is one of the most approachable out there, but with a clear sense of moral and ethical reasons behind meat and dairy free cooking. It’s particularly good if you’re on the hunt for vegan bakes and desserts.

Lily Cole: “Become a vegetarian to help the environment”

Oh to have brains and beauty…

Lily Cole: "Become a vegetarian to help the environment"

Lily Cole has just played Helen of Troy, the world’s most beautiful woman, on stage. But this actress, occasional model, designer, environmental campaigner and social network creator is proof that brains and beauty are not mutually exclusive.

Fiercely passionate about causes ranging from factory farming to fairtrade, Lily’s latest role is launching a collection of trainers with the French ecological shoe and accessory brand Veja, as part of her work as ambassador for Sky Rainforest Rescue – a partnership between Sky and WWF to help protect one billion trees in Brazil. We sat down with Lily to talk about her latest project, and how we could all do a bit more to help the environment:

G: Sky Rainforest Rescue has been running since 2009 – how do you feel you have impacted change since then?

Lily: I’m really excited and inspired by the direction that Sky Rainforest Rescue has taken in the last few years looking at the Amazonian Wild Rubber trade. I think if we keep exploring what products can be produced using wild rubber, and developing a consumer awareness around the concept, we could have real long term impact that supports local farmers on the ground to protect the rainforest.

Lily Cole: “Become a vegetarian to help the environment”

What else do you do in your everyday life to try and benefit the planet?

I’m by no means perfect!! But where possible simple things… Using a refillable bottle for tea / drinks when I can, shopping in local co-ops / buying organic as much as possible. I have a predominantly vegan diet and when I eat dairy I try and ensure it is organic/free range. I believe in the power of purchasing choices and so try and see where things I buy come from. I think asking the question about the stories behind things is central to driving change and in fact we are developing a platform as part of impossible.com that will sell products (including the Veja trainers) which tell their stories clearly and transparently. I’m trying to buy less, simplify my life style, and live more within the gift economy with friends and strangers.

Do you try and use organic/natural/eco beauty products?

Yes I have been using Dr Haushka creams recently (eye cream and rose face cream) and Eve Lom cleanser. Also The Body Shop products for skin care and tea tree as they are all community fair trade. I use natural ingredients like coconut oil on my skin where possible. I just bought Rose Elixir body cream from Neal’s Yard which is lovely!

Are you passionate about the effects of farming and its impact on the environment?

Yes though I don’t know enough. I would love to learn more about biodiversity and permaculture. I have been thinking about the need for us to do more organic and localized farming methods for many reasons: not just for my personal health, but the health of the planet. I have a dream one day of being able to grow a lot of the food I consume.

You’re a vegan – why did you decide to become one and what have been the benefits to your health? And what has been the worst thing about making the change?

Lily Cole: "Become a vegetarian to help the environment"

I am an aspiring vegan… which means I have been trying to be but am not always as it isn’t always easy, and so I try and keep a balanced attitude when I can’t be. In my heart of hearts I know I want to be a vegan though, and am very happy when I manage to be. I am mostly concerned about factory farming of animals, and do not want to support or encourage that through using milk or eggs that comes from unknown sources. It’s not easy when traveling and I still have mixed feelings about eating honey or occasionally free range eggs.

What is the easiest thing a GLAMOUR reader can do to try and help the environment?/be more eco-friendly/socially aware?

Paul McCartney would say become a vegetarian! And there is intelligence behind that comment as meat farming contributes a significant amount of carbon dioxide (between 14 and 22 per cent) to the atmosphere (beyond the ethical considerations). Maybe become a vegetarian more often if that’s easier?! I would say really think about the power you have every time you buy something – you are voting for that system of doing things. That applies to food, clothes, everything. Ask questions.

Which designers/brands do you think are really trying to make a difference by being more eco friendly?

I am inspired to see there are many unknown designers emerging from college and working in this space… lots is being done at the university / college level and I will be excited to see what emerges from that. I admire Edun’s commitment to ethical sourcing, The Body Shop, I love Stella McCartney’s attitude. My friend Katherine and I have a knitwear brand The North Circular – we make hand made knitted items in the UK, and we name the makers!

Do you think young people are more, or less engaged in trying to get behind social causes? How can we try to encourage people?

I don’t know… NCS did a recent survey which suggested that they are more engaged and I would like to believe that is the case. Really it is the world young people are inheriting, and will be passing onto their own children, so I would hope so.

Do you think other models/celebrities have a responsibility to get behind social enterprises?

No, not at all. I am not involved with social enterprises because of my work in film and fashion, although I am grateful that my experiences in fashion taught me a lot about these issues, but simply because I care. I think anyone who cares has a responsibility to themselves to put that into practice in however small or big ways. And I would hope most people care.

Lily Cole: “Become a vegetarian to help the environment”

Tell us about your altruistic social network – Impossible.com.

It’s an investment in believing in people’s innate kindness. I started working on it several years ago after I had the idea with a friend to build a website that connected people to one another to offer skills and services for free. After having the idea I couldn’t let it go from my mind and I started researching what the gift economy is and means – how a non monetary economy builds relationships and community. Something I think is of huge social value, and really needed – especially in big cities. So now it exists as a website impossible.com and an iPhone App “impossible – giving network”.

You can post wishes of things you would like help with (advice, skills, objects etc) or that you want to offer the community. Then someone might grant your wish, or you can read and grant others… Saying thank you is the only currency per-se and everything is done for free. It is a very kind and positive community who are building and supporting one another, and that makes me happy to see! I have met some lovely and cool people through it – either fulfilling my wishes (for example, I have received help learning lines, or with manual driving lessons…) or me fulfilling theirs (such as letting someone use our piano, getting a homeless man a tent…) It is open to anyone.

We will start selling products on the platform next month – starting with the Veja trainers for Sky Rainforest Rescue amongst a few select others – which have very transparent stories behind them.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I don’t look into the future in that way because I try and remain open to it surprising me, as it always has. But hopefully I will be living more authentically me, and it will involve creativity and nature.

What advice would you give the younger you?

Stop being so hard on yourself, remember to laugh, enjoy and trust in the journey you are going to go on!

You are currently playing Helen of Troy. Which other strong female characters would you like to play?

I would love to work on a Shakespearean character as I never have.

Who is your role model?

My mum and my sister both inspire me. Then spiritual leaders, or writers whose words speak the truth and touch me.

In many news articles/ interviews I’ve read about you, you are often described as “being as famous for her brains as her beauty” – how do you feel about this?

Well it’s nicer than being called ugly and dumb… but the subtext of the quote is “famous for having brains in spite of the fact that she is considered by many beautiful”… as if the one precludes the others. I also find it hard to associate with quotes about myself, or the idea that I am beautiful as if that is a fact. I know it’s an opinion not an absolute. Beauty is so subjective and culturally relative, and I believe in large part informed by the inner world of the person.

It’s been interesting playing Helen of Troy – “the most beautiful women in the world” – people see what they want to see with her – she reflects others projections – because there is arguably no singular global idea of what is most beautiful. We all have different ideas of “beauty”.

Clever brainy vegans!

Wadham College at the University of Oxford has passed a motion to ban meat and dairy products and only serve vegan food for five nights a week on campus.

Founded in 1610, Wadham consists of 150 graduates and 450 undergraduates. It was one of the first colleges to admit women and is known for its progressive attitude.

Oxford is made up of more than 30 different colleges, with the Wadham students’ union (SU) meeting every fortnight.

At a recent meeting, James Kenna, a fourth-year engineer, proposed the motion of serving vegetarian food for four nights. Ben Szreter, a second-year history student, then said to really make a change, it should be amended to five days of vegan food, which was passed.

The motion said, “Reducing the consumption of meat is one of many steps needed to reduce the effects of climate change.”

It was agreed in a meeting in March 2014 that Wadham would have meat-free Mondays, with the motion noting, “Excessive meat consumption is harmful to the environment and it could also lead to an increased risk of certain illnesses like bowel cancer.”

However, some are worried this will intimidate prospective students.

“Five days of vegan food may sound intimidating to students across the country, and many Wadham students I’ve spoken to have said that they would have applied to another college if this policy was in place when they were applying”, Szreter told the weekly newspaper the Oxford Student.

The SU food representative will be carrying out the motion and it will be bought to the next food committee meeting.

The University of Oxford is believed to have the largest investments in fossil fuel companies of any UK university and earlier this month it pledged to look into selling the investments with the results due to be released in July.

In Energy Policy, a peer-reviewed journal, a study in 2012 found the production of fresh meat makes a significant contribution to harmful greenhouse gases. The UN has also been quoted as saying the meat industry is a large contributor to environmental problems.