Vegan choccie milkshake


Have just made these chocolate milkshakes for the girls as they will be zonked after school! Super easy, super nutritious and super delicious. Win win win.

2 frozen bananas
1/4 cup vanilla soya yoghurt
1 cup Almond milk
2 tbsp Cacao powder
I tbsp Agave nectar
1 tbsp Chia seeds

Throw everything in the blender and adjust quantities to get whatever flavour and texture you are happy with.

There were 2 big stories in the news last week which demonstrate how utterly arbitrary, hypocritical and deluded our morality is when it comes to animal ethics in this country.

Firstly there was the appallingly cruel arson attack on a Manchester dogs home in which 53 dogs died.  This story became bigger news for the fact that people were so moved by this deeply upsetting story that a JustGiving page was set up and donations flooded in from all over the world, exceeding £1.3 million in less than 3 days.  Staggering.  Heart warming.  Amazing.  It goes to show how deeply people care about dogs – even dogs that have been left unclaimed in a dogs home – dogs that would largely have been pit bull terriers and Rottweilers and other such breeds.  Breeds which are at the less ‘cute and cuddly’ end of the doggy scale.  And still people are enormously upset by the idea of these dogs suffering such a painful and frightening death.

In contrast, on the same day, there is a story about a cull that had been carried on miniature pigs and piglets in the Swansea area.

One of the piglets

Over 100 micro-pigs were culled by a licensed professional.  “These animals presented a serious risk to other livestock in the region in the event of a disease outbreak, and because of this we were left with no option but to carry out a cull,” said a spokesperson. What a load of horseshit!  The only threat these animals could possibly offer is if they come into contact with farm bred infected pigs as they could then spread the disease.  Why on earth should these wild pigs pay the heaviest price for the farmers carelessness.  If the commercially bred pigs weren’t harbouring disease in the first place then there wouldn’t be a problem.  It’s exactly the same story with the badger cull and TB.  The farmers should ensure that their cattle don’t get TB and if they do then they should pay the price.  They shouldn’t be farming cattle in the first place as far as I’m concerned so I’m afraid I have little sympathy.   If culling innocent badgers is their solution then they clearly it’s a non-starter of a business model!

These same farmers who claim to be animal lovers were the ones who put pressure on Swansea Council in the first place to carry out this appalling cull.  Yes, some farmers may care about their livestock, but as soon as something might get in the way of their profit margins, you see where they really stand on animal welfare issues.

The slaughter of these innocent, healthy and harmless pet pigs amounts to an atrocity that should be totally unacceptable to an educated and caring society.

Leonardo DiCaprio speaks at UN Climate Change summit… watch speech here

Actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio addresses the UN summit meeting on climate change on Tuesday. He was recently named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. ‘This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries, and governments…’ he tells the summit.  It’s a passionate and eloquent speech and hopefully the fact that it’s being delivered by Leo will mean that a lot more people watch it than were it being delivered by a faceless environmentalist.  Sadly.  Who knows… So far there has been a lot of rhetoric but very little action as far as I can see.  People are talking about it and it is temporarily on the agenda but unless China, Russia, the US and numerous other hard hitters commit to some serious reductions then nothing is going to change…

Watch here!

Leader: DiCaprio has fashioned himself as one of the most high-profile climate change activists an today urged world leaders at the United Nations to cut global carbon admissions

What to tell the kids…?!

I’ve been reconsidering what to tell the kids when it comes to eating meat, dairy and eggs.  So far the subject has not really come up as our three girls are only 5, 3 and 2 weeks so haven’t really noticed that mum and dad avoid animal products.  But they are beginning to ask questions – not just about what we eat but about food in general.

Up until now I have always been very quick to say that Ed and I certainly don’t impose our beliefs on our children and they can eat whatever they want.  So if we’re out and they choose the chicken sandwich then we buy it.  At school we haven’t put them down as vegetarian as we wanted them to have the choice each day as to what they eat.  I didn’t want to be seen as a pushy mother imposing her ‘extreme views’ on her poor kids… but recently this has started to sit uncomfortably with me.

For example, last week we were walking down the Northcote Road past an Argentinian Steakhouse.  There was a giant cardboard cow outside promoting some offer or other and Arcadia (5 yr old) asked me why there was a cow outside the restaurant.  So I explained to her that it’s a steak house and steak comes from cows.  She asked me whether the cows were dead or alive and she asked me who killed the cows.  I explained that the cows were bred for their meat and killed at a slaughterhouse when they were big enough to eat and then the meat is bought to the restaurant where it is cooked and eaten by the customers.  She looked absolutely horrified.  And I didn’t say it with any tone in my voice whatsoever – I just explained the process to her.   She asked me why someone would want to kill a cow?  I said because they taste nice and people like eating meat.  Still she looked horrified.  I don’t want to eat cows mummy she said.  Ok well you don’t have to eat cows if you don’t want to.

Then we were watching Finding Nemo last night and again Arcadia asked me why people take fish out of the sea.  I explained to her that when people eat fish, they have been taken out of the sea or out of a fish farm where they have been bred specifically for people to eat.  Again horrified.

girl with turkey friend vegan thanksgiving Our children have zero desire to eat these animals and are horrified when they discover what they have been eating… until we brainwash them into thinking it’s ok!

You get the picture.  The problem is that by the time children start to ask questions they have already started to learn that it is ok to eat animals. because everyone at school is doing it, on tv, all around them etc.  So what sits uncomfortably with me is that already she is looking at me as if to say ‘well why have you been letting me eat fish and sausages and chicken?’.  ‘You know that I wouldn’t want to had you explained to me what they are’.  Because kids haven’t yet learned from other people the crazy illogical idea that it is ok to eat pigs and cows and sheep and lambs and chickens and pigs and other poultry but that it’s not ok to eat horses and dogs and cats etc.  They are equally horrified at the idea of eating any of them.  Until we teach them that it’s ok in some cases.

So surely as a parent, my job is to equip her with the information that she needs in order to make an informed decision and then it is up to her what she does with it and I must respect her decision whatever it is.

But when do I start this?  With my oldest clearly 5 was too late as she is already really confused as to why I haven’t explained this to her before.  So do I start explaining to Indigo what different meats are before she’s started asking me prescient questions? So when we’re ordering lunch and she says she’d like a beefburger I should say are you sure you want to order that honey?  You know that a beefburger is made from the meat of a dead cow… I immediately feel like a psycho pushy parent.  But why?  All I’m doing is explaining to her what she’s about to eat.  I’m only giving her fact.

little girl turkey compassion vegan thanksgiving Children are appalled at needless slaughter… until we deceive them by telling them it’s ok, they’re meant to be eaten, we need to eat them for protein – complete rubbish!

I’m always amused at how people bang on about how appalling it is that children these days have no idea that milk comes from cows and sausages come from pigs.  When it’s absolutely no wonder!  I’m amazed when kids (that haven’t grown up on a farm) have the slightest clue where their food comes from because most adults are in total denial of it.  Every length is gone to to deceive and mislead us – through advertising campaigns and marketing ploys.  Words such as free range, organic, grass fed etc allow us to believe these cattle are living lovely lives before being humanely slaughtered…

The truth is a little different… We might all know that beef is from a cow – but most of us don’t know the reality of the miserably short life that cow has endured.  Most beef calves are taken from their mothers immediately after birth, castrated and dehorned with no anaesthetic, transported to ‘fattening sheds’ where they are fed on high-protein cereal feeds (largely made up of soya which is responsible for most deforestation of the rainforests and a huge environmental concern – also cattle belch and fart out between 100 and 200 litres of methane a day, a gas which is 24 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and is the largest contributor to climate change – bigger than the entire transportation sector combined!!!), and then taken for slaughter between 10 and 12 months of age.  Pitifully young when you think that they would live happily for 25 odd years if left to live out their natural life in peace.  At the slaughterhouse, the cattle are stunned (often ineffectively) using a captive bolt pistol before being shackled by the leg, strung up and having their throat slit.

In the UK, dairy cows are most commonly kept in pastures during the summer months and indoors in the winter. However, the practice of keeping the cows indoors all year round is becoming more popular; this is known as zero-grazing. Cows naturally produce milk after giving birth; for their children, not for human consumption. However, dairy cows are subjected to the same amount of cruelty as in any other intensive farming system so as to constantly supply humans with milk. Maximum production is paramount to the farmers and therefore, the cows produce between 20 and 50 litres of milk each day; around ten times the amount her calf would suckle. 10 TIMES!  I am breastfeeding at the moment and the thought of being rigged up to a machine and have 10 times as much milk leached out of me is unimaginable.

To take full advantage of the excess milk which cows produce immediately after giving birth, the calves are usually taken from their mothers within the first two days of birth, causing suffering, anxiety and depression for both mother and child, as the maternal bond a cow has with her calf is very strong. Under natural circumstances, the calf would suckle for anywhere between six months and a year. Like humans, cows produce milk for the benefit of their children and therefore only lactate for around ten to thirteen months after they have given birth. The cows are therefore re-impregnated approximately 60 days after giving birth to continue the cycle of milk production. In addition, the cows continue to be milked whilst pregnant; a process which causes them extreme discomfort. Once the dairy cows are so worn out that they have produced all the milk they can, they are sent to slaughter, usually at around four or five years of age; the average natural lifespan for a cow could be as long as 25 years. Their meat often ends up in low-grade burgers or pet foods.

Some of the infants that are taken from the dairy cows are, like their mothers, destined to become milking machines for human consumption and profit. However, approximately half of the calves are male. Some of them are killed as infants for cheap meat; however, as the offspring of dairy cows are not purposefully bred for meat, they are rarely suitable for beef production. Prior to the BSE outbreak, a large number of these calves were transported to continental Europe for used in the veal industry.

Anyhow – enough – I’m getting waylaid.  My point is that a lot of this was news to me and I was bought up on a smallholding in a farming community and thought I was one of the ‘educated ones’ when it came to animal agriculture.

So my new plan is to try and educate the kids in as transparent and honest a way as possible, without trying to persuade them in any way of what choices they should make.  It’s kind of hilarious that I feel like a pushy mother for considering telling my children the truth about this.  It just goes to show that the truth is pretty horrifying and it’s that I’m nervous of.  I don’t want my children to feel the same confusion and anger and sadness that I do that people continue to eat animals when there is absolutely no need for it, no excuse for it.  It is an indefensible, totally unethical and cruel practice which has no place in our society any longer.

I’m sad that they are going to see what lengths people will go to, what lies people will tell themselves, in order to not have to take a stance and go against the grain and do the right thing.  It isn’t easy and it does make you question people’s morality but it is also an extremely valuable lesson.  You cannot assume that just because ‘everyone else is doing it’ it’s ok.  You must learn to question things, carry out your own research, draw your own conclusions and continue to evolve and grow as your own person.

Slice of Cruelty

Another week, another horrific undercover video revealing the horrific abuse and cruelty that goes on in many dairy farms around the world.  This was taken by a mercy for Animals undercover reporter who got a job at a dairy in New Mexico for several weeks.   It shows workers punching, kicking and whipping cows and shocking their genitals with electric prods, tossing calves into truck beds, using heaving equipment to force sick animals into confined spots and committing other types of abuse.

Watch here!

It’s not easy to watch but I think it’s really important that people are made aware of what goes on behind closed doors.  People cannot be held accountable for financing these industries if they are not made aware of what it is they are directly supporting.  Most people have no idea of the cruel practices that go on in the agricultural sector.  I certainly didn’t until I undertook my own research and I am convinced that as soon as people are made aware of the horrific acts of animal abuse that are so endemic on factory farms around the world, they will stop consuming their products and lining their pockets.  Unfortunately the industry is obviously going to do everything in their powers to keep this out of public view and, such are their lobbying powers, so too are governments.  So it is left up to animal rights activists, animal welfare groups and charities to do whatever they can to raise awareness and educate people as to what kind of practices they are unwittingly supporting and therefore responsible for.  It is unfortunate that people have to deceitfully pose as employees whilst secretly filming goings on, but there is no other way of showing people the truth.  If these kinds of videos don’t make people immediately stop eating these dairy products, at least at the restaurant chains that they know these dairy farms supply, then I honestly don’t know what will.

Stop Dairy Abuse

Even if you choose to believe what Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s, (Leprino Foods biggest client, supplied by this dairy amongst many others), says and believe that this is an ‘isolated case of sadistic acts by employees at a single dairy farm in southern New Mexico…’ (which endless undercover footage has sadly proven to be untrue – in 2010 another Mercy for Animals undercover investigation gathered similar footage at Willet dairy in New York, also supplying Leprino Foods.  They were closed down for a few months and reopened a year later when the bad press died down.  Another video was released showing appalling abuse at a beef farm, Bettencourt Farm, in 2012, one of Burger King’s biggest suppliers – yet no arrests were made and people still eat at Burger King…) then just the faintest possibility that this might not be the case would surely get anyone questioning whether or not subscribing to this industry is at all ethical or necessary.  At the very least this should stop you eating at any of the chains that are supplied by this dairy – Domino’s Pizza, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut for starters.

Or if you want to tell yourself that these are just a bunch of evil people getting sadistic kicks out of abusing innocent vulnerable animals and this is absolutely not your typical dairy industry employee, then read the book ‘Slaughterhouse’ by Gail A Eisnitz.  Gail interviews dozens and dozens of employees working in dairy farms and slaughterhouses across the US and these personal accounts of what really goes inside those walls will leave you feeling sick to your stomach that you have ever bought and eaten meat that has been processed in factory farms.

or if you tell yourself that you don’t buy meat that comes from factory farms then ask yourself where the lamb in your Cornish pasty has come from or where your service station chicken salad sandwich came from, or where your beef stock came from, or the milk in your hot chocolate powder or cadburys flake… There are animal products in so much of what you eat.  Way beyond the joint of expensive beef you might buy for your Sunday Roast.

The horror of dairy farms

And even if you do tell yourself that this kind of cruelty is limited to factory farms far far away from your table, then look at the zillion other reasons you shouldn’t be eating animals.  Start with the environment, then look at the ethics of eating an innocent vulnerable animal that you have absolutely no nutritional need for and then look at the enormous health benefits of an animal free diet.  The arguments are so obvious, the evidence is so resounding – the only way you can continue to consume and wear animal products is if you choose to deceive yourself.  And at the back of your mind, you know you are lying to yourself and you have to live with this niggling nugget of knowledge that you are part of this horrifically cruel, unnecessary and evil practice and you really should have had the balls to do something about it.  One day your grandchild will ask you – what did you do when you found out about the abuse and cruelty?  You stopped eating animals right and tried to get others to stop too?  Yes?  Right?

This video screengrab shows a cow being dragged out of a stall. The video was shot by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals.

People cannot continue to turn a blind eye any longer.  People can no longer ignore the elephant in the room.  Even if you believe that there is such a thing as ‘humane slaughter’, producing meat on the scale that we are today cannot be done ethically or humanely.  Commodifying animal products in this way inevitably leads to enormous numbers and tiny profit margins.  Every penny is squeezed out of every animal and profits are driven through unethical means – mass scale production with more animals squeezed into smaller spaces, more gallons of milk squeezed out of mastitis engorged udders, animals being stuffed full of unnatural animal feed and dosed up on antibiotics, fattened obscenely quickly, slaughtered at a desperately young age and sold at a cheaper and cheaper price etc etc.

The greater the demand for food the more corners are cut and not only do the animals suffer appallingly but so we do as the cholesterol pours through our veins and blocks our arteries, raises our blood pressure, brings on heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, the list is endless!

If you don’t believe me go and do some research.  It’s like opening Pandora’s box.  Before you know it you’ll be glued to your computer with your jaw on the floor amazed at how something as ‘normal’ as eating meat, dairy and eggs can make you partly responsible for such horrific acts of violence and cruelty.

Trust me.  Do some research and see what you discover.

Care about climate change? Go vegan!

This afternoon we joined London’s march for climate action. 

Some 40,000 people turned out and marched along Embankment to a rally in Parliament Square.  The rally comes ahead of a summit on Tuesday for 125 heads of state and government at the United Nations headquarters in New York.   This meeting is the first such gathering since the unsuccessful Copenhagen conference in 2009 and will attempt to push forward political momentum towards a new universal agreement on climate to be signed by all nations at the end of 2015.

Climate change is a huge part of why Ed and I became vegan in the first place.  Most people associate veganism with animal welfare far more then they associate it with environmentalism but for anyone who cares about the environment then switching to a vegan diet is a really obvious choice to make.

Here’s a reminder why:

Global warming has been called humankind’s “greatest challenge” and the world’s gravest environmental threat. Many conscientious people are trying to help reduce global warming by driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy-saving light bulbs. Although these measures help, science shows that going vegan is one of the most effective ways to fight global warming. A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute. Additionally, a recent United Nations report concluded that a global shift toward a vegan diet is extremely important in order to combat the worst effects of climate change. According to the United Nations, raising animals for food is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” In addition, the official handbook for Live Earth, the anti–climate change concerts that Al Gore helped organize, says that not eating meat is the “single most effective thing you can do” to reduce your climate change impact. Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming. Raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous-oxide emissions.

Carbon Dioxide

Burning fossil fuels (such as oil and gasoline) releases carbon dioxide, the primary gas responsible for global warming. Producing one calorie from animal protein requires 11 times as much fossil fuel input—releasing 11 times as much carbon dioxide—as does producing a calorie from plant protein. Feeding massive amounts of grain and water to farmed animals and then killing them and processing, transporting, and storing their flesh is extremely energy-intensive. In addition, enormous amounts of carbon dioxide stored in trees are released during the destruction of vast acres of forest to provide pastureland and to grow crops for farmed animals. On top of this, animal manure also releases large quantities of carbon dioxide.

You could exchange your “regular” car for a hybrid Toyota Prius and, by doing so, prevent about 1 ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, but according to the University of Chicago, being vegan is more effective in the fight against global warming; a vegan is responsible for the release of approximately 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year than is a meat-eater.

A German study conducted in 2008 concluded that a meat-eater’s diet is responsible for more than seven times as much greenhouse gas emissions as a vegan’s diet. Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N.’s Nobel Prize–winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (and a vegetarian himself), urges people to “please eat less meat—meat is a very carbon-intensive commodity.”


The billions of chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows who are crammed into factory farms each year in the U.S. produce enormous amounts of methane, both during digestion and from the acres of cesspools filled with feces that they excrete. Scientists report that every pound of methane is more than 20 times as effective as carbon dioxide is at trapping heat in our atmosphere. The EPA shows that animal agriculture is the single largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for a staggering 65 percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.

You Can Help Stop Global Warming!

The most powerful step that we can take as individuals to avert global warming is to stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy products.


Easy, tasty, super healthy light lunch…

I baked some tofu for the first time this week and can’t believe I’ve waited this long to try it.  It’s entirely different to stir-fried tofu and the perfect thing for when you fancy a ‘meatier’ texture but don’t fancy mushrooms…  For this recipe I used firm tofu and then pressed it for 15 mins to get as much moisture out as I could.  Then I cut it into 1 inch cubes and marinated it for 2 hours in soy sauce, rice vinegar, grated fresh ginger, chilli paste, agave and minced garlic.  I then baked it in a hot oven (200 degrees c) for 40 mins so it was really chewy and added it to some lightly steamed baby spinach and squeezed some fresh lemon over it.

Along side this I made a really vibrant tasty salad –

1 cup quinoa, black olives, red and yellow tomatoes, cucumber, pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and torn basil.

Light but filling lunch.  Super easy to make and extraordinarily nutritious!



Breastfeeding booster!

Our 9lb chubster has an impressive appetite at the moment and therefore so do I!  Am breastfeeding exclusively so am ravenously hungry most of the time!  I made this juice on Saturday morning to make sure I’m getting all the nutrition I need and it was delicious so I thought it was worth sharing the recipe…

1 banana

1 apple

I large handful of spinach

1 stick celery

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cup water

25ml elderflower cordial

1 tbsp Udo’s Oil

1 tsp acidophilus

1 tsp chia seeds

1 tsp flaxseed

1 tsp chlorella

1 tsp lucuma

Blend it all together and drink!

photo 1



Extending our circle of compassion – Zoe Weil at TEDx Talks

100 FOR 100 Movement

Dear friends, especially those of you who love dogs, please watch this worthwhile TEDx Talk. It’s a beautiful talk that will leave you inspired to make this world a better place.
Please let me know your thoughts.
Andrea Kladar

Published on Mar 4, 2014 by TEDx Talks

Zoe Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education ( and is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement, which provides people with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be conscientious choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a better world. Zoe created the first Master of Education and Certificate Program in Humane Education in the U.S. covering the interconnected issues of human rights, environmental preservation, and animal protection. She has also created acclaimed online programs and leads workshops and speaks at universities, conferences, and events across the U.S. and Canada. She has taught tens of thousands students through her innovative…

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Meltdown milkshake!

My older 2 girls are back at school and the change of pace means they are completely cream crackered by the time I collect them mid-afternoon.

So I’ve started giving them a big smoothie as soon as they get home which works as a healthy treat and staves off the 4pm meltdown as well as giving them a much needed energy boost!

Here’s today’s recipe…

2 frozen bananas
1 scoop of vanilla glacé
2 tbsp natural soya yoghurt
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 cup almond milk
Pinch cinnamon
1 squeeze agave nectar
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp flaxseed




We had a celebratory tea party today as Gogo lost her first tooth!

World’s best guacamole recipe…

Thanks Flicka for this insanely delicious guacamole recipe.  Tried and tested it today and it is indeed the world’s best guacamole!

3 garlic cloves, 1 to 2 chillies depending on fire requirements, 1/2 large red onion wizzed up so its in tiny chopped pieces, so you can still get some crunch but it flows through all avocado beautifully

2 avocados whipped up in the processor with juice of 2 small limes or 1 very large lime, this keeps the guacamole its vibrant bright green colour even after sitting in the fridge for a day

1 ripe mango fairly finely chopped

handful of very finely chopped coriander leaves

2 large ripe, smelling gorgeous tomatoes ,quartered, deseeded and chopped into fine little squares. Keep middles for bean stews etc.

decent sprinkle of Himalayan salt and some freshly ground pepper.

drizzle of E.V.O oil

mix together and serve with pittas etc, or cos lettuce leaves for guacamole boats.

We had a baby!!!

Barley Rose MacLaren zoomed into the world on Tuesday at 3pm, weighing a hefty 9lb, deliciously pink and chubby.  Hoorah!

This was the first pregnancy I have experienced as a vegan and I have to say the stats are pretty compelling…

I only put on a stone and a half in the whole pregnancy (2 and a quarter with Arcadia and 2 with Indigo) and Barley was not only the biggest (Arcadia 8lb 2, Indigo 8lb 10) but by far the chubbiest and pinkest baby of all three.  I’m also 4/5 years older than I was with the last 2 pregnancies and yet had much more energy throughout.

photo 2 very proud big sisters!

Being pregnant is great as it means you have your bloods, urine, heart rate, blood pressure etc tested regularly.  Mine all tested great throughout.  So to all those out there who still believe you need meat, dairy and eggs to get enough calcium, iron, potassium etc into your diet – it is absolutely NOT true.  So long as you eat sensibly and take a vitamin B12 supplement then a well balanced vegan diet will give you all the nutrition you need!  Add to that the massive increase in energy, the sharpened clarity of thought, the ‘feel good factor’ of knowing that you are eating much more compassionately and I just can’t recommend it enough!

Right –  I’m off to feed Barley.

Next post should undoubtedly be about the dairy industry as there is nothing like breastfeeding your baby to remind you how appallingly cruel the dairy industry is…

IMG_2963.JPG Just had first contraction!

The sadness of being vegan

There's an Elephant in the Room blog


You vegans

I’ve seen vegans called  many derogatory words. Nothing, it seems, provokes unbridled defensiveness and rudeness in quite the same way as coming out and stating that it is wrong to cause suffering and death to the helpless and vulnerable.

Excuses and insults

It doesn’t seem that radical to me, but as soon as it’s mentioned that humans have no nutritional or other need to use other beings in any way for any purpose, out will come a barrage of well used excuses: plants have feelings, canine teeth, what cavemen did, brain size and intelligence, we need meat to survive, my ‘personal choice’, ‘forcing your opinions on me’, the bible, eskimos, desert islands, etc.

Once these are out of the way, then come the personal insults: ‘it’s impossible to be 100% vegan’, ‘you probably step on insects every day’, ‘I bet your cleaning materials / car / PC harmed animals’, ‘what…

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Vegan mac ‘n cheese – ultimate comfort food!

With the nights drawing in and the first hints of autumn in the air, I always start craving some cosy comfort food and this is the ultimate!   Thanks Aine Carlin for this recipe…

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients1 x 750-900g butternut squash, halved and deseeded

200g full-fat coconut milk

1 scant tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 vegetable stock cube

1 tsp cider vinegar

250g macaroni

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the crispy kale:

1 tbsp olive oil

150g kale, torn into bite-size pieces

1 tsp sea salt flakes



Preheat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6. Place the squash, flesh side down, in a roasting tin and pour in about 100ml water. Bake in the oven for an hour or until the flesh is completely soft. Leave the oven at the same temperature to cook the kale later on. Set the squash aside to cool slightly before scooping out the flesh with a spoon and blitzing with the coconut milk to a smooth purée in a blender.

Pour the purée into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer before adding the Dijon mustard, crumbled stock cube and cider vinegar. Season, and add a little water to loosen the sauce. Continue to simmer for a further 20 minutes until it thickens and turns pale yellow.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for just slightly under the recommended time. While the pasta is cooking, rub the olive oil all over the kale pieces. Spread out over a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until completely crisp. Sprinkle sea salt flakes over the top.

Drain the macaroni and transfer to the pan of squash sauce. Stir to combine and heat through gently on a low heat for about five minutes.

Serve in heated bowls and top with the salty, crispy kale.


High street vegan options…

Vegan-friendly options have been sadly lacking on most high street menus in the past but things seem to be changing!  Every week I’m noticing more animal free options being added to menus.  Here’s a useful guide to vegan friendly options you can get in some of the main high street chains.  Thank you to Peta for putting this together.  It’s great to see more and more places offering not just a few veggie options but at least one or two vegan option too.  Gone are the days of being limited to the mouth-watering joys of a side salad with no dressing and a baked potato with no filling!

Pub Chains

Toby Carvery: “A vegan at a carvery?” you ask. You bet! Toby Carvery features two options on its vegetarian menu that are suitable for vegans, including a nut roast wellington and vegetable shepherd’s pie. Ask to have the butter held, and you’ll be good to go! Those around you who have opted for slabs of festering flesh will no doubt wish they had followed your lead.

JD Wetherspoon: You can find a Wetherspoon on almost every high street. Here, you can enjoy a sweet potato, chickpea and spinach curry or a super-food Freedom Salad with giant couscous and balsamic vinaigrette.


PizzaExpress: We got quite excited when PizzaExpress announced its new vegan Pianta Pizza. In fact, all its pizza bases are dairy-free, so feel free to choose. If you take in your favourite vegan cheese and ask nicely, you can even have it added to your pizza.

Pizza Express

Carluccio’s: This Italian café offers a separate vegan menu, including spaghetti, bruschetta, olives and fancy Italian breads. All you have to do is ask for it. The restaurant also offers soya milk for coffees.



Wagamamma: There are several vegan-friendly dishes on Wagamamma’s main menu including yasai gyoza (steamed vegetable dumplings), noodle-tastic yasai itame, and other options which can be veganised simply by switching up the noodles and leaving out the fish sauce.


Yo Sushi: Our top vegan choices from the Yo Sushi conveyor belt include vegetable yaki soba, firecracker rice and vegetable gyoza dumplings. There’s way more to sushi than just dead fish, you know!

Yo! 2



Las Iguanas: If tapas and fajitas are your thing, Las Iguanas has got you covered. It has a dedicated vegetarian and vegan menu with all dishes clearly labelled, such as the yummy mushroom fajitas. Pass the patatas!

Giraffe: You don’t have to stick your neck out very far to find a Giraffe restaurant. Here, you can graze on tapenade and a selection of other meze as well as a vegan breakfast!

Giraffe 3

The Real Greek: Offering a wide selection of traditional hot and cold Greek meze, The Real Greek clearly labels which items on its main menu are suitable for vegans. Slow-cooked beans in an herby sauce and grilled aubergine are both highlights of this menu.

Leon: This expanding chain, found at stations and airports all over London, offers wholesome options, such as a gobi curry lunchbox, fresh salads, hummus and flatbread, and almond “milk”shake in three different flavours! Its website clearly marks vegan options.

LEON London

Fast Food

Pret A Manger: From its avocado-stuffed Supergreens sandwich and hearty soups to its more-ish salted dark chocolate (we’re obsessed), Pret is a winner for vegans.

Vegan Option At Pret A Manager

Starbucks: For caffeine addicts, Starbucks offers breakfast and lunch options to complement your soya latte, including a gluten-free hummus-and-veggie salad wrap and creamy soya porridge.


Subway: The Veggie Delite sandwich is a safe bet for vegans – and piled high with as many vegetables as you can fit on a sub, it’s a healthy option, too. (Just avoid the flatbread, as it contains dairy products.)


The West Cornwall Pasty Co.: An on-the-go grab for all commuting “veg heads”, it offers two animal-free pasties, a veggie and a wholemeal, and all the pasties are glazed with a recipe suitable for vegans – so it’s no surprise that it walked away with a PETA Vegan Food Award in 2013.

West Cornwall

With more and more of us becoming aware of the health benefits of eating vegan as well as the horrific treatment and suffering of the animals bred for our plates, the demand for vegan options is only going to increase! And the more that are available, the more people will buy them and vice versa.  Every time you ask for or order a vegan meal, you are casting a powerful vote with your wallet.

Let me know if you’ve spotted any other great vegan food picks at well-known restaurants. 


For pud we made this delicious vegan lime tart from ‘Divine Vegan Desserts’ by Lisa Fabry.  It’s rich and creamy but refreshing and zingy at the same time.  The coconut, lime and cashews are a winning combo.  It’s super quick and easy to make too. We used normal dates instead of medjool dates as they are a tenth of the price and just added a touch more agave for sweetness.

  • Base
  • 1 cup (140 gms) brazil nuts
  • ½ cup (50 gms) dessicated coconut
  • ⅓ cup (70 gms) medjool dates, chopped
  • Filling
  • ⅔ cup (90 gms) raw cashews, soaked for 1-2 hours
  • 1 medium avocado (about 120gm flesh)
  • pinch of salt
  • seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • ⅓ cup (80 mls) agave nectar
  • 1 tsp lime zest, plus extra for garnish
  • ⅔ cup (160 mls) lime juice or lime/lemon combined
  • ⅓ cup (80 mls) coconut oil
  1. Grease 4 individual tartlet pans or one 23 cm fluted pan.
  2. For the base, place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until you can pinch the mixture together and it sticks. Press firmly into the pan and refridgerate for at least one hour.
  3. For the filling blend all the ingredients, except the lime juice and coconut oil, in a food processor until very smooth and creamy.
  4. Melt the coconut oil.
  5. Gradually pour the lime juice and then the coconut oil into the processor while the motor is still running.
  6. Pour over the crust and refridgerate for at least 3 hours, or place in the freezer for 1 hour.





Seriously good vegan burgers…

For last night’s supper we made these vegan burgers from and despite being seriously fiddly and creating more washing up than you should ever have to deal with for a burger – they were well worth the effort and mess.   Really good texture and flavour.  Made about 16 small burgers so we froze half of them. 

Homemade Vegan Burgers That Don't Suck


  • 1 1/2 pounds button mushrooms, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1 whole small eggplant (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 large leeks, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large celery rib, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, grated on a microplane grater (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 3/4 cup dry pearl barley
  • 1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and patted dry on paper towels
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon marmite, vegemite, or Maggi seasoning
  • 1 cup toasted cashews, pinenuts, or a mix
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2-cups panko-style bread crumbs (see note above)


  1. 1

    Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, toss mushrooms with 1 tablespoon oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Coat eggplant with another tablespoon olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Wrap eggplant with heavy duty aluminum foil. Transfer mushrooms and eggplant to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Scatter thyme over mushrooms. Bake, turning mushrooms and wrapped eggplant occasionally until mushrooms are dark brown and eggplant is completely tender (test with a cake tester or thin skewer), about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, unwrap eggplant, and set aside to cool.

  2. 2

    While mushrooms and eggplant roast, heat remaining two tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add leeks and celery and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until completely softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and set aside to cool.

  3. 3

    Place barley in a pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Stir once then place over high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until barley is completely tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer cooked barley to a clean kitchen towel or a triple layer of heavy-duty paper towels. Roll towels tightly and press to remove excess moisture. Transfer barley to a large bowl.

  4. 4

    Add half of garbanzo beans to the bowl of a food processor along with flour, baking powder, soy sauce, Marmite and half of eggplant (reserve remaining eggplant for another use). Process until a smooth paste forms, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer mixture to bowl with barley. Pulse remaining chickpeas in food processor and pulse until beans are chopped to about the size of a lentil (5 to 6 short bursts), scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer to bowl with barley mixture. Chop cashews or pinenuts (if using) in the food processor the same way and add to barley mix.

  5. 5

    When mushrooms are cool, add to bowl of food processor and pulse until finely chopped but still coarse in texture, about 8 to 10 short pulses. Add to barley mix. When leeks and celery are cool, transfer to food processor. Chop with 8 to 10 short pulses and add to barley mix.

  6. 6

    Using bare hands or a spatula, stir together mixture until completely homogenous. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mixture can be refrigerated and stored for up to 5 days at this point or frozen in an airtight freezer bag for up to 3 months.

  7. 7

    When Ready To Serve: Add breadcrumbs to mixture and work them in with your hands. Make a sample patty. It should have the texture of ground beef and hold together easily. If not, add water a tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Divide mixture into eight patties about 4-inches across and 1/2 an inch thick. Patties must be cooked within 30 minutes of adding breadcrumbs (see note above).

  8. 8

    To Finish on a Griddle or in a Skillet: Heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add four patties and cook without moving until first side is well-browned, about 3 minutes. I like to press a disk of sliced onion into the top side while it cooks. Flip burgers and top with cheese (if desired) and cook until second side is browned and cheese is melted, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a toasted bun and serve with condiments as desired.


  9. 9

    To Finish on the Grill: Preheat a gas or charcoal grill with a medium-high fire. Rub the grill grates with an oil-soaked paper towel and add the burgers. Cook without moving until well-browned, about four minutes. Flip burgers, top with cheese if desired, and cook on second side until well browned, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to toasted bun and serve.


‘Meat the Truth’

This is an interesting documentary about the environmental impact of livestock agriculture.  The statistics are so staggering and the arguments so convincing that we just need to somehow get more people listening and understanding and change will surely inevitably follow…






‘Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals’ by Gary Francione and Anna Charlton

I’ve just finished reading this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who is at all curious about the ethics of eating animals. 


It manages to do what I really struggle to – which is to explain in a clear, unemotional and uncomplicated way why eating animals is something that we already know is morally unjustifiable.  This is the entire crux of the ethical argument for veganism and one that I think anyone would struggle to disagree with.  So if more people had veganism explained to them in these terms then I think people would be much more understanding of most vegan’s thinking and it would stop being misunderstood as some extreme, overly sentimental, power tot he people hippie voodoo nonsense. 

The explanation as to why there is absolutely no good justification for eating animals is so staggeringly clear cut and unequivocal that I can’t understand why the vegan movement hasn’t reached a wider audience and gained a much bigger following.  I think it comes down to how deeply embedded in tradition and values eating animals is.  The suggestion that something we all do so unquestioningly is not only unnecessary but also barbarically cruel and immoral is just too unbelievable to most people.  It’s like suddenly telling someone that showering every day is incredibly unhealthy, really damaging to the environment and also responsible for the torture and starvation of thousands of Bangladeshi children.  It’s just too extreme to get our heads around.  But in the case of eating animals it’s also true.  And once you understand the impact that eating animals is having on the planet, learn about the cruelty and suffering that is inflicted on these animals and have it explained that none of this is at ALL necessary for us to live full and happy lives, then the decision to stop eating animals and all animal products is such an obvious one that you can’t believe it’s considered extreme and you half wonder if you’re going mad.  But the more you read and the more you look and the more you listen the more abundantly clear it becomes. 

So go read the book…


Raw Food Cooking Course at the Wild Food Cafe

A friend has just sent me a link to these 2 day cooking courses at the Wild Food Cafe in Covent Garden and they look fantastic and I’ll be booking myself straight into the next available one. 


The last couple of years has been a huge crash course in diet, nutrition and health and I know that I haven’t even touched the sides yet!  I have cupboards overflowing with health food goodies such as macau, spirulina, flaxseeds, chia, acidophilus etc and apart from scattering, stirring and sploshing them into soups, stews and smoothies – I really don’t have a clue what I’m doing!  Vegan buzz words like ‘dehydrating’ ‘seitan’ and ‘molasses’ still scare me so I’d love the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and my head around all these ingredients.

And here’s a video giving you a bit more info…

MOST delicious vegan chocolate bar!


Was given this yesterday by lovely friend of mine who found it in the vegan emporium that is Vx in kings cross. Usually milk chocolate isn’t vegan (clue is in the name!) so
You’re limited to dark stuff – but this is basically like Dairy Wholenut slash Nutella in a chocolate bar slash insanely delicious. Yay!!! Will be eating mostly this whilst waiting for baby girl to make an appearance. Due this Friday but no signs of making an appearance any time soon so reckon am in for a little wait… Oh well – will stockpile these chocolate bars and settle down to some serious Netflix! X

What will we be eating in 20 years’ time?

Future foods: What will we be eating in 20 years’ time?

From top left, clockwise: space shuttle, red meat, trumpet players, canteen food, grasshopper. Images by Getty and Thinkstock

Volatile food prices and a growing population mean we have to rethink what we eat, say food futurologists. So what might we be serving up in 20 years’ time?

It’s not immediately obvious what links Nasa, the price of meat and brass bands, but all three are playing a part in shaping what we will eat in the future and how we will eat it.

Foods we used to eat

  • In ancient Greece breakfast was bread dipped in wine
  • In ancient Rome they liked garum, a sauce made out of fish entrails and fermented for a long time in the sun
  • In Tudor times spit-roast dolphin was on the menu
  • Henry VIII’s banquets would include peacock, heron, porpoise and seagull

Rising food prices, the growing population and environmental concerns are just a few issues that have organisations – including the United Nations and the government – worrying about how we will feed ourselves in the future.

In the UK, meat prices are anticipated to have a huge impact on our diets. Some in the food industry estimate they could double in the next five to seven years, making meat a luxury item.

“In the West many of us have grown up with cheap, abundant meat,” says food futurologist Morgaine Gaye.

“Rising prices mean we are now starting to see the return of meat as a luxury. As a result we are looking for new ways to fill the meat gap.”

So what will fill such gaps and our stomachs – and how will we eat it?


People eating caterpillars

Insects, or mini-livestock as they could become known, will become a staple of our diet, says Gaye.

It’s a win-win situation. Insects provide as much nutritional value as ordinary meat and are a great source of protein, according to researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. They also cost less to raise than cattle, consume less water and do not have much of a carbon footprint. Plus, there are an estimated 1,400 species that are edible to man.

Insect nutritional value /100g

Food source Protein (g) Calcium (mg) Iron (mg)










Dung beetle




Minced beef





Gaye is not talking about bushtucker-style witchetty grubs arriving on a plate near you. Insect burgers and sausages are likely to resemble their meat counterparts.

“Things like crickets and grasshoppers will be ground down and used as an ingredient in things like burgers.”

The Dutch government is putting serious money into getting insects into mainstream diets. It recently invested one million euros (£783,000) into research and to prepare legislation governing insect farms.

A large chunk of the world’s population already eat insects as a regular part of their diet. Caterpillars and locusts are popular in Africa, wasps are a delicacy in Japan, crickets are eaten in Thailand.

But insects will need an image overhaul if they are to become more palatable to the squeamish Europeans and North Americans, says Gaye, who is a member of the Experimental Food Society.

“They will become popular when we get away from the word insects and use something like mini-livestock.”

Sonic-enhanced food

It’s well documented how the appearance of food and its smell influence what we eat, but the effect sound has on taste is an expanding area of research. A recent study by scientists at Oxford University found certain tones could make things taste sweeter or more bitter.

“No experience is a single sense experience,” says Russell Jones, from sonic branding company Condiment Junkie, who were involved in the study. “So much attention is paid to what food looks like and what it smells like, but sound is just as important.”

What noises affect what tastes?

Hand bells hanging from rope

  • Low brass sounds make things taste more bitter
  • High-pitched tunes played on a pianos or bells make things taste sweet


The Bittersweet Study, conducted by Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, found the taste of food could be adjusted by changing the sonic properties of a background soundtrack.

“We’re not entirely sure what happens in brain as yet, but something does happen and that’s really exciting,” says Jones.

Sound and food have been experimented with by chef Heston Blumenthal. His Fat Duck restaurant has a dish called the Sound of the Sea, which is served with an iPod playing sounds of the seaside. The sounds reportedly make the food taste fresher.

But more widespread uses are developing. One that could have an important impact is the use of music to remove unhealthy ingredients without people noticing the difference in taste.

“We know what frequency makes things taste sweeter,” says Jones, also a member of the Experimental Food Society. “Potentially you could reduce the sugar in a food but use music to make it seem just as sweet to the person eating it.”

Companies are also increasingly using the link between food and sound in packaging. One crisp company changed the material it used to make packets as the crunchier sound made the crisps taste fresher to consumers. Recommended playlists could also appear on packaging to help enhance the taste of the product.

Jones says the use of sound is even being applied to white goods. Companies are looking into the hum fridges make, as a certain tone could make people think their food is fresher.

Lab-grown meat

Earlier this year, Dutch scientists successfully produced in-vitro meat, also known as cultured meat. They grew strips of muscle tissue using stem cells taken from cows, which were said to resemble calamari in appearance. They hope to create the world’s first “test-tube burger” by the end of the year.

The first scientific paper on lab-grown meat was funded by Nasa, says social scientist Dr Neil Stephens, based at Cardiff University’s ESRC Cesagen research centre. It investigated in-vitro meat to see if it was a food astronauts could eat in space.

Ten years on and scientists in the field are now promoting it as a more efficient and environmentally friendly way of putting meat on our plates.

A recent study by Oxford University found growing meat in a lab rather than slaughtering animals would significantly reduce greenhouse gases, along with energy and water use. Production also requires a fraction of the land needed to raise cattle. In addition it could be customised to cut the fat content and add nutrients.

Prof Mark Post, who led the Dutch team of scientists at Maastricht University, says he wants to make lab meat “indistinguishable” from the real stuff, but it could potentially look very different. Stephens, who is studying the debate over in-vitro meat, says there are on-going discussions in the field about what it should look like.

He says the idea of such a product is hard for people to take on board because nothing like it currently exists.

“We simply don’t have a category for this type of stuff in our world, we don’t know what to make of it,” he says. “It is radically different in terms of provenance and product.”

How is a hamburger made in a laboratory?


Algae might be at the bottom of the food chain but it could provide a solution to some the world’s most complex problems, including food shortages.

It can feed humans and animals and can be grown in the ocean, a big bonus with land and fresh water in increasingly short supply, say researchers. Many scientists also say the biofuel derived from algae could help reduce the need for fossil fuels.



  • There are 10,000 types in the world
  • UK waters hold about 630 species, but only around 35 have been used in cooking
  • Worldwide 145 species of red, brown or green seaweed are used as food

Source: Seaweed Health Foundation

Some in the sustainable food industry predict algae farming could become the world’s biggest cropping industry. It has long been a staple in Asia and countries including Japan have huge farms. Currently there is no large-scale, commercial farm in the UK, says Dr Craig Rose, executive director of the Seaweed Health Foundation.

“Such farms could easily work in the UK and be very successful. The great thing about seaweed is it grows at a phenomenal rate, it’s the fastest growing plant on earth. Its use in the UK is going to rise dramatically.”

Like insects, it could be worked into our diet without us really knowing. Scientists at Sheffield Hallam University used seaweed granules to replace salt in bread and processed foods. The granules provide a strong flavour but were low in salt, which is blamed for high blood pressure, strokes and early deaths. They believe the granules could be used to replace salt in supermarket ready meals, sausages and even cheese.

“It’s multi-functional,” says Gaye. “And many of its properties are only just being explored. It such a big resource that we really haven’t tapped into yet.”

With 10,000 types of seaweed in the world, including 630 in the UK alone, the taste of each can vary a lot, says Rose.

Beef environment cost 10 times that of other livestock


A new study suggests that the production of beef is around 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other form of livestock.

Scientists measured the environment inputs required to produce the main US sources of protein.

Beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy.

The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While it has long been known that beef has a greater environmental impact than other meats, the authors of this paper say theirs is is the first to quantify the scale in a comparative way.

Beef footprint

The researchers developed a uniform methodology that they were able to apply to all five livestock categories and to four measures of environmental performance.

“We have a sharp view of the comparative impact that beef, pork, poultry, dairy and eggs have in terms of land and water use, reactive nitrogen discharge, and greenhouse gas emissions,” lead author Prof Gidon Eshel, from Bard College in New York, told BBC News.

“The uniformity and expansive scope is novel, unique, and important,” he said.

The scientists used data from from 2000-2010 from the US department of agriculture to calculate the amount of resources required for all the feed consumed by edible livestock.

They then worked out the amount of hay, silage and concentrates such as soybeans required by the different species to put on a kilo of weight.

They also include greenhouse gas emissions not just from the production of feed for animals but from their digestion and manure.

As ruminants, cattle can survive on a wide variety of plants but they have a very low energy conversion efficiency from what they eat.

As a result, beef comes out clearly as the food animal with the biggest environmental impact.

Scientists have developed a methodology to compare the relative impacts of different protein sources

As well as the effects on land and water, cattle release five times more greenhouse gas and consume six times more nitrogen than eggs or poultry.

Cutting down on beef can have a big environmental impact they say. But the same is not true for all livestock.

“One can reasonably be an environmentally mindful eater, designing one’s diet with its environmental impact in mind, while not resorting to exclusive reliance on plant food sources,” said Prof Eshel.

“In fact, eliminating beef, and replacing it with relatively efficiency animal-based alternatives such as eggs, can achieve an environmental improvement comparable to switching to plant food source.”

Other researchers say the conclusions of the new study are applicable in Europe, even though the work is based on US data.

“The overall environmental footprint of beef is particularly large because it combines a low production efficiency with very high volume,” said Prof Mark Sutton, from the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

“The result is that the researchers estimate that over 60% of the environmental burden of livestock in the US results from beef. Although the exact numbers will be different for Europe (expecting a larger role of dairy), the overall message will be similar: Cattle dominate the livestock footprint of both Europe and US.”

‘Meat Atlas’ charts a changing world of meat eaters

If anything is going to put you off eating meat, a map made out of a raw bloody steak might just do the trick.

Front cover of Meat Atlas

That is the cover of the Meat Atlas, a yearly publication by the Heinrich Boell Foundation – a German environmental NGO – and Friends of the Earth. The first English version for the international market was released on Thursday.

But the Meat Atlas is not necessarily meant to turn you veggie – although the cover title “facts and figures about the animals we eat” might appear blunt to the more squeamish.

The aim is to inform consumers about the dangers of increasingly industrialised meat production, says Barbara Unmuessig, the foundation’s president, herself a self-confessed enjoyer of the occasional organic steak.

“In the rich North we already have high meat consumption. Now the poor South is catching up,” she said. “Catering for this growing demand means industrialised farming methods: animals are pumped full of growth hormones. This has terrible consequences on how animals are treated and on the health of consumers.”

In the United States more than 75kg (165lbs) of meat is consumed per person each year. In Germany that figure is around 60kg. Huge amounts compared to per capita meat consumption rates of 38kg in China, and less than 20kg in Africa.

But whereas in the developed world meat consumption has stabilised – or in some countries such as Germany, is even falling – in other parts of the world, particularly in India and China, consumers are taking enthusiastically to a meat-heavy Western diet.

There are social consequences, according to the Meat Atlas: the more meat we eat, the more animals we have to feed.

As a result increasing amounts of agricultural land are being given over to grow animal feed, such as soya. Globally 70% of arable land is now being used to grow food for animals, rather than food for people, says the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

This is undermining the fight against starvation and poverty, says Barbara Unmuessig, as individual farmers are pushed off their land by huge competitive corporations. And industrialised methods have led to an overuse of damaging chemicals, she believes.


But Germans are torn.

On the one hand, this is a country with a powerful meat industry which slaughters 700 million animals a year – as well as a strong tradition of eating meat: wandering round chomping on a sausage is a normal part of most street festivals, and dried pieces of salami, wrapped in plastic wrappers like chocolate bars, are popular snacks.

German consumers are also used to the cheap food which is a direct result of industrial farming methods. The average German household spends around 10% of its entire income on food today, one of the lowest figures in the world, compared to more than 30% three decades ago.

Chart showing that many more chickens are slaughtered than other animals

At the same time, though, environmental concerns rank high in Germany. The Green Party is a powerful political force here, with 63 seats in the national parliament.

And saving the planet is not just a left-wing or fringe issue: it was a centre-right government, led by Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, which decided to phase out nuclear power within the next decade because of fears of damaging the environment.

And culturally, German society has an almost fetishised love of all things deemed to be natural.

Chicken consumption in 2012

  • Australia – 50.5
  • USA – 50.1
  • Brazil – 38.5
  • South Africa – 37.8
  • Russia – 25.3
  • EU countries – 23.6
  • China 14.0
  • India 2.4

Estimated consumption per person in kg, based on dressed carcass weight Source: Meat Atlas

So eating meat has become a guilt-inducing balancing act for your average socially conscious, environmentally aware German consumer.

But attempts to force the issue have fallen flat. An initiative proposed by the Green Party before the recent election to introduce a weekly vegetarian day in work canteens was ridiculed by opponents as an unwarranted infringement of personal choice.

Steffen Hentrich from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, a free market think-tank, disagrees with the connection made by the Meat Atlas between meat-eating and environmental damage.

“We all want a cleaner environment. But meat-eating in itself is not the problem. It’s rather the political frameworks in developing countries which cause the environmental damage. So we shouldn’t have a bad conscience.”

He says that meat-eating is being stigmatised in Germany, and that a lot of the statistics in the Meat Atlas are interpreted in a subjective political manner – criticising phrases like “in slaughterhouses the battle for the lowest prices is being fought on the workers’ backs” as politically-biased anti-capitalist language.

And he believes that too often in Germany there is a romanticised idea of the traditional meat industry which ignores the reality of the past.

“A complete rejection of modern farming methods is just not legitimate,” he argues. “I grew up near a sheep slaughter house. I saw how sheep were killed. And it wasn’t kind or pretty. In the past the welfare of the animal was the bottom priority.”

“Our aim is not to make anyone feel guilty,” counters Barbara Unmuessig. “It’s not about preaching or moralising to people. What we eat is a private matter. But it’s important to remember that what we put on our plates has political consequences.”

Eat less and eat better, appears to be the message for tortured environmentally conscious meat-eaters.


Can eating meat be eco-friendly?

Another good article from the BBC explaining why meat and dairy is so harmful to the environment.  Interestingly points out that grass-fed cattle are worst offenders so its not just a matter of avoiding factory farmed meat…

Can eating meat be eco-friendly? By Dr Michael Mosley

Every year we raise and eat 65 billion animals, that’s nine animals for every person on the globe, and it’s having a major impact on our planet. So what meat should we eat if we want to be eco-friendly carnivores? Is it better to buy beef or chicken, free range or factory farmed? As Dr Michael Mosley discovers for BBC Horizon, the answers are far from obvious.

I like eating meat but I know that my food preferences, and those of a few billion fellow carnivores, comes at a cost.

Nearly a third of the Earth’s ice-free land surface is already devoted to raising the animals we either eat or milk.

Roughly 30% of the crops we grow are fed to animals. The latest UN Food and Agriculture Organisation reports suggest livestock are responsible for 14.5% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions – the same amount produced by all the world’s cars, planes, boats and trains.

If that wasn’t scary enough, meat consumption is predicted to double in the next 40 years as people globally get wealthier. So how will the world cope?

Greenhouse gas

In search of answers I went to the US, one of the world’s largest consumers of meat, and travelled to the wide-open prairies of the Flint Hills in Kansas.

Here cattle are still herded by cowboys and cowgirls, as they have been for 150 years. The cows spend their lives roaming the hills, eating grass until it is time for them to be slaughtered. It seems to be an idyllic form of farming.

Yet there’s a big problem. Armed with a laser methane detector, normally used to spot dangerous gas leaks, I dived into a herd of cows and was soon picking up readings that would have had me sounding the alarms if I had been on an oil rig. These cows are producing huge amounts of methane.

cow in field
Grass eaters produce methane gas, which is harmful to the environment

A single cow can belch up to 500 litres of methane every day. Multiply that by the 1.5 billion cattle we have on our planet and that’s a lot of gas. And it has a vast environmental impact because methane is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The problem lies in what the cows eat. Unlike most mammals, cattle can live on a diet of grass, thanks to the trillions of microbes that live in their many stomachs.

These microbes break down the cellulose in grass into smaller, nutritious molecules that the cows digest, but while doing so the microbes also produce huge amounts of explosive methane gas which the cows burp out.

Since grass is what fuels methane production, one way to reduce the belching is to change what the cows eat.

At a feedyard in Texas I saw a very different type of farming, thousands of cattle confined in grass-free, mud enclosures and fed a diet based on a carefully formulated mix of corn, fat, growth hormones and antibiotics.

It looked the opposite of eco-friendly farming. Yet the CEO, Mike Engler, argued that his way of farming is “greener” than raising cows on the prairies – that their greater efficiency leads to less environmental impact.

The scientifically formulated diet means his cows put on weight faster and produce far less methane than cattle reared the traditional way. Studies have shown that beef produced this way produces up to 40% less methane than grass-fed cattle.

It is a form of farming that is yet to become widespread in the UK. But in terms of emissions, intensively reared, corn fed cattle may be the most environmentally friendly. However I couldn’t look at the cows without having some concern for their welfare and wondering whether this is how I want our Sunday roast to live.

So what else can we do to reduce the environmental impact of the meat we eat?

Eco-friendly meat

Through a technique called Life Cycle Analysis scientists have been able to put figures on the environmental impact of different meats.

The worst offenders are the grass-eating, methane-producing animals such as cows and sheep.

Pigs and chickens, which eat a more mixed diet, fare better.

Mussels are very eco-friendly, taking relatively little energy to rear.

Well, we can choose which animals we eat. Not all animals create meat equally. Through a technique called Life Cycle Analysis scientists have been able to put figures on the environmental impact of different meats (exact figures vary depending on the farming systems, but the following figures are broadly true of the meat you can buy in British supermarkets).

The worst offenders are the grass-eating, methane-producing animals. Cows release the equivalent of 16kg of carbon dioxide for every kilo of meat produced. Sheep are only slightly better producing 13kg of CO2 for every kilo of meat.

Pigs and chickens, which eat a more mixed diet, are much better. Pigs produce about half as much carbon dioxide, and chickens are responsible for only 4.4kg of CO2 per kilo of meat.

So if you are worried about your carbon footprint you are much better off eating chicken than beef. And, perhaps uncomfortably for some, the most eco-friendly chickens (in terms of carbon emissions) may not be organic or free-range, but those that are raised intensively in energy efficient indoor farms.

Another strategy is to find alternative sources of animal protein. Insects, farmed fish and even laboratory grown artificial meat are all touted as potential replacements, yet all currently have significant drawbacks.

Insects are unpalatable, farmed fish comes with other environmental draw-back and laboratory grown meat is still far too expensive to produce. But there are other alternatives right on our doorstep.

Surprisingly, the most eco-friendly source of meaty protein I encountered was also the lowest tech – mussels.

Grown on lengths of rope hung beneath the surface of sea loch in the Shetlands, it takes relatively little energy to rear mussels and get them from the sea to our plates. They even have the added bonus of capturing carbon dioxide and locking it up in their shells.

The result it that their carbon footprint is 20 times less than chicken, and fifty times less than beef. If we really want to cut down the environmental impact of our diets we should perhaps be eating more mussels. What we really need now are more imaginative ways of cooking them. Chilli mussels anyone?

But for many environmentalists the carbon footprint argument is too narrow. It may help us find the most energy-efficient way of producing meat, but that may not be the best way of using our land and resources.

In the programme we explore a very different way of having our meat and minimizing the impact on our environment. In some ways it involves going back to more traditional farming, but it also relies on cutting waste and eating less meat overall.

If you really want to be an environmentally friendly carnivore, your best bet is to stick to less than 100 gms (3 oz) of meat per day. That’s about half what we currently eat.

BBC News talks about environmental impact of eating meat and dairy – at last some national news coverage – hurrah!

It so often feels like it’s own ‘hippy environmentalists’ and ‘vegan nutjobs’ talking about the enormous environmental impact of eating meat and dairy so it’s great to see this making the headlines in mainstream national media today.  I really think if people knew what a devastating effect the production of meat and dairy has on the environment they’d massively reduce their meat and dairy consumption.  I have so many friends who are conscious of how much fuel they use, what car they drive, what cleaning products they use etc and yet don’t seem to make the link between meat and dairy consumption and the environment.  And yet it is a huge contributor to climate change.  More so than the whole of transport combined!  Yes, more than every plane, boat, car, train, lorry and dirty great oil tanker put together!  Cows and sheep farts is basically what we are talking about – methane emissions. But beyond this, producing meat is incredibly inefficient when it comes to water usage, land resources, animal feed usage etc. and incredibly damaging to the environment when it comes to river pollution, methane emissions, rainforest destruction etc. So it’s dangerous to talk only about intensively farmed meat and dairy as all cows fart and pooh!  So saying that you only buy expensive meat from local farmers really doesn’t cut it sadly. 
I’ve actually met more vegans who are vegan for environmental reasons than I have those who are primarily driven by animal ethics.  So the wider audience this information can reach – the better informed people will be and I’m sure the less meat and dairy people will consume.      So well done the BBC for making this report headline news.  Here it is!
‘Greenhouse gas fear over increased levels of meat eating’ b

Global consumption of meat needs to fall – to ensure future demand for food can be met and to help protect the environment – a study says.

woman eating steak


Research from Cambridge and Aberdeen universities estimates greenhouse gases from food production will go up 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise at its current rate.

That will make it harder to meet global targets on limiting emissions.

The study urges eating two portions of red meat and seven of poultry per week.

However that call comes as the world’s cities are seeing a boom in burger restaurants.

The research highlights that more and more people from around the world are adopting American-style diets, leading to a sizeable increase in meat and dairy consumption.

It says if this continues, more and more forest land or fields currently used for arable crops will be converted for use by livestock as the world’s farmers battle to keep up with demand.

Deforestation will increase carbon emissions, and increased livestock production will raise methane levels and wider fertiliser use will further accelerate climate change.

The lead researcher, Bojana Bajzelj from the University of Cambridge, said: “There are basic laws of biophysics that we cannot evade.”

“The average efficiency of livestock converting plant feed to meat is less than 3%, and as we eat more meat, more arable cultivation is turned over to producing feedstock for animals that provide meat for humans.

“The losses at each stage are large, and as humans globally eat more and more meat, conversion from plants to food becomes less and less efficient, driving agricultural expansion and releasing more greenhouse gases. Agricultural practices are not necessarily at fault here – but our choice of food is.”

Yield gaps

The report says the situation can be radically improved if farmers in developing countries are helped to achieve the best possible yields from their land.

Another big improvement will come if the world’s population learns to stop wasting food.

The researchers say if people could also be persuaded to eat healthier diets, those three measures alone could halve agricultural greenhouse gas levels from their 2009 level.

The study is the latest to warn of the planetary risks of eating intensively-produced meat and dairy produce. Scientists worried about climate change are increasingly making common cause with health experts concerned about the obesity pandemic.

But many people are voting with their wallets and their bellies – as burger bars expand, mushroom burgers are not yet top-selling items.

Follow Roger on Twitter: @rharrabin