Close to home…

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

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

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

Fowl Deeds

The astonishing, multiple crises caused by chicken farming.

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

Man holding a chicken

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

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

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

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

Chicken factory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.monbiot.com

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

§ BBC Hereford and Worcester, 15th December 2014

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

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

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Gooey chocolate brownies!

At last!  A recipe for vegan chocolate brownies that actually works!  And proper sticky rich gooey ones too.  This recipe has been 2 years in the finding and along the way there have been a lot of charred chocolate casualties.  But this one is a keeper and totally idiot proof so get your chocolatey chops around this…

From The Vegan Society website:

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 oz / 75g margarine
  • 1 1/2 oz / 45g / 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 floz / 75ml soya milk
  • 7 oz / 200g caster sugar
  • 6 oz / 160g plain white flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 oz / 20g / 2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 oz / 115g caster sugar
  • 6 fl oz / 170 ml soya milk
  • 1 1/2 fl oz / 45ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C, Gas Mark 4.
  2. Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan and gently bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 minute, stirring well. Put saucepan into a bowl of cold water and beat sauce until it cools and thickens. Set aside.
  3. Sieve flour, baking powder, cocoa and sugar into a bowl. Mix soya milk, vegetable oil and vanilla essence together. Stir flours, soya milk mixture and sauce together – do not overmix.
  4. Place in a greased and lined tin roughly 10″ x 8″ and bake for 30 minutes.

I ate mine warm from the oven with Booja Booja’s vanilla ice cream.  Heaven!

Skool of Vegan

Skool of Vegan is a new initiative aimed at trying to get people to look at their eating habits and attitudes towards animals in a more critical way.  Their mission statement is: ‘Because making the connection is child’s play’.   It certainly makes for some uncomfortable reading and I admire their original approach.  Whether you like the drawings or not its hard to deny the underlying truth and i think they do a good job of highlighting the hypocrisy and inconsistencies of what we teach our kids.  I think it’s probably a little too heavy handed for most people’s taste and therefore I doubt they will reach people in the way they’d like to.  Perhaps a less aggressive tone might have spoken to more people…?  What do you think?  Here a few…

'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play

'Skool of Vegan' Draws Cartoons That Make Eating Meat Seem Like Anything But Child's Play

Go wild for the Wild Food Cafe

I finally made it to the Wild Food Café in Covent Garden today.  I’ve been meaning to go for months and months and it was well worth the wait.

photo 3photo 3

It’s tucked away above Neal’s Yard.  It’s cosy (seats about 40 people) but bright and airy.  It’s a really lovely space with the kitchen in full view bang in the middle and you can either sit at the bar that runs all around the kitchen and watch them cooking or at one of the 4 big tables overlooking Neal’s Yard.  Today it was absolutely freezing outside but the sun was pouring in through the large bay windows and it felt like a little haven of friendly, cosy, welcoming, warmth on an Arctic London day.

neils

 

It describes itself as a ‘raw-centric food restaurant’ and uses ‘wild, fresh, colourful gourmet ingredients & plant-based (vegan and vegetarian) cuisine’.  The vast majority of the menu is vegan and a lot of it raw.  For anyone who is nervous of the phrase ‘raw vegan’ and presumes they will be faced with a plateful of rabbit food sprinkled with bird feed then fear not – it is astonishing what these guys create and you really don’t even notice that it’s raw.

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I started with their ‘Incredible Green’ super smoothie –  apple, celery, lemon, banana, kale, fresh coconut, fresh aloe vera, fresh irish moss.  It’s £6 which is pretty expensive but it’s almost a meal in itself.  A hearty comforting glass of goodness.

raw burger

Then I ordered THE WILD BURGER – scrumtious shiitake, raw olive & dulse burger with in-house cultured Wild Sauce, tomatillo salsa verde, caramelised onions, baba ganoush & crispy gem lettuce in a wholemeal sprouted organic wheatbread(V)(N)(R) £12.  Completely delicious and filling, although not the biggest plate of food for £12.

 

 

Wild Raw Pizza  Ed had the WILD PIZZA SPECIAL – raw, dairy-free young coconut cheeze, wild sea purslane & basil pesto, raw cultured tomato & goji berry marinara, Turkish olives, artichoke hearts, avocado(V)(N)(R) £12.5  This was the star of the show and honestly one of the most delicious meals I have ever had in my life.  It made me want to rush out and buy a dehydrator immediately!  

The desserts looked amazing but we ran out of time sadly – but now I have an excuse to go back as soon as I possibly can…

Raw Chocolate and Berry Tartfig-orange-tart

raw cake

Oh and the waiting staff are really knowledgeable and helpful… and exceedingly attractive which is always always a bonus!

Wild Food Café has a real community feeling about it.  They offer cooking courses, full moon feasts, meditation sessions, gourmet meals with guest chefs etc… Go check it out!

Wild Food Cafe

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.

A much more sensible approach: “Can science stop sharks attacking humans?”

Here’s a much more sensible article outlining various ways that humans could try and modify their behaviour to work in harmony with sharks.  In the same way an inoculation for badgers in the UK would be afar better method than random culling – the same applies to the shark population. Mindless culling is never the answer! 

Bull shark

Sharks have patrolled the oceans for at least 400 million years and evolved into a huge range of remarkable species.

There are deep sea lantern sharks that glow in the dark, wobbegong sharks that grow shaggy beards, and majestic, plankton-sifting whale sharks – the biggest fish in the sea.

Nevertheless, when many people think of these animals, one thing comes to mind: shark attacks.

As a beachgoer, diver or surfer your chances of encountering a shark, let alone being killed by one, are in fact incredibly slim; lightning strikes, bee stings and car accidents all pose far more of a threat than sharks.

In reality, people kill millions more sharks than sharks kill people.

A quarter of all shark species, and their relatives the rays, are threatened with extinction, according to a recent report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The main threat to sharks is overfishing and in greatest peril are the largest species.

Shark-repellent wetsuits The striped suit tells sharks a diver is not safe to eat, while the blue design acts as camouflage

But a controversial cull of sharks was recently ordered in Western Australia following a spate of attacks.

Scientists are now looking at other approaches to deal with the shark attack issue.

Prof Shaun Collin is leading a University of Western Australia (UWA) team of neurobiologists who are learning to think like sharks.

“We’re trying to tread this very fine line of protecting both humans and sharks at the same time,” Prof Collin told the BBC World Service programme Discovery.

By studying shark brains and shark senses, the team is developing and testing various non-lethal repellents. The aim is to manipulate the sharks’ finely-tuned senses in ways that discourage them from approaching and attacking people.

One of these is a “shark-proof” wetsuit designed to make people look like poisonous, black and white banded sea snakes, something that many sharks tend to avoid.

The stripy wetsuit was first thought up years ago by marine biologist Walter Starck. Now a detailed understanding of shark vision is helping the UWA team to bring this idea up to date.

Nathan Hart, assistant professor at UWA, explained to me that sharks don’t see as well as humans.

“We’ve made sure that the size of the bands can be detected by a shark from a certain distance,” he says.

Tests of the new wetsuit design are currently underway. This involves wrapping the fabric around a barrel filled with dead fish and watching how sharks respond to it in the wild.

It is still early days, but so far, Nathan told me, the results have been encouraging.

“Based on what we know about the sensory systems of sharks, they should reduce your risk to some extent,” he says.

“Just like a seatbelt in a car, it doesn’t reduce your risk to zero; it’s a matter of reducing your risk by a certain amount and by as much as possible,” he adds.

Shark dive boat in Fiji Divers in Fiji have trained the sharks how to behave in return for food

As well as trying to protect individual swimmers, another tactic is to make certain areas out of bounds to sharks.

“We can try and define areas on the beaches where people are confident they can go and swim,” says Dr Hart.

Bubble curtains could be deployed to keep sharks away from popular beaches.

The idea is to lay perforated hosepipes across the seabed and pump air through them and create a plume of bubbles that sharks may decide not to swim through.

Sharks can see and hear the bubbles and also feel them with their lateral line, a system of sense organs many fish have.

“It’s a system of what’s known as ‘distant touch’; it detects vibrations and very low-frequency sound in the water,” Nathan explained.

Early tests showed that tiger sharks eventually pluck up the courage to cross a barrier of bubbles, suggesting they have the ability to learn.

Eugenie Clark, a veteran marine biologist at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, pioneered studies of shark learning back in the 1950s.

Nicknamed “The Shark Lady”, Dr Clark trained captive sharks to press targets with their snouts and ring bells for a food reward. She showed for the first time that sharks can learn and remember things.

Eugenie told me about the time she took a trained baby nurse shark as a gift for the Crown Prince of Japan who shared her fascination with fish.

“The airline gave me an extra seat for the shark. Most people didn’t know, he was such a tiny thing he was less than two feet long. But he never made a mistake,” says Eugenie.

Recently, I witnessed for myself the capacity sharks have to learn and in particular that they can learn not to attack people.

I went diving off the Pacific island of Fiji and saw my first bull sharks, notorious as one of the most aggressive shark species.

Locals from Beqa Adventure Divers have trained a population of around 100 bull sharks to approach a diver, one-by-one, and gently take a chunk of fish offered to them by hand.

The sharks have learned how to behave if they want food.

“They know us very well,” Fijian divemaster Papa told me before I jumped in the water. “That’s the good thing, they know what’s going on.”

Preparing for the dive, I wasn’t exactly sure how I would react to seeing these giant predators. But as soon as I got down beneath the waves my nerves evaporated and I saw just how graceful and calm bull sharks can be.

Male tiger shark killed as part of Western Australia cull The Western Australia government responded to a recent spate of attacks with a cull

There was no safety cage or any sort of repellent and I never felt in any kind of danger.

As well as helping to shift the sharks’ bad reputation as insatiable killers, the Fijian divers are showing that a live shark in the water is worth far more than a dead one.

In Fiji and elsewhere around the world, sharks are under immense pressure from the demand in Asia for shark fin soup.

Back in Western Australia, the shark cull continues amid beachside protests.

The problem has been an abnormal high in shark attacks, with seven fatalities over the last three years compared with 20 in the last century.

The response of the Western Australia government has been to lay baited hooks offshore from popular beaches. Any great white, tiger and bull sharks that are caught and are larger than 3m long are shot and dumped at sea.

One opponent of the cull is shark attack survivor Rodney Fox. Fifty years ago he suffered a horrific attack from a great white in South Australia but since then has become a dedicated shark advocate.

“We just have to learn how to live with the sharks and not just kill them from fear,” he told me.

He thinks killing sharks deliberately is an unscientific and irrational strategy to try to reduce the attack rate.

But Western Australia’s government says the cull is in place to protect swimmers and surfers. Premier Colin Barnett has said: “The West Australian government is absolutely confident that the policy in place is the right policy and we intend to continue it.”

An open letter from more than 100 scientists has urged Mr Barnett to reconsider the cull, highlighting its environmental impact and the low chance of catching the individual sharks responsible for the attacks.

“Every scientist that I’ve heard of and talked to all agree that it’s not the thing to do,” says Mr Fox.