Neat little poster…

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Live and Let Live

Have just watched this feature length documentary on veganism and would highly recommend it to everyone, vegan or not.

It examines our relationship with animals, the history of veganism and the ethical, environmental and health reasons that move people to go vegan.
Food scandals, climate change, lifestyle diseases and ethical concerns move more and more people to reconsider eating animals and animal products. From butcher to vegan chef, from factory farmer to farm sanctuary owner – Live and Let Live tells the stories of six individuals who decided to stop consuming animal products for different reasons and shows the impact the decision has had on their lives.
Philosophers such as Peter Singer, Tom Regan and Gary Francione join scientists T. Colin Campbell and Jonathan Balcombe and many others to shed light on the ethical, health and environmental perspectives of veganism.
Through these stories, Live and Let Live showcases the evolution of veganism from its origins in London 1944 to one of the fastest growing lifestyles worldwide, with more and more people realising what’s on their plates matters to animals, the environment and ultimately – themselves.

And it has a lovely soundtrack too…

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.

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.”

Methane

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.

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What if Everyone in the World Became a Vegetarian?

I came across this great article by L.V. Anderson on http://www.slate.com (an online daily magazine) and thought I’d share it with you. 

What if Everyone in the World Became a Vegetarian?

Calculating the chaos and the changed climate.

Vegan burgers with sweet potato and chickpeas.

The meat industry is one of the top contributors to climate change, directly and indirectly producing about 14.5 percent of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and global meat consumption is on the rise. People generally like eating meat—when poor people start making more money, they almost invariably start buying more meat. As the population grows and eats more animal products, the consequences for climate change, pollution, and land use could be catastrophic.

Attempts to reduce meat consumption usually focus on baby steps — Meatless Monday and “vegan before 6,”passable fake chicken, and in vitro burgers. If the world is going to eat less meat, it’s going to have to be coaxed and cajoled into doing it, according to conventional wisdom.

But what if the convincing were the easy part? Suppose everyone in the world voluntarily stopped eating meat, en masse. I know it’s not actually going to happen. But the best-case scenario from a climate perspective would be if all 7 billion of us woke up one day and realized that PETA was right all along. If this collective change of spirit came to pass, like Peter Singer’s dearest fantasy come true, what would the ramifications be?

 

At least one research team has run the numbers on what global veganism would mean for the planet. In 2009 researchers from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency published their projections of the greenhouse gas consequences if humanity came to eat less meat, no meat, or no animal products at all. The researchers predicted that universal veganism would reduce agriculture-related carbon emissions by 17 percent, methane emissions by 24 percent, and nitrous oxide emissions by 21 percent by 2050. Universal vegetarianism would result in similarly impressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, the Dutch researchers found that worldwide vegetarianism or veganism would achieve these gains at a much lower cost than a purely energy-focused intervention involving carbon taxes and renewable energy technology. The upshot: Universal eschewal of meat wouldn’t single-handedly stave off global warming, but it would go a long way toward mitigating climate change.

The Dutch researchers didn’t take into account what else might happen if everyone gave up meat. “In this scenario study we have ignored possible socio-economic implications such as the effect of health changes on GDP and population numbers,” wrote Elke Stehfest and her colleagues. “We have not analyzed the agro-economic consequences of the dietary changes and its implications; such consequences might not only involve transition costs, but also impacts on land prices. The costs that are associated with this transition might obviously offset some of the gains discussed here.”

Indeed. If the world actually did collectively go vegetarian or vegan over the course of a decade or two, it’s reasonable to think the economy would tank. According to “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” the influential 2006 U.N. report about meat’s devastating environmental effects, livestock production accounts for 1.4 percent of the world’s total GDP. The production and sale of animal products account for 1.3 billion people’s jobs, and 987 million of those people are poor. If demand for meat were to disappear overnight, those people’s livelihoods would disappear, and they would have to find new ways of making money. Now, some of them—like the industrial farmers who grow the corn that currently goes to feed animals on factory farms—would be in a position to adapt by shifting to in-demand plant-based food production. Others, namely the “huge number of people involved in livestock for lack of an alternative, particularly in Africa and Asia,” would probably be out of luck. (Things would be better for the global poor involved in the livestock trade if everyone continued to consume other animal products, such as eggs, milk, and wool, than if everyone decided to go vegan.) As the economy adjusted to the sudden lack of demand for meat products, we would expect to see widespread suffering and social unrest.

A second major ramification of global vegetarianism would be expanses of new land available. Currently, grazing land for ruminants—cows and their kin—accounts for a staggering 26 percent of the world’s ice-free land surface. The Dutch scientists predict that 2.7 billion hectares (about 10.4 million square miles) of that grazing land would be freed up by global vegetarianism, along with 100 million hectares (about 386,000 square miles) of land that’s currently used to grow crops for livestock. Not all of this land would be suitable for humans, but surely it stands to reason that this sudden influx of new territory would make land much cheaper on the whole.

A third major ramification of global vegetarianism would be that the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections would plummet. Currently, the routine use of antibiotics in animal farming to promote weight gain and prevent illness in unsanitary conditions is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance. Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that at least 2 million Americans fall ill from antibiotic-resistant pathogens every year and declared that “much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.” The overprescription of antibiotics for humans plays a big role in antibiotic resistance, but eradicating the factory farms from which many antibiotic-resistant bacteria emerge would make it more likely that we could continue to count on antibiotics to cure serious illnesses. (For a sense of what a “post-antibiotics future” would look like, read Maryn McKenna’s amazing article on the topic for Medium and her story about a possible solution for chicken farming in Slate.)

So what would be the result, in an all-vegetarian world, of the combination of widespread unemployment and economic disruption, millions of square miles of available land, and a lowered risk of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea? I can only conclude that people would band together to form communes in order to escape capitalism’s ruthlessness, squat on the former pasture land, and adopt a lifestyle of free love.

I kid. Mostly. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re speculating about unlikely scenarios—and sudden intercontinental vegetarianism is very much an unlikely scenario.

But if the result of a worldwide shift to a plant-based diet sounds like a right-winger’s worst nightmare, it’s worth pointing out that continuing to eat as much meat as we currently do promises to result in a left-winger’s worst nightmare: In a world of untrammeled global warming, where disastrous weather events are routine, global conflicts will increase, only the wealthy will thrive, and the poor will suffer.

Let’s try a middle path. We’re not all going to become vegetarians, but most of us can stop giving our money to factory farms—the biggest and worst offenders, from a pollution and public health perspective. We can eat less meat than we currently do, especially meat from methane-releasing ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.). Just because a sudden global conversion to vegetarianism would have jarring effects doesn’t mean we can’t gradually reduce our consumption of meat, giving the market time to adjust. We not only can; we must. After all, with the world’s population slated to grow to 9 billion by 2050, we’ll be needing to take some of the 25 percent of the world’s land area back from the cows.