Close to home…

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

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

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

Fowl Deeds

The astonishing, multiple crises caused by chicken farming.

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

Man holding a chicken

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

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

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

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

Chicken factory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.monbiot.com

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

§ BBC Hereford and Worcester, 15th December 2014

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

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

Quote of the day…

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

#lovethis

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

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

Amazing Vegan Burgers!

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

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

Serves 12-14

Ingredients

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

Green Tahini Sauce:

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

Preparation

Burgers:

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

Green Tahini Sauce:

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

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!

Animal testing

Cosmetics, clothing and cleaning products can call seen a minefield when it comes to animal testing and human rights abuses. But there are really good comprehensive sites out there dedicated to keeping you informed of which brands are safe to support and which you absolutely should not. PETA is one I use regularly but there are masses of others too. So take a minute to do your research and think before you buy.

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