why you don’t need meat

I have been working up to posting the heavy-duty stuff on this page: the unbelievable and horrifying details of the meat industry.

Let’s start more gently: a brief summary of why you don’t need meat (or fish, especially given the very high levels of heavy metals in them), in which I’ll include an outline of the meat industry.

Plenty of people will tell you that we do need meat in order to be healthy. This is a myth, and I’ll include more on it later on the ‘Nutrition’ page. Meantime, click here; and you can also find on the links page information on what a healthy vegan diet consists of.

Plenty of others tell me that they’ve tried a vegetarian diet and don’t thrive on it. Often, these are people who have simply omitted the meat part of a meat-and-veg diet, but haven’t the experience and knowledge to combine foods differently. It’s not surprising: until the advent of the internet much of our nutritional knowledge, collectively,  was a bit hit-and-miss if it didn’t revolve around the convention of meat-eating.

And yes, there are of course unhealthy vegans – it is possible to eat a junk-food vegan diet, high in processed foods, refined flour pastries, crisps, sugar, saturated or trans-fats. But it’s equally possible to have top-level health, and many of the links will tell you why it’s healthier than a meat-and-dairy-eating diet. Some world-class athletes are vegan, so it doesn’t have to mean joyless, thin, pale, wan and weedy.

The truth is, almost no one actually needs meat for health (I’m omitting, clearly, peoples such as the Inuit who have no option, vegetable-growing being just about impossible so far north in the Arctic circle. This doesn’t apply to us in the affluent West.)

We have choices
One of the rather crass questions that meat-eaters sometimes pose to vegetarians is ‘Do you think that carnivorous animals are bad, evil, then?’ Well, of course not! They’re eating what their bodies need and are adapted for. They have no choice.

Unlike carnivorous animals, we have the kind of consciousness – quite apart from our physiology – that allows choice.

We’re newcomers to meat-eating…
Physiologically, our digestive systems, and our teeth, have more in common with herbivores than carnivores.

Another thing is that meat-eating, surprisingly perhaps, is a comparatively recent addition to our diets.

In her Huffington Post piece, Kathy Freston quotes Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who is Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, and author of The China Study.

He explains that we only relatively recently (historically speaking) began eating meat.  The inclusion of meat in our diet came well after we became who we are today. ‘…the birth of agriculture only started about 10,000 years ago at a time when it became considerably more convenient to herd animals.’ Our basic biochemical functionality, however, has evolved over at least tens of millions of years; this functionality is adapted to and depends on the nutrient content of plant-based foods.

President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Dr. Neal Barnard says in his book, The Power of Your Plate, that early humans had diets very much like other great apes. This would be a  largely plant-based diet, rich in foods we can pick or pick up with our hands. Meat-eating, in fact, probably began by scavenging – eating the leftovers that carnivores had left behind. Barnard adds that our bodies have never completely adapted, and that present-day meat-eaters exhibit a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other problems. (There is much evidence for this.)

Yet popular belief says that meat is a necessity. It is, after all, the dominant ideology, and the meat industry is very good at promoting its cause; not least with its cute images of happy healthy cows grazing green grass and clucking hens scratching around.

The happy-cow fairy tale
This picture couldn’t be further from the truth. The bulk of animals intended for the meat industry are reared exclusively indoors, usually in extremely crowded, dirty conditions, and generally on concrete; often in small crates or cells, and with no natural light – for the whole of their lives. They’re also routinely fed antibiotics, hormones and growth promoters and other chemicals (which of course we’ll ingest), plus pesticide use on the animal is generally mandatory and herbicide on their feed (often genetically-modified) is the norm, except in organically-reared animals.

If the animals are the inevitable ‘by-products’ of the dairy industry, male calves intended for veal, they are taken from their mothers at a few days of age (they would, if left to themselves, suckle for at least 6 months at their mothers’ udders), and crated, in semi-darkness, until they are killed at a few weeks. There are stories of calves attempting to suckle the fingers of the abattoir staff as they are in line to be killed. ‘Lucky’ calves grow into bullocks, to be killed at a year or so. (Bear in mind that, in order for a cow to be lactating, she needs regularly to produce calves. 50% of these will be male.)

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has done much to raise our awareness of the conditions of battery chickens in England. (More on that another time, but in brief, ‘improved conditions’ mean that they now have a crate-space the size of an A4 sheet of paper to squat on. All their short lives.)

Most people seem unaware of the fact, though, that almost all pigs, that most intelligent of species, are reared in appalling conditions, indoors, on slatted floors in small crated cells. In some large units, the sows are kept farrowing, dropping the piglets through slatted floors into conveyor belts where they, too, can be raised for the meat industry. Yes, really.

But what if it’s organic?
In England, organic meat certified by the Soil Association improves the lives of the animals, at least a little. It means that, at least, in order to satisfy welfare standards, they’re not pumped full of chemicals, and they have to graze outdoors for part of the year. I believe I’m right in saying that chickens have to be free range if they’re to carry Soil Association certification.

However, their lives are still shorter, their conditions of rearing still unnatural, their treatment often very wide of the mark, their transportation to the slaughterhouse still frightening, and within the slaughterhouse itself brutality and abuse is rife (links to come).

Some people have also pointed out that, given that animals also experience emotions, having come to trust the humans who tend them, that trust is betrayed, in the end. Undoubtedly, their distress levels, fear and panic are high (and some say that the levels of toxins produced in their systems by such fear are not good, when ingested, for human health either).

There are many scientific studies that confirm our ability to be healthy and thrive on a plant-based diet, and many posts containing the necessary nutritional information, on the internet. I’ve put links to some here.

More on this to come.

Soon, also: why lacto-vegetarianism doesn’t go far enough.



vegetable tagine

our squah 2014

Look at the size of this beauty, from our 2014 harvest! It’s a ‘rouge vif d’Etampes’.

Tonight in our house it will be vegetable tagine, including a successor of this one (I save the seeds).

It’s so simple. Tagine is basically a Moroccan spicy stew, traditionally cooked in a clay pot. Usually there’s a dash of sweetness; the squash will provide that, as would sweet potatoes; some people add a little honey or eg maple syrup; I like to add a few dried apricots. Here’s a recipe for you.

Winter Vegetable Tagine

INGREDIENTS (3-4 servings):
2 leeks or 2 onions
Two big potatoes diced (big chunks)
Three carrots diced (big chunks)
Two beetroot
1 small butternut squash or half a bigger red one, either prebaked or diced (big chunks) (I bake a whole squash, pricked, then scoop out flesh and freeze it)
Any other veg to taste, eg root veg, courgettes, peppers, aubergines
Optional (protein): canned chickpeas or beans

2-3 tbsps olive oil
Tin tomatoes
Cup stock if more liquid needed; otherwise veggie stock cube or Vecon
Small handful dried apricots if liked
Juice of half lemon

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped or minced
3 dessertspoons of harissa or 1 tsp chopped or dried chilli (less if you don’t want it hot)
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, minced or grated
1 tsp crushed coriander seed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp of turmeric
salt & black pepper to taste

Optional to garnish:
1 tbsp of chopped parsley
1 tbsp of chopped mint
Almonds or cashews (protein)

Dry-toast the dried spices for a minute or two, then add oil, and sauté onions/leeks till soft. Add garlic and ginger. Add other veg and spices and simmer gently 10 minutes.

Add lemon juice and tin of tomatoes. At this point add stock if needed, or stock cube (etc) anyway, and apricots.

Simmer on a low heat for around 20-30 minutes. Taste and season.

Serve over rice or couscous with greens on the side (I love rainbow chard – the colours of the whole thing are heartwarming); garnish with parsley and mint if liked. Some people add yogurt, or a vegan equivalent (Coyo is by far the best – yogurt from coconut! – but juicy on food miles and expensive)


One vegan breakfast

breakfast jan 2015 blog

Below is the first offering. If you have a recipe to offer, please let me know via the Comments section:


The bread
Because I make all my own bread in a busy life, I usually use a breadmaker, though the proportions are pretty much the same if you make it by hand (you might need to experiment with the quantity of water).

3 cups wholemeal organic spelt* flour (I use Dove’s Farm, from the UK)
1 cup white ditto
1 teaspoon apple concentrate, maple syrup, date syrup or unrefined sugar
1 tablespoon fine seasalt
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water (blood heat; see below)
2/3 tablespoons unrefined olive oil
Handful walnuts
Handful pumpkin or sunflower seeds (or ground flax)
(You can vary the additions: try raw chopped onion with herbs – dill’s good with onion, or sage; sprouted seeds, but not too many as they’ll dampen the loaf; olives, sundried tomatoes etc)

Oil tin with all of the olive oil. Dissolve your sweetener and the salt in less than a quarter cup boiling water. Add cold to top the cup up; pour into tin.

Add the flour (if using breadmaker), and I use the 3 hour 40 minute setting, adding the nuts and seeds when the machine beeps (if working dough by hand add them with the flour).

* I use spelt because, like many people in the UK, I find I do better on it than on our modern wheat (spelt is ‘the neolithic wheat’)

The spread
Take a quarter avocado (for food miles I try and buy from Europe) for one piece bread/toast, and mash it with a splash of olive oil, some nutritional yeast flakes (from a wholefood shop; the vegan’s big friend), a pinch of salt, black pepper and if you like some Tabasco or lemon juice. You won’t miss butter, and it’s a lot healthier than the processed spreads. If you’re feeling really virtuous, sprinkle with sprouted seeds – about as healthful as you can get.

Accompany it with red grape juice – delicious and healthful (and if you happen to live in, or travel to, France, also surprisingly cheap, even as organic, ‘bio’. Much as I love wine, this is worth importing).

Instead of butter or margarine, I simply put a little olive oil in a jar in the fridge, so that it solidifies, then use it like butter. (You don’t need this in addition to the avo spread.)


57 BILLION animals


‘We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… For the animal shall not be measured by man [sic]. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.’  Henry Beston


  • Like me, you love animals and care about their welfare
  • You are shocked to hear that globally we eat around 57 billion land animals per year
  • You don’t want to contribute to this scale of suffering
  • You’re concerned about health
  • You’re aware that meat-eating contributes to climate change, water pollution, soil erosion and hunger
  • You’re a meat-eater who wants to switch
  • You’re already lacto-vegetarian but feel uneasy about it
  • You’ve thought about going vegan but are not sure about the implications
  • You need comprehensive info on veganism
  • You would value support in this journey

then welcome to this site. It’s new, and there is much material to upload – please come back!