Brexit: animal welfare downturn?


We’ve come a long way in the last few decades in our awareness of animal rights. Of course there’s plenty of cruelty still – that’s a given; but in 2015 the number of vegetarians in the world, for instance, was estimated at 375 million; a great many of those out of choice (rather than e.g. that their habitation doesn’t offer animal protein, or they can’t afford it).

Meantime, the number of vegans is increasing hugely: in the States, the last 10 years the number of vegans has grown by 350%. More than 3% of US citizens identify themselves as vegan. Here in the UK, our rise is 360% in the 10 years to 2016, with half a million people identifying themselves as vegan. China has a higher percentage than anywhere.

Can you imagine how few people would even have been aware of the concept of veganism 100 years ago?

For many people, this is a lifestyle/health choice. (There is a growing number of vegan athletes, for instance.)

For many others, though, including lacto-vegetarians or even fish and meat eaters, reducing or cutting out animal products is also driven by a greater awareness of the gross cruelties visited routinely on animals bred for – let’s face it – our predation.

There is a great deal I could write on this; and there is much already written on many very good vegan or vegetarian sites.

But right now what I want to draw your attention to is the fact that the hard-won victory for animals in 1997, in which they were given legal status and protected rights as sentient beings – yes, it took that long – could now, just 20 short years on, be overturned if Michael Gove, DEFRA Secretary of State, continues with the intention not to honour this status.

When EU law has been converted into UK law, DEFRA has said they are likely to ignore Article 13 of the EU Treaty – which serves to acknowledge that animals can feel pain, suffer and experience joy (in other words, are sentient beings):

‘This obligation will not be preserved by the EU (Withdrawal Bill); which delivers our promise to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK.’ (DEFRA Under-Secretary of State, Lord Gardiner, August 2017)

If future British governments do not legally need to consider animal sentience, not only is this an enormously regressive step after such a struggle to have their rights recognised even minimally in law, but it could also let in further abuses. The idea that in 2017 it might be that we don’t even recognise animals, legally, as being anything other than machines for our appetites or entertainment is beyond grotesque.

If you feel you could help, there’s a petition to be signed, and a small donation to Compassion In World Farming would be very welcome. And, of course, if you are reading this you’re probably already a vegan; but if not, you could cut animal products completely out of your diet; or if you can’t imagine this step, you can reduce your meat intake and ensure that whatever you do eat comes from a more humane rearing method than factory farming (2 out of every 3 food animals are factory-farmed). Remember, however, that transportation and abattoir deaths will inevitably involve fear, cruelty and suffering.

Incidentally, Jeremy Corbyn is a vegetarian, and is (cautiously) possibly heading towards veganism (can you imagine Ms May being animal-free inclined?). The Guardian reporting on this gave a nod to the virtues of veganism. You can read a little more on this on one of the best vegan sites, One Green Planet.

www.ciwf.org.uk/repeal

 

 

 

garden recipes and a hint of wild boar (not to eat)

I mostly like cooking. It’s a good counterpoint, too, to the mental work I do all day as a writer and tutor. Growing and preparing food is something so essential, so creative, so earthy, so non-mental, handling the creations of the soil, the rain, the compost, the sun, the magic of seeds.

When you have to create recipes too, for instance when the harvest glut is coming in – as ours is now, finally, after a long slow start – it’s an interesting challenge to find a new way to cook courgettes, or green beans.

So here are some recipes for you. They’re all vegan, but non-vegans will enjoy them as well; and although they mostly include beans, these are in reasonably digestible forms. Because they’re vegan, I take care to include protein. (For more on supplying the nutritional essentials on a vegan diet, see here.)

Sorry there are no photos of the meals – I realise what a difference they make, but never think of it until we’re halfway through eating! Here instead are some photos of our veg over the years. (I know that’s not the same, but they’re pretty.)

Three essential ingredients for the vegan larder/fridge:

  • Nutritional yeast flakes (Engevita); buy the one with added B12 (blue pot). I was a lacto-vegetarian for 40 years, and knew that one day I’d need to take the logical step of removing the products of animal suffering entirely from my diet, but in the four or five years I’ve been vegan I still miss cheese a lot. Yeast flakes help add that – well, yeasty nutty tang.

    Occasionally I will buy myself some Violife pizza ‘cheese’ – it’s not a bad substitute; made from coconut milk, it’s both processed and a bit high in food miles, though, but, you know, one can only be virtuous a certain percentage of the time without pissing oneself off with self-righteousness, as well as one’s table-mates.

  • Coyo; the vegan yogurt, made from coconut milk. It’s completely delicious, and the sweeter flavour can be compensated for with a shot of lemon juice (my daughter calls lemon ‘the third condiment’, and it really is). I’m not going to beat myself up a 2nd time for coconut-miles.

    I used to miss yogurt, too (I mean dairy yogurt) – not any more (and if you’ve never tasted Booja Booja non-dairy ice cream, you’ve a treat waiting).

  • Cashew nuts are very high in nutrients, and there is no nut (or anything non-dairy else) like them for whizzing up for sweet or savoury sauces with one or other or both of the above; plus they make a fabulous base for a very tasty vegan ‘cheesecake’ (yes, really). But there’s the food-miles issue again; plus unless you buy Fairtrade, the trade is dirty (as of course is eg the cotton trade, unless it’s organic cotton) in terms of poor pay and working conditions and some toxicity for the pickers.

    For savoury dishes, sweet chestnuts are a great alternative, and I collect them regularly, even in England, in the autumn, and collect masses to bring back if I’m in France. Not so good for sweet dishes, in my opinion, though – although they are used widely in France, Italy and Switzerland for desserts. (In fact, remembering this, I think I might have talked myself back into them.)

  • In addition, beans – canned beans – of all sorts, including the highly nutritious chickpeas, and all lentils. Of course, in season, green beans; and we grow various beans to freeze so that we don’t have to buy canned: pea bean, borlotti, soissons.
  • Seeds: pumpkin seeds add an extraordinary amount of protein to any dish; try dry-toasting these, sunflower seeds and, if you’re feeling rich, pine nuts too, and when they’re popping throw in a dash of soy sauce and the juice of half a lemon.

1 This first one is not mine, but the invention of Meera Sodha, Guardian food columnist at The New Vegan.

It’s a warm salad of samphire, potato and chickpea, with chaat spices. My version below uses green beans instead.

While I had masses of samphire in my fridge – fresh from a stone wall at Cape Cornwall after leading my Land’s Wild Magic course down there in June, I had none this week, so I substituted French green beans (Cobra) from the garden. I also had no mango powder (strangely enough) but had some coconut flour (I suppose that’s equally strange; it was a gift), so I mixed that with a little lemon juice. We did have our own Charlotte potatoes (tick), which didn’t stay in neat tidy small cubes like Meera’s in her photo, but it didn’t matter as the whole dish is divine.

If you don’t like your food too hot, substitutedhalf a teaspoon each of mild tagine spices and smoked paprika for the chilli.

I topped it with Coyo, and we had slow-cooked garlic courgettes on the side.

2 I was at Greenway, where I’ll be writer-in-residence this autumn leading workshops  (several more to be uploaded yet) as well as creating my own new writing, with the co-ordinator the other day. I was treated to lunch in the café, but she’d brought her own delicious-looking ‘allotment soup’. Hmmm. Good idea for the glut.

Our garden can come up with the goods now. (I love the Keravel Pink onions which we brought back as sets from Brittany.) So here’s my herby cream-of-garden soup (for 2):

2-3 tbsps olive oil
I onion and 3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 courgettes
double handful green beans, chopped
1 large potato cubed or diced
stock or Marigold bouillon (up to 1 litre; make it strong)
1 tsp yeast extract or 2 tsps soy sauce

1 double handful fresh sorrel leaves if you can get them – sorrel is easy to grow (wild sheep sorrel will do, but beware it might be tough by now)
1 handful fresh parsley
1/2 handful fresh marjoram
1/2 a dozen sage leaves (all chopped finely)

1/2 tsp each:
cumin
turmeric
ginger
nutmeg

1/2 tub Coyo
juice of 1/2 lemon

SOFTEN the onion in the oil. Add sliced courgettes and garlic, and when they’re soft add the potatoes. Turn up the heat a little and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently so the potatoes don’t stick, then add the beans.

Add half the stock etc; add more as needed (keep the soup thick). Throw in the spices, and leave to simmer for an hour (stir now and then).

Then add the Coyo and finely chopped herbs, stirring well, and turn off the heat.  Leave to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, and serve with crusty bread with maybe a splash of olive oil. You can sprinkle yeast flakes on top.

3 Pasta e fagioli with mushroom sauce (for 2)
When I was a romantic young student, I met an Italian in a remote part of the Catalonian Pyrenees, and eloped with him right up onto the border with Spain, where we spent a winter in a commune with no electricity, an open fire for cooking, and water collected from a spring half a kilometre away.

Once that autumn I got chased up an apple tree in an ancient abandoned orchard by a trio of wild boar who clearly considered scrumping apples to be their prerogative; but that’s a different story.

Drawing by Michael Fairfax, from The Polden Pig

Later, I married him (the Italian, not a boar), and he’s the father of my daughter. He died suddenly in late 2015, and in his memory I offer this recipe. He was a good cook, and pasta e fagioli (beans) was one of his staples, though the sauce here is mine.

He also used to make all our bread by hand, and, as he was taught by his rural grandmother, he’d use no yeast except what he could gather by leaving a tea-towel out in a clover-field overnight to collect the dewy clover-yeast (yes, really). He was also the best gnocchi maker I’ve ever known.

The mushroom part
2-3 tbsps olive oil
1 big onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 dozen mushrooms, sliced
a handful of fresh herbs: oregano, parsley, a sprig of rosemary, some thyme – mix and match

Soften the onion in warm oil; add garlic, mushrooms and herbs. Sauté gently.

Put a big pan of water on to boil.

The sauce
Blend together on a low heat:
200 gms natural Coyo
200 gms ground almonds, finely chopped cashews, or hazelnuts
3 tbsps yeast flakes
1 tsp bouillon powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
juice of 1/2 a lemon or to taste
salt and pepper
(I added some leftover mashed potato)

When the water comes to the boil, throw in some pasta (I use red lentil pasta as I love it and it’s full of protein), and a double handful of green beans (or to be more traditional other podded beans) chopped into roughly 2cm lengths. They’re ready after 8–10 minutes (salt at the end). Drain and put back in pan with a dash of olive oil.

Mix the mushrooms and the sauce and stir into the pasta e fagioli.

Finally, 4: butterbean and cashew (or other nut) paté or spread 
This works well with broad beans early in the season and later podded beans like soissons or borlotti too.

Put into a whizzer (I use a handheld Braun stick thing):

1 good handful cashew
1 tin butterbeans or kidney beans (or any other bean really, but the butterbeans’ mild flavour allows the nuttiness to emerge), drained and rinsed
big slosh of olive oil
handful each fresh parsley and basil
1/2 handful fresh oregano or marjoram
1 tbsp capers
few drops Tabasco (to taste)
nutritional yeast flakes
shake of Tamari
salt and pepper
(a little chopped onion if liked).

Whizz and enjoy!

I think it might also be good with cucumber and dill weed instead of the other herbs; also sorrel.

dairy farming is inherently inhumane

– period. It’s not about high welfare standards. It’s not about grass-fed rather than indoors and on concentrates. It’s not even about organic or otherwise. It’s about sentience, compassion, empathy.

In what they’ve described as a ‘landmark ruling for animal rights’, Go Vegan World is celebrating:

‘In a landmark decision the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) has ruled in favour of the Go Vegan World campaign, finding that our ad that lets people know that dairy is inherently inhumane is not misleading. This independent, official finding that our ad has been objectively substantiated with supporting evidence is hugely significant for the campaign and for animal rights.’

To read more, click here.

Dairy: thoughts on motherhood, cultural conditioning and hope

This excellent post from https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/dairy-thoughts-on-motherhood-cultural-conditioning-and-hope coincides with my thinking about how to address the ‘why lacto- vegetarianism isn’t enough’ issue on 57billion. Not only is this an excellent article, but it also offers me a lead-in for a brief piece to begin to address these issues on this blog. With thanks to the author of the original Elephant in the Room blog.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality A new mother warily watches the humans while defensively standing over her newborn.

When we are not vegan and we hear the word ‘dairy’, what do we think of?  We think of milk and cream, of yogurt and crème frais, of butter and cheeses, and of ice cream and chocolate. We think of ingredients and commodities, divorced from their source, vaguely but cosily wrapped in feel-good ideas like ‘harmless’ and ‘humane’, ‘free range’, ‘grass fed’ and ‘organic’.

We are encouraged to think of dairy as a harmless substance and millions of pounds, millions of dollars are spent by a heavily subsidised industry every year on the most skilled marketers money can buy, who use high-profile advertising to keep us thinking that way. Once we become sensitised to the prevalence of the advertising promoting and normalising dairy use, it is truly breathtaking to note how widespread it is.  The advertising is…

View original post 2,406 more words

spring & wild garlic (recipe)

The courtyard’s thick with birdsong. Over across the brook, hillsides blaze with gorse. Here in Devon, the lanes now are almost at their cusp of fullness. We’ve the deep mauve of dog violet, periwinkle and early purple orchid; the ultraviolet of bluebells; dark pink and pale pink campion; white wild strawberry flowers, the stitchworts, Queen Anne’s lace, jack-by-the-hedge and wild garlic in abundance; and of course the gold embroiderers: dandelion and buttercup, against the buttermilk of primroses.

Since February wild garlic has loomed large in our cooking, accompanying the last of our leeks in various dishes, added to salads with our rocket, chopped into leek, potato and nettle soup.

So here’s a vegan sort-of pesto sauce for you:

Take: 
1 large handful of wild garlic leaves, washed well
Half that amount of rocket
1 handful of nettle tips, picked young, stripped from the stalk and wilted for 1-2 minutes in boiling water
Whizz up together with a generous gloop of olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of pine nuts.
I added the juice from one lemon; or to taste
Season
If you can find it, 3 tbsps of Coyo – vegan yoghurt made from coconuts – completely transforms this.

Pour onto hot or cold vegetables, or stir into pasta; dip fresh warm bread into it.

open minds and playing mock the vegan

Here’s another good post from There’s an Elephant in the Room, with thanks for permission to reblog it:

Open minds and playing mock the vegan


Every day I read comment after comment from those who dismiss science in favour of support for industry advertising campaigns that play to and reinforce our confirmation bias. It dismays me to witness how many will willingly ridicule the recognition of the sentience of our victims and the fact that not only we do not require to use them for nutritional purposes, but that we are in fact harmed by doing so.

How naïve have we become, to delight in playing ‘mock the vegan’, while lapping up the multi-million media advertising campaigns by the massive industries that market sentient animals, their corpses, eggs and lactation, as commodities and resources, filling their coffers as they laugh all the way to the slaughterhouse?

Since when have we become so trusting as to seriously entertain the idea that those who make their living from harming animals for us to consume as a completely unnecessary ‘food’, are going to be honest with us about the sentience of our victims, the injustice of what we are paying them to do and the very real risks they pose to our health?

Apart from the obvious truth that every one of us claims to care about animals so it clearly makes no sense for us to continue to harm them when it is unnecessary, I have nothing to gain except the hope that sharing my own experiences may help prevent others from taking massive risks with their own health and that of their children.

There are many studies that will tell us that animal products are good for us. There are also those who will tell us that the world is flat and that evolution is a lie. No idea is too preposterous not to have someone who believes and promotes it.

All I can ask is that you apply common sense and follow the money. If a report or a recommendation tells us that consuming animal substances is ‘healthy’ for us and ‘humane’ for them – check out the sponsors, the source and ask yourself who has much to gain from such an assertion. And keep an open mind, corporate sponsors have a surprisingly long reach.

It’s definitely a matter of life and death for our victims and most likely for ourselves as well.

Be vegan.

when they ask…

I know that, for many, the fact that one is vegan is challenging. I don’t like to criticise people, nor make them feel bad or guilty, so I don’t speak of it often. The truth is, when the subject of what one does or doesn’t eat comes up, many people – meat-eaters, that is – immediately become defensive, and then go on the offensive.

I can proselytise on animal welfare and environmental issues for Great Britain if I need to. I can put the case for animal rights ad nauseam to anyone who will listen.

But it’s more difficult to include and push forward my own personal commitments and ethics. Why? Because as a vegan it is so easy to come across as self-righteous and holier-than-thou, and there is nothing like an animal-lover who is following through on their ethics to a logical (vegan) conclusion to make people who consider themselves to be animal-lovers feel attacked and blamed if they’re not following through.

This is what Jungians would call shadow-projection: inside every meat-eating so-called animal lover is a probably-unconscious or partly-conscious nagging voice that says they could do better, and imagines that you’re about to tell them that.

These closet vegetarians or vegans are actually harder to deal with than those who’ve never thought about what they eat, or don’t even understand the concept of veganism, who will often listen with some interest. (Though indeed the former category might eventually be more open to going veggie or vegan; it’s obvious that they have some guilt about their diet, or they wouldn’t be so defensive.)

So mostly I don’t speak of my diet unless it comes up naturally in a conversation, or is relevant to e.g. eating at someone’s house.

But still, the large number of unsolicited attacks I’ve had from meat-eaters over the years when the topic has come up – very rarely raised by me – have ranged from awkward to painful to out-and-out aggressive.

These are the commonest reactions; you might recognise them:

Trick question #1 ‘But what about plants then?’
One (now ex-) friend as part of a wider conversation asked my reasons for being lacto-veggie (this was several years ago, before I became vegan), as she was catering for me.

I told her that my reasons were based on animal welfare: we know animals suffer physical pain as they have a central nervous system; and we know animals suffer fear and emotional pain too – you’d have to be mindlessly stupid and disconnected not to read an animal’s eyes, face and body language when it’s suffering (I didn’t tell her that she was mindlessly stupid and disconnected, however!).

I added that I’d made a commitment decades ago not to cause more harm than I could avoid.

(There is also, of course, deforestation to grow crops to feed animals, the inefficient use of land to produce meat, the issues of starvation elsewhere partly as a result of our industrial-scale farming practices, and the environmental issues associated with these things, all of which are relevant.)

A few days later, I noticed my exact words quoted by said ex-friend on a public internet forum as a dismissal of such an argument: ‘I find [this ‘animals suffer’ argument against eating meat] bizarre. What about plants?’

I was both hurt and speechless; it was worse because she had been a neuroscientist so should surely know what a central nervous system means in terms of the experience of suffering (but then again she’d worked for the tobacco industry too, which of course involves laboratory animals. I guess you can only live with that through denial.)

And I’ve met that argument over and over: ‘But what about plants? Don’t you think they suffer too?’

Well, as it happens, I do think that every sentient being does experience some kind of suffering – in their own way. But that’s a digression and can lead to a very flaky conversation.

More centrally, I also think it’s a mind-game: a displacement of guilt designed to trip me up, trap me, catch me out. Critically, it’s a diversion from the big topic of animal wellbeing.

It’s also a stupid argument. We have to eat something; we have to draw the line somewhere.

These days, my response would be something along the lines of ‘Well, I’ve been trying to live on air alone, but I felt a little faint; so it was me or the cabbage.’

Trick question #2: ‘Well, do you think that carnivorous animals are evil, then?’
No. I believe evil is a human construct. As it happens, I don’t believe it exists, though I think that ignorance and greed both exist in the human to the extent that we think everything here on this planet – and this planet itself – has been created as a resource for us. We are also the only species capable of destroying the environment on which we depend, too. Blame patriarchal institutions like the Judeo-Christian tradition, although I suspect this attitude predates that too.

An animal is historically adapted to eat biologically, anatomically, environmentally, what it needs to eat. Not only have we developed biologically as omnivores, but crucially we also have the consciousness to make choices, in a way that animals simply haven’t. (Those of us who live in the privileged Western world, anyway.)

Trick question #3: ‘What about e.g. the Inuit?’
I’m not saying the whole world has to be vegan. I’d love it, and a few billion animals would do a whole lot better, but I know it’s an impossibility. In the Arctic circle you don’t have a great deal of choice of vegetables.

Trick question #4: ‘But we need meat for health.’
Not true. Simply not true. There’s so much info available on the web I barely know where to start with this one. Generally, I keep calm and – if they’re genuinely interested – point them to one of the websites or the books I mention under RESOURCES.

Trick question #5: ‘But animals were put here for our use.’
Gaaaarrrgggh. Gaaaarrrgggh. Gaaaarrrgggh. Hard to keep calm on this one. See #2 above.

There are more. I’d love to hear of any ‘trick questions’ that have been levelled at you, and your responses.

Meantime, the first two books on my list here are very good resources, and one of them – I think it’s the Cheeseburger one but don’t have them here to check – has a list of common questions and excellent and informed responses.

As usual, btw, the latest post from this blog is well worth reading (it’s more hard-hitting than my post above):

https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/taking-our-time-taking-their-lives
*