The Cult of Carnism

When we think of the word cult we tend to think of the Moonies or some weird religious movement that brainwashes people, takes all their money and makes them work 18 hours a day for nothing. A stereotypical generalisation for sure but you know where I’m going. The dictionary definition of the word cult is along those lines but a little more all-encompassing. It’s actually defined as “someone or something that has become very popular with a particular group of people”.

Before the Great Wars meat and dairy were much more of a luxury than they are today, something that only the privileged few could afford to eat regularly. To the average man in the street, it was the food of Kings. Following the Second World War there were nearly ten years of rationing when people had limited access to meat and dairy products. People would try and get as much as they could and by whatever means because the food of Kings had to be the best food they could eat.

To be fair they had something of a point. In those days it wasn’t so easy to get all of the protein, vitamins and nutrients needed from a diet of bread and potatoes. Had the knowledge and education been in place they could have got everything they needed from plants but the overall feeling was that if you could get your hands on meat and dairy, you did.

This mind-set became the cult of the nation, as did smoking. If you went to see your doctor during the 1950’s he may well have recommended smoking and would quite possibly have been puffing away while you were sat there in the surgery chatting to him. He would definitely have told you to eat as much meat and dairy as you possibly could.

Those people in the 1950’s were our parents and grandparents. Rightly or wrongly, but certainly as far as they were concerned, a diet consisting of mainly meat and dairy was the healthiest diet you could eat. They were also lead to believe that smoking was good for you, or at least that it wouldn’t harm you. They passed this wisdom on to us and we in turn have passed it on to our children. Many, even most of the kids I went to school with smoked at some time in their lives, as did I, at least it wasn’t unusual. All of them bar me ate meat.

The 1970’s saw the emergence of fast food and factory farming. This meant meat and dairy were even more readily available and at prices everyone could afford. Is it pure coincidence then that the rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease have more than doubled over this period? The cost of obesity and overweight in the UK alone is £47 billion each year. This is 3% of GDP. More than 2.1 billion people around the world – or nearly 30% of the global population – are overweight or obese, with the figure set to rise to almost half of the world’s adult population by 2030. Diabetes costs us another £10 billion and heart disease almost the same. Heart disease would be higher other than it’s more likely to kill you outright.

Something few of us ever give any thought to are our core beliefs. We all have them, most come from early childhood, from our very early years until we reach our teens. Even if you don’t have a religious bone in your body as an adult, if your parents followed a particular faith you will always associate yourself with that religion in one way or another.

It’s difficult to question your core beliefs. Most people don’t even know they have them or at least are not willing to accept how much they have shaped the person they are today. We all want to believe we make our own decisions and are not influenced by our childhood. Identifying and then challenging your core beliefs can transform your approach to life. Assumed to be true, core beliefs often go unnoticed and unchallenged. Through identifying automatic thoughts, we can sometimes uncover the main beliefs that underlie our personalities.

The children of my generation were conditioned to believe that a diet of meat and dairy was the right choice, that it was the food of the affluent. My own father took great pride in carving the meat on a Sunday lunchtime. It was progress and few ever question this. Only now are governments, scientists, health organisations and business leaders realising that the 1950’s concept is actually damaging our health, the health of the planet and is unsustainable.

By 2050 our population will be over nine billion and we cannot feed that many people on a diet of meat and dairy. In the US alone we could grow enough food to feed ten billion people a year. Despite this 21,000 people die of starvation every single day across the world.

Animal agriculture is the world’s leading contributor to global warming, more than the world’s entire transportation system. If the world lived on a plant based diet, food related greenhouse gas emissions would fall by up to 70% and save millions of lives.

The World Health Organisation and Cancer UK have classified processed meat (bacon, sausages, ham etc) as a class 1 carcinogen, meaning it definitely causes cancer. Red meat is class two meaning it probably causes the disease.

Six out of ten people in the UK have high cholesterol; millions of us are taking statins or other drugs to control it. Cholesterol is produced naturally in your body, our bodies make all the chloresterol we need and you don’t need to add any more to be healthy. The only way bad (LDL) cholesterol gets into our bodies is through meat and dairy products. High cholesterol blocks your arteries and causes heart disease which is now the number one killer in the western world. Those in poorer countries who live on a mainly plant based diet have close to zero levels of heart disease.

Over 50 billion land animals are imprisoned, denied even the most basic of rights and cruelly killed every year for food. If you eat meat and dairy products then this is done in your name. Innocent, gentle and intelligent creatures are massacred just to satisfy your lifestyle and hunger. It is totally unnecessary and entirely inhumane. We can live long, healthy and happy lives without living like the brutal savages that we have become. We have to be better than this. You have to be better than this.

The belief that a diet of meat and dairy is the right choice was instilled in you when you were a child. Had this not happened, you would have grown up to love and respect all creatures. Only you can break this conditioning, only you can make the decision to think for yourself about this for the first time in your life. Deep down inside you don’t want all of these living, thinking creatures to be killed in your name. Deep down inside there is still that young child who if given the choice a thousand times over would chose to cuddle and play with an animal rather than kill and eat it.

Find the strength within yourself to question your core beliefs and become the compassionate earthling you were born to be.

The Fallacy of Free Range Eggs

If you look for it, you will find news of a worldwide outbreak of Bird Flu. We have been following it closely on VGN but its barely made the mainstream news here in the UK despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of birds have been “culled” over the past few weeks.

The UK poultry industry has been told that all birds must be kept indoors until further notice and this is giving egg producers a rather large headache. The problem is that if the birds are still being kept inside at the end of February, under EU laws, they will lose their “Free Range” status and will have to be re-labelled as “Barn Eggs”. This accounts for approximately 50% of all the eggs on supermarket shelves.

My heart bleeds.

For the most part, free range is a joke. It conjures thoughts of birds roaming “freely” around a field, chirping away happily. This is not the case. To qualify as free range, the birds have to be allowed access to the outside for at least part of the day. This can mean opening a small door at one end of a huge shed for as little as five minutes. Most of the birds don’t even know it is open and couldn’t get to it even if they tried.

But to mindless consumers it makes them feel better about their eggs. “Sure they may cost a little more, but at least the chickens are well treated.” The level of denial that surrounds the disgusting meat, dairy and egg industries is palpable. The fear of change, of going against what they have been told since childhood is so great, its simply too much for most people.

To sit down to eat and feel anxious about the ethics of your meal must be a horrible feeling. To comfort yourself with the fact that because everyone else does it, it must be OK is the way most people deal with it. The most dangerous phrase in any language is we have always done it this way.

So what will everyone do when there are no more free range eggs? They may not have to worry. The poultry industry have petitioned the EU for an extension. They want the rules changed, rules they never questioned in the past, they now want changed.

Now I am not sure how this will play out, but I have to think that the EU is in no mood to do the UK any favours. In fact if I was sitting on the EU bird flu committee I would be rubbing my hands together with glee.

Rules are rules farmers and the fact is that by the end of February you will have kept these birds locked up for 12 weeks. I don’t believe they were ever truly free range, what I do know is by the end of this month they will certainly not be.

Angry Vegans

“If you want to be vegan, that’s fine, good luck to you. Just don’t force it down other people’s throats. It’s my right and my choice to eat whatever I like and it’s got nothing to do with you.”

These are sentiments I hear all the time. The wording might be a little different each time but the message is the same. It’s an argument that bothers me in many ways. Veganism is about much more than what I eat. It’s about living a more compassionate lifestyle, caring for others and the environment. So in saying that how can I be an angry vegan? Yet I am, very angry.

I’ve lived meat, dairy and egg free for nearly 50 years. I’ve never had any illness worse than a cold, never broke a bone am fit, healthy and as mentally I’m as sharp as I’ve ever been. My BMI is 21.7 and I have a flat stomach! I have brought four children up on the same diet and none of them have ever been sick either.

Virtually everyone I know of the same age (and many younger) are either overweight or at the very least carrying more weight than they should be. Three people I am close to had heart attacks in 2016. None were over 50, all were meat eaters. I say were because one has cut it out altogether and the other two have cut down. Happily all three are still with us.

Let’s look at the initial statement in this piece a little more closely. “Don’t force it down other people’s throats”. The thing with veganism is it’s like winning the lottery, it changes your life. You want to climb to the top of the highest building you can find and tell the world about it. All vegans are aware of and are vehemently against the horrific cruelty that is part and parcel of putting meat on plates and once you stop contributing to this it’s like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders and you want to tell the world about it.

When something good happens to any of us we want to share it, and when it’s something anyone can have, we want our friends and family to have it. And all the people we work with, and all the people we connect with on social media. Even people we randomly meet going about our lives. It’s such a great thing, we want everyone to know. But before you know it, you’re accused of forcing it down people’s throats.

“It’s my right and my choice to eat whatever I like”. This statement is true. Obviously it doesn’t allow us to eat each other, but as the world order stands at the moment, if someone wants to eat the bodyparts of a dead animal or their secretions, they are completely within their rights to do so. The thing is, it may be your right to do so but it’s not right to do so. I know this is vegan speak and contentious but I have known all my life that it is correct. When I was very young I used to think that I was from the GLOBAL NEWS and one day everyone would think like I did. I no longer believe I’m a time traveller but firmly believe that sometime in the GLOBAL NEWS people will look back upon us as the savages that we are.

Until we start caring and valuing all of the creatures we share this planet with, we won’t really care or value any. I have a horrible feeling that unless we all adopt a vegan mind set, by the end of this century most of the animals and sea life that we grew up with and took for granted, will be gone.

Yes it’s your choice to eat whatever you like but it shouldn’t be. If there was no profit in animal agriculture then people would have to kill animals themselves if they wanted to eat them, I wonder how most people would deal with that? The entire industry exists to make money and for that reason only. By continuing to support it with your stubborn defiance you are supporting the most evil trade that exists on our planet today.

A lot of meat eaters tell me how much they abhor factory farming and rightly so. They tell me that all animals should be allowed to live “natural” lives yet they still eat them.

Pasture raising animals is impossible with the current demand for meat and dairy products. We already use 40% of the earth for animal agriculture, much of which is done behind closed doors in huge factory operations. Experts estimate that to meet current demand we would need three times the earths land mass to pasture graze the animals we grow for food. Whether you like it or not, if you choose to continue to consume and support the meat, egg & dairy industries then you are supporting factory farming.

“It’s got nothing to do with you”. Actually it’s got everything to do with me and all of us. Despite those with a variety of vested interests claiming otherwise, meat and dairy production has a major impact on global warming. This fact is well established, there is and will be no argument. Unless we make drastic changes there is every chance of a four degree warming by the end of this century. Even on my hyper healthy diet it is unlikely that I will be around by then, but my grandchildren certainly will be. If the rate of warming continues our planet will be a very different place by then. So if your actions are going to negatively impact the lives of my family, it has everything to do with me.

Not everyone will like this but I believe that if you’re not an angry vegan then you’re possibly a selfish vegan. I’m angry because billions of beautiful creatures are needlessly butchered each year for pleasure and profit. I’m angry because we are destroying our only home. The Coral Reefs and the Rainforests are dying or being destroyed, thousands of species, plants & creatures are becoming extinct and once all of these are gone there’s no way they will ever come back.

It’s difficult to describe just how angry I am. We all should be.

The Biggest Picture

This Veganuary more than 60,000 people signed up to go vegan for a month (at least). What this demonstrates is that a growing number of people are realising that our current diet and food production system is not only unsustainable but is slowly killing both us and our planet.

Tens of thousands of people, many of them children, die from starvation every single day yet we grown enough food worldwide to feed the 60 billion land animals we raise and kill every year for food. 75% of the Soy grown worldwide is fed to animals.

Governments and scientists around the world are on high alert because of the very real threat of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are added to the food that farm animals eat to avoid disease and increase growth. They are passed to us through the food system and we become resistant to the drugs. Tens of thousands of people are already dying each year because the antibiotics have stopped working and estimates are that 50 million a year could die by 2050 from ailments that would have been easily cured in the past.

The planet is warming and there could be some very dark days ahead of us. The largest contributor to this is animal agriculture and all of its associated industries. There’s a great deal we as individuals can do to lessen our own personal GHG footprint, but the biggest by far is changing our diets.

Since the introduction of fast food and with meat dishes taking centre stage in almost every meal, the rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even cancer have sky rocketed. As consumption has gone up so have these diseases. Treatment costs health services around the world tens of billions every year and is crippling them.

90% of Amazon Rainforest destruction has been to either clear land for grazing livestock or to grow feed for food chain animals. Rainforests around the world are being cleared at an alarming rate and this has a knock on effect of habitat loss and species extinction.

Our oceans continue to be plundered and fish levels are declining very quickly. There is a real possibility that we could have fishless oceans before the end of this century. Coral Reefs are dying; ocean dead zones are appearing more regularly, often where waste from the animal agriculture industry is dumped into and poisons our waters. 60 billion animals produce a huge amount of waste which has to be disposed of.

The treatment of animals bred for food is one of, if not our greatest crime and history will one day reflect this. The huge majority of them are imprisoned in horrific factory farms, which in itself is torture enough. They are forced to produce offspring, or eggs in the case of chickens, as often as they can. Their young are taken from them at or shortly after birth and once their bodies have no more to give they are shipped off for slaughter. This could never be described as life. The only reason this evil practice continues is because it well hidden from the public eye and many of those who are aware choose to look the other way. It has become normalised.

The killing of any being who does not want to die can never be humane. Cows, pigs and sheep have their throats slit, often while still conscious and are hung by their hind legs until they bleed out. They are then skinned, butchered and their body parts are neatly packaged with cartoon images of happy animals on them. Nothing I know of could be farther from the truth.

Most people believe that the unnecessary killing of any animal is wrong. Health organisations around the world have stated that a well-planned vegan diet provides all the nutrients we need to live a healthy life. Therefore killing animals for food is unnecessary.

I understand that giving up meat, dairy and eggs can be difficult for a lot of people. We have been brought up to believe that we need to eat these things to live healthy lives. We learned this from our parents who learned it from their parents and we teach it to our children. It’s ingrained in our society.

If you ever wonder why this is the case, just pay attention to TV adverts, billboards and all forms or advertising. Everywhere you look someone is trying to get you to consume their products, telling you how good it is and how good it is for you. They are the puppet masters and we are the puppets. We fall for it every time.

Being vegan can be difficult for some. Being vegan can be inconvenient at times. There will be times when the less committed will be severely tested and times when the committed will go hungry.

For my part, I became vegan at age four or five. Not out of a love of animals, a consideration of the environment or for my health. I did it because the thought of eating the rotting flesh of a dead animal was and still is the most disgusting thing I could imagine. I have lived this way now for 48 years. I’ve never had worse than a cold, never broken a bone and am fit and healthy.

I guess it was a struggle but you adapt. Being the only child in a school of 1200 pupils that didn’t eat meat, made me stand out a little. More often or not I didn’t eat a thing until I got home in the evening because schools in the 1970s wouldn’t have considered catering for vegans and even at home it wasn’t easy, coming from a family of six which included five carnivores. I was always the awkward fussy child and was basically a pain in the ass. It’s who I am though; it’s who I’ve always been and I am so proud of myself.