Vegan

The Irresistible Force of Veganism

Just this week William Sitwell, the former editor of the Waitrose Food Magazine, resigned because of comments he made to journalist Selene Nelson about “killing vegans” and “force feeding them animal products”.

Since his resignation there has been a wave of sympathy for Mr Sitwell on the grounds of free speech.

Evening Standard Article

While I completely support and believe in free speech, I also believe in common decency and respect. Sitwell lacked both with his comments, which we should remember were made to a vegan. I would personally find these comments offensive and would struggle to “laugh then off” as has been suggested.

This may well have been a joke or flippant comments, but there is little doubt that they came from a darker place. Sitwell clearly has little or no respect for vegans or veganism and has probably, over time, became frustrated by the rise of veganism and the fact that ever more regularly people were suggesting that he include plant based articles and recipes in his publication.

The Evening Standard suggests that vegans do not need society’s protection and there we agree. We neither want nor need protection from those who attempt to mock or belittle us. As a vegan of 50 years I’ve heard ever joke, every put down and ever argument as to why we should be eating animal products going. And I’m still standing.

As people become more aware of the reality and cruelty of intensive farming, the damage livestock production is doing to the environment and the health benefits of a plant based diet, there is a fast growing trend towards veganism.

Veganism is an irresistible force and animal agriculture is no immovable object. We don’t need your protection because it’s only a matter of time until you will become one of us.

Dump Hogwood Horror Farm – National Day of Action

Tesco have so far refused to drop Hogwood as a supplier. So we think their customers should see for themselves exactly what was found at the farm by Viva! Campaigns: extreme overcrowding; routine mutilations; cruel farrowing crates; filthy and waterlogged floors; sick and dying pigs; piles of decaying, maggot-infested piglets; and skulls and bones in nearby woods.

Join us in peaceful demos outside Tesco stores nationwide by ordering your FREE materials today. Our special leaflets (which are also ideal for door-dropping) also educate about the UK’s abject failings to protect farmed animals and offer people FREE help in avoiding all cruelty by trying vegan.

Find out more and order: viva.org.uk/tesco-day-of-action

 

 

 

Minimalism and My Dad’s Big Pants

A long time ago, too long to mention, I went on a road trip from London to The Algarve with three friends. We planned to be away for three weeks and while packing I realised I didn’t own anything like 21 pairs of pants.

I was a young man with no intention whatsoever of washing anything while I was away, so what was I to do?

Having been vegan from a very young age I was (and still am) quite slight. My father on the other hand couldn’t get enough animal inside him and was a good deal more portly. So it wasn’t an ideal plan but with no other option, I “borrowed” a few pairs of his pants.

I figured the best thing to do was to wear them on the journey so I had my cool boxers for when I got there.

We left home around 6pm and drove all night through France, arriving in San Sebastian at around 8am the next morning. We checked into a hotel and then hit the bar.

Five pints later my friend Bill and I decided to go to the beach. It was so hot and the bay at San Sebastian is a sun trap and really warms the water. We couldn’t resist it. We started stripping down until it hit me that I was wearing my dad’s big pants.

The beer out voted common sense and in I went. It was lovely, clear warm water, we stayed in for ages.

Sometime later we decided to get out. We didn’t have any towels with us but figured the sun would dry us off in no time.

I was having to hold my dad’s big pants up at this point because when they got wet, they got even bigger, like really big, especially around the waist! I just needed to get my jeans on and all would be good.

But there was a problem. We got to where we left our clothes on the beach and they were gone. Everything was gone. We didn’t have our valuables on us so that wasn’t an issue, I just kept thinking that the hotel was at least a mile from the beach and I would have to walk there holding my dad’s pants up.

I was 22, wearing nothing but a huge pair of dark blue Y Fronts that I had to hang on to otherwise they would fall down and I had to walk in bare feet, topless, for half an hour like that through the streets of San Sebastian. Not cool.

At that moment I would have given anything for a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a pair of flip flops.

In recent years I have tried to live a minimalist lifestyle. I have two pairs of jeans and a pair of trousers. A few polo shirts, a few T-shirts, a pair of shorts and two pairs of shoes.

Thinking about it, I do have quite a few pairs of boxer shorts and I could live with less, I’m not getting rid of them though, lesson learned!

Other than to give you all a good laugh at my expense, the moral of this story, which is 100% true by the way, is that having more and more “things” is not what makes us happy. We think it will because we’re all told to get more, buy more stuff, but in reality it really doesn’t.

Happiness is being around people you care for and who care for you. It’s about a beautiful sunset, a kind word or hearing a song you haven’t heard for ages on the radio. It’s hugging someone you love, hearing good news or doing a good deed.

You can’t buy these things; you can’t buy happiness, joy or love. When you look back on your life, these are the things that will mean the most to you.

After frantically searching the beach for our clothes a kind Spanish man approached us and in broken English basically told us that while we had been in the sea the tide had come in and he had moved our clothes to the back of the beach. He took us to them.

I can’t tell you how happy I was and still remember it vividly all these years later.

Be happy with what you have, give as much as you can to others who need help, be kind to each other and please, stop hurting animals.

Effective Vegan Activism

There are those who suggest that all vegans should be activists. I have to say that in an ideal world I agree with this. It does though come with a few conditions, certainly where outreach is concerned.

Ineffective or bad activism is worse than no activism. People who have not taken the time to educate themselves properly, who accuse the very people they are trying to educate of being murderers or planet killers only give the rest of us a bad name. Sorry, this is a little extreme but you hopefully get my point..

Outreach is an art form, I fully admit I am still a work on progress, but I am considered and I practice regularly. Each time I am out there I improve but I was never a bad activist.
Long before I took to the streets I researched, I watched people on You Tube, I read, I listened, I learned.

What we are doing is so important. You may only ever get one chance with that person and if you get it wrong, if you are aggressive, you will push them in the other direction and you will enhance the stereotype that we are all members of an angry cult.

I respect anyone who wants to get involved with activism and encourage everyone I can to do so, but being vegan doesn’t automatically make you an effective activist. Far from it in fact, and especially if you are not able to control your passion, your emotions or yourself.

The first time you ride a bike you’ll probably fall off. If you were let loose in a car without an instructor you’ll probably crash. Everything needs to be learned and especially something this sensitive.

There are some amazing outreach activists out there. Go along to an event (or five) and shadow them if you can. Listen to them; ask them questions when they are not speaking to anyone.
Watch as much as you can on You Tube, practice on your friends and family and only when you’re sure should you take to the streets.

And be honest with yourself, not everyone will be cut out to speak to the public. There are other activism avenues you can go down, ones that might suit you better.

We are all working towards the same goal. Lose your ego, empathise, accept your limitations and do what’s best for the greater good.

The Enemy of Truth – In My Humble Opinion

We learn sayings as children and often without thinking accept them as being right. We then incorporate them into our own thinking and even use them in our everyday lives.

One that concerns me is “Everyone has the right to their own opinion”. Now, I don’t disagree with this, of course people can have opinions, what bothers me is the credence we give to opinions, simply because we have accepted that people have the right to them.

The fact is though; opinions are the lowest form of human knowledge. They require no accountability or understanding. Anyone can say whatever they like and justify their right to spout utter nonsense simply because of their “right” to an opinion.

Opinions are often no more than an extension of our egos, which in turn are more often than not inflated “opinions” of our own importance. This borders on narcissism, which is a major hindrance in the quest for social justice.

I may have made the leap from someone who is opinionated to a narcissist more quickly than is reasonable, but if you think of the characteristics of a narcissist which include, superiority, arrogance, self-absorption, self-admiration, exploitative, entitled and power hungry, you can easily imagine these characteristics in a stubborn, highly opinionated person.

I do want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with having opinions; they contribute to how we learn, can stimulate debate and can define trends of thought when groups are questioned. They are only a judgement though, a statement and are not conclusive. They are not facts until proven to be so.

From the point of view of an environmentalist and an animal rights activist, opinions are the enemy of the truth. When questioned, people with absolutely no experience in the relevant field suddenly become experts in nutrition, human anatomy and planetary science amongst other things.

They will argue as if their lives depend on it that we need to eat animals to survive, that we need it for protein, that cow’s milk is good for us, that our teeth are designed to rip apart the flesh of an animal, that climate change is a myth created by the Chinese and so on and so on.

All are opinions based on  core beliefs learned as children, their fear of change and their stubbornness.

The highest form of knowledge is empathy. It requires us to forget about ego and to live in the world of another. If we empathise with the animals in the factory farming, or any farm situation, we will be unable to live with the horrors that are carried out in our name and will turn away from it.

Put yourself in the place of a mother having her children taken from her and killed. Imagine being forced into a cycle of perpetual pregnancy until your body can no longer take it and then being dragged off, killed and cut into pieces.

Imagine living your whole life in a filthy dark shed with nothing to do other than eat and drink. Imagine that the first day you ever feel the sun on your back being the day you die.

Imagine living your short six week life in a huge shed with 10,000 others, being fed a cocktail of drugs to make you grow unnaturally quickly until you are dragged off and your throat is cut.

If you can imagine these horrors happening to you or those you love then the only option is veganism. If you can’t, you don’t want to, or in your opinion it would be a waste of your time, then you probably need help. You have narcissistic tendencies as did Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussain.

Empathy Can Save the World

Social justice can only be achieved when a society empathises with its neglected social groups. From the 18th century campaigns to tackle child poverty through the anti-slavery movement, woman’s suffrage to gay rights, none of these revolutions would have been possible without the rise of empathy and the regard for human life.

Empathy is the reason we have the principles of freedom and fairness, which are necessary components of social justice.

Social justice cannot start and finish with the human race; it must encompass all living creatures. Not only are we needlessly slaughtering tens of billions of sentient beings each year under the false belief that we need to feed on them, but to facilitate this we are wiping many other species from the face of the planet.

Our oceans are literally being destroyed and fish species are being wiped out at a rate never seen before in human history. The coral reefs are crumbling; dead zones are appearing across our oceans and seas.

We all know in our hearts that this is wrong, unsustainable and is destroying our fragile environment, but we continue along this path because the educators, our leaders are short sighted, guided by the thought of losing their position at the table.

Empathy takes courage, risk, and self-sacrifice, and can often be so very difficult. It is challenging, at times perhaps even excruciating, to dare to put the good of another, be it human, animal or environment above ourselves.

The only chance we have is to work together but in our capitalist world where competition is king and greed is good, we are heading towards oblivion. Only by working together, by empathising with the world around us can we pass on the lessons we have learned to future generations.

Suffering must be a lesson to us all, something we learn from, not a consequence of our actions.

We all have the ability to empathise, to imagine how it feels to walk in someone else’s shoes. Be it the mother holding her dying baby in drought ridden Africa, the child who is told that his father, a soldier, won’t be coming home or the cow, chained upside down by one leg, having it’s throat cut while still conscious because of outdated religious practises.

The power of empathy has changed the world many times through co-operation and understanding of right and wrong. It is without judgement, criticism or confusion, rather the selfless action of doing what we know to be the right thing.

The greatest and most beautiful gift I have ever been given is the miracle of empathy. The foundations of our human world rest upon it; without it we will crumble and fall.

Removing the AG-Gag

Late last Friday afternoon, a federal judge struck down a controversial law that prohibited photography or filming inside agricultural operations in Utah, ruling the law violated the First Amendment.

It violated much more than that.

The First Amendment, by the way, protects freedom of speech.

Animal agriculture has long had the legal system on its side, if not in its pocket.

The simple fact of the matter is that in factory farms and slaughterhouses across the world, innocent creatures who value their lives every bit as much as you or I do, are having them brutally ended, simply for profit.

Never, ever be fooled that it’s for any other reason.

These evil, greedy butchers will go to almost any length to hide what they do from the public. The Ag-Gag law is aimed at punishing animal rights activists who go undercover to document the abuses and horrific conditions that animals on factory farms must endure.

This is a victory for the animals. It may not be a watershed moment from which the entire ag-gag institution falls in a heap, but it will set a precedent, so it’s a real possibility.

And I know it’s been said a million times, but if these people and places have nothing to hide, what do they have to worry about?

Food Choices – Our Future Depends on Them

When faced with a clear, obvious choice, the overwhelming majority of the human race will usually choose the correct option. Sadly when it comes to our food choices, we really let ourselves down.

There is no ambiguity when it comes to these choices; they are as simple as this:

Option One: Causes harm to billions of animals, is catastrophic to the environment and is a major threat to human health, costing trillions in pharmaceuticals and public health care each year.

Option Two: Does none of the above.

I may have simplified this slightly, but only very slightly.

By leading a vegan lifestyle you will make one of the most positive contributions to the health of the planet that any individual can make.

Your own health will improve more than you could ever imagine, you will lose those extra pounds you’re carrying around and you will lift the burden of cruelty, pain, suffering and death that weighs heavily around the necks of a growing number of compassionate people.

So with such a clear, logical choice, why are the majority of people still choosing the wrong option?

There are a number of reasons including fear, ignorance, convenience, laziness and conditioning. Living a vegan lifestyle takes time, practice and dedication and is probably not at the top of the list of priorities for many busy people. If done badly, it can even have a negative effect on your health.

This is why we need those in power, those who can really shape the future to see that the world is screaming out for us to make this change.

Vegan options need to on every shelf and should be half the price of traditional products. The horrors of industrialised farming should be known to everyone and not hidden from view. The environmental consequences of our continued reliance on animal products must be front page news, as must the damage they are doing to public health.

If we want to leave anything of this wonderful world behind for future generations then need a complete change in the way we think about food.

 

 

A Brief History of Carnism – Part 3

I’ve been publishing a few excerpts from a talk I gave recently at a vegan festival. Here is the final part.


The agricultural revolution may well turn out to be the greatest crime in human history. Many will disagree but if you measure crimes by the sheer amount of pain and misery they inflict on the largest number of beings, then this claim is not implausible.

By 2050 there will be an estimated 9.7 billion people on earth.

To feed this number of people on the current western diet we will need to breed, house, feed and slaughter close to 100 billion animals every year.

And to put that into perspective, that’s nearly 2 billion a week, 275 million a day and more than 3000 every second of every minute of every day.

This is the reality that awaits us. This is the future we have to look forward to, the future we are allowing to happen.


Factory farms are far from the only way that we humans control the lives and death of animals. Cultures around the world are exploiting them in all sorts of hideous ways.

In parts of China and in South Korea dogs are slaughtered for meat where the belief is that the more agony and stress they are put through, the better the meat tastes.

Millions of wild creatures are killed or abused each year in the Far East for traditional medicines and even aphrodisiacs.

In bear farms across parts of Asia bile is extracted from their gall bladders because some believe they hold medicinal powers.

The bears are housed continuously in small cages which prevent them from standing, sitting upright or even from turning around.

Some bears are caught as cubs and may be kept in these conditions for more than 20 years.

There’s a demand for all of these products just as there is for bacon and eggs here in the West.

If asked, those treating animals in a way that anyone here would deem cruel, needless and barbaric, would probably make the same excuses as we do.

In that to them the practices are normal, it’s their culture, it’s the way it’s always been.  And how can we criticise these people in other cultures?  Why should they restrain themselves or change what they have been doing for generations while we’re torturing billions of farm animals?

In the oceans, whales and dolphins endure long and painful deaths at the hands of factory fishing vessels.

Each year Sealers chase, club, axe, and often skin alive a few hundred thousand new born pups for the fur trade.

And hunters still think it is normal to stalk, sneak up on, and kill animals for no better reason than the thrill of it, capturing these moments by taking “selfies” with their trophies.

As horrific as all forms of exploitation, abuse and cruelty are, condemning them in any way will always be hypocritical so long as we continue our own systemic abuse.

If you continue to pay for, consume or wear animal products you equally as guilty as the sealers, the hunters, the fishermen and the factory farmers.


Something future generations will surely notice is the rise of the animal rights movement of the early 21st century.

Where there is abuse or wrong doing towards animals you will see men and women, boys and girls with the hearts of lions protesting and campaigning against it.

But change will not come quickly and it may not come at all unless we unite and stand together.

Changing what you eat or the shoes you wear is not enough. You have a voice and you need to make it heard.

Instead of 30 of us at the next save vigil I want there to be 300.

Instead of a few people reaching out to the public in our major cities, I want to see groups in every town across the country.

Instead of 2,000 people marching through London this year I want there to be 20,000 or 200,000.

When this happens, the powers that be, the people who can make change happen will have to listen to us.

And this, by force of numbers, is the only way that real change can possibly happen.

We should all be incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved already but in truth we’ve barely left the starting blocks. Nothing has really changed.

Animals are still dying in incalculable numbers, the planet is burning and we are killing ourselves on the diet that turns the few into billionaires.

I want to see every single person who like me, like you, like us, believes with their hearts and their souls that this insanity has to stop, to stand up, take a step forward and say enough is enough.


The way that we treat the innocent and defenceless creatures in our care is one of the revealing marks that we will leave behind.

It’s one of the most fundamental of human responsibilities; it’s how we will be remembered.

Together we can rid the world of these needless miseries.

And among the gifts that we can offer posterity, they really don’t come much better than that.

One of my favourite quotes is by Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist and speaker of the 1960s and 70s. She said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

 

 

The Food of Kings – A Brief History of Carnism

I’m going to publish a few excerpts from a talk I gave recently at a vegan festival. Here is part Two.


Humans have been eating animals for a long time, no argument there.

But it’s only relatively recently that the masses have had such easy and affordable access to so much of what had long been known as “The Food of Kings”.

Up until the Second World War meat, dairy and eggs were much more of a luxury than they are today.

During the six years of war and the nine years of rationing that followed, animal products were scarce and this was a problem because scarcity fuels demand.

If you could get yourself some meat, some eggs, some milk or cheese, even if it wasn’t completely legally, you took it.

It was a good source of both protein and fat, two things that were absent, or at least lacking, in many of the diets of the time.

And 15 years is a long time to live under the conditions of war and then rationing.

None of us should be surprised that as it ended and everything gradually became more plentiful, the mind-set remained.

Meat, dairy and eggs were firmly established as not only the best food you could eat, but it was also the affluent choice.

It made us feel like the kings that went before us; it became a symbol of status.

If you and your family had a meat rich diet, you’d made it.

This idyllic, healthy lifestyle, this freedom, it was why we went to war in the first place!

I can still remember as a child my own father proudly carving the meat in readiness of our Sunday family ritual.

Of course, and to my parent’s huge dismay, I only ate the roast potatoes and the vegetables.

And almost no one questioned it, in homes the length and breadth of the country families were living the post war dream and the meat on their plates was a symbol of their freedom and our victory.