Irrelevantarians

I’m getting ever more frustrated by the Vegetarians, the Reducetarians and the Flexitarians. I understand the message that’s it’s much easier to get people to reduce the amount of animal products they consume, than it is to get people to cut them out altogether and go vegan.

I get that they feel there may be certain nutrients in animal products that they can’t get from plants, although I wholeheartedly disagree and having lived half a century this way am living proof of this.

Still all of this in entirely irrelevant, animals that would choose life, have to die to accommodate your lifestyles. This is and always will be unacceptable in every single case. Just doing it less only makes you feel better about yourself; it will never make it right.

Join me at a save vigil, look into their eyes as they are being taken to their deaths and tell me it’s still OK for you to be a part timer.

I really dislike these labels, you either consume animal products or you are vegan. The amount you consume is irrelevant. You eat animals, they are killed for you, own it.

We’re all faced with two simple options when it comes to our food choices. Both of which will more than meet our needs. One causes harm to animals and one doesn’t. It really is as simple as that.

And as for consuming only organic, pasture raised meat, this is a completely unrealistic ideal, again to make you more able to live with your actions. The cost, the availability of land, makes this impossible. As long as people choose to continue eating animal products, there will be factory farms and all of the horrors that go hand in hand with them.

Organic and pasture raised animals no more want to die than any others. Giving them a cuddle and a kiss as you wield the knife really won’t make any difference to them.

And please don’t call yourself an environmentalist or say that you stand up for animal rights, for as long as you continue to consume animal products.

I get that the road to veganism will be a long one, but this has to be our moral baseline, our goal as an intelligent, caring species.

I will just about accept these Irrelevantarians so long as they use these diets as a stepping stone to veganism. Otherwise you’ll just end up pissed one night in a kebab shop. Moderation is the most difficult of disciplines.

Take the Next Brexit to Veganism

With the UK leaving the EU and seemingly pinning its hopes on a trade deal with the US, our friends from across the pond will be in a strong negotiating position. This will almost certainly mean that we will have to lift restrictions on food imports. Many American food products are banned by the EU, with animal products being the most stringently restricted due to them not reaching hygiene standards.

Following Brexit, the UK will no longer be obliged to follow these standards and any sort of trade deal will almost certainly be dependent on relaxing these standards. This will mean that we will begin to see meat from animals fed on a hormone and antibiotic rich diet, both of which are used to promote rapid growth.

Antibiotic Resistance is a growing concern around the world and certainly here in the UK (it is estimated that 80% of all antibiotics in the US go into animal feed) but to secure any sort of lucrative deal this may have to be overlooked. The practice has been linked to numerous health issues in humans and is cruel and unethical to artificially accelerate the life cycle of animals.

Chlorine-washed chicken may also find its way into our food supply. Chicken carcasses are “disinfected” with chlorine and other chemicals where hygiene standards are poor on the farms where they’re raised. Because the cost of providing improved welfare for these animals would eat into their bottom line, they chemical-wash they’re potentially infected carcasses.

With US food standards almost across the board lower than those in the EU, there’s probably never been a better time to go vegan.

Born or Born Again Vegan

This is a bit of a no brainer (to my mind at least), but I firmly believe that all humans are born vegan and then educated or trained to eat animal products. I often quote the example given by Gary Yourofsky which goes something like “If you put a small child in a cot with an apple and a rabbit, which one will it eat and which one will it play with?” Gary follows this with “if you can get the child to eat the rabbit I’ll buy you a house, or a car, or something?” I know if I put my cat in a cot with a mouse and an apple what he would do. This to me says we are not natural carnivores or even naturally omnivores.

Imagine a utopia where children are born into an environment where everyone is vegan and animals are treated with the same respect that we offer each other. I can’t imagine this way of life would even be questioned in the way that we question the current status quo. I can’t quite see groups of carnivore activists protesting outside a greengrocers shop, carnivore outreach on the streets or Carnfest at London Olympia.

A large group of us did outreach in London on Saturday and afterwards all went for a pizza. I knew a few of the people there but not many and these events are always fantastic opportunities to meet new like-minded people. Inevitably when you talk to new people the conversation turns to “how long have you been vegan?” I’m sure you’ve all either asked or been asked the question. I’ve always answered this question honestly but (and I hate to say), I’m beginning to get a little uncomfortable about it and am considering making up a different, possibly more normal story.

Despite being born into a carnivorous family of six, I stopped eating all animal products at the age of four or five. This was my choice and was firmly against the wishes of my parents. I’ve always been very stubborn and I guess with three other children (all younger than me) to look after, eventually they just got on with it. Almost 50 years later, I’m still the same.

The problem is that when I tell people my story, they either think I’m making it up to appear a “better vegan” or they congratulate me on being such a wonderful human being. I am neither; I was simply able (lucky) that something switched in my brain a very young age. The truth is, veganism is the easiest thing in the world to me, I’m just doing what comes naturally, it’s like breathing and speaking English.

It must be so much harder for the majority who lived 15/20/30 or even more years under the conditioning that was forced upon them as children and somehow found the inner strength and courage to beat it. They are the ones who deserve the plaudits, they (you) are the heroes.

Veganism has nothing to do with time; it doesn’t matter if you found it (found yourself) last week or 50 years ago. I am no wiser than the next bloke, like I say, I just got lucky.

A Slow Walk To Veganism

According to a recent study by researchers from the University of Illinois, meat and dairy consumers are increasingly interested in how their food is produced and are looking evermore closely at labels in an attempt to choose products that avoid growth hormones and antibiotics, that were humanely raised in a free-range or cage-free environment, that were grass fed (or at least fed a vegetarian diet) and certified as organic.

I want nothing more than the world to stop consuming animal products today, but as a realist I know it will be a gradual process. This is the beginning of that gradual process. The vegan message grows louder by the day, news of the health benefits, the environmental damage and the horrendous cruelty associated with animal agriculture is becoming unavoidable and is beginning to get through.

And the main reason people are getting this message is because of the brave activists across the world. We have no government behind us, no official backing, even the law is on the side of the industry but we are making our voices heard in a way that can only happen when you have truth and justice on your side.

To the growing number of people attending save vigils, to those reaching out to the public via outreach in our towns and cities. To the festival organisers and attendees, the inspirational writers and speakers, the ethical clothing designers, the cooks, the chefs, the vegan cafes, restaurants and food bars. To the millions passionately spreading the message on social media, to the chalkers sharing it via our streets.

You can make a difference, you will make a difference and you are making a difference. Stand up, stand together, you will never walk this path alone. In every country, in every city town and village there are people who will stand proudly beside you.

#GoVegan #GoVegans

Milk is Murder Too

When I was growing up, one of the most common sights on our street and around the neighbourhood was the milkman. A cheerful fella in gloves that had the finger tips missing so he could grip the bottles, driving his float around the town shortly after, sometimes even before dawn.

He was an everyday sight and was well known to most of the residents. A few of my friends even had a job with him at various times as the “milk boy”.

I can’t remember exactly when the milkman stopped being a thing; I seem to remember less and less people got their milk delivered until I guess it became uneconomic and the “dairy”, which was on the high street, shut down.

I mention this with some nostalgia, not because I was ever a customer of his, just because it reminds me of my youth, living with my brother and sisters, at home with my parents.

As a child (albeit a vegan child) I never really understood the misery imposed on the animals that provide us with milk. As an adult and a vegan activist I am fully aware of the horrors associated with it. Most though it appears are not. Milk is in so many of the foods that we eat even though it is entirely unnecessary.

None of us could ever imagine being eaten and the stories of cannibalistic tribes, deep in the jungle, are the thing of childhood nightmares. Neither though could any of us imagine a life of extreme torture and torment, of incarceration, heartbreak and agony, and then being eaten. This though is the difference between an animal raised for meat and one raised for milk. Drinking milk is in every way as bad as eating meat and when you really think about it, it’s far worse.

Gone are the days when vegetarians got a pass because they “only drink milk and eat cheese” and we can debate all we like about how a vegetarians footprint on the world of animal suffering is smaller than a carnivore, it’s simply not. Vegetarianism was fine in the past as we were waking up to the horrors of animal agriculture, now our eyes are fully open, veganism has to be the baseline.

I don’t have a problem with reminiscing about my youth, the cheerful milkman plying his trade of a morning, whistling a happy tune as he went, but those days are gone. We have no need to forcefully impregnate cows and to separate mothers from their children; we have no need for their milk.

We Couldn’t Save Them

This morning, as on numerous other occasions, I attended an Animal Save. Today we were in Guildford, Surrey outside the APB Food Group Slaughterhouse. We witnessed six or seven trucks pull in, all full of sad, scared animals who had no say in their fate and who are all now not only dead, but have been cut into pieces. Their body parts will now be sold to line the pockets of the APB shareholders and fill the stomachs of heartless, ignorant consumers. It is a joyless place.

There were no police in attendance which is unusual and this gave the APB staff licence to push us around however they liked, one of our group was almost caught under the wheels of one of the trucks, which was a frightening moment that could have ended very differently. All we ask is that the trucks stop for two minutes so we can whisper one last word of kindness to the animals, they would not even permit this.

It’s on a busy main road and we got quite a lot of support from the passing motorists and a fair amount of abuse. Most of the cars slowed down to see what we were there for and from the way many of them looked at us, troubled in some way, I have to think they wondered if they should at least think a little more about their eating habits.

It wasn’t a large group today, maybe 20 at most, but if I was ever going to be stranded on a desert island, these are the people I would most like to be with. Huge hearted men and women who give up their time and travel, what is often quite some distance at their own expense, to try and show these poor creatures that not all humans are monsters.

Jake, who just turned 16 this week, took a little camping stove, few boxes of Linda McCartney sausages, bread and ketchup and cooked for everyone. Olivia & Megan made a dozen or so fantastic looking cupcakes and gave them to anyone who wanted one. I took flask of Jasmine green tea and seitan sandwiches. No one left hungry.

The feeling of unity, of understanding, of empathy is difficult to explain. As we left, the hugs and kisses we got from people we’d never or hardly met before were completely sincere. We are family.

Unlike on previous vigils, we barely disrupted the working day of APB. We may have made a few of those passing a little more aware of the suffering of animals, I have to hope we did. One day we will put an end to this insanity, today sadly we couldn’t save them.

Why Vegans & Vegetarians Just Can’t Get Along

My brief response to an article by Brian Kateman entitled “Can’t vegans and vegetarians just get along?

During the 70s, the 80s and even the 90s I was a vegetarian. Not because I ate eggs or cheese, not because I drank milk or even had the occasional bit of fish, because I didn’t. I was a vegetarian because that was the term you used back then. I now know that I was actually a vegan, but if anyone asked, I was a vegetarian.

I became a vegan when I was four or five and it was difficult. I survived for the most part on bread, potatoes and baked beans. Eating out was tough, if chips weren’t a thing I’m not sure I would have survived!

I knew a few other vegetarians back then, most of them did it because it was in some way cool to do so, none of them lasted past their early 20s.

I can understand why back in the day people chose not to eat meat but continued to eat eggs and dairy. The information wasn’t available, it’s hard to imagine now but there actually was a time before the Internet existed! What the hell did we do with ourselves?

Nowadays though not only is the information everywhere but also you can get a vegan version of almost everything you would ever want to eat. With vegan options becoming ever more plentiful in shops and restaurants, there really is no justification for being vegetarian other than personal preferance and that stinks of slefishness.

The dairy and egg industries are in many ways even more cruel than the meat industry, eating these items are not healthy and the production of them contributes to the massive environmental damage caused the animal agriculture industry.

We as individuals have a responsibility to do all we can to protect our fragile planet and those that we share it with; going vegan is one of the most effective statements you can make as an individual. We simply can’t rely on our leaders, on our governments to do the right thing.

Personally I would like to lose the word vegetarian from the English language as I feel it’s basically obsolete. You’re either a vegan or you eat animal products. In saying that, I can accept people being vegetarian in the short term so long as they use it to transition to veganism. It doesn’t really need a label though.

Better Together

After speaking to a few people recently on social media, it became clear to me that the large majority of vegans know hardly any others, if any at all. In fact, in a poll I took, 80% of people said that they knew five or less other vegans, 20% said that they didn’t know any.

I found this a little surprising, although the more I thought about it I wondered why I was surprised, also I found it a little sad. There’s nothing better than spending time with others who share the same values, people who get you without you having to explain yourself. These are times when you can really let your guard down and I have found I have an automatic bond and empathy with every new vegan I meet, it’s like they are family.

I grew up alone with my veganism, but I was a kid with much more exciting things on my mind other than the food I ate, so it wasn’t a problem. There were times when I was alone with my thoughts and I wondered why I was so different from everyone else, but it was never an issue.

People find veganism at different times in their lives and for many varied reasons. All of us have the same goals though and the same big heart.

I am lucky enough to know dozens of other vegans now. To be honest I spend more time with them than I do with non-vegans. I’m more comfortable around them and have never met one who wasn’t excited to meet, chat, to share stories, to find out more.

We are the pioneers of what will be remembered as a great social justice movement. Social shifts are rare occurrences and it’s very exciting to be on the front line of an historic change.

We are stronger together. Alone you can still do good things, but together we can make a real difference. Wherever you are there will be groups and events happening within your reach. Every single one of you is crucially important to taking this movement forward, never doubt that.

There are now dozens of Save Groups around the UK and indeed the world. I understand that people have fears and anxiety about attending a save, but you really don’t need to worry. I’m no veteran but I have done a few and I can honestly say that they are one of the best things about being a vegan activist. Not only do you get to see the reality for yourself but you will get to meet 20 or 30 huge hearted vegans in one morning!! You will be welcomed with open arms, you can connect on Facebook or Twitter or whatever and you will never look back.

http://thesavemovement.org/list-of-save-groups/

There are numerous other events happening all the time and all around the country. Be it Outreach when you interact with the public, Earthlings Experiences, Marches, Protests, Leaflet Drops etc. A quick search on Facebook for “vegan events” is a great resource and will bring up lots of information. Find what suits you, what you are comfortable with and start there.

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=vegan%20events

There are some amazing educational vegan events happening ever more regularly such as Vevolution (http://www.vevolution.co/) and festivals and fairs such as Vegfest, Veggie World and Vegan Life Live. It’s not so easy to meet people at these events (certainly not impossible), but what you will find are some inspirational speakers and talks that will help you to integrate further into the community.

Once you’ve connected with a few people you will want to do more, you will want to spend more time with these people because of how you feel when you’re around them. Of course you won’t become best friends with every vegan you meet, there may even be the odd one you don’t particularly like (that’s life), but you will be more open to making that friendship, you already have so much in common.

I’m not sure how much this piece will help, I hope it does in some small way, but if there’s any other help that I can offer please get in touch. If you live within 100 miles of London we can definitely meet at an event and I would love to meet every single one of you.

From Fork To Mouth

I’ve been thinking recently about the different ways people make the change from carnism to veganism and how to help them. Having not made this journey myself (I stopped eating animal products as an infant), I believe this gives me a different perspective as the majority of people will be somewhat influenced by their own choices and journey.

Little has been written about the particular route that I am going to talk about, but I have to feel that as awareness of the health benefits, environmental reasoning and most importantly the insane treatment of animals is growing, seemingly by the day, it is a route that many people will struggle to avoid taking, even if unintentionally.

And it all comes down to the food on your plate. We’ve seen over the past 50 or so years, animal products looking less and less like the animal they originally came from. Be it pizza, chicken nuggets, burgers or cheese strips. The industry has done all it can to disguise its products to help consumers disconnect from the living animal.

The recent and ever increasing noise from the animal right movement is slowly undoing their efforts and they are having to work even harder, possibly to a point where they have run out of ideas, on how to appease peoples consciences and convince them that they are doing the right thing.

On their side they have the fact that people don’t like change, that they do like an easy life and have a lifetime of conditioning to overcome. Switching from a meat, eggs and diary rich diet to a vegan diet must be difficult, at first at least, so I have to believe a mass switch will be a gradual process. I do believe though that this process is already well underway.

Again, it all comes down to the food on your plate. What I mean by this is that people are starting to look at the food on their plates and as never before are beginning to wonder if they are doing the right thing. They are getting an increasingly sick feeling as that piece of meat goes from their fork to their mouth. Eating can be a time for contemplation and/or conversation and more often than not we eat with those that we are closest to and with whom we can convey our innermost thoughts and fears.

Because of the growing awareness of the benefits of veganism and the cruelty of animal agriculture, more and more people are beginning to doubt their food choices and question the beliefs they’ve held since childhood. Not when they are playing football or tennis, not when they’re in a pub, nightclub or at a show, although the longer this nagging persists the more it works its way into their everyday thoughts. They feel it the most when they look down at the piece of a dead animal on their plate.

Doubt will eventually turn into anxiety until, and initially when they are eating alone or choosing a sandwich or snack from a shop, they choose a vegan option. Once they have taken this step they will have started on a journey that they may never be able to return from. Once they see the possibilities, feel the pride and the sense of achievement, they will feel empowered. And once they start looking at the food on their plate and don’t feel that sense of anxiety, there will be a huge wave of relief.

There will of course be many other bridges to cross before they reach veganism, there will be obstacles both physically and mentally in their path, but once they’ve chosen to take those first few steps it will be difficult to go back to their old ways.

This is why everything we do as activists is so important. We need to keep the message front and centre and on every possible occasion we need to help those making the journey in any and every way we can. Never get angry or aggressive or you will turn people away, this is the one way you can force them backwards. Veganism is about so much more than what we eat. Choosing to not eat animal products is simply the first step on the ladder.

Be kind, be generous, be patient. Be the best possible version of yourself and it will rub off on others. A world free of the horrendous cruelty that we currently have to live with is within our grasp. If you can understand the journey people need to take, it will be much easier to help them to find their way.

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.