/' http-equiv='refresh'/> Vegan Outreach Lincoln and East Midlands: February 2012


In Defence of Vegan Education

We had an article published in the abolitionist on some of the hostility we faced from the old guard traditional welfarists to us doing vegan education. We've pasted it below but it is well worth going and reading the rest of The Abolitionist online magazine here.

On November 12, 2011 we participated in the Lincoln Veggie Fayre as co-organisers and volunteers—our last act as members within a local welfarist group. The previous year had seen over 600 visitors so it seemed a good opportunity to inject a vegan message into proceedings.

To give context, the fayre had originally been founded by grassroots vegan activists in 2008 with the values of free entry, free vegan food and vegan education. It had certainly lost its way since those noble beginnings, with the original founders and co-organisers being pushed out one by one until quite different values remained. The group remaining, despite having the word vegan in its title, had taken every opportunity to bask in the media glow, particularly that of the toothless Nocton “victory”, when the infamous local dairy proposal was refused by default on environmental grounds. Vegan education was clearly no longer the main goal.

 In a rare meeting the few members in attendance were told that 2011 would have admission fees and free food was to be restricted, despite decent profits the previous year. Luckily we eeked out one last whimper of democracy and such negative shifts were at least temporarily delayed. The fayre would go ahead with free entry, although there would remain a thinly disguised war on the free food. We thought this bizarre, as this was meant to be an advocacy event.

Determined not to let the event shift too far from its roots, we put in many hours of preparation and organisation. We dutifully vowed to uphold the free vegan food and education elements to the best of our abilities. We took our stations on the Friday afternoon, preparing the food on site as is required. We even introduced new, healthier items like giant bowls of quinoa salads.

Getting the ingredients we asked for out of the group coffers was made predictably difficult, so, we often had to reach into our own pockets. We didn’t expect to recoup the money, but considered it instead a donation to veganism. We would be there until late evening providing a huge spread, a great testament to the efforts of a small remaining band of principled volunteers.

Sadly, on the day of the event we were again exposed to an attitude of total antagonism towards the free food from the welfarists: “It’s stopping people from buying stuff,” was an oft repeated mantra amongst the disgruntled few. Ironically, never one to miss a media opportunity, the self-proclaimed “director” went on the radio pushing free food (and entry) as the main attraction to any would be attendees.

Suspiciously, all the food was put out in one go—rather than staggered as is customary, so all visitors get a chance to sample and taste through lunchtime and beyond. Unsurprisingly this led to dwindling supplies a few hours in, which must have caused those guided by the profit motive great pleasure.

In fact, outrageously, many people were even left unsure as to whether the food was suitable for vegans! This now under publicised baseline had been explicitly stated in previous years by helpful vegan volunteers dishing up food and having conversations with visitors as they did so. This year the tables were shifted around and reduced so that it wasn’t possible for anyone to perform this helpful duty and, instead, the food was just angrily dumped out with no further supervision or care.

Regardless, the bounty of vegan goodness was still very well received by a curious public. So what better way to cement and nurture that interest than by sharing the recipes? Alas no, our efforts to put out cards with an online link to the recipes we had prepared were thwarted and routinely gathered up in an odd display of ego. A bizarrely covert form of vegan advocacy, where recipes that make transitioning easier are hoarded instead of shared.

Well there lays the next problem, the total lack of vegan advocacy at the fayre. Oh sure the event had a baseline of veganism buried away somewhere, but it was seen as an almost dirty word to be ashamed of, or , “radical” even (more on that one later). The local welfarist group had vastly scaled back its vegan educative materials and chosen instead to put prime focus on their private business’ stall. A cynic might suggest this played a part in the lurch towards the aforementioned commercialisation of the fayre.

Who could expect any more, though, when the event had become near totally enthralled to the whims of VIVA!, the self-proclaimed biggest vegetarian group in Europe? They took a double stall in a prime location, choice position on all sponsorship materials, and their director Juliet Gellatley was to dominate the speaking schedule with not one but two lengthy talks. Meanwhile her assistant would fill any remaining gaps by giving VIVA! cookery demonstrations.

Again, for the sake of honesty, VIVA! do have a vegan message buried somewhere, however it takes a firm backseat to all things “veggie”. Given they do choose to use only the anaemic tag of vegetarian in their name, that’s no great surprise.

Most important to the organisation seems to be self-aggrandisement and crowbarring the word VIVA! into every phrase. Don’t go vegan, “go VIVA vegan!” and, more to the point in most easily appeasing the general money-donating public, don’t go veggie, “go VIVA veggie!”. As outsiders, there’s a feeling that they are not interested in getting people to go vegan, so much as getting people to donate money. Even if they do go vegan, it is correctedly called ‘Viva Vegan!’, so as not to lose out on potential members. Any concern that people might be put off—by linking veganism to a specific business—is ignored in favour of profit.

In the face of these overwhelming odds, we took it upon ourselves to assume the role of pariahs and provide the one and only stall focussed purely on vegan education. It was a great success, with plenty of people interested in the logical, unequivocal message of opposing all use of other animals in equal measure.

It is surely refreshingly consistent to hear such a message, after VIVA! confuse with messages implying kangaroo leather is worse than standard leather, or that there is an equal moral footing for buying free range eggs rather than not buying eggs at all. As a result our blog has received a good number of hits and we’ve had plenty of feedback and call to continue the discussion.

Of course when presented with a hundred welfarist messages and only one of abolitionist veganism, the path of least resistance is to obey the flashy slogans of the big animal welfare authorities and go “veggie”. However, we definitely provided food for thought by exposing people to ideas that they otherwise wouldn’t have received. If nothing else we introduced a meme that runs contrary to the near worthless platitudes contained in the perceived wisdom. As such, attending the event, whilst not without its difficulties, was certainly worthwhile.

During a rare gap in the VIVA!-led festivities, we even found a vacant slot to present a talk to a standing room only audience. Giving the accessible and purposefully vague (yet accurate) title of “How to Best Help Animals.” the abolitionist vegan message was received with great curiosity and interest, with many people staying behind to comment that they couldn’t disagree with the logic of the argument. For full context, the speech we presented can be found here.

This is not to say there weren’t problems: the following Sunday morning, after our labour and volunteering had conveniently been fully exploited, we were issued a letter informing us that our memberships of the local animal welfare group had been terminated with immediate effect. Other dirty tactics to discredit our efforts sadly followed, but not all local animal welfare groups need be so antagonistic towards vegan education. So, whilst egregious, this behaviour needn’t put off other advocates from attending similar events to present a much needed alternate perspective.

Our satisfaction is in having consistently and logically promoted the interests of other animals rather than one ego-led self-promotion and mutually gratifying PR exercises such as that between private enterprise and attending VIVA! patron Benjamin Zephaniah.

Vegan education was edited from the videos and photographs of the event and director of VIVA! Juliet Gellatley was overheard to call us “trouble causers” and our commitment to vegan education “radical”. “Go be radical somewhere else” was the royal decree. Interesting statements coming from an organisation that officially responds that veganism is the answer, when asked by potential donating vegans. There’s a business-forced inconsistency here that is not hard to spot.

We immediately fired off a letter of complaint to VIVA! towers, expressing our disappointment and querying why they are so openly hostile towards non-violent, vegan education but received no response at all. The arrogance of big money animal welfare organisations seemingly knows no bounds. Perhaps we needed to offer a financial donation in order to get a response?

Oh well, here’s to The VIVA! Veggie Lincoln Roadshow 2012. Be sure to have your entry fees at the ready, plenty of spending money and a packed lunch just in case the free food is in short supply.


Pancake Day Recipe!

Who doesn't like a day that involves eating pancakes? Here's a great recipe that we use, it was adapted from The Thrive Diet book and is wheat and gluten free, low fat,healthy and tastes absolutely AMAZING! In fact they're always our breakfast for birthdays,holidays,anniversaries and basically any time we want something special for breakfast.

Blueberry,Banana and Buckwheat Pancakes
Makes around 6 decent sized pancakes

1 cup of buckwheat flour (can be bought in most supermarkets)
1/4 cup of ground flaxseed/linseed
1 tsp baking powder (gf free)
1tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 medium sized banana
1 cup of blueberries (or whatever berries you have,we use frozen mixed berries)
5 fresh dates/dried dates (obviously no stone)- soak in 1/8th cup of boiling water for 10mins,keep water to use
3 tsp agave syrup or maple syrup or whatever your sweetener of choice is
3/4 cup of soy milk or coconut milk (increases fat but makes very creamy). If you prefer thinner mixture add more milk.

Blend all in in a food processor until smooth then oil a pan and heat until very hot.

As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the size you want. It should take only half a minute or so to cook depending on thickness.

Lift the corners with a palette knife to stop from sticking and use to turn over when ready. Cook for the same time on the other side then serve.


Veganism: The Environmentalist Diet

The social commentators over at Freakonomics, who apply impartial, economic rationality to social issues incredulously asked why many in the environmentalist movement obsess on the evils of coal, yet neglect the huge issues caused through our use of animals. The article is entitled Agnostic Carnvivores and Global Warming: Why Enviros go after Coal and not Cows and it certainly makes a fair assertion:

"Forget ending dirty coal or natural gas pipelines. As the WPF report shows, veganism offers the single most effective path to reducing global climate change."

Switching animal products makes little difference. Nor does being a Locavore:

"The evidence is powerful. Eating a vegan diet, according to the study, is seven times more effective at reducing emissions than eating a local meat-based diet. A global vegan diet (of conventional crops) would reduce dietary emissions by 87 percent, compared to a token 8 percent for “sustainable meat and dairy.” In light of the fact that the overall environmental impact of livestock is greater than that of burning coal, natural gas, and crude oil..."

Freakonomics conclude:

"I’d suggest McKibben, 350.org, and the environmental movement as a whole trade up their carnivorous agnosticism for a fire-and brimstone dose of vegan fundamentalism."

More than just a metaphor

Of course there is nothing new in this message, animal farming has been proven to produce higher levels of greenhouse gases than any other sector of industry, that includes every mode of transport combined; planes, trains, automobiles... the lot.

Cows especially, as ruminants, farmed for their meat and dairy produce a lot of methane, a gas more than 20 times more potent than the more commonly cited CO2. Often the human-caused greenhouse gas contribution from livestock is given as 18%, although one study suggests as much as 51%, as per This study by The World Watch Institute on behalf of The World Bank.

Non-ruminants such as chickens still consume vast quantities of grain. Often it takes eight to twelve kilos of plant protein to produce one kilo of animal protein. 60% of global grain production goes to farmed animals. With 925 million humans lacking enough food as we speak, needlessly breeding non-human animals into existence then feeding them this way surely represents a criminally, selfish act of negligence.

The grain is often produced in ecologically sensitive areas such as the cleared Amazon Rainforest, where 80% of the soya produced is used to fatten up farmed animals around the world, 85% of the total clearance is done so in order to make space for cattle ranching.

Meanwhile with 884 million people lacking access to clean water it takes 2400 gallons to produce one pound of meat. That's a total of 235 trillion gallons of clean water annually just to produce meat alone. Truly a food stuff of the self appointed "global elite".

Topsoil is being destroyed, previously fertile land is increasingly made barren and native plant species are going extinct. As are wild living animal species, pushed out of existence as this monolithic global animal farm spreads. Currently nearly one third of the earth's surface is covered by farm animals.

Dietary impacts

It's not just the big environmental groups who are afraid to rock the boat and offend their vastly omnivorous membership base. Former vice-president of the USA, Al Gore much vaunted for his impressive An Inconvenient Truth lecture and admirable missionary zeal in educating the public on the threat of climate change, failed to make one reference to livestock impacts during his entire film. In fact the only cows that feature in the documentary are those used to positively make reference to the Gore family business of cattle ranching.

The companion book did make clear the significance of animal product reduction and Al has since stated that: “It’s absolutely correct that the growing meat intensity of diets around the world is one of the issues connected to this global crisis – not only because of the CO2 involved, but also because of the water consumed in the process.”.

In the March of 2014 Gore confirmed he was now vegan, stating that: "Over a year ago I changed my diet to a vegan diet, really just to experiment to see what it was like," he says. "And I felt better, so I continued with it. Now, for many people, that choice is connected to environmental ethics and health issues and all that stuff, but I just wanted to try it to see what it was like. In a visceral way, I felt better, so I've continued with it and I'm likely to continue it for the rest of my life.

Buoyed by Al Gore's veganism, prominent UK environmentalist and journalist George Monbiot finally came down in favour of the position. This decision was based largely on his findings while researching the book Feral, which focused on rewilding. He rescinded his previous opinions that animal agriculture could be done sustainably and that there are better uses of the Lake District's Hills etc (one example being re-forestation) than allowing them to become "sheepwrecked" by the destructive, non-native grazers that are farmed by humans.

With the same problems regarding land use but touted for the health benefits of their milk and flesh, the niche market for grass-fed cows has found them to actually be worse environmentally than the individuals used within the ubiquitous feed lot system.

In 2006 The United Nations specialized organisation The FAO sufficiently understood the political imperative and concerned over issues of environmental sustainability and food security presented the report Livestock's Long Shadow, again confirming the wide, varied issues implicit to the industry.

The study's authors later made clear that more intensified factory farming would be required to meet demand, a suggestion that fails to consider the interests of the other animals who are being used or whether animal farming need take place at all.

Sadly with an ever growing human population and animal products occupying a place as a food of status and social climbing, the amount of animals farmed continues to rise. This is despite the evident truths regarding dietary impacts and the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change.

Domestication as a driver in species extinction
Paul MacCready, the founder and Chairman of AeroVironment and designer of the first solar-powered aircraft, has calculated the weight of all vertebrates on the land and in the air. He notes that when agriculture began, humans, their livestock, and pets together accounted for less than 0.1 percent of the total. Today, he estimates, this group accounts for 98 percent of the earth’s total vertebrate biomass, leaving only 2 percent for the wild portion, the latter including all the deer, wildebeests, elephants, great cats, birds, small mammals, and so forth.

Prominent film director and environmentalist James Cameron announced his veganism as an ethical imperative: "It’s not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to do it, so it becomes a moral choice and one that is having a huge impact on the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere.”

“I’ve had an epiphany recently,” Cameron said. “I want to challenge all of you as people of deep conscience, people who are environment stewards of the earth and oceans … By changing what you eat, you will change the entire contract between the human species and the natural world."

Described as "the film that environmental organisations don't want you to see!" 2014 saw the release of Cowspiracy, a highly influential documentary that seeks to explore the ecological impacts of animal agriculture and why the big green organisations are yet to give the issue the focused importance it merits.  Louie Psihoyos, Oscar-Winning Director of "The Cove" said that "Cowspiracy may be the most important film made to inspire saving the planet." A must watch for the green-minded, director Darren Aronofsky called it "A documentary that will rock and inspire the environmental movement."

A plant-based diet just happens to be one of the healthiest ways of eating yet we continue to unnecessarily inflict suffering on other animals despite the catastrophic, detrimental influence it is having on them as individuals and the very sustainability of this one planet all species depend upon. Ecological concerns are yet another reason among many to go vegan, it's easily done and if you need any assistance do drop us a line...