Being Vegan – The wider Issues

Veganism and politics – a conversation

People become vegetarian or vegan for a number of reasons, but usually it is due to ethical reasons (e.g. treatment of animals), environmental reasons (e.g. burping cows) or health reasons – in many countries, dietary recommendations nowadays often include reducing meat consumption.

But sometimes there are other reasons. Below is a conversation between two vegans that highlights some of these. Read on.

The conversation is between Martyn [ML] and Lowana [LV].

LV:

I’m not sure when I became a pacifist, probably when I turned up at Greenpeace London meetings in 1977. I think I was more involved in environmental stuff before that. I became completely vegetarian in 1983 but I had only been eating meat and similar stuff very occasionally for a few months before that.

ML:

My involvement in politics and the first demonstration I was on was in November 1968. That was about the Vietnam war. Via that, I became involved in the Peace Pledge Union. That was the first time I ever met any vegetarians; the only vegan I knew at that stage seemed very strange to me. Then in 1973/74 I got to know Ronnie Lee who went on to start the Animal Liberation Front.

I became vegetarian on 26th January 1970.

I celebrated 50 years of pacifist activities in November 2018 and then the next year, on 26th January 2019, I turned vegan, so I’m now been vegan for almost three and a half years.

I became a vegetarian for a number of reasons, which include that you can produce more food with a vegetarian diet than a carnivore one. While from an anarchist perspective I’m not prepared to let somebody else kill animals for me if I’m not prepared to do it myself. But I’d actually read a book by Roger Moody on factory farming and that influenced my decision too.

LV:

I think I probably became vegetarian because I became involved with environmental groups and peace groups where it seemed most people were vegetarian (note that that isn’t the case in Iceland, where I live now) and I also had a boyfriend who was vegetarian. But my main reason for turning vegetarian was that I didn’t like the idea of killing animals so I could eat them and I didn’t want others to do that for me either.

Once I was at a meeting in Reykjavik and the others were saying that veganism is a lifestyle. I said “No it’s not, it’s political” (thinking of how all the vegetarians and vegans I knew in the UK were political) to which the others chorused “No, it’s a lifestyle”. Which points out the difference between here and the UK.

I think it was basically when I was in Cambridge that I turned vegetarian but in reality I was always more vegan than vegetarian because I didn’t drink milk and never ate yoghurt. I just didn’t really have the typical vegetarian diet compared to other people. I’m not sure when I became completely vegan as I was 95% vegan for so long.

ML:

My political friends were mostly vegetarian. Vegans just didn’t exist. In pacifist circles, being vegetarian was the norm.

When I became a vegetarian I got one piece of advice, which was from my friend Neil Collins, and that was instead of eating meat and two veg, I should think of meals as being three veg.

Unlike the present era, there was not much said about the health benefits of becoming vegetarian.

Yes, there were some health stores, but they were few and far between. And a lot of people thought they were just used by cranks. It was only in such stores that one could find foods such as dried bananas. They were also one of the few places where one could buy naturist periodicals [in the 1950s/1960s], which coloured the way some people regarded them.

Once, during a holiday in Chester during 1970, I went into a cafe and asked for a cheese roll which they didn’t have, and that is how I landed up explaining it was like a cheese burger but without the corpse.

But we did have the Diwana Bhel Poori Indian restaurant in Drummond Street which had recently opened and is still going. It is in the same street as a vegetarian restaurant that Gandhi used while he lived in the city, but that restaurant is long gone.

I read many years ago the autobiography of Gandhi: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. In it he writes about the different diets he had had at various times. He eventually became a fruitarian. Gandhi actually became interested in vegetarian issues while living in London.

At the time I became Vegie there was the Vegetarian Society and the Vegan society, which had been started in mid 1944 by Eva Batt.

Though I had no direct contact with either of them until the mid 1970s.

ML:

What were your experiences at the time?

LV:

I didn’t find it difficult. I met some people and I got given a vegetarian cookbook by a flatmate in Richmond. I also borrowed vegetarian cookery books at the library.

ML:

One of the most well-known cookbooks while I was young was produced by Cranks.

Cranks vegetarian restaurant used to be in Leicester Square, but I never visited it.

There were a couple of vegetarian cookbooks which I purchased at the time, but there were very few which one could buy during that period.

There is also a fascinating book called The Vegetable Passion which gives a history of vegetarianism, including Adolf Hitler, and is quite interesting to read as well.

LV:

I bought the Food for Thought Cookbook that came out in 1987 – Food for Thought was a vegetarian restaurant in Covent Garden which I went to sometimes – and have since veganized one of the recipes I used to use when I was vegetarian. It is often easy to veganize recipes. There’s also Healthy Eating for the New Age by Joyce D’Silva; published in 1980, it was one of the first vegan cookbooks and has a number of recipes that I still use.

ML:

I think also I became vegetarian as I was reading a wide variety of periodicals which I haven’t seen in years, such as the magazine Commune which I last saw in the early seventies.

There was also WIN magazine which was produced by the War Resisters League in New York.

Thus I read a lot about resistance to the Vietnam war, and many other ideas which were what we would now refer to as alternative.

When I became Vegetarian my mother just didn’t know how to cope with it. Ronnie Lee had something of the same experience with his mother when he became Vegan.

LV:

In Iceland there has been an upsurge in veganism, especially the vegan cafes and restaurants that have opened within the last 3-4 years. Reykjavik also boasts the largest vegan shop in the world, though the population of the whole of Iceland is a mere 376,000.

And I gather that in Sweden – which has a lot of vegans – more and more dairy farmers are now growing oats and selling them for human consumption (to the Swedish company Oatly, for example) rather them feeding the oats to the livestock they were raising.

ML:

For me, becoming vegetarian and then Vegan is an aspect of my nonviolent philosophy, and that is very much to the fore.

While for many people it is to do with animal rights, health issues, and taking very practical action to deal with climate change.

One singular advantage of a vegan diet is that it means that more food can be grown, which means less pressure upon the land and thus far less deforestation, thus preventing the factors which are major causes of war.

This goes hand in hand with cutting food aid and should help with creating more food self-sufficiency, while the development of urban orchards, city centre greenhouses and more allotments will negate the need for food banks.

I remember the Freedom from Hunger campaign which existed during the 1960s, and the impact that seeing photographs of pot-bellied starving children in the middle of the Biafra war had on people. Thus it was totally logical for me to become vegetarian as a way to counter global starvation.

End of conversation …

Martyn and Lowana are both long-term activists. Martyn is principally anarcho-pacifist and an anti-nuclear power campaigner while Lowana is mainly an environmentalist and pacifist who is also concerned about feminist issues.

Recent Thinking

Recent Observations

Much of my time is spent reading various reports, news items, and analytical pieces, which in turn I may share or comment upon with others.

In between all of that I will produce various short analytical observations which are just too short to turn in to articles, but which you might find of interest.

Here are a few of the most recent ones.

The St Francis Cafe

Now how is this for a fine example of why many religionists just don’t think logically.

There is a Christian bookshop just around the corner from where I live. Outside of it is a oversized A board, which in passing I should mention is both an obstruction and unlicensed. Upon it there is a list of what a cafe in the shop sells. This includes dead pig corpses, which are otherwise known as bacon.

What I don’t understand is how they can do such a thing if they have read or heard about St Francis.

If they had done so then it would be known as the St Francis cafe, and only have vegan food for sale.

Then this on Budget Day

Today’s budget has cut taxes on climate damaging petrol and diesel which fuel extreme energy personal vehicles.

What should of been done is make boots and shoes VAT ( sale tax ) zero rated. That would of encouraged more people to walk more and thus save our environment. has cut taxes on climate damaging petrol and diesel which fuel extreme energy personal vehicles.

The Current and Future wars

Over the last couple of weeks I have been doing a lot is reading about the weapon systems now being used in the Ukraine, and which in turn will have a major effect upon the arms trade.

The main points being that there will be a lot more small drone weapons in use, with more missile launchers used, while tanks have become much more vulnerable to attacks.

Some NATO countries such as the Netherlands have already started to move away from the use of tanks.

Longer term I think there will be a lot more 3D printers in use nearer to the fighting.

All of which we do need to keep in mind for future arms trade campaigning.

Land Use & A Vegan World In The Making

On January 26th I Reached 48Plus3.

That is 51 years since turning Vegetarian, and three since becoming Vegan.

Over the last decade I have penned a number of pieces which are on my blog about aspects being vegan, land use, and related issues.

At some stage I should write about all the related issues which I keep banging on about.

They are: –

Using more of the countryside to create forests.

Creating Urban orchards.

Using more urban space of the creation of allotments and for greenhouses.

Producing food at the point of use which can be done by putting up greenhouses on the land at the side of supermarkets which are currently wasted as parking lots.

All of which will link in to a sustainable urban transport system.

Then create vegan food production projects which will negate the need for so many food banks.

But most of all: –

Shrink The Suburbs !

Whatever Next ?

Here is how we now seem to start Every Day.

And Today’s Crisis is …

Just reading the newspapers or listening to the radio news it seems to be that way.

Brexitland

We have now moved from the Shambolic world of politics, to an everyday story of a dystopian folk, or life under the Rabid Right Wing Tory Government.

The list of what is going or has gone wrong within the last year would take just too many hours to list.

All I will say is that the whole Brexit disaster can be summed up as a totally predictable mess.

Planetary Disaster

Next we have the ongoing radioactive and planetary mess which needs to be cleaned up, but again this is just too long to list.

Nukiller New Build, Radioactive or Chemical Waste dumps, the failure to tackle global warming, create a safe sustainable transport, etc, etc.

The list goes on and on and on and on.

Yet there are still too few activists working to reverse this unfolding disaster.

While there is still a shocking lack of attention paid to recycling, or stopping to produce those items which are very difficult to recycle.

Eating and Riding Our Way to Disaster

If we are what we eat, then we also live in an environment which is the product of our eating and travel habits.

It always amazes me just how many can not see that being vegan and campaigning for pedestrian rights is so tied up with creating an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, or how it matches up within the concept of Joined-up-campaigning.

If

If all of the above seems to be the product of some highly depressing thinking about what we face right now, then you are right to do so.

Yet

Yet there is still a lot which we can all do right now, while planning for some major changes and mass demonstrations once the present pandemic is over.

May Day

May Day is an ideal time to stand up against the Rabid Right Wing Tory Government.

May the 9th is Europe Day.

That is an ideal day to engage up campaigning against the Brexitland Disaster.

In between Time

This is now an ideal moment to read up upon all those various issues which we do need to get back to active campaigning upon later on in the year.

While looking at all those lifestyle changes which we need to make.

The present dire situation we are in is one of the worst we have ever experienced.

Yet very soon the cry will start : –

Today’s Solution is ––

What Comes Next ?

Introduction From 85 Years Ago

This is the introduction to the H.G.Wells book.

What Are We to Do with Our Lives?

Published: Watts & Co    1935

‘ The world is undertaking immense changes. Never before have the conditions of life changed so swiftly and enormously as they have changed for mankind in the last fifty year.’

Though in environmental terms it is more like the last 15 month to 5 years.

While in many ways we are now going through a major set of changes which will impact upon us all over the next 50 day and thus in to the future.

What next ?

Over the last 15 days it has been the case of us all asking: –

What Next?

In many ways we have all been very surprised upon how things are changing.

Yet for all the observations we make about just what is happening to us all right now, many of the pundits predictions upon economic, political, social, and ecological issues, are still based upon what has happened in the past.

Never the less there are a number of key indicators which worth looking at:-

– Changes in Housing provision,

– The stock Market and Wider Economy

– Changes in Food Production and Provision.

– An ending to the use of Nukiller Power and Extreme Energy,

– Public and Private Transport.

&

– How we all socialise from now onwards.

Extracts From The Book – Poverty and Ecological Disaster. A Post Brexit Study

The following book extracts are taken from the most renowned academic study of the UK during the first half of the 21stnd century.

Poverty and ecological disaster.

A study of life in Britain during the post Brexit years .

Published by the CLO University press.

The Peak district School.

2052.

Chapter 1

The Brexit disaster.

‘ As predicted the state of the UK rapidly declined with the introduction of Brexit.

The dysfunctional desires of the rabid right wing Tory government were no more than a delusional set of nightmare policies.

After Brexit the UK continued its rapid economic decline.

In the poorest areas of the country begging for food on the street increased at an alarming rate. This was not helped by the fact that most of the population no longer had the income to be able to donate to all the food banks which had rapidly increased by the 2nd decade of the century.

The social and economic effects of the withdrawal of all the EU regional funding to some of the poorest areas of Europe was increasingly noticeable as the years went by.’

Chapter 16

Eduction and Illiteracy.

‘Unlike the rest the rest of Europe, British government public spending on education plummeted.

Thus by 2038 the official school leaving age dropped to 14. That was the same as it had been a century before.

The rate of public library closures continued.

Most alarming of all the rate of functional illiteracy in the country rose from 1 in 7, to 90 in 100 of the population.

Thus the rate of unemployment rose, as fewer and fewer of the population became qualified or skilled workers.’

‘The effects upon higher education became profound. This was especially so after the universities of Cambridge, London, and Oxford were forced to merge and become the CLO university.’

Chapter 22

The Toxic Legacy.

‘ One of the most alarming aspects of the period was that all the nukiller plants became engulfed by rising tides, as did many of the radioactive and toxic waste dumps. The government stated that dealing with this was a priority, but there was no money left in the exchequer to solve it.

Thus the UK government had to declare a national emergency, but it was just too late to solve all these problems.

Thousands died of starvation and exposure to all the radioactive and toxic waste.’

‘ Finally, in 2042 the country became such an ecological disaster area, that the UK government begged the EU to become a European dependency, as it was totally incapable of becoming a full EU member state.’

– – –

Postscript.

December 2019

All of the above could happen: –

If we don’t take Action Now !

Practical Examples of Joined-Up-Campaigning – Health, Land, Waste, & Sea Ecology.

Much of good campaigning is like joined-up thinking, or rather playing a game of consequences in advance.

As I keep say:-  Take the overview, but keep an eye on the details.

A Healthcare ban which has resulted in dire consequences.

The change in the UK law which bans smoking indoors has been universally welcomed, but it has and is causing an environmental crisis.

This is because smoking is now done outdoors in the street, where instead of cigarettes stubbed out in ashtrays, they are thrown out on the ground. At which point they are blown along the street, landing up in the drains, road sides, rivers, and the sea.

Cigarette stubs contain a lot of toxic chemicals, and are Not biodegradable.

While children see many more people smoking outdoors or on the streets, which in turn normalises how they view this activity.

At the same time there are many more individuals vapping , that is using E cigarettes, which results in a growth in the number of people suffering from popcorn lung disease.

What is also forgotten is that these e cigarettes are not easy to recycle, and there are no facilities in most places to do so.

Thus we have a number of inter-related health and environmental problems which effect us all.

What might be done about these problems?

The obvious answer to me is much more health education, and measures to prevent people smoking, but it goes way beyond that.

What we should be doing is promoting health campaigns which show the environmental damage which smoking results in.

It is very much a case of health care workers and environmental activists together to solve these problems.

While on a local level this must mean Local Heath Trusts working in co-operation with the local waste authorities.

Yet all these problems will not be solved unless there is much more help extended to another group in society – Rough Sleepers.

My New Dystopian Novel

I’ve just started to pen a dystopian novel.

It starts like this: –

After a series of increasingly right wing governments, there was a Rabid Right Wing political coup, which placed in power a group of rich, delusional, incompetent, authoritarian, militaristic, socially and fiscally illiterate individuals.

Seventy five percent of these individuals had received a public school education.

A very high percentage of them were multi millionaires whose political agenda was to abolish all the taxes they paid, and hand over all government agencies to private companies.

At the same time they ignored the environmental crisis which was threatening to destroy the world, as they could see no personal profit to be made in fixing it.

Er – wait a second – this is no novel – but more a description of the Britain state, and state of affairs right now.

Landing Homes For The Future

Yesterday [ july 15th 2019 ] there was a feature in the Financial Times about the current state of Britain’s care homes.

There are now just 8% of them left in public ownership.  Thank you Mrs Thatcher !

While 4 of the largest ones are up for sale.

The problem is financial.

The FT stated: ‘ Care homes run up debts of £40,000 a bed’.

Is it any wonder that care homes are priced out of reach for most people.

Meanwhile the push to build new environmentally unaffordable homes in the suburbs grows, There are however a lot of cheap student flats being built.

Yet the real need to build affordable mixed age housing is the cities is just being ignored.

Ditto – The need to use waste land in the inner cities to grow small fruit orchards, create lots of small allotments, or build community greenhouses is just not on most peoples agendas.

It will all need to be worked on very soon, or else we really will be in a lot of trouble.