Tag: Veganism

Being a vegan.

I can’t recall whether I have previously shown this to you …

I don’t think so.

(But see my note at the end of the piece.)

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Why people become vegans: The history, sex and science of a meatless existence.

By   Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Oregon

November 19th, 2018.

At the age of 14, a young Donald Watson watched as a terrified pig was slaughtered on his family farm. In the British boy’s eyes, the screaming pig was being murdered. Watson stopped eating meat and eventually gave up dairy as well.

Later, as an adult in 1944, Watson realized that other people shared his interest in a plant-only diet. And thus veganism – a term he coined – was born.

Flash-forward to today, and Watson’s legacy ripples through our culture. Even though only 3 percent of Americans actually identify as vegan, most people seem to have an unusually strong opinion about these fringe foodies – one way or the other.

As a behavioral scientist with a strong interest in consumer food movements, I thought November – World Vegan Month – would be a good time to explore why people become vegans, why they can inspire so much irritation and why many of us meat-eaters may soon join their ranks.

Early childhood experiences can shape how we feel about animals – and lead to veganism, as it did for Donald Watson. HQuality/Shutterstock.com

It’s an ideology not a choice

Like other alternative food movements such as locavorism, veganism arises from a belief structure that guides daily eating decisions.

They aren’t simply moral high-grounders. Vegans do believe it’s moral to avoid animal products, but they also believe it’s healthier and better for the environment.

Also, just like Donald Watson’s story, veganism is rooted in early life experiences.

Psychologists recently discovered that having a larger variety of pets as a child increases tendencies to avoid eating meat as an adult. Growing up with different sorts of pets increases concern for how animals are treated more generally.

Thus, when a friend opts for Tofurky this holiday season, rather than one of the 45 millionturkeys consumed for Thanksgiving, his decision isn’t just a high-minded choice. It arises from beliefs that are deeply held and hard to change.

Sutton and Sons is a vegan fish and chip restaurant in London. Reuters/Peter Nicholls

Veganism as a symbolic threat

That doesn’t mean your faux-turkey loving friend won’t seem annoying if you’re a meat-eater.

The late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain famously quipped that meat avoiders “are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”

Why do some people find vegans so irritating? In fact, it might be more about “us” than them.

Most Americans think meat is an important part of a healthy diet. The government recommends eating 2-3 portions (5-6 ounces) per day of everything from bison to sea bass. As tribal humans, we naturally form biases against individuals who challenge our way of life, and because veganism runs counter to how we typically approach food, vegans feel threatening.

Humans respond to feelings of threat by derogating outgroups. Two out of 3 vegans experience discrimination daily, 1 in 4 report losing friends after “coming out” as vegan, and 1 in 10 believe being vegan cost them a job.

Veganism can be hard on a person’s sex life, too. Recent research finds that the more someone enjoys eating meat, the less likely they are to swipe right on a vegan. Also, women find men who are vegan less attractive than those who eat meat, as meat-eating seems masculine.

The fake meat at one Fort Lauderdale restaurant supposedly tastes like real meat. AP Photo/J. Pat Carter

Crossing the vegan divide

It may be no surprise that being a vegan is tough, but meat-eaters and meat-abstainers probably have more in common than they might think.

Vegans are foremost focused on healthy eating. Six out of 10 Americans want their meals to be healthier, and research shows that plant-based diets are associated with reduced risk for heart disease, certain cancers, and Type 2 diabetes.

It may not be surprising, then, that 1 in 10 Americans are pursuing a mostly veggie diet. That number is higher among younger generations, suggesting that the long-term trend might be moving away from meat consumption.

In addition, several factors will make meat more costly in the near future.

Meat production accounts for as much as 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and clear-cutting for pasture land destroys 6.7 million acres of tropical forest per year. While some debate exists on the actual figures, it is clear that meat emits more than plants, and population growth is increasing demand for quality protein.

Seizing the opportunity, scientists have innovated new forms of plant-based meats that have proven to be appealing even to meat-eaters. The distributor of Beyond Meat’s plant-based patties says 86 percent of its customers are meat-eaters. It is rumored that this California-based vegan company will soon be publicly traded on Wall Street.

Even more astonishing, the science behind lab-grown, “cultured tissue” meat is improving. It used to cost more than $250,000 to produce a single lab-grown hamburger patty. Technological improvements by Dutch company Mosa Meat have reduced the cost to $10 per burger.

Watson’s legacy

Even during the holiday season, when meats like turkey and ham take center stage at family feasts, there’s a growing push to promote meatless eating.

London, for example, will host its first-ever “zero waste” Christmas market this year featuring vegan food vendors. Donald Watson, who was born just four hours north of London, would be proud.

Watson, who died in 2006 at the ripe old age of 95, outlived most of his critics. This may give quiet resolve to vegans as they brave our meat-loving world.

ooOOoo

Jeannie has been a vegetarian all her life and I willingly adopted the lifestyle back in 2008 when we first started living together. Then in 2017 we took the final step to becoming vegan on account of there being too much uncertainty about fish, chicken and dairy products.

We both feel great on a vegan diet and more and more people seem to be coming across to this position.

(N.B. And this post has been published before – oh well it won’t do any harm in being repeated.)

This is the woman I love!

Today is our anniversary.

Yes, November 20th, 2010 was the day we became married.

And in celebration of that day, and more generally in meeting Jean some three years previously, I want to republish the following. For when I met my darling Jeannie she had been vegetarian for many years and in turn we both became vegan.

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Why people become vegans: The history, sex and science of a meatless existence

By    Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Oregon

November 19, 2018

At the age of 14, a young Donald Watson watched as a terrified pig was slaughtered on his family farm. In the British boy’s eyes, the screaming pig was being murdered. Watson stopped eating meat and eventually gave up dairy as well.

Later, as an adult in 1944, Watson realized that other people shared his interest in a plant-only diet. And thus veganism – a term he coined – was born.

Flash-forward to today, and Watson’s legacy ripples through our culture. Even though only 3 percent of Americans actually identify as vegan, most people seem to have an unusually strong opinion about these fringe foodies – one way or the other.

As a behavioral scientist with a strong interest in consumer food movements, I thought November – World Vegan Month – would be a good time to explore why people become vegans, why they can inspire so much irritation and why many of us meat-eaters may soon join their ranks.

Early childhood experiences can shape how we feel about animals – and lead to veganism, as it did for Donald Watson. HQuality/Shutterstock.com

It’s an ideology not a choice

Like other alternative food movements such as locavorism, veganism arises from a belief structure that guides daily eating decisions.

They aren’t simply moral high-grounders. Vegans do believe it’s moral to avoid animal products, but they also believe it’s healthier and better for the environment.

Also, just like Donald Watson’s story, veganism is rooted in early life experiences.

Psychologists recently discovered that having a larger variety of pets as a child increases tendencies to avoid eating meat as an adult. Growing up with different sorts of pets increases concern for how animals are treated more generally.

Thus, when a friend opts for Tofurky this holiday season, rather than one of the 45 million turkeys consumed for Thanksgiving, his decision isn’t just a high-minded choice. It arises from beliefs that are deeply held and hard to change.

Sutton and Sons is a vegan fish and chip restaurant in London. Reuters/Peter Nicholls

Veganism as a symbolic threat

That doesn’t mean your faux-turkey loving friend won’t seem annoying if you’re a meat-eater.

The late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain famously quipped that meat avoiders “are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”

Why do some people find vegans so irritating? In fact, it might be more about “us” than them.

Most Americans think meat is an important part of a healthy diet. The government recommends eating 2-3 portions (5-6 ounces) per day of everything from bison to sea bass. As tribal humans, we naturally form biases against individuals who challenge our way of life, and because veganism runs counter to how we typically approach food, vegans feel threatening.

Humans respond to feelings of threat by derogating outgroups. Two out of 3 vegans experience discrimination daily, 1 in 4 report losing friends after “coming out” as vegan, and 1 in 10 believe being vegan cost them a job.

Veganism can be hard on a person’s sex life, too. Recent research finds that the more someone enjoys eating meat, the less likely they are to swipe right on a vegan. Also, women find men who are vegan less attractive than those who eat meat, as meat-eating seems masculine.

The fake meat at one Fort Lauderdale restaurant supposedly tastes like real meat. AP Photo/J. Pat Carter

Crossing the vegan divide

It may be no surprise that being a vegan is tough, but meat-eaters and meat-abstainers probably have more in common than they might think.

Vegans are foremost focused on healthy eating. Six out of 10 Americans want their meals to be healthier, and research shows that plant-based diets are associated with reduced risk for heart disease, certain cancers, and Type 2 diabetes.

It may not be surprising, then, that 1 in 10 Americans are pursuing a mostly veggie diet. That number is higher among younger generations, suggesting that the long-term trend might be moving away from meat consumption.

In addition, several factors will make meat more costly in the near future.

Meat production accounts for as much as 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and clear-cutting for pasture land destroys 6.7 million acres of tropical forest per year. While some debate exists on the actual figures, it is clear that meat emits more than plants, and population growth is increasing demand for quality protein.

Seizing the opportunity, scientists have innovated new forms of plant-based meats that have proven to be appealing even to meat-eaters. The distributor of Beyond Meat’s plant-based patties says 86 percent of its customers are meat-eaters. It is rumored that this California-based vegan company will soon be publicly traded on Wall Street.

Even more astonishing, the science behind lab-grown, “cultured tissue” meat is improving. It used to cost more than $250,000 to produce a single lab-grown hamburger patty. Technological improvements by Dutch company Mosa Meat have reduced the cost to $10 per burger.

Watson’s legacy

Even during the holiday season, when meats like turkey and ham take center stage at family feasts, there’s a growing push to promote meatless eating.

London, for example, will host its first-ever “zero waste” Christmas market this year featuring vegan food vendors. Donald Watson, who was born just four hours north of London, would be proud.

Watson, who died in 2006 at the ripe old age of 95, outlived most of his critics. This may give quiet resolve to vegans as they brave our meat-loving world.

ooOOoo

Well all I can say is that if Donald Watson can do it then so can Jeannie and me.

Going Vegan!

More evidence that supports the sense, the very great sense, in going vegan!

Some three weeks ago, on June 15th to be exact, I published a post called On Veganism. Jean and I had just watched a film What The Health and what it presented in terms of eating chicken and fish convinced us to immediately go the final step, as in going from being vegetarians to vegans.

Many of you offered kind words and encouragement. Colette Bytes included a link to a blog post that she published in April, 2017. It is called Vegan Future and with her kind permission that post is republished today.

It is chock full of information and videos so do settle down and let all the information provided by Colette ‘speak’ to you! This is really worthy of an evening spent watching all the videos!

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Vegan Future

by Colette Bytes, April 21st 2017

Seventeen percent of human caused greenhouse gases,  come from meat and dairy production. It is actually a greater figure than all CO2 produced by global transportation!

Posted by The Daily Conversation

But is it enough, just to reduce our animal consumption, or should we look at the compelling evidence that we need a Vegan future!

Animal and Environmental Ethics

On a previous blog, I mention the documentary ‘Earthlings’ narrated by Hollywood actor, and lifelong Vegan, Joachim Phoenix. ‘Earthlings’ is the definitive Vegan film on exposing the meat and dairy industry in the US. And while other countries may not have factory farming on such a broad scale, many of the same procedures occur on a smaller scale. No member of the general public is allowed into the kill sections of slaughter houses for a very good reason. It is horrendous to watch a fear-ridden animal that wants to live, face its painful death.

This filmed reaction of a viewer watching ‘Earthlings’ is an average reaction. It is a moving experience for anyone with compassion. Posted by Raw Vegan, Fruitarian, Michael Lanfield, it is worth watching if you cannot bring yourself to actually watch the devastating, but common images of the meat, dairy and egg industry.

Switching your food intake to a plant-based Vegan diet, (eliminating all meat, dairy, egg and seafood), is the biggest change with the most impact that you can possibly make to reduce climate warming, land and water degradation, extinction rates, deforestation, pollution, human and animal suffering, and war (often over lack of food and water resources). And It is the number one thing you can do to improve your own health. It can also cut the cost of your food bill while you continue to eat a healthy diet.

There is no downside to this change if you keep your diet healthy and balanced. You can even eat processed plant-based, meat-like products if you want, but they may cost a similar amount to having meat in your diet.

The United Nations has already stated that we need to switch to a plant based diet if we are to survive.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53984

So what is holding you back?

Australian, James Aspey, a survivor of thyroid cancer, has become a Vegan Speaker (on ending animal cruelty) with his own Youtube channel, but he is also one of an exponentially growing number of people who have improved their own health through a plant based diet switch.

James Aspey interview posted by Plant Based News

Find out more about James Aspey on his YouTube channel, Facebook, and on his website:
http://www.jamesaspey.com.au/

Healthy Eating

AllPlants interview on Plant Based News

Lots of new Ethical, Healthy Vegan Ready Made meals like this brand are appearing now on Super market shelves. So even if you don’t ‘do cooking’ you can still find nutritious Vegan options. And Vegan restaurants, holidays and lifestyles are all available now.

And new research is beginning to show that meat and dairy are actually toxic to our body.

Meat is a neurotoxin, Posted by 8/10/10 in London

And for when you have time, do listen to this amazing and life changing Cardiologist’s 1:20:00 hrs talk…on your likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other life threatening diseases on a meat based diet…and also look at doctor Greger’s work and videos too (links below)

Robert Ostfeld, Cardiologist and Director of a US Cardiology Centre. Posted by Jeanne Schumacher, ‘Plant Power’ YouTube channel

More on Dr Ostfeld is available on The Forks over Knives (film) website https://www.forksoverknives.com/contributors/robert-ostfeld/

Elite Athletes and Hollywood Icons
You’d be surprised how many top athletes eat a vegan diet just to be at the top of their sport…Names like Serena and Venus Williams, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray, are all Vegans. Winner of the world Strongman competition is Vegan. Many top boxers eat vegan. Look at PlantBased News on YouTube for lots of informative videos on who is Vegan. And see their 100 countdown of awesome Vegan celebrities.

Top 2017 Vegans posted by PlantBased News

Making the change to Vegan

Eating junk plant-based foods is not advisable as it will lead to nutrient deficiencies…and ultimately a disease state, so you can’t survive on potato crisps, popcorn, and bread….there is a responsibility to eat a balanced fresh food diet to be healthy.

You do need to eat proteins (nuts, legumes, grains, beans, some veggies). You will need to supplement with Vitamin B12, a soil- based, active nutrient essential for our brain & nervous system which we do not get in our diet as we no longer forage and eat unwashed food like our ape ancestors. And you may need to supplement Vit D3 for bone health as we no longer spend enough time outside in the sunshine. Essential oil, Omega 3 can be obtained from flax and hemp seeds. The rest, you should be able to get from a ‘good’ Vegan diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, grains and nuts. Just 15 grams of nuts per day will give you enough protein to be healthy. Eating Kale and other dark leafy plants, beans, whole grain rice, legumes and some nuts, sweet potatoes are all sources of Calcium. The key to health is to have a full, varied selection of whole plant-based food!

Meat and Dairy Industry  Scare Tactics

The Meat and Dairy industry packers are worried that they will lose their industry and are fighting back with their political power and disinformation campaigns designed to scare us, but the smart companies will begin to think about how they can profit from exponential growth in the Vegan food industry.

Corporate Panick, posted by PlantBased News
Research

There are so many online sources to help you buy, and cook a healthy plant-based diet. Just type ‘Vegan Recipies’ into a search engine and you will find fantastic yummy recipes. You will love the variety and the taste of your new diet. And if you are not into cooking,  mainstream supermarkets are now starting to stock a growing variety of vegan ready made meals, and starting to label Vegan choices.

https://plantbasednews.org/

An all round informative website on Vegan trends, news headlines, and increasing popularity of healthy lifestyles including a plant- based diet.
Medical based RESOURCES on how to stay healthy on a Vegan diet

https://nutritionfacts.org/

Dr Michael Greger, MD, author of Best Seller, ‘How Not to Die’ and distributer of free videos and research on how plant based diets affect us. I have followed his work for years and he backs it all up with science based studies…his short videos and reports are packed with hundreds of supportive reports for a plant based diet.

https://www.drmcdougall.com/

Dr McDougal, Author of ‘A Starch Based Diet’ and follower of Nathan Pritikin, one of the forerunners promoting plant based nutrition.

http://www.theveganjunction.com/top-20-plant-based-health-professionals-to-follow/

Vegan Junction list of Plant-Based Diet health professionals
More Videos

Open Your Eyes – Toronto Pig Save posted by Bite-Size-Vegan

How not To Die – plant based diet by Dr Michael Greger
Latest documentaries to look up

Carnage (only on BBC iPlayer)

The Game Changers

Eating our way to Extinction

What the Health!

Plant Pure Nutrition

And there are so many more resources out there ! Join the growing trend to make this a better world for everyone, by making the biggest difference you can when you shop for food. Pick whole, plant-based, foods and kick the ‘animal eating’ habit to be healthy, stop animal cruelty, and save the environment and reduce global greenhouse gases. What could be a more worthy goal?

Why not check out my blog here on ‘Why do We Hurt Animals?

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This is so much more than just a blog post from Colette. It is a fantastic source of information, from a variety of sources, about why it makes such good sense to become a vegan.

I shall include it as a link from the home page of Learning from Dogs so it may serve as a reference long after it was republished today.

Then what about dogs eating a vegan diet? Sounds a bit strange? Maybe not! I shall be exploring that option with Halo, a company based in Florida, who claim:

Can dogs be vegan? Unlike cats, who are obligate carnivores, dogs can be fed a vegan diet as long as it’s high quality and nutritionally balanced like Halo® Garden of Vegan® dog food.

More on this next week.

In the meantime, I’m taking a day off tomorrow but please do read George Monbiot’s latest post, being republished here on Friday, 6th July.

On veganism!

Just in case this reaches out to others concerned about their diet!

The one thing we know for sure about our fabulous dogs is that they are meat-eaters!

As the The Natural Doggie website offers (my italics):

Dogs have always been a part of our families, so much so that many dog owners even save a seat on their dining tables for their furry friends. While this is all good and well that we shower the canine members of our family with as much love and affection as we do the other members of our family, it’s important for us to remember that their digestive systems and dietary requirements differ from ours.

However, for us humans with our distinctly human dietary requirements, meat is far, far from being an essential food ingredient!

When I met Jeannie back in 2007 it quickly became clear that she was, and had been since the age of 14, a vegetarian. As soon as were living together I joined ‘the club’!

Then a few days ago we both watched a documentary that we saw on Netflix. The film was called What The Health! and, boy oh boy, did it open our eyes. Not just to the very real dangers of eating meat but also fish and chicken. We resolved to become vegans immediately.

There is a website for the film, as in What The Health Film. While the film is only available for Netflix subscribers or may be purchased in other forms, as that website explains, there is a trailer available on YouTube. (The text that follows that trailer is from the Vimeo website.)

What the Health is the groundbreaking follow-up film from the creators of the award winning documentary Cowspiracy. The film follows intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the secret to preventing and even reversing chronic diseases – and investigates why the nation’s leading health organizations don’t want us to know about it. With heart disease and cancer the leading causes of death in America, and diabetes at an all-time high, the film reveals possibly the largest health cover-up of our time.

With the help of medical doctors, researchers, and consumer advocates, What the Health exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars, and keeping us sick.

Join Kip as he tracks down the leading and most trusted American health nonprofits to find out why these groups are staying silent, despite a growing body of evidence. Audiences will be shocked to learn the insidious roles played by pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness, and processed animal food companies in the nation’s health, especially in the most vulnerable communities, and will cheer at the transformation and recovery of those who took their lives into their own hands.

What The Health is a surprising, and at times hilarious, investigative documentary that will be an eye-opener for everyone concerned about our nation’s health and how big business influences it.

However, in fairness a quick web search comes up with other perspectives. Try this 27-minute interview with Dr. Neal Barnard.

You really should watch it even before you decide to watch What The Health. Please!

Or you may want to read the review that was published by TIME Magazine in August, 2017.

The recent pro-vegan Netflix documentary, What the Health, is under fire from nutrition experts. The film, which is co-directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn—the creators of another Netflix documentary, Cowspiracy—and co-produced by actor Joaquin Phoenix, is being criticized by some health professionals for exaggerating weak data and misrepresenting science to promote a diet that avoids all animal foods.

TIME fact-checked the film. Here are four things that What the Health got wrong—and what it got right.

Ultimately, it all comes down to personal choices.

But for those that want to explore the pros and cons try the information on the American Vegan Society website. Or call into Vegsource.com.

Plus, on Monday I shall be republishing a recent article from George Monbiot that addresses the issue.

But I started with a reference to dogs and I shall close by doing the same thing. How many saw the item on the BBC News website about how “A dog that transformed a 104-year-old’s life“?

Image copyright Dona Tracy

Milt Lessner has “always had dogs” throughout his life – and he’s 104 years old, he tells writer Jen Reeder. So are dogs the secret to longevity?

“I’d like to think so,” he says.

“I enjoy the familiarity with them, and the pleasantness, and the bonding – especially the bonding.”

Do read the full news story here.

Have a great weekend all of you!

Food and health

How less can be so much more.

I came at today’s post from a number of directions.

A few days ago I was catching up with a good friend back in the UK, Peter M.  We hadn’t spoken in a couple of months.  One of the items from my end was mentioning that I had converted to a vegetarian diet, verging on trying to be a vegan.  Jeannie has been a vegetarian for almost her entire life. Having made the change to a vegetarian diet, to my surprise I had gained 12 lbs (5.4 kgs) in the last month.  Peter then mentioned that he, too, had put on 8 kgs before deciding to try and cut back.  Peter and I are of the same age and motivated to stay as fit and healthy as we can.  Anyway, Peter’s route for losing some weight was to commit to the fasting arrangement promoted and recommended by Dr. Michael Mosley – more of this later.

The conversation also reminded me of an essay by George Monbiot back at the end of November: Wrong About Being Wrong. Mr. Monbiot wrote of his mind changes about being vegetarian.  With his permission, here is that essay.

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Wrong About Being Wrong

November 27, 2013

The argument seems, once more, decisively to favour veganism.

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website 27th November 2013

He did it quietly, and the decision is the better for that: Al Gore, according to reports in the US press, has gone vegan.

Certain things could be said about other aspects of his lifestyle: his enormous houses and occasional use of private jets, for example. While we can’t demand that everyone who espouses green causes should live like a Jain monk, I think we can ask that they don’t live like Al Gore. He’s a brilliant campaigner, but I find the disjunction between the restraint he advocates and the size of his ecological footprint disorienting.

So saying, if he is managing to sustain his vegan diet, in this respect he puts most of us to shame. I tried it for 18 months and almost faded away. I lost two stone, went as white as a washbasin and could scarcely concentrate. I think I managed the diet badly; some people appear to thrive on it. Once, after I had been unnecessarily rude about vegans and their state of health (prompted no doubt by my own failure), I was invited to test my views in an unconventional debate with a vegan cage fighter. It was a kind invitation, but unfortunately I had a subsequent engagement.

In 2010, after reading a fascinating book by Simon Fairlie, a fair part of which was devoted to attacking my views, I wrote a column in which I maintained that I’d been wrong to claim that veganism is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue. Diverting grain that could have fed human beings to livestock, I’d argued, is grotesque when 800 million go hungry.

Fairlie does not dispute this, and provides many examples of the madness of the current livestock production system. But he points out that plenty of meat can be produced from feed which humans cannot eat, by sustaining pigs on waste and grazing cattle and sheep where crops can’t grow. I was swayed by his argument. But now I find myself becoming unswayed. In the spirit of unceasing self-flagellation I think I might have been wrong about being wrong.

Part of the problem is that while livestock could be fed on waste and rangelands, ever less of the meat we eat in the rich nations is produced this way. Over the past week, a row has erupted between chefs and pig farmers over the issue of swill. The chefs point out – as Simon Fairlie does – that it is ridiculous to feed pigs on soya grown at vast environmental cost in the Amazon instead of allowing them to dispose of our mountain of waste food. Feeding pigs on swill has been forbidden since the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001.

The farmers respond that the risks of spreading disease are too great and that pigs fed on waste grow more slowly than pigs fed on soya. I side with the chefs: I believe that a society capable of identifying the Higgs boson should be able to sterilise waste food. But I suspect that they’re not going to win: the industry and its regulators are firmly against them.

I should have seen it coming, but I watched in horror as the meat industry used my article to justify the consumption of all meat, however it was produced, rather than just the meat raised on food that humans can’t eat. A potential for good is used to justify harm.

While researching my book Feral, I also came to see extensive livestock rearing as a lot less benign than I – or Simon Fairlie – had assumed. The damage done to biodiversity, to water catchments and carbon stores by sheep and cattle grazing in places unsuitable for arable farming (which means, by and large, the hills) is out of all proportion to the amount of meat produced. Wasteful and destructive as feeding grain to livestock is, ranching appears to be even worse.

The belief that there is no conflict between this farming and arable production also seems to be unfounded: by preventing the growth of trees and other deep vegetation in the hills and by compacting the soil, grazing animals cause a cycle of flash floods and drought, sporadically drowning good land downstream and reducing the supply of irrigation water.

So can I follow Al Gore, and do it better than I did before? Well I intend at least to keep cutting my consumption of animal products, and to see how far I can go. It’s not easy, especially for a person as greedy and impetuous as I am, but there has to be a way.

http://www.monbiot.com

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Back to the conversation with Peter M. about fasting.  He spoke enthusiastically about Dr. Mosley who one quickly discovers,

Dr. Michael Mosley.
Dr. Michael Mosley.

Michael J. Mosley (born 22 March 1957) is a British journalist, medical doctor, producer and TV presenter. He is probably best known as a television presenter of programmes on biology and medicine, particularly his series on the workings of the human body, Inside the Human Body and his regular appearances as the friendly medic on The One Show.

He was interviewed by Steve Wright of BBC Radio 2 back in January, 2012 and that interview is on YouTube:

That BBC Horizon programme is no longer available to watch but a 4-minute extract may be seen here:

Inevitably, Dr. Mosley has a website Fast Diet that is packed full of valuable information.

So just as soon as we have the water back to the house and I can have a long, hot shower I intend to adopt the 5:2 diet.

Behaving like animals

A fascinating point of view of the relationship between humans and animals.

Jean and I were at our regular gardening college class yesterday.  It was all about the growing of vegetables.  OK, I can hear you thinking, what on earth does that have to do with today’s topic?  Simply because the tutor, Cayci V., mused at the start of her lesson how gardeners were great animal lovers and then proceeded to list all the animals she and her husband kept at their home in Globe, about an hour from Payson, Arizona.  Cayci admitted to having 5 dogs, 15 cats, 2 emus, 2 llamas, numerous chickens.  She also had 2 bison that recently died having been poisoned by Oleander cuttings.  Anyway, to the article.

recent article on the BBC News Magazine was about the need for humans to have contact with animals.  It was presented by John Gray who is a political philosopher and author of the book False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism which  argues that free market globalization is unstable and is in the process of collapsing!  H’mmm.  John is also the author of the book Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, a book that was described by the British Observer newspaper thus,

There is unlikely to be a more provocative or more compelling book published this year than Straw Dogs. A long-time scourge of the delusions of global capitalism, John Gray is one of the most consistently interesting and unpredictable thinkers in Britain. He is unpredictable because, unlike most political commentators, he never ceases to question the underlying assumptions of his own beliefs and prejudices.

Anyway, I’m at risk of digressing, as many of you will regularly notice!  The article by John Gray on the BBC News website was published over a couple of weeks ago and, therefore, I feel it not too great a copyright sin to reproduce it in full on Learning from Dogs.  It’s a fascinating article.

Why does the human animal need contact with something other than itself, asks John Gray.

Many years ago an eminent philosopher told me he’d persuaded his cat to become a vegan. To begin with I thought he was joking. Knowing a bit about cats, I couldn’t take seriously the idea that they’d give up their predatory ways.

“You must have provided the cat with some pretty powerful arguments,” I said jokingly. “It wasn’t as difficult as you may think,” he replied rather sternly.

He never explained exactly how the transformation was achieved. Was his cat presented with other cats that had converted to veganism – feline role models, so to speak? Had he prepared special delicacies for his cat – snacks that looked like mice but were made of soya, perhaps?

Beginning to suspect that the philosopher might after all be serious, I asked if the cat went out. He told me it did. That answered a part of my puzzlement. Evidently the cat was supplementing its vegan diet by hunting, natural behaviour for cats after all.

I was still a little perplexed though. Cats tend to bring their hunting trophies back home and I wondered how the philosopher had missed seeing them. Had the cat hidden them out of sight? Or were the cat’s trophies prominently displayed but disregarded by the philosopher, marks of atavistic feline behaviour that would eventually disappear as the cat progressed towards a new kind of meat-free life?

The conversation tapered off and I never did get to the bottom of the mystery. The dialogue did set me thinking. Evidently the philosopher thought of the cat as a less evolved version of himself that, with a lot of help, could eventually share his values. But the idea that animals are inferior versions of humans is fundamentally misguided.

Each of the millions of species that evolution has thrown up is different and particular, and the animals with which we share the planet aren’t stages on the way to something else – ourselves. There’s no evolutionary hierarchy with humans perched at the top. The value of animals – or as I’d prefer to say other animals – comes from being what they are. And it’s the fact that they are so different from humans that makes contact with them so valuable to us.

Human qualities

Some philosophers – not many it must be admitted – have in the past understood this. The 16th Century French essayist, Michel de Montaigne, loved cats because he knew he would never be able to enter their minds. “When I play with my cat,” he asked, “how do I know she is not amusing herself with me rather than I with her?”

Montaigne didn’t want his animal companions to be mirrors of himself, he wanted them to be a window from which he could look out from himself and from the human world.

Never more than partly domesticated, cats are never fundamentally humanised. Montaigne found them lovable for precisely this reason, it wasn’t that he was suggesting we should emulate cats. Wiser than the philosopher who believed he’d converted his cat to veganism, he understood that the good life means different things for animals with different natures. What he questioned was the idea that one kind of life, the kind humans alone can live, is always best.

It’s true that cats don’t have some of the capacities we associate with morality. They seem to lack empathy, the capacity of identifying with the emotions of others. This may explain what has often been described as cruelty in their behaviour, toying with captured mice for example. Attributing cruelty to cats seems a clear case of anthropomorphism – the error of projecting distinctively human qualities onto other species.

Cats are not known to display compassion, but neither do they inflict pain and death on each other in order to gratify some impulse or ideal of their own. There are no feline inquisitors or suicide bombers. Pedants will say that this is because cats lack the intellectual equipment that is required to formulate an idea of truth or justice. I prefer to think that they simply decline to be enrolled in fanaticism, another peculiarly human trait.

Dogs seem to be capable of showing human-like emotions of shame, but though they are more domesticated they still remain different from us. And I think it’s their differences from us, as much as their similarities, that makes them such good companions.

Whatever you feel about cats and dogs, it seems clear that the human animal needs contact with something other than itself. For religious people this need may be satisfied by God, even if the God with whom they commune seems too often all-too-human. For many landscape gives a sense of release from the human world, even if the land has been groomed and combed by humans for generations, as it has in England.

The contemplation of field, wood and water intermingling with wind and sky still has the power to liberate the spirit from an unhealthy obsession with human affairs. Poets such as Edward Thomas and Ted Hughes have turned to the natural world in an attempt to escape a purely human view of things. Since they remained human and used human language in the attempt, it’s obvious that they couldn’t altogether succeed. It’s also obvious that searching for a way of looking at the world that’s not simply human expresses a powerful human impulse.

The most intense example of this search I know is that recorded by John Baker in his book The Peregrine. First published in 1967 and recently reissued, the book is seemingly a piece of nature writing which slowly reveals itself as the testament of someone struggling to shed the point of view of a human observer.

Renewed humanity

Baker records his pursuit of two pairs of peregrines, which had arrived to hunt in the part of East Anglia where he lived. Alone he followed the birds for over 10 years. Concentrating the decade-long quest into a single year in order to recount it in the book, he writes of the peregrine: “Wherever he goes, this winter, I will follow him. I will share the fear, and the exaltation, and the boredom of the hunting life.”

He tells us that he came late to the love of birds. “For years I saw them only as a tremor on the edge of vision. They know suffering and joy in simple states not possible for us. Their lives quicken and warm to a pulse our hearts can never reach. They race to oblivion.”

In time the human observer seemed to be transmuted into the inhuman hawk. “In a lair of shadow,” Baker writes, “the peregrine was crouching, watching me… We live, in these days in the open, the same ecstatic fearful life. We shun men.”

Note how Baker switches suddenly from describing the hawk watching him to describing how “we” flee from humans. Baker found a sensation of freedom in the feeling that he and the hawk were fused into one. Sharing in the “exaltation and serenity” of the birds’ life he could imagine that he’d shed his human identity, at least for a time, and could view the world through hawks’ eyes.

Of course he didn’t take this to be literal truth. He knew he couldn’t in the end be anything other than human. Yet he still found the pursuit of the peregrine deeply rewarding, for it opened up a temporary exit from the introspective human world.

John Baker’s devotion to the peregrine hadn’t enabled him to see things as birds see them. What it had done was to enable him to see the world through his own eyes, but in a different way. His descriptions of the landscape of East Anglia are exact and faithful to fact. But they reveal that long-familiar countryside in a light in which it looks as strange and exotically beautiful as anything in Africa or the Himalayas. The pursuit of a bird had revitalised his human perceptions.

What birds and animals offer us is not confirmation of our sense of having an exalted place in some sort of cosmic hierarchy, it’s admission into a larger scheme of things, where our minds are no longer turned in on themselves. Unless it has contact with something other than itself, the human animal soon becomes stale and mad. By giving us the freedom to see the world afresh, birds and animals renew our humanity.

A fascinating, beautiful and incredibly thought-provoking essay.