Saturday, 25 December 2010
Here's a link to a wonderful christmas post by Ben of Not One Sparrow. Enjoy. :)
Peace and goodwill to you all. :)
Monday, 1 November 2010
I've perhaps become a bit preoccupied with other things of late, and whilst I've been plodding along nicely with my own veganism I've forgotten about the fact that I'm a part of something bigger.
On 'Sunday Morning Live' yesterday they had a debate about killing animals for sport (triggered by the news of the shooting of a giant red stag last week). What was interesting about this discussion is that out of it came an awareness of the potentially hypocritical nature of being against hunting for sport but then for the eating of animals for pleasure.
If you're in the UK, you can watch the programme on BBC iPlayer (the debate starts at about 31 minutes in):
Poet Benjamin Zephaniah does us proud by representing a vegan point of view, as does Brian May from Queen who they manage to get on the phone (what an absolute legend!).
The contradictory nature of being a meat-eater who is against blood sport came from the views expressed by Christina Rees (General Synod of the Church of England).
When asked by the host, Susanna Reid, 'What is the difference between killing for food and hunting for sport?', Christiana replied, 'Well, if we eat it for food, then it has a purpose.' What she failed to recognise is that that purpose is none other than our own greed and pleasure, which is exactly what motivates hunting. Susanna responds by picking up on this point, asking 'Is there not a purpose in hunting for sport? There's an entertainment purpose...' and Rees fails again to make the comparison between the two, and says 'No, no, it's [hunting is] only for the benefit of people...'
Her argument becomes even more ridiculous when she admits that we do have urges to shoot at something, but that we can satisfy these urges in a way that does not cause suffering (for example, by shooting clay pigeons or taking up archery). If only she applied this logic to her own appetite!
Brian May had a really balanced and fair approach to those who felt compassion towards the stag, but who still ate meat:
Susanna: 'A lot of the people who might object to what happened to Emperor the stag will carry on eating meat. What do you think of those people?'
Brian: 'I think if you're starving and you have to kill an animal to survive, maybe you can justify that. But there really is absolutely no necessity to be eating meat at all.'
Susanna: 'Do you think it's hypocritical then, for people who eat meat, to find this abhorrent?'
Brian: 'I think, actually, no, not necessarily, I think there's a line along which we travel, and I've been travelling along it for a long time. I actually did eat meat for a very long time...at the moment I still consume milk and cheese and stuff, but I'm really beginning to doubt if that's okay as well, because that also causes an immense amount of suffering in the world, and as factory farming increases, I think you have to ask yourself these questions more and more and more. I do not think we should be doing this; it would be much more efficient for the planet for us to be eating non-animals.'
Brian May basically sums it up by arguing that it is indefensible to end an animal's life 'for fun', and this is what it comes down to when we think about diet, clothing, and lifetstyle. The way we live is ultimately an expression of what we value.
Christina later says 'We're all agreed, that even though we're not in the same position about eating animals, that killing an animal for sport is not alright. I expect, fast-forward several hundred years, and we will have found a way to eat in a way that does not involve eating animals.'
I have news for you Christina: We've already found that way, and it's called veganism! Wake up, for goodness sake.
I was very pleased to watch this debate, because I actually felt like - for once - veganism came across well to those watching (it does help when you have a rock legend fighting your corner...)
A word from Gandhi to finish (because it's world vegan day and I'm feeling the need to quote):
'It ill becomes us to invoke in our daily prayers the blessings of God, the Compassionate, if we in turn will not practice elementary compassion towards our fellow creatures.'
Amen to that.
Peace and love.
Sunday, 31 October 2010
Apologies to you all for the massive lack of posts over the summer months. I have absolutely no excuse for this, and can only hope that a few of you are still following the blog and will be interested in the news I bring: It’s about yummy things!
My husband and I went to St. Ives in Cornwall recently, and happened upon (oh alright, we found it using Google*) a lovely little veggie restaurant that was a real treat to visit: The Bean Inn. It looked a bit weird and not very restaurant-y from the outside (I am convinced this is a trademark of vegetarian restaurants! Having the courage to walk through the door is almost like an initiation), but inside it was absolutely lovely: Fairy lights, cosy tables, candles, and above all, superb service. And did I mention the chocolate mudpie?! (I am still in disbelief that this dessert is vegan...)
Because the food was so yummy we decided to buy the recipe book, which turned out to also be a lovely account of how the restaurant came to be. You can buy the book from their website, as well as finding out general info about the restaurant itself:
Perhaps it’s just me, but discoveries like these make my holiday; I already have so many special memories of veggie restaurants I’ve visited with my husband. When we’re away, finding the local vegetarian restaurant becomes almost like a pilgrimage!
I hope that one day veggie restaurants will be the norm, and compassionate cooking will be what society demands. Until then, I’ll enjoy supporting those people who share my belief that the way we eat should be reflective of our values.
I’d like to open a vegan restaurant myself one day; that’s the dream!
Stay vegan and green and chocolate mudpie-ed out.
Autumnal love to you all.
* Using veggie restaurant search engine Veggie Heaven.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
'If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.'
St. Francis of Assisi.
Friday, 7 May 2010
Friday, 30 April 2010
I got into a discussion with a friend recently about my veganism, and he said to me: ‘I don’t mean this in a horrible way, but what you’re doing doesn’t make any difference. It’s not going to change anything.’ And then he just stared at me with a ‘sorry to rain on your eco-friendly parade’ kind of expression.
Ouch. And here I was thinking individuals could change the world. (I’m sure that’s what I learnt in A-Level History...)
For a moment, I imagined myself from his perspective. Does he really look at all of the changes I’ve made in my lifestyle and dismiss them as pointless? Does he think that my passion for this issue is simply a waste of time and energy? Does he think of me as a naive little do-gooder who's unaware of the fact that for every pot of houmous I buy there’s someone out there buying two packets of beef burgers?
I think he thought his comment was akin to telling a 5 year old on Christmas Eve that Santa wasn’t real; it’s not a nice task, but it has to be done. There aren’t going to be many presents this year, so it’s time for the cold hard truth...
Well, as much as I appreciate my friend's honesty, I couldn't disagree more with his opinion, and if anyone needs a reality check, it's him, not me.
So many people believe that we lack the power to usher in positive change. They think that we have no choice but to go along with the masses, failing to recognise that we are the masses. The fact that we have the opportunity to make a choice that can change things, a choice that can ease suffering and bring about compassion and mercy, is a truly amazing thing. We seem to have lost our sense of joy in the fact that we can make that choice, and have also forgotten the huge responsibility that comes with it. Underestimating our worth as individuals and the difference that we can make to the world does a great injustice to ourselves and others. Our agency is a gift that we should grab with both hands.
As a vegan, it’s easy to feel disheartened. After all, once you start seeking the truth about what goes on in factory farming and animal testing, you build up more knowledge which leads to a greater sense of conviction that what you’re doing is right, resulting in you growing all the more frustrated by the ignorance (often wilful) of those around you. Not everyone goes searching for this information, even though they know it’s there to be found. And even if you bring it to them, it’s difficult to inspire in someone else the desire to find out that truth for themselves, to get them to rethink their worldview, and (hardest of all!) to change the contents of their shopping basket. When faced with the horrendous truth about the scale of animal suffering in our world today, I feel pangs of guilt about the fact that I don’t do more to convince other people to go vegan. But experience has told me that the passion we have for ending this injustice simply cannot be inspired in someone else by winning an argument. We can plant the seed, we can answer questions, we can be patient and loving when talking with them, but we cannot make others change. Trite as it sounds, it has to come from within.
So many vegans I have spoken to have felt frustrated and hurt by the dismissive or judgemental attitude they've received from friends and family in response to their veganism, and I know that many people that read this blog don’t even know another vegan personally. That isolation can be really hard.
Throughout the Bible there are references to fact that doing the right thing often isn’t the easy thing, and that we will experience difficult times when we follow our moral convictions. It’s tough. But I sincerely believe that we are part of something huge. We might feel like we’re just drops in the ocean, but eventually the tide will change. Every decision we make to buy compassionately is a victory. Every time we choose a vegan option at a restaurant, we are sending out a message . Every time someone finds out that we are vegan, we are showing that it is a choice on offer to them, and that they don’t have to accept mass scale animal cruelty as a fact of life.
Even though it’s easy to feel disheartened by how few vegans there are in the world (comparatively), we have to remember that we are not responsible for the decisions or views of others, only for our own. We have to do what we believe is right, even if it seems like we’re fighting a losing battle. As soon as we start thinking that we can’t make a difference, that our moral choices don’t matter, that we as people don’t have a say, that’s when I think we’ve really lost something.
I take a lot of strength from that fact that we're all in this boat (made from recycled materials) together, and I’d just like to say thank you so much for the comments and thoughts people have contributed to the blog so far – it’s so uplifting to know that people are reading and to feel the support of the vegan and Christian community. I am sending you all a virtual vegan cupcake (chocolate, obviously!).
God bless you all.
Saturday, 13 March 2010
10. Organic Fairtrade Coffee. There’s nothing quite like a hot sugary cup of coffee whilst watching something suitably trashy on telly, and when it’s organic and fairtrade, you can’t really go wrong.
8. A Cold Bottle of Becks. I’m a girl that likes her beer, which can be a bit of pain when you become a vegan because so many beers (and wines) use animal products in their refining processes. But Becks, according to vegan forums online, is suitable for vegans, and you can be pretty sure they’ll have it at every bar you go to. If I’m feeling indulgent, I’ll drink one whilst in a nice hot bubble bath. It’s hard work being a vegan, you know! ;)
3. Being a kid and making Chocolate Cornflake Cakes. Melt some organic fairtrade dark chocolate in a bowl (check it's vegan, most are). Mix in some organic cornflakes. Put into mini cake cases and then into the fridge. Organic vegan fairtrade joy! (And yes, licking the bowl in these circumstances is definitely the ethical thing to do...we vegans are very against waste. Especially chocolate waste.)
2. So Organic. This online organic superstore is an excellent resource for those switching over to vegan products, because you can get everything you need from shampoo to blusher. The service I have received from them has always been incredibly fast and professional, so I’d happily recommend them.
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
But, (note this post’s lack of an accompanying illustration...), this entry is going to be a bit different, because never before I have felt the frustration I’ve experienced these past few days. It has become apparent to me that the majority of Christians (and for that matter, the majority of people) will argue almost anything – anything, offering the most ridiculous explanations one could imagine – to defend the fact that they eat meat. They know the horrendous cruelty of the industry, the impact on the environment, and on our fellow human beings. They know that God calls us to be compassionate, loving, and selfless. They know that we are stewards of creation, and also that the Bible reinforces a message of peace and mercy and justice over and over and over again. And yet, they defend their meat-eating to the last. I cannot express in words, as a member of both the Christian community and the human race, just how sad and angry this makes me.
If I was to talk about issues such as homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, the sex trade, domestic violence, famine, disease, or war, people would support me in my passion for trying to ease the suffering of others, and for trying to expose the truth behind these issues. But start talking about animal cruelty, about factory farming, about the environmental impact of meat production, about the way in which third world hunger is being worsened by the movement of grain out of countries to feed livestock instead of people, and no one wants to listen. In fact, they will actually argue against my passion for this issue. They will try and somehow argue that eating factory farmed meat is okay, despite knowing the incomprehensible cruelty involved.
This is not a discussion about whether eating meat is in itself right or wrong, it is a discussion about cruelty towards God’s creatures, living animals that feel pain, feel fear, and have the capacity to suffer. It is a discussion about the effect on our environment, and the injustice of food distribution. It is a discussion about the need for compassion.
And yet most people I have spoken to claim not to care, or make childish jokes that would be inexcusably offensive if I was discussing something like cruelty towards children.
It’s something I’ve struggled with repeatedly over the past few months, and I've come to the conclusion that the reason for this response lies in the fact that the solution to the problem of cruelty in the animal-industry is so incredibly simple: People need to transition to a vegan diet, and stop buying products tested on animals. We have the amazing ability to begin a revolution, to change the way people view life, and we can begin this peaceful campaign by doing something as simple as changing our shopping habits and diet; the solution is literally being handed to us on a plate. If people stopped buying meat and dairy, animals would stop being tortured and slaughtered on a mass scale. It really is that simple. But maybe people find this simplicity threatening, as it makes changing their lifestyle a reality as opposed to a theoretical response. It demands that individuals change, that they sacrifice a few foods they enjoy, and that they check labels before they buy things. And for some reason, a reason which I just can’t understand, people refuse to make this effort. This is what it really comes down to, and this is the tragedy of the whole situation.
I watched this 5 minute interview with the director of ‘Earthlings’, an award winning documentary about animal cruelty (which is considered the definitive animal rights film and is nick-named ‘the vegan-maker’), and it really brought home to me our capacity for violence and evil. Never is this capacity more evident than in how we treat those who are weaker than us, those who can’t speak out, those who are completely at our mercy. I have yet to watch 'Earthlings', but my instinctive reaction whilst watching the brief clip at the end of this interview was a heart-felt cry of ‘God, forgive us’. The enormity of the crime we are committing against God’s creation, and the pain and suffering we are inflicting on each individual animal that is treated as nothing more than a product for our consumption or use, is just beyond human comprehension.
‘We must not refuse to see with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies.’ This has really stayed with me, and whilst I usually tend to avoid graphic images of animal cruelty because I find them so distressing to watch, I am beginning to appreciate that they have an important place in getting people to see with their eyes what words just cannot communicate.
As Christians, who believe that there is wonder and value in everything to which God has given life, how can we feel anything but sorrow and righteous anger at our fellow creatures being treated this way? Animals have no voice, they cannot defend themselves, and they are entirely at our mercy. According to the Bible, we have been entrusted with them. Anyone can see that that trust is being abused most horrendously.
Throughout history we can see injustice and prejudice being fought against by the few, with people giving their lives to fight racism and sexism. And all we have to do to fight the speciesism that is hardening our hearts towards the beauty and diversity of God’s creation is change our shopping habits. The victory that could be ours is so great, so beautiful, and of such magnitude, that I can’t understand why we aren’t fighting for it with all our strength, and as a community. St. Francis of Assisi said that 'If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.' I firmly believe than in fighting for the rights of those weaker than ourselves we are fighting for the essence of our own humanity. Leo Tolstoy also made this link, writing that:
Our hearts seem to have been hardened towards suffering in all its forms, but especially towards the suffering of those animals intended for meat production. Those who eat meat do worse than ignore the violence and suffering caused by factory farming; they are complicit it in. It could not happen without the constant supply of money that funds this mass cruelty, and despite knowledge of this fact, people still continue to vote with the pound and keep the industry going.
Flesh eating is simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act which is contrary to moral feeling: killing. By killing, man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity, that of sympathy and pity towards living creatures like himself, and by violating his own feelings becomes cruel.
In a sermon on the World Day of Prayer for Animals on the 4th October 1986, Rev. Dr. John Austin Baker, Bishop of Salisbury, said that:
‘the saddest of all fates, surely, is to have lost that sense of the holiness of life altogether; that we commit the blasphemy of bringing thousands of lives to a cruel and terrifying death or of making those lives a living death -- and feel nothing ... It is in the battery shed that we find the parallel with Auschwitz ... To shut your mind, heart and imagination from the sufferings of others is to begin slowly, but inexorably, to die. Those Christians who close their minds and hearts to the cause of animal welfare, and the evils it seeks to combat, are ignoring the Fundamental spiritual teachings of Christ himself.’
The Church should be leading the way on this issue, and yet, despite the biblical support for a vegetarian diet (not to mention the fact that this is an issue about cruelty, suffering and injustice, which we shouldn’t need to think twice about), most Christians are still supporting the meat industry and refusing to embrace a more peaceful way of living. Why are so many people closing their minds and hearts to this issue?
The urgent and pressing nature of animal and human suffering makes taking the 'softly softly' approach seem hopelessly inefficient. But at the very core of veganism is a philosophy of non-violence, and for me as a Christian it is just as important to be gentle with others as it is to be clear and strong in my faith and beliefs. Throughout history there has always been a battle against the majority when fighting for an oppressed group without a voice, and as vegans we must keep our spirits up, keep fighting for what we know to be right, and keep speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, without losing faith in the hope that eventually people will begin to listen.
Every creature has a right to live out its God-given behaviours and enjoy its time on earth. We are all stewards, and I believe that we will all be held accountable for how we have cared for what is so precious.
When feeling overwhelmed at the enormity of the journey ahead, I always think that it's important to focus on the positive things that have been achieved along the way. Today I watched some videos that reminded me just how gloriously unique and precious that these animals are that we are fighting to save. There’s nothing quite like watching a lamb frolic to cheer yourself up! These are stories of rescue and hope, and we should cling onto them as we press forward.
Billy's Story: A Calf's Life is Saved by Compassionate Act.
Angelo's Story: Lamb born in slaughterhouse-bound truck delivered to safety.
I hope that these make you smile, and maybe make you consider redefining your relationship with creation if you haven’t already done so. We can each play such an incredible part in preserving something beautiful. Let's never give up hope that things can change.
Psalm 145: 9
The Lord is good to all;
He has compassion on all he has made.
peace and love. xx
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Here is a link to the Vegan Organic Network, in case you’re interested in their work:
You can read a discussion about the pros and cons of organic farming on ‘The Vegan Forum’ website. Clearly vegans are divided about this issue, and are unsure about what is the most ethical way to proceed. Eating organic entails a method of farming that involves the use of animal by-products in fertilizer, and thus arguably supports the very industry that vegans work so hard to avoid. However, not eating organic entails supporting farming methods that are harmful to the environment, and possibly human health.
And also find more posts on veganic and organic food in general here:
When I rang Abel and Cole (the company who deliver our weekly organic veg box) about this issue, I was told by their representative that I would need to hold the line while she asked around the office for more information.
‘Hold on a minute,’ said Katie, the woman who answered the phone, ‘I’ll just go and ask my colleague, as he’s a vegan and he’s likely to know a lot more about this.’
‘Thanks, that’d be great.’
Five minutes later, Katie returns to the phone.
‘Hi, thanks for waiting. Okay, so I’ve spoken to my vegan friend, and unfortunately he says that you just have to get over it, really, that it’s impossible to avoid in this instance as animal by-products are involved in almost all farming, and you just need to move on. And he is a committed vegan, so...’
‘Right. Okay. It just seems a bit sad that, as a vegan, I can’t buy organic veg that haven’t been fertilized with blood and bone.’
‘Yes, it is strange isn’t it?’
Despite not really knowing much about it, the representative that dealt with my call was incredibly helpful, and asked for my email address so that she could send more information to me once she’d called suppliers. I asked if she'd forward my concern about the issue, just to reinforce the fact that vegans care about this, and that it should be something that’s on the company’s radar. I hung up the phone feeling a bit defeated. My only vegan option would be to grow my own ‘veganic’ veg, which isn’t really possible for a student living in a second floor flat in the middle of Leamington Spa.
So, where do I go from here? I felt like collapsing under the weight of the impossibility of being a ‘pure’ vegan, of trying to eliminate my involvement in factory farming. Now I have to worry about my vegetables as well?! I have so much to learn, and my naivety about the extent to which factory farming permeates our way of life becomes more apparent to me each day.
Feeling overwhelmed, I reminded myself of the Vegan Society statement:
As far as possible and practicable. I need to remind myself that sometimes I simply have to compromise; we live in a broken, flawed, and violent world, and by being a vegan I am choosing to live against the grain of what is considered ‘the norm’ in western society. I could go and live in the countryside and grow my own ‘veganic’ veg, and perhaps in some people’s eyes that would make me a better vegan. But, I strongly feel that it is more important that vegans are dispersed throughout society as opposed to congregating together in an ‘alternative’ community that operates independently, as the latter just wouldn't be an effective way to usher in change. It’s true that being a vegan can be an incredibly isolating experience; at the party, you’ll probably be the only one that cares about whether or not there’s a ‘V’ on the back of the wine bottle, and that can be frustrating. (I don’t realise the extent to which I experience this isolation until I go to a vegetarian restaurant and feel an immediate kinship with everyone there in a way that always surprises me.)
I have to operate in a world that on the whole views animals as factory parts, as opposed to the living, breathing, feeling creatures that God created them to be. Because of this fact, it is impossible for me to come anywhere close to being a ‘pure’ vegan. And what does that even mean, anyway? And furthermore, what does it mean for me as a Christian?
I feel that it’s important for both Christians and vegans (and of course, Christian vegans!) to constantly guard against a legalism that will ultimately cripple us. The load is simply too great to bear. Jesus said: ‘For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Everything must happen in the context of God’s love and grace. We can make compassionate choices that change the world, but we cannot control other people or the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Whilst we must never underestimate the influence we can have on this earth, and should always hope for a move towards living in a way that honours God, each other, and this beautiful planet, we must also be realistic and forgiving.
Sometimes, my quest to live in line with what I believe regarding veganism becomes a goal unto itself, and I lose sight of the bigger picture. This is when I am in danger of becoming too legalistic, and judgemental of myself and others. Jesus called us into freedom, and yet sometimes I feel like I’m living in a labyrinth rigged with moral mines waiting to explode under my feet. This should not be what living out my faith is about.
Whilst being a vegan is incredibly important to me, and something I put a great deal of time, effort and emotion into, it is also something I need to keep in check when it comes to how I view myself. Freedom comes from realising that my identity is completely shaped by who I am in God’s eyes, and I need to constantly remind myself of the crucial importance of this. I need to appreciate that there will be times when I have to compromise when it comes to my veganism, because I live in an imperfect world with people who do not share my values or beliefs. This doesn’t mean that I have failed in any way, or that I should feel like it’s hopeless and there’s no point in carrying on. As a Christian, for me, being vegan is not the goal; it is part of the journey.
Peace and love.