Archive for the ‘Veganspiration’ Category

The Fake Meat Race

It is looking increasingly likely that the first fake meat could be on our plates within the next couple of years. Scientists are being driven to create commercially viable artificial meat by 30th June 2012 due to a cash prize of $1 million being offered by PETA.

The rules for this are simple. The meat must be a chicken substitute, and must be created in vitro (essentially this must literally be chicken meat grown in a test tube). The ‘meat’ must be grown in a quantity that is sufficient to be commercially viable and can be sold at a reasonable price in at least ten US states.

The taste must also be indistinguishable from real chicken, and a panel of PETA judges will be putting it through a taste test. The creation of a competitive in vitro meat will, hopefully, do a huge service to animals which are grown for food.

The meal of the future?

I say ‘hopefully’ because it concerns me that there is already a stigma against vegetarian meats, and I somehow doubt that in vitro meat will tackle this. Sure, I can see why omnivores may not enjoy tofu or Quorn (which has released its first vegan burger in the US), but well made seitan is pretty close to meat – I know I’ve had to double-check sometimes.

I’ve given some of my omnivorous friends seitan before and they’ve loved it. Yet they wouldn’t buy it over meat. Why? Because it’s ‘unnatural and weird.’ As a vegan, I can’t see what’s weirder than preferring animal flesh to a grain-based protein, but the point stands. And I think both vegans and omnivores alike will unfortunately view in vitro meat as weird and gross. I therefore worry that animal suffering will not necessarily be lessened significantly by the creation of in vitro meat.

However, I am possibly just being cynical, there is probably a market out there (perhaps meat-craving vegan coeliacs?), I just think PETA may be optimistic about its size. The other possible benefit lies in the ability to cheaply mass produce meat for the growing population of the world with a potentially far smaller CO2 footprint than factory farming. Sadly, however, this is not mentioned in the remit for obtaining the prize of $1 million, and I believe it should have been one of the key points. There is little point in creating in vitro meat if the environmental damage is equivalent to or even worse than factory farmed meat – we are yet to see the environmental effects of test tube meat.

We shall have to see what can be offered up before we can really assess the benefit of in meatro. Dutch scientist, Mark Post, has already created small pieces of beef, and is looking to develop the first in vitro beef burger by the end of the year. This excludes him from PETA’s prize, as chicken is required, but nevertheless Post is allegedly getting fairly close to creating the first test tube burger.

Mark Post is looking to create the first test tube burger by the end of the year

Post has also been heavily support by both the Dutch government (which is definitely a pleasant surprise) and an anonymous donor of €250,000. The donor said that they were motivated by ‘care for the environment, food for the world, and interest in life-transforming technologies.’

Another team in the Netherlands are experimenting with stem cells from animal embryos. They are making slow progress, with Bernard Roelen, a team member, stating that their results could be ‘a decade away’ and that they ‘need research money.’

This has been echoed by Professor Julie Gold, who is also working on a similar project in Sweden. She stated that ‘there is very little funding – what it needs is a crazy rich person.’

Vladimir Mironov, an ex-employee of NASA, has also managed to create pieces of test-tube animal tissue. His current problem is that the tissue is tasteless, lacking in texture, and is simply not very authentic. However, he is excited by the prospect of being able to grow ‘any animal’s tissue’ using in vitro, and even ‘milk, cheese, and eggs.’

Whilst it is looking unlikely that any of these scientists will manage to obtain PETA’s prize, in vitro meat could potentially be a normality in the future if it is done right (and I believe marketing it correctly will play a big part). PETA’s pot of money could actually be relatively insignificant if the products are successful, considering the market for animal products is vast.

However, you may be reading this with a few concerns about the in meatro race. I know I have a few.

Firstly, these products will rely on meat grown from stem cells. Now, whilst the degree of animal suffering is drastically reduced by using stem cells to grow meat rather than taking meat from a live animal, the stem cells themselves must be taken from an animal in the first place. In this regard, lab grown meat is still meat in its essence – it is still an animal product. As a vegan, someone who, by definition, does not consume or use animal products, I still find the use of animal stem cells to be ethically negative.

Should vegans stick to the tofu?

Secondly, as far as I’m concerned there are three major reasons for going vegan. For me, they are in this order:

  1. Limiting animal suffering.
  2. Protecting the environment.
  3. Benefitting my own health.

So, by eating in vitro meat you…

  1. Will drastically lower animal suffering compared to meat consumption (although, as discussed above, perhaps not avoid it completely).
  2. Will hopefully limit harm done to the environment (although, as discussed earlier, we cannot be sure about this yet).
  3. Will not benefit your health.

Meat in the diet is not a good thing, and with in vitro meat comes all the negatives of animal flesh itself – cholesterol, saturated fat, acidity. In fact, with this breakthrough creating the possibility of feeding meat to parts of the world which currently do not eat much animal protein, we are introducing a potentially negative force. As The China Study observed, we could essentially introduce cultures which lack meat in their diet to a host of problems. Similarly, vegans who choose to eat in vitro meat could also be losing one of the major reasons (and for some the major reason) for actually following the diet.

BUT! And this is a big, or potentially huge but…

It’s a big but and I cannot lie, you other brothers can’t de… wait, wrong kind of but.

Patrick Brown and a team at Stanford University, and another team based in Germany, are currently busy perfecting an artificial meat out of vegetable proteins. This is not entirely dissimilar from seitan, but wheat is not the primary ingredient.

And before you start thinking ‘oh great, another fake meat product…’ this is set to be different. Allegedly, the prototypes created so far have mirrored meat for taste, texture, and nutrition. Whether it will be more successful than seitan at converting omnivores could rely on these factors.

Patrick Brown states ‘we have a class of products that totally rocks, and cannot be distinguished from the animal-based product it replaces, even by hardcore foodies.’

Brown has also been through the process of growing stem-cell meat in a lab, but found the cost barrier to be too high to overcome. Mark Post has even shown support for this work, despite essentially competing against Brown. He has said ‘I think we agree on if there is a vegetable-derived product that can take away the craving of a human being for meat, then that would be preferable.’

Dr Patrick Brown discusses the need for cheap meat alternatives to sway consumers towards a vegan diet:

Meanwhile, Florian Wild of the German team has stated that a factory is now up and running to create 150 pounds an hour of this stuff. She has stated ‘our goal is to develop a vegetable surrogate for meat that is both juicy and fibrous, but that also has a pleasant flavor. The product should have a long shelf life, it should not be more expensive than meat, and be suitable for vegetarians and allergy sufferers.’

The German team will be demoing their product at the end of this month in Cologne, at the Anuga FoodTec trade fair. Needless to say, it should be on the market soon.

Little is known about the method outside of those working on this process, but it involves boiling plant proteins at a high temperature, and then allowing them to cool. During cooling they will bond to create a meat-like substance.

What’s most exciting for me about these products is not just the taste aspect, but the dedication the teams have actually shown to the vegan cause.

Patrick Brown actually decided to dedicate his life to the issue of creating a vegan meat a few years back. He has described animal farming as ‘by far the biggest environmental catastrophe.’

Whilst PETA’s prize is attractive and has caused a number of scientists to work towards creating lab grown meat, Patrick Brown is working on creating a viable meat alternative because it is important to him and his values. To dedicate your scientific career to creating such a product shows a sense of integrity, and whilst it looks like PETA’s prize may not actually go claimed this year, I look forward to sitting down and tucking in to the authentic vegan meat created by the authentic vegan dude, rather than the lab grown piece of cow grown by the new millionaire scientist.

Still, what’s your thoughts? Would you eat lab-grown meat? Or perhaps you’re someone who detests the taste of meat anyway? And will this new vegan faux meat please vegans and omnivores?

The Superior Human

Samuel McAnallen’s new film,The Superior Human? is the latest to question long-standing humanistic beliefs about humanity’s role on this planet, and mankind’s relationship with the other beings that it shares said planet with.

Whilst I am deeply sceptical of the humanist doctrine as it stands (despite being an atheist myself), my issues lie at the core beliefs that truth and reason are all-solving, all-powerful forces (for those interested, John Gray has written a fantastic book entitled Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals on this very issue).The Superior Human? attacks humanism on speciesist grounds.

It analyses (at times, in great lengths) the 18 most prominent reasons why humanity is viewed by humans as being the highest form of life on Earth. It attacks each of these points head on, starting at number 18 (having a large population) and working through to number 1 (having consciousness and autonomy). In the journey, it tackles issues such as the human ability to create art, the use of tools, and culture.

Chester the prejudiced bear believes that bears are the superior species

Frequently, the film will draw similarities from the animal kingdom, showing that we are not unique in our abilities. One particularly fascinating piece explains the intricacies of the prairie dog language system, which is a complex verbal structure. Allegedly, a prairie dog can tell others verbally that someone is walking by, their clothing, their size, their speed, and what they are carrying.

It is one thing to show superior or equal traits in other animals. The film really shines, however, when it bluntly explains where humanity has failed. Illustrating humanity’s destruction of the Earth, it’s grand and frequent massacres of its own species, and analysing our false cultural worship of material goods are just a few occasions where the film does exactly this.

Somehow, despite all this, the film manages to retain an upbeat and humorous tone. Dr Nick Gylaw’s narration is witty and amusingly sarcastic. Towards the end of the film, we are introduced to Chester the prejudiced bear, who believes that bears are the highest species on Earth. This further illustrates the failures of speciesism whilst providing a few chuckles.

The film has some fantastic footage. Ranging from beautiful, to funny, to enlightening, the footage thankfully never bores which is fortunate for a documentary made on a miniscule budget.

The film is, as mentioned, directed by Samuel McAnallen and is produced by Dr Jenia Meng. Narration is by Dr Nick Gylaw, and there are interviews and footage from Gary Yourofsky, Dr Bernard Rollin, Dr Richard Ryder, and Dr Steven Best. The film is free to watch below, and I recommend doing so! Let me know what you think.

Support Fiona Oakes

Towards the end of this week, the alleged “toughest footrace on Earth” begins. The Marathon des Sables earned this allegation on the grounds that it is a 6-day ultramarathon, through some of the least hospitable environments on the planet.

The first stage is this coming Sunday. Over the course of 6 days, competitors will run the distance of 156 miles (with the toughest stage being 57 miles long). The competitors, of which there are only a handful of ultra-athletes, will race in the Sahara desert where the temperature is, on average, 30°C (just under 90°F), and daily fluctuations make this uncertain (with temperatures often changing drastically within a few hours).

The toughest footrace on Earth

Competitors will also have to carry the entirety of their required personal possessions in backpacks for the whole six days. This includes the food they will be eating. A number of books have been written solely about the experiences of training for and running the race. It may not surprise you that two people have died whilst competing in the race thus far.

Among the contestants for this year’s Marathon des Sables though is Fiona Oakes. Seeing as you’re on a vegan blog, you can probably see where this is heading… Fiona is the first vegan to ever attempt the Marathon des Sables, and is doing so with an ambition to smash the vegan = skinny weakling myth.

Fiona went vegetarian at the age of 4, and has been vegan for all of her adult life. Despite severe knee difficulties which struck her at the age of 14 (which resulted in the loss of a kneecap), Fiona has gone on to become an incredible athlete. She runs between 80 and 100 miles per week, with a record marathon time of 2 hours 38 minutes. She focuses primarily on speedwork – for some endurance is their aim, as finishing some of the mammoth races Fiona enters is enough; for Fiona, however, it is about winning the race.

During her running career she has made a number of accomplishments. She has reached top 10 positions in a number of international marathons (including Florence, Moscow, and Amsterdam) as well as top 20 positions in the London and Berlin marathons. She has come first in the Great North Run, a 13.1 mile event. She also came first in the Finland marathon, setting a course record by 11 minutes.

Outside of the running world, Fiona and her partner work incessantly to help the lives of over 400 animals at Tower Hill Animal Sanctuary – a completely non-profit animal sanctuary which Fiona set-up. She also has involvement with groups such as Captive Animals’ Protection Society, In Defense of Animals, and VITA (a Russian animal rights organisation).


Fiona will be running the Marathon des Sables to raise money for three different causes. Firstly, there is the Tower Hill Sanctuary which she runs. Secondly, the Vegan Society. Thirdly, Facing Africa – a charity for African victims of Noma, a facial disfigurement disease that affects children.

Currently, Fiona is falling way short of her target of £5000. At the time of writing she has secured just over £2000. She is becoming desperate for further donations, or even just promotion of her efforts and why she is running the race.

If you can spare any money at all towards Fiona’s effort, it will be greatly appreciated. You will be helping a fantastic athlete crush a widespread and negative myth about veganism, as well as helping a number of fantastic charity projects. Another supporter has kindly offered to double any donations made in the run-up (excuse the pun) to the race, so your donation will be doubled.

Her donation page is here.

If you cannot afford to donate yourself, please try and share this information with people who may be able to. Any support we can give Fiona is positive.

I will leave you with some thoughts that Fiona posted on her Facebook page about the difficulty in spreading the vegan message within the running community, and her hopes about competing in the Marathon des Sables:

“With 10 days to go before I leave for Morocco to compete in, what is universally acknowledged as the toughest foot race on the planet, my feelings are that of disappointment, confusion, nervousness and anger.

I am not doing this for me. I am doing this for the animals. I am doing this to promote a healthy and ethical vegan lifestyle. I am doing this to break down the many myths, incorrect information and stereotypes being widely publicised about veganism. I am doing this to get the vegan message into the wider public domain in a positive way which the masses can relate to, and what publicity am I getting or help in doing this? – hardly any.

I run my own animal sanctuary caring for our several hundred rescued animals almost single handedly. I am not a professional runner. I do not have any spare money or time for the luxuries other athletes have such as supplements, high quality diet, rest, recover, rehabilitation when injured or ill etc. I just have myself, forcing myself to train alone day in day out whilst always making sure the welfare of the animals is the primary consideration.

I am not trying to say my achievements are any greater or less than anyone else out there. However, top 20 places in 2 of the 5 World Major Marathon series, top 10 in 2 of the biggest Marathons in the world, 4 Marathons wins – all in course records – and first female home in the main race of the Great North Run (top 20 overall) do warrant some publicity for the animals surely to goodness. It is not FOR ME. I don’t want this FOR ME. I don’t care about ME. If I did I would not have dedicated my life for the past 16 years to my animal sanctuary. A life which necessitates no holidays, no money, no rest, no time for oneself. I just care about animals and giving people a reason to consider a vegan lifestyle or not giving them a reason to dismiss it as unhealthy. At the moment, Marathon running and sport is at the TOP OF THE AGENDA in this country and surely this is a fantastic time and opportunity to get people interested and involved in what I am trying to do. Millions of people worldwide compete in running races and Marathons each year and the Marathon des Sables is broadcast in 200 countries by over 1,000 television channels. I hope to be televised proudly wearing my specially adapted Vegan Runners kit to get the word VEGAN out to these people. I will be the first vegan woman to ever complete Marathon des Sables and one of only a tiny handful of women to ever compete in it. This is the race which made James Cracknell, double Olympic Champion and self confessed macho man, cry. It was worthy of the BBC funding a documentary about his exploits in this race and yet it is not worthy of any of the large organisations who are there to promote interest in vegan/vegetarianism to show any interest at all. Can you imagine the impact when the likes of Gordon Ramsay hits out with another rant about how he hates vegans as they are weak and frail, to be able to retaliate with the fact that a vegan woman has completed the Marathon des Sables (and is well over an hour faster than him in a Marathon too). It needs the larger organisations with media and celebrity contacts to act. It is no good just keeping this within the ‘animal’ movement as we are just, to coin a phrase ‘preaching to the converted’. We need to concentrate our efforts on converting and this means getting it out to those who would not normally see or hear about what any of us are doing. However, to convert others we need to give them a reason and, that reason has to be of benefit to them. If helping innocent animals were enough they would have taken the step already.

I am a woman, an amateur who spends most of her time caring for neglected, abused and vulnerable animals. I am not a great big strapping rower who has the funds to dedicate his time fully to training for this event and who is getting paid to do it. Women are, historically, judged as being weaker than men. Fact, like it or not. What are we saying here if a vegan woman is to complete this toughest foot challenge in the world. We are saying that a vegan diet is not only adequate to sustain an healthy lifestyle it is more than adequate of sustaining any lifestyle – however extreme.

There are large organisations out there whose sole remit is to promote an ethical vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and they won’t lift a finger to help. I am confused as to the reason why? They have media clout, I don’t. I use my running to promote what I believe in by leading by example. If I did not feel that the running were directly benefiting animals and the environment in some way, I would not be able to justify dedicating the time and effort to doing it. Do they think that by publicising what I am doing it might divert funds or attention from their organisation? I doubt this would happen but, even if this were the case, does it matter as these organisations are there to promote precisely the kind of positive thing I am doing so, surely this would mean ‘job done’ in their case. The important thing here is to use every opportunity to get the vegan message out there as so few such opportunities ever present themselves. Who is presenting that message is immaterial, what matters is saving lives and the best way of doing this, as we all know, is to stop the abuse that goes on in the mass production of animals for the food chain. Please can someone tell me what I am doing wrong or am I just being very naive?”

‘Vegan’ Celebrities and the vegan diet vs. veganism

I am hugely sceptical of celebrity vegan role models a lot of the time. Not because of the person themselves, but because of the way many vegans react to their diet change. That is exactly what it is for many of them – a diet change.

I’ve mentioned previously about Bill Clinton unwittingly becoming the spokesperson for veganism in America, and when he announced that he was following a vegan diet bar a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving many vegans reacted as though a lost gospel of the New Testament had been discovered proclaiming that Jesus Christ was a member of the Animal Liberation Front. I saw a ridiculous number of comments on the internet and heard a couple from friends in real life relating Clinton’s motives for eating vegan to the causes of animal rights and environmental protection.

I’m sorry, but Clinton is not a vegan. I’m sure he hasn’t ever thought twice about wearing leather, and if it weren’t for the health benefits of eating vegan he sure as hell would be eating meat now. Just because you eat vegan, doesn’t mean that you are vegan.

What Clinton is, however, is a fantastic advocate for the vegan diet. Veganism and a vegan diet are two very separate things. Veganism is a philosophy of minimising (and, if possible, abolishing) the use of animals in your life. The vegan diet is a way of eating that relies purely on plant-based foods.

For many, the vegan diet is a starting point. I’ve known people who have come to veganism for health and stayed for the ethics. Whether or not this will happen with Clinton, I don’t know. For others, it never progresses past the stage of being just a diet.

However, those who turn to the vegan diet for health reasons are still beneficially affecting the world. To them, limiting animal abuse and environmental damage may be side effects to the health benefits that they are obtaining, but they are definitely positive side effects.

Whilst I feel global veganism may never be reached due to a combination of apathy and ignorance, the health benefits of a meat-free diet are becoming more and more tantalising. Anyone who’s seen Breaking Bad may remember this scene from the first episode, stylishly put in a comic book format by Breaking Bad Comics:

Whilst this may just be a comic of a forgettable scene from Breaking Bad (which is totally awesome by the way! If you haven’t seen it then you should watch it after reading this!) it taps into the essence of what may actually have the world turning towards a vegan diet. We have to watch our cholesterol.

There is overwhelming evidence that a plant-based diet will benefit cholesterol levels, despite Atkins, keto and paleo dieters claiming otherwise (there is little evidence to show their benefits, and the only person I’ve ever known to follow a high-protein, low-carb diet for a prolonged period has now sadly died due to bowel cancer – a disease commonly brought on by eating too much meat).

A diet that has proven to do this is an attractive one, as is one that, for most people, provides more energy, and boosts potential weightloss. With celebrities turning to a vegan diet faster than any other diet at the moment, the general public are following suit. I have read numerous times that the vegan diet isthe fastest growing diet at the moment (overtaking even vegetarianism) and it does not surprise me.

With advocates such as Clinton proclaiming the benefits of a vegan diet for health, more and more people are trying it out. For every person who goes vegan to lose weight, the demand for animal protein falls. As demand falls, less animals are utilised for meat and their products. And thus, there is a gain for veganism as a philosophy. If the world followed the vegan diet for health reasons alone, animal suffering would be minimalised.

For Morrissey, veganism is more than a dietary choice

It is, however, important for vegans to keep this in mind instead of seeing every celebrity who wants to shed a few pounds by following a plant-based diet as a hero. At times, the vegan community is at danger of becoming like PETA who seemingly lauds any celebrity as an animal rights activist simply because they said ‘I like my dog’.

There is also a danger of making the terms ‘veganism’ and ‘vegan diet’ interchangeable by describing everyone who follows a plant-based diet as a vegan.

There is a fine line between being glad for someone’s success on a vegan diet with the hope that it’ll persuade some other people to try it, and praising them as a fully blown vegan. In this regard, beliefs are everything.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion is Vegan

One of the things I love about being vegan and having a keen interest in fitness is that there is an ever-growing number of role models out there in a variety of sports. Whether it’s the likes of Mac Danzig in MMA, endurance athletes like Brendan Brazier, or hulks such as Patrik Baboumian, whatever sport you’re into there are vegan atheletes in the out there (and they are very often hugely successful).

However, here’s something I never thought I’d see. Today I discovered that, as of 18th December, the WWE World Heavyweight Champion has been vegan.

Bryan Danielson (better known by his WWE name of Daniel Bryan) has been in the wrestling business for 13 years now, beginning a backyard wrestler in 1999. However, following success, he decided to wrestle professionally.


Danielson had many years of success in ROH – a lesser-known but still widely respect wrestling organisation. However, in 2009 he was suffering from numerous liver infections and skin conditions. His doctor suggested trying veganism for a while, and he never looked back.

Since then, Danielson has gone from strength to strength (literally) and wrestled for the WWE. However, he’s not simply just following veganism for health reasons. Bryan Danielson joins the likes of Austin Aries (AKA The Vascular Vegetarian), Taryn Terrell, and one of the forefathers of modern wrestling, Killer Kowalski in stepping into the ring with convictions behind them.

Since going vegan Danielson ethical convictions have evolved. Danielson wrestles in faux-leather boots, and has a faux-leather strap on his belt. After briefly being fired in 2010, PETA followers successfully protested and demanded he be rehired. PETA has granted him the award for being the ‘Most Animal Friendly Athlete’ this year too.

Danielson runs a website/blog which he updates regularly with the vegan food and supplements he’s been eating as he travels in his career. Currently Danielson is engaged in defending his title in a feud with The Big Show.

Sadly, the WWE seem to have stumbled across the fairly obvious idea of making veganism his ‘thing’ and making something of a gimmick out of it. This somewhat mirrors their use of CM Punk’s straight edge convictions.

However, I can’t help but smile a little to see a WWE champion in the ring espousing the virtues of veganism in a sport that is otherwise dominated by carcass guzzling men. With wrestlers regularly suffering from early-onset health problems such as heart disease and bone weaknesses due to the amount of animal protein they ingest (whilst Danielson has only gone and reversed health problems he has suffered from), we can only hope that more follow in Danielson’s footsteps and become vegan.

It may have become Danielson’s gimmick but it’s great to see veganism taking such a high position in the WWE, arguably one of the most successful and renowned sports franchises of all time. And it is something of an inspiration to see yet another high-performing vegan athlete reaching the top of their game.

Vegan Black Metal Chef

Today has been a good day. Primarily, this is because I just made some awesome vegan burritos. Also, tickets for wrosie and I came through to go and see Brian Cox do a talk on science next week. However, I’ve also discovered perhaps my favourite vegan cooking video of all time as well.

The Vegan Black Metal Chef is probably my new favourite thing in the world. Forget Charlie Sheen, forget Rebecca Black. This dude deserves to go viral, and he’s representing veganism whilst doing it so let’s make it happen!

In the video, the Vegan Black Metal Chef cooks a Vegangstaz favourite: Pad Thai. As you may know, wrosie posted an awesome vegan pad thai recipe about a month ago, and very little could beat her delicious and simple recipe, so check that out! However, VBMC gets pretty close to this, partly due to his hilarious vocals accompanying the recipe in the video.

Hearing the lyrics ‘then we must press the water out of the tofu, then cut the tofu in half’ growled in a black metal style whilst some tofu is sliced with a sword over some stereotypical black metal intrumentals is probably the most fun you’ll ever have watching a cooking video. Oh and the VBMC himself is of course donning corpse paint and armour. Probably my favourite bit is towards the end. Instead of cooking you have to summon the power of Satan. “You are missing one ingredient. That is of course the heat of Sataaaan! You must summon the dark ones into your dish by any means possible.” Amazing.

This video is causing quite a stir on the internet already, and it’s only been up for a couple of days. Let’s hope this actually does go viral. In fact, scratch that, I hope the Vegan Black Metal Chef gets his own show. Screw Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay etc. etc. This is the kind of cooking show I would actually watch!


Forks Over Knives

The latest film to be creating a stir in the vegan world is Forks Over Knives. However, it is unusual in that, unlike other vegan movie hits such as Earthlings, Forks Over Knives barely even touches on animal abuse and the environment, or the corrupt meat industry. Instead it focuses on an aspect of veganism that is often forgotten, or that at least falls by the wayside: personal health.

Whilst you can find pages and pages online about vegan health, and books about the subject (indeed, the raw vegan movement is almost entirely about health), I have not yet seen a film on the matter, and Forks Over Knives appears to be holding nothing back. Its production seems to be excellent, and it is well sourced as it features interviews with a large variety of people from health experts such as Dr T. Colin Campbell, vegan athletes including Mac Danzig, and people who were afflicted with life-threatening illnesses who have made miraculous recoveries on a vegan diet such as Ruth Heidrich, a cancer survivor and triathlon athlete.

The film is based on Dr Campbell’s work The China Study. It examines the current Western diet, which, despite all its theoretical health plans (such as the low-carb Atkin’s Diet) and talk of conscious and healthy eating, remains to be the most unhealthy diet in the world. Despite the Western medical technology soaring above that of other areas, we continue to be the sickest people on Earth.

Taken from the Forks Over Knives synopsis: “Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population. About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels. Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to “battle” these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.”

Dr T. Colin Campbell

Now, whether or not these statistics are accurate, there is undoubtedly a vast amount of truth in what is said in this film. The China Study itself was written when the discovery was made that the wealthier Chinese children (who were living off of a diet which was high in meat and animal products) were discovered to be developing various cancers and diabetes at rates far beyond their impoverished counterparts (who rarely consumed animal products).

Whilst it’s perhaps fairly easy to look at these discoveries and think “well, that’s obvious…” it’s nonetheless great to have these ideas illustrated in a film and reiterated by doctors who are nutritional experts, and have studied nutritional health for their whole lives. Also, I often find myself getting so caught up in the issues surrounding veganism to do with animal rights and the environment that I forget about the benefit veganism is having on my body. This film looks like an excellent way to remind yourself of that, and whilst the other issues are about combatting negatives by following veganism, this should remind you of the positive thing that you’re bringing into your life.

Also, I thought Forks Over Knives was a pretty cool name, once I finally understood it (it’s knives as in scalpels… y’know, which they cut you open with when you’re having heart surgery from eating too much fatty stuff… clever, huh?)

You can read more about Forks Over Knives on the movie’s official website, and it was released a few days ago in the US. I’m unsure when it may become available elsewhere, so if you’re in the UK (like me) then you may have to wait a while. Here’s the trailer to keep you occupied until then though:

Prince Charles is vegetarian… well, almost

Uh oh, a ubiquitous post about the Royal Family coming up. Fortunately it’s not about the wedding…

For a long time, Prince Charles has been the posh champion of environmentalism. Now, I’m no supporter of Prince Charles, or indeed the monarchy, but his activism on behalf of traditional farming methods and organic produce has always been pleasing. Whilst he’s not exactly been my inspiration for looking into environmental issues, nor any of the people I know, it’s still definitely a good thing to have a royal supporting the cause.

A few days ago, Prince Charles went one step further. At Georgetown University in the USA, he gave a speech at the Future of Food conference, which featured a variety of prominent figures in the field of environmental food production including Eric Schlosser (the author of Fast Food Nation), and current generation farmers including author/farmer Wendell Berry. At this speech, Prince Charles reiterated issues he’s spoken about before – sustainability in food production primarily, whilst also mentioning the need to maintain affordability of food.

However, instead of sticking to the familiar adage “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” (or in this case, Georgetown, USA) he instead decided to attack American food production techniques, highlighting how irresponsibility and failure to create sustainable food sources has led to significant problems. He also mentioned how rapidly development is occurring in the US, stating that an area the size of Indiana has been built over since 1982.

Most interestingly though, Prince Charles seems to have recognised the value that a vegetarian/vegan diet can have on the environment. He covered various facts on the resources used in meat production, including “for every pound of beef produced in the industrial system, it takes two thousand gallons of water.” Whilst he is not promoting the cessation of meat production (hence he only mentioned industrial systems) he did call for people to lower their intake of meat, particularly beef, and to only buy meat from organic and sustainable sources.

He won't be eating Tofurkey anytime soon, but Prince Charles is doing these old chaps a favour

Some people in the US are somewhat outraged at his stabs at the American farming system, but it is undeniable that he is right. Why is this important to the vegan cause though? Prince Charles is far from a vegan. I mean, he spends most weekends out in fields shooting stuff. But I feel this is a significant step because it’s the closest thing we will ever get to an upper class, traditional, and posh person promoting the vegetarian cause. There are powerful people promoting veganism, but none of them are from the British aristocracy.

Prince Charles is a member of the Royal Family. This is probably the last group of people I’d ever expect to give awareness to vegan issues, and here he is promoting the reduction of meat in the diet. If you have a spokesperson like that for an issue, then it can go a long way. Already this has been covered in The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper traditionally read by the middle to upper classes on the right wing. Think about all the stereotypical and smug Tory voters reading over that article and thinking, even just for a second, about lowering the meat in their diet.

For that, one puts one’s thumb up at you Prince Charles.

Vegan Grandpa

Ok, so the last post was about some pretty dark business. In an attempt to cheer you up, here’s a little picture I took which made me giggle. I was browsing the Earthlings Facebook page when I stumbled across this post and a rather amusing reply from an awesome vegan grandpa. Reminds me of one of my very first blog posts about the vegan Granny, Loreen Dinwiddie. Vegan oldies are on the rise, and they’re pretty feisty or so it would seem…

Don't mess with vegan grandads...

Mercy For Animals Investigation Into a Texan Calf Farm

The latest Mercy For Animals investigation has been into the E6 Cattle Company’s farm in Hart, Texas. The farm raises calves for use in dairy production, confining them to tiny spaces which, as shown in the video, do not even provide room for the animals to stand. These small spaces are thick with faeces build-up, so these calves are left to literally sit in their own waste. Any calves which become ill from these terrible conditions are just left to die. Others suffer horrific afflictions, including open wounds and severed hooves. As one of the farmers on the video says “we don’t treat those cows. We don’t put much attention on them. No medicine, no nothing.”

The video also briefly covers the process of dehorning, which is already notorious for its routine existence in the animal industry. The process is done for a variety of reasons, yet is rarely done with anesthetic. This investigation shows the company dehorning the cattle by burning their horns out of their skull.

The most shocking aspect of the investigation shows the cruel deaths of the unwanted calves. This is clearly the only aspect of fun in the workers’ lives. They’ll drag a calf out from its pen by its head, forcing it to fall to the floor. At this point they’ll begin kicking it, standing on it, and finally beating it to death (hopefully) with either a hammer or a pickaxe. I say hopefully because not all die from this. The bodies, including those that are still conscious, are piled onto a truck and driven away for disposal.

This may just be one dairy farm in Texas, but this kind of disgusting practice can be found all around the world, and I have no doubt that this isn’t by any means the worst.

*WARNING* – The scenes in this video are brutal and horrific, as you can see from the content described above.

If you drink milk, you owe it to yourself to watch this video. If you are vegan already then the next time someone says ‘I understand vegetarianism, but not veganism’ (or some similar statement) then direct them towards this video, and ask them if this is something that they want to support.

Go vegan.

As a side note, don’t forget that we could be seeing enlightening investigations and footage like this being banned in the US – read more here.

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