Posts Tagged ‘sport’

The importance of vegan fitness, and a little motivation

Veganism has again exploded into the mainstream public domain over recent weeks with Bill Clinton’s announcement that he is officially following a vegan diet for 364 days of the year. With support from his doctor, he has effectively reversed cardiac problems that he has been facing as well as dropping a couple of stone in weight. Thus, he has recently become a spokesperson for veganism, albeit somewhat unwittingly.

It seems like at the moment everyone is hanging off his every word on this issue. Many nutritionists are keen to dispute Clinton and his doctor’s claims that the diet is healthy and even heart-disease reversing. Vegans are relishing the fact that they’ve got a former President now backing their diet and ideas. The media and the public meanwhile seem just generally fascinated at the whole prospect – veganism is still not a mainstream diet by any means, and a high profile figure such as this abandoning animal products and espousing the health benefits is an interesting development.

What is at the centre of this fascination though? Is it as simple as the fact that a previous junk foodist has turned his life around? I’m sure this holds some degree of weight – the celebrity culture that we live in entails this. But there is undoubtedly an added degree of fascination over exactly how it has been done – by following a vegan diet. The very same diet that the mainstream media portrays as unhealthy, lacking in protein and various vitamins and minerals, and completely unnatural. Here’s a case of a vegan diet working wonders for someone on the road to heart disease and possibly an early grave.

Veganism gets a lot of bad press, we all know this. Not least though is in the area of health. Consistently, it seems to be believed that by denying meat and dairy one is also sacrificing their fitness. I have met people who have actually told me that they couldn’t be vegan because they play too much sport/lift weights/run marathons. Of all the bullshit excuses I’ve heard, this is pretty high on the bullshitometer, due to the fact that veganism will not impair their activity and may actually enhance it.

You only have to type in ‘vegans are’ on Google, and amongst ‘stupid,’ ‘retarded,’ and ‘idiots’ it suggests ‘not healthy.’

A badly planned vegan diet is not healthy. But what about a badly planned omnivore diet? Haven’t really seen obesity, heart attacks and diabetes plague the former. Sure, there’s anemia, but that’s not too difficult to overcome. Besides, someone who is playing sports or following any kind of fitness regime should be regulating their diet heavily anyway. No one gets healthy and fit without monitoring what they’re taking in on a daily basis.

Now, I’m sure that at some point in the near future I’ll probably write up a list of vegan athletes, or at least write about a few of my inspirations. But for now I just want to write briefly about what fitness means to me as a vegan. I am a keen runner and weightlifter. I’ve never been one for teamsports really, but I love sports where I can set my own goals and tackle them, and I am committed to doing so. However, at no point have I ever felt hampered by my diet.

I ate meat for years, and was very overweight. I turned vegetarian and shed most of that. Yet since turning vegan my progress has been hugely boosted. I no longer feel sluggish and bloated from dairy products, and I’m avoiding cholesterol entirely. People are often surprised to find out that I am vegan. And this is important to me.

As veganism is still a diet that is widely unpopular in mainstream culture, every single vegan is an advert for the diet. Most people only know one or two vegans, if any. If you are that one vegan, they’ll probably look at you and judge veganism based on you.

It is your duty to prove the vegan stereotype wrong. The stereotype shouldn’t be of a skinny, preachy hippie. Prove that veganism is better than that. To me, this is a real motivation to maintain my fitness. If I am vegan, yet can outrun and outlift the majority of my peers then they will realise that something is working. If I am vegan, yet my body is in better shape than those panicking about their next meat-based protein fix then I am doing my bit to smash that stereotype which veganism has acquired.

Every vegan out there is responsible for the stereotype that develops with it. If you are that one vegan that someone knows, surprise them. Prove what veganism can be.

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The Horse Racing Debate

The past week has seen four horses die for the sake of entertainment in the UK alone. Both the English Grand National and its Scottish counterpart have seen two horses lose their lives. These hugely publicised events are finally being called into question for their ethics, and let’s hope that at the very least the danger involved in these races can be reduced.

Recent Horse Deaths

In last week’s Grand National two horses were killed at the main race event itself (Ornais and Doonys Gate), whilst a third horse (Inventor) was killed after breaking its leg in another event during the same weekend. The following weekend, the Scottish Grand National saw one horse die of exhaustion (Regal Heights), whilst another collapsed from internal bleeding (Minella Four Star).

For a shocking insight into exactly how many horses lose their lives at these events then check out Animal Aid’s Horse Deathwatch, a website which tracks the number of racehorse deaths, and has been doing so for several years. At the moment it stands at 678 horses killed over 1497 days, averaging out to a death roughly every 2 days.

This year’s Grand National was particularly condemnable for a variety of additional reasons.

  1. The heat on the day left all the horses exhausted and close to dehydration. The four and a half mile race was truly gruelling. The winning horse, Ballabriggs, was too exhausted to even walk into the winner’s enclosure.
  2. The BBC’s coverage had some serious issues. One commentator described the dead body of Ornais as a further ‘obstacle,’ whilst the camera at one point panned over the track, showing Doonys Gate at the side being shot (or, in horse racing terms, ‘destroyed’). An image from this aerial view is below.
  3. One jockey, Peter Toole, was put into (but has now awakened from) a coma from a head injury sustained during the race.

Doonys Gate callously being filmed by the BBC

Blatent Cruelty

Since 2000, the Grand National course alone has claimed the lives of 20 horses, yet it still continues and nothing has been done to prevent the chaos that occurs from happening. Something that has always puzzled me is when people fail to realise the cruelty involved in horse racing. You only have to watch the first couple of minutes of a race to see piles of horses collapse on top of each other, as they all cram their way over the huge jumps at high speeds.

Those horses who lose their lives are often described as accidental deaths, although part of the idea of an accident is that something is unexpected and unforeseen. Given the steady correlation between the number of races and the number of deaths, I think it is fair to say that racehorse deaths cannot be described as an accident anymore. Animal right’s group FAACE described the deaths suffered by horses as “not only sad but inevitable” and this doesn’t seem to be recognised.

Those who are showing their support for horse racing seem to constantly refer to an argument that the horses are being offered the chance to become professional athletes and possibly winners, but this kind of argument cannot hold up when in reality the horses are offered no choice at all. They are bred into this industry and chances are that they will die in it.

Others, including Ornais’ rider, are under the opinion that the Grand National is something to be proud of, the pinnacle of horse racing, and a relic of British tradition. Yet that leaves me asking if the sport is justifiable at all if this is seen as the pinnacle. For those saying it is a relic of British tradition, I wonder if they’ve noticed the steep decline of dignity in the attendees, as highlighted by this article (which is well worth a look if you want to make yourself feel better about your life).

The disturbing sight of Ornais' body, covered up and still lying on the track. Or, if you're a BBC commentator, an "obstacle."

So, what can be done about this situation? If you oppose horse racing the simple thing to do is to boycott it. Don’t watch it, and certainly don’t bet on it. As tempting as it can be to get involved and place a bet, this carnage should be shown no support. Animal Aid are also running a campaign to ban the Grand National, which you can show your support for by clicking here. Support for horse racing is lowering with every year and every death, and this year will see this happen more than ever with major tabloid The Daily Mail jumping onto the anti-racing bandwagon (check out that subtle pun…).

It will be interesting to see how much longer this blatently cruel “sport” can continue for.

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