Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Veganic Farming

When it comes to agriculture, arguably the biggest buzzword of the last decade has been ‘organic’.

With the huge expansion in organic farming, organically grown crops no longer need to be sought out at specialised farmers markets or stores, and it’s now commonplace to walk into your local supermarket and alongside every vegetable comes its organic counterpart.

However, the word ‘organic’ has, to some extent, become a victim of its own success. With the huge hype around organic, people often choose to buy organic food (and now clothing) with little understanding of what that actually means other than ‘it’s a better option’.

There is a distinct irony in this: the modern organic movement originated in, essentially, a desire to reconnect with food – food that, over the last century, had become pumped full of chemicals and sprayed with pesticides and fertilisers. When I head to aisle 6 of 54 in my local supermarket to buy a pack of organic tomatoes that have been flown over from Portugal, I could not feel more disconnected from the food that I am buying.

This sense of reconnecting with food on a more personal level is not unfamiliar to vegans. Vegans often talk of the bizarre nature of food shopping today. It’s something we have all experienced – that walk down the meat aisle in a supermarket and the realisation that every piece of cellophane-wrapped piece of flesh around you used to be a part of an animal is a bewildering experience.

Omnivores feel it too – for many that is the very start of their journey towards vegetarianism. It’s that point where you reconnect.

Vegan organic/veganic/stockfree organic farming is a sub-movement within the organic food movement. It aims to reestablish that connection with nature and food once again. Organic food is supposed to be clean – veganic farming therefore sticks to the principles of avoiding pesticide and chemical fertiliser usage.

However, it takes this a step further. Veganic farm disallows the use of any animal byproducts whatsoever. Typical organic fertilisers include animal waste (manure and urea), other animal byproducts such as eggshells, blood, bone, and even animal remains.

The use of such products is abhorrent to both vegans and supporters of a true organic food movement.

The former, for obvious reasons – animal byproducts are a no-go. Most larger scale organic farming operations will purchase the aforementioned animal fertilisers from slaughterhouses, which sell them as a byproduct.

As for the organic food movement, supporters of this should be concerned based on the sheer levels of hormones and steroids which are fed to these animals. These chemicals are rife within their byproducts, and thus are part of so-called ‘organic’ farms.

VeganOrganic.net is a UK-based charity supporting veganic farmers and their practices

Veganic farming utilises various other methods for its fertilisation.

‘Green manures’ are methods of developing the soil without animal waste. One such example is the growth of cloves and leguminous crops to positively affect the nitrogen content of the soil prior to other crops being grown in it.

The entire system of a veganic farm is finely tuned but effective. When the system is in place, crops thrive. There isn’t even a need for pesticides of any kind, as crops include flowers which provide a rich ecosystem to control pests.

This in turn also provides complete sustainability. Thus, the system is inherently linked to the green movement. The farmers are not having to rely on external requirements such as fertiliser from animals for crop growth (animals which are an integral part to a farming system which is hugely damaging to the environment). By keeping this finely tuned machine running, and using the land to maximum efficiency, crop yields from veganic farms are large and varied.

One Degree are one of the companies supporting the rise of veganic farming in the US. Citing the lack of transparency in the modern food chain, and the lack of guarantee that ‘organic’ necessarily means healthy food anymore, they ensure that every supplier that creates their foods uses veganic farming methods.

They get to know every farmer who works for them and the history of their farms. They ensure that their core values match the farmer’s, and that they know how every product has been grown and by whom. They trust every farmer who works for them.

And when it comes to the people who grow the food that you eat everyday, surely it makes sense to want to trust them too?

For a little more insight into one of those farms, check out Don Hlaydich in this video.

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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?

Trust Comes Tough launches new vegan shirt

For those who are keen on straight-edge hardcore, you may have heard of Trust Comes Tough before. They are an Australian-based clothing company run by Luke Weber, who also runs Resist Records and used to play in ShotPointBlank.

Apart from straight-edge merchandise, Trust Comes Tough also sells a number of animal rights and vegan related shirts and stickers.

In the past they have collaborated with Sea Shepherd to produce an amazing shirt, and the proceeds went directly to the charity.

They have just released their latest in a long line of vegan shirts. The shirt shows a hand holding a wrench, with ‘VEGAN’ above it, and it is surrounded by the phrase ‘the battle for animal liberation begins today with you and I’.

The shirt is available online in small, medium, large, XL and XXL from Trust Comes Tough’s Bigcartel store for $25 (Australian dollars).

They also have a limited number of previous designs still left for sale (including the awesome ‘Meat Sucks’ t-shirt) so definitely check out the store. There’s some Meat is Murder stickers available too. If you live in the US, there’s a US store set-up selling shirts at $8 (plus P&P).

Curried Mock Duck

It’s been a while since we posted a recipe post and so I thought I’d kick start the posts with a simple yet delish dish. This recipe is so quick and easy you could do it with your eyes closed. I first discovered it on a new app I got for my phone called ‘Veg Web’ and it’s becoming a firm favourite in my repertoire. Try it out for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.

What you need:

1 1/2 Cups of basmati rice

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 cups of vegetable broth (or veggie stock!)

1/2 head of shredded cabbage

2 Onions, sliced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

3 (10 ounce) cans of mock duck, sliced

1/2 can coconut milk

2 tablespoons of curry powder

1/4 soy sauce

How you do it:

1. In a saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add the basmati rice. Cook until light brown (be careful not to burn it- no one likes crusty rice!) Add the vegetable broth/ stock and cook until done. Approx. 15-20 minutes.

2. In a large pan, heat the remainder of the oil. Add the shredded cabbage and the onions and saute for around 3-5 minutes until slightly brown. Add the garlic and saute for approx. 1 minute.

3. Add the mock duck, curry powder, and coconut milk and cook on high until thickened.

4. Stir in the soy sauce and serve over rice.

And that’s it! I was surprised myself as to how simple yet tasty this was. I cooked up a batch and kept it covered in the fridge and took it to work for a few days for lunch.

‘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.

URGENT APPEAL: Farm Sanctuary Modesto Chicken Rescue

This is an urgent appeal for all our readers to help out with the Farm Sanctuary efforts in Modesto, California at the moment.

Farm Sanctuary is currently in the process of aiding and rescuing hens from a factory farm in the area. Two weeks ago, the farm was abandoned along with 50,000 hens there. They have been without food for this whole time.

Tens of thousands of the hens have already died, but with your help Farm Sanctuary can hopefully prevent many more from dying.

Hens are being rushed to Farm Sanctuary’s shelter in Orland, California, for emergency medical care, including treatment for starvation and dehydration. Farm Sanctuary is hoping to offer 24-hour care to these hens.

Many of them are now ridden with parasites from the appalling factory farm conditions. This, coupled with damaged immune systems, means that the hens are having to be watched consistently in case of organ failure occurring.

A survivor (photo from Farm Sanctuary's Facebook page)

One user of the vegan sub-Reddit page has said:

I know some of the people who are helping with the rescue efforts, as well as the staff at the shelter, and it’s just heartbreaking. Some of them have already died after being rescued, so many are knocking at Death’s door, many of them were just coated in feces, weigh next to nothing, are unable to eat or drink, extremely malnourished, and just so many more problems and ailments. The staff, interns, and volunteers at the shelter will be up day and night for many weeks taking care of these babies and trying to get them healthy. I’m sure a majority of the survivors will be adopted out to loving families through FAAN once their health is no longer a concern, so if you have the means to adopt a pair or more of chickens, keep your eye out for news in a couple months.

If you can spare anything to help in this urgent rescue effort, please visit Farm Sanctuary’s Donation page and give what you can.

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