But Plants Have Feelings Too

So your argument for not going vegan is that it’s totally proven now, don’t you know, that plants have feelings too and you wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and eat plants while not eating animals, so…there’s really no point is there? For added weight you also make the point that harvesting plants kills lots of tiny animals, so… again – what’s the point in going vegan, you’re always going to be killing something, right?

If these are included in your reasons for not going vegan, you’re not alone.

Typically (because I’ve had this conversation fifty-hundred times), this argument will be the last one someone pulls out of their excuse arsenal, after ‘but vegan isn’t good for your health’, and ‘but grass-fed cows are ok’ and ‘it’s too difficult, it’s not realistic’

I saw this very argument unfold the other day in an online publication by an esteemed author in the comment section of a piece she wrote, part of which attempted to discredit and dismiss veganism. This publication is very progressive and forward-thinking, and all its contributors are continually thinking outside, like, every box ever. On practically every other point I agree with all their writers, and can only dream of having the knowledge and insight that they possess.

So it was kind of shocking to see someone of this intelligence/enlightenment level resorting to the ‘plants have feelings too’ argument after her previous arguments were rebutted. I think it’s testament to the universality of the fear people have of having to change their life if there should emerge a logical reason to. They think veganism is too different and alien, they are not aware how kinda pretty normal it is, and that we still eat just as much amazing food as non-vegans. Actually I eat more. So this quasi-scientific-sounding, ethical-sounding argument about the feeliness of plants is used as that final barrier between them and veganism, it’s the argument that is supposed to have the effect of shutting the hell up that annoying vegan they are having the debate with.

So, lemme take that final barrier down for ya!

Using the ‘but plants have feelings too’ argument with vegans is set on the premise that vegans are trying to be perfect beings who never contribute to any animal cruelty whatsoever. Because they are just so holy and righteous.

Hahaaaa, I’m so holy and righteous!!! If only you knew.

As vegans we accept that no human being can live without harming animals. It’s not possible. If you’re looking for humans that do the least harm to other living beings then I believe that would be the Jains, a religious group in India, who not only are vegan, but also won’t eat root veg because they believe more insects are harmed in the harvesting of them; and they often wear face masks so they don’t breathe in tiny flies and other insects, thereby killing them.

Vegans are not even close to Jains. I love my root veg. And they love me. And God knows how many flies I sucked up in all the years I cycled around London.

We all inadvertently kill tiny insects every day underfoot. And animal products are in  SO.MANY.THINGS. Aviation fuel, car and bike tyres and musical instruments to name but three. So unless you want an incredibly hermetic life, it’s impossible to live harming no beings at all.

Our goal is to do the least harm possible, as far as is practical and practicable. We don’t need to eat animal products, in fact we thrive without them, so it’s not only practical but actually sensible NOT to eat them. Plant food is available everywhere, so living vegan is easily practicable too. It’s very easy to find vegan clothing and footwear. It’s NOT easy to avoid using cars, bikes, buses, airplanes etc. You can’t check every step before you take it to ensure you don’t crush bugs. Not practicable. Geddit?

Thus, we accept that bugs and small critters do die when our plants are harvested. But being vegan we’re actually responsible for fewer of these deaths because we only eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.

Similarly, if you are genuinely worried about plants having feelings, the best thing you can do is go vegan. Why? Vegans just eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.

Another fave anti-vegan argument is ‘but lions tho’ – meaning; lions have to eat meat to live, therefore so do we. I like to borrow from this and in so doing have found a great two-for-one rebuttal to both the ‘feely plants’ and ‘but lions’ narratives.

We actually ARE like lions, but not in the way you think.

Lions are obligate carnivores. They HAVE to eat meat to survive. They are not hard-wired to care about their prey – otherwise they couldn’t survive.

Humans HAVE to eat plants to live and thrive. Even if plants possess ALL the feels, which I doubt, but even if they DO I cannot care about this, because to survive I need to eat them. So I’ll eat them without regard for their sentience.

However I don’t need meat to live, in fact it makes us sick – so why would I? A lion instinctively wouldn’t eat something that would make it sick. I will eat what I know optimises my survival, just like the ol’ lion. This is practical and practicable. And I am still doing the least harm possible.

Bam! Two arguments dead for the price of one.

 

 

 

Don’t Kid Yourself About ‘Pasture-Raised, ‘Grass-fed’ Animals

Aren’t human beings amazing?

Only humans can convince themselves that slaughtering fully-sentient beings at around a tenth of their natural lifespan, is a humane and ‘normal’ thing to do.

Only humans can be self aggrandising and deluded enough that they purchase carved-up dead animals, but because it has a label slapped on it saying ‘pasture-raised’ or ‘grass-fed’ – it makes them feel all fuzzy and like they are doing something good for themselves the planet and the animal.

In terms of health, of course pasture-raised cows, pigs and sheep are better than intensively-raised animals whose bodies are probably full of pesticides and antibiotics. But all animal flesh contains cholesterol, saturated fat, and hormones (think hormone-free meat is safe? This only means no added hormones; you cannot get away from the fact that you will always being ingesting the hormones of any being you consume).

Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals are just as bad (if not worse) for the planet as intensively-farmed, and if everyone in the world decided they wanted to eat this way there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough land to accommodate this. So it’s very much an entitled, elitist way to eat. Not to mention that if it gets more popular, how many forests will be razed to the ground to make way for pasture? God knows the world has lost enough forest already.

As mentioned – you aren’t really doing a whole lot for the animal either. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still want to live out their lives, just as (I assume) you do. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still go to abattoirs. No-one sprinkles sleepy dust on them so they just drift off to sleep and die for you.

It’s funny that ‘pasture-raised’ and grass-fed’ are such hipster (that have spilled over into middle-class) trends. People seem to be convincing themselves that they are eating in a more ‘natural’ ‘real’ or ‘spiritual’ way when their food sports these labels.

There is nothing natural or spiritual about unnecessary slaughter.  Your body not only doesn’t need meat, it thrives without it. You can bleat about being ‘high-vibe’ and natural and primal all you want, but there is nothing high-vibe about unnecessarily brutalising an innocent being who is as sentient as you.

You think these animals are humanely killed?

The phrase ‘humane slaughter’ always makes me laugh. Is there such a thing as humane rape? I mean, there MUST be if there is such a thing as humane slaughter. We only use this term when we are talking about animals. We’d never use it about people. ‘You murdered that woman?’ ‘Yes, but I did it humanely.’ ‘Oh, ok then…er…cool.’

To see if something is truly humane, ask yourself if you’d like it to happen to you. If we assume that you’ll live until 90, then unless at the age of 9 you’d appreciate a bolt to your head to stun you (which is likely not to work) then have your throat slit and be hung upside down by your leg to be drained of blood, then it ain’t really humane to treat animals this way.

I just went on to a UK website for a pasture-raised cow company. I clicked on the section about animal welfare, and there was lots of talk about how the animal is raised, but I was specifically looking for how the animal was killed. You’d think they’d want to make the abattoir sound as fluffy as possible. But you know what? There was zero information on this. Turns out you can’t make an abbatoir sound fluffy.

It talked about how the animals are ‘free to express their normal behaviours’ – but how are they free to do this? If they naturally and instinctively want to live, they are not being allowed to fulfil this desire. It should maybe end the sentence with ‘…free to express their normal behaviours -up to the point where we kill them at a tenth of their normal lifespan.’

Look, I’m not here to force anyone to be vegan. I just don’t want anyone to be deluded by marketing bullshit. If you eat this stuff – please know what it is. It is not better ethically, environmentally, and health-wise only marginally (but if you are genuinely interested in health – go plant-based!).

The people selling ‘pasture-raised’ this and ‘grass-fed’ that will OF COURSE try and make you feel good about buying it – they want your dough! And people that fell for this already will tell you it’s a great thing to do because they want to justify their own habits and feel good about their choices.

But you are more than capable of thinking  for yourself.

A tenth. Of a fully-sentient beings natural lifespan. Start by thinking about that.

And, um, go vegan anyway, lol! 🙂

Is It OK To Ride Horses If You Don’t Race Them?

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

We all know (don’t we?) that racing horses is cruel. I mean the very fact of using living beings for commercial purposes, not to mention the cruelty, the whipping, the shooting of the horses if they get injured – because it’s cheaper to kill them than fix them – I mean, come on. If you don’t get that that shit’s wrong, then may I politely suggest that your moral compass may be busted.

Don’t even get me started on dressage. When I see majestic horses made to prance around like idiots just to prove the riders can ‘control’ them, it makes me sick to my stomach. Way to strip a living being of its dignity.

These things may be obvious, but I wanted to address a question where the answer may not be so obvious:

Is it OK to ride horses if you don’t race them or use them commercially?

I remember the one and only time I rode a horse (I wasn’t yet vegan). When I say ‘rode’ I actually mean ‘clung on for dear life.’

It was in the south of France, and under pressure from my then partner, we went horse-trekking in the Dordogne.

From the get-go I was uncomfortable. I had mentioned I was nervous to the organiser, so he said he had given me a very gentle, docile horse.

This didn’t make me feel any less nervous. During the trek the horse behind kept head-butting mine up the bum, so my horse kept running away from it. I ended up getting off the horse (THAT was a scary enough manoeuvre!), and telling the organiser I couldn’t go on. He shamed me and said NO-ONE had ever got off the horse in the middle of a trek before. I shrugged and just led the horse by hand back to the stables.

I think I can now verbalise how I felt that day.

I think I was aware at an unconscious level that I was sitting astride a living being, who had the full agency and right to do whatever they wanted at any given time – like ALL living beings do. I would not blame the horse if she wanted to throw me off her back. I was not confident, like the other trekkers seemed to be, that the horse was a thing that would do whatever they commanded. I didn’t see how they could be that confident, horses aren’t machines.

It’s not something I could have expressed that day. I hadn’t given much thought to whether animals were fully-sentient beings or not, and I’d already lived in France for two years at that point and was used to seeing horse butchers everywhere.

Yet it just didn’t feel right.

And while part of this was because I was scared AF that I would fall (not gonna pretend I was a saint thinking purely about the horse), I think I also knew that a horse is a living being, and ultimately, living beings have their own mind – even if humans break their spirits when they are ‘broken in.’ Therefore, the horse could do anything at any time – and why wouldn’t she? This didn’t help my fear of falling any, lol!

Now we know animals are the same as us in every significant way – they suffer, feel pain and fear in the same way we do (some countries have even declared that into law); so regarding the above question there is just one thing to ask yourself:

Would you like a big ol’ lummox riding on your back? Controlling you? Pulling at reins that pulled at your head and mouth? Having metal continually banged into your feet, because your hooves can wear down with all the unnatural weight you carry when people ride you?

I’m gonna hazard a guess that the answer to this is no.

So how can we justify riding horses for pleasure whether it’s for commercial purposes or not? The minute we get on their back we are stepping on their agency.

Yes, they may let you do that – probably because they have been previously ‘broken in’ (ugh, I hate that term), and they know that you are their food source.

This doesn’t mean it’s right.

I’ve found that we get the answer to pretty much any question regarding the treatment of animals if we ask – would we like it done to us?

Would you climb on the back of any of your other pets? Ha! I like to see someone try and climb on the back of their cat – the cat would soon let them know how they felt about that!

Wild horses in Nevada

I’ve been lucky enough to see truly wild mustangs and burros in the west of America. We don’t get wild horses here in the UK (the Welsh/New Forest/Dartmoor horses and ponies are actually privately owned and semi domesticated), so it was pretty amazing to see these horse families living wild and free.

I get that due to domestication horses need to be fed a majority of their diet by humans, and to generally be looked after; but isn’t that the same with cats and dogs? Why do the horses have to be ridden to merit their upkeep?

Isn’t it possible to have a horse companion (just like a dog companion) and take them out for walks every day, let them run some, pet them, and just generally enjoy the company of these beings without climbing on their backs and making them do stuff?

 

The Problem With ‘Flexitarian’ And Why It’s Not Enough

One last look at 2012. Happy New Year planet Earth! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

So Donald Asshat Trump won the US election (do you remember saying a few months back, as I did, ‘it’ll NEVER happen!’), and I’m seeing lots of concern on social media about what this means for the planet.

It’s said that Trump believes climate change is ‘a hoax invented by the Chinese.’ If this is true, then of course it’s very worrying indeed.

He may let energy and business projects go ahead regardless of the environmental impact, and may not be too concerned with implementing clean forms of energy. Not to mention the fact that he may get the planet nuked if someone pisses him off too much on Twitter!

However – there is LOTS that WE can do to counteract his ecological idiocy.

We know that the best and most positively impactful solution to all forms of environmental damage is cessation of animal agriculture.

This can only be achieved if WE stop consuming animal products.

Watch Cowspiracy and read the works of Dr Richard Oppenlander if you didn’t know this already and need it substantiated. Though I have a hunch you already have an awareness of this.

Worryingly, what I’m seeing on Twitter from some non-vegan peeps that are worried about Trump’s effect on the planet, is a call to ‘flexitarianism.’

This word has no exact definition, but seems to mean a reduction in amounts of meat consumed.

Under one such call to arms I saw people saying they’d reduced their meat consumption to three times a week, and that they felt good about the change.

While it’s true that any reduction is good; it’s not enough. And it’s not helpful just to encourage people to lessen the amount of meat they eat by an ambiguous amount.

Here’s why:

  • The tweeter that now only eats meat three times a week is possibly still eating eggs every day, and dairy a few times every day. It’s ALL animal products that bugger up the planet, not just meat, so to put the focus on meat is misguided.
  • It dilutes the discourse; it lowers the bar; however you want to say it. If you think that all you have to do is not eat as much beef – then that’s ALL you’ll ever do. If you’re encouraged from the outset to avoid animal products and you understand why, you’re more likely to keep moving in that direction. It may take a while, but the end goal will be more achievable than if we make people feel comfortable just reducing meat a little.
  • ‘Flexitarian’ is very much like the word ‘moderation.’ What does it mean? Everyone’s definition is different. By not having a firm definition, this slows down progress, as anyone who even does as little as stops eating meat for one meal a week can call themselves this.
  • I don’t care if being flexitarian is the most zeitgeisty thing to do right now – it’s NOT working anywhere NEAR quickly enough. We need more and quicker movement in that direction if we are to salvage anything for future generations.
  • I include ‘Meatless  Mondays’ in this criticism. What this really means is that you’re screwing up the environment and contributing to world hunger six days a week instead of seven, but it makes you feel that you’re ‘doing your bit for the planet’ and that that is ALL you need to do.  It’s true some people might start here and go further, but I believe in the long run its better to be honest about what is really needed, and have people start moving in that direction, than have lots just stop at Meatless Mondays.

 

Manifest your concern for the environment by going vegan. Call it ‘plant-based’ if you don’t want to call it ‘vegan.’ The planet doesn’t really care. It just cares that you quit doing what is harming it the most – consuming ALL and any animal products.

If we really care about the fate of the planet, we absolutely have the power to counteract a substantial amount of the harm that Trump may do (uh, unless he nukes it of course!)

 

 

Be Your Own Vegan

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I know you already know this; but there are lots of Judgey McJudgeypants in the world.

I’m sure you’ve come up against some already, what with living amongst, like, people and shit.

Surprise! We have some Judgey McJudgeypants in the vegan community too!

They are in every space. No community gets away without having its fair share of Judgey McJudgeypants.

This particular vegan brand may think less of you if you don’t transition to vegan quick enough, for example; or if you appear to care too much about the health aspect or the environmental impacts of going vegan and don’t talk enough about the ethics.

They may think you should walk around wearing T-shirts with slaughterhouse images on, or that your every waking moment should be spent raising awareness of animal cruelty.

They may think you’re not vegan enough if you still have leather or wool products that you bought before you were vegan, but don’t want to throw away until they wear out because that would be wasteful.

Look – you can be judged for any darn thing you do in life, so –

PLEASE don’t let a judgey vegan put you off going or staying vegan!

You’ve gotta do you. Who else can you do?

If you need to transition slowly, that’s great! If you do it at YOUR pace you’re more likely to succeed.

If you’re not the sort of person that feels they can push slaughterhouse videos in front of other people’s faces every waking minute – don’t!! Once you get comfortable and confident with your lifestyle shift and feel you might want to share all the positive aspects of it with the wider world, there are a TON of different ways you can do this, and lots that would be a good fit for you.

If, right now, your concern is to better your health, lose weight or improve a specific health issue – fine! Focus on that right now (but I must warn you – you may find you’ve experienced a consciousness shift at some point in the future that connects you to the ethical side of veganism :))

I can give you a list of people as long as my arm who started out being plant-based in order to achieve better health and fitness, then a way down the line had a total expansion of consciousness where they saw animal agriculture for the horror it is; saw how blind society is to it, and started using the word ‘vegan’ proudly (me included!)

I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but I’ve heard enough stories of this happening to not judge or interfere when someone tells me they are going vegan primarily for health reasons. I just think to myself ‘mmmkay,’ and smile because I know the universe probably has other ideas for them.

And even if this doesn’t happen? Well, the world needs more healthy people, not more sick people. Healthy people use less resources.

The world also needs more people concerned with the environment, not fewer. And a healthier, cleaner planet helps animals too, so….

And seriously, why would it be so important to someone who is probably a stranger WHY you are no longer harming animals, as long as you AREN’T?

Equally, If your concern is ONLY about the ethics of a vegan lifestyle; if you are not interested in health and wellness and you want to eat vegan junk food all day, then much as it pains me to say it (being a nutritionist and always wanting to get all up in people’s faces about being healthy) – this is your business and your business only, too!

(Though please do try and substitute whole grains for white refined grains. Aaaaargh! I can’t help myself, it’s stronger than me! 🙂 )

When you make the decision to go vegan, do it YOUR way.

It’s a brilliant idea to join vegan communities, both in real life and online, and you will find great support and fellowship in this.

I am confident that you will gain so much more from a vegan community than the annoyance you may get from the odd judgey vegan – so I highly recommend you join one.

But, if anyone starts to make you feel that you’re not doing it right, or that you’re not vegan enough, or that your reasons and motivations aren’t as pure as theirs, I don’t know how to put this any other way than – SCREW THEM!

If someone persists in saying things that feel critical rather than helpful (don’t worry, your instinct will tell you which of these was their intent); then put boundaries between yourself and that person.

Look, you are going (or have gone) vegan. THIS IS AMAAAAAZING!!!!!

Keep an open mind; keep reading, talking, learning, listening (to those that are genuinely helpful), sharing information etc, and you’ll get to be exactly who and where you need to be.

Let Judgey McJudgeypants find an elsewhere to be.

 

Questions You’ll Get As A Vegan, And How To Respond

people speech bubble

A while back I posted responses to some of the comments and questions that vegans get; part 1 is here, part 2 here.

I was a little, shall we say, sarcastic with some of the responses back then because as a long time vegan, it can be hard hearing (or these days, reading on social media) the same silly things over and over again while the planet is deteriorating due to animal agriculture; and both non-human and human animals are needlessly dying – the non-human through our brutalising of them, and the human through heart disease, strokes, cancers and diabetes complications that occur through eating the non-human animals.

There are a few I didn’t cover back then, so I’ll tackle them now, and I’ll try and be kinder. Maybe.

 

1. But what if you found yourself on a desert island with a cow, and absolutely NO vegetation around and no chance of getting rescued. Would you eat the cow?

Answer: Probably. But that isn’t happening right now, so I’ll just continue to eat the abundance of plant food available to me and leave the animal products – which only HARM my body and the planet – well alone.

 

2. But if we didn’t eat cows, the world would be overrun with them.

Answer: No. Truly no. We would simply stop breeding them for food if nobody ate them.

 

3. Cont…But if we stopped breeding cows for food and milk, then there would be no more cows. I mean nobody would keep them as pets, so they would effectively become extinct.

Answer: Cows becoming extinct is preferable to them being bred to lead a miserable life in which they are raped, having their offspring instantly taken from them, only living a quarter of their natural lifespan and meeting an untimely, brutal (and in many, MANY cases) long, drawn-out death.

Besides, there are many species that have gone extinct that you never heard of. Did you cry over these?

 

4. But God said we have to eat meat.

Answer: To you? Personally? No, God didn’t. At least not in any religious text I know of. There are proscriptions for IF we eat meat, but that is not the same thing. In the three Abrahamic religious texts, for every verse you give me that you believe means it’s ok to eat meat, there are verses that suggest that meat-eating is against the spirit of the text as a whole. I wrote about religious texts and vegetarianism here if you are interested.

 

5. But I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now if I went vegan.

Answer: As long as you eat enough calories and enough nutrients (which you should be concerned with if you are omni, too) you will thrive. In general, vegans get less sick than non-vegans, with both serious diseases, and minor ones.

 

6. But I wouldn’t know what to eat on a day-to-day basis.

Answer: Do you have access to Google? Can you type ‘vegan meal ideas’  into the search facility? There you go.

You can do one of two things. Both are great. You can eat EXACTLY as you eat now, but with the vegan versions of everything, or, discover a whole new world of vibrant, colourful foods from all around the world that are vegan by default, and discover how to make them yourself. You’ll have fun while learning, and very soon have a whole repertoire of go-to meals you can draw from each day.

 

7. But I don’t like vegan food.

Answer: You don’t like bananas? Apples? Sweet potato fries? Olives? Sweetcorn? Hummous? Popcorn? This list can go on for miles.

 

8. But eating too many vegetable foods makes me gassy.

Answer: Gross! I mean…If this happens (and assuming you don’t have medical issues with your stomach) then it’s just because your body isn’t sufficiently acquainted with fibre. The more vegetable matter you eat (veggies, beans, wholegrains etc), the more your body acclimates to digesting fibre and the fewer problems you will have with gas. Your body is INTENDED to eat fibre, so get chomping on those beans!

 

Starting Your Own Allotment In 3 Easy Steps

I’m away for the week discovering Santa Fe, New Mexico; so I bring you this guest post by a company called Mantis, fine purveyors of garden tools and composters.

Now I don’t currently garden; but I’d love to. I used to garden, and I remember that there’s nothing like working in the fresh air and getting your hands covered in earth to make you feel grounded and part of nature.

We all know the best fruits and veggies are the ones you grow yourself. I don’t need to be an active gardener to know this. Look, don’t be a ninny like me; if you have some garden space; get out there and start sowin’ them seeds. And yes, it’s definitely a case of do as I suggest, not as I do – what of it? I live in London; my soil is nuclear waste; nothing would grow; I don’t have the time; blah blah blah. Ok I know, I know; I need to get my excuse-laden-ass out there and start tilling that soil!

While I’m away don’t forget to check my Instagram and Twitter for pics of yummy South Western food – all of it animal, planet and people-friendly; and possibly some shots of desert, mountains and forest.

If you’re not already doing so, follow me on Periscope (the new-ish live-streaming App from Twitter). You’ll need to download the Periscope App (don’t panic it’s totally FREE!), then it’s pretty self-explanatory from there. My handle is @karencottenden and I ‘scope’ several times a week on all things vegan and plant-based. I hope to do a couple of Scopes while in Santa Fe to share my vegan finds and I’d LOVE for you to join me! The best feature of Periscope is that it’s interactive so you get to comment; question me; show me love: show me hate (though please don’t!) and be a fully equal participant.

(Disclaimer: I am not receiving money for the placement of this post. To the best of my knowledge, Mantis do not sell anything out of alignment with my vegan values!)

 

Starting Your Own Allotment In 3 Easy Steps

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A healthy nutritious plant-based diet obviously includes a ton of colourful vegetables.

They can be incorporated into all styles of cooking, and their high-energy value but low calorie content makes them a fantastic slimming food. The problem is that many supermarket vegetables are, to an extent, unnatural — they have been grown using artificial chemical enhancers and GMOs, which detract from the nutritional value of the vegetable.

The alternative to this is to buy organic food, which can be quite expensive if you’re purchasing it regularly. One way to ensure a regular supply of healthy, natural vegetables is to grow your own — and this can actually be much easier than you might think. All you need is a dedicated patch of land, detailed planning and the right growing techniques to have you eating home-grown vegetables in no time. Here is a three-step guide to starting your own allotment.

Find a suitable space

While you may be tempted to start a vegetable patch in your garden, unless you have plenty of space you will not produce a yield that can sustain your diet. You need a large, dedicated space for growing vegetables — an allotment is the perfect option. If you’re already aware of an allotment close to you then start making enquiries into how you can rent, otherwise you can contact your local council to identify and rent your allotment space. If your allotment is overgrown, you need to clear it out before you can start cultivating. Remove all traces of plants and weeds to give yourself a clean slate, but don’t dispose of your garden waste yet, as it will come in handy later.

Enrich your soil

A patch of soil may as well be a patch of sand if you don’t nourish the earth before planting. You should start by digging and turning the soil, using either a spade or a tiller, to ensure there are no weeds or rocks under the surface, as these will inhibit the growth of any produce. When you are satisfied that the soil is free from pest plants and debris, you should think about adding an enriching agent, such as compost, to fill the soil with growth-promoting nutrients.

While you can buy compost from a garden centre, you should stay in theme with your completely home-grown allotment and produce your own compost. The process to do so is quite simple and merely involves stockpiling garden waste, which eventually decomposes into compost. The best way to do so is by purchasing a compost tumbler. This will enable you to store your compost, as well as turn it and add/take away as you please. Gardening specialists Mantis stock a selection of composters and tillers that will aid you greatly in establishing your allotment — these are both available with a long guarantee, to assure quality.

Plan your produce

Growing produce isn’t as simple as planting a seed and watching it grow. You should do research into which type of plant grows best in different seasons, and allow your growth plan to reflect this. For a quick-start allotment: tomatoes, beetroot and spring onions are among the easiest vegetables to grow, while salad leaves and herbs can be grown in pots, as opposed to in the ground. Eat Seasonably has a great guide on which vegetables to plant based on the season, as well as instructions on how to grow them.

The important thing to remember with vegetable growth is to be patient, especially with your first yield. Over time, your soil will become more fertile and adapted to growing, but nourishing it will take time. Like everything, cultivating is a learning curve, and the more you do it the better you will get — and the tastier your vegetables will be.

 

How You Being Vegan Benefits Every Living Being On The Planet

Planet Gothenburg #photog from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Erik Söderström, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Ever heard the one ‘you care more about animals than you do about people, but you should care more about people because you…er.. ARE one‘ ?

Me too.

Not too often thank goodness, but I’ve heard it.

Now I KNOW the word ‘vegan’ was invented, back in 1944, to mean someone who chose not to use non-human animals as products in any way, be it for food, clothes, sport or entertainment.

At this time, the intent was to show compassion towards the non-human animals who don’t have a voice.

These days, with easy access to so much more information, we now know there are many beings that don’t have a voice, or not one that’s heard. I am often overwhelmed by reading stories about women and girls who are sold into slavery, forced into abusive marriages while still a child, who suffer ‘dowry deaths,’ who are forcibly kept from being educated; who self-immolate because that’s their only way out of a desperate life, who have undergone extensive FGM – I could go on.

Firstly, it’s ridiculous to separate people from animals, because people are animals too.

And omnivores need NO encouragement to separate themselves from animals – disassociating themselves serves to allow them to believe they are superior, and thus legitimises their eating of animals.

It’s harder to justify eating animals when we fully realise we are animals too. When we understand that we are the same, we have truly seen ourselves in the ‘other;’ in this case a non-human animal.

I believe that ‘otherising’ living beings is not single issue. WE ‘otherise’ animals; men ‘otherise’ women; people ‘otherise’ people of different races; straight people ‘otherise’ gay people; young people ‘otherise’ old people and vice-versa.

Woman is the other of man, animal is the other of human, stranger is the other of native, abnormality the other of norm, deviation the other of law-abiding, illness the other of health, insanity the other of reason, lay public the other of the expert, foreigner the other of state subject, enemy the other of friend ~ Zygmunt Bauman (Polish Sociologist, 1925-)

The fact is, we don’t have to just care about one set of living beings; we have the capacity to care about them all.

It’s not a single prejudice that is the most important, but prejudice itself. Though it’s necessary to fight each prejudice singularly in order to make people aware it exists (that’s why I strive to inform about veganism!); as with all negative things it’s also about treating the root of the problem and not just the symptoms. Hate, fear and the ‘otherising’ that results from this are the root of the problem; racism, sexism, speciesism are how the hate and fear manifest and are the symptoms.

The beauty and power of veganism is that it starts with the beings that are most seen as ‘other’ and the effects radiate outwards.

Caring about the beings who are presently seen as the lowliest in society, i.e. animals (although from things I’ve read lately, I’m starting to believe that women are also not seen as fully rounded, sentient beings, and that many people will see animals as sentient beings before they see women as such), has a ripple effect and spreads out to all of society.

I’ll let these guys help me explain 🙂 :

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace ~ Albert Schweitzer (French/German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician and missionary, 1875-1965)

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love ~ Pythagoras (Greek polymath, c. 570-c. 495BC)

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly ~ Martin Luther King (Civil Rights Leader, 1929-1968)

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated ~ (this quote is often attributed to Gandhi but can’t be precisely verified) Mahatma Ghandi (Leader of the Indian independence movement, 1869-1948)

So being vegan in effect, helps all oppressed peoples.

How else does veganism benefit all people on the planet?

Well, it benefits the planet, upon which every person resides!

It helps combat world hunger – I’d say that’s being pretty caring of other people?

If we, as vegans are healthy (which if we stick as much as we can to whole foods, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be), we can better care for all living beings – including people.

What about the quality of life and mental health of slaughter house workers? Slaughter house workers are often from immigrant communities, and they are poorly paid to kill animals for us. As a result of the speed of the machinery they often suffer serious injuries, psychological stress due to the nature of the work, and are more prone to committing acts of violence. By going vegan we are not contributing to the awful quality of life of these people or the people they affect.

So I figure it does a disservice to veganism to think of it as only helping non-human animals. Of course, as vegans we are shining the spotlight ON animal abuse and slaughter, and taking ourselves out of the equation that demands this cruelty happen, but I believe that all the reasons for going vegan are interconnected. It truly does benefit every living organism on the planet if you think about it.

We can care deeply about non-human animals. And we can also care deeply about all living beings. And we can ALSO care deeply about nature, because it gives life to, and feeds the soul of all living beings (you just try living without nature). It’s possible to care about all of these things at the same time.

And the accusation that vegans care more about animals than they do about humans is just silly, nothing more than lashing out because of lack of a better argument.

 

How To Never Be The Apologetic Vegan

ristorante italiano in NYC from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Michele Ursino, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Because I’ve been vegan for a million years (ok, 26), there were a good few years when I was the only vegan I knew, and the only vegan anyone in my social circles knew.

Back then, hardly anyone knew what the word even meant, and when I explained, I could tell that I was considered just a little bit TOO different, extreme, and martyr ‘ish.’

I guess because I was highly aware of how negatively people were perceiving me, I developed a bit of an apologetic ‘shtik’

There was a particular group of friends I used to go out with, and we’d often go to a Chinese or Indian restaurant. When the server came to our table, I’d always check that the dish I was about to order was dairy and egg free. As I asked the server these questions, I realised the table would go quiet and everyone would listen to me, so when I finished, I’d sort of shrug and blush a little and say ‘sorry guys, I’m the weird vegan one!’

Knowing what I know NOW, I cringe at this.

I don’t blame myself – I didn’t know any better. I didn’t have access to the multitude of information we have today that could’ve helped me deal with that situation in a more confident way.

If you’re going vegan today it’s quite the opposite.

Most people now KNOW what being vegan means in terms of the ethics, and thanks to lots of us sharing articles and documentaries on social media; the health, environmental, world hunger and social justice reasons to go vegan are a lot more widely known.

We have the courage to talk about it more as we grow in numbers so we don’t HAVE to be remotely apologetic (I didn’t HAVE to be back then, I just wasn’t equipped with the tools and information to help me NOT be).

If you find yourself the only vegan in a group of non-vegans, you may feel yourself straying into apologetic territory – if you are all choosing a place to go eat for example. While you probably don’t mind going to an omnivore restaurant if you know there are going to be adequate vegan options, you will probably want to avoid a steakhouse that you know darn well would only offer you a plate of garnish lettuce.

Here are my top tips to keep you away from sounding apologetic when you’re out and about:

 

1. Remember: How YOU perceive yourself is often how EVERYBODY will perceive you. If you don’t sound like you’re giving much value to what you’re saying, no one else will value it either.

It could well be that years ago when I was talking about being vegan to my friends I was doing so in such a feeble, apologetic way that I CAUSED their negativity about it, rather than their negativity causing me to be apologetic.

Always try and have at the forefront of your mind the moment when it clicked for you that you wanted to be vegan. Whatever it was that inspired that decision, keep that front and centre. This will help you radiate confidence when talking about it, and when making group decisions based on it.

2. We are not yet in the majority, but we can ACT like we are – because guess what, we should be; and sooner or later we WILL be (yay!). Act like what you’re talking about or asking for in restaurants is completely normal and if you are challenged, be surprised you are being challenged. If we act like we’re the norm, it will happen quicker that we will be. We’ll manifest it. We’ll collectively fake it till we make it!

3. Be ready for when new people ask you why you’re vegan. Tell of your ethical reasons if it’s these that inspired you to go vegan, but also have at hand a few knockout facts that cover all bases. The Cowspiracy Facts page is great for this.

4. Even though I recommend we act like we’re in the majority, we should (and I know I don’t need to say this) always be unfailingly polite. It costs nothing, and a bit of politeness and charm always help a request get heard.

I’ve never EVER had a server have a problem with me politely asking questions. I’ve even managed to get a decent meal in bayou country in Louisiana when only hog and crawfish seemed to be on the menu, and the servers were initially a little wary when I said we didn’t eat meat. When I politely suggested a few ideas we got a perfectly decent salad, and fries with Cajun spices.

Don’t forget, in the restaurant context servers are there to serve, and are aware they’ll get a good tip if they please you, so no apologetic mumbling needed here as long as we are courteous in our requests.

5. Never be afraid to suggest a different restaurant to the one being suggested. After all, others would do this based on taste preferences, there’s no reason why you can’t do this for your ‘taste’ preferences, just suggest another fun place that you KNOW has great food.

6. Know that as long as you are telling your truth, stating facts, and making requests politely – you  have no need to act, or be, apologetic. Should anyone try and make you feel that you should be, this is their problem.

7. Why would you ever act sorry for saving animals, saving the planet, promoting world peace, getting healthy so you are not a drain on health resources, helping combat world hunger, helping end violence and having a positive impact on all oppressions?

 

Forget Diet And Detox – New Year, New Lifestyle

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Guys – did you know I’m on TV these days?

If you’re not already, follow me on Periscope https://www.periscope.tv/KarenCottenden (download the FREE app) and get FREE vegan tips and insights 6 days a week!

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So you’re counting today as the first day of the New Year right?

Good. Me too.

Now, I can totally see the point of changing shit up at New Year.

It’s an easy way to measure progress; we will always know where we started from, and we’ll have made a clear and well-defined intention that is loaded with the freshness and hope the New Year brings.

This is good.

But…

How many of us have made ‘New Years Resolutions’ only to have forgotten all about them by, ooooh, March at the very latest?

I believe the reasons for this are:

  • We know the resolution will benefit us, but doing it (whatever it is) feels like torture
  • We’re not really engaged with the reasons why we are making a change
  • We’re lazy mofo’s (JK!)

Those of you looking to go vegan/plant-based purely as a way to ‘diet’ or ‘detox’ this January have it ALL wrong. Yep, ya do.

Don’t misunderstand – I’m not judging you for wanting to lose weight and clean up your insides with a whole food, vegan diet. No Sir.

It’s great that you’ve realised the best way to achieve these things IS with a whole food vegan diet. Lots of people still think that avoiding carbs are where it’s at; so props to you for being cleverer than these types.

And as I mention on my ‘About’ page – any way into veganism people may have is TOTES KOOL with me.

But you are coming to it from a perspective that may not serve to sustain your resolution.

You see, being vegan isn’t a DIET. At least, it works BEST when it’s not perceived a diet, but as a whole new lifestyle.

Why?

We always think of ‘diets’ and ‘detoxes’ as temporary. I mean, who is on a permanent diet? OK, you probably know someone who says they are permanently ‘dieting’ but not because they want to, and you know they’re not happy about it.

I encourage you to think of going vegan/plant based as an entirely new lifestyle. An exciting and vibrant one. One that will change your life forever for the better in ways that you can’t even imagine right now. Not only will it benefit your health, but it will benefit every single living organism on the face of the Earth, and the Earth itself! It will help combat world hunger. Your new lifestyle will help give today’s children a chance to explore and experience the natural beauty of the world when they are older, and to eventually  bring their own children into a cleaner, safer, more stable world not fearful of extreme weather events, scarcity and war.

YES war! Going vegan can stop wars! Check it:

As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields ~ Leo Tolstoy (Russian author, 1828-1910)

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love ~ Pythagoras (Greek polymath, c. 570-c. 495BC)

As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer (Polish/American author, 1902-1991)

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace ~ Albert Schweitzer (French/German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician and missionary, 1875-1965)

There is nothing wrong with focussing on the weight loss or detoxing benefits of this lifestyle if it’s that that drew you in in the first place, or with eating specific plant-foods that promote this. But if you go into it thinking of it purely as a diet or detox, you’ll:

A) Come to a point when you consider your goal achieved, go back to old habits, and find yourself making the SAME resolutions next year (PEOPLE – we only have so many years, let’s make DIFFERENT resolutions every year!)

Or:

B) Get bored, because you’re just eating fruit and chia seeds and drinking smoothies in an effort to achieve your detox goal; when you could be eating from a HYUUUUGE variety of delicious dishes as you educate yourself about all the ways to veganise old favourite meals, and the multitude of yummy world cuisines!

 

By looking at your resolution as a lifestyle change, rather than as a detox or diet (even if it’s those things that were your initial motivations), your entire perspective on it will change.

Because ‘lifestyle’ implies longer term; you’ll relax into it, learning new things bit by bit rather than bracing yourself for what you may feel is the deprivation of a ‘detox’ or ‘diet’.

You’ll push yourself to discover and explore new foods rather than just grabbing a kale/beet/wheatgrass/whatever smoothie,* and soon find yourself delighting in the amount you’ve learned, not to mention loving all your delicious new culinary creations.

I also encourage you to get informed about the environmental, ethical and social justice impact that veganism has, even if these are not your reasons for going vegan.

Why?

Because the more you know, the more your consciousness will expand, and the more reasons and incentive you will have for STAYING vegan, and thus, slim and untoxed!

We ALL like to feel that we’re doing good. Animal product industry marketers rely on this when they try and sell us ‘humane’ or ‘free range’ products.

So, instead of going back to feeling good about ourselves for buying eggs that are, in reality, produced in JUST as cruel a way as those at more intensive egg farms and benefitting only the bottom line of the greedy egg industry; and for throwing £20 into a charity bucket for ‘Starving Children In Africa’ when it’s actually animal agriculture that siphons food away from hungry people to cattle (for less hungry people to eat); let’s feel good about ourselves in 2016 for something that ACTUALLY MEANS SHIT.

Embrace every aspect of your new lifestyle – it truly is so much more than a diet ever could be.

And if you need personal, one-on-one guidance – you know darn well where I am.

Seeing this as a lifestyle shift and embracing its totality, rather than purely as a diet or detox means it may take a little longer to achieve your weight goal (though most likely not much longer at all!), but I promise you, once you reach it, you are far, FAR more likely to maintain it.

 

* I don’t mean to bash the smoothie; but it doesn’t hold a candle to a huge plate of Ethiopian food, or a table full of Middle Eastern Mezze.