Events to mark World Vegetarian Day

Believe it or not, 1 October is World Vegetarian Day, and we have details of a couple of events taking place locally to mark the occasion.

  • There will be a Veggie Takeover at The Eight Bells , Long Crendon, Bucks, HP 18 9AL, on 1 and 2 October.  Caterer Ashley Jones writes: “Alongside our normal classic menu, we will run our set lunch menu from 12noon till 6pm as a solely vegetarian or vegan menu, including a vegan dessert! This is to promote World Vegetarian Day and build awareness within the food and service industry.”
  • On the Saturday 29 September at 7 pm, Maymessy cookery school (http://www.maymessy.com/) hosts a vegan pop up dinner party in collaboration with Yafo Kitchen at Garlands Farm, West Challow, Wantage, OX12 9PB. Diners will enjoy a Mediterranean vegan feast for £30 each. Further details, including how to book, can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/166636060877406/ and on the Yafo Kitchen website at https://theyafokitchen.co.uk/product/vegan-pop-up-dinner-29-09-18/.

Paul Appleby

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Book reviews

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah: the autobiography. Simon & Schuster, 2018, 344 pp; hbk, £20

He may not be the Poet Laureate but Benjamin Zephaniah is arguably one of Britain’s most popular poets and authors. At the age of 60 he has written his autobiography, telling the rags-to-riches story of his ‘life and rhymes’.

Zephaniah is an honorary patron and life member of The Vegan Society (www.vegansociety.com), having become a vegan at the tender age of 13, two years after adopting a vegetarian diet “to express my disgust at eating dead bodies, and my love of animals.” The author tells us of his admiration for the animal rights movement (“the most dedicated of liberation movements”) and support for many animal protection organisations. However, it is his writing, including poetry, novels, plays and children’s books, music and radical politics that have endeared Zephaniah to so many people.

Born and raised in Birmingham, the son of immigrants from the Caribbean, Zephaniah had a troubled childhood, with little formal education and spells in approved school and borstal.     A teacher famously described young Benjamin as a “failure” and predicted an early demise. However, a move to London in 1978 and encouragement from the reggae artist Bob Marley (who told Zephaniah “Britain needs you, so forward on”) persuaded the young Rastafarian to exchange a life of petty crime for a life of meaningful rhyme. Though never compromising his views (Zephaniah refused an OBE in 2003, telling The Guardian “I get angry when I hear that word ‘empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality”) he has gone on to become a familiar figure in the media and in the classroom, where his poetry is especially popular.

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah makes compelling reading and provides a fascinating insight into a man who proudly describes himself as “a black survivor”.

Peter Gabriel: Global Citizen by Paul Hegarty. Reaktion Books, 2018, 248 pp; pbk, £9-95

Peter Gabriel: Global Citizen presents a chronological analysis of Gabriel’s musical development from eight years as lead vocalist with the progressive rock band Genesis, though his four untitled solo albums, the multi-million selling albums So (1986) and Us (1992), promotion of world music through the Real World record label and the WOMAD festival, soundtrack for the London Millennium Dome show (OVO; 2000), to the more recent covers album Scratch My Back (2010) and New Blood (2011) – a collection of his earlier songs re-recorded with orchestral backing. Gabriel has also recorded complete soundtracks for the feature films Birdy (1985), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Rabbit-proof Fence (2002).       In short, he is one of the world’s most talented, productive and innovative musicians.

Although the book includes relatively little biographical information, it rightly draws attention to Gabriel’s humanitarian concerns as “a highly visible advocate and fund-raiser for Amnesty International (and co-)founder of the Witness initiative, which provides people with means to capture and distribute imagery of human rights abuses.” However, Gabriel remains outside the political mainstream, once stating that: “I don’t have faith in large organisations, in large groups or the ideologies which are supposed to appeal to them.” Peter Gabriel is also a celebrity supporter of Viva, having been a vegetarian since the 1970s (https://www.viva.org.uk/what-we-do/celebrity-supporters/peter-gabriel), although the book makes no mention of this.

Though comprehensive, Paul Hegarty’s book is over-analytical and frequently pretentious, the author’s closing sentence providing a perfect example: “New Blood protracts Gabriel into different dimensions of locatedness, dwelling inside his work, but poised outside it simultaneously.” What is that supposed to mean? Fans of the man and his music may find Daryl Easlea’s recently updated Without Frontiers: The Life and Music of Peter Gabriel more digestible, while the musician’s website (http://petergabriel.com/) provides a valuable source of information.

Paul Appleby

Funny animal stories

Everyone likes a funny animal story, especially if it has a happy ending. A good example appeared in The Guardian newspaper recently: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/10/driving-me-nuts-german-police-rescue-man-baby-squirrel.  Police in Karlsruhe, Germany, came to the aid of a man who was being pursued by a baby squirrel.  The drama ended abruptly when the squirrel, which is believed to have lost its mother and was in search of a new home, lay down and fell asleep.  The squirrel was later taken to an animal rescue centre where it was reported to be “doing well”.

The disoriented juvenile was a red squirrel, a native species that is now rare in England and Wales, having been largely displaced by the more adaptable (and increasing vilified) grey squirrel, introduced to the UK from North America in the 1870s and now regarded as an invasive species. However, as the naturalist Peter Wohlleben points out in The Inner Life of Animals (Vintage, 2018):

“(T)he red squirrel (is) a prime example of how we sort animals into categories. Their dark button-eyes are adorable, their soft fur is a beautiful reddish colour … and they pose no threat to humans. In spring, young trees sprout from their forgotten food caches, so you could say they help to establish new woodlands. In short, we are kindly disposed towards them. We avoid thinking about their favourite food: baby birds.”

In fact, both red and grey squirrels have a largely vegetarian diet, and are only occasional, opportunistic omnivores. If the baby squirrel turns out to be one of the fortunate 20 per cent or so that survive their first year of life, he or she can look forward to an average lifespan of three years.  Fortunately, neither species is considered to be at threat of extinction, so at least this funny animal story seems destined for a happy ending.

Paul Appleby

James Crawford (1953-2018)

James Crawford, or Jim as I knew him, was a vegan and animal rights activist. He joined Oxford Vegetarians in 1988, the beginning of 20 years and more of continuous membership, during which time he was an enthusiastic supporter, regularly attending meetings and other events.

Jim was born in Oxford in 1953 and lived in the city all his life, aside from taking a degree course at Birmingham University. There he studied Biology before switching to Geography, appalled by the horrific experiments on animals that biology students were required to perform.  The experience left Jim with a lifelong loathing of vivisection, and he became an outspoken advocate for animal rights.  He was a man of deep conviction who wrote numerous letters to local newsletters putting the vegan/animal rights point of view, and he attended many animal rights marches and protests both locally and nationally.  Nevertheless, Jim was a quiet and thoughtful man, with a droll sense of humour.  He was a talented footballer in his youth and was told that he could become a professional player, but he did not want to make the commitment, and he never settled down to a career after graduation.  Jim was a volunteer at the Vegan Society offices while they were based in Oxford in the late 1980s, and he enjoyed walking in Brasenose Woods and Shotover Country Park, where he loved to watch the deer, rabbits, birds and other wildlife.  He had an extensive CD collection of mainly classical music, and he wrote a comic novel based on his student days called Goal!

In 2012, after spending nearly 8 months in hospital, Jim was diagnosed with a serious illness that left him largely housebound, leaving both Jim and his elderly mother (with whom he lived) dependent on the services of carers. Nevertheless, it was a great shock to Jim’s family when he suddenly passed away on 4 July aged 65, less than a year after his mother had died.  Although I had not seen Jim since 2012 owing to his illness, I shall miss him as a friend and fellow vegan.

Paul Appleby

(The photo below, taken by Joe Halse in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in January 2012, shows Jim Crawford in the black jacket with, from left to right, Paul Appleby, Anne Orgee and Christine Halse.)

OxVeg stall at the Elder Stubbs Festival

OxVeg are running a stall at the Elder Stubbs Festival, Elder Stubbs Allotments, Rymers Lane, Oxford, OX4 3EQ, on Saturday 18 August, 12 noon – 5pm.  This year’s theme for this popular annual event in East Oxford is the rainforest.

Ahimsa, the Young Indian Vegetarians newsletter

The Summer 2018 issue of Ahimsa, newsletter of the Young Indian Vegetarians, will be published soon.  To order a free copy send your name and postal address to the editor, Nitin Mehta MBE, at animalahimsa{at}gmail.com .  You can also contact Nitin through his website http://www.nitinmehta.co.uk .

Paul Appleby

If it moves, cull it

A report in The Sunday Times (Badger cull goes national to fury of animal campaigners, Jonathan Leake, 27/5/2018) described how “farmers will be allowed to kill badgers across England with a bounty of up to £50 for each corpse” after environment secretary Michael Gove ruled that culling will now be permitted in ‘low-risk’ areas wherever there is an outbreak of bovine TB (bTB). More than 19,200 badgers were killed in 2017 in a misguided and cruel attempt to limit the spread of bTB.  According to the Badger Trust: “The vast majority of these badgers (over 85%) are likely to (have been) perfectly healthy and TB free and there is little evidence that the tiny proportion that are TB infected pose any major risk of disease transmission to badgers or cattle.” Indeed, the number of cattle slaughtered after testing positive for bTB has risen year on year since the badger cull began.  As the Zoological Society of London recognized in a response to the proposals, the Government ruling: “ignores all the evidence that … culling has been consistently linked to increased (incidence of) cattle TB” (their emphasis).

The Government’s plans now face a High Court challenge in a judicial review being taken by the ecologist Tom Langton, supported by the Badger Trust, and the Oxfordshire Badger Group website (https://www.oxonbadgergroup.org.uk/) contains suggestions of what you can do to help.  You can also sign a petition against the cull started by the ecologist and teacher of agriculture and environmental science Lee Jenkins on the Change.org website (https://www.change.org/p/michael-gove-stop-the-nationwide-cull-of-badgers; with thanks to Jane Magpie for the link).  As Mr Jenkins points out: “Vaccinations would be a far more ethical way of stopping (bovine) TB, along with increased hygiene measures in farms” (the Sunday Times article recognises that “bovine TB is a livestock disease spread mainly by farmers moving infected cattle between farms”).

As if killing even more badgers wasn’t enough, licenses have now been issued to farmers in several counties, including Berkshire and Wiltshire, to shoot ravens, even though the birds are legally protected and rare, with only 7,400 pairs across the UK (Michael Gove allows farmers to cull protected ravens, The Sunday Times, 17/6/2018).  The excuse for this measure is that ravens “can attack lambs and sheep”, with one farmer in Dorset claiming that ravens “were killing a couple of lambs a day and blinding one or two sheep a week” on his farm on Dorset.  No wonder, with a reported 9000 sheep to look after!  Even so, it seems much more likely that the ravens were pecking out the eyes and tongues of dead sheep, which are a whole lot easier to ‘attack’ than live animals, but you know the score by now.  Whenever farmers claim that wild animals are spreading disease or attacking their livestock the Government roll over and authorise another cull.

Paul Appleby (with thanks to Paul Freestone for alerting me to The Sunday Times articles)

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