Oxford Eco-Vegan Festival, 24 November

The Oxford Eco-Vegan Festival returns to the Kassam Stadium, Oxford, OX4 4XP, on Saturday 24 November, 10:30-17:00. Tickets cost £3 on the door or you can purchase VIP tickets in advance (allowing early entry and a goodie bag of vegan treats) by emailing events{at}farplace.org.uk. The Festival aims “to promote a vegan diet, sustainability and animal welfare in a positive atmosphere”, with the organisers promising “many stalls mainly featuring food though there will be charity, beauty, clothing and wellness stalls with various talks taking place throughout the day.” Profits from the event go to the organisers, Farplace Animal Rescue. Further details and directions to the Kassam Stadium here.


Oxford Vegan Market dates 2019

The Oxford Vegan Market returns to Oxford Town Hall on Sundays 20 January and 3 November 2019 after what appeared to be another successful event last Sunday.  There was a good mixture of stalls selling a variety of the usual food items (cakes, tea, chocolate, &c), as well as some campaigning groups including The League Against Cruel Sports and the Sumatran Orangutan Society.  Paul Freestone’s photo below shows one of several tempting cake stalls at the Market.


Plant-based diets are essential to avoid catastrophic climate change

A global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste, and improving farming practices and technologies are required to feed 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, according to a study published in the journal Nature (https://www.ndph.ox.ac.uk/news/feeding-10-billion-people-by-2050-within-planetary-limits-may-be-achievable-say-researchers). Study leader Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford warned that: “the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the rise of diets high in fats, sugars and meat (whereupon) all planetary boundaries related to food production would be surpassed, some of them by more than twofold.” Conversely, adopting predominantly plant-based diets globally could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, and also reduce other environmental impacts, such as fertilizer application and the use of cropland and freshwater, by a tenth to a quarter.  To achieve this, Dr Springmann called for: “comprehensive policy and business approaches … to make dietary changes towards healthy and more plant-based diets possible and attractive for a large number of people (including) school and workplace programmes, economic incentives and labelling, and aligning national dietary guidelines with the current scientific evidence on healthy eating.”

Almost simultaneously, a related paper was published in The Lancet (https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanplh/PIIS2542-5196(18)30206-7.pdf).  The paper examined the health and nutritional aspects of sustainable diet strategies and their association with environmental impacts using a global modelling analysis covering more than 150 countries. Three diet scenarios were considered: one based on environmental objectives, replacing varying amounts of animal-source foods with plant-based foods; another based on food security objectives, aimed at reducing levels of underweight, overweight, and obesity; and a third based on public health objectives, examining flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan diets. The low-meat flexitarian and meatless diets were found to be “in line with available evidence on healthy eating” whilst leading to “large reductions in premature mortality” (by 22% for the vegan diet) and markedly reducing “environmental impacts globally (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 54–87%, nitrogen application by 23–25%, phosphorus application by 18–21%, cropland use by 8–11%, and freshwater use by 2–11%)”.  The authors concluded that: “a public health strategy focused on improving energy balance and dietary changes towards predominantly plant-based diets … is a suitable approach for sustainable diets.”

[The issues raised in these papers will be among those to be considered at a multi-disciplinary research conference at St Anne’s College, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HS, on Wednesday 7 November, 9 am – 7 pm. The effects of meat and dairy on population health, the economy, society and the environment is organised by the Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) project and sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. The registration fee (£30; student/unwaged £15) includes all refreshments during the conference and a vegetarian/vegan buffet lunch.]

Paul Appleby

Oxford Vegan Market on Sunday 4 November

We have just learned that there will be another Oxford Vegan Market in Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s, on Sunday 4 November, 10:30 to 4pm.  Details at: https://www.facebook.com/OxfordVeganMarket/

Book review: Cabbage – A global history

Cabbage: A Global History by Meg Muckenhoupt; Reaktion Books, 2018, 140 pp, £10-99

Cabbage investigates the disparity between the vegetable’s poor reputation and its enduring popularity. One of the oldest crops in the world and a good source of vitamins A and C, cabbage has long been an essential part of European and Asian diets and is thought to have been domesticated as early as the first century BCE. However, cabbage is often perceived as the food of the poor, a vegetable that those with a choice would avoid because of its unpleasant aroma.

For me, cabbage is associated with overcooked, limp and colourless leaves served with boiled potatoes for school dinners at a time when vegetarianism was far from mainstream. Whilst cabbage has long been regarded as a cheap and easy way to derive nutrition, it also suffers from a reputation problem that means it is rarely served in restaurants, and it is this dichotomy that makes this book interesting.

Cabbage is one of Reaktion Books’ Edible series comprising 77 books on various types of food and drink ranging from apple to wine. The book charts the vegetable’s history, detailing its various uses, biological classification and chemical composition. The author mentions other brassicas, such as kale and turnips, and refers to cabbage-related traditions, including Halloween pranks and the origin of the ‘man in the moon’ – a peasant who stole some cabbage on Christmas Eve and was sent by Christ to sit in the moon as penance.

An appendix provides 19 historical and contemporary recipes, including several soups, and some unexpected uses of cabbage such as sauerkraut cake and kimchi grapefruit margarita. Some of the recipes include meat, such as ‘A Ukrainian Grandmother’s Holubsti’ (cabbage rolls), but they could be adapted to use vegetarian fillings.

Cabbage consumption is declining in many countries, but globalisation may help to keep cabbage on the menu, with dishes such as kimchi becoming popular in the West. Although the topic might not seem particularly exciting, unless you really like cabbage, this brief overview provides insight that might help improve the reputation of a much-maligned vegetable.

Anne Orgée


(Anne’s photo shows a magnificent savoy cabbage in Oxford Botanic Garden)

Review of a talk by Carol J Adams

It’s a pity that the excellent talk by Carol J Adams at St Cross Building, Oxford, on 25 October 2018, wasn’t better advertised: I only found out about it on the day it took place. The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J Adams (1990) is a seminal work, one of the five most important books about animal rights published during the modern era. I first heard about it via BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme in the early 1990s, and was rather put off by the subtitle: A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory. However, any idea that this book was only relevant to women was immediately dismissed as soon as I started to read it.

The author’s 60-minute PowerPoint presentation underlined the fact that all the issues raised in the original book are still topical. Numerous slides of fast food adverts and menus, TV campaigns for junk food chains, and ‘chalk misogyny’ (hand written messages on pavement chalk boards) underlined a deeply rooted and shameful theme. Images of women and animals are linked together to sell meat and dairy produce, or blatantly explicit sexist text is merged within a specific promotion, such as a billboard poster of a bulging burger with the message: “Grab both buns, and eat it like a man.” During the last US Presidential election, KFC produced merchandise badges that read: “Hillary Special, Two Fat Thighs, Two Small Breasts … Left Wing.” The latter was discussed within the context of Donald Trump’s overt sexism, and illustrated with a bizarre right wing protest using milk as “a creamy symbol of white racial purity in Trump’s America” outside an anti-Trump exhibit at New York City’s Museum of the Moving Image in February 2017. A bunch of bare-chested Neo-Nazis gulped down gallons of milk to prove that it’s a symbol of Caucasian superiority. Another slide showed a poster for ‘Trump Steaks’, which Carol Adams succinctly dismissed as “another of his failed businesses.”

During the Q & A session, Carol Adams expressed her support for the Impossible Burger and told listeners that ‘mock meats’ were first devised by Seventh Day Adventists in the late nineteenth century. Afterwards I had the opportunity to talk to the speaker, expressing my gratitude for her ground-breaking work. It was a real privilege to meet this champion of both women’s rights and animal rights.

Paul Freestone

Book review: My Life as an Animal

My life as an animal: A Memoir – Adventures, Music, Animal Rights by Andrew Tyler; Loop Books, 2017, £7-99 (available from Animal Aid: https://www.animalaidshop.org.uk/books-dvds/animal-rights-books/my-life-as-animal-by-andrew-tyler)

Andrew Tyler was widely known as the former director of Animal Aid, a post he held for 19 years. However, his memoir contains many surprises. It charts his difficult early years, including an eight-year stint in a Jewish orphanage, travels around North America in the late 1960s, and a series of interesting encounters arising from his work as a music journalist.

The structure of the book is unusual. It starts with Andrew’s decision to contact Dignitas and make arrangements for his assisted suicide in Zurich. Andrew had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and a severe degenerative disease in his back, and was reluctant to shrink into “pain, infirmity and indignity” or to “eke out more years without purpose”. He died in April 2017, having devoted many years to improving the lot of both human beings and animals through his work as an investigative journalist and as an animal rights activist.

The book ends with reflections on his time at Animal Aid, delivered in a question and answer format, descriptions of 19 rescue dogs that lived with Andrew and his family over a 33-year period, and a moving postscript by Andrew’s wife, Sara Starkey. An 8,000-word article and a speech delivered at a conference in Virginia round off an inspiring book that, thanks to Andrew’s journalistic skills, is well written with a strong narrative.

Andrew was drawn to animal rights following a chance encounter with a small bird that flew repeatedly at a glass panel trying to escape from an office block. There must have been something about her plight and her persistent efforts to break free that inspired Andrew to devote so much of his life to raising awareness of the plight of the billions of animals who are sacrificed for food, science or sport. His phlegmatic approach to euthanasia might make some readers feel uncomfortable, despite being applied equally to his own situation and that of his ailing dogs, but there is no doubt that he lived a life of purpose in which all lives were valued.

Anne Orgée

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