Upcoming vegan markets and fairs

Sunday 23 June, 10 am – 3 pm.
Newbury Vegan Market, Market Place, Newbury, RG14.
Expect to see a wide range of vegan stalls including delicious food, ethical clothing brands, cruelty free cosmetics, arts and crafts, plus light entertainment throughout the day. Details at: https://www.veganfairs.co.uk/upcoming-events/newbury-vegan-market-2019.

Friday 5 – Sunday 7 July, 10 am – 5 pm daily.
Just V Show, Olympia London, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, London W14 8UX.
A summer celebration of beautiful vegetarian and vegan food, drink and lifestyle products, organised by f2f Events and supported by the Vegetarian and Vegan Societies.  Details and tickets at: https://www.justvshow.co.uk/london/.

Sunday 21 July, 10am – 3 pm.
Stroud Summer Vegan Fair, Subscription Rooms, George Street, Stroud, GL5 1AE.
Stalls showcasing vegan food, ethical clothing and cruelty-free cosmetics, plus an exciting programme of thought-provoking talks and demos. Admission £2, accompanied under-14s free.  Details at: https://www.veganfairs.co.uk/upcoming-events/stroud-summer-vegan-fair-2019.

The next Oxford Vegan Market will be held in Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1BX, on Sunday 3 November, 10:30 am – 4 pm, admission £2 (https://www.vegfest.co.uk/event/oxford-vegan-market-4/).

Paul Appleby

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Vegetarian for Life

People are sometimes surprised to discover that a charity for older vegans exists. Some even respond by asking, “why does there need to be a charity for older vegans?” Not every older vegan needs support, but many do. Vegetarian for Life (VfL; a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1120687) was launched in 2008 to help ensure that no one is forced to give up their veganism because of age-related issues. Issues specifically affecting the ageing vegan community can be introduced in three Cs: Care, Cooking, and Company.

Care

People rarely envision themselves living in care homes when they get older. Yet 416,000 people live in care homes in the UK today. Currently, vegans make up only a very small amount of these care homes residents, but the number is rising and in the past five years the number of vegans in care homes has increased by 167 per cent.

How would feel as a vegan moving into a care home? Do you know whether the home would provide you with vegan meals? Would your food be prepared separately to meat in the kitchen? Would you get a range of meals, or the same every day? Would the chef understand your nutritional needs? If you got dementia, would they serve you meat? Over 1,250 homes have signed up to VfL’s UK List of Veggie-Friendly Care Homes to help ensure care homes have the right answers to these questions. Membership is free, and care homes receive a Vegan Rescue Pack, meal plans, free care caterer training and more.

VfL wants veganism to be as respected as halal and kosher meal requirements. This extends to the issue of dementia. If a Muslim or Jewish resident with dementia requests pork, there would usually be great reluctance to provide it. While veganism is not a religion, for many vegans it is the strongest belief they have. We’ve made a short film that draws attention to this issue.

Cooking

Older vegans who live independently can also face issues when it comes to mealtimes. Meals on Wheels services can support people to live independently for years, helping to prevent the need for residential care. But they rarely offer vegan options. VfL has a grants scheme for older vegan individuals in financial difficulty. One of these is Manav Seva, a completely vegetarian Meals on Wheels scheme in Leicester. If you know someone who could benefit from a grant, take a look at the Vegan Fund on our website. Some older vegans don’t need Meals on Wheels, but find it challenging to prepare meals every day. Many older vegans don’t live near supermarkets with a decent vegan ready-meal range, or don’t have access to the internet to order online. For this reason, VfL produced the booklet Dinners to Your Door, a completely vegan meal-delivery guide.

Company

This is an issue affecting the older population of the UK, not just vegans. But in a bid to combat loneliness amongst the older vegan population, VfL introduced a pen- and phone-pal scheme. Many older people don’t know any other vegans or vegetarians, and having the opportunity to speak with someone who shares your belief can be empowering. Older vegans and vegetarians are linked up across the UK and form new friendships, with over 60 people participating in the scheme already.

Can you help?

If you work at a care establishment, have a loved one in care, or are just happy to visit a care home local to you – please consider taking our UK List form to the manager. Many older vegans – and younger ones – also volunteer with VfL. Find more information on our website. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re going to get there.

Jasmine Owens, Vegetarian for Life

Palm oil: is there an alternative?

Readers will be aware of the envionmental concerns surrounding the production of palm oil, implicated in the destruction of the natural habitats of orangutans, Sumatran tigers and Sumatran rhinos. The extent of the problem was described in some detail in an article by Paul Tullis in The Guardian newspaper (How the world got hooked on palm oil,  19/2/2019).  According to the author, palm oil plantations “account for 10% of permanent global cropland”, with annual production predicted to reach 240m tonnes by 2050 (from 62.6m tonnes in 2015). “Today, 3 billion people in 150 countries use products containing palm oil. Globally, we each consume an average of 8kg of palm oil a year.” Although more than two-thirds of palm oil is used in food products, where it has often replaced unhealthy trans fats and animal fats, 70% of personal care items contain one or more palm oil derivatives.  It is also used in animal feed and biofuel.  The popularity of the palm oil is understandable given that it provides the highest yield per acre of any oilseed crop – at least five times as much as rapeseed, sunflower or soybeans.

Eight-five percent of palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia, and the fires lit to clear forests for palm oil production is the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the latter, a country of 261 million people. ‘Sustainable palm oil’ is touted as the ethical alternative, but a palm oil product “can earn a ‘certified sustainable’ label even if 99% of the palm oil it includes came from freshly deforested land.”  So, what’s the solution?  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.  “Replacing palm with other oils will only accelerate deforestation, since none of its competitors boast anywhere near its yield per unit of land,” says Tullis, with the industry claiming that palm oil is produced on less than 10% of the land cultivated for oils and fats while producing nearly 40% of the total yield.  As the author puts it, “products that are sustainable are those produced and consumed locally”, so perhaps we shall all have to make do with a lot less palm oil in the future, even though Europe and the US already account for less than 14% of global demand, most of the crop being used in Asia.

Paul Appleby (with thanks to Jane Alexander for alerting me to the article)

Feast without the Beast at The Fir Tree PH, Iffley Road, Oxford

OxVeg media rep Paul Freestone recommends the Nut Roast (see Paul’s photo below) at Feast without the Beast, the independent kitchen at The Fir Tree PH, 163 Iffley Road, Oxford, OX4 1EJ.  All dishes are prepared in-house and are 100% vegan and include Cauliflower ‘Cheese’ and Mushroom Wellington as well as the Nut Roast, plus desserts such as Minty Delight and Blueberry cheesecake.  More details and booking information can be found on the Feast without the Beast Facebook page or by calling 07391 987662.

Fir_Tree_Oxford_nut_roast_PF

Poor diet is responsible for more deaths than smoking

It’s official: “suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally, including tobacco smoking, highlighting the urgent need for improving human diet across nations.” This was the finding a systematic assessment of diet and disease risk across 195 countries as part of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2017, reported in The Lancet medical journal in early April 2019 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)30041-8).

The study found that in 2017, 11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs; a measure of overall disease burden expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death) worldwide were attributable to dietary risk factors. These figures represented 22% of all adult deaths and 15% of adult DALYs in 2017.  Cardiovascular disease (incuding heart attacks and stroke) accounted for most of the deaths and DALYs, followed by cancers and type 2 diabetes.  More than half of the diet-related deaths and two-thirds of the diet-related DALYs were attributable to just three of the 15 dietary risk factors considered: a high intake of sodium, mostly from salt (3m deaths; 70m DALYs), a low intake of whole grains (3m deaths; 82m DALYs) and a low intake of fruit (2m deaths; 65m DALYs).  These same three dietary risk factors, together with diets low in nuts and seeds and low in vegetables, were the leading causes of dietary deaths and disability across the globe.

In the UK, an estimated 14% (roughly 1 in 7) deaths are diet-related, amounting to 127 diet-related deaths per 100,000 people per year (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47734296), the biggest problems being a lack of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and nuts and seeds in the diet. Israel has the lowest diet-related death rate (89 per 100,000 per year) and Uzbekistan the highest (892 per 100,000 per year; ten times the rate in Israel). Although the UK lags behind some other Western European countries such as France, Spain, Belgium and Denmark, the country does reasonably well overall with the 23rd lowest diet-related death rate.

Although the study data relate to countries rather than individuals, vegetarians and vegans would have few, if any, of the 15 dietary risk factors considered. In particular, veg*ns do not eat red or processed meat and are likely to have relatively high intakes of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, polyunsaturated fatty acids and dietary fibre, and, unless they eat a lot of processed food, low intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fatty acids and sodium (salt).  However, obtaining a high intake of calcium (at least 1 gram/day) and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (200-300 milligrams/day), both associated with a lower risk of diet-related disease, is more problematic for veg*ns, with dairy products and oily fish, respectively, prominent among the dietary sources.

(More bad news for omnivores came with the finding that even ‘moderate’ meat eaters have an increased risk of bowel cancer. A five-year study of half a million Britons found that those eating an average 76g of red or processed meat per day, an amount within UK government guidelines, had a 20% increased risk of bowel cancer compared with those consuming little or no red and processed meat.  The study also found that fibre from bread and cereals was associated with a reduced risk of bowel cancer: https://www.ndph.ox.ac.uk/news/moderate-meat-eaters-at-risk-of-bowel-cancer.)

Paul Appleby

Antimicrobial resistance and poultry farming

“Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is as big a danger to humanity as climate change or warfare. That’s why we need an urgent global response.” You may be surprised to hear that the speaker was the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who went on to propose an innovative three-part plan to deal with AMR including the following promise:

We’re going to work with the livestock industry to build on the amazing 40% reduction in antibiotic usage in just 5 years – 71% in chicken farming, while increasing productivity by 11%.”

All very laudable except for one minor detail: the claim that UK chicken farming has reduced its use of antibiotics by 71% in just 5 years is untrue. The truth was revealed on a BBC Countryfile programme (31/3/2019; https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0003v91/countryfile-surrey), which showed that “tonnes of antibiotics are still being used in chicken farms”. But how is this possible when the UK chicken industry is beyond reproach, and has the highest welfare and food safety standards in the world? Rest assured, there’s nothing dodgy or even remotely suspicious going on. Countryfile discovered (via Freedom of Information requests) that 281 tonnes of antibiotics known as ionophores were used within UK chicken farms in 2017, but the British Poultry Council (BPC) classes ionophores as “feed additives”, so they aren’t counted as antibiotics, even though they clearly are. Countryfile presenter Tom Heap made this point to a representative of the BPC, and he visibly squirmed, but countered that ionophores are only used within animal farming and are never administered to people. Needless to say, this dubious distinction doesn’t make the slightest difference.

The recent BBC documentary The Truth About Antibiotics (6/2/2019) was a reasonably good assessment of the current situation, highlighting the fact that “80% of all global antibiotics are given to animals”. The presenter, Angela Rippon, then reassured viewers that “antibiotic use within British farming is very carefully controlled”. Well she obviously didn’t know about the ionophore scandal, but perhaps all antibiotics used in British farming could be reclassified as ‘feed additives’ or ‘medical treatments’, and then the issue of AMR has disappeared in a flash. In any case, reports like the Countryfile exposé appear to have little effect on the general public. The ‘vox pop’ interviews in both the Countryfile report and The Truth About Antibiotics revealed some depressingly predictable reactions. Being told that the chicken they just bought from KFC is full of antibiotics won’t change their buying habits. Even the most fundamental knowledge about antibiotics was sadly lacking: nobody interviewed even knew that they only work against bacterial infections and are useless against viral colds and flu. This means that the use of antibiotics as cheap growth promoters isn’t widely known, and the massive problem of AMR (which kills 700,000 people globally each year) is of little or no interest to the majority of the population.

It is claimed that the British poultry business is worth £6 billion per year, but this figure won’t include the staggering cost of campylobacter infection. This bug (endemic to UK chicken production) is responsible for about 90% of all food poisoning cases in the UK, and costs the British economy about £1 billion per year. Two recent TV programmes included items about campylobacter, and looked at the contentious practice of a chlorine wash (standard procedure in the USA) to deal with surface bugs. In theory this should make raw chicken safer, and it does kill about 90% of campylobacter and salmonella ‘on the skin’. Unfortunately (as reported on Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped) the remaining bugs are stronger, more virulent and more difficult to detect. Food poisoning in the USA (acquired from eating contaminated chicken) is significantly higher than within the EU, and this means that the chlorine wash doesn’t work and actually makes things worse. At least Channel 5’s Secrets of Your Supermarket (13/3/2019) repeatedly warned that “campylobacter is a very nasty bug, and there is no safe level”. Which begs the obvious question: why are poultry farmers allowed to get away with it? The presenter bought 30 fresh chickens from different supermarkets, and half of them tested positive for campylobacter. Crucially, 50% of the tainted chickens were rated as ‘antibiotic resistant’. Food Unwrapped revealed that even the antibiotic colistin, which is only given to human patients when all others have failed, is still being used within UK farming. The global effectiveness of colistin was totally undermined when it started to be used within farming in China from 2007, and usage in animals wasn’t banned there until 2017.

Can it get any worse? Unfortunately yes, because two years ago the Food Standards Agency handed responsibility for checking chicken contamination to the supermarkets. There’s an obvious conflict of interest under the new system, and previous red flag levels will plummet. All the programmes mentioned above made worthwhile points, and the Countryfile expose was featured in national newspapers and reported on the BBC news. However, there was a glaring omission in all of them: if you want to avoid the high risk of food poisoning from contaminated chicken don’t eat it.

Paul Freestone

‘How to Vegan’ talk in Witney

The Eden Café, Wesley Walk, Witney, Oxon.

Thursday 28 March, 6:30-8pm.

Are you after some vegan tips, a new vegan or just need some support in your vegan life from like minded folks?  Our ‘How to Vegan’ talk where we will cover the following topics:

Vegan shopping – things to look out for, labels, accidentally vegan products, E-numbers, tips, cleaning and household products.

How do we handle friendships, relationships and family as vegans? How to communicate with them effectively about being vegan and how to manage negativity. How to cope as the only vegan in your family/social group/workplace.

Resources – best cookbooks, documentaries, books &c, and more!

Tickets £5 from the Eden Café or online at https://www.edencafe.kiwi/upcoming-events.html (25p booking fee when booking online). 10% off any food or drink purchase on the night.

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