The planetary diet is a plant-based diet

The benefits of a plant based diet received a further boost earler this year with the publication of the EAT-Lancet Commission report Food in the Anthropocene, the result of a two-year collaboration by 37 experts from a range of disciplines.  The report found what many people have suspected for a long time, namely that “feeding a growing population of 10 billion people by 2050 with a healthy and sustainable diet will be impossible without transforming eating habits, improving food production, and reducing food waste.” The Commission’s solution envisages a dietary pattern for planetary health that “will require global consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to decrease by about 50%, while consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes must double.” In contrast to the present global food system, under which almost 1 billion people go hungry while another 2 billion are eating too much, the recommended diet “could avoid approximately 11 million premature deaths per year” while ensuring that “the global food system (stays) within planetary boundaries for food production such as those for climate change, biodiversity loss, land and freshwater use.” The report prompted The Guardian newspaper to ask whether an increase in flexitarianism could help save the planet, quoting Marco Springmann, one of the report’s co-authors, warning that: “If we continue with our current levels of meat consumption, it’s very likely that we will have more flooding, more hurricanes, extreme weather that is associated with exceeding the two-degree target for climate change (and) exceed all environmental limits or so-called planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/19/could-flexitarianism-save-the-planet).

Vegetarians and vegans are ahead of the game, of course, having already adopted a plant based diet. Unfortunately, the growing number of meat avoiders has not been enough to halt the rapid rise in global meat consumption over the past half century.  In an article commissioned by the BBC, Hannah Ritchie of the Oxford Martin School showed how “meat production today is nearly five times higher than in the early 1960s – from 70 million tonnes to more than 330 tonnes in 2017” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47057341). Although much of this increase is attributable to the more than doubling of the world’s population over the same period – from around 3 billion in the early 1960s to 7.6 billion today, rising incomes around the world have meant that more people can afford to eat meat.  This is particularly noticeable in middle-income countries such as China and Brazil.  Whereas the average Chinese person consumed less than 5 kg meat per year in the 1960s he or she now eats more than 60 kg of meat every year, and in Brazil meat consumption has almost doubled since 1990, overtaking that of most Western countries in the process.  Per capita meat consumption exceeded 100 kg per year in each of the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina in 2013, the most recent year with available data.  In contrast, per capita meat consumption is less than 10 kg per year in several African countries, and is lowest of all at less than 4 kg per person in India, where around one-third of the population eat no meat.  As Hannah Ritchie points out: “A future where meat consumption is sustainable and balanced across countries would require major changes.” The planetary diet advocated by the authors of the EAT-Lancet Commission report shows the way, but are governments, and meat-eaters, listening?

Paul Appleby

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PLANT seasonal pop-up restaurant in Wallingford, Friday 15 March

There will be a PLANT seasonal pop-up restaurant at Ribizli Café, 53 St Mary’s Street, Wallingford, Oxon, on Friday 15 March, 7 pm.

Suitable for vegans and naturally gluten-free, Ribizli and Bare Bread host this evening meal to celebrate the start of Spring. Tickets £32 (£28 if booked before 1 March; £25 per person when booking for 4 or more).  For further details and bookings please send an email to: info{at}ribizli.co.uk .

Ribizli_March_2019_pop-up

Witney Vegan Fair, Sunday 10 March

The Witney Vegan Fair will be held at the Corn Exchange, Witney, OX28 6AB, on Sunday 10 March, 10 am – 3 pm.

The organisers invite you to: “Join us for a day in celebration of all things plant-based including an impressive line up of vegan traders and businesses showcasing the best local and national vegan products.” Entry costs £2 and includes all talks, demos and workshops; accompanied under 14s free.

Details at: https://www.veganfairs.co.uk/upcoming-events/witney-vegan-fair-2019.

Grow Green conference in London

Grow Green: Farming for a Plant-Strong Future is a one-day conference at the British Library Knowledge Centre, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB, on Thursday 11 April, 9 am – 5.30 pm.

The conference, organised by the Vegan Society as part of its Grow Green campaign, will explore the potential and challenges of the shift towards farming more plants, and look at the benefits for the environment, public health and animals. Full details and ticket sales at: https://growgreenconference.com/.

Oxford Vegan Markets 2019

The popular Oxford Vegan Market returns to Oxford Town Hall in St Aldate’s (near Carfax) on these three Sundays in 2019:

  • Sunday 20 January, 10:30 am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 19 May, 10:30 am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 3 November, 10:30 am – 4 pm

As previously, there will be stalls selling vegan consumables including food (especially cakes!), cosmetics and clothing, plus a few campaign groups. Admission £2, under 12s free. Details at: https://www.veganmarkets.co.uk/oxford.

A Bit of the Good Stuff

Last December, OxVeg supporter Lauren Chessum kindly sent me the recipe for a vegan Spinach & Tofu ‘Ricotta’ Pie.  The recipe had come from a magazine (no one seems to remember which one) where it was attributed to Sharon Collins.  An internet search took me to Sharon’s blog/website (https://bitofthegoodstuff.com/) where you can find many vegan recipes, and from where I mailed her for permission to reproduce the recipe here.  Sharon replied soon afterwards to give the thumbs up, pointing out that an updated version of the recipe can be found in her Bit of the Good Stuff Cookbook, which you can order from the website (https://bitofthegoodstuff.com/bookshop/).  The cookbook “has over 100 delicious plant-powered recipes for all the family to enjoy (and) focuses on everyday meals using ingredients that are easy to source” and is available in either printed format or as an e-book. So, without further ado, here is Sharon’s recipe for Spinach & Tofu ‘Ricotta’ Pie.

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 200g fresh spinach leaves
  • 400g firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 6 sheets filo pastry

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F (Gas Mark 5). Lightly oil a 1.5L ovenproof dish.
  2. Gently heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion and garlic for 3 minutes.
  3. Place the spinach in a strainer over the sink and pour boiling water on top until it starts to wilt. Run the spinach under cold water to cool it down, then squeeze hard to remove the water. Roughly chop the spinach.
  4. Drain the tofu and squeeze to as much water as possible.
  5. Crumble the tofu into a food processor. Add the spinach, mustard, basil and 1 teaspoon olive oil and blend until smooth. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, nutritional yeast and salt and pulse to combine. Stir in the pine nuts.
  6. Lay out one filo pastry sheet and lightly brush with oil, laying another sheet directly on top. Place the two sheets in the overproof dish so that they cover the bottom and overhang the sides. Repeat with another two filo pastry sheets and spoon the ‘ricotta’ into the dish.
  7. Lightly brush the remaining two filo pastry sheets with oil, crinkle them up and place on top of the dish. Brush the top of the pie with oil and pierce a couple of times to allow the steam to escape. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. The pie is best served immediately while it is warm and crispy. It can also be eaten cold and when stored in an airtight container it will keep for two days in the refrigerator.

Paul Appleby (with thanks to Sharon Collins and Lauren Chessum)

spinach_&_tofu_ricotta_pie_from_sharon_collins

(Spinach & Tofu ‘Ricotta’ Pie from the Bit of the Good Stuff Cookbook, reproduced with kind permission of the author.)

Two compassionate causes: vegetarianism and women’s suffrage

2018 was marked by a variety of events celebrating 100 years since some women won the vote. The year also saw a rise in interest in vegetarianism and veganism. Both topics received considerable media coverage, though the historical links between the two causes were not immediately apparent, despite numerous examples of the confluence of vegetarianism and suffrage.

For example, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) hosted welcome breakfasts for suffrage campaigners newly released from Holloway Prison at the Eustace Miles vegetarian restaurant. Lady Constance Lytton requested a vegetarian alternative to the beef tea that she was force-fed in prison. The suffragette Charlotte Despard, who worked closely with Sylvia Pankhurst, was a vegetarian, setting up vegetarian restaurants and campaigning against vivisection.

Historian, Leah Leneman, perhaps best known to vegetarians for her popular cookbooks, including Easy Vegan Cooking, wrote on the subject of vegetarianism and suffrage in a paper published in 1997. She pointed out that vegetarianism was part of the ethos of the Women’s Freedom League, formed by Charlotte Despard and Teresa Billington-Greig in a break from the WSPU.

Many suffragists identified with the vegetarian ethos, and there was a considerable amount of crossover between the two causes that was recognised and celebrated during the 20th century. Vegetarians and suffrage campaigners both espoused progressive views and believed that the suppressed should be given a voice, with many likening the suffering of animals to the victimization of women.

However, although suffrage and vegetarianism went hand-in-hand, many suffragettes were vegetarian before they became involved in the suffrage movement. Writing about suffrage in the Winter 2018 issue of The Vegetarian magazine, Helen Antrobus points out that: “There had been a long-standing association with vegetarianism and social and political enlightenment.” Vegetarianism had gained traction through the ‘food reform’ movement that linked meat with many illnesses, and by the International Health Exhibition, held in South Kensington in 1884, which featured a vegetarian restaurant. There had also been a close connection between vegetarianism and the Chartists of the 19th century, who called for universal suffrage, amongst other reforms. Manchester was the heartland of Chartism, and there were more vegetarian restaurants in Manchester in the late 19th century than there were 100 years later.

Whilst espousal of a vegetarian diet was largely driven by health and moral concerns, Margaret Cousins, an activist in the Irish Women’s Franchise League and the Irish Vegetarian Society, described the labour-saving benefits of a plant-based diet, suggesting that emancipation would result from freedom from preparing complex meat meals. However vegetarian suffragists came to their dietary choices, there were undoubtedly many who saw the synergies.

In the words of Leah Leneman: “It was the belief that women, when they were able to influence political decisions by casting a vote, and otherwise fully participate in public life, would make the world kinder, more just, and more compassionate, that inspired so many to join the women’s suffrage movement and work toward that goal. The vegetarian movement had the same overall goal, and therefore it is not surprising that so many suffragists should have adopted a vegetarian diet.”

Further reading:

Anne Orgée (with thanks to Lucinda Hawksley for background information)

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