Book review: Wild Boar by Dorothy Yamamoto

Wild Boar by Dorothy Yamamoto, Reaktion Books, 200 pp, pbk, 108 illustrations, 85 in colour; ISBN 978-1-78023-761-9, £12-95

Wild Boar is among the newest of 84 titles published by Reaktion Books in their Animal series. The series covers a host of animals, birds and insects, from Albatross and Ant to Wolf and Woodpecker, and this new book is a fascinating addition. Dorothy Yamamoto’s book traces the story of wild boar through history, myth and art, painting a picture of a much-persecuted animal that has made a huge impact on humanity. From paintings dating from the Upper Paleolithic era, to the 2014 film The Hunt for Hogzilla, the book is packed with numerous examples of the use and abuse of wild boar and the manifold records of human interaction with the Sus scrofa species.

Hunted to the point of extinction in Britain, wild boar have had a long and difficult relationship with humans who have relied on them for food, hunted them for sport, and regarded them as formidable adversaries. Humans throughout history have considered wild boar as ferocious combatants who must be overpowered. Killing a wild boar has been seen as the mark of a hero, who must contend with a large and dangerous animal that may well inflict serious injury with a swift jab of its deadly tusks. However, human nature is often characterised by an ability to apply double standards, and the boar’s status as a much sought-after trophy has been accompanied by a level of respect accorded by humans to other warriors.

Unfortunately, the majority of the stories end with the demise of the wild boar, leaving anyone who is concerned about the rights of animals with an uncomfortable sense of guilt. Throughout history, the size and strength of the boar, and the severe injuries often inflicted on humans and hunting dogs, have made boar-hunting a challenge, with humans and legendary heroes seeking to demonstrate their prowess by outwitting and overcoming these naturally shy animals. Environmental activist and writer George Monbiot is quoted as suggesting that British people have “an unusually intense fear of wild animals”, although the book makes it clear that it isn’t just the British that are to blame, citing examples of hunting in other parts of Europe, Japan and Turkey.

There are a few more upbeat tales, such as Hans Christian Anderson’s The Bronze Boar, which involves a boar taking a small boy for a magical ride on his back across the city of Florence. Wild Boar ends with details of the reintroduction of the species to the UK and the surge in boar numbers in Germany. However, despite successful reintroduction in areas including the Forest of Dean, there is still a tension between these animals and humans who perceive them as dangerous and believe that regular culling is necessary to keep the populations at ‘appropriate’ levels.

Wild Boar is clearly the result of a huge amount of research, and its manifold examples and illustrations make it a book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in myth, legend, history or art, as well as those with an interest in animals. In addition, it will appeal to Oxford-based readers, as it has various Oxford links and references. For example, Queen’s College has celebrated the Boar’s Head Feast since at least 1395. A decorated boar’s head is carried into the hall, accompanied by the College choir singing the Boar’s Head Carol. Although a real boar’s head was traditionally used for this celebration, post-World War II austerity necessitated the use of a papier mâché model. Other Oxford-related stories include the tale of a student who used his copy of Aristotle to fend off a wild boar who attacked him in Shotover woods.

The author is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford. She has a particular interest in cultural constructions of the relationship between humans and animals. Other books by Dorothy Yamamoto include Guinea Pig (also in the Animal series) and Animals on the Agenda, a collection of studies on animals and theology co-edited with Revd Prof Andrew Linzey, co-founder and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.

Anne Orgée

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Oxford Vegan Festival 2017 (part 2)

After a successful inaugural event in March 2017 the Oxford Vegan Festival makes a return visit to the Kassam Stadium Conference and Events Centre, Oxford, OX4 4XP, on Saturday 18 November, 10.30am-5pm. Organised by Farplace Animal Rescue (http://www.farplace.co.uk/), entry costs £3 on the day or in advance, and is free for under 16s. VIP tickets (limited to 100) with goodie bags are available for £15 and give priority early entry. Details at: http://www.oxfordveganfestival.com/. The Festival programme was not available at the time of this posting, but OxVeg media rep Paul Freestone will give an updated version of his Brief History of Vegetarianism & Veganism talk at the event.

Paul Appleby

The vegetarian hero of Hacksaw Ridge

Recently, I watched the DVD of the 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson. The film, which won two Oscars at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony, tells the story of Desmond Doss (1919-2006; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmond_Doss), an American combat medic who became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the US Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty during the Second World War Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Despite his refusal to carry a weapon into combat, Doss rescued an estimated 75 wounded soldiers during the battle, “carrying them one by one to the edge of the (Hacksaw Ridge) escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands.”

The film barely mentions the fact that Desmond Doss was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and a vegetarian (in one scene, whilst sheltering in a foxhole Doss happily passes a tin of meat rations to a comrade who realises that the medic won’t be eating it). In recognition of his lifelong commitment to vegetarianism, the animal rights group PETA rewarded Doss with a posthumous Hero to Animals award on 7 February 2017. Though extremely gory (you might want to look away during the terrifying battle scenes), Hacksaw Ridge is well worth watching, if only to appreciate the extraordinary bravery of a man who espoused and practised non-violence but willingly pitched himself into the carnage of war in order to save his fellow men.

Paul Appleby

Vegan dishes at Zizzi restaurant chain

On my travels this year I found branches of Zizzi in Tunbridge Wells and Falmouth. Initially looking down their menu to see what was vegan, the waitress then presented me with the separate vegan menu. Zizzi claim to be the first restaurant chain offering a vegan mozzarella, which is made from rice. Their thin crust pizzas are really good, with a basic pizza plus three extra toppings of your choice for £9-95 (the caramelised balsamic onions topping is highly recommended). The chefs actually work within the restaurant, so you can watch the pizza bases being spun in the air, and we found it doubly reassuring that the plates arrived with small stickers on indicating that they were suitable for vegans. Zizzi also have a salad and a couple of pasta dishes suitable for vegans, plus their ‘to die for’ chocolate and praline torte with coconut gelato. We make our own pizzas at home, but theirs have been declared as the next best thing, so it is worth trying the branch in George Street, Oxford, or other towns when out and about. See their menu at http://www.zizzi.co.uk/data/prices/Spring17_C_Vegan_Menu.pdf. (Zizzi was rated as the top chain restaurant in The Great Big Vegan Food Survey: https://veganuary.com/eating-out.)

Tracy Lean

I visited the Oxford branch of Zizzi in September. The vegan rustica margherita pizza was perfectly OK, and you can add three extra toppings from a choice of 13 including caramelised balsamic onions and fire roasted peppers. I’m not sure if it was meant to have a crispy base, but it required some effort to cut through. I have no interest in any sort of cheese, including the vegan varieties, but I tried the ‘mozzarella’. It has good melting qualities, so is a useful option for anyone that likes ‘cheese’ on their pizza. The chocolate torte was excellent, but it’s very rich. I’m a total chocoholic, but I shared one small portion with my dining companion! The torte is served with coconut ice cream, almost certainly one of the new Alpro range, and it worked well with this dense concoction. Zizzi is a pasta and pizza chain; the food is decent and reasonably priced, the decor is unimaginative and there was an unpleasant smell in the lower bar area, but the staff were friendly. The main attraction of Zizzi is the extensive vegan menu.

Paul Freestone

(Oops! Just noticed that I posted most of the above on 22 September 2017. So I reckon Zizzi owe me a complimentary gluten-free vegan pizza if and when I visit the Oxford branch! – Paul Appleby)

Happy Friday Kitchen

November will see the opening of a new vegan restaurant on Oxford’s Cowley Road. Happy Friday Kitchen will serve up comfort food such as deep fried ‘chicken’ burger, macaroni ‘cheese’, burritos and pizza, as well as ‘buddha bowls’ – a colourful and artistic bowl of whole grains, vegetables, and proteins as a healthy alternative to the other Californian-inspired dishes. You can follow Happy Friday Kitchen on social media at instagram.com/happyfridaykitchen/ and facebook.com/happyfridaykitchen/. (Thanks to Paul Freestone for the news.)

Paul Appleby

Update 8/12/2017: Happy Friday Kitchen is now open at 282 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1UR.  The website (www.happyfridaykitchen.co.uk) includes a menu but there is no information on the opening times, so it would be a good idea to mail the restaurant first (info{at}happyfridaykitchen.co.uk) to make sure that it is open when you plan to visit.  The website also mentions that Happy Friday Kitchen are happy (of course!) to cater for private events.

National Older Veg*ns Day

Neatly combining World Vegetarian Day and International Older People’s Day, Vegetarian for Life (VfL) have designated 1 October 2017 National Older Veg*ns Day. To mark the occasion they have released a new edition of their Dinners to Your Door booklet. To quote VfL: “Many older people find it challenging to prepare meals and so turn to delivery companies. This guide will be invaluable in making this a possibility for vegetarians and vegans, too.” You can download a copy of the booklet at: https://vegetarianforlife.org.uk/resources/publications/dinners-to-your-door.

Paul Appleby

Zizzi’s vegan menu

On my travels I have recently found branches of Zizzi’s in Tunbridge Wells and Falmouth. The pizza and pasta chain now offer a separate vegan menu, and claim to be the first restaurant chain offering a vegan mozzarella, which is made from rice. Their thin crust pizzas are really good, with a basic pizza plus three extra toppings of your choice for £9-95 (the caramelised balsamic onions topping is highly recommended). They also have a salad, and a couple of pasta dishes suitable for vegans, plus their ‘to die for’ chocolate and praline torte with coconut gelato. We make our own pizzas at home, but theirs have been declared as the next best thing, so it’s worth trying the one in George Street, Oxford, or other towns when out and about. You can see their menu at http://www.zizzi.co.uk/data/prices/Spring17_C_Vegan_Menu.pdf.

Tracy Lean

(Paul Freestone visited the Oxford branch of Zizzi in September and sent us the photo above together with his impressions: “The vegan rustica margherita pizza was perfectly OK, and you can add three extra toppings from a choice of 13 including caramelised balsamic onions and fire roasted peppers. I’m not sure if it was meant to have a crispy base, but it required some effort to cut through. I have no interest in any sort of cheese, including the vegan varieties, but I tried the ‘mozzarella’. It has good melting qualities, so is a useful option for anyone that likes ‘cheese’ on their pizza.  The chocolate torte was excellent, but it’s very rich. I’m a total chocoholic, but I shared one small portion with my dining companion! The torte is served with coconut ice cream, almost certainly one of the new Alpro range, and it worked well with this dense concoction. Zizzi is a pasta and pizza chain; the food is decent and reasonably priced, the decor is unimaginative and there was an unpleasant smell in the lower bar area, but the staff were friendly. The main attraction of Zizzi is the extensive vegan menu.” )

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