Lives of their own to live

I watched a Timeshift documentary on BBC4 called ‘A Day at the Zoo‘. The experts commented lightheartedly on the early days of zoos, when you could hire a stick to prod the animals to make them do something of interest, when they used to feed them rum and buns, and when they used to live out their days behind bars in small concrete enclosures. Gerald Durrell used to procure for these zoos, but he soon noticed that the animals were dying and the zoos considered them replaceable commodities. So he stopped providing for them and instead changed the paradigm with his conservation zoo in Jersey. The punters began to feel uncomfortable with animals behind bars and the safari park was born. It then took a further while for people to cotton onto the fact that animal welfare isn’t all about space, and space can be territory which feels invaded when a bunch of cars drive through it. Andy Hall, the documentary’s director, gave the briefest possible airtime to Liz Tyson, director of the Captive Animals Protection Society. She was the only critic of zoos.

I’ll give her a bit more attention. If you wouldn’t visit a live animal circus, then don’t visit a live animal event this Christmas. And that goes for Ilford which has reindeer and penguins. So pledge not to visit any live animal events this Christmas time.

In today’s Metro was a feature on the loneliness of older people. The older I get the more conscious I become that society is organised around a productive workforce which, if not exactly valorised, is central and provided for first and foremost. The Equalities Act is a triumph of accessibility but it can’t in itself nourish the soul. Alert to animals in the media, I noticed a paragraph about a charity which brings dogs into contact with people with severely limiting conditions who live in care homes – this jumped out:

“She added: ‘The general public often shy away from the unattractive sight of old age and all that it brings. The dogs don’t mind what you look like, what you smell like, if you can speak to them or not, or if your hands don’t work properly.’”

This really confused me. As a surrogate for human contact it would be terribly sad. And I don’t get it – children foul themselves and are incompetent. Dogs themselves smell awful and like rolling in crap. What is going on here? That said, who wouldn’t want to cuddle with any friendly mammal, just for its own sake? But if I were older and alone this Christmas I’d prefer to go to Cafe 104 in Barkingside for Christmas cheer, laid on for me, for free. How generous. And they’ve always been vegan-friendly to me.

~~~

This is installment #14 of my ‘daily’ blogpost for World Vegan Month. In search of the winning formula I’ve departed from sections Consumption, Animals in the Media (formerly ‘News’), and Encounters – but how about I just do a quick recap.

Encounters. I was unsurprised that the Hamas has acquired a couple of trophy lion cubs and named them after things that kill Israelis. Pathetic. In other news mice have made a home on my floor, which is quite impressive given that hardly any of the building is in contact with the ground. Half the office is concerned about ‘infestation’ and ‘vermin’ and the other half is making trade unionist quips about their core hours of work and the need to use the bookable space system. I am trying to drop fewer crumbs, to make the place less attractive as a habitat.

Animals in the media. See above.

Consumption. Yesterday at Kings College London I had 6 bourbon creams followed by a lunch of crudites, houmous, pitta and olives in their own herbed oil. Just what I needed. And fruit. For breakfast I’d had a banana from M&S in Chancery Lane for 13p – I’d have paid more for Fairtrade. For dinner a Goodlife nut cutlet, red onion gravy with aforementioned freegan denatured seasoned cooking wine out of a box, carrots, frozen beans, frozen peas and small knobbly potatoes. More of the same for lunch today, packed up. And for breakfast I’m onto a new kilo of Sainsbury’s Fruit & Fibre, mixed with Co-op Maple and Pecan crunch cereal, which has become vegan. Then I accidentally ate a large bag of Co-op salt & vinegar chipsticks so dinner was a quarter of a cabbage, a carrot – both steamed – and a nut cutlet – no potatoes. Then some Green & Black lemon chocolate. I think it’s the cold. Tomorrow will be Vegetarian Choice sausages with more cabbage, carrot and potatoes. No time to chef it up – it’s tasty as it is, anyway.

World Vegan Month #13

I’m hardly deluged with reader requests for the continuation of my ‘daily’ blogging for World Vegan Month under the sections Consumption, Animals in the News, and Encounters. Perhaps they aren’t very good. Well, it’s almost always late when I write them.

What I ate today (formerly ‘Consumption’)

  • Breakfast – Sainsbury’s Fruit & Fibre (see previous days with exception of #12)
  • Lunch – a packed lunch of houmous and salad baguette.
  • Snack -  Cofresh Quinoa crisps in cream cheese and chive flavour (the price of these varies according the the profit margins of the vendor, but they really aren’t cheap – I was at a low ebb)
  • Dinner – roast squash, roast cauliflour, roast onions, baked potato and some Fry’s vegan polony, fried. Well, toasted, really (it’s made of wheat protein aka gluten. Very partial to this but best consumed in moderation. It took me two guests on the Moral Maze to slice it in half from frozen.)

Animals in the news

I didn’t read the news today. In the morning I read an article about the importance of sleep, which made me feel sleepy. In the evening My bottle leaked in my bag so I put the free paper in there to soak up the water.

A light hearted report from the Daily Mail, who have for some reason turned their attention to up state New York. Woman called Daisy Cowit crashed her jeep into a herd of cows. She was texting and “seemed indignant about the fuss being made over the animals”.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance suggested saving money by replacing lawnmowers with ruminants, but Unite (the union) say that urban rustlers could spring up.

Animal encounters

On my way through a certain square every morning I encounter a dog who’s a real character. It – he, I’ll say – is very old, grey muzzle and chest. He never acknowledges me because it’s all about his ball. His owner, a mature woman always sits on the same bench. She usually has a hand outstretched while the dog jaws the ball just out of reach. He nudges it towards her (never quite within convenient reach) but grabs it back a few times before she can pick it up. Eventually he lets her take it, then she holds it in front of his nose and moves it up, then down, then one side, then the other. The dog is avid. Then some tens of seconds later she throws it. He leaps off and retrieves it. As soon as he grabs it, his demeanour changes – it becomes clear that he is decrepit and rickety. He makes his way back to her stiffly and haltingly. Then he reaches her, and immediately seems once again to forget the pain. The power of that ball – it’s unbelievable.

Now my English San Francisco dwelling friend Muteboy is chatting me – what a lovely thing! Not this mute boy, though.

World Vegan Month #12

After a barely avoidable hiatus I resume my ‘daily’ blogging for World Vegan Month under the sections Consumption, Animals in the News, and Encounters. Got some catching up to do. Thankfully I started in October so perhaps it’s the other way round.

Consumption

  • Breakfast – in a hotel! Three hash browns, baked beans, toast, half a tomato – skipped the weird hotel boiled mushrooms. Tinned prunes, berries, mandarin. Fresh melon. Black coffee.
  • Lunch – in a conference centre! Crudites, houmous, guacamole, salsa. Pre-arranged chilli and rice. Pineapple, melon. Tea.
  • Snack – boiled sweets.
  • Dinner – Linda McCartney pie with carrots, courgette, swede, broccoli and red wine gravy from the aforementioned large left-over box of ‘seasoned’ partially denatured cooking wine. Mmmm.

Animals in the news

My notes from the ridiculous free tube papers:

  • Blind chicken was saved from drowning by its keeper in the USA. In other news, a million chickens die each hour. In the USA alone.
  • Or to put it another way, http://www.animalvisuals.org/projects/data/slaughter
  • A bit of cryptozoology the Metro purloined from the National Geographic – Big Foot is apparently just an old kind of polar bear.
  • It’s well known that some of the world’s major psychopaths were artists. Thing Egon Schiller nearly being Hitler’s room mate at the Frankfurt School. Lady Gaga is a chillingly callous fur wearer. In her defence she cites the meat dress she once wore. She says, “You see a carcass, I see a museum pièce de résistance.” Somehow you see a Gaga, I see Elena Ceausescu.
  • I was cheered to read that in Mexico a sealion took a trophy fish off some men who were holding it up for a camera.
  • The crime prevention minister is consulting on putting savage dog owners in prison. Guide dog owners in particular (their dogs are conditioned to act in a way other dogs can find too odd to cope with – Matt and I know from our travels dogs are some of the most prejudiced beings in existence) will be grateful for this.
  • Somebody proposed to a dolphin. No, got that slightly wrong.
  • A young seahorse is lovingly raised in London’s Sealife aquarium
  • The Queen visits Brixton’s Ebony Horse Club the unintended consequence of which is to teach poor people how to exploit animals for recreation.
  • An the slightly better Guardian reports that apparently fish pedicures are on the back foot because of animal welfare concerns.

Encounters

  • Somebody brought an Old English Sheepdog puppy into the quiet carriage and s/he was quieter than the people.
  • There are mice in my office. Because there are crumbs in my office. So they put out mouse traps – the bit of Central London where I work is full of mouse traps and rat traps. Feckless people drop food and the rodents come to take it. Then for some reason we treat the rodents as if they were the rubbish. We disgust me.
  • I’m not aware of any other encounters – this is awful. It means humans aren’t sharing the space with animals ethically. Seriously, we are disgusting to the animals. We are collectively barbarians who do violence to the term ‘human’. All of which is perfectly legal and normal. This isn’t misanthropic to acknowledge – it’s a necessary precursor to change.

World Vegan Month #9 (reversion to type)

In the run up to, and during, World Vegan Month, I’m blogging consumption, animals in the news, and animal encounters. This is a rather sparse Friday post.

Consumption

  • Breakfast – see earlier. Still good. And what a good deal for a penny pincher.
  • Lunch – leftovers from yesterday, namely aubergine in a walnut sauce (Greek dish I made from a Greek Vegetarian cookery book given to me by a former  Greek colleague), roast potatoes and salad. A current colleague brought me in some home-made tabouleh. Aren’t I lucky? As we all know, food is love.
  • Dinner – met friends from former workplace at Jamie’s Italian in Greenwich. As threatened I had to eat gluten-free pasta with Norma sauce. Was OK, but ultimately like going to a restaurant that only serves plov. I also shared an unbelievably small number of olives arranged on crushed ice in a terracotta olive bowl. Pffff. I skipped dessert but forgot not to split the bill equally. That means I as good as consumed the profiteroles and the ice cream. Fuck.

Animals in the news

  • From the Metro, an eagle was pecked by another bird and a lion in Toronto nearly caught a pigeon.
  • And over at Global Meat News is a story from the IMS Symposium on Future Meat Production which warns against well-funded animal welfare groups. The implication is that meat producers now need to vie with animal welfare activists to tell consumers what quality means. Apparently “the days of ‘anything goes’ will not work any more”. I find this interesting given that food prices have risen while incomes have fallen. There’s a genuine yuck factor around meat production. Unfortunately little of that seems to be about the abuse and ultimate murder of animals. Hat tip Academic Abolitionist Vegan.

Encounters

  • Predictably, almost nobody is bothering to read these World Vegan Month posts. But ultimately web search engines will bring them eyeballs.

World Vegan Month #8 (a departure)

It’s not yet World Vegan Month, but here I am with this self-imposed blogging regime. Tonight I depart from my usual format with an email and some illuminating links about anthropomorphism.

Hello,

I will be accompanying friends to Jamie’s Italian in Greenwich.

Though other restaurants have started to indicate vegan foods, Jamie’s does not. The nutritional information, which seemed so considerate at first glance, turned out to only help me identify all the things I wouldn’t be able to eat.

I called. The person who answered the phone had not been briefed to answer this kind of question. She was receptive, did her best though, and I believe she asked the kitchen – but the answer was Alla Norma sauce over gluten free pasta.

The first thought that occurred to me was that this is roughly the kind of thing I make at home when I’ve run out of ideas. Not a creative, inspired dish by any stretch. Not a real alternative. Quite a contrast with the rest of the menu. There’s no pride in the offer. And dessert – it seems that it would be sorbet or nothing again – and somehow that sorbet, which stores so well, is the same price as the other desserts. Subsidising the egg, butter and cream that I refuse to eat.

That’s why I said on Twitter I don’t feel welcome – I will be paying you for a like-it-or-lump-it meal tomorrow, though, because I want to see my friends.

I do note the effort you’ve made to accommodate other dietary needs, and that gives me some hope. I want to say, though, that academic research findings on the environment, conservation, animal sentience, and human health are converging: we need to eat less animal and more plant foods.

For example, here are two senior academics pointing in the same direction for different reasons.

http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/opinion/columns/second-opinion/another-direction-emerges-in-the-food-world/350360.article

http://www.mfablog.ca/2013/10/world-renowned-ethologist-richard-dawkins-id-like-everybody-to-be-a-vegetarian.html

I think your menu should better reflect this.

There’s a vegan Italian place in London called Amico Bio – have a look.
http://www.amicobio.co.uk/

Yours,

‘Flesh’

While I was looking for suitable links I came across a HuffPo exchange between Marian Dawkins (Professor at Oxford) and Marc Berkoff (Emeritus Professor, University of Colorado) which encapsulates the debate about anthropomorphising animals. In a nutshell, Berkoff’s charge against Dawkins is that she clings to agnosticism in the face of contradictory evidence, and that skepticism is a smokescreen for bias.

Berkoff:

“Dawkins worries that bad science will drive people away from being concerned with animal welfare but I maintain that if we remain so skeptical of what we already know it undermines our efforts to learn about who other animals are and to protect them. Dawkins’ sweeping claim that ” … what has become the new orthodoxy about animal welfare – that anthropomorphism is all we need …” truly misrepresents the views of numerous people around the world, researchers and non-researchers alike, who are keenly interested in making the lives of other animals far better than they are.”

Bonus links:

World Vegan Month #7

I continue my series of posts for World Vegan Month. I’m not happy with how these are going – they need a better eye on the news. However, no time.

Consumption

  • Breakfast – still on the Sainsbury’s Fruit & Fibre – still nearly 1Kg left, still tasty.
  • Lunch – 2 Sainsbury’s bakery pretzels. But then it occurred to me (after watching the Great British Bake Off final) that these might not be the dead cert vegan I assumed they were, in all their dry, bitter, saltiness. But I can’t tell from the Web. Best avoid. Continuous stricterliness is my game.
  • Co-op custard doughnuts are somehow vegan, so I ate an undisclosed number of those.
  • Dinner was home-made vegetarian lasagne from a recipe by The Gourmet Vegan – could have gone better but good flavour.
  • Grapes.

Animals in the news

  • Based on bad science, the government is prolonging the slaughter of badgers in the name of the continued exploitation of lactating cows. They are making out that the 28,000 cattle killed in 2012 due to bovine TB is a needless death. Too fucking right it is – dairy farmers had them killed because they were economically worthless. Stop the Cull expose weird adding-up on the part of the civil servants, consultants etc setting the targets. It’s almost as if they want it to fail.
  • Not news, but DEFRA has a page on the diseases of farmed animals. 14 exotic disease outbreaks over the past decade at costs ranging from £2 million to £3 billion. Besides the animals, who’s paying?
  • Big dog sits on tube train seat - that’s news if you’re a Metro reader.

Encounters

  • Yesterday I told my colleague about the French illicit consumption of ortolans (buntings). Raised in the dark, they eat themselves silly. They are then drowned in brandy, cooked, and eaten under a napkin.
  • After the JellyBelly Jellybeans I thought I’d better check the ingredients again. I thought they used palm wax but they don’t – they use beeswax. I am wondering how I got this wrong for so long. Perhaps it was wishful thinking. Perhaps I got mixed up with their weird ‘beanaturals’ range. Goodbye sweet beans.
  • There is a lot of cheese in my fridge. I think it must be left over from a political meeting. I hope it leaves soon.

 

World Vegan Month #5

World Vegan Month is actually not until November so I think I’ll have a night off from my tightly-structured daily blogging regime..

Then again, oh well I’m here now.

Animals in the news

On the Today Programme yesterday, I forgot to mention Heston Blumenthal telling a story he calculated would be terribly entertaining, about a medieval recipe where a chicken was plucked alive, rendered unconscious, roasted, served up, and then roused to seemingly come back from the dead. I think he may have mentioned it was ‘shocking’ or similar – but coming from him it seemed kind of approving. On this morning’s edition DynoRod boss tells of finding toilets blocked by puppies people have tried to flush away. And we learn that marmosets instinctively avoid interrupting each other.

Animal Aid has a petition to stop a ferret and dog breeding farm (for vivisection) opening in Yorkshire.

Fox hatred rears its head again. As city dwellers turn against the resourceful stranger in our midst, the League Against Cruel Sports raises the alarm about the repeal of the hunting ban as foxes get blamed for, well, just about everything. As women with a sense of oppression tend to identify with animals, what Jewish bit there is of me does with Reynard.

Consumption

  • Breakfast – still chomping through that kilo of fruit and fibre, still delicious.
  • Lunch was a nut burger, salad, and potato (packed lunch).
  • Dinner was Linda McCartney sausages, spinach, cabbage, kale, carrot, potatos and gravy.
  • Snack – I ate the rest of yesterday’s chocolate and had some Pipers crisps and then some Coop salt and vinegar chipsticks. Despite being vegan, this was wrong of me.
  • My Vegetarian Shoes boots arrived – they fit well.

Encounters

Chris Packham the naturalist was on Desert Island Discs, repeated this morning. He is one of many animal lovers calling on cat owners to be more responsible in urban areas and stop harming birds who are already struggling to negotiate an existence alongside humans. It’s not every day I link approvingly to the Daily Mail, but this is one of them.

A colleague who is doggedly researching veganism before commencing World Vegan Month tells me that Superdrug has a vegan cosmetic range called B, endorsed by Cruelty Free International.

I contributed to Barnivore based on yesterday’s inquiry about beers in the Prince Albert in New Cross, and incidentally confirmed that my sedate habit of nipping Cointreau at night is safe from bone char filtered sugar.