VegFest London Countdown – Vegan Activists Summit – Marta Zaraska

So as the countdown to Vegfest London continues, this week I got to talk to Marta Zaraska – Science Journalist and author of ‘Meathooked’. ‘Meathooked’ takes a look at the human obsession with meat, and questions why humans eat meat at all. So I decided to find out a little more about what exactly Marta will be discussing at VegFest.

“I’ll be talking about why so many people find it difficult – or simply don’t want to – try vegetarian diets. Despite all the data we now have about the negative effects of meat-based diets on our planet and health (and the animals, of course), meat consumption is still going up, even in developed countries. Just a few days ago there was new data released that showed meat consumption in US in 2015 – it went up again, reaching a staggering 193 lbs/year, up from “just” 184 lbs in 2012. In my talk I’ll address all the reasons that keep people hooked on meat – from its taste (a unique mixture of umami, fat, and the flavors of the Maillard reaction), its role in our evolution, culture, history, etc. I’ll also look for solutions – how can each of us use science to make it easier for ourselves to reduce meat consumption, go vegetarian or vegan? What can be done on the level of a society or a country to lower meat consumption considerably?”

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Marta also explains how she has something for everyone, as her talks target meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Everyone can feel like they’ve taken something away after listening.

“I’ve had everyone in the public from meat-lovers to vegans. For meat-lovers it can help them understand why they found it so difficult to let go of meat, and find strategies (if they so wish) to reduce their consumption. For vegetarians and vegans it can help them realize why not everyone follows in their steps, and why so many people react with anger if prompted to let go of meat.”

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‘Meathooked’ was released in February of this year, and is introduced as ‘The History and Science of our 2.5-Million-Years obsession with Meat’.  So is Marta happy with the feedback she has received so far about the book?

“I am. There were some critical voices, of course, there always are. But I’ve had great reviews in big outlets such as the Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Discover magazine, New Scientist, etc. And last but not least – my book was named by the prestigious journal Nature as one of the top science picks in the spring.”

What a fantastic achievement! So what’s next for Marta and ‘Meathooked’?

“I’m mostly writing articles these days, for the Scientific American, the Washington Post. And soon Meathooked will be coming out in Japan and then in Poland, so I’ll have more work once again.”

You can find out more about ‘Meathooked’ here.

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Catch Marta on Saturday 22nd October, 12pm, at the Activists Summit at VegFest London!

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VegFest London Countdown – Vegan Athletes Summit – Fiona Oakes

It’s that time of year again! London VegFest is just around the corner, and this year it’s set to be bigger than ever!

I absolutely love the excitement around VegFest. I wrote about my top finds from last year’s event here, obviously this had to include a glorious vegan cupcake from my favourite London bakery – Ms Cupcake!

VegFest London Countdown!

This year I’m going to be blogging about some of the guest speakers at VegFest so you can plan out exactly who you want to see. You can view the list of appearances on the VegFest website.

For my first instalment, I have written about Fiona Oakes – vegan athlete who completely defies the common misconception of vegans as weak.

Check out my top five reasons why you should definitely go and see Fiona on Saturday 22nd October!

VegFest London Countdown – Vegan Athletes Summit – Fiona Oakes

One of the speakers at the Vegan Athlete Summit on the Saturday of London VegFest (22nd October) is dedicated vegan athlete, extreme marathon runner, sanctuary owner, and all-round wonder woman – Fiona Oakes!

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Here are five reasons why you should definitely go and watch Fiona’s talk at VegFest London:

1. Thinking of starting running? Fiona is the fastest woman in the world to run a marathon on all seven continents, she has even completed marathons at the North Pole! Who could be better to talk to?

2. Vegan since the age of six, Fiona has broken five marathon course records; the North Pole Marathon, the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the Ruska Marathon, the Dartmoor Vale Marathon and the Essex Championship Marathon. All together, she has completed over fifty marathons!

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3. Need some motivation? As a teenager, Fiona was the victim of an illness resulting in her losing a knee cap, which just makes her incredible achievements even more inspiring!

4. Fiona set up The Fiona Oakes Foundation, which enables people to support her marathons, so she can continue working hard to destroy the false image of vegans as ‘weak’. Why not learn more about how you can support her important mission?

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5. At the heart of everything Fiona does, is the animals. Along with her partner Martin, Fiona cares for over 400 rescued animals at Tower Hill Sanctuary in Essex. I visited the sanctuary and had the amazing opportunity to meet Fiona earlier this year, you can read my blog about it here. And just to confirm, she does all this as well as running every single day…something to make you feel incredibly lazy!

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So after you’ve had your fill of all kinds of delicious vegan food, why not go and see Fiona Oakes – the lady who will show you exactly what hard work and sheer determination can achieve. If you need extra convincing, watch this short documentary, ‘Fiona Oakes – For The Animals’:

For more information about Fiona, check out the following sites, and make sure you keep an eye on the VegFest programme to find out what time you can catch her at London Olympia!

http://www.towerhillstables.com/

https://www.facebook.com/towerhillstables

http://www.fionaoakesfoundation.co.uk/

Essex Pig Save & Animal Equality Outreach Event

On Sunday 28th August, Essex Pig Save and Animal Equality joined forces to show the people of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, the truth behind animal agriculture.

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Essex Pig Save have held a number of successful vigils over the past few months, I wrote about the first one outside Cheale Meats in Brentwood here. The aim of the group is to bear witness to pigs on their final journey to the slaughterhouse, and promote a vegan lifestyle so that in the future, innocent pigs will not have to endure such a cruel and unnecessary fate.

Animal Equality were on hand with virtual reality headsets, where people viewed 360 degree footage of the life of a pig at a factory farm. The reaction from the public who viewed the footage was very inspiring. People of all ages took on the challenge to open their minds by putting themselves in somebody else’s shoes.

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Engrossed in factory farm footage.
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The aftermath.

Essex Pig Save were handing out leaflets with more information, and many people seemed to be eager to find out more. I had some great conversations with people who were vegetarian, but hadn’t thought about the implications that the egg and dairy industry has for animals. Others hadn’t really thought about the treatment of animals in factory farms very much before, but were open to what we were doing and took some information away to consider.

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Watch the footage, get a free vegan cake…great deal!

Overall, it was a very successful day, and it was great to be able to talk to people about what Essex Pig Save are doing. Slaughterhouses are often hidden in secret, so it’s important that we shine a line and let people know what actually goes on.

The next Essex Pig Save vigil will be on the 14th September, with special guest Bite Size Vegan, who I interviewed prior to attending her first ever vigil with Toronto Pig Save here. Find out more about Bite Size Vegan’s UK travels here.

N.B.: The vigils are open to absolutely everyone, check out the Essex Pig Save Facebook Page to find out more about bearing witness to beautiful animals.

Essex Pig Save First Vigil – 6th June 2016

Last year, I wrote about a save movement called Toronto Pig Save, an organisation who bear witness to pigs on their way to slaughter. I interviewed popular American blogger Bite Size Vegan about her thoughts on attending her first vigil with Toronto Pig Save, and thought about how the videos and images captured by people attending the vigils had affected me, and hopefully had the power to make people question their eating habits. So I was thrilled when I heard the movement was expanding to England, first with Manchester Pig Save and then to my home county, with the first Essex Pig Save vigil outside Cheale Meats slaughterhouse in Brentwood, yesterday.

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Waiting for the arrival of innocent pigs being taken to slaughter.

We arrived at around 8am and as we approached the slaughterhouse, it was clear that our arrival was expected. There were around ten policemen and the owner of Cheale Meats standing outside the front. The police were quite co-operative and we explained that this was a peaceful protest. Straight away there was this incredibly eerie feeling about the area. As cars drove by, we wondered if people even knew what was happening so close to them. The sound of birds singing in the sky was drowned out by the sound of pigs screaming at regular intervals. After about an hour, the first truck arrived, transporting terrified pigs to their final destination.

See video of the first transport truck here.

 

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Why love one but eat the other?

Unfortunately this truck didn’t stop so we were unable to get a good look at the pigs or comfort them at all. We were told this would be the only transport truck for the day, but for a slaughterhouse that kills 6000 pigs a week, this seemed a little hard to believe. Sure enough, about an hour and a half later, a second truck arrived. This one stopped for a few seconds, and we were able to see the faces of the terrified pigs inside.

See video of the second transport truck here.

 

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The final journey.

As you can see, the pigs were covered in dirt and cuts. The videos I’ve seen before of pigs being transported to slaughter show a mix of emotions from the pigs. Some squealing in terror, some aggressive to other pigs cramped together with no room to move, but these pigs seemed almost like they had accepted their fate – they knew what was about to happen to them.

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Did your food have a face?

I felt like, as humans, we have let these animals down. They are the victims of an incredibly cruel, violent and completely unnecessary industry, and at that point in time, there was nothing we could do for them except try and show them that they are loved, and we are sorry.

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Ignorance isn’t always bliss.

I’m lucky that I normally write about animal sanctuaries and animals that are living happy lives, but today I was faced with the brutal reality for most farm animals. The whole experience was emotionally draining, but I left feeling more dedicated to animal rights than ever before. The animals we bore witness to today are not with us any more, but we can change the future for animals just like them. Leaving animals off your plate and going vegan is the best thing you can do for animals. We can evolve, and leave this out-dated, cruel and planet-destroying way of living behind us. Change starts on your plate. 

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Please support this important pig save movement and be the voice these animals so desperately need!

Essex Pig Save

Manchester Pig Save

Toronto Pig Save

VegFest 2015 – London, Olympia

Yesterday was my second VegFest experience. I really enjoyed it last year but found this year’s display even better! With a larger venue for starters, to accommodate for the 20,000 guests last year plus more, the layout was better, and even though still completely crowded, there seemed like more space.

I queued for about forty minutes to get in having already bought a ticket, which was a little annoying, but more so completely heart-warming that there were this many vegans/people intrigued by veganism that were attending the event. This was my overall feeling throughout the day.

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Vegan food was literally everywhere, and people gathered round the stalls in search for information. The only stall I could see that didn’t have anybody there was Greenpeace – a possible relation to the fact that Cowspiracy is now being shown on Netflix, which directly targets Greenpeace’s complete failure to mention that meat production has anything to do with global warming? Perhaps…

The food demonstrations and various talks looked interesting and gave people a break from the crowds. The information that surrounded the entire venue seemed to be capturing peoples’ attention, and maybe even changing a few minds.

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Favourite purchases from the day were some Sea Shepherd merchandise. Sea Shepherd are an amazing marine wildlife conservation organisation, with a pretty cool logo. One of their campaigns targets the annual dolphin slaughter which takes place in Taiji, Japan. This is shown in the documentary ‘The Cove’, check out my blog about The Cove Screening with Ric O’Barry from last year.

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Honourable mentions also go to Viva La Vegan who had some unique and stylish message-wear. New for Vegfest, I bought a ‘V for all life’ sterling sliver neckless which I was pretty happy about. Check out their website for other cool vegan clothing/accessories.

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And the day wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Ms Cupcake. Check out my blog featuring the Ms Cupcake shop – Vegan is the New Black in Brixton. Basically, I love her and her ridiculously delicious vegan cupcakes.

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Overall, a roaring success. Bravo VegFest London, 2015! I look forward to next year’s event.

Vegan Food and Beer…The Ultimate Combo!

I booked tickets for London Vegan Beer Fest weeks ago, purely based on the fact that it was hosted by Fat Gay Vegan and involved vegan food. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. LVBF took place on Saturday 18th July at the Camden Centre, King’s Cross. Having never attended a beer fest before, let alone a vegan one, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However the queue outside just after the doors opened suggested this was going to be a popular event, with a diverse range of people that all had something in common; a love for vegan food, beer, or both!

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As I entered the venue, I was handed my very own branded LVBF glass to keep as a souvenir, and of course to fill with beer, which I thought was a really nice touch. The main hall was surrounded by eight breweries serving a range of different beers, but there was also a wine bar, cider and soft drinks on sale for the non-beer lovers. Drinkers could check their tried and tested beer on their beer tick sheet, select their favourite brewery on an online poll and attend ‘meet the brewer’ talks backstage.

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Luckily, I made my way to get food pretty early on, so the queuing wasn’t so bad for me. But even at this time, the Fry’s staff really had their hands full catering for so many hungry vegans. There was pizza (topped with ‘pepperoni’ and home-made vegan cheese) a selection of different burgers, fries and donuts. To an onlooker, this would seem to be no different from the food supplied from the average burger van at a festival, the only difference being that no animals were harmed in the process. I felt this was a clear contradiction to the idea that vegans live purely off vegetables and salads, it is now becoming better understood that vegans enjoy junk food just as much as meat-eaters, just without any animal-derived ingredients. I’m a big fan of the Fry’s faux meat range anyway, but it was great for other people to sample the products, and perhaps incorporate a new brand into their plant-based diet.

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By the time the entertainment started on stage a little later in the afternoon, the place was completely heaving, holding some 900 guests. The acts went down well amongst the slightly tipsy crowd, with performances from Grace Banks, Ellis Slater, Love Like Hate and comedian Jake Yapp. Animal advocacy organisation ‘Animal Equality’ were on hand offering information about their work, and handing out leaflets which would have been particularly useful to the non-vegans that maybe came along to accompany a friend. Vegan store ‘Vx’ also had a merchandise stall, and offered a discount at their shop just down the road with LVBF wristbands which showed a sense of teamwork between the different organisations; coming together for a great cause.

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Throughout the day there was also a screen provided by Eventjoy, where people could tweet their feedback using the hashtag #LVBF15 which kept everybody in high spirits (or beer) while they waited for the next act to alight the stage.

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Overall, London Vegan Beer Fest was a great success with a positive and lively atmosphere. I’d like to say a huge congratulations to Fat Gay Vegan for organising and hosting this unique, successful event. The only area for improvement seems to be expansion to keep up with the growing number of people that are attending – more food stalls, merchandise, and acts. But I think this is what’s exciting about it; it’s just going to get bigger and better from here on out. Fat Gay Vegan has catered for the modern vegan perfectly, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what LVBF 2016 holds. Cheers!

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 Exhibition

This week I visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at The Natural History Museum in London. I was very impressed with the images at this exhibition, however there were a few photos that particularly stood out to me.

While the majority of the exhibition focused on appreciating nature, there was a small section that instead depicted the problems faced by nature, due to the actions of humans. The Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Special Award was given to Brent Stirton for a particularly memorable series of images focusing on canned hunting in South Africa. This showed the different sides of canned hunting, and revealed a shocking image of a recently hunted lion being washed so that the hunter can keep their ‘trophy’. It seemed incomprehensible that the reason for the suffering exposed in this image is purely for human enjoyment. Canned hunting is a huge issue today which seems to be getting worse, as an increasing number of lions are being bred purely so they can then be shot by a paying human being in a closed off area. This seems to be an addiction to the list of dangers faced by lions today, and with their population steadily decreasing, canned hunting seems to be nothing short of a complete lack of respect for animals and nature.

Canned Hunting - South Africa. Brent Stirton
                       Canned Hunting. Brent Stirton – Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year

Sea of Death by Paul Hilton was also a stand out image for me, showing a large number of freshly-retrieved shark fins drying on a beach. This title is very appropriate, as the image gives an overbearing air of death, where the sea is normally a symbol of life. Dishes such as shark fin soup are becoming increasing popular, and I was shocked with the statistic that 100 million sharks are killed every year for this completely unnecessary practice. With lions the predators of land, sharks are the predators of the sea, and these two images show how as humans are advancing, we are simply using and destroying even the most powerful of nature as we see fit. These photographs seemed to overshadow everything else, all was brilliant photography, but these select images represent how modern photography is being used to tackle world issues. Although humans are creating these issues, we are also the ones to stop it.

The winning image for the Adult Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award was entitled The Last Great Picture by Michael ‘Nick’ Nicholas. I thought this black and white photograph of a group of lions was outstanding and well worthy of the title.

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                                                             The Last Great Picture – Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols