Truthbomb Tuesdays: Cowspiracy

 

I know it’s not a Tuesday, but I couldn’t wait to write about this (and I really like alliteration okay).

Upon my vegan travels, I have of course encountered lots of compelling reading material advocating the benefits of the lifestyle. Books, films, blogs, BuzzFeeds… I’ve covered quite a bit of ground over the last year.

However, nothing is quite as game-changing as the truthbomb that is “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret”. It’s a feature-length documentary that explores the global environmental impact of animal agriculture, executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. While every 90’s schoolgirl crush may not be in the business of winning Oscars (yet… hang in there Leo!), he has done something pretty amazing and managed to bring the film to Netflix and its 30m subscriber base. *Worship hands emoji*.

Make no mistake, this is not one to stream during your next Netflix ‘n’ Chill. Described as the next Blackfish, this is a wake-up call to the world. And we all know what happened to SeaWorld profits post-Blackfish…

I can see why this might be off-putting already to the casual meat eater. No one wants to be told their way of life is wrong, or destroying the Earth that we hold so dear (but should probably hold dearer). Plus we all know that mass-scale industrial farming is not great for the environment – thanks, GCSE Geography.

But the sheer scale of devastation caused by raising animals for food is not common knowledge because nobody is talking about it. A few soundbites…

  • There are 7 billion people on the planet and 70 billion animals used for food.
  • At 51%, animal agriculture is the leading cause of all greenhouse gases.
  • Animal agriculture is directly responsible for 91% of all Amazon rainforest destruction.
  • It takes 2,500 litres of water to make one quarterpound beef burger.

Maybe these are not new statistics, and maybe they aren’t going to change your feelings overnight. But I really think we owe it to ourselves, our future selves and our very adorable chubby offspring to at least be educated on the broader consequences of our actions.

Following one guy’s personal journey, the film does a good job of pulling together a lot of information on the subject; yet crucially never feels pushy, moralistic or judgemental. Not only that, but it’s beautifully-crafted, the narrative pulls you right in and the guy in question can best be described as “a really decent chap”.

A few of the inquiry lines within the film could be deemed sensationalist and unsubstantiated–most notably the insinuation that certain environmental charities get black money from the meat and dairy industry. Whilst I wouldn’t actually be surprised if something like this were true (please name an industry that isn’t swimming with corruption in this day and age), the film doesn’t suggest this explicitly. The icy silence and complete lack of engagement from the likes of Greanpeace et. al. lead the viewer towards this conclusion.*

Aside from this slight ambiguity, one cannot ignore the prominence of cold-hard-fucking-facts the rest of the film is built on. And even if the film’s critics (who are, lo and behold, members of the meat and dairy industry! 😉 ) may dispute some of the data points, the general themes and sentiments can’t really be argued. Our current consumption levels of meat and dairy just aren’t sustainable in the long term. Not for ourselves, the animals, our land mass, our biodiversity, our rainforests, our environment… you get the picture.

Of course I am going to tell you to watch the documentary yourself, but if you really cannot spare 85minutes away from binge-watching Breaking Bad, then at least watch this 1.5minute video (and please forgive the ‘click bait’ title):

 

Yes, both pieces do land on a vegan lifestyle being the ‘answer’: “You can’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat,” ex-dairy rancher Howard Lyman concludes. But for me, awareness and education is the more important piece right now; so we can make better informed choices and that doesn’t necessarily have to mean going cold-Turkey on your regular diet. Although a small word of warning that that you might just want to once you see the film!

 


 

*For what it’s worth, I think it’s more likely that major charities play down the environmental impact of animal agriculture because they know it will rub their regular donors up the wrong way. So instead, they focus on promoting less-‘offensive’ behaviour change, like taking fewer showers and guzzling less gas. Greenpeace also recently broke their silence on the topic with a PR blog post. Too little, too late if you ask me :).

 

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“HI, my name is…”: Vegan Speed Dating

So this blog is going from 0 to 100 real quick.

Vegan Speed Dating is why.

It happened and I really don’t know where to begin. Although this isn’t the sort of thing I pictured myself blogging about; you can’t really have a vegan blog, go vegan speed dating and NOT write about it, right?!

It’s important to flag that I happened to stumble across vegan speed dating and thought it would be novel to give it a go; I am by no means exclusively dating vegans now or on some desperate quest to find a vegan soul mate. It’s hard enough to track down a decent guy as it is, let alone if you were to take away 95%+ of the male population on the grounds of their meat consumption. That would be literal madness.

Back to the vegan speed dating. I text my girlfriends. Do it, they said. It will be ‘an experience’, they said. Dutifully I agreed and patted the yellow name badge sticker onto my t-shirt.

I was feeling horrifically hungover. The type of hangover where you want to cocoon yourself in duvets, Netflix and Codeine and avoid all human contact until it is safely the next day. Instead I was entering a brightly-lit convention room and being handed a card with lots of numbers and instructions in Dutch. Nothing happened for 20 minutes, so I had to make awkward conversation with a Canadian tourist. Incidentally, he was the only other non-Dutch person in the room of about 60 people. Some could say it was fate. I would argue otherwise. He genuinely believed the “Dutch Weed Burgers” for sale contained marijuana (I know the Dutch are liberal but this is a freaking vegan convention. The Weed in question was in fact from the sea). I already felt duped, having been promised short and snappy social encounters lasting no more than a few minutes at a time, and here I was nodding along to a stranger’s life story.

We were finally put in our correct places, and I found myself surrounded by smiley but slightly-greying people who were unquestioningly in their forties and fifties. Having signed up for the 25-35 category, I figured I’d misunderstood the instructions so I went to check with the organisers. They told me I was in the 35+ group and it was too late to change. Considering my upper age limit on Tinder is 34 and I’m partial to the odd baby-face, this wasn’t the best news. I sucked it up.

Now I’ve never been ‘regular’ speed dating before (i.e. non-Dutch and non-Vegan), but I’m pretty sure you have short 1:1 interactions where you are free to chit-chat as you like and perhaps make up an interesting fact or tall story about yourself if things get dull. This was very different. We were put into groups of four (two male, two female), and given a question or topic to discuss as a team for ten minutes, before swapping to another group/question.

The questions were kind of lame (“what is the most important quality in a friendship?” / “what are your personal beliefs?” / “what do you really enjoy?”), and the chat wasn’t much better. Everyone gave the same, safe answers: acceptance and loyalty mattered most in a friendship; we all personally believed in being conscious about the environment and respecting living creatures; and everyone loved yoga, meditation and long nature walks. Only one wacky senior rocked the boat when he declared that making love was his favourite activity, with a half-crazed glint in his eye that was either an attempted wink or possible blindness.

As for me? Not doing so well. I was struggling to produce coherent sentences that didn’t make me sound like a Grade A Loser (ironic that the Dutch were doing better in this department than me, despite having to think and speak in English on my behalf). I really set the tone when, in answer to the question, “what do you look for in a partner?” I told the group that I “wasn’t that fussy”. What I meant of course was that I don’t have a specific criteria, but the damage was done. In a short-lived moment of giving zero fucks, I also threw in a joke about drugs that went down like a lead balloon.

Meanwhile I kept trying to sneak a look over at the younger side of the room to ascertain if the conversation was any spicier over there, or if anyone caught my eye. Amongst all the animal rights tote bags and “Go Vegan” hoodies it was hard to tell. I figured probably not, and covertly put my jumper on to conceal my “Tree Hugger” tee. I wore it to be ironic, I promise.

There was one person who I hit it off with. A pretty girl about my age, with messy blonde hair and smudged eyeliner who was rocking a baggy Harvard sweater. She had been out partying all night and was similarly suffering in a big way – a girl after my own heart. Incidentally, she had also wound up in the wrong age group. (Come to think of it, maybe our haggard hungover state was ageing us compared to the healthful radiance of everyone else). Sadly, whilst Hungover Harvard Girl could have been the vegan BFF my social circle was crucially lacking, I didn’t have the courage to ask for her number. Cue da violins.

After 90 long minutes, the evening came to a close. We were instructed to write down the names of anyone who had taken our fancy, at which point I realised I had paid zero attention to anyone’s name. Despite the awkward format and age group fiasco, there were perhaps one or two semi-interesting people that I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Never fear, I had a winning plan. On the back of my card I wrote the not-at-all-desperate-message of: “Don’t remember. But if anyone puts me, please let me know!” I’m not sure if this strategy worked, since its a few days later and I haven’t exactly heard back…

In retrospect, it was quite nice to interact with a bunch of new people who you couldn’t instantly screen by swiping left based on looks alone (God bless Tinder). As hinted at earlier, the vegan element meant a lot common ground, even if that did mean conversation could easily turn to whether or not you occasionally included milk in your diet (one guy was very apologetic about this). However, seeing as I’m pretty content being single, I probably would have found more value in the event if the romantic element were removed and it was just a fun way to meet vegan buddies. Anyway, I guess my friends were right that in that it was indeed an experience.

But if you are looking for that special vegan someone, you can head on over to the online vegan dating specialists https://www.vegadates.nl/ who kindly put the event on free of charge. 🙂

Ve**ganz in Paris

Bonjour!

I took a small trip to Paris for work this week, and found myself facing the age-old dilemma of arriving at Paris-Nord station far too early for my Intercity train back to Amsterdam. I’d spent some time walking through the city, taking selfies with various monuments (hello, l’selfie du Louvre), and I hadn’t eaten since the very sad “Continental” breakfast that was served at my Ibis hotel that morning. For me, that meant tough bread, watery black espresso and marmalade. I was getting haaaangry.

If you’ve also had the good fortune of looking for food spots around Paris Nord, you’ll know that the area is awash with over-priced Brasseries serving rubbery steak, Croque Monsieur and escargot for those who decide they simply cannot wait to try snails within a minute of stepping off the Eurostar. It’s touristy and tacky—even if I wasn’t vegan, I really wouldn’t want to eat here.

I whipped out my trusty Happy Cow app to find out if there was anywhere serving anything remotely veggie nearby. Just under a ten minute walk away was a Vegan Cantine called Le Veganovore that had opened a month earlier, so I thought I’d check it out.

The place was tiny but super cute with rustic vibes. The menu was simple, 100% organic and homemade that day by the owner. For a main, you could choose one of two veggie bowls—hot or cold, alongside a veggie soup of the day for a starter and some tempting looking dairy-free desserts if you so wished.

I was about to board a three hour train, so I went for the hot option to keep my tummy warm and full. Less than a minute of ordering, I had a huge bowl of goodness in front of me: slow-cooked lentils with braised onions, tender green cabbage, chunky grilled aubergine, sweet potato puree, perfectly-cooked rice & a green salad with a classic French-style dressing. It was hearty and comforting, and exactly what I needed (I was feeling a little fragile after a night on Champagne island). I had a bit of food envy over the cold bowls, which basically contained loads of veggie components to make a techni-colour rainbow salad. Either bowl would set you back a wondrous 7.50 EUR each—which wouldn’t even buy you a plate of fries in central Paris.

My hot bowl of goodness.

Despite the small (but perfectly formed) menu, the exact offering changes daily—although the concept, multi-coloured bowlfuls of different veggies, grains and fruits stays the same. And veggie bowls are literally the best, since there’s so much variety and they give you loads of slow-releasing energy.

I’m not saying you should make a beeline for this place above all of the the Parisian gastro delights (and my god, there are many!); but for a quick and satisfying lunch that’ll put you back on track after falling off the health wagon, this is très magnifique and worth a visit. 🙂