Category: vegetarian

FORKS OVER KNIVES documentary film directed by Lee Fulkerson (USA, 2011)

There are three main reasons why I am a vegan :
1. I oppose the unnecessary and unjustifiable maltreatment and slaughter of animals.
2. I believe that the intense factory farming is slowly but surely destroying the planet.
3. I have personal experience of the health benefits which far outweigh the minor inconveniences and small sacrifices needed to maintain this diet.

I gain sustenance for my position from some excellent documentaries that make the case for veganism.

For the animal welfare issues, Earthlings (2005) sets out the arguments powerfully and compassionately.

The environmental effects are efficiently outlined in Cowspiracy (2014).

Forks Over Knives focuses on the health question centering primarily on the persuasive views of two eminent doctors – Caldwell Esselstyn and Colin Campbell. The former is a physician and heart surgeon while the latter is a nutritional biochemist. Both have spent a large part of their professional lives researching the links between diet and wellbeing.

thechinastudyCampbell’s influential China Study found 94,000 correlations between diet and disease, surely too high to be dismissed as coincidence.

Esselstyn’s work with patients who have suffered heart attacks has demonstrated that following a plant-based diet can halt and, in some cases, reverse the debilitating and often fatal effects of heart disease.

Despite this, US bodies like the National Academy of Sciences continue to routinely promote the consumption of animal related products as essential health requirements. They are part of the mass brain washing process whereby people are conditioned to repeat the falsehoods that protein comes primarily from meat and calcium can only be found in cow’s milk.

The film makes it clear that a large number of those behind official nutrition programmes have a stake (steak?) in preserving the status quo and ensuring that the level of meat and dairy food production continues unabated. Agribusiness and junk food manufacturers are more concerned with promoting diets that produce short-term profits than ones with long-term health benefits.

The consequence is plain to see. Studies on the worldwide rise of obesity show that this has reached epidemic proportions.

In Forks Over Knives, clinical psychologist Doug Lisle explains that one of the key reasons why consumers resist change is due to what he calls the Motivational Triad. He says that people’s diets are driven by three main factors : pleasure-seeking, pain avoidance and energy conservation. This leads to diets containing a high proportion of artificial and highly processed foods and a preference for anything that tastes sweet or salty. Anything that involves more effort and commitment tends to be resisted.

The challenge is to break free of these habits and to question the so-called dietary experts who refuse to acknowledge that a fundamental change in lifestyle choices is necessary.


Mac Danzig – not your typical vegan!

In the documentary, the testimony of ultimate fighting champion Mac Danzig and Ruth Heidrich, a marathon runner and recovering cancer patient,  are used to prove that you don’t need meat to stay fit, strong and healthy.

Danzig is not on a personal crusade for veganism but merely explains how changing his eating habits improved his performances stating matter of factly  “I tried the diet and it worked for me”.

The default defense mechanism of many meat eaters is to mock the ‘holier than thou’ attitude of vegans rather than defend their own food choices. All I would ask anyone reading this post who remains sceptical is to try a plant-based diet and see if it works.

There’s nothing to lose and plenty to gain.

Further reading:
The Pleasure Trap – Why It’s Hard To Do What’s Right – Article from the website: ‘Plant-Based Food for Health’
Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease – Website of Dr Caldwell Esselstyn’s health program.
Live A Whole Life – Website of Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutritional Studies
Transition To Health –  Website of Dr Lederman promoting food as medicine
Forks Over Knives – Official website for the film with related articles and recipes.
How The World Got Fat  – Guardian article about the rise in obesity over the past 40 years.
Great vegan athletes – Website containing profiles of top athletes who follow a vegan diet.K


The shadows and light in Harpa concert hall are stunning.

Preparations and expectations are as much a part of journeys as arrivals but it was a trial to face mundane considerations of what to pack for my short stay in Reykjavík.

Most bloggers, tweeters and travel guides recommend winter wear even when traveling in the summer months. They are not wrong. At this time of year it is light all day but this does not mean there is constant sunshine.

Temperatures rarely exceed 23◦ C and are often much lower. The evenings are cool and it also rains a lot so waterproof clothing is considered essential. Dressing as you would for a typical Autumnal day in Northern England is a good rule of thumb guide. While I was there the temperature was a little chilly at an average of around 17◦ C  (I needed a hat!) but the air feels so good and pure.

Soon after arriving, I experienced a prime example of the pragmatism of the Icelandic people when I asked a tour guide if I needed rainproof clothing for a day excursion to The Golden Circle. She replied: “If it rains, yes!”


A birds-eye view of Reykjavik

I can’t remember exactly when I began to get obsessed about the idea of going to Iceland but the wealth of amazing music coming from this small country was certainly a major factor. For this reason I has to pinch myself when the co-owner of the apartment I had booked turned out to be named Sigurrós. This is akin to a foreigner visiting Liverpool for the first time and being greeted by a John Lennon.

In just three full days I could only get a fleeting impression of the city. My sole out-of-town experience was confined to a memorable eight-hour excursion (with commentary in English & Scandinavian) to Geysir hot springs, the Gulfoss waterfall and the National Park (the Golden Circle).

Still, I’m happy to say that my spectacles remain as resolutely rose-tinted as they were before my trip. I’d love to return with more time and money to explore the whole island.

So, without further ado, here are some of my impressions :

The Icelanders.
The people are universally kind, friendly and nice. I saw an middle-aged man looking for a CD of local music being helped by a young female shop assistant who patiently explained what Indie music is without a trace of condescension. Continue reading

THE VEGETARIAN by Han Kang (Hogarth Books, 2015)

By turns surreal and nightmarish, this is a short but complex novel which is full of secrets.

In very broad terms I would describe it as a book about descending into silence and , quite possibly , incurable madness.

The main character is Yeong-hye who is, by all accounts, an unremarkable woman. In the words of her brother-in-law: “The only thing that was especially unusual about her was that she didn’t eat meat”.

Her husband is beyond himself with a combination of rage and repulsion over his wife’s sudden change in eating habits. Her father turns to violence and attempts to force feed her meat. She tries to kill herself and is eventually institutionalized. She gives the impression that she would be happy to die and/or become a tree. Continue reading

THE REVENANT directed by Alejandro G.Iñárritu (US, 2015)

revenant-leoIn which an A-list vegetarian actor is forced to eat buffalo liver, raw fish and to pick meat off the bones of long dead animal carcasses.

These are only part of what Leonardo Di Caprio, as Hugh Glass,  has to endure after being left for dead in an unforgiving snowy wilderness with a constant threat from roving tribes of Native Indians. Though set at the end of the 19th Century, this is a modern day western in the raw, gritty spirit of Cormac McCarthy.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s landscape photography is astonishing and it come as no surprise to discover that he has also worked with Terrence Malick. It justifies the director’s decision to use natural lighting and to reject the easy option of computer-generated imagery.

The special effects are equally breathtaking. A fight with a grizzly bear is amazingly realistic. Never has the ‘no animal has been harmed during the making of this film’ message been so necessary.

Stripped to the rawest elements, this is a tale of survival and revenge against all odds. The tagline ‘Blood lost – life found’ can also serve as a plot summary. Complaints in some quarters about the movie being merely a celebration of machismo are akin to complaining of lack of affirmative female roles in a war movie.

Tom Hardy plays the ruthless Fitzgerald, Glass’s uncompromising adversary. Hardy is an actor who seems to inhabit his characters while I generally find it harder to separate DiCaprio from his offscreen persona. I will concede, however, that DiCaprio gives an impressive no holds barred performance here, one which should finally earn him the long-awaited Academy Award.

In a state of exhaustion and barely alive, his stony stare into the camera at the end of the movie should come with the caption: NOW can I have an Oscar, pleeeeeeaaaase!

Today the cities were full of people marching to demand action to prevent global warming. A good thing of course. It prompted TV news stations to dust off their stock footage of ‘natural’ disasters and smog-filled cities.

As individuals we can save water, ride bikes and use energy-saving lightbulbs but even if everyone diligently did all these things the problem would not go away.

Animal agriculture is the number one cause of climate change, a fact that governments and businesses have kept quiet for obvious reasons. To make matters worse, Al Gore, Greenpeace, Naomi Klein and other campaigners have also all but ignored this issue. Continue reading

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