Ethics into Action

I’m reading this terrific book about the life of Henry Spira, a New Yorker who challenged large corporations over their abuse of animals, and he did so effectively, without money and with no large organisation behind him. The book is not so much a biography but a book about Henry’s strategy and why he was so successful. It’s a valuable guide for activists everywhere about how to create movements that are effective and proves that even individuals can make a difference.

Why was he so successful?

Henry chose specific targets for his campaigns and these he selected for their vulnerability and what Henry perceived would be the lack of public support for what those targets were doing. His first target was the American Museum of Natural History. They were conducting experiments on cats which involved mutilating the cats to observe changes in sexual behaviour. He chose this target for several reasons:

  1. The research was being funded with tax-payer money.
  2. People were more likely to object to experiments on cats because of our close relationship with them as companion animals.
  3. The research was obviously pointless.

His strategy was as follows:

  1. Research as much information about the organisation and experiments through the Freedom of Information Act and other sources.
  2. Contact the organisation to discuss the issue privately first – this was a prevailing strategy of Henry’s throughout his time as animal activist. The American Museum of Natural History ignored all his attempts to communicate with them.
  3. If step two fails launch a campaign to raise public awareness of the issue through weekly demonstrations outside the museum, articles in newspapers, and letters to politicians as well as to the museum’s own donors.

Mutilating cats to observe changes in their sexual behaviour sounds like an outrageous way to spend tax-payer money but we have to remember that this was back in 1970 and at a time when no-one questioned the torturing of rabbits for beauty’s sake. It took several years of campaigning before the American Museum of Natural History ended the experiments. It sounds like a very long time to end what had no obvious justification but Henry was able to achieve in a few years what anti-vivisectionists had failed to do in more than a century of campaigning, such was the attitude towards animals in labs at the time.

The book goes on to describe many other examples of Henry’s successful campaigns, one of which was his campaign against Revlon for their blinding of rabbits for cosmetic testing. There are several lessons we can learn from Henry.

He chose specific targets and he was persistent. Initially his targets were all dismissive of Henry and they wrongly assumed the publicity would die down and fade away. But Henry did not give up. He was relentless until eventually the public pressure was so great they could not ignore him.

He reached out to his targets to create a conversation with them and in some cases worked with them to find a solution. This is what ultimately happened with Revlon. When they realised they couldn’t dismiss him they worked with him to find a solution and he had University contacts who were working on alternatives to the Draize experiment ready to give them. He knew he couldn’t demand that Revlon stop the testing overnight since at the time there was no other test available and even if they did stop all the other companies would still be doing it which wouldn’t help those rabbits in the long-term. Instead he found a workable solution which was that Revlon gave Rockefellar University $750,000 over three years to develop an alternative test. After this he moved onto Avon and from there to Bristol-Myers and so on until everyone was working together to find a solution. This is what he was good at: getting people from opposing sides to work together towards a shared goal.

Henry Spira died in 1998. There’s a nice article in the New York Times about him where he is described as the architect of the American animal rights movement’s first successful campaigns. The first part of his life was spent campaigning for the civil rights movement and the second half for animal rights. The two are closely linked for if you accept the principle of equality – which says we cannot give greater consideration to the interests of a being on the basis of their sex or race, then we cannot give greater consideration to a being on their basis of their species as this would be inconsistent and is known as speciesism. Henry Spira was influenced by Peter Singer. He explains, (p50 Ethics into Action)

Singer made an enormous impression on me because his concern for other animals was rational and defensible in public debate. It did not depend on sentimentality, on the cuteness of the animals in question or their popularity as pets. To me he was saying simply that it is wrong to harm others, and as a matter of consistency we don’t limit who the others are; if they can tell the difference between pain and pleasure, then they have the fundamental right not to be harmed.

Mystery person

Mystery person

At Madrid airport the other day I was waiting at a shop for them to heat up my lunch (which turned out to be disgusting but more on that later) and I thought I saw someone famous. Who is this dude with the curly locks? Should I know who he is? He looks familiar.

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A close-up.

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Madrid airport was dreadful. Just after going through security I was greeted by this:

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I found a shop which claimed to sell vegan food so I wandered in feeling hopeful. It was called Esenza.

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I bought a vegan pasty which looked unappetising – dry and tasteless – but I decided to give it a try. It was just as disgusting as it looked and I threw most of it away.

Most days for lunch I eat porridge with fruit and nuts. Today I added soy yoghurt, chia seeds, and fruit (pear and kiwi fruit).

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Chia seeds are a strange food. I’ve never bought them before but I saw them at Newton Dee today and decided to give them a try. They come as small black or white, hard seeds which you soak in water for 10 minutes. After soaking they change to a jelly-like consistency and look rather like frog spawn.

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They don’t taste of anything but they do add a nice crunch and texture to yoghurt and porridge.

Homemade hot cross buns

Homemade hot cross buns

Every year on Good Friday, for as long as I’ve known him, Ben makes hot cross buns. Having stuffed myself silly with about half-a-dozen of them now I can say with honesty that this year’s batch was particularly good, maybe even the best yet. They are vegan, without peel, and preservative-free. Perfect! Ben says he used vinegar and baking soda as a replacement for the egg.

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Climate change and the elephant in the room

Livestock farming produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector. That’s all the planes, trains, trucks, buses, cars, and boats on the planet. Exactly how much the livestock farming sector produces varies depending on which study you look at. The most conservative estimate is from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) which puts it at 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions while the highest figure is a paper by Goodland and Anhang which estimates it to be 51% of all emissions.

Some people argue the FAO underestimate the value while Goodland and Anhang overestimate it. Whatever the real answer is we’re not going to tackle global warming without addressing the high emissions from livestock farming the solution for which is a plant-based diet. This is something most people don’t seem to want to acknowledge and I feel a sense of despair after my trip to meat-loving Spain. Even for those who live in Spain and voluntarily want to reduce their emissions the choices are dismal. How much more warming do we have to endure before we acknowledge the elephant in the room?

Diversity at Heathrow airport and living in the UK

Diversity at Heathrow airport and living in the UK

I’m back in the UK and waiting at Heathrow airport where I’ve just stuffed myself full of food and am thinking of going back for more. I threw myself at Pret a Manger like a ravenous lion who hasn’t eaten properly for months. I love Pret. It’s one of my favourite eateries. Here’s what I got for £7.95 just now:

An entree of chia seeds in coconut yoghurt with mango and pomegranate seeds.

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A main with rice, beetroot, falafel, beans, broccoli, basil, lemon, and mint, and pomegranate seeds.

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I even got dessert: a delicious coconut chocolate thing.

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Spending a week in Spain made me realise how much I take the wonderful food choices here for granted. I’m only at the airport and there’s so much choice. I always make my flight connections in Heathrow for this reason.

I love living in the UK. There’s so much diversity here and so many options and people are mostly very respectful of differences. The passport control officers themselves were all very diverse. One woman officer was wearing a hijab, there was a man with a sikh turban, and when it was my turn I got a young man with a distinctly Australian accent.

A plate of artichokes

A plate of artichokes

The food situation over the past few days has been diabolical. On Sunday the choice was omelette or meat balls, on Monday night it was steak or fish, and lunch today was steak or pork loin. They look at me with horror when I say I would like something without meat. It seems to take a while to process and they don’t really understand veganism. It’s quite simple really. I eat plants. All plants.

There are 20,000 species of edible plants in the world and when I told the restaurant today that I can eat any plants they brought me this:

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It’s a plate of artichokes. Nothing else; just artichokes. Don’t get me wrong, I like artichokes but a whole plate of them is not particularly appealing.

At the restaurant last night they brought out several plates for everyone to share and every single one had meat on it. First there was ham, followed by prosciutto, then balls with some kind of meat in them, and then octopus. Why is it so hard to produce a plate without animals on it?

There are vegetarian restaurants here and we’ve been to two of them and they were great. But it would be nice if there was something I could eat at regular restaurants also.

Today we went on a winery tour which was lovely. We visited three wineries. Here are some photos.

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This is the royal family summer house.

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This next winery was quite interesting. They ferment white wine in huge century-old clay pots. I’ve never seen that before and apparently this is one of only a few wineries to do this.

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A conversation overheard

Ben overheard this conversation between Daniel and Elizabeth. They were playing some game together on their devices which involved Elizabeth making a BBQ and inviting Daniel’s character.

Daniel: What will you cook?  Chicken? Pork?
Elizabeth: No.
Daniel: Beef:
Elizabeth: No.
Daniel: Mutton?
Elizabeth: No, none of those things.
Daniel (in a despairing tone): If it’s a vegetarian barbecue then I won’t come!
Elizabeth: It’s a vegetarian barbecue.

Photos from Madrid

Photos from Madrid

We wandered around El Retiro Park in Madrid yesterday. I took some photos on our walk there and in the park. I have been to Madrid before, some 12 or so years ago now, and I remember this park and the glasshouse. The glasshouse is beautiful but completely empty. I suspect if they put plants in there they would suffer from overheating since it gets quite hot and glasshouses are not really needed in this climate.

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Last night we ate an Indian Restaurant and it was one of the best Indian meals I’ve ever had. I had a vegetable and lentil curry and it was so fresh and full of coriander which I love. Some of the others in our group complained after dinner of feeling a bit sick from the rich food but this never happens to me on a plant-based diet. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s the saturated fat in animal products that give you that sick and bloated feeling after a big meal.

I always seek out Indian restaurants in places hostile to vegetarianism since India is around 30% vegetarian and there are always plenty of lentil and chick pea dishes for protein. Asian cuisine in general tends to be much better for vegetarians. In Spain they put ham in everything – ham for breakfast, ham for lunch, ham for dinner. I don’t know how people can stand that. What’s wrong with vegetables-only every once if a while or even just for a whole meal one day? A plant-based diet is better for our health, better for our environment, better for animals and apparently women are more likely to contact you on Tinder if you’re vegan. Why not eat meat once a week and plants the rest of the time or even plants for just one day a week and meat the rest of the time? Humans in rich countries eat too much meat. It seems like a no-brainer to me but then I’m told I’m eccentric so perhaps I’ll never understand how the rest of the world thinks.

On the bike tour we had the other day I spoke to our guide about Spain’s tradition of bullfighting. Like me, he does not approve of it but he is from Belgium and maybe not as invested in the Spanish culture as others who have grown up here. I believe the argument made by those in favour of bull fighting is that this is their culture and tradition. This is not a very good argument. In some cultures it’s tradition for men to beat their wives. Is it acceptable for them to say, “It is right for us to continue beating our wives because this is our culture and tradition”? No.

 

Carnage: a mockumentary

I just watched Carnage, a comedic documentary set in the year 2067 when the whole world is vegan and reflecting back on their horrific, meat-eating past. There’s something in this for all diets because I really enjoyed it as did my meat-eating family. I didn’t specifically intend for the kids to watch it but Daniel was very interested and laughed out loud several times. There’s one bit where the meat industry creates a TV show called “Mike’s meat house” – a fun house for kids – to try to rekindle their failing industry. Kids have to beat up the vegan which involves battering a poster of an attractive, young, blonde woman. I’m making this sound pretty dreadful (this is why I’m not a writer by trade) but it was funny.

Throughout the film is an alcoholics anonymous group but for former meat-eaters instead of alcoholics. They reflect on their meat-eating lives as they try to accept their past. The film gives a chronological account of the growth of veganism and how prior to 2020, vegans were mostly embarrassing, self-righteous, and slightly annoying people which is probably true – for all other vegans except for me 😉

Is there any truth to the film? Yes and no. I don’t think the world will be vegan in 2067 or ever for that matter. However I do think there will come a time when we reflect with horror and shame on how we treat animals today, in much the same way as we view slavery now. There’s a never-ending list of reasons to stop eating animals ranging from health, to environmental, to animal welfare and yet for most people something as trivial as taste trumps all these other serious concerns. Even if you’re not interested in any of these issues, the movie also has some gratuitous nudity in the form of penises, and it’s worth watching just for that.

Here’s the trailer:

 

You can watch it on iPlayer:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04sh6zg/simon-amstell-carnage

 

How to argue with a vegan

I thought I’d do a part two of my “making fun of vegans” post from the other week. I like having my views challenged and engaging in difficult discussions about ethical issues. What I don’t like are the inane and often offensive statements people make. I’m referring to people who lick their lips and claim to love the taste of animals or even pretend to take a bite out of a cow. They are making a pretty distasteful argument to someone who respects the principle of equality and views these creatures as sentient beings with interests of their own. Imagine if a rapist used as his argument,“But rape is so enjoyable! I just love it so I’m going to rape as many women as I can”. I think most people would agree that this is a pretty distasteful thing to say and not a very convincing argument either.

When I argue in favour of abortion I use what are, to my mind, reasonable and logical arguments. I don’t make fun of people who object to abortion and I understand that they come from a place of compassion, even though I disagree with their conclusion. Next time you want to tell a vegetarian how yummy cows are think twice about it. What you can do instead is make an argument based on logic and reason for why the lives of these animals don’t matter and why you think the principle of equality should apply only to humans.

The wrongness of killing and abortion

I cried when I watched this clip this morning. The baby’s mother has just died in a car accident and the infant is visibly distressed and mourning for her mother.

Story in The Independent.

We’re not the only animals to mourn the loss of loved ones. We’re not the only animals who love and care for our infants. We’re not the only animals with infants who need others to care for and love them. There’s something particularly “human” about monkeys. They closely resemble us in appearance and I don’t doubt that they experience pain and suffering in the same way we do.

When you cease to view the world as divided into two groups – humans and non-humans – boundaries become blurred and more clear at the same time. What is morally relevant is not what species an organism belongs to but whether they are are self-conscious, capable of pain and suffering, can see themselves over time, and have desires for the future. It’s for this reason that I’m in favour of abortion and stem cell research. A human embryo is not a self-conscious being and cannot experience pain and suffering. It is far more morally objectionable to perform experiments on an adult monkey than a human embryo. In the case of abortion the developing fetus likely doesn’t feel pain until 20 weeks and even then it is not regarded as a person where a person is a rational, self-conscious being. A fetus is not rational or self-conscious.

From Practical Ethics, by Peter Singer (page 150)

The point should now be familiar: whether a being is or is not a member of our species is, in itself no more relevant to the wrongness of killing it than whether it is or is not a member of our race. The belief that mere membership of our species, irrespective of other characteristics, makes a great difference to the wrongness of killing a being is a legacy of religious doctrines that even those opposed to abortion hesitate to bring into the debate.

Recognising this simple point transforms the abortion issue. We can now look at the fetus for what it is – the actual characteristics is possesses – and can value its life on the same scale as the lives of beings with similar characteristics who are not members of our species. It now becomes apparent that the “Pro Life” or “Right to Life” movement is misnamed. Far from having concern for all life or a scale of concern impartially based on the nature of the life in question, those who protest against abortion but dine regularly on the bodies of chickens, pigs, and calves, show only a biased concern for the lives of members of our own species. For on any fair comparison of morally relevant characteristics, like rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, autonomy, pleasure and pain, and so on, the calf, the pig and the much derided chicken will come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy – while if we make the comparison with a fetus of less than three months, a fish would show more signs of consciousness.

Animals eat each other, so why shouldn’t we eat them?

People criticise and mock vegetarians quite a lot. I’m always happy to be laughed at and I’ve taught my kids that this is a good thing because it means you are making someone else happy and there’s nothing bad about that. However I get annoyed when people say silly things or incorrect things. Maybe I just like to be laughed at on my own terms or I’m not as good at being laughed at as I would like. Sometimes I feel like the person in this cartoon.

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There are a lot of myths that vegetarians hear and after a while they get a bit tiresome. They are things like “but lions eat animals” and “but you won’t get sufficient protein” and “but if we didn’t eat animals they’d all go extinct” and “lettuces have feelings too” and “vegetarians are hippy types who don’t vaccinate their kids”. No-one has actually said that last one to me but I’ve had people ask me in a tone that is expecting my reply to be against vaccination simply because I’m vegan. I’m always happy to see their disappointment when I say I’m pro-vaccination and to shatter the stereotype. I’m 100% pro-science and pro-vaccination. I’m also pro-nuclear and pro-GM foods.

I thought I’d address the “but lions eat animals” argument because it seems to be quite common. Some people justify eating non-human animals because some of those non-human animals eat other animals. It’s true that there are animals who eat each other but it seems a strange thing to look to lions and other carnivores with answers to moral questions. Some animals eat their babies. Is that justification for eating babies?

Peter Singer addresses this argument much more eloquently than me in his book, Practical Ethics, which I think should be compulsory reading in high school. It is used as the text book in some introductory ethics courses and I’d love to see ethics taught in schools. Here’s an excerpt from it:

For a start, most animals who kill for food would not be able to survive if they did not, whereas we have no need to eat animal flesh. Next, it is odd that humans, who normally think of the behaviour of animals as ‘beastly’ should, when it suits them, use an argument that implies that we ought to look to animals for moral guidance. The most decisive point, however, is that nonhuman animals are not capable of considering the alternatives open to them or of reflecting on the ethics of their diet. Hence it is impossible to hold the animals responsible for what they do, or to judge that because of their killing they ‘deserve’ to be treated in a similar way. Those who read these lines, on the other hand, must consider the justifiability of their dietary habits. You cannot evade responsibility by imitating beings who are incapable of making this choice.

He also goes on to address the argument that we’ve evolved to eat meat and it’s “natural”. There’s nothing evolved or natural about industrial factory farming. Women have also evolved to give birth every couple of years from puberty to menopause but most of us do not and most of us would agree that not doing so is an improvement over what is “natural”.

The food revolution

America sometimes seems like a country of extremes but one thing they do very well is innovation and entrepreneurship. I don’t think any other country in the world does these two things as well as America. One industry I have been watching with great interest is the food technology industry and America is leading the way.

I’ve always been interested in food – not food for myself to eat, but food to feed the masses. What will we be eating 100 years from now? I don’t think it will be dead animals. Humans will likely still be eating meat but we will not be farming animals to produce it for two main reasons:

  1. Livestock farming consumes too much land and water and produces far more greenhouse gas emissions than the average plant-based diet.
  2. Animal welfare and speciesism. If you accept that it’s racist and sexist to give more consideration to the interests of beings based on their race and sex then it follows that it’s speciesist to give more consideration to the interests of beings based on their species.

How will we eat meat without farming and killing animals for food? This is where the burgeoning food technology industry comes in. An American company, Impossible Foods, is making a burger without using animals. Apparently it even bleeds, although, technically it’s not meat since it’s made from plants. Another American company, Memphis Meats, is making lab-grown meat. This one is apparently real meat which is cultured from the cells of animals in a lab. Another American company, Perfect Day, is making milk – real milk – without cows. Hampton Creek, again an American company, makes mayonnaise and cookies with a lab-grown egg substitute.

Would I eat lab-grown meat and milk? Probably not and not because I have any ethical objections to either. It’s more that I gave up those things more than a decade ago and no longer have the taste for them. Milk and meat smell and taste revolting to me now. However I’m hopeful about the prospect of a kinder and more ethical planet which this technology could bring. I feel like we’re on the precipice of a food revolution that is long overdue and America is leading the way.

Are there European companies charging into this new territory that I’m not aware of? Let me know in the comments if you’re aware of some.

Goodbye, Derek Parfit

Imagine you’re in a car crash and the only part of you that survives is your brain. Suppose your brain is transplanted into the body of a brain-dead patient. Does the person become you? Are you still alive? What if instead your brain is cut in half and transplanted into the bodies of two people. Are there now two of you?

These are the sorts of questions Derek Parfit asked during his career. He was one of the greatest moral philosophers of our time. He died last weekend, aged 74.

Derek Parfit wrote two significant books during his career, Reasons and Persons (1984) and On What Matters (2011). He argued that personal identity does not matter and this made him less selfish and concerned about his own death.

When I believed [that personal identity is what matters], I seemed imprisoned in myself. My life seemed like a glass tunnel, through which I was moving faster every year, and at the end of which there was darkness. When I changed my view, the walls of my glass tunnel disappeared. I now live in the open air. There is still a difference between my life and the lives of other people. But the difference is less. Other people are closer. I am less concerned about the rest of my own life, and more concerned about the lives of others.

When I believed [that personal identity is what matters], I also cared more about my inevitable death. After my death, there will be no one living who will be me. I can now redescribe this fact. Though there will later be many experiences, none of these experiences will be connected to my present experiences by chains of such direct connections as those involved in experience-memory, or in the carrying out of an earlier intention. Some of these future experiences may be related to my present experiences in less direct ways. There will later be some memories about my life. And there may later be thoughts that are influenced by mine, or things done as the result of my advice. My death will break the more direct relations between my present experiences and future experiences, but it will not break various other relations. This is all there is to the fact that there will be no one living who will be me. Now that I have seen this, my death seems to me less bad.

[Excerpt from Reasons and Persons copied from http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/1/3/14148208/derek-parfit-rip-obit]

In On What Matters he argues for the existence of universal ethical truths. In the past philosophers have argued that no such ethical objectivism exists because it’s so hard to agree on what is right and wrong and much of our thinking on this topic has, in the past, been shaped by religion. However it’s no longer acceptable to use “God’s command” as an argument since we live in an increasingly secular world. Parfit argues for ethical objectivism from a purely secular perspective. If there are no moral truths, he says, then anything is permissible. Peter Singer writes a good review of his book on Project Syndicate. Here’s an excerpt:

One major argument against objectivism in ethics is that people disagree deeply about right and wrong, and this disagreement extends to philosophers who cannot be accused of being ignorant or confused. If great thinkers like Immanuel Kant and Jeremy Bentham disagree about what we ought to do, can there really be an objectively true answer to that question?

Parfit’s response to this line of argument leads him to make a claim that is perhaps even bolder than his defense of objectivism in ethics. He considers three leading theories about what we ought to do – one deriving from Kant, one from the social-contract tradition of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and the contemporary philosophers John Rawls and T.M. Scanlon, and one from Bentham’s utilitarianism – and argues that the Kantian and social-contract theories must be revised in order to be defensible.

Then he argues that these revised theories coincide with a particular form of consequentialism, which is a theory in the same broad family as utilitarianism. If Parfit is right, there is much less disagreement between apparently conflicting moral theories than we all thought. The defenders of each of these theories are, in Parfit’s vivid phrase, “climbing the same mountain on different sides.”

Readers who go to On What Matters seeking an answer to the question posed by its title might be disappointed. Parfit’s real interest is in combating subjectivism and nihilism. Unless he can show that objectivism is true, he believes, nothing matters.
When Parfit does come to the question of “what matters,” his answer might seem surprisingly obvious. He tells us, for example, that what matters most now is that “we rich people give up some of our luxuries, ceasing to overheat the Earth’s atmosphere, and taking care of this planet in other ways, so that it continues to support intelligent life.”

I am interested in this because I became a vegan for ethical reasons. The other reasons for being vegan – environmental, health, financial – just reinforce my decision but they were not the motivating factor. Derek Parfit gave this talk at Oxford last year and in it he says,“It’s clear that we should become vegetarians if we aren’t already. That’s heavily overdetermined now and partly because cows produce 10% of global warming by emitting methane and we treat them terribly. That’s absolutely clear. Second, we shouldn’t have more than two children and we should know that if we don’t have any children that’s one way in which we’re doing a lot of good or of doing less harm. The children of we rich people add much more to global warming and thus to existential risks. “

He also, like Peter Singer, says we should all be giving 10% of our income to the poor.

Bobbin bikes

Bobbin bikes

Elizabeth took her new wheels for a spin today.

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She let me have a turn.

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Her new bike is a Bobbin bike and is exactly how a bike should be with mud- and chain guards, a step-through frame, and a basket on the front for carrying things. Without the mud guards she would end up with a black line of dirt and mud all the way up her back. Why would anyone want that? And yet most of the bikes you see in a bike shop today do not have mud guards. I am constantly bewildered by this. The basket provides a receptacle for carrying things – where can you put belongings without the basket? The step-through frame means she can go from walking to cycling and cycling to walking without having to stop the bike. It might be a little while before she’s capable of doing that but it’s something I value greatly on my Dutch bike. It makes cycling more efficient as it allows me to maintain the momentum. A chain guard is also essential as it protects your clothing.

It’s Veganuary. Go vegan for January! Five comedians say why you should give it a try in the video below. I can add one more good reason – you can stuff your face as much as you want and not get fat. It’s very hard to be overweight and vegan but you’ve got to make sure you stick with it and avoid dairy products like ice-cream, cream, cheese, and butter. Eat only vegan foods and you can eat as much as you want.

“Gary” vegan cheese

“Gary” vegan cheese

Somehow I missed this very funny story from 2016. A few months ago a woman had a rant about Sainsbury’s new vegan cheese on Facebook. In it she suggests “Gary” as a possible name for vegan cheese. Here’s the full rant:

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Sainsbury’s responded with this:

Someone at Sainsbury’s has a sense of humour. It has certainly generated a lot of publicity for them.

It prompted me to buy some and I did a taste-test today. I bought the Wensleydale-style with cranberries.

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It’s really tasty. The texture is creamy but not mushy. It’s slightly crumbly and with a tangy bite. Yum!

The sale of vegan food items have skyrocketed with a 1500% increase in the past year. It is becoming much easier to buy vegan things at mainstream supermarkets which is great news for me.

I’m not sure what people find upsetting about this. The Facebook rant which prompted the Gary jokes reminds me of those who have an irrational dislike of cyclists. I just want to reduce my impact on the environment and be kind to animals. Why does that send some people into such a rage?

The Haemorrhoid bike seat

The Haemorrhoid bike seat

First there was the condom poncho. Now I bring you the Haemorrhoid bike seat.

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I just got this new seat for my bike. The fantastic bike shop let me try three different seats for comfort. This one was the best. I haven’t ridden any great distance on it yet so I can’t give a full review but on my short trips to and from school it has been great.

PS: I don’t have haemorrhoids. I’m vegan and eat a lot of fiber 🙂

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The Herb Garden, Newcastle

The Herb Garden, Newcastle

We’re in Newcastle! We’ve come down for the DanTDM concert as a treat for the kids. I tried to get tickets to the show in Edinburgh but they sold out in less than one  hour. DanTDM is a 20-something British fellow with a YouTube channel about Minecraft which is supremely popular wth 6-13 year-olds. Daniel and Elizabeth are very excited about the show. I have no idea what to expect.

Last night we went for dinner to a place about 100m from where we’re staying called The Herb Garden. It was superb!

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It’s a pizza place but not your typical pizza place. The menu is unusual – a lot of thought has gone into creating dishes you won’t find anywhere else. They also cater to all kinds of dietary requirements including vegans which made me happy. There were two vegan pizzas on the menu. I have never seen that anywhere else, ever. They also had vegan steak & mash. Here’s the description of it on their specials board:

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And the dish itself:

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Ben and I shared this with a vegan pizza and they were both delicious.

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Hanging lanterns.

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They grow their own herbs hydroponically although I think this wall may be a work in progress.

 

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Yesterday afternoon we had an hour to spare so we took the kids to the Discovery Museum and there’s a real Enigma machine on display. How exciting is that!

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Duthie Park in October

Duthie Park in October

This afternoon I told the kids we were going to a vegetarian restaurant for dinner and there was an explosion of complaint. I thought I might have accidentally pulled off their finger nails one-by-one given the level of protest. But I checked their fingernails and they’re all still intact. So then I offered an alternative: vegetarian restaurant or my cooking. They chose the former.

We went to Foodstory – my favourite restaurant in Aberdeen and a very popular one too. It’s always busy and reasonably priced. The kids behaved very well and even said the food was better than they were expecting which is a huge compliment.

Here’s my meal:

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Daniel reluctantly enjoying his:

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Ben’s falafel platter:

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The cycle ride home is always one of the best parts of eating out. There’s nothing like stuffing your face and then getting on a bike and burning off all those calories as you power home again. The roads are also quiet by then and it’s a nice ride. I love feeling the wind on my face and in my hair.

Duthie park is looking beautiful right now. It may even be at its very best but then I do love the glistening white of a winter wonderland. Some photos from today.

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Here’s Daniel just after I told him about the vegetarian restaurant.

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Foodstory have a vegan cheese and wine night every Monday night. Sounds like fun.

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The best birthday ever

The best birthday ever

A conversation at school this morning.

Elizabeth (to her friend): It’s my mum’s birthday today and she’s 41.
Elizabeth’s friend: Wow, my mum’s heaps younger than your mum but your mum looks heaps younger than my mum.

The best birthday present ever 🙂

I had a nice day today. I did one of my favourite things which was cycle to Newton Dee for chocolate.

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This evening, much to Daniel’s disgust, we went out for dinner to the best Vegetarian café/restaurant in Aberdeen – The Foodstory Café.

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I had vegan stuffed courgettes and it was amazing.

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A funny birthday card:

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