Cauliflower cheese without cheese

I’m not that into cooking however I like eating and I know I need to eat more fresh vegetables and fewer processed vegan meals. Last night I made a vegan version of cauliflower cheese that tasted wonderful and was very easy to make so I thought I’d share it.

Someone at the allotments gave me a huge, fresh cauliflower and I got it home and wondered what to do with it. What do you do with cauliflower? I decided to bake it but baked cauliflower on its own is pretty boring so I made this lovely sauce to go with it.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 dessert spoons tahini
  • 1/2-1 cup of ground cashew nuts
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • water

I put the garlic and a bit of water in a saucepan and cooked them for a few minutes before adding everything else. I then added more water until I was happy with the consistency of the sauce. I’m not sure exactly how much water I added but possibly a cup or two. Then I poured it over my cauliflower and baked it in the oven. I can’t remember how long for – maybe 10-15 minutes? The cauliflower was still crunchy which is how I like it.

I prefer gardening and crochet to cooking and fortunately I have plenty of gardens to tend to including our plot at the allotment. I find weeding strangely therapeutic. Sometimes I fall asleep at night imaging pulling out buttercups which is very soothing and sends me off to sleep.

We got our plot in April and here’s how it looked:

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In June it looked like this:

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And now in August all the weeds are finally under control and it looks like this:

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Aggressive vegans

Aggressive vegans

Apparently 26% of British meat-eaters claim the attitude of vegetarians and vegans has put them off considering a plant-based diet. I think that’s a bit silly. I’m sure there are some aggressive vegans with a bad attitude just as there are some aggressive motorists with a bad attitude and some aggressive police officers with a bad attitude and so on but it’s wrong to reject that entire point of view simply because you don’t like someone you met in that group. It’s like meeting an arrogant, self-centred arsehole who likes chocolate and then deciding you won’t eat any chocolate because the self-centred arsehole likes it. You’re missing out on all that chocolate for such a silly reason! Chocolate, I might add, comes from plants and is vegan.

On other matters my sweet peas on the pavement outside our house are now taller than I am. Do I look like an aggressive vegan with a bad attitude in this next photo? I can’t seem to convince Daniel that it’s summer in Scotland and he insists on wearing his winter jacket even on the not-so-cold days.

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Some of you may remember the horrendous time I had in Spain recently trying to order vegan meals in regular restaurants. At one place I was given a plate of burnt artichokes.

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In the news this week was another vegan who had a similar experience in Spain except that she got a plate of tomatoes and raw onion. And people wonder why we’re aggressive and have a bad attitude.

Bonobo Café

Bonobo Café

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A couple of weeks ago Aberdeen welcomed its very first vegan café, Bonobo, and today I got to check it out. It’s the result of a kick-starter campaign which I, along with hundreds of others, donated to. All our names are on the wall inside.

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The food was delicious and the service, perfect. They have done a wonderful job inside and created a very warm and friendly place to hang out. The outside garden is a showstopper and puts my plot at the allotments to shame.

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The garden has fruiting tomatoes that are not in a glasshouse. I didn’t think this was possible in Aberdeen.

I had a satay wrap: tofu cooked in a peanut sauce and rolled up with other veggies.

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Elizabeth got the vegan quiche:

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Daniel had the soup:

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Bonobo gets a 10/10 from me. Daniel, the very fussy eater, gave it 8/10 which is terrific! We’ll be back.

Okja – Film Review

Okja.pngA soulless multinational company develops a giant pig which poops less and eats less than regular pigs while providing a greater volume of meat. The company sends a number of these super pigs to farmers all over the world to raise for ten years. One of them is sent to South Korea where the farmer’s daughter befriends the pig and when, inevitably, the pig is taken back to New York the girl is devastated and sets off on a rescue mission.

I really enjoyed it. It was funny in parts but also sad. The ALF (Animal Liberation Front) have a prominent role in several action scenes and they are all very well done. I don’t know all that much about the ALF in real life but in the film they were depicted as organised and well-resourced but slightly nuts. There was also some lovely scenery at the beginning of the film which was set in South Korea. It was directed by a South Korean writer/director, Joon-ho Bong.

Would it make a meat-eater question whether to eat bacon for breakfast? I don’t know. It has been so long since I ate bacon that I find the thought repulsive so I’m not the right person to ask. But I do think the film will challenge perceptions of factory farming and how we treat animals today. Towards the end of the film I was reminded of a quote by Nobel Prize winner, Isaac Bashevis Singer:

In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.

But there is reason to hope. We may see lab-grown meat available in stores as early as next year.

Meat allergy tick is spreading thanks to climate change

Meat allergy tick is spreading thanks to climate change

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I thought this story was a hoax at first but I Googled it and found reputable sources like the New Yorker, ABC Science, BBC, and Science Daily.

There’s a nice symmetry to the thought that one of the causes of climate change – livestock farming – could also bring about its demise. Livestock farming produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector – that’s all the cars, trucks, trains, planes, buses, and ships on the planet. As our planet warms, insects, like this meat-allergy-inducing tick, are spreading to areas which were previously too cold for them.

It’s not sustainable to feed 7 billion people the same meat-based diet that most North Americans eat today. Over 50 billion farm animals are slaughtered every year to feed humans. Most of them live short, painful lives in miserable conditions.

Livestock farming is also contributing to antibiotic resistance. “About 75 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States and the European Union countries are used in agriculture.”
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Eating animals is not a very efficient way to get protein because we have to grow a lot of crops to feed those animals. We could just eat those crops ourselves and then we’d have more food to feed a growing population. Here’s a good infographic from an article in The Conversation on deforestation. As you can see, when we pass protein through an animal first we get less out than we put in. And no, I’m not denying that cows eat grass. They do eat grass but most of the 50 billion animals slaughtered for food each year are not grass-fed cows.

If humans really want to eat animals there are more sustainable alternatives. Eating some of the many wild rabbits and deer that are culled each year is one option. There are also rats and mice. I think it’s less ethical to consume dairy products which cause undue suffering to a mother and baby than to eat game marked for culling.

Another possibility is to eat roadkill:

 

If that’s unpalatable then just eat any of the 20,000 species of edible plants in the world.

Tell lions not to eat dogs

This post is for my vegan friends who I’m sure will enjoy this Facebook article that appeared in my feed this week. I had a good laugh because every single one of those points has been said to me in the 15 years that I have been vegan. If you click the “See More” link you can see the full post without having to visit Facebook.

I particularly like this one “Before you tell the people of Bali not to eat dogs you better go to Africa & tell a lion not to eat a dog.” I posted about this recently on my own blog in Animals eat each other so why shouldn’t we eat them? and a couple of weeks later someone used the same argument with me again. I confess I was a little curt with them in my response. How can people be so stupid? I should be more understanding and compassionate but this is what happens when you hear the same stupid arguments for 15 years. I will endeavour to be more understanding going forward. No-one ever became vegan because they were made to feel stupid.

The Handmade Burger Company

The Handmade Burger Company

We went for dinner to The Handmade Burger Company this week. It’s a chain store which sells – no prizes for guessing what – burgers! I nearly fell off my chair and had a heart attack when I saw the menu because there were six vegetarian options and four of them vegan. Usually there’s just one thing for me to eat when we go out which I don’t particularly mind because it avoids decision fatigue.

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I didn’t know what to do with myself? Four choices! They all looked delicious. How could I possibly choose? The decision was too difficult so we decided to go home and cook instead. Just kidding!

I ordered the Thai Vegetable and it tasted just as good as it sounds.

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“Does that elephant need its face more than some guy in Asia needs a tusk on his desk?”

Theresa May plans to lift the ban on ivory trading. Why would anyone want to do that? The reason is because people who sell antiques are required to prove that any ivory in their products was worked before 1947 and this is apparently difficult and expensive to do. She is putting what is a minor inconvenience for antique dealers above the lives of endangered elephants. But are the rest of us any better?

A former Australian military sniper and navy clearance diver, Damien Mander, started the International Anti-Poaching Foundation to use his military strategy and training to protect elephants. His Twitter account has images of the problem:

He is a hero. He says in his TED talk (which I’ve embedded at the end) ,

“Does that elephant need its face more than some guy in Asia needs a tusk on his desk?”

Of course not. However we are hypocrites when we judge others for harming animals without good reason when we do exactly the same thing.

Damien also asks in his talk:

Does a cow enjoy its life more than I enjoy a BBQ?

Damien Mander is vegan. The guy in Asia killing an elephant for his desk needs it no more than we need the meat from the 1.2 billion animals we slaughter every week for food. The longer I live happily and healthily as a vegan the more I realise how unnecessary the suffering is and how wrong and culturally biased we are to ignore it.

Here’s my lunch today:

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It’s porridge with nutritional yeast, soya yoghurt, soya milk, banana, blueberries, chia seeds, and pomegranate seeds. I eat this for lunch almost everyday. The fruit varies a little bit depending on the season and we we have in the house.

Nutritional yeast is something I’ve only just discovered recently and it’s delicious. I love it so much and sprinkle it generously over everything. It’s not available in supermarkets here but I recently found it at Newton Dee and I’m addicted to it. It’s an inactive yeast which is fortified with B12. Here’s the full nutrition information:

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Damien’s TED talk is wonderful and worth watching.

The future of food

The future of food

Aberdeen had its first ever vegan festival today and we went to check it out. Despite being vegan for more than a decade, this was the first vegan festival I’ve ever been to. I’ve never lived anywhere that had such a thing. It seems ironic that my first vegan festival should be in the home of haggis.

It was held at the most unusual place: the Aberdeen football club’s home, Pittodrie stadium. Perhaps this is not so unusual these days. After all, there is a vegan football team in England and the US has a vegan strip club. When I think of a vegan festival I think of plants and nothing remotely like Pittodrie stadium, which suffers from a dearth of plants and too-much-brick-and-concrete. It’s a very ugly and uninspiring building.

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We got there early and, as you can see, there was a long queue out front. How can that be? I thought I was the only vegan in Aberdeen. Daniel was equally perplexed and asked me why there were so many people in a “Why would anyone go to a vegan festival?” tone of voice. It turns out hundreds of people would go. The festival was absolutely packed.

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There were lots of stalls selling food but only two lunch-type places and the queues at both were longer than an average vegan’s life expectancy. Then one of them ran out of food and so I think it was much busier than anyone expected, which is terrific, although a bit disappointing for me as I was hungry.

Glasgow-based French chef Laurianne was there with her delicious raw cakes. You will not taste a better cake anywhere else on Earth.

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The queue for these delicious-looking pastries was also ridiculously long and so we didn’t try any, unfortunately.

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Vegan food products are experiencing enormous sales growth right now and with people like Bill Gates promoting and investing in plant-based foods, it’s only going to become more and more popular. I just want to say I was vegan before all the cool kids were doing it. The following video is from Bill Gates’s site: it explains the science of plant-based proteins and why they’re more sustainable.

International Festival

International Festival

I have spent most of this weekend hard at work in the kitchen. The school had an international festival today and the mum organising it asked me whether I’d like to bring some vegan food. I was delighted to be asked and felt I had to put on a good spread as a representative of plant-based diets. The idea behind the festival is that each person bring some food relevant to their cultural heritage so it’s somewhat ironic that I should bring vegan food since Australians eat more meat per capita than any other country in the OECD.

Cooking is not my forté. I prefer gardening and crochet so I felt a tiny bit nervous in the weeks leading up to this event and did several practice runs, most of which failed miserably. Thankfully everything came together this weekend and the food I made was very palatable.

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I made curry puffs, cinnamon scrolls, chocolate muffins, and orange shortbread. There’s nothing left now except for a couple of shortbread biscuits.

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Aberdeen is a very multicultural city. There was food from France, Holland, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Indonesia, China, Russia, India, Poland, and Scotland. It’s nice for the children to grow up with such diversity and I really appreciate this aspect to Aberdeen. My own school when I was a child was similarly diverse and we also had international food festivals like this. I have fond memories of them.

Daniel and Elizabeth have been learning Highland Dancing at school and the class put on a performance. It was terrific.

I love being vegan.

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Do animal rights activists care more for animals than humans?

Some people think that those who advocate for animal rights care more about non-human animals than human animals. That’s not true at all. The ethicist, Peter Singer, who wrote Animal Liberation back in 1975 thinks we rich people ought to donate 10% of our salary to the world’s poor. He gives around a quarter of his own income to charity. He says it’s our duty to give.

…the failure of people in the rich nations to make any significant sacrifices in order to assist people who are dying from poverty-related causes is ethically indefensible.

I do not believe in a supernatural god but I believe there was a man called Jesus who once walked on the earth and who said similar things about helping the poor. It pains me to see Christians and other religious groups hounding homosexuals and women who choose to terminate a pregnancy rather than focussing on some of the extreme suffering in the poorest regions of the world.

We donate regularly to a charity called the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) which is run by Imperial College London. For about 30p we can treat one person for this debilitating disease. When children are healthy they can attend school. Healthy parents are better able to support their families. You can’t lift people out of poverty when they’re ill and dying. SCI is one of the most cost-effective charities in the world.

Advocating for animals does not mean we care less about humans. It simply means we do not draw the boundary of moral consideration at species membership. Instead we expand the bounds of compassion to all sentient beings. As Jeremy Bentham once said, the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

 

Cultural blindness

The following excerpt is from an article in The Times this week, Richard Dawkins: ‘When I see cattle lorries, I think of the railway wagons to Auschwitz‘.

Is this what it was like, Richard Dawkins wonders, for ordinary people in Nazi Germany? “There’s a kind of laziness if you live in a society where things are just accepted. People might have been vaguely uneasy about what was going on in Germany but also thought, ‘Oh well, everyone else is doing it’.”

What crime is it that he thinks that we, like Germans in the 1930s, are blind to? It is, perhaps, a surprising one from him: the crime of eating meat. Dawkins, 76, is not known for being a woolly, liberal, tofu-eater. He is better known for his espousal of red-in-tooth-and-claw evolutionary logic and, even more so, for his three million-selling atheist book The God Delusion. Speaking from his Victorian Gothic house in Oxford, he says that just because you don’t fear the judgment of God, doesn’t mean you don’t fear judgment.

The judgment that Dawkins fears, as he recovers from a minor stroke, is that of history. Will the 21st century’s “speciesism” one day be viewed in the same way we view the 20th century’s racism? The world’s most famous evolutionary biologist thinks so.

“We put humanity on a pedestal miles higher than the surrounding territory. A human foetus that has approximately the anatomy and brainpower of a worm is accorded more status than an adult chimpanzee,” he said. And chimpanzees have more rights than, say, cows. “When I pass one of those lorries with little slats and see fearful eyes peering out, I think of the railway wagons to Auschwitz.”

To see Richard Dawkins promoting plant-based diets in a mainstream newspaper is amazing. Veganism is no longer a fringe movement for hippies and crackpots. We now have lots heavy-weight intellectuals arguing for a meat-free diet which gives me hope for our planet.

 

The inconsistency of eating meat while objecting to abortion

For any woman having an abortion is a serious decision that she will only do if she has something quite important at stake. Whereas people who are prepared to go into the supermarket and buy some ham don’t need to do that at all. They could easily eat something else. They are supporting the pain that is inflicted on those animals during their factory-farmed lives in the process of slaughter for a very trivial reason. So they certainly shouldn’t be looking askance at women who have terminated their pregnancy for much more serious reasons. At least not on the grounds of pain that might be inflicted on the foetus.

This quote is from Peter Singer in a conversation with Richard Dawkins:

Hodmedod’s

Hodmedod’s

Recently I discovered lentils and soya beans are grown in the UK and in the process I stumbled upon Hodmedod’s, an online store selling British grown beans and other products. I decided to give it a try and bought the big vegan box:

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Apparently carlin peas make a good replacement for chickpeas. I will whip up a curry with my newly purchased Hodmedod peas over the weekend to test this theory. One 500g pack of British-grown carlin peas costs just £1.99. This is enough to feed 8 people or a family of four for two nights, at least, and this is a conservative estimate. It would likely go further because whenever I make a chickpea curry there’s always enough for leftovers the next day. Compare this to four steaks which cost £4 and only last one night.

Peas and beans are a terrific source of protein, cheap, much better for the environment than animal protein, and they taste good. It’s more efficient for humans to eat protein directly from plants than to pass it through an animal first. Livestock farming accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector; that’s all the cars, trains, trucks, buses, and planes on the planet. I know I have said that several times before but I will continue to say it over and over again because I keep meeting people who don’t realise this. Livestock farming also uses 30% of the earth’s land surface, causes unnecessary suffering to animals, and contributes to antibiotic resistance (80% of all antibiotics are used by the livestock industry) – all this for no reason other than to satisfy our palates.

Tonight we will be trying Peter’s quinoa. Thank you, Peter!

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Stick insect abortions

I’m a murderer. I killed dozens of our pet stick insects yesterday with my bare hands, squishing them into green slime. I felt pretty awful about this and had nightmares last night about mistreating pets. I realise this self-imposed guilt is irrational because I frequently squish insects in my greenhouse. Why do I feel guilty about the stick insects and not aphids?

You might be asking how a vegan can kill insects but I’m not a Jain Buddhist. I simply reject speciesism; it’s wrong to apply the principle of equality to members of our species only. The principle of equality says we do not give preference to others based on characteristics such as sex or race and for the same reasons, species. However that doesn’t mean I don’t draw the line somewhere; after all, there are parasites that infect the human eye and I have very little sympathy for them. But difficulty knowing where to draw the line is not an excuse to avoid trying to do so. Species membership is not morally relevant. What is morally relevant are things like the capacity for pain and suffering, self-consciousness, self-awareness, and the ability to see oneself as having a past and future. Insects are a long way down on this spectrum.

So why do I feel bad? Because they were our pets. It was my duty to take care of them and I have betrayed them. Is this how meat-eaters justify petting their dog while sticking a fork into a pig? A dog is in their care whereas the pig is not. Emotionally it makes sense but it’s still irrational.

My plan for the stick insects from now on is to try to find the eggs before they hatch and squash them. Think of it as stick insect abortion.

Vegan menus, radio programs, and strip clubs

Vegan menus, radio programs, and strip clubs

Last night we went out for a pub meal at The Justice Mill on Union St in Aberdeen. It’s part of a pub chain in the UK called Wetherspoon; I like it because there are several options for me to eat and it’s cheap. They even have a menu especially for vegans and vegetarians – eat your heart out Spain.
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I usually get the sweet potato and chick pea curry which is delicious.

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Last week on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme were several episodes (here and here) about veganism. Some people think the rise of veganism is a threat to British farming but vegans still have to eat and unfortunately many of the staples we rely on like soya beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are grown elsewhere and imported. The BBC program was about how this represents a business opportunity for British farmers and indeed some are starting to recognise it and experiment with new crops. Soya beans are now grown in the UK, although only in small amounts and most are fed to livestock. They also mentioned lentils and I found this article about lentils growing in Suffolk. I’m very excited to hear about this and since vegans also tend to be concerned about the environment, I imagine the market for home-grown produce will be lucrative.

Some funny news: apparently a vegan strip club and a steak house are engaged in an altercation. They’re right next to each other in Portland, Oregon and the steak house is not happy about the vegans next door.

 

 

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?