Farmageddon – The True Cost of Cheap Meat

farmageddonjpegFor anyone who has not cottoned on to how much harm is being done (to animals, people and the planet) by current methods of food production, I highly recommend this book. The authors demand that we reconsider how we are raising animals for meat and ask many other serious questions about our methods of agriculture and eating patterns across the world. For anyone who has already studied the issues here, there may not be much that is new.

A wide range of different types of damage caused by modern farming techniques are examined in great detail. The scarcity of bees, the massive overuse of antibiotics in farm animals (“Roughly half of all antibiotics produced in the world go to food animals”), the use of cereals and grains as animal feed instead of for direct human consumption (“A third of the world’s cereal harvest is used for animals. If it went directly to human’s instead, it would feed about 3 billion people”) the problems in modern fish-farming such as sea lice and waste (“A fifth of the world’s fish is effectively being wasted feeding other fish”) and so on.

Author Philip Lymbery

Author Philip Lymbery

Industrial agriculture is yet another example of how placing corporate profits before people and the environment is, in the long-term, self-destructive madness. The authors finish with the importance of consumer power and a call for more compassionate and realistic solutions as the way forward. Reduce and recycle food waste, take animals out of the factory sheds and restore them to the land, eat less meat, buy organic and free-range. Farming – a return to the old ways of mixed farming with plants and animals on the same farm. Use natural manure to fertilize crops, doing away with the giant pits of excrement found on mega-farms.

Many people still want to believe that pigs and cows and sheep and chickens all live on Old MacDonald’s farm, happily chomping away at grass in the fields or pecking in the farmyard, despite all the evidence that’s now available to the contrary. This book is a powerful, comprehensive and balanced wake-up call that doesn’t preach and it doesn’t say that we should all be vegan or even vegetarian. Time for us all to open our eyes a bit.

Alternatives to cow’s milk

OatlyMy favourite is Oatly, which was originally developed in Sweden. There are a large number of other good alternatives, many of which are extremely yummy and nutritious. Rice Dream is one of the nicest, with a unique flavour that is almost a bit like ice cream. Almond milk is good but a bit expensive. Coconut milk, hemp milk… the list goes on. Some soya milks are good, and generally better if you want something to add to tea or coffee, but beware of added sugar in the form of sucrose, maltodextrin or other forms.

Udderly ridiculous - Liu Qiang's stunning sculpture

Udderly ridiculous – Liu Qiang’s stunning sculpture

Since my early days of macrobiotics in the seventies, whenever possible I have kept clear of cow’s milk, for several reasons. Once you stop to think about it, the human habit of consuming the breast milk from the mothers of other species seems really quite bizarre and cruel. Biologically, human adults are obviously not designed to drink it in large quantities, hence many people’s problems with lactose intolerance and other allergic reactions. Back in the day, one or two of the alternatives tasted of wallpaper paste – fortunately things have improved!

Action on Sugar – about time!

Action on SugarIt has been a welcome surprise to see the explosion of UK media coverage for the Action on Sugar group over the last few weeks. Great stuff, although some of us would say it’s a few decades late. As with so much else, corporate interests and big business have been allowed to get away with far too much for far too long. Comparisons to tobacco or even cocaine may seem far-fetched but some would go further and say that sugar is even more addictive (particularly when combined with fat, as is often the case) and a far greater widespread problem. There is hidden added sugar in anything from tomato sauce to “healthy” fruit drinks and muesli and er… just about everything. The stuff is everywhere, relentlessly pushed on an often unaware public.

Stewie's first soda

Stewie’s first soda

Immediately of course, out come the pro-sugar lobbyists to re-assure us that it really isn’t that bad at all. Barbara Gallani of the Food and Drink Federation commented: “Sugars… consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet are not a cause of obesity”. Oh, that’s okay then, we’d better ignore all the evidence that shows otherwise. I wonder if, just possibly, perhaps, the massive profits and the demands of shareholders in the food industry have been put before the public’s health for a long, long time? Just possibly. Wisely, the Action on Sugar group is calling for a gradual reduction by the food industry, similar to the success of reducing added salt in recent years.

Go against the endless marketing of addictive crap by these multimillion pound industries – eat healthier alternatives at least some of the time, and start to re-claim your health and even your life. Just an idea.

Mostly vegan

Have been pondering more than usual about vegetarianism and veganism recently. My own approach is more of a long-term, flexible, “macrobiotic” lifestyle. Depending on a wide range of factors this can be vegetarian or vegan, but is perhaps more often “pescetarian” i.e. includes eating fish.

Although I try not to be too dogmatic about anything (“There’s nothing worse than a fascist vegan!”, as a friend of mine once said about his younger self), I’m fairly convinced that the majority of us would be a lot better off if we went in this kind of dietary direction. Ever since it was pointed out to me, it’s always struck me as completely bizarre that milk produced by cows for calves, has been widely accepted as a “natural” healthy food for humans in the western world.

Mostly vegan, mostly organic (can’t always afford it), keeping sugar and processed stuff intake very low, has worked very well for me for 35 years anyway. Apart from anything else, I just think it tastes best. I’ve always liked the idea of actively taking responsibility for one’s own health, better use of planetary resources, taking a small political stance to help reduce unnecessary suffering, blah blah blah etc etc. And unlike some, the smell of bacon has never made me turn back!

Second Brighton marathon

Have taken a break from the dayjob and some of the ridiculous stresses that came with it at the end of last year – like not being paid for example, that can be a bit stressful! Time for a rest, maybe a complete change of direction.

I now have more time to be getting on with other things, such as training for the next Brighton marathon. I’m putting in roughly one short run (an hour) and one longer run (two hours) a week at the moment. Running into the wind and rain along the seafront is not always a bundle of laughs, but it does get the feel-good chemicals whizzing around the body for a few hours afterwards.

Last year I finished in just over 4 hours. This time round I hope to improve on my personal best of 3 hours 51 minutes, which was at the London marathon in 1997. Am really looking forward to it.

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