Land of hope and glory: the truth behind British farming

In the last ten years the number of vegans in the UK has grown by 360%. Ask the average vegan their reason for adopting the lifestyle, and the majority of the time the answer will be “for the animals”. This comes despite the evidence that going vegan is great for our health and is hugely beneficial for the environment. It seems compassion for animals is still the number one driving factor for the huge surge in veganism in recent years.

Nowadays there is a wealth of information available online, and thousands of videos on YouTube showing the cruel nature of modern animal agriculture. However, so much of the available footage and statistics are from other countries, mainly the USA, that critics of veganism in the UK are quick to dismiss them. A common argument used against animal activists in the UK is that we treat animals so much better here than in other parts of the world. Many people refuse to believe that farmers in the UK would allow such obscene and cruel practices to take place on their farms, and are able to justify their continued support of the industry by adhering to this narrative.

This is what the makers of new documentary film “Land of Hope and Glory” have set out to change. Spurred on by the line “that doesn’t happen in our country“, the team behind the film travelled up and down the UK, working with a number of different groups to bring the reality of British animal agriculture into the limelight. According to the makers of the film: “through Land of Hope and Glory we aim to show the truth behind UK land animal farming by featuring the most up to date investigations as well as never before seen undercover footage, with a total of approximately 100 UK facilities featured throughout the film“.

Land of Hope and Glory tells the story of the 1 billion land animals slaughtered in the UK each year. Following the process involved in rearing, transporting and slaughtering pigs, cows, sheep and poultry, the film paints a bleak picture that conflicts heavily with the rosy image of British farming we are so often offered by the industry itself. What filmmakers Ed Winters and Luna Woods, of Surge Activism, have delivered through this film is a look at the inhumane methods that most people in the UK don’t realise are standard practices in British farming.

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Presented in four parts each focused on a different group of animals, the film guides us first through the world of pig farming where we learn about the bodily mutilations carried out on piglets without anaesthetic including teeth clipping and tail docking. The cramped conditions that the vast majority of pigs are kept in in the UK makes for difficult viewing, and the treatment of unwanted or unhealthy piglets and sows shown in the film is deeply distressing.

As the film moves on to cows, we learn of the heartbreaking fact that dairy cows have their calves removed from them just 24-48 hours after birth. This is not something that can be attributed to rare or isolated cases, as this is the case on the majority of dairy farms in the UK and is actually recommended by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). This is sadly not the worst thing that will happen to the animals during their lives – as the film shows – and for the calves is just the beginning of a short lifetime of misery and abuse.

The awful living conditions and brutal practices shown in this film will no doubt come as a shock to many, especially those who attempt to make more ethical choices by purchasing “humane” animal products. Sadly much of the footage shown throughout this film is taken from farms classed as free-range, organic, high-welfare, red-tractor approved and RSPCA-approved producers. What is most prominently highlighted in the film is the sad truth deliberately hidden from consumers which is that labels such as “free-range” are mostly arbitrary and actually misleading due to the rules applied to them. Most consumers who purchase free range eggs would be horrified to learn that the hens producing them were housed in dark, cramped barns, with virtually no access to the outside world, yet this is so often the case. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that there is no legal definition of “free range pork”, meaning farmers can keep pigs in any of the awful conditions depicted in the film, and still label their product as “free range”.

The film also dispels any myths about sheep and goats being the more fortunate of farm animals due to their generally being free roaming. Just like pigs, cows and chickens, sheep and goats are forced to endure a series of brutal procedures without anaesthetic, and are also subject to a number of terrible and widespread diseases. It is stated in the film, for example, that foot rot is present in 97% of British flocks.

Much of the film focuses on the hugely traumatic experience the animals all must go through on their way to the slaughterhouse. The animals, as young as 4-6 months old in the case of lambs, are transported for huge distances in cramped and overcrowded trucks, with no food or water and often in sweltering heat. Many animals do not even survive the journey to the slaughterhouse. Those that do are subjected to cruel and often ineffective stunning methods prior to slaughter. A statistic that will no doubt stand out to many viewers is that an estimated 1.8 million pigs regain consciousness on the production line each year due to poorly executed stunning techniques – and that this practice is still certified “humane”.

Land of Hope and Glory may be a difficult film to watch, but at its heart it is about educating consumers on where their money goes when they use it to purchase meat, eggs and dairy. It’s also a reminder that cruel farming practices are not something on which countries such as the USA have a monopoly. Modern British farming is not what the industry wants you to believe it is. The “happy cow” is a myth, and “humane meat” is a lie. Coming to terms with the truth behind how meat, eggs and dairy are produced in the UK is the first step towards making more informed, ethical decisions, which is something that we should all aspire to do. As Ed says in the closing chapter of the film: “it is ignorance that allows us to consume and purchase without considering the industries that we are supporting. And therefore, informing ourselves of the horrors our purchases perpetuate is not only a liberation for the animals, but indeed for ourselves as well.

Watch the full documentary:

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Tofu Enchiladas

Great for enjoying on a summer’s evening, this tofu enchiladas recipe will be a hit with the whole family.

Slow cooked, succulent tofu in a spicy tomato sauce, wrapped and baked in a wholemeal tortilla. Great with a fresh salad, and a perfect dish for a summer dinner party.


(Serves 2)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tin tomatoes, divided into ¼ and ¾
  • 350g firm tofu, cut into strips
  • ¾ tbsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • jalapenos (as many as you like, we use the ones from a jar)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 wholemeal tortilla wraps

  1. Heat 1½ tbsp of oil in a frying pan. Fry the tofu strips, turning throughout cooking, until they are to your liking. If you want them to be crisp on the outside, but spongy on the inside (best for soaking up the sauce) it takes a longer, slower cook.
  2. Whilst tofu is cooking, take 2 of the cloves of garlic and the rest of the oil and fry together in a saucepan for 2 minutes. Add the ground cumin and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the ¾ tin of tomatoes, and salt and pepper as required. (Note: it may help to make the sauce slightly more seasoned than you would usually eat it, as the tofu mix is all unseasoned). Simmer the sauce on a low heat until it reduces (approximately 15 minutes). Then add the chopped coriander and stir through.
  4. Put the other clove of chopped garlic, the ¼ tin of tomatoes and the chilli flakes into a small saucepan with the water, salt and pepper and allow to cook slowly until it is reduced to a thick sauce.
  5. Once the tofu is cooked, add it to the cumin and coriander sauce and stir it in. In the same pan used to fry the tofu, turn up the heat and stir-fry the pepper and onion until slightly browned but still nice and crunchy. Then add to the tofu mixture.
  6. Take the tortilla wraps and place them in a non-stick baking dish. Load the tofu mixture equally into the wraps, roll them closed and turn over so the fold is on the underside. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees (180 degrees fan oven, gas mark 6) for approximately 20 minutes. Check them half way through baking to ensure the wraps don’t burn.
  7. Once cooked, top the enchiladas with the tomato, garlic and chilli sauce and jalapenos. Serve with a fresh salad, or your choice of side.

Handy tip: if you want to get additional servings from this recipe (especially quickly, in the event of unexpected guests!) add a tin of black beans to the tofu mixture before loading the wraps.

Enjoyed this recipe? Click here to see more

The Virtual Vegan

Vegan, it’s the latest buzz word isn’t it? A fad diet for those who followed Atkins and/or declared themselves gluten-free a few months ago. Those who like to starve themselves for 2 days a week and consume only green smoothies, or for hippies of course.

Not so. Well, not completely so anyway.

I’m guilty of trying most new diets and fitness trends and then failing miserably when I get tired, hungry, depressed or demotivated.

But veganism is different. It’s a movement. It’s about so much more than health and image. I am here to explain why I decided to move towards this way of life and the difficulties I have encountered along the way. One thing’s for sure – there is no turning back!

Let’s start at the beginning. I am certainly no stranger to tofu….back in the 80’s my strict vegetarian, activist mother was piling carrot sticks and raisins in my lunch box, while my mates were treated to um-bongo and wagon wheels. I felt so deprived……(not really, Mum……just a little).

In those days I was unusual. In fact, I have always been a little bit different. Mainly due to my Mum, who has always stayed ahead of the trend when it comes to consuming ethically – be it food, washing up liquid or packaging. Ahead of the trend = not trendy by the way…..perhaps a better way to describe it is ‘against the grain’.

And, that was part of the problem. Unlike these kids that grow up in super alternative families: live off the land, wear hemp, sing round the campfire, get immersed in a community and grow up the same, I was part of a much more conventional setup.

My mum was a teacher, my Dad worked in sales. We bought stuff from Marks and Spencer and we went to the Berni Inn (a steak house) for a treat. We appeared an ordinary, 2.4 kids type family – aspiring working class to outsiders. My Dad ate meat, so did my brother and I. Meanwhile, my mum’s publications came through the door covered in pictures of mutilated animals; charities asking for donations. Letters were drafted and posted to local MPs and governments further afield about all sorts of cruelty afflicted on animals and humans.

It was all there, but she didn’t shout about it. It was all done quietly, with little fuss. It was only when challenged that her face would go bright red and her chest blotchy as she prepared to defend herself and all that she stood for. Inevitably it would end with her being ridiculed and accused of being extreme.

So, for me, although I always admired her for her conviction to her beliefs and values, I saw a great deal of pressure, accusation and grief and that came with it. I became desensitised to the pictures – to the reality. I didn’t want to be like that. I thought it was okay to eat meat and stuff. I didn’t join in with the others giving my mum a hard time, but I self-identified with my Dad. He was more rebellious in the traditional sense – smoking and drinking etc. – which was far more seductive a role model – especially as a teen!

It’s only with age and experience that I am able to look back and see things more clearly. I have grown up!

My first bout of vegetarianism came a few years back after reading a book called PopCo by Scarlett Thomas (2004, Cannongate Books) which has a fierce vegan sub narrative. Her description had a visceral effect. I heard and saw cows crying for their babies as they were separated just after birth. I ditched the dairy immediately….and all poultry and meat. I didn’t understand the environmental aspect back then; but the suffering was enough. And it was easy! My then family (ex-husband, couple of kids) were living with my parents, so mum and I ate the same meals together. She was virtually vegan by then anyway (eating only ethically sourced, local, free range eggs – and she’s never stopped the honey).

Only later, when pregnant and living independently again, did I reach for a burger one day (it was the only thing that didn’t make me feel sick) and it all went downhill from there. I did the same as I had always done before – buried the truth deep within my psyche and returned to cooking spag bol and chicken salads – after all, this was now easier. I was a full-time working mum and it was what the family demanded.

Jump forward 5 years, I find myself divorced and in a new relationship with an open-minded, environmentally-aware and super likeminded fellow. We had talked about vegetarianism quite a bit, but it wasn’t until a do in October 2015 that the fantastic documentary by Leo Dicaprio – Cowspiracy was recommended to us. We went home and watched it open-mouthed. How could we have been so ignorant and so naïve? Animal consumption has grown to record levels worldwide and we are literally killing the planet!

I’m not going to go into the detail here, when so many fantastic documentaries explain it better than I ever could, but there are so many things wrong with the way we consume food. The way we treat animals for our own pleasure is barbarically cruel and unnecessary, and the impact on world hunger, rainforest depletion, global warming and contamination of our seas is off-the-scale devastatingly bad.

So, I do my best these days. I haven’t eaten meat for ages. I decided to have a go at veganuary in Jan this year and haven’t stopped trying since!

The secret to success is support, availability and ease. Unlike my Mum, I am not ahead of the trend! According to The Telegraph (18 May 2016) ‘the number of vegans in the Britain has risen by 360% over the past decade’ and there are many signs that veganism is set to continue to rise – especially among the more ethically-sound, environmentally-conscious younger generation.

Even in Woking there are many vegan options in various restaurants and cafes; a Woking vegan Facebook group; vegan runners and even a festival took place earlier in the year.

It’s so encouraging. And I hope not a fad. Meanwhile, I will continue with my own battles at home. My 19 year old (brought up with the spag bol) demanding his daily animal protein fix (what’s wrong with mung beans for goodness sake?) and my 6 year old struggling to give up her ham sandwiches. Not to mention my step-daughter. She is not happy at all about the vegan switch….although she loved her ‘chicken’ nuggets the other day (“are they real?”, “yes, of course they are real, Ams!”)

Perhaps, they will just be late to the party? After all, mums are not cool. Not when you’re young. It’s only later when you realise they were right all along! Especially when you have a super switched on trail-blazer mum like me. Even my Dad has joined in. He switched to a largely plant-based diet not long ago. So there is less discrimination in the family home now…..and certainly a lot more hummus!

Thanks for listening. I promise you vegan food is amazing. And it is so important we all consume less meat – for the sake of the planet and the other humans and animals we share it with.

To find out more please visit:

And watch:

Cowspiracy (2014, Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, available on Netflix)

Carnage (2017, produced by Simon Amstell, currently available on BBC iPlayer)

That will get you started….and there is plenty more where that came from.  Join the revolution!

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In The Spotlight: Chas Newkey-Burden

Author of 29 books and counting, Chas Newkey-Burden is a Windsor-based journalist regularly published in the Guardian, Telegraph and Independent to name a few.

Writing on various topics including pop culture, football and politics; Chas is an established name in the world of journalism. Much of his recent work has focused on animal rights issues, particularly animal agriculture.

We caught up with Chas to discuss his career, as well as the direction his writing is currently taking.

You’ve interviewed some big names during your career, who has been a favourite for you?

Ricky Gervais really surprised me. I’d always been a fan of The Office and Extras but I wondered whether I’d like him in person because he sometimes seemed a prat in TV interviews. But he was lovely: far more sensitive and vulnerable than I expected. He was also painfully self-aware. There was a surreal moment when he quoted a line from The Office but got it slightly wrong. Forgetting who I was with, I corrected him. Then we both burst out laughing.

You’re an established name in the world of journalism now, but what first got you into writing?

Writing was one of the few things I enjoyed at school (along with running, football and being cheeky). As a teenager, my mind was blown by the fact that you can use a pen to hold the powerful to account and to expose wickedness. I started off writing about miscarriages of justice for student magazines and political papers. I also wrote for football fanzines. Then I took my cuttings around mainstream magazines and asked if I could write for them too.

Recently a lot of your focus seems to have been on animal rights; is this something that’s always been important to you?

Well, it was a big part of my childhood in the 1980s. I went vegetarian at 11 and became an animal rights activist. I handed out leaflets about vivisection and hunting, wore the badges, went to all the rallies.

I actually sort of lost my way with all of that for a while, but then a few years ago a family member died. It was an awful time but among all the grief I seemed to find myself again in so many ways. As part of that, it was such a joy to reconnect to my passion for animal welfare.

You’ve written articles on a number of issues within industry but is there any one in particular which you feel needs more exposure than it currently tends to receive?

Yes, dairy is always an issue I am keen to discuss and write about. For me it’s the cruellest of all animal abuse industries – it’s absolutely wicked. My article about dairy for The Guardian is my favourite thing I’ve written.

Dairy is scary

Chas Newkey-Burden: Dairy is scary.

Have you found the feedback to animal rights related articles different in any way to that of previous work?

It reminds me of the feedback I got when I used to write about the Middle East conflict: people either loved or hated what I wrote. When I wrote that article about the dairy industry earlier this year I got so many abusive and menacing messages from farmers. That’s to be expected when you put a clear mirror up to people who are behaving indefensibly. But I also got messages from tonnes of people saying they had decided to go vegan after reading my article. Someone even wrote an article in The Guardian saying that. What could be better?

What do you hope to achieve by writing animal rights related articles?

There’s that famous saying: if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian. My aim is to give the slaughterhouses glass walls for 900 words. I also want to write articles which amplify and bolster people who are doing great work for animals, like the Save movement.

Do you think it’s important that journalists remain completely neutral when reporting the news, or is it healthy to let a bias or opinion dictate how a story is presented?

News stories should be written neutrally, but opinion pieces are obviously different.

How do you define your lifestyle? Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Or do you tend to steer away from labels?

I do steer away from labels, partly because I’m uneasy with identity politics in general and partly because even something as seemingly simple to define as veganism is the subject of fierce debate. That said, ‘vegan’ is a good enough description of how I roll.

Chas Newkey-Burden

Finally, given what you’ve learnt over the years, what would your advice be to anybody that wanted to get into writing professionally?

What you read will really rub off onto your own writing, so read as much good writing as possible and as little poor writing as possible. Drill it into your skull that long, pretentious words are generally the mark of an amateur. Be bright, witty and persistent. Don’t expect to make much money out of it but do expect to have some brilliant times.

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Be sure to follow Chas on twitter: @allthatchas

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It’s not easy being green

Hey bullshit, Kermit. Look at us all. We’re positively thriving! But  actually to be fair, 18 months ago I would have said the same. And by green, I mean vegan. Plant based foods. All that lovely vegetation that so many of us miss out on because vegetables seem to get such a bad rap.

Before I became vegan, it seemed like an extremely alien premise. Give up pizza and coleslaw and oh my God halloumi? It all seemed like such a sacrifice and to what end? Having been vegetarian for 20 years already, why would a bit of cheese matter? It’s not a dead animal after all, everyone’s still here so what’s the fuss?

Major misunderstanding on my part; in order to obtain most, if not all animal products, pain and suffering and often death is involved. Upon being given more information about everything, there really was no other option. And I tell you what – green is great!

So what’s the advantage? I hear you cry. Okay, sit down and listen. Advantage plural, please.

Apart from the fact that every time you use an animal, you’re contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and the razing of rain forest and other wooded areas to make way for grazing pastures or crops to feed the livestock,  you’re also contributing to their misery, suffering and ultimately their death.
Now that’s a horrible thing to be funding, isn’t it?

So here’s the other side.

By eating the amount of meat that we seem to think we need, it means that the amount of vegetation we grow on the earth could comfortably feed our entire population.  So why are there starving people on our planet? Because all those veggies I just mentioned go into feeding all those animals rather than providing nourishment for those who are in desperate need. Cows are a darn sight bigger than a human and therefore take in a vast amount more than we do. All those calories grown, just to be fed to an animal to make a minuscule amount of meat. Not to mention the sheer amount of water used to produce this stuff. Other side? Oh no, sorry. Same side.

How about a plus side? Let’s say you don’t mind about animal suffering or the environment. Sounds like you only give a shit about yourself.

If you do, then hey, go vegan for selfish reasons if you’re that way inclined. (It also means that you’ll be  fulfilling the other specs by proxy. Big whoop) It means that you’ll be less likely to have diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, dementia, hypertension, the list goes on. Basically, most preventable diseases can be boshed off your agenda by going vegan. Oh, and you can shed that spare tyre while you’re at it. Bonus!

So there we go. There’s all the reasons why I changed my life for the better. I know the point was that it’s not easy being green, but look around you. These days there are hundreds of alternatives to those things you like. Experiment! Find the ones you like. You know what a vegetable is, right? Well, it’s not just carrots and veggie burgers. It’s a whole new world of stuff that you’ve yet to explore.  Oh, and just so you know, Kermit changed his mind:

“When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder?
Why Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful!
And I think it’s what I want to be.”
Muppets – It’s Not Easy Being Green

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Vegan news network launches campaign on behalf of activists

On June 1st Dave Lewis and Lizzie Riordan will set off on a journey walking 750 miles around the UK in order to raise awareness of animal suffering and the global crisis of animal agriculture. This would be an epic challenge on its own, but is made even more so by the fact that Dave walks using crutches following a spinal injury.

During their walk Dave and Lizzie will visit a number of vigils at slaughterhouses across the country and hope to show the wider public what it is that vegans are fighting for. The walk is about more than just that though, as the pair hope to raise £10,000 to put towards starting a charity and helping a number of causes including the homeless, local communities and animal welfare.

The work that Dave and Lizzie have put into planning and promoting the walk has been nothing short of inspiring; having managed to build a solid level of support within the vegan community over just a few weeks. However, with the start date swiftly approaching it was becoming increasingly clear that more exposure was required.

Enter Vegan Global News – a rapidly growing Surrey based news network with followers all over the world.

As soon as the team at VGN heard about what Dave and Lizzie were planning, it became clear that they had to offer their help in building a bigger following for the walk.

In a recent discussion with Ethical Surrey, VGN founder Nick Bean explained: “Once we became aware of the magnitude of the task Dave and Lizzie were undertaking and their reasons for doing it, we decided to get involved and offer all the help and assistance we could. We are now coordinating and documenting the entire journey and helping where necessary with logistics.”

The first step in promoting the event was to create a name and recognisable brand, which the team at VGN worked closely with Dave and Lizzie to achieve. The new name “Walk For Hope” was launched soon after, along with a new website and a streamlined social media presence.

Most recently, the team at VGN travelled to Canterbury to meet up with Dave and Lizzie to record an interview with the pair and to help them get across to the public why they are undertaking such a mammoth challenge.

With the start date now just days away, and as Dave and Lizzie work to make the final arrangements, the team at VGN are promoting the event far and wide with support from across the country growing at an ever increasing rate. With promotional material in the works, celebrity endorsements and possibly even a film in production, Walk For Hope looks to be unlike anything that’s come before it.

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If you would like to find out more about Walk For Hope, or if you wish to support or donate to the cause, please visit:

The walk can also be followed on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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Animal rights activists stage protest outside local abattoir

Animal rights activists gathered outside Newman’s Abbatoir in Farnborough this morning to hold a protest aimed at raising awareness of the plight of animals processed in this and other facilities nationwide.

The protest, organised by Farnborough Animal Vigils, saw activists from all over the country come together with a shared objective, and although police were in attendance the protest remained peaceful at all times.

As well as holding up placards conveying vegan messages, the group also intercepted the livestock transport vehicles arriving at the Sherborne Road facility and did what they could to comfort the animals before they were taken onto the property.

Over the course of the morning vehicles of various sizes brought pigs, cows, sheep and goats to the slaughterhouse; some from small holdings and others from larger commercial operations. At times when there were too many vehicles trying to enter the property, they were forced to wait in the small residential road where the slaughterhouse is located. This afforded the group time to view the animals inside the trucks and to speak with the farmers, some of whom were not even aware of the slaughter methods about to be used on their animals.

Whilst some farmers insisted that they do care about their livestock, others were remarkably indifferent, with one even laughing at a protester for pointing out that a cow under his care was in a poor physical condition.

Throughout the day a number of passing drivers showed their support for the protest. One passerby pulled over to ask for contact details so that she could join the movement in the future, having been inspired by what she had seen. This came as no surprise, since support for animal rights movements is growing at an exponential rate, and more people across the country are not only transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, but are adopting an active role at events such as these.

A protester holds a placard asking the drivers to stop for a few minutes.

This is no doubt positive news for the organisers of Farnborough Animal Vigils who explain on their Facebook page that their goal is to “inspire more people to be compassionate, go vegan and become more active in making the world a better place for animals.

A young pig looks out at the protesters.

Farnborough Animal Vigils are not alone in promoting their cause, as similar events are being organised across the country every week by a number of different groups. These vigils serve to show a part of the process that is usually hidden from the public and to expose the suffering caused to the animals involved. Even the smallest groups are gaining attention, and its becoming increasingly more difficult for the public to ignore the most inconvenient of truths: where their food is coming from, and the brutality involved in its production.

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Open Farm Sunday: How much do we really want to show our kids?

For the 12th year running, farms across Surrey and Hampshire will open their gates to the public in June as part of a national event organised by LEAF. Intended as an opportunity for people to witness the work required to produce food and manage the countryside, parents are encouraged to bring their children to meet the animals and enjoy an educational, fun day on a working farm.

Most children, however, will have no concept that the animals they are interacting with are destined for slaughter; and even those that do understand this will likely never have to witness the journey from farm to plate. If our society wishes to keep promoting animal products as part of the national diet, then should we not also be having open slaughterhouse days, with tours and demonstrations? I doubt very much that any parents would be happy to allow their children to watch a pig being slaughtered, and yet this is just as much a part of the process as rearing and feeding them on the farm.

The fact is, when it comes to producing animal products there are only certain stages of the process which are suitable to show to the public, especially to our children. We would happily show a video in a school of apples being picked and processed, or bread being made; yet showing the “processing” of animals for meat would more than likely traumatise any child who watched it.

For the vast majority of vegans and vegetarians, the decision to give up meat was sparked by watching a video of animals being slaughtered by one of the many “humane” methods used in slaughterhouses across the country. For vegans, that decision goes one step further, as the production of eggs and dairy also leads to animals being slaughtered. Although it may be inviting to think that not all slaughterhouses are the same, or that free-range, organic or RSPCA monitored animals are killed in a “kinder” slaughterhouse; the fact is despite how they are raised, all animals are transported to the same destination in the end; there are no free-range slaughterhouses.

As a nation of animal lovers, we raise our children to love and respect our furry friends, and to never be cruel to them. We teach them that animals are sentient beings with personalities, that they dream and enjoy certain activities. We love to walk through the countryside with our children when the lambs are bouncing around the fields, with not a care in the world. Yet behind closed doors we allow something to take place that we could never bear to tell our children about, much less show them.

Open farm days may be informative, but they only show a fraction of the true story; and the fact is, few of us could stomach seeing the rest of what happens. So the question is: should we really be feeding our children something that they would almost certainly object to eating if they saw how it was produced?

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Why I’m Transitioning to More Local Activism

If you’re anything like me then you find social media a great platform for getting whatever you want to say out into the world.  If you’re angry about a matter: get on Twitter and broadcast it.  Got a great new recipe idea? Get it on YouTube or Instagram.  With that in mind when I first decided to start promoting veganism I naturally looked to social media as my platform to do so.  I started a Twitter account, started tweeting, and before long I’d found my own style and built up a following of over 4000 users. I’ve no doubt that I had an impact during that time, in fact I know I did; every day several people took the time to message me to let me know that my tweets had encouraged them to go vegan (something I’m incredibly humbled by and extremely proud of).

Of course there’s a downside to promoting a lifestyle deemed “extreme” by the mainstream and that’s the relentless criticisms from non-vegans. Most of my time on Twitter was spent trying to strike a balance between debating non-vegans who had some genuine concerns about the lifestyle, and arguing with those who vehemently opposed veganism as a whole.

Over a matter of time I started to ask myself whether I was really making a big enough difference, or simply giving myself a headache.  There were, and still are, so many wonderful vegans already spreading a better, glossier, more coherent message on social media than I ever could; I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just adding to the noise which risked drowning them out.  After a lot of thought I deleted my Twitter account and retired from social media activism.

A break from social media was really good for me, and it gave me a chance to reflect on my life, what exactly I was doing and what I wanted to achieve.  Naturally I missed my Twitter friends and I’ve since started a new account and started reconnecting with the online world, but I see my activism going in a very different direction from now on; starting in my own community.

Every day there are new opportunities to interact with people directly, face-to-face, and to present a positive vegan message; and these are opportunities I intend to take full advantage of. I’m inspired by the many amazing activists already out there, bringing the debate to the public, showing the world what they need to see, and I can’t stay behind a keyboard or a computer screen any longer.

This time I won’t be leaving social media behind, but rather I’ll be using it to document what I’m getting up to in the real world.  Hopefully I’ll inspire a few more people to take the plunge and get out there too. If we all strive to do more for veganism within our local communities, then the movement can only grow stronger as a result. Vegans are becoming well known for being loud on social media, but now its time for us to be even louder on the streets. If we all make a noise, they will hear us.

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Surrey Vegan 2017

Vegan festivals have been growing in popularity for a number of years now, and some events such as "Vegfest" have become big players on the scene; but you don't have to venture to a capital city to get your vegan fill.  Local vegan festivals are popping up all over the country, and last weekend saw the Surrey Vegan Fair land at the HG Wells Centre in Woking.

We hit the festival early and wasted no time in tracking down some breakfast; this came in the form of a "hot tasty dog bite" (courtesy of @NoBaloneyUK); a vegan sausage, marinated in a tomato sauce and griddled in a breaded wrap. It looked good, it smelled amazing and yet still it managed to surprise us both by tasting even better than either of us had anticipated.  Coupled with a spicy bbq dipping sauce, it couldn't have been better.

Hunger satiated we headed into the hub of the fair to browse the stalls. The organisers of Surrey Vegan had made really excellent use of the space within the venue and there was such a variety of products to look at from all over the country.  Like a kid in a sweet shop I couldn't help but gradually empty my wallet as I spotted one amazing product after another (namely an all natural deodorant from Indigenous Beauty; a shea butter hair and body moisturiser from Plantes d'Eden; an activated charcoal toothpaste from Fit 4a Kiing; and a delicious "camembear" spread from Lettices).

It didn't take long for (an early) lunch to roll around (who could blame us?) and we decided to hit the food stalls again.  I opted for a jerk soya wrap from Brownins Bakery, whilst Amy tried the creamy mushroom stroganoff from Little Ginger.  Both dishes were delicious, and neither of us minded swapping a few forkfuls here and there; especially since we couldn't decide between us which was tastier.

Of course you can't visit a vegan festival and not take the time to listen to some of the talks.  We dipped in and out of the talks room throughout the day and were especially impressed with two speakers in particular; Vegan Geezer and Nick Bean.

Vegan Geezer (Martin Menehan) brought something to everyone's attention that has been on my mind a lot in recent months; and that's how we engage with one another within the vegan community.  He talked about different types of activism and how each method, whether direct or otherwise, can be equally effective.  Martin finished his speech by delivering a beautiful spoken word poem that undoubtedly left a few members of the audience with a lump in their throats.

Nick's speech took things in a different direction and explored the history of meat eating, his own vegan journey and the rise of vegan activism.  This was Nick's first time speaking publicly although nothing about his natural presence on the stage and hard hitting delivery would have given that away.  Nick's speech created a sense of urgency that reminded us in the audience that we don't have time to procrastinate; that we need to act now and we need to act quickly if we want to have any chance of making the change we all want to see in the world.

For us the day came to an end after Nick's speech and we were unfortunately unable to stay for the last few talks or Q&A session; but the day really had delivered more than either of us had anticipated.  Vegan Surrey may be in its infancy, but it already feels like an established festival and is a shining example of how a local vegan event should be operated.  The organisers successfully created something that felt bigger even than the venue itself, hosted a stunning lineup of speakers and showcased a range of vegan products that could sway even the most sceptical critic.  If this is the template for future Surrey Vegan events then I eagerly await them.

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