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Boris Brexit lets us duck out of climate responsibilities

Bitesize Brexit update: Boris Johnson’s proposed deal in translation:

The Boris Deal takes us out of the “level playing field”, which means the UK is not legally bound to the EU’s minimum standards on environmental policy (among other things).

We might “do better” on environmental policy than the rest of the EU, on our own, as some argue… But whichever way you look at it, ducking out of “minimum standards” does not bode well for the environment.

Effectively, it means we can play fast and loose with it as we please – as suits the local economy, rather then the health of the planet.

If the PM gets this deal through, it remains to be seen if the UK will bother to match these minimum standards, with no incentive at all (no legal repercussions for not doing so).

Who are you calling an angry vegan?

I’ve heard it as often as you have: “Angry vegan”.

It’s a stereotype that hardly started with plant-eaters. Immediately before angry vegans, the world was awash with angry feminists.


In both cases, some people embraced the label, and argued, “Why shouldn’t we be angry? There continues to be injustice in the world, and it’s worth getting angry about.”

That’s a fair point, but not the one I want to address. Instead, I want to challenge the whole notion of the “angry activist”, and suggest it should be rejected, rather than reclaimed.

When we talk about angry people, we are imagining angry is a state of being, as opposed to a targeted response to a particular stressor. Invariably, when you spend more time with particular groups of people, you learn that it’s impossible for a majority of them to be in a perpetual state of anger. When I was spending a lot of time with feminists, they didn’t seem especially angry. They seemed self-assured, confident and pragmatic.

Not much changed when I joined the vegan community. If I absolutely had to use one negative emotion to describe vegans, I wouldn’t have chosen “angry”. I’d have chosen “disappointed.”

Disappointed that, despite all the slaughterhouse footage on social media, all the advocacy and marches; despite all the startling non-fiction books for the mass market and endless compelling academic literature; despite damning reports from the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN; despite Earthlings, What the Health, Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy – despite all these, the friends and loved ones of vegans insist on doing exactly as they have always done, regardless of the consequences. It’s the global warming problem all over again; getting the information out there and getting people to act on it are two entirely different challenges.

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Vegans. They’re just too normal.

If you’re too Other, you’re the enemy. If you’re too much like Them, you’re the enemy.

You must somehow be neither, or both, or preferably cease to exist.

You know you’re onto something when you just can’t win.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Objections against any conceivable direction you could go. Right down to the most trivial and simple thing. Like, perhaps, someone sharing a picture of their vegan meal on Instagram.

Imagine a delicious medley of fresh vegetables and fruits, arranged artfully to display all colours of the rainbow.

“It’s too healthy,” says one onlooker. “That looks like rabbit food to me. That wouldn’t make anyone want to go vegan.”

The next day, perhaps you post a picture of some vegan junk food. Oven chips, baked beans, veggie sausage.

“You call veganism healthy?” sneer the people. “That looks disgusting. That wouldn’t make anyone want to go vegan.”

The next day, you post a fine example of vegan cuisine. There are no raw vegetables. Everything is glazed, covered in herbs and spices and gravy. The food shines with a thin sheen, telling you it’s roasted in delicious juices. Yet, it is nonetheless still plant-based.

“That looks good, but I need meat at the centre of my meal,” say the masses. “Eating decent vegan food is expensive,” says another wave of voices, without making any enquiries as to the price.

Perhaps the next day, you post a picture of some fake meat. It’s not great, just a basic burger that you can find anywhere.

“That doesn’t look like the real thing at all,” the people say. “If that’s all veganism has to offer, it’s no wonder no one’s interested.”

So then you post a picture of an amazing vegan burger, positively oozing with savoury deliciousness; perfectly browned, meaty in texture, everything they would want from a burger.

“That looks too much like meat,” they say. “What’s the point of being vegan if you’re going to eat fake meat?”

Alternatively, you might be asked: “Are you sure that’s vegan?”

Well, that’s all just trivial stuff. But it’s indicative of a wider trend of being damned no matter what. A more recent example I came across was someone, anti-vegan, who was chastising vegans for not attending animal rights marches.

Passing over the fact that we do, of course, attend animal rights marches on mass, it struck me as hypocritical. Your average person cares about human rights, yet, your average person does not go to human rights marches.

So, what’s the problem, here – that vegans are too normal? That’s the first I’ve heard of it, but I shouldn’t be surprised.

If you’re too Other, you’re the enemy. If you’re too much like Them, you’re the enemy. You must somehow be neither, or both, or preferably cease to exist. When any group cites contradictory reasons why you can never be accepted, they prove their prejudice.

Just stating numbers of refugees is fundamentally misleading

Global Web Index just tweeted the total numbers of refugees taken in by various countries across the world in 2017.

Of course, it’s going all around Twitter, because we have a “refugee crisis”

I suppose, on the surface of it, you might think so, if you see that the UK housed a staggering 121,000 refugees the year before last.

Perhaps not so much, if you happen to know that the total population of the UK is 66 million.

That means that refugees made up about 0.1% of our population in 2017.

How did the other countries fare? Well, if you look at the pure data, you might be inclined to sing Turkey’s praises, since they’re up the top there.

the real stats for refugees

And that wouldn’t be a bad shout, because you can tell just by looking at that number that it’s a big one. Just like you can tell by looking at the US, Canada and the UK that their contribution is comparatively small.

But just how small isn’t obvious until you break it down into percentages. You have to do that, because how many refugees a country can take depends on how much space and wealth it has. To be fair to every country, you’ve got to consider their resources, too.

You should generally expect that the bigger the population of a country, the more refugees they can take. You could think of it like a weighing scale. If you’ve got empty scales, and you put something light on one side, the scales tip a little bit.

But, if you’ve got a kilogram of baked beans on one side, and a kilogram of Marmite on the other, adding one more bean to the bean side won’t tip the scale that much. The extra gram doesn’t register compared to the kilograms already there.

In other words, a country with a population of 330 million, like the USA, probably can afford to take quite a few refugees. Especially since it just happens to be far and away the richest country in the world.

You’d think that would mean that they have a reasonable number of refugees housed there. They might even be able to stretch to a whole 0.1% of the total population, if they wanted to be just like the good old UK. For the USA, that’s about 325,700 people.

So? Do they house a modest 325,700 refugees?

Nope. They’ve gone for less than half of that.

Below are all the countries in the stats above, reorganised to represent what percentage of the total population are refugees.

refugee figures

So, for those of you who like to either complain about refugees, or boast about how many your country is housing, here are the meaningful figures:

Sweden can complain twice as much as Germany.

Canada can complain twice as much as Britain.

Germany can complain ten times more than Britain.

And Lebanon can tell us all to piss off and get over ourselves.


The blind can still see factory farms

Two-thirds of farm animals are factory farmed. That’s nearly 50 billion animals every year. If you randomly select from a supermarket shelf, you have a 2:1 chance of picking up a factory farmed product.

So, you can be reasonably certain that factory farmed products are what you’re picking up, unless you make a concentrated effort to do otherwise. If it doesn’t boast free range and ethical treatment (with a massive price mark-up to reflect this), it’s as dirty as pigswill.

I gather that your average person is a little sceptical of figures like these. They all come from animal rights people, don’t they? It’s probably all fake news! Ah, but there is a solution to this scourge of the internet. As it happens, we can figure out what’s really going on without relying on these pesky animal rights groups.

We can, instead, prove everything using figures that have nothing to do with factory farming. The following is researched with data taken from no animal welfare, animal rights or vegan advocacy sources. Instead, we can start with something as innocent as population sizes.

There are 1.3 billion people living in China.

There are 1.5 billion cows on planet Earth.

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This Christmas, let’s not be grateful

Around this time of year, there’s something that everyone’s obsessed with. No, it’s not presents. It’s not songs, and it’s not food. We’re obsessed with gratitude.


You’ll see it all over your Facebook wall. “These Syrian children will make you feel grateful for everything you have in your life,” chimed Spotlight Humanity. “If your children are upset because they didn’t get an iPhone, show them this video,” claimed another post, depicting a video of some African children getting excited over a box of small and simple gifts.

But where is the evidence that we are all so dreadfully ungrateful?

Most people I know are not lusting after the latest iPhone. They’re looking forward to spending time with their families – the most modest Christmas wish you could have. Sure, everyone wants to have a good dinner, but more importantly, they want to help make a good dinner for their loved ones. People like presents, but more importantly, they want to give presents to the people they value.

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No more elephant rides, say travel companies

215 travel companies around the world have pledged to stop promoting elephant rides and shows.

The latest company to come on board is Education First, the highly regarded educational travel and cultural exchange organisation.

“Most tourists are unaware of the hidden cruelty behind elephant rides, swimming with dolphins and tiger selfies,” said Alesia Soltanpanah, Executive Director of World Animal Protection, US.

“EF can make a real difference, by teaching travellers how to identify and avoid inhumane wildlife tourist attractions.”

Elephants do not willingly allow humans to sit on their backs – instead, they are beaten into submission, then forced to carry people or perform tricks.

More than 3,000 elephants are held captive for this purpose. Many of these are babies that were illegally captured and taken from their mothers.

They are kept in cramped conditions with limited space to exercise. Elephants require a lot of space, or they develop serious health problems with their feet, bones and backs. These elephants die much younger than they should.

Elephants are highly intelligent animals and can even suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after they are “broken”.

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