Monday, 12 November 2012

Making the (Vegan) Connection Redux

This month is World Vegan Month.

Regular visitors to this blog will not be surprised that I am of the opinion that we, that is the developed world "we" have a small but growing minority of enlightened individuals who are re-discovering veganism or, at least, something far more akin to the diets and lifestyles which existed amongst the common man and woman some 400 or more years ago.

We are not trying to force something new onto an unwilling world, we are just trying to live the most ethical life we possibly can whilst feeding our bodies with the best balance of nutrition we possibly can, a balance of nutrition which they were designed for in the first place.

If you read my blog, Vegan in the 17th Century you will know that meat eating grew quickly in the old world - in pretty much the same way as it is now growing in China - largely as a form of conspicuous consumerism to allow the newly affluent to demonstrate their social standing to their neighbours - keeping up with the Joneses, Elizabethan style, if you will.

After this early growth, from around the start of the 18th Century until mid-way into the 20th Century things seem to have remained fairly balanced though. Veg(etari)anism seems to have become more widely understood and recognised but, as there was not yet large-scale industrialisation of food production, there seems to have been no particular mass-population excess to highlight that as some kind of polar opposite to the ill-health, obesity and other malignancies associated with New Elizabethan factory farming, mega dairies and chemists taking the role of bakers.

This axis of horror is like some kind of GM Army the World never wanted in the first place but don't you dare speak out against it or you will be branded some sort of lunatic fringe terrorist and a threat to the mighty $, £ or ¥. Actually, being healthy and living ethically probably is a threat to the mighty $, £ and ¥...

So when did it all change?

Part of it must have changed with television, more specifically, television advertising. Still more with the development of refrigeration - and affordable household fridges.

All of a sudden people could buy perishables in larger quantities knowing that they would stay fresh longer. Of course as every sales-savvy economist will tell you, increasing supply increases consumption, we just can't help ourselves scoffing whatever is in the fridge. I even include my fellow vegans in that remark, I have become such a food-lover since abandoning my old ways.

And then the advertising which was already well-established for non-food products really kicked into gear with the establishment of Meat, Milk and Egg Marketing Boards and a relentless "health argument" to school children. I say "health" but it isn't lost on me that this was the same era which brought you adverts like this:

Just in case there is any doubt, medical evidence now is that smoking really is bad for you. Incidentally, so is the medical evidence for a non-vegan lifestyle but the food industry clearly have better marketing people than the tobacco industry. Want to know more? Go see the film Forks Over Knives. Here's the trailer for it:

It is the scale of consumption in this new millennium which is staggering though. We went in the space of a few hundred years from eating hardly any meat and consuming very little dairy to eating mostly vegetables with some meat as an extra (ONE meat but TWO veg). Then in the space of a few decades we went from this scale of consumption to meat with everything and dairy in everything and if you eat vegetables or, horror of horrors, you are a vegan (I am) then you must be insane (I'm not).

Please forgive this non-vegan example but when I was a youngster my mum could make a pound of minced beef last the family for several meals. Now a pound of minced beef is a single portion for one of each day's two meals. Most people eat more for lunch than their parents did in a full day and then increase the quantities again for their evening meal. Clearly we are not winning the argument on health. So what argument can we use to win ground for non-human rights?

Well I particularly like the Vegan Society's latest campaign - which I promoted in my 1st November blog - Making The Connection. The video on that blog is very worth watching, even if you have seen it before. If you have never seen it, here is the link to the article where you will find the video at the end Making History on World #Vegan Day

As a society we are so far out of balance with the way we were, even 50 years ago that if we can't get that back then we have no chance whatsoever of returning to the balance we had in the age of enlightenment. So my question for today is:

How do we make people understand the connection between modern, extremely cruel, industrialised meat, milk and egg production and happy childhood images like this one, and didn't we all have something similar as our first jig-saws?

If your children knew that this picture was a lie, how would they react? Perhaps more important to ask though is, because we all know what the truth actually is why do we allow entire industries with the full backing of Governments to lie to our children?

Remember, "More Doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!"

Thank you for reading.