Annual Compassionate Derby event. Vegans and organizations connected with animal welfare
Ann R Parker reflects after a meeting organised by Compassionate Derby
St Peter’s Church in the centre of Derby, has had the space to expand into modern community facilities as well as replacing its pews with chairs. On Saturday November 28th these chairs were all stacked up to leave room for stalls for Compassionate Derby. A gathering of several organizations connected with animal welfare, many of them in connection with animals for food.
I went, not too willingly, with a vegan friend, fearing to find it full of gruesome information of animal cruelty in the meat industry. Such information was there, concerning caged – imprisoned – animals and the many sea creatures killed by the current wasteful (and erroneously profit -focused) fishing processes. Yet my first impressions were of the large number of people and of how much focus was on alternative and positive information. There was little on what we are doing wrong, but far more on how we could do right or better.
(I am using vegetarian and vegan interchangeably here)
For me it was a day which focused and questioned my own beliefs and raised awareness of some of my actions.
The entire building was covered with stalls nose to tail, selling t shirts, aromatherapy scents and essences, candles, cup cakes, chocolate, pies – oh yes, vegans can still eat pies – and giving away information sheets and edible samples, all with people squeezing past them in a crowd-made one way system; there was little room for turning round and going back. Did you know there were so many vegans in the world?. I had expected a small gathering run by about ten- twenty. No longer in long skirts and lentils; that’s an outdated perception, isn’t it? Still, I did have a feeling beetroot would be heavily involved somehow. I was wrong there too. More like 200 milling about.(In fact, it has been calculated since. that over a thousand attended.) All ages, all looking perfectly healthy, children and old people helping at the stalls; a community feel and enthusiasm showing itself in how they answered questions, encouraged our interest – and fed our faces with some excellent cup cakes (to be found in Yaffles of Sound-Bite Derby).
Food samples and cakes were passed to us on a ‘plate’ of paper towel. Oh, of course! No plastic, no non-disposable disposables. A paper towel will rot, preferably in a compost bin. A plastic cup doesn’t. So we also had tea in large china mugs, a rare treat now, tea in something substantial and less likely to spill. It tasted better too.
I am a meat eater. I am not writing from the side of the converted. But, among the small surprises during the day was, ‘this food is good!’ I bought a triangular pasty which contained spinach and other things unidentifiable. It tasted almost nice. There was a strange herb in it, which I suspected I wouldn’t like if I knew what it was, so I ate it in ignorance, and I am still here. Vegetarianism is more about what people can eat rather than what they can’t.
The ‘can’t’ side is emphasized more in a culture where socializing includes caffeine and cake. One cannot get that naughty-but nice feeling over a raw carrot!. And, for me, social food has to be at room temperature, if not actually hot. I do not like iced drinks, nor food from a freezer, unless at the height of summer.
Yet there are more people than one might think who are veggie, vegan or otherwise ‘banned’ from cake shops due to allergies or diseases; diabetes, for instance, or gluten intolerance. Someone could do well to start a different restaurant leaving out sugar, wheat, meat –‘dairy, eggs. . . Does that leave anything? It probably does. I must buy a book on vegan cooking, not just fringe ideas for days when I feel virtuous, or am having an ‘abnormal’ visitor. Although, counting them up, more people I know are ‘abnormal’ by our current ideas of ‘normal’. Certainly if you include the overweight and dieting. There’s something wrong somewhere. Obesity is a sign of malnutrition, as are many other serious diseases.
We are still at liberty to choose to eat meat – and ‘junk food’ – but for how long? Will we have to return to rationing? In the days of rationing in the 1940s, people ate meat but far less than we do now. Providing for the desires of present day carnivores, as well as an increasing number coming from traditionally more vegetarian cultures, like China or India, we do not have the amount of land both to support cattle and to grow all the grain for their foodstuffs; more grain than is needed by the human population. The need for land is being ’solved’ by the destruction of rain forests with the loss of animal species and the alteration of climate by the lack of trees and their part in the rain and water cycle. A socially conscious person ought to consider their diet and change for the well being of the planet, but, personally, I don’t think I can do this overnight. I have meat eating friends and family who will be annoyed or certainly inconvenienced; and I don’t think I could give up bacon. It’s so useful!
It is days like this event in Derby that make me aware of how far and how easily I slip from LOAF virtues, never mind going wholly veggie; LOAF principles (Founded by Green Christian) are easier and probably a good way to start. Locally grown food, Organically grown – no pesticides, no GM. Animal friendly.- if we must eat meat, buy it from approved meat providers, local if possible, animals properly housed and fed and humanely slaughtered. And Fairly traded. We can do more in growing our own fruit and vegetables; that’s the L and O bit. In practice what is fairly traded may not be local, what is organic may not be fairly traded and all these together will mean a higher food bill. A hard standard to keep up when providers of LOAF food are not that handy and one lives nearer to chain supermarkets with their end of line bargains and special offers. But the LOAF principles keep us aware of what we are buying, , how it is sourced, what protein are we really eating and who or what is being exploited to feed us.
Useful letters to stick on the fridge door. L O A F. And possibly V.