A modest proposal about our planet

Life here on Earth is fragile. Very fragile, actually. Earth is very small. It’s the third planet in our solar system, the fourth smallest planet of the nine planets. Its 12,756 km in diameter, which is really tiny when you compare it to Jupiter the largest planet, which is just shy of 142,984 km in diameter, and a mere mote in the eye of our comparatively small sun which is 1.4 million km in diameter. Earth, revolving round the sun at 107,000 km/hr, is so small you could fit a million Earths inside the sun. Our Sun is but one star of 400 billion stars in our galaxy. Our Galaxy is about one of about 100 billion galaxies that are known of. So we are tiny. So we come to one of the great pollutants and destroyers of species.

jupiter-earth-comparison
Jupiter compared to Earth in size

In a Time Magazine article dealing with livestock production Brian Walsh, drawing material from a paper brought out by the Academy of Sciences of the USA says the following:
“40% of global agricultural gross domestic product, provides income for more than 1.3 billion people and uses one-third of the world’s fresh water. There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock.”
Combine Animal Feeding operations produce enormous amount of methane, and aside from the horrific cruel and unconscionable conditions which the animals are subjected to, the stress of confinement, the sicknesses, the feeding with antibiotics, the soya beans and GMO corn they are fed, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 % of all greenhouse gas emissions, including 37 % of methane emissions and 65 % of NO2 emissions. The methane releases from billions of imprisoned animals on factory farms are 70 times more damaging per ton to the earth’s atmosphere than CO2. Don’t forget that much of this livestock production is heavily subsidized by governments, so that the real costs of production are not passed onto the consumer.
As livestock farming is such a huge source of income for billions of people (global value in 2013 $883 billion ), as the production of meat and poultry and fish for supermarkets great and small all over the planet is such a lucrative undertaking, as so much research is produced each year about economizing and increasing productivity and efficiency in the livestock industry, as so many with the exception of the vegetarian and animal rights community point out the cruelty inherent in the beef and livestock industry, there is a strong and unfounded impetus to keep underlining the health benefits of eating meat, and to divorce the eating of meat from the enormous suffering and horrific cruelty endured by billions of animals world-wide every day, and every moment of every day. All animals have consciousness, language and a type of culture, by this I mean a socially approved and communally understood sense of expression. One other thing worth considering is this.

What kind of body do humans have? Are we built for eating animals? Are we omnivores? Well, not really. Dr. Williams C. Roberts from the USA National Institutes of Health and Baylor University — who is the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology and one of the most prominent cardiologists in the world with over 1,500 publications in peer reviewed medical journals — summarized our answer very nicely. He wrote:

“Although most of us (humans) conduct our lives as omnivores, in that we eat flesh as well as vegetables and fruits, human beings have characteristics of herbivores, not carnivores. The appendages of carnivores are claws; those of herbivores are hands or hooves. The teeth of carnivores are sharp; those of herbivores are mainly flat (for grinding). The intestinal tract of carnivores is short (3 times body length); that of herbivores, long (12 times body length). Body cooling of carnivores is done by panting; herbivores, by sweating. Carnivores drink fluids by lapping; herbivores, by sipping. Carnivores produce their own vitamin C, whereas herbivores obtain it from their diet. Thus, humans have characteristics of herbivores, not carnivores.”[1]

So it seems that not only is the human race investing vast resources in livestock farming, and though we have spent thousands of years eating meat, our bodies aren’t even designed to eat meat in the first place. It’s also interesting to note that our bodies synthesize all the cholesterol we need, but that when we take in animal products, we begin to build up cholesterol, and run intro real dangers of developing atherosclerosis, and heart disease. Food for thought, eh?

[1] WC Roberts. Twenty Questions on Atherosclerosis. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2000 Apr.; 13(2): 139–143.

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Meat is Murder

Its a strange thought that by the time you read say about here, on this blog-post, about 3000 animals had already been slaughtered in abattoirs round the world. That’s about 3000 in 1 second. The ways in which it, the slaughter, was done is exceptionally clinical and lurid and horrifying and you really don’t want to think about it. I have seen videos of mechanized killing of animals and the images stay with you. So don’t think about it.  Especially if you eat meat.vegan dietWorlds Strongest Primate

To be honest I didn’t stop eating meat because of the cruelty issue. It wasn’t because billions of animals are being farmed in horrific conditions. I didn’t care at the time. Not a jot. Nor did I care about the near unbelievable levels of environmental damage the dairy and cattle industry do, not to mention poultry or pig farming. Still didn’t bother me. (It bothers me now)

I became a vegetarian because I felt better. I became healthier. Slept better. Loved the food. It was actually all good. It felt right. I liked cooking. Loved cookery books. You get the picture. I was peripherally aware of the meat is murder stuff. I loved animals. Rescued them. But then I didn’t think of myself as a vegetarian.I just loved veggies and grains. Other people thought of me as a vegetarian. I didn’t peddle any vegetarian no meat ideology round the dinner table.  I stated my opinion, would discuss animal consciousness, animal rights, recount stories. But I never pushed my beliefs. I guess it seemed counterproductive. There was also the issue that what was being consumed on the dinner table as food was one of countless species of animals that were being either exploited or rendered extinct by other types of human activity. If wolves in Yellowstone Park can change things as they have, just imagine the negative impact we are having.

So there’s something of a vast context around what meat goes on the dinner table. A huge industrial scale of sale, consumption, and marketing that goes into not only what you are eating, but mine and your whole life. Governments and Industry and media got together and made sure we got the message. If what we consumed and produced did not have a monetary value we were worthless.

It was this very holy trinity of Government, Industry, Media that made us consume all this food, this meat, all this superfluous stuff we didn’t really need. And despite the outrageous superfluity, millions were starving. I dimly began to see the link between meat eating and the fact were eating the Earth. It made sense. Meat eating was part of the whole dynamic of world consumption. The trinity of pork, beef and poultry were only three of millions of species whose lives were threatened, not to mention the environment.

But that was long after I became a veggie. That was thinking after the fact.  I was enjoying a veggie lifestyle. I began mixing with other veggies. These were not your usual vegetarian types. These were activists. Hardcore members of groups, usually well educated, probably professional, involved in the sciences or academics. And frankly my dismay at these people spread all over me like one of those embarrassing rashes one gets and hides under long sleeves and a little make up. These are grim people. They humorlessly gaze down upon those less ideologically pure with a very special look of cold bored disdain. They judge those meat eating multitudes rather like the way suspected witches were gazed upon: with a divine fury that would be vindicated with burning, coupled with the Vegetarian Inquisition’s own vegan thumbscrews.

You might imagine I’m exaggerating. Using literary license. Sadly, I’m not.

But the thing is their anger is misplaced. Most people haven’t a clue about whats going on down in the farm. They just want dinner and a movie and a soft bed and a quiet life.

These people, the aforementioned meat is murder t shirt wearing angry ideological Vegetarian types, are just not good for the image of vegetarianism. They come off as reactionary and cultish and holier than thou. They are also highly factional. They are constantly fighting and loudly disagreeing with each other. They can’t seem to get on a unified message to further their cause. This of course makes the meat industry delighted as they look upon their foes as already divided and therefore weakened. I seriously doubt if these types of vegetarians will ever change many meat eaters to their cause. Why? However noble and well-intentioned, nobody follows a puritan for long. Maybe for a while. But in the end they will tire of being guilted and told what to do and will go back to beef and pork and other cholesterol sandwiches.

What will make people change is not angry activists, but something really pedestrian: good food well cooked. It sounds trite when one has so many horrific and telling videos of headless pigs, lame overweight chickens, and mutilated calves dying alone to underline the industrial scale slaughter of animals to show the carnivore world. But it is, as I said, counterproductive.  Its disturbing torture porn that people suppress as quickly as possible and go back to their lives as before. Also this is nothing new – people are inured to bloodshed. For myself? I have seen enough. Its horrifying. And, just like the pictures of tumors on cigarette packets, it doesn’t work.

I think the best selling point for a vegetarian lifestyle is this: It’s better. Greener. Healthier. Tastier. Economic. Kinder. Its has near infinite variety of flavour and health giving options. And by the way it doesn’t hurt animals. That’s a positive life affirming message. If this gets communicated, really communicated, then the abattoirs will start to close. By the way, some of the brightest and best were veggie. Meet some famous old friends of yours- and mine.great-vegetarians

Ten things Which didn’t Make Our Ten Day Stay in Alykes, Zakinthos Sheer Perfection

Caveat Emptor:

THE WORST HOLIDAY OF OUR LIVES

(*SEE NOTE BELOW*)

  We stayed ten days in Alykes, Zakinthos  and it was

1. Drafty: The way the wind howled through the cracks between the windows and the doors during windy rainy nights and we were freezing and that no one checked on us after the night that the thunder roared overhead and the heating didn’t work and water washed past the front door of our apartment.

2. The Apartment: That our apartment was unclean (filty) and we had to wash it ourselves and the shower curtain fell over and there was a small open drain in the middle of the floor in the bathroom and one of the windows didn’t lock and I mentioned the air conditioning didn’t work and it was dreadful and unhealthy.

3. Garbage: That fact our garbage remained uncollected (I used take it secretly down to a local bin). There was even garbage on the beach. (The place is nothing like the website.)

4. Value for Money: That the food was bad and overpriced and the supermarkets were overpriced and the taxis were overpriced and there was little fresh food and almost no fresh fish. They sure don’t cater for vegetarians.

5. Our Host: That the owner of the ‘villa’ (absolutely nothing like the photograph on the website) took our money and seemed to basically disappear for much of our stay after day three. (Did I mention no one checked in on us?) In point of fact he was called by another hotel owner we met on our cycling travels who berated him for being such a poor host.

6. The Unfriendliness: I could wax lyrical about the incredible sexism Iza endured, the whistles, the beeping of horns. It was awful. But let me give an example – We went cycling one day to the Blue Caves and turned up in a restaurant who didn’t accept cards (surprisingly only half the island accepts cards and has cash machines) and they insisted we give them our ID as proof of payment and we had to cycle 18 km with chest infections the next day to get our ID back because the owner just wouldn’t drive down to us (In fairness she was apologetic – but still …)

7. The Dirt:  Garbage left indefinitely in bins, trash thrown about, empty half-finished buildings everywhere, just sheer lack of cleanliness. I already mentioned the stuff on the beach.

8. Off Season: I thought all this was happening because we booked off season- or maybe they just didn’t like us. But other guests would turn up who had booked online and bang on our window in the morning looking for the owner who was nowhere to be found.

9. The Noise:  Construction work going on right beside our apartment, constant sounds of traffic, howling barking animals night and day, so bad that we had to move ourselves to another vacant apartment.

10. Stray Cats: That the place was full of stray underfed sickly looking cats living in bins and wandering the streets day and night. I mentioned the dogs. I didn’t mention they were chained up all the time – probably why they were barking and yowling day and night. You did see some being walked, just like you saw well cared for cats. But mostly chained up dogs or feral cats.

Those were ten things that didn’t make our ten day stay in Alykes, Zakinthos sheer perfection. I thought about amassing photographs and publishing them here and bringing some kind of documentary proof and so on to show you, dear reader, the state of the place. After I had done that I thought of writing a few pithy lines about how unfriendly I found the locals, how untrusting, how much you  -‘tourist’ or ‘visitor’, were there just to get money from (I remember one joyous moment I bought a bottle of cough medicine and some antibiotics and was charged thirty Euro). But I decided not to. Why? It was my experience of it. It might not be yours.

But away from people with all the greed and the dirt and noise and the money grabbing, was the island itself. Arcadia. And it was glorious. I will never forget the beauty of the landscapes, the shades of deep blue of sea, the lines of waves and the sound of the Ionian Sea at night, the myriad birds, the flora and fauna, the olive groves, the orange and lemon trees, the bats and geckos and falcons, it was all transcendentally beautiful. That alone made our ten day stay in Alykes, Zakinthos sheer perfection and utterly unforgettable. Just stay away from populated places, ok?

O. Ryan
Its that man again…in Zakinthos

 *NOTE*

Since this has been posted (11.4.2015), Iza and I have found to our distress we have been banned from holidaying in Greece. This is as a result not only of this post below, but of our posting about what was a terrible holiday in Zante on Trip Advisor. There is, according to some hotel owners we have communicated with in Greece, a blacklist “like the Banks System is all the Hotel Owners make it to protect the Tourism Industry from some “Serious problems”” (and I quote). I was told that tourists were not to be informed about the list, but its there folks, and if a hotel owner in Greece doesn’t like what you write on Trip Advisor, well what happened to us could happen to anyone. The thing is, we were the ones who had the terrible holiday. The place would be shut down in Ireland.

Annus Horribilis

ANNUS HORRIBLIS

sarahlundberg2014 is a year I will very gladly put behind me. It was without question the worst year of my life. Sarah Lundberg (1968-2014) died under the most tragic and awful circumstances and I and so many others are still reeling from the shock of her death which was so unexpected and so traumatic. There is a strong argument that this is the kind of experience that one does not so much recover from, but is something one learns to live with. I think there are arguments on both sides for and against someone recovering from a trauma like this, but for the most part, right now, it is simply too early to say. I think its very much down to the individual. Right now I still hear her voice and her comments and her jokes in my mind. Sarah had a rather dry sense of humour, a kind of understated wit that could be devastatingly funny. I still see her sometimes in crowds, or think I see her, which is a common experience of the bereaved known as ‘completion’ in which the mind ‘completes’ a picture or an image from residua from the memory in order to fulfill a desire. I hear music she liked or loved and remember concerts we attended. I find it hard to watch television shows we both liked. I have a library of thousands of her books and equally thousands of pages of her writing are on hard disks, folders and pages all over the house. I also have a formidable selection of cuddly teddy bears, each of whom have a name, a specific personality and a lengthy back story. What a child’s author she would have made! These, and countless notebooks, still unread, are in our house. I still think of the many conversations we had over our two decades together. I wish, like so many others, that she was still here with us, still doing all the things she used do, still filled with the idealisms that were so uniquely hers and that she pursued with so much passion and so much love. She left much undone, and one wonders what else she might have achieved were she still with us. I miss her terribly. I know how many others miss her too and loved her so much. Thanks to everyone who helped at a time I was simply too shattered to do anything, who helped with re housing pets, who made arrangements, and more than anything were friends and support during the aforementioned annus horribilis. Now that Christmas approaches we should take gentle care of ourselves and each other. Sarah was above all a very loving and forgiving person. She was, despite her highly logical argumentative personality, was devoid of bitterness and never knew how to hate. I think it was because of her utter straightforwardness. It meant one always knew where one stood with her. I for the most part loathe Christmas as a dull time of meaningless excess. I on the other hand do like how this is a time of peace, healing and renewal. Sarah would have wanted that. I am sure of it.

(Image by Antonio Joachim)