Food is politics: the implications of what we eat

This is my latest article for Auckland University’s student magazine, Craccum.

It was tense and difficult but when I was 18 I came out to my parents. I was now a vegetarian. For my small town, conservative, lifestyle-block farming family it was a surprisingly strange thing for their provincial boy to do, soon after moving to The Big City for study.

I’m not alone. There are approximately 86,000 of us herbivores (as my dinosaur-mad son calls us), mung bean munchers and tofu tasters in New Zealand. There are four vegetarians in Parliament with a big representation from my party (three of the four are from the Greens). I’ve been a vegetarian for ten years now, and I’ve come to the realisation that what you put in your mouth is political. Food is politics.

Growing up in Gisborne I had a pretty limited appreciation of food. At school I ate pie-sandwiches, lasagne-topper sandwiches and steak sandwiches. I loved my meat and I didn’t spare a thought for where it came from, how it was raised or its quality. At university I started questioning the environmental, ethical and health implications of my diet and came to the conclusion I didn’t want to support the way we currently farm or fish.

Turning vegetarian I felt great and learnt all about interesting new foods – like lentils, cheeses and falafel. However, every Christmas my lunch consisted of salad and potatoes while the others feasted on turkey, ham and chicken. My family still ‘accidentally’ served me meat and urged me to ‘push it to the side’ and threatened to sneak meat into my wedding, since we wouldn’t take up their offer of a pig on a spit. I don’t think meat eaters are bad, and I could re-join their carnivorous ranks one day, but I’ve decided that if I ever eat it again I’ll raise or catch it myself (but the only time I have tried, fishing on Waiheke Island, all I caught was sunstroke).

I think one of the reasons the Vege Munch Bunch are a minority is that most people think a plant-based diet is unhealthy and lacking in essentials. Of course it can be if you do it like I did early on, surviving just on hot chips one summer. People often query where do you get all the protein, omega 3s and awesome-manly-power from if you don’t eat meat? You don’t need pills or iron supplements to be a healthy vegetarian: all that is required is a balanced and broad diet. In fact the reverse is true: many meat eaters are unhealthy and suffer from heart disease, obesity, strokes and hypertension – conditions which in some cases can be directly related to their high-meat diet. On average you can chew through a few animals in your lifetime. The normal meat-eater is personally responsible for the slaughter of 5 cows, 20 pigs, 30 sheep, 760 chickens, 46 turkeys, 15 ducks, 7 rabbits, 1 1/2 geese and 1/2 tonne of fish.

It wasn’t primarily ethical or health reasons that made me forsake the fish in fish and chips or the ham in a hamburger. Why I turned vege and still am one is for environmental reasons. As the Vegetarian Society points out, there are some 800 million people in the world with barely enough to eat, yet 80% of the world’s agricultural land is used for feeding animals and only 20% for feeding humans directly. When I was young I was told not to waste food because they were starving in Ethiopia. I wasn’t aware though, that during their huge famine while millions starved the nation still exported crops for feeding European livestock. Meat is inefficient and uses more energy, oil, water than grains or beans. If we want to feed the world we can’t do it on the average Kiwis’ meaty diet.

It’s not what we’re farming – it’s how we’re farming. The way that most of our egg and pork products are produced is a travesty. It would be considered torture if we subjected humans or companion animals like cats and dogs to cruel sow crates or battery cages. Farming is also a major contributor to climate change, responsible for half of our emissions in New Zealand and nearly a fifth globally. To put that in perspective, that’s more than all the cars, boats and planes globally according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

There used to be plenty of fish in the sea but world-wide fisheries are collapsing at an alarming rate. Where did all the fish go? We ate them. New Zealand’s quota system only provides information on about 20% of the 628 fishery stocks, and worryingly one third of these are over-fished, depleted or collapsed. As the ocean’s top predator, humans are wiping out fisheries, fishing down the oceanic food chain, now catching previously throw-away species like Hoki. At the rate we’re going we’ll all be eating jellyfish and chips. And how we are fishing is affecting the ocean’s food chain in other ways too: marine biologist Steve O’Shea has pointed out that an increasing number of starved whales are beaching themselves on the New Zealand coastline.

The way your food is caught, raised and killed is largely up to you. What you eat is political. Even if you don’t want to go vege you can still make a difference to the world by cutting back on your meat consumption and buying organic, local and free range whenever possible. The best advice I’ve heard about eating is: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants’, from Michael Pollan’s excellent book In Defence of Food. I would recommend this to anyone interested in thinking more about their diet, how it affects our health, and our planet.

If you’re interested in some animal-free goodness, email me  for my kick-ass vegan chocolate self-saucing pudding I developed when I was sailing on the Rainbow Warrior. Always pleases!

72 Comments Posted

  1. Dear Phil,

    Everyone needs to start somewhere. Even you said “i have been vegan for 11 yrs..and (lacto)-vegetarian for 15 yrs b4 that..”

    I am in my early 20s and have been vegetarian for 6 yrs. In this time my positive choice has encouraged friends and family to go veg too. I am a veterinary nurse and most people think that goes hand-in-hand with vegetarianism but unfortunately it doesn’t. I am only 1 of 2 vegetarians out of 20 people at work. My reasons for going veg were for my love of animals. Seeing animals in pain everyday at work made me think of the suffering farming causes animals and i found the idea of saving animal lives all day then coming home and eating them absurd.

    I’m not vegan but i try limit my intake of dairy products as much as possible just as i try my best to avoid products with palm oil as palm oil plantations in places like Borneo are responsible for deforestation and destroying natural habitats for animals like Orangutans.

    I also only wear second-hand leather because I don’t want to support the leather industry.

    My point is, everyone has to do what they can. Raising awareness and education is the first step in developing any change.

    I take all your arguments on board regarding a vegan diet vs a vegetarian diet but I don’t appreciate being critised for not being as ethical as you.

    I’m trying to encourage all my friends and family to get on board with “Meat Free Mondays”. It’s a small step but it’s a step in the right direction. Small steps CAN make a difference.

  2. rebekah…

    “..And Phil U, your arguments on this board are almost as bad as that in a religious debate.

    The way that we (own animal slaves) is a lifestyle choice and the reasons for selecting a certain (slave) differs from person to person. No one should have to justify why they (own slaves) a certain way, nor should they be told that the way they are (treating them) is wrong. Comments such as yours deter rather than assist in convincing people to (stop owning/eating slaves)..”.


  3. Koire1
    Here is Isla Burgess to you
    Kia Ora Kiore1
    If its mainstream Scientific Research you need for credible evidence then check out;
    1. Baena-Gonzalez, E. and Sheen, J. “Convergent energy and stress signaling”. Trends in Plant Science 13:9.
    2. Baluška, F. Mancuso, S. and Volkmann, D (2006) Communication in Plants, Neuronal Aspects of Plant Life. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
    3. Baluška, F. Mancuso, S. Volkmann, D. & Barlow, P. (2004) “Root apices as plant command centres: the unique ‘brain-like’ status of the root apex transition zone”. Biologia, Bratislava. 59/Suppl. 13: 1.
    4. Baluška, F. Schlicht, M. Volkmann, D. Mancuso, S. (April 2008).”Vesicular secretion of auxin. Evidences and implications” Plant Signaling & Behavior 3:4, 254-256.
    5. Brenner, E et al. (2006) “Plant neurobiology: an integrated view of plant signaling. Trends Plant Sci 11: 413-419.
    6. Heil, M. and Ton, J. “2 Long-distance signaling in plant defense”. Trends in Plant Science, 13:.6.
    7. Selosse, M. and Roy, M. “Green plants that feed on fungi: facts and questions about mixotrophy”. Trends in Plant Science ,14: 2.
    8. Smith, S. E., Barker, S. J. and Zhu,Y. “Fast moves in arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiotic Signaling”. TRENDS in Plant Science 11:8.
    9. Torrent, J. Roig-Villanova, I. and Martınez-Garcı, F. “Light signaling: back to space”. Trends in Plant Science 13: 3.
    Website. Plant Neurobiolgy What is Plant Neurobiology? (Accessed June 19th, 2009).
    Also this Italian Researcher
    Isla Burgess

  4. Yay Gareth.
    Great article. Your move to vegetarianism parallels mine in lots of ways – my Mum has just started freaking out about what she’s going to feed me when I go home for Christmas (I mean really all she’s gotta do is cook what she’d normally cook without the meat). I appreciate that she is supportive of my decision though.

    And Phil U, your arguments on this board are almost as bad as that in a religious debate. The way that we eat is a lifestyle choice and the reasons for selecting a certain diet differs from person to person. No one should have to justify why they eat a certain way, nor should they be told that the way they are eating is wrong. Comments such as yours deter rather than assist in convincing people to go vegan.

    And perhaps it would be easier for you to convey the evils of vegetarianism if you tried writing in complete sentences.

  5. The “secret life of plants”, like the “sacred mushroom and the cross”, the “Bible Code” and cold fusion, was a nine day wonder that eventually faded from public consciousness. The reason being that there was no credible evidence to back up any of the claims made.

    If you still think plants feel in the same way as animals, then try a thought experiment. Imagine someone dragging a yelping dog behind a car on a rope. How would you feel? For most of us it would be anger, revulsion, perhaps fear. For some it might be a sadistic elation. Now imagine it is a recently uprooted Christmas tree that is being dragged. Do you feel any different? If so, ask yourself why.

    If you still believe that plants feel pain, then the best thing to do is become vegan, because you are killing and torturing far more plants by passing them through a cow before you eat them that you would if you ate them directly.

  6. “…Phil u
    I was not unaware of how honey and milk are produced..”!..u said..

    “..Because the animal products I eat don’t take the life of an animal eg dairy products, honey…”

    w..t.f..!..what exactly do those words mean then..?

    ..and..”..There is no right and wrong..”


    i mean..could you be more fatuous/self-absorbed..?

    ..are you really trying to tell me/argue there is no ‘wrong’ in that abuse/suffering of animals..?



  7. Phil u
    I was not unaware of how honey and milk are produced – re my comment about the suffering of animals. I have owned beehives and have visited dairy farms. Its where you draw the line. Remember life lives off life. How do you justify where you draw the line for yourself if one’s own choice. There is no right and wrong, simply whatever one can comfortably live with long term. Remember meat eaters can be just as healthy, morally right, and ecologically minded as non-meat eaters – at least in their own thinking they are. Non meat eaters live no better, longer, more enlightened life than meat eaters, but they could.

  8. “..I think the future of our race means a move to a largely vegetarian diet but to expect all to embrace veganism is a huge ask…”

    ending human slavery was also once ‘a huge ask’…eh..?

    getting women the vote was once ‘a huge ask’…eh..?

    ..and can’t you see how vegetarian is at best a halfway house..?

    ..(albeit one where many get stuck/stalled..)

    ..for a vegetarian diet…the animals must still suffer..

    ..for a vegan diet…that suffering ends..’s as simple as that..really…


  9. turva..first off:..goodonya for being vegan…

    “..Phil u- Why so critical of everyone else?..”

    i don’t think criticism is my ultimate aim… aim is to point out to people facts/realities they may not be aware of..

    i wd cite david timbs in this thread as a glaring example of the need for this..even amongst ‘the aware’…

    he announced himself here with a clarion call of his qualifications/learning/areas of expertise..

    ..and that he is a long time vegetarian….

    ..and inviting questions… soon became obvious that he was labouring under the same delusions as lots of other vegetarians..

    ..when he blithely stated that he had nothing to do with the suffering/deaths of any animals..

    …as he only used dairy..and honey…(!)

    as i pointed out to him…his dairy/honey indeed has a tinge of blood-red/pink…

    ..which i wd assume…wd have come as something of a surprise/shock to him..

    (and gee..! may even make him/other readers..’think on’

    and i wd hasten to add that i once had those same beliefs…

    ..and it was someone pointing out those realities to me…

    ..that caused those particular scales to drop from my eyes…

    ..had they not done that…i wouldn’t know…

    ..(can you extrapolate that..?…do i have to labour the failures of silence any more..?..)

    “..Surely if you have been a vegan for 15 or so years then you would have learnt that the more friendly approach is the best…” exactly would you word those vegan arguments…?

    (i mean i haven’t even gone near the dairy/cancer link…!..)

    and don’t get me started on

    (you did say you wanted facts/figures..?)

    “..Vegans do often have a bad rap for pushing their views too much on others, a daily meat eater is not going to feel at all inspired to be a vegetarian or vegan if you are pointing out all the things they cant eat/ everything they are doing wrong..”

    for a start..those meat/dairy eaters are not getting this message from anywhere else…

    ..and without going near animal-abuse/suffering..

    ..we are talking world-beating rates of some cancers in this country…

    ..cancers clearly linked to meat/dairy consumption..

    i know this…am i just meant to be silent about what i know..?

    ..and yes..example is a powerful lesson….

    (vegans just oozing health…my 11 yr old vegan dog…who looks/runs like a 2-3 yr old..)

    but that is not enough…

    ..which brings me to the subject of silent-vegans….

    ..i consider a major component of being vegan is to do all you can to stop the suffering/abuse of other sentient beings…

    ..and i feel that responsibility to speak up/argue for those (unable to speak) animals.. part and parcel of the vegan-package/deal…eh…?

    ..if others were speaking up/out in forums such as this…

    .(and where better to spread new/better ideas..?..)

    ..then i wouldn’t have to do it…eh..?

    (this your first visit here..? it..?..

    ..and as such you are an example of ‘the silent-green-vegan phenomenon…?)

    cos’ far as i can see..

    ..for the last five years or so…

    ..the green-vegans have been noticeably absent from this forum…

    ..and were/had i not been banging on…

    ..the silence on that topic wd be deafening…

    ..and that ain’t good

    (we have tried nine years of green party incrementalism…

    ..and the suffering has eased not a jot…eh..?) in all…summing up…

    ..i kinda feel you ragging on me/these arguments..

    …is kinda rich…

    ..and i wd urge you to ‘up yr game’…


  10. Phil u- Why so critical of everyone else? Is it not more important to look at the positive changes that people are making in their lifestyle then criticizing all the negative ones. I am a vegan,and I have learnt that if I want to make a change in someone else s lifestyle then pointing out everything they are doing wrong is more likely to push them in the opposite direction.
    Surely if you have been a vegan for 15 or so years then you would have learnt that the more friendly approach is the best..
    People dont like having your view point shoved in their face instead they like facts, figures which allows them to come to their own decision about what is right. After all it is about respecting the opinion of others. I dont expect to be criticized for following a vegan lifestyle and therefore im not about to go out and criticize the lifestyle choices of others. RESPECT. Vegans do often have a bad rap for pushing their views too much on others, a daily meat eater is not going to feel at all inspired to be a vegetarian or vegan if you are pointing out all the things they cant eat/ everything they are doing wrong. Any positive change is good and the more people that catch on the better.
    I feel like im doing the right thing and it makes me feel good, anyone else that wants to join the journey the better, but please dont be so critical of everyone else cause you are just giving a bad rap to those vegans out there.

  11. @samiuela

    Oh definitely the converse is also true; you are right perhaps it is a bit pedantic 🙂 , problem is there are extremes to each side in argument too..

  12. Stephensmikm,

    Your statement that “people who choose to be vegetarian or Organic for no tangible reason…just annoys me, they haven’t thought clearly about the pros and cons of their decision” is a bit strange.

    I would say the majority of people who choose to eat meat haven’t really thought about it too much. For most people its just what they’re used to eating, and they may like the taste. Nothing really wrong with that as far as I can see, so why is there anything wrong with vegetarians who might simply have been brought up not eating meat since they were children and haven’t thought about it much (and probably are quite happy with what they eat so have no reason to question things too much).

  13. @Phil u and RobGuyton – yikes this has a few more posts then when I last looked, and kinda bang on Phil U- people who choose to be vegetarian or Organic for no tangible reason…just annoys me, they haven’t thought clearly about the pros and cons of their decision (there are pros to non vegan lifestyle) . I’m not someone who forces or calls out others on their actions, they have to make that choice themselves, and you can tell people apart fairly simply based on the way they treat their dietary choice..

  14. Is the spread of McDonalds over the whole of the habitable earth (and parts of Australia) part of the plan Kerry? Phil?



  15. Thank you David… just so we understand. I couldn’t let the original go unexplained.

    Yes, there are areas of substantial uncertainty, and there are occasionally theories that are fairly pervasive that are overturned… I personally regard “dark matter” and “dark energy” to be candidates for some serious revision in future… The thing about science is however, that each new theory is an improvement on what came before, and our knowledge and ability to apply the answers increases…. so while special-relativity reduces Newtonian laws of motion to a special case (* where velocities are much much less than the speed of light *) making Newton “wrong” in an absolute sense, his laws of motion are still used in an awful lot of engineering.

    The thing we know about the theories that WILL become obsolete is that they are, owing to the scientific method, still USEFUL theories when it comes to explaining the world and what will happen in it… and they will remain useful until something better is developed. Thinking about it that way, all theories are wrong in some degree, in some particulars, and if we are talking about science that way you can say it is all wrong. Yet it is useful and we have no better method for gathering knowledge.

    The quotation from the modeling profession comes to mind “All models are wrong, some are useful”. That’s science. We continue to improve the explanations (and the models), and we use it because it explains and predicts better than any other tool we have. NOT perfectly, never that, but better than anything else we do.


  16. here ya go..mr2guy…

    (eat at mcdonalds ya…?)

    “…Just how bad is McDonald’s food?

    Morgan Spurlock sought to find out in his 2004 documentary Super Size Me.

    In his film, I was interviewed and spoke about the role McDonald’s food is playing in our epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

    For 30 days, Spurlock ate only McDonald’s food.

    All of us involved in the film, including Spurlock’s doctors, were shocked at the amount that his health deteriorated in such a short time.

    Before the 30 days started, we each predicted what changes we expected to see in his weight, cholesterol levels, liver enzymes and other biomarkers,

    … but every one of us substantially underestimated how severely his health would be jeopardized.

    It turned out that in the 30 days, the then 32-year-old man gained 25 pounds, his cholesterol levels rose dangerously as did fatty accumulations in his liver …

    … and he experienced mood swings, depression, heart palpitations and sexual dysfunction.

    Some have said Spurlock was an idiot for eating that way … and it’s true that he did himself some major damage in those 30 days.

    But I’ve always felt the suffering he took upon himself by eating all his meals for that month at McDonald’s was admirable …

    … because it served to warn millions of the all too real health dangers of eating too much fast food…” (cont..)


    (didya wash it down with a strawberry shake..?..

    (all 27 teaspoons of sugar in it..?…)

    take/feed yr children there..? ya..?


  17. Controlling populations is a good idea. Free contraception for every women in the world that wants it would be a good start.

    Raising the general standard of living and education for women worldwide also works. Women have less kids as their standard of living rises. Better education means they are less likely to listen to religious nut jobs who reckon unlimited kids are a good idea.

    If that does not work start culling of the biggest consumers. Right wing voters have shown to be the worst so we should start with them. Drowning in a vat of dollar notes should be relatively pain free for them.

  18. “science is 50% wrong but we don’t know which 50%” I made that up because what science (which now is a very generalised term) has changed drastically in my educational lifetime – 55 years. Quantum physics sort of blew molecular theory out the window for a start. And yes there are amazing engineering achievements and ‘maybe’ then we are referring to the 50% that is right. And even in our ‘successes’ I think we have the outcomes of success but later find out our reasoning was flawed. Such as the influence of the placebo affect in medicine/healthcare. Science is not absolute – its still work in progress so what happens to all the beliefs we have now superseded – at this point we don’t know which theories will later be made obsolete so we must trust even our most so called proven facts are open to review.

  19. MR2Guy-You obviously share the American passion for McD double quarter pounders & cheese and their frustration that their supply of beef is threatened by the need to grow more sustainable foods and save rainforests. Less people, more beef!

  20. “we have to many humans on this planet and start controlling our populations.”
    “We” MR2guy?
    We New Zealanders .. should start controlling our populations?
    Which of those do you suggest we start with? Hamilton? Greymouth? Ekatahuna perhaps? Or are you thinking socio-economic groups Age groups? Race perhaps?
    You need to make your thoughts more clear.

  21. science is only 50% right at any one time but we don’t know which 50% is correct

    Huh? Where does this come from? I mean seriously, if science were only 50% right we’d be in serious doo-doo. Science is what makes airplanes fly, bridges stand and electricity come out of your wall-plug. It is over the domain it covers, considerably better than 50% right… you only approach that level in areas where there is little data and the uncertainty ascribed to such things is part of the scientific literature.

    This needs some clarification I think.

    As for the unsustainability, one only has to look at it as any engineer does… and it is obvious.

    The gozintas have to balance the gozoutas. What goes out of the system has to be replaced. If the planet were not swimming in cheap energy, and it is still doing the back-stroke with the wealthiest countries on the planet, our population would be halved in roughly the time it takes for a person to starve to death. We do not have the renewable and sustainable energy to produce the food required to feed everyone. There are a whole series of places where this sort of consideration applies, I am looking solely at the energy itself.

    Maybe you are not counting the science that has become engineering? – the places where science is applied to the world to the benefit of humans. Thermodynamics is well understood by scientists, but is scarcely regarded as a Science… it has become Engineering.

    Which means that it is a lot less subject to question… and a lot more than 50% reliable.

    So I think y’all have some ‘splainin to do 🙂


  22. mmm Just finished a McD double quarter pounder & cheese for lunch 🙂 if 3rd world countries want to keep breeding away unchecked then thats their problem, mabey we should accept we have to many humans on this planet and start controlling our populations.

    More food for less people = good and its easier on the environment.

  23. David – ” we are only guessing that the present system is unsustainable”
    Not guessing David – it’s patently obvious.
    Rather than relying on ‘natural law’ to tidy up, I say we use out heads and devise a system that doesn’t rely on cataclysm to balance itself. That’s what we are here for imho.

  24. Robert – I get your point and I agree but when you expand the system to be globally isn’t that what we are doing now – remember we are only guessing that the present system is unsustainable – science is only 50% right at any one time but we don’t know which 50% is correct. The natural law system has a way of righting its own imbalances but humans my pay the price in their own population numbers – we just may loose a few but the world will go on without us. Remember the earth isn’t there for us, we just happen to be one life form trying to live off other life forms on the earth.

  25. “Untidiness” sprout? Ha!
    Hard-fought-for mimicry of Nature that!

    David – ‘permaculture’ isn’t an earner as such. It’s much more. If you are looking for a ‘Good Life’, cut-loose-from-society way to live, you’d have to go Bio-intensive or something like that. Permaculture is bigger-picture and involves the whole community and you being out there as well. If that involves working off site (part time is best) then that isn’t a fault in the system, it’s part of the strength of Permaculture.

  26. Phil – yes, I followed your advice and got my photo and words into the Times amongst the apple trees looking earthy and green.
    Don’t soak yer oats, eat ’em fresh (with some fruitiness if you like that, which I do. Adam has them with water – sounds Spartan but it will surprise you!)

  27. Phil-I admire and respect all vegans but it is a lifestyle mainly open to the affluent. For the average inuit, mongolian nomad or poor african it isn’t practical or possible. Traditional inuit people survived for thousands of years on a diet of almost 100% animal flesh, eating raw meat for essential vitamin C. Humans aren’t ruminants and a vegan diet requires a diversity not available to many. I think the future of our race means a move to a largely vegetarian diet but to expect all to embrace veganism is a huge ask.

  28. Monsanto have been the world leaders of mono culture farming, their idea of sowing one crop that survives the herbicide that kills everything else promised easy farming and high yields. This unnatural system killed biodiversity and ignored the dangers of putting all your eggs in one basket, and if it falls over you lose everything.
    Permaculture isn’t as easy as Robert claims because it means a change of thinking that is hard for many, it means an acceptance of “untidiness” and allowing nature to take its course at times when we would like to interfere. It means an on going commitment to understanding how natural symbiotic relationships work and support and replicate those systems. It means being able to withstanding the criticisms of those who don’t understand the method to your apparent madness and it doesn’t happen overnight. Permaculture isn’t easy but the future of biodiversity and our planet depends on it.

  29. Permaculture = headache? In the sense that if it is your means of an income, means of debt repayment and sustainable lifestyle then it is A LOT of work (and I mean more than a 9-5 job and like any farmers working lifestyle) and if it is not your income then it has to be your sport, passion, and secondary job. Also, the concept of creating a permaculture sustainable environment is one where the ‘goal-posts’ are always moving away from you. I am not against creating an organic, sustainable lifestyle but from my experience it still depends greatly on outside or off-site resources.

  30. robert..did you use yr permaculture-paradise in yr election campaign..?

    ..did the local media feature it..? any links..?

    (d’ya soak yr oats overnight..?.. a ‘recipie/any tips..?..)


  31. “..‘eyes closed’ organic food purchase stephensmikm?
    What do you mean?..”

    i wont presume to answer for him..

    ..but i wd presume he is talking of the ‘eyes closed’.. the pain/suffering/exploitation/premature-deaths of their ‘organic meat’…

    d’yareckon that cd be it..robert..?

    (and…does that cap fit you..?..)


  32. Life lives off life – each individual simply makes a choice for whatever reasons what life forms they eat.
    Sprout – again permaculture is a term people use as some ultimate condition no matter whats practical in reality. Remembering one persons reality is completely different from anothers – but permaculture is thought to be this ideal answer to all situations. Permaculture is a theorist dream but a practitioners headache.

  33. I’ll go into bat for the bees Phil!
    The wild hives are being destroyed by varroa.
    The kept colonies are being protected by their keepers and survive.
    Well run hives are a credit to humanity.

  34. (this is a speech given on world farm animal day..)

    “…I’m going to keep my speech pretty short. Thanks to the organisers for allowing me to speak, and thank you all for coming today. What a great event!

    We are here because we all care about farmed animals, and because we don’t want them to suffer.

    The single most effective thing we can do to stop the suffering of farm animals is to go vegan.

    Being vegetarian is not enough, because you are still relying on farm animals for food.

    Farmed animals will only be free when we stop using them for food – of any kind.

    Sadly, veganism still suffers from a poor image.

    Vegans are seen as self-sacrificing, hair-shirt-wearing idealists who lead deprived, difficult and miserable lives.

    People say things like: “Oh I don’t know how you do it, I could never be vegan”.

    This drives me nuts, and makes me laugh – as it could not be further from the truth.

    I have been vegan for 28 years and I can honestly say it’s the best thing I ever did.

    I went vegan out of concern for animals … but I quickly realised that being vegan was good for me too!

    I feel happier, healthier, and I enjoy my food far more than I did before going vegan.

    We need to turn on its head the idea that vegans are deprived or missing out.

    On the contrary, it enhances your life, and makes it better, not worse!

    It certainly makes life less complicated.

    As a vegetarian you could drive yourself mad trying to ensure you only ate free range eggs, or vegetarian cheese –

    – as few food manufacturers or restaurants bother using these.

    For this reason, vegetarians relax their standards and eat ordinary cheese – the stuff you find in supermarkets, restaurants, takeaways –

    – despite the fact that dead calves are used to make it.

    The rennet used to make cheese is obtained from their stomachs.

    Which makes you sick to the stomach when you think about it.

    Go vegan I say, it’s A LOT simpler!

    I think it’s high time we reclaimed the word vegan too.

    i’ve noticed that many groups promote vegetarianism rather than veganism … because they worry that it will alienate supporters.

    I disagree.

    The more we use the word vegan, the more appealing it will become.

    All we are doing when we avoid using the word vegan is internalising the negative messages and stereotyping that our critics invent to discredit us.

    We should never be ashamed of who we are, and what we stand for: non-violence.

    Vegetarianism is a red herring.

    People go vegetarian in the belief that milk and eggs are ‘freely given’ or “humanely produced’, but we know that this is a lie.

    We all want people to go vegan … it’s a damn sight easier being vegan than it is trying to be an ethical vegetarian …

    … so let’s not be afraid to say: “look, do yourself a favour and don’t bother with vegetarianism – go vegan”.

    That’s what farmed animals would say if they could.

    Thank you…”

    (speech given by louise wallis…)


  35. I wonder if 4 vegetarian MPs are proportionate to the rest of the country- not that anyone makes their voting choice based on that..
    And I really get annoyed by people who are smug and uppity about their vegetarianism or ‘eyes closed’ organic food purchase, you just do it or don’t.

  36. Phil & David, true permaculture would be an all-consuming lifestyle choice and to operate in a fully sustainable manner would probably be like the search for the holy grail, never quite achievable. But this is the ultimate in farming practice because it avoids all that is wrong in current methods of industrial/factory farming and any step in the direction of permaculture would be another step in the right direction.

    Phil- following your line of reasoning and all farming of animals ceased, what would happen to all those populations of domestic farm animals? How come many domesticated animals live longer than their wild counterparts? Do all animals on farms spend their lives suffering? Would a farm killed sheep suffer less than one killed by a dog or lion?

  37. All great discussions and it seems on principle people agree just not on philosophy. But – who has tried being self sufficient using the permaculture method? Many people throw that term around and I have had experience using it as part of NZ government funded TOPS courses. A full-time, 6 month course repeated 2x per year for 10 years (thats a total of 20 courses). The gardening part was a 2-3 days per week component. It is not cheap to set up, requires a lot of labour and doesn’t work as per text book theory because EVER situation is unique.

  38. sprout..

    ..yr idyllic fantasies/what if?’s to one side..

    ..(just eat the

    you still didn’t answer this..

    ..” sprout…

    you just withdraw animal-suffering/exploitation from your ’sustainable’-equation…?

    that suffering/exploitation just has no significance..?..”


  39. Phil-The world is full of food cycles where carnivores, omnivores herbivores and plants etc naturally coexist and achieve a sustainable balance. Without carnivores many animals would reproduce beyond sustainable numbers, hence the problems existing in wild New Zealand where a lack of natural predators has created heaven on earth for many introduced species. If man remained in small numbers and lived a hunter gatherer life style our impact on the environment would be minimal, however our population has expanded to a level where cultivated and farmed food is necessary for our continued survival.

    In a permaculture system the natural balance has to be artificially created and combining a range of plants and animals is important. Bees are necessary pollinators, companion planting creates diversity where plants can protect each other from pests and not drain nutrients from the soil. A variety of animals (fowl, sheep, goats, pigs etc) can live in a managed way within a permaculture system, providing manure and eating plant waste or clearing and preparing future garden plots. When animal populations exceed what can be sustained they will need to be culled and can be used as food.

    Robert Guyton is an expert permaculturalist and his family are practically self sufficient by sourcing much of their food from their “food forest”.

  40. ah no bees were harmed in the production of this honey…?

    um..!..wanna buy a bridge…?

    ..have i got a beauty for you..!


  41. Ah! phil u

    Bees are fed sugar so that they don’t die en mass as you describe.

    Good article Gareth. Well rounded and tactful. You should give fishing another go mate; it’s a lot of fun 🙂 Although I’m not a vegetarian, I can fully understand and respect the decision to not eat mass produced meat. Especially considering the atrocious animal welfare standards in New Zealand.

  42. Great article Gareth, sums it up well. A really useful introduction for anyone wanting to explore vegetarianism 🙂
    Some good comments here too. But Phil U, if you really care about furthering veganism, you’ll need to learn how to be respectful to other people. Your arrogant, shaming attitude is unlikely to win you any converts. I have great respect for veganism, and don’t disagree with you on many of the points you make. But you’re wasting your time sharing any of your ideas, if you share them with such a bad attitude. It seems to me you are here not to switch people on to veganism, but to assert your own superiority and enjoy the experience of criticising and shaming others. A pointless agenda, and a waste of time and space.
    Re: Eating eggs – if you have your own chickens, and don’t feed any male chicks into the macerator etc, I cannot see any fault with collecting and eating the eggs the hens naturally lay. I have successfully raised organic free-range hens of my own, and have collected and eaten their eggs for many years. The hens are not forced or influenced to lay in any way, they lay just when they feel like it and the eggs are collected only when the hens are no longer on the nest.
    Supply me with some facts about why I shouldn’t eat eggs – and I mean REAL facts – and I will take your argument more seriously. You may view eggs as chicken periods/foetuses etc, and you’re entitled to see them that way, but that does not provide any evidence against eating them. If there is no suffering to the chicken, or the egg, why not eat them?
    For the record, fruits, vegetables and seeds are the sexual creations – the periods and foetuses etc – of plants. Are you going to stop eating them for that reason too?

  43. so sprout…

    you just withdraw animal-suffering/exploitation from your ‘sustainable’-equation…?

    that suffering/exploitation just has no significance..?


  44. Phil-I do think that following permaculture practices, the growing and harvesting of meat, honey, dairy and fruit and vegetables is sustainable and the relationship between the farmer and his/her food sources can be mutually beneficial.

  45. “…phil u – why aren’t I a vegan?

    Because the animal products I eat don’t take the life of an animal eg dairy products, honey…”

    um..!..david…heard of veal…?

    you get your ‘dairy’ from cows whose babys are taken from them after birth…

    so they can then lactate…for you…

    of those young cows…females are set up into the brutal breeding program that brings you your dairy…

    ..and the young males go to become veal…

    ..and the honey..?

    wtf do you think honey is..?

    it is the winter storage food for bees…

    .and thousands of them you can eat their honey..

    do you really think you have no part in the taking/brutalising of those animal-slave-lives…?

    ..back at 9.12 am i referred to smug free-rangers…

    …being in a serious case of denial…

    ..don’t you think that you also have that going on…

    ..(no blood around cheese..?…!..)


  46. “…Phil u- It has to be accepted that humans are designed to be omnivores..”

    um..!..what do you base that declaration on…?

    “..My vegetarian diet came about through responding to factual information about food production and awareness of my own health rather than an emotional response to the killing of animals…”

    there you go then..

    question answered..

    i must confess to an ’emotional response’…eh..?

    ..but even given yr ‘rational’ approach..

    the evidence is irrefutable that a vegan diet is the healthiest..!

    you say that is what you seek…

    yet you continue to poison yr body/the environment..

    ..with yr animal fats in cheese form..

    go figure..!

    think on..!

    and if me telling you what i know is ‘lecturing’..?.. be it…


  47. Phil u- It has to be accepted that humans are designed to be omnivores and most in this world eat largely vegetarian diets with occasional meals of meat. As people become more wealthy then “treats” become everyday fare and when there is a commercial market for food high in fat or sugar there is a rush to fill that market. My vegetarian diet came about through responding to factual information about food production and awareness of my own health rather than an emotional response to the killing of animals.

    If farming shifted to permaculture or recognized the importance of biodiversity I may consider changing my diet but while we have farming practices that are largely unsustainable I support Gareth’s approach to promoting a vegetarian diet. I commend you for your vegan lifestyle but I think it is still more productive to encourage then lecture.

  48. Russell norman is the vegetarian, he said on Backbenchers he liked MacDonald’s Chicken Macnuggets – from memory…

  49. phil u – why aren’t I a vegan? Because the animal products I eat don’t take the life of an animal eg dairy products, honey.

  50. and for those vegetarians going wtf does he know?..

    i have been vegan for 11 yrs…

    ..and (lacto)-vegetarian for 15 yrs b4 that..

    (no fish/foetuses/anything that could look at me..but lots of

    and i gotta tell ya..!

    you vegetarians know how you ‘feel better’ than when u were carnivore…eh..?

    ..going vegan just compounds that ‘feel-good’-factor by a significant degree..

    my expectations when i went vegan were muted..

    …having been vegetarian for so long..the changes i expected would be incremental at best… wrong was i….eh..?

    ..(that’s the ‘carrot’…eh..?..

    ..on a purely selfish level.. (and the animals)..will feel so much better about/in on..!

    and most/any questions can/will be answered here..


  51. “..Why not celebrate the effort and intent, rather than mock the inconsistencies and grey areas…”

    because nobody else is…mocking ‘the inconsistencies and grey areas’…

    (and hey..!..i put the ‘glad’ in gladfly..!

    ..or was that the ‘fly’ in gladfly…?

    ..i always get them mixed up…)

    and you..vegetarian for 30 plus years..?..y’say..?

    how come you are still stuck there…?..

    (y’know..macerators/veal etc..)

    can you tell me why you are not a vegan…? thought..

    ..those ‘inconsistancies’ mean much suffering for animal-slaves..

    ..and all at your own hand… i said..’think on..!’…


  52. “Diet for a small Planet” now at least 30 or 40 years old that book, and a good guide for the beginner. Still one of my favorites.

    If the GST is taken off the fruits and veggies maybe we’ll have some progress.


  53. Vegans can read books like ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ (published some time in the 70’s) and you’ll learn that plants to have a nervous and digestive system, move (but relatively more slowly), are affected by human emotions, communicate between each other etc – all the same as other life forms but just not so visibly. Life lives off life – so what is the ethical reason for being vegan v vegetarian?

  54. “..Anyone who questions the lifestyle, health or ethical advantages then don’t hesitate to ask me?..”

    oh…ok…so why aren’t you vegan…?


  55. phil u-As a vegetarian for thirty years I don’t like those vegetarians who lecture and scold those who aren’t, but it does amuse me when non-vegetarians are determined to highlight fault or inconsistencies in a vegetarian’s diet. It is almost like a salve to their own guilt if they can point out that a certain vegetarian isn’t so perfect after all.

    It can be a challenge to take a moral and ethical stand against a diet that one has been brought up with and has been shaped by generations before. Why not celebrate the effort and intent, rather than mock the inconsistencies and grey areas.

  56. and for any vegetarians out there…

    ..eating cheese/dairy..?

    ..still happy about yr contributions to/support of … the veal industry…?

    ..not to mention the short/brutalised lives of the cows..

    and are you still eating chook-foetuses/periods…?

    ..happy about all those male baby chicks…(organic/’free-range’/w.h.y..)..

    ..being fed ..alive..into the macerator..?

    ..(and ‘free-range’ new benchmark in oxymoron that

    ..still eating fish occasionally..? do know they have central nervous systems/pain-registers very similar to ours…?

    (think hook in mouth/death by suffocation…eh..?..) general..just think on..!

    you ain’t there yet…eh..? are still in the ‘problem’-camp…

    ..and in some cases..

    (esp. those who are so smug about their ‘free-range’..) extreme denial..


  57. I am a Gisborne local, well for the past 38 years, and come from a family tradition (going back to Oxford England) of every son for over 200 years being BUTCHERS – and I’ve been a vegetarian now for 38 years. Anyone who questions the lifestyle, health or ethical advantages then don’t hesitate to ask me? I have also trained as a practitioner in Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Polarity Therapy, Acupuncture, Iridology – plus primary and adult education.

  58. only four…?…out of 120…?

    how far behind the trends/zeitgeist are they…?

    and still no vegans…eh..?

    ..and why not post/link yr choc-cake recipie…?

    (i’ sure frog won’t mind…)

    ..but good onya for raising the subject-which-must-not/never-be-spoken-of…

    (greens just love/’must protect’ the dairy they constantly say/have said…

    ..and how about that metirias’ new/flash leather-gear..?


    ..’look at me strut in my new expensive-skins!’..)

    this is obviously a journey just on its’ first faltering steps…

    ..(this greening of the green party..)

    ..not even one


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