Carnage: Swallowing the Past- a review

Bloomin’ marvellous

Yes, I’m already a massive fan of Simon Amstell and all of his work.

Yes, I’m already a committed vegan.

But this comedy/drama/documentary/mockumentary, or whatever heading you put it under, is a masterpiece. And I want everyone to watch it.

Simon Amstell’s comedy has always been funny because it’s so honest. Even back to his Popworld and then Buzzcocks days, he made us laugh by taking the piss out of popstars with lines containing nothing but the truth.

When he annoyed Preston from Ordinary Boys (they had that one hit that no one remembers) so much he walked off the show, and left the audience in stitches, all he did was read from Preston’s then-wife’s book. The jokes literally wrote themselves.

His stand-up material is made up of self-deprecating stories of loneliness, and his sitcom Grandma’s House is pretty much autobiographical; so you get the point, Amstell doesn’t tend to beat around the bush.

And Carnage is no different; except it isn’t about his own disastrous dating stories or stupid things popstars have said – it’s on the slightly more serious topic of veganism. It is backed up by real-life events and scientific fact; but it’s still hilarious?! That is the genius of it.

Everything he says – in his documentary-narrator voice – from the raping of cows, to chicken periods, to food rationing during the Second World War – is true. Yes there’s some fictitious characters thrown in (obviously, it’s set 50 years in our future), but for the most part the people and the shocking facts are real.

 

It all sounds so ludicrous that it is funny – but it’s all true! Down to the woman dressed as a cow singing on stage about how her babies have been taken away – it’s funny and moving (mooving, if you will) all at the same time. I think we all thought that that was impossible but somehow the people behind Carnage have managed it.

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The star of an anti-dairy musical

I even got emotional towards the end thinking about a world, or at least a Britain, where eating meat and dairy was unthinkable. I teared up at a goat jumping for joy on an old mattress for crying out loud! The fact that we know the images from the past – i.e. 1944 up until 2017 – are real, make it seem like the fictional events that come after could actually happen, which leaves a kind of sense of hope as well as entertainment lingering after the film is over.

It’s so good that I don’t think I’m doing it any justice in this review; so all that’s left to say is please go and watch it on BBC iplayer now!

 

 

 

 

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Veganuary Week Four – Not Just for January!

Veganuary is over! And it was… surprisingly easy! You can tell how excited I am because I’ve used three exclamation marks already.

Unfortunately for me, I am not one of those people who goes vegan and feels loads of health benefits or have more energy, but that was a long shot considering my CFS. Also a long shot because of course I’ve tried most of the vegan junk food on offer in the supermarket where I work :’).

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Exhibit A in the unhealthy food category – crumpets and melted vegan cheese

However, knowing I am finally causing as little harm as possible, to my knowledge, to animals makes me feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders; I’m no longer carrying around this guilt caused by knowing how much suffering the dairy and egg industries inflict on cows and chickens.

I also had no idea how much of an impact animal agriculture had on climate change and the planet. The industry contributes more carbon dioxide than all of the world’s transport combined?!?! Blew my mind. It genuinely baffles me that people can call themselves environmentalists and still eat meat, knowing this fact. Burying our heads in the sand about carbon emissions etc. set us back years, think how long this is going to set us back, and how much this is going to impact the planet.

On top of the animals and the planet, there’s the humans. The fact that the grain we in the West use to feed livestock could be used to feed the entire hum

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I’ve actually started to like mushrooms?!

an population of the world, leaving not a single person starving, infuriates me. Why should developed countries have the ‘privilege’ of slaughtering animals for meat, not only at the expense of those animals, but also our fellow human beings.

Knowing all of this, I don’t think I can ever going back to eating animal products. Yes I might slip up sometimes, but as long as I’m doing what I can, I know I’ll feel much happier.

Here’s to Vegan February, March, April, May, June… you get the idea đŸ˜‰

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Vegan mac and cheese-less, so yum.

Veganuary Week Three – Documentaries

Here it is, finally, my review of five vegan documentaries I’ve watched over the past couple of weeks. They’ve definitely kept me on track, if not frazzled my brain slightly with all of the mind-boggling facts in the process.

Cowspiracy

I had a lot of “WTF????” moments whilst watching this first film. I knew there was some environmental benefits of vegetarianism and veganism, but I had no idea to what extent. And that extent is extreme, and made my overall takeaway from this; why are we not doing anything about this??? Although, the documentary did sort of answer that by explaining just how much influence the meat and dairy industries have in US government. For me this wasn’t so surprising – we all know that money rules the world – but it’s still shocking.

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I recommend all of these films, but if you’re particularly interested in the environment and the causes of climate change, I highly recommend this one, because I haven’t seen the discussion of the impact of animal agriculture on the planet in any other film or article.

Forks Over Knives

This was another “OMG????” documentary, but this time to do with health. The film goes into great detail about studies done by two different men – one a doctor the other a scientist- who have basically proven that animal products cause cancer and heart disease and other big killers in the Western world. Animal products literally cause cancer. How are we not talking about this???

One fact that blew my mind was that erectile dysfunction is one of the first signs of coronary heart disease. I’ve never heard this before but it makes so much sense! If arteries are blocked, blood can’t flow around the body properly, so can’t get to the penis! And it’s animal products that cause the arteries to block (you’ll have to watch it for the proper science), so if you wanna still be able to get it up, you’d better go vegan!

Vegucated

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In this one we follow three meat-eaters as they embark on the vegan journey, and learn all aspects of veganism and the benefits of it. Therefore it was well-rounded and looked at all aspects-from the environment, to health, to animal welfare. Going on the journey along with these people was also very interesting, and made it seem like something much more achievable, as we could see real people and the struggles they went through and how they dealt with them.

Earthlings

Earthlings is always talked about as one of those films that turns people off meat due to it’s shocking nature. It makes me feel sick, want to cry and get angry all at once. It is really heavy, and very graphic, so if that’s something you don’t think you can watch, I wouldn’t recommend. However, the shock-tactic certainly works for me, and lots of other people, especially as the main reason for me embarking on vegetarianism was compassion for animals. I can never unsee those images of the cruelty inflicted on innocent creatures, and couldn’t live with myself if I went back to contributing to that in any way.

As well as the shocking images – including slaughterhouse workers stomping on chickens and throwing pigs around by the tail – there are some myths defunked in this film, including the ‘no part is wasted’ myth in regards to the leather industry. Many people believe leather comes from cattle also raised for meat, but the film shows cattle bought from poor, desperate families in India, put through a terrible and drawn-out ordeal before being slaughtered purely for their skin.

Meat the Truth

With this being the fifth documentary on this topic I’ve watched within a couple of weeks, it isn’t surprising that the majority of the facts and figures were the same as I had already learnt.

However, all of the previous films have been American, so to have a European (specifically Dutch) perspective was really interesting. Marianne Thieme is a great speaker; very likeable and able to keep you intrigued through all of the numbers and percentages.

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Overall, I highly recommend watching all of these documentaries if you’re at all interested in any of these topics. Ignorance is often bliss, but having our eyes wide open is the only way we’re going to make positive changes in our own lives, to the lives of others, animals and the planet.

284268_210517712331331_2327292_nP.S. I always think it’s good to read around the topic to get other opinions, don’t take everything at face value, and always with a pinch of salt. Do your own research as well as watching these informative films, folks!

P.P.S. All of these are on Netflix apart from Earthlings and Meat the Truth which are on Youtube đŸ™‚

Veganuary – Week Two – Travelling

Now, I said I was going to write about some documentaries for this week’s blog post, but having been away for a long weekend (hence the late post!) I thought I would write about travelling as a vegan/what I ate whilst it’s still fresh in my mind!

My friend and I had no idea where we were heading – only that it was somewhere in Europe and we had to be at the airport at half 8 in the morning. Sat in Starbucks (with a soy vanilla latte) we finally found out from Surprise Trips that we were going to Amsterdam, and that our hotel was called ‘Hotel Library’ – could it be anymore perfect for us??

I had done some research on tips for travelling as a vegan and downloaded a couple of apps that had been recommended, and the most useful turned out to be Happy Cow, which shows vegan restaurants, cafes and shops and those with vegan options closest to your location.

We were starving, so used this app to get ourselves to the nearest cafe with vegan options – Betty Blue – where I had a cappuccino with almond milk and the soup of the day – tomato and courgette and lots of other yummy veggies with ciabatta. 20170113_170305

I was too hungry/enjoying it too much to remember to take a picture until I was halfway through!

Later that evening we went into an Italian restaurant and I had a veggie pizza without the mozzarella and it was delicious. It had artichokes, mushrooms, aubergine and lots of other veggies which were very tasty.

To drink I had my first Heinekin of the trip – thank goodness it’s vegan!

On Saturday we trekked across the city for some Dutch pancakes in a lovely place called Mook; another Happy Cow find, as they do vegan versions of all their pancakes.

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Blueberries, banana, strawberries, maple syrup and coconut shavings

It was definitely worth the walk in the sleet and the cold to find this place; it was delicious.

For dinner we went to the Golden Temple, a veggie and vegan Indian restaurant we heard about from a leaflet in our hotel’s reception. It was lovely and cosy inside, with two little doggies running around too, which was obviously a bonus. This was my yummy coconut curry:

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Breakfast wasn’t the easiest, because you can’t just run into Starbucks and grab a pastry or
whatever when you’re on the go, so I ate cereal bars to keep me going through the morning most days.

20170115_113819Other than that, I ate pretty darn well I’d say.

On Sunday however I probably should’ve lined my stomach a bit more before heading to the Heineken experience, however, as there was a decent amount of free beer on offer.

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Afterwards I ate the most yummy vegan egg salad sandwich at a vegan cafe called Roots though, and ohhhh buddy I could’ve eaten twelve. And they had oat milk – my favourite!

20170115_172229One name that kept coming up on Happy Cow was Bagels and Beans, and I finally got to sample some vegan bagel goodness on our final day. Bananas, maple syrup and cinnamon. Difficult to eat on the go (we were rushing to make our booked slot at the Anne Frank museum), but very tasty.

20170116_121107Down the road from the museum was a lovely veggie and vegan place where I tried tofu pate for the first time, but not the last, because I loved it. This restaurant also had a cat that looked like Crookshanks who was adorable:

Obviously going to Holland there was going to be a lot of cheese around to tempt me, but I didn’t cave; even in one of the many cheese museums:

Yes, that is a diamond-encrusted cheese slicer. There was no kind of explanation given, so your guess is as good as mine.

Knowing I’m not contributing to the cruelty of cows feels much better than any cheese tastes. But more on that in a later post.

I’ve rambled on for far too long now, so thanks for reading if you made it this far!

I’ll be back with my documentary reviews at the weekend. Ttfn!

Veganuary – Week One

Finally, after over two years of being a vegetarian and banging on about how I want to eventually be vegan, I’ve gone and given it a go!

So far, it’s going really well, and I’m so pleased. I’ve had two tiny dairy slip-ups – one on New Year’s Day when extremely hungover and I was made a milky cup of tea, and the other stealing a small piece of bread with butter on it – but that’t it, and after a week I’m getting used to it and I don’t think it’ll happen again. After all, the first time I said I was going to do a veggie big shop, I came home with a ham and pineapple pizza, and I haven’t done that since!

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Linda McCartney sausages, mash, peas and onion gravy – vegan comfort food 

I definitely think it’s a good idea to go vegan gradually. I have a number of friends who have gone straight from being an omnivore to trying veganism and have failed within the first few weeks or months; many then giving up on the idea because they think it’s too hard.

Being veggie first means I’m used to cutting things out, finding alternatives and reading food labels. It also means I’m firm in my beliefs and my reasons behind giving up meat, and extending that to giving up eggs and dairy, so it’s less about willpower and more about remembering why I’m doing this, and that makes it much less difficult.

Here are some of my favourite vegan products that I’ve found so far:

 

First is obviously that vegan staple: tofu. These marinated tofu pieces are so easy to cook and so delicious I don’t know why I wasn’t using them before. The meal is a yummy stir fry – Sainsbury’s frozen stir fry veg, Cauldron tofu pieces, Yutaka wheat noodles and Sainsbury’s light soy sauce.

Next there’s my favourite, so far, plant-based milk: Oatly! oat milk. Perfect in porridge, my favourite breakfast (Quaker Oats Golden Syrup Flavour), and I’ve heard it’s great in tea so I’ll definitely be giving that a try.

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Hazelnut milk in coffee is pretty good, and rice milk is okay, but I’m hoping when I try more milk alternatives I’ll find one that I like more.

Next something that is very important to me: vegan cheese. I was so happy when Sainsbury’s brought out a range of free from cheese-style products, but very nervous to try them.

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Luckily, I like them! The cheddar-style is probably my least favourite, but on a sandwich with some salad it’s hard to tell the difference. The other two are perfect straight swaps for the dairy version, and I use them in the exact same way.

Finally some sweet things I found in the free from section where I work (Booths, northern Waitrose if you haven’t heard of it :)) Lazy Day Foods free from millionaire shortbread and Bell’s Gluten-free jam tarts – they’re delicious! Who needs dairy or eggs??wp-1483893785930.jpg

Next week I’ll make another update on how the month is going – possibly with some reviews of the documentaries I’m planning on watching this week, just to keep me motivated.

Thanks for reading!

 

‘Canned Lion Hunting’ in South Africa

A couple of days ago, I saw this piece on BBC News about lions being bred specifically to be hunted and killed, mostly by foreigners, who pay thousands of dollars for the privilege; and of course to take home a ‘trophy’ in the form of the beautiful animal’s head.

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Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert on this subject, I’ve read a few articles and web pages such as the CACH (Campaign Against Canned Hunting) website and this article on Nature World News.

From the research I have done, I am, of course, appalled and disgusted that these majestic animals are being used in this way. It sickens me that anyone would want to pay money to shoot such a beautiful creature.

I bet you can feel the ‘but’ coming… here it is:

But, I can’t help feeling uncomfortable hearing the similarity in the language used to describe this horrible act, and that used to describe practices of breeding animals within the meat industry.

For example, “these lions are bred in captivity with the sole purpose of being taken out onto hunting lodges, and shot by hunters.”

This is obviously a sentence in the BBC News report meant to shock and disgust the viewer.

I would argue however that just by changing a few words, it would have a totally different impact. Let’s say, “these pigs are bred in captivity for the sole purpose of being taken out into slaughterhouses, and killed for their meat.” This is just what happens, right? Because it’s a pig and not a lion, we aren’t shocked or disgusted, we just accept that that is true.

Now I know many people will say it’s different because the pig meat is going to be eaten and therefore not wasted. But the lions’ fur and bones are all used and sold to make a profit for the breeders (sold in Asia to make medicine, wine and even cakes?): it’s not just the head that gets ‘used’.

So is it really any different? Is it right that outrage and disgust is directed towards one and not the other? Particularly when the one we ignore/accept is happening in our country.

Is this controversial? I don’t know, probably. I hope I’ve put my thoughts across in a way that makes sense, I wanted to keep it brief, especially as it is an opinion piece from someone that has pretty limited knowledge on the subject.

Let me know your thoughts! My next post will be less upsetting, I promise. đŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets’ – BBC Documentary Review

I’ve been really intrigued by the ‘clean eating’ or ‘plant-based diet’ craze that’s been going around the internet for a while now; and even seriously considered giving it a go with so many bloggers and vloggers talking about all of the health benefits and how good they feel on this diet. I’m willing to try anything at this point to stop feeling so tired and awful all the time!

I’m also planning on going vegan (I’m veggie currently) in the near future, but I see a big difference between veganism and ‘plant-based’. The latter seems to be all about the health benefits, whilst the former is about animal cruelty and not wanting to contribute that.

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Now I’m not going to lie, clean eating sounds like a big commitment, and too much hard work for me to keep up with. I think in a way I’ve been looking for an excuse to not give it a go for that reason; so the title of this BBC documentary really appealed to me when I was scrolling through iplayer trying to find something to watch.

First of all, I’ve never seen any of Grace Victory’s videos, but I loved her from the opening of the programme, and I subscribed immediately. Shes’s hilarious, honest, and genuinely relatable, so she was the perfect person to host this documentary.

I think Grace clearly explained that there are many different definitions of ‘clean eating’, and it isn’t the same for everyone. This is worrying considering there’s so many people spreading possibly conflicting messages about what we should and shouldn’t be eating.

What works for one person might not work the same for another, so preaching a one-size-fits-all message is, frankly, dangerous. Having been one of those people obsessed with food, calories and exercise (looking back I probably had orthorexia) I know how easy it is to get caught up in the spiral, and how long it takes to basically rewire your brain into thinking about food and eating in a healthier way. Of course thinking about what you’re eating is important, but obsessing over reading ingredient lists on every packet of food you think about eating isn’t something I would recommend to anyone.

What really struck me wasn’t the nutritionists and dietitians saying how what the likes of Freelee are preaching is a load of rubbish, because I expected that. It was the interview Grace did with the ‘wellness blogger’ Natasha Corrett who has brought out a series of cook books promoting the ‘alkaline diet’ under the company name ‘Honestly Healthy’. She was asked a simple enough question, or rather a statement about a doctor’s view on pH balance in the body, and immediately said she wasn’t going to answer it.

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If that doesn’t ring enough alarm bells, then certainly the fact that Natasha’s co-author and ‘nutritionist’ adviser Vicky Egerton was inspired by Robert Young; a man who Natasha herself says she won’t answer any questions on because he’s just been arrested… for practicing medicine without a license. And he’s the father of the diet that Natasha is promoting!? How can we really trust anything that these essentially unqualified people are telling us?

We can’t.

So no ‘clean eating’ for me. Just more fruits and veggies and less veg lasagne ready meals. Do your own research, don’t follow the advice of just one or two people on the internet because they look amazing and their lives seem perfect.

I highly recommend watching the documentary; it really is food for thought! đŸ˜‰

 

Becoming a Vegetarian

Being veggie has been something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years now, so I finally decided to take the plunge last September when moving back to university for my final year. At the moment I am still pescetarian, but plan on ditching the fish in the next week or so.IMG_20150122_190307(Cooking with mama – real vs. fake chicken in a stir fry. The confusion caused by going home to a meat-eating family.)

Not eating meat has actually been surprisingly easy, considering I’ve eaten meat for the first twenty years of my life and until the last three or four never considered giving it up. I don’t miss or crave meat at all. The only problem I’ve really encountered has been deciding what to have for lunch, especially when I am out (usually in the library or grabbing a meal deal from Boots), because the only veggie option when it comes to sandwiches appears to be cheese, or cheese.

My aim is to eventually become vegan, and I am already putting in the time to research and try out vegan beauty products. It is time consuming and can get pretty frustrating, but I know it will be worth it in the end when I can finally say that I’m not using any products that animals have suffered to make. I have, however, just discovered this fab website that I know is going to be very helpful: <http://www.logicalharmony.net/how-to-find-out-if-products-are-animal-friendly/#axzz3PqgduWhi&gt;

Transitioning to veganism will realistically take some time, especially as I’m currently on a student budget. If you want something bad enough, though, you’ve got to go for it. One of my many new mottos.. I make myself cringe, but it’s also necessary to keep myself going.