VEGA News Item

Where We Come From. Where We're Going - 12/10/2004
We prepare an obviously much-needed description for the Food Standards Agency and the industry. Vegetarians call for much more enterprise and less bureaucracy and employment for lawyers, a positive embrace of issues and Standards of farming, food, health, and the land. Green Planning for the well-being of all species of animal, ours included!
1. Our Origins

1.1 Collation at the end of WW2 of intelligence on nutritional status and future for various populations of specialized interest entailed exchanges from agents associated with the Ministry of Food (who had experience from rationing in the UK) and military reports from theatres of war all over the globe. Much and continuing epidemiology has ensued, involving us and our forerunners from WW2 on.

1.2 These populations were of special interest.

1.2.1 The continuing concern (from the Boer War) on the health and nutrition of conscripted forces (not only military, but also for mining, and for agricultural work). Medical officers of health were reporting comparisons of the health and diets of British forces with indigenous populations, notably rising blood pressure with age and benefits of dietary fibre (all derived from diets based mainly on “animal protein” rather than “plant protein”). (This harks back to the Navy and discoveries of properties of fruit and veg eaten raw).

1.2.2 Rehabilitation of British PoWs, especially those held in Japanese camps (and therefore on very restrictive, but interesting “vegetarian” diets.)

1.2.3 The Bengal famines in the mid-1940’s and the appropriate relief for populations with habitual diets low in animal-derived protein and fat.

1.2.4 Rehabilitation of populations suffering special deprivations. A Dutch population starved by German reprisals during the severe winter of 1943-1944, they being isolated when the Arnhem venture failed. By arrangements with local relenting German commanders the RAF was allowed an air drop by unarmed British bombers of emergency relief supplies brought in from the USA. The long term effects on babies born during the famine engage continuing interest. Rations brought in from the USA primarily for the relief of prisoners held in concentration camps were found unsuitable as they were high in animal protein, mainly as Spam, and very low in fibre. They had to be revamped and tested on “volunteers” (including conscientious objectors and “vegetarians”- volunteers with strict Jewish practices were hard to find in the UK because it seemed that the Chief Rabbi had lifted requirements during the war for the ritual observances).

2. Horn versus Corn

2.1 Intelligence and experience gathered during WW2 and developments in the pharmaceutical and fermentation industries and in agronomics and demography, together with political and economic developments in the colonies and westernisation, raised a number of challenges in matters of faming, food, health, and the land, with the interests of the wellbeing of all species, including human beings. Respect at that time for plant-protein based dietaries was shadowed by significant doubts over possibly essential animal-protein factors, notably those derived from livers, but extending to all meat, milk, fish, eggs, offals and their derivatives. Some of these issues linger unsolved.

2.2 Accordingly, vegetarian scientists and experts in other related disciplines formed the Vegetarian Nutrition Research Centre, with a base and laboratory at a vegetarian school. One of the scientists was later awarded an FRS.

2.3 This group was much involved in isolating the pernicious anemia factor from liver, which had been initiated in Norway before WW2. The work was taken on by Glaxo Labs, a food-firm then developing the pharmaceutical activities demanded of British industry during WW2, notably production, by fermentation, of penicillin. The Glaxo team was led by a VNRC member and included another, now a Trustee of VEGA.

2.4 The “protein” factor turned out to be vitamin B12, the last of the nutritionally authenticated vitamins. It had been isolated from tons of bovine and equine livers, many of them rejected by slaughterhouses on “aesthetic grounds” or otherwise rated unsuitable for human consumption (owing to parasitic infestations). The physiological, biological, biosynthetic, biochemical, chemical and nutritional corollaries of B12 spread widely and are still subjects for VEGA and for claims, descriptions and labelling of foods. Introduction to the workings of slaughterhouses reinforced the VNRC’s need to investigate further in the interests of human and animal welfare and hygiene, in which we were joined by an RSPCA member- a physiologist doing experiments on live dairy animals- who was assembling evidence damning “religious” Jewish and Muslim methods. During the Thirties members of the RSPCA had succeeded in banning the pole-ax as a means of felling animals in the stunning, sticking, and bleeding procedures.

2.5 Plant-derived sources of vitamin B12 were sought by the VNRC, with much reference to comparative zoology. As vitamin B12 contained the element cobalt in its molecule, animals with fermentative forestomachs (i.e. true ruminants and vegetarians) and appendages (such as equines and elephants) were themselves likely to go deficient where soils were lacking in cobalt; insertion of slugs of cobalt in their rumens solved their problem. Some animals, notably the archetypal rabbit, resort to coprophagy to avoid deficiency, since their droppings are a good source of vitamin B12. Humans are monogastric animals with non-fermenting and acidic foreguts but highly active (especially if they are fibre-righting veggies) “after-burners”, so lack of hygiene, contaminated water and splashing on to leafy plants on well-manured and night-soiled crops could provide the tiny amounts of this essential nutrient in plant-based diets.

2.6 Experiments at the VNRC indicated that this might be possible. To this day many vegetables are “washed” in suspect farm waters; and slaughterhouse wastes and manure feature in “organic” agriculture and remain a contention that VEGA is following (with corollaries in both terrestrial and marine environments) and the contributions of wildlife contamination with microbiological pathogens are also possible. Practical difficulties in assessing bioactive forms of vitamin B12 hamper confirmation of claims that the human anatomy of humans and swine has peculiarities allowing absorption of the colonically-derived vitamin by activity of the cecum- a “blind” alley – and reflux into the ileum. However that may be, VEGA is left with the advice to consumers avoiding animal-based foods to resort to supplements (which are also added to some farm-animals kept intensively). Increasing interest in the manifold nutritional consequences of intakes of B vitamins by fortification or supplementation and the need for advice to consumers are matters in which VEGA is soliciting more assistance from the experts of the FSA and DoH.

2.7 Resolution of some of these problems came with the connexion with antibiotic production, because some of the microorganisms modified to increase outputs happened to be producing pinkish brews that turned out to be rich in vitamin B12; production from animal-derived livers and slaughter house wastes could therefore be avoided.

3. Veggie Might

3.1 These applications of biotechnology introduced new aspects for campaigning vegetarians, among which were:

3.1.1 Conversion of leaf-protein into “dairy” products. Such projects arose from research at Rothamstead initiated by Dr Norman Pirie FRS to concentrate protein thriftily into palatable foods in areas where protein-calorie nutrition was widespread. As many of these areas are tropical or subtropical, costs of drying are low and proteinaceous juices (milks) and cheeses can be expressed, e.g. by manual labour from grass, avoiding the exploitation of milk-animals (and their offspring). Find your Feet projects of this type are in use on a small scale in Africa; one farmer in the UK has been making dairy products this way. However, removal of the (harmless) green colouration, due to chlorophyll, has raised the costs and reduced the eligibility for application in the UK.

3.1.2 Fungi and yeasts used for the production of the antibiotics were, like the yeasts from brewing, good sources of “plant” proteins, and post-war applications of food yeasts (e.g. of torula in the West Indies) bade fare to overcome deficiencies in plant-based diets. Mycelia (felts) from the fermentations for antibiotics were tried as animal feeds and yielded significant increases in output; however, this effect was traced to an unexplained growth-boosting effect of residual antibiotics in the felts. The ‘farmerceutical’ industry seized on this misuse and reckless application of what should have been carefully-prescribed therapeutic agents with correspondingly controlled avoidance of the development of resistant pathogens. This led to our predecessors’ involvement with the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) and other agencies with evidence for the Swann Committee, reporting in 1970, with recommendations and actions to curb these malpractices, which came to be euphemised as digestive enhancement and metaphylaxis. Reinforcement of the objections has led to a survey by a House of Lords commission, but the practice has not been scotched. Appropriate labelling is needed on home-produced and imported foods (it was also about 50 years ago that the introduction of meat and bone meal (MBM) was introduced as a proteinaceous ingredient recommended by the MAFF for animal feeds).

3.1.3 Ruminants would stomach no more than a 5% content of such additions, which were made to rations for dairy-cattle. Such by-products from the slaughtering industry were also finding outlets in materials sold in products for organic and other gardeners and horticulturalists with no warnings on labels of their origins. Poultry litter might contain dead birds decomposing anerobically with risks to cattle of botulism. Warnings and appeals for informative labelling on feedstuffs received scant attention until the BSE crisis and the ensuing Inquiry, for which we furnished vigorous testimony. So-called vegetarian organizations have been for some time – and are still – professing aversions to GM while ignoring the fact that the dairy/beef/veal job, not closed suckler-beef systems, have been the source and continuation of BSE and that imported GM-soya and maize have comprised significant (but undisclosed) ingredients in their rations. Many of these objections persist and warnings such as VEGA’s are at last being heeded.

3.1.4 Cooperation with the PHLS was close because of our common interest in exposing the wheeling and dealing in the livestock industry and tracing the transmission of zoonotic diseases. Calves from the dairy herd, many of them sold deprived of adequate intakes of colostrum, were taken from their mothers so young that their immune systems were unequal to the stress; some had not even been trained to drink from a bucket. Many of these consignments were sold with batches of antibiotics, possibly useless against viral diseases the animals had acquired, but dangerous because overuse was leading to resistance of bacteria pathogenic in medical treatments. However, the PHLS was called to investigate a number of raw fooders who had gathered for communal eating, shortly after which they had fallen ill. Bacterial food poisoning was not suspected. One of our trustees suggested to the investigators that uncooked beans were the cause of the problem. This cause was confirmed: the beans contained phytohemagglutins (lectins) that are inactivated by heating in boiling water. Precautions now familiar with common veggie products sold with appropriate warnings on labels or presented, e.g. after canning and pre-cooking, prevent many repetitions of this episode. But not all: for the beginning of a conference in Switzerland a few years ago was marred by a hasty exodus of some of the delegates to the local hospital, an incident gleefully reported by the press. Once again, zealous raw-fooders had overlooked the power of plants’ defences against attack by predators; however, in small amounts some of these compounds offer benefit to the gut. Modern consumers may not be wise to food-lore of old and unwary when buying produce sold loose, unwrapped, and unlabelled.

3.1.5 Research on the yeasts suffered some setbacks, but worldwide searches for microorganisms suitable for the purpose led finally to Marlow, near London, and a fungal product developed by the then ICI and then fabricated into a “meaty” alternative by other manufacturers and named Quorn. The VNRC’s efforts at growing truffles feasibly in British oakwoods and finding suitable pigs or dogs as sniffers failed to cut the mustard. At least one farmer in the UK is now trying to make a go of truffle-farming. Brewer’s yeast is remarkably cheap and hardly worth the cost of disposal unless a local pig farm or food factory (to make the extract) or supplements-manufacturer has facilities near a brewery.

3.1.6 VEGA is goading the sluggish food manufacturing industry and the Food and Drinks Federation to show more enterprise, possibly shared in LINK projects and the like with DEFRA and the FSA. Mycoproteins is not the only name of the game: observations of fungal and mushrooms have revealed sources of edible vitamin D3 in shiitake mushrooms and of statins in oyster mushrooms, the like of which have been developed as sources of clot-buster drugs. Veterinary observations on grazing animals and certain wild plants have led to unusual sources of active forms of vitamin D3. As the microorganisms used for these purposes are fungal organisms, which can be cultivated on synthetic non-animal media, they are ripe for further exploitation in the vegetarian interest.

3.1.7 Developments with the pharmaceutical industry (producer of “ethical” health products) opened another avenue of progress for the VNRC’s attention: synthesis by chemical methods of “natural” products such as hormones and essential nutrients otherwise derived from animals. The costs of rendering and slaughtering livestock were often recouped by sales of biologically-active products extracted from offals, but problems arose because quality varied and species-differences raised difficulties in dosing regimens (“titrations”).
3.1.8 A VNRC member was closely involved in a chemical synthesis of L-thyroxine (T4, a prohormone), which has become a favoured and reliable alternative to extracts from the glands of slaughtered livestock such as sheep and pigs.

3.1.9 Chemical methods of synthesis were limited in practice by molecular weight and a property called chirality in the shape of the molecule. Vitamin B12, for instance, was outside the reach of practicable chemical synthesis, but developments in microbiology, by application of GM procedures, were opening up great possibilities in manufacturing proteinaceous substances such as hormones and other recombinant (rb) compounds of use in medicine, human and veterinary. Insulin and erythropoietin were the first commercial successes of this type. Not only could the insulin be labelled as “human”, but the earlier extracts were of slightly different agents from cattle or pigs. After some reservations rb-insulin has become widely accepted. Moreover, the testing on animals involved in assessing treatments of patients (humans and other animals) has been appropriately modified and almost replaced by physicochemical measurement.

3.1.10 It needs scientists, however, to alert vegetarian enthusiasts to questionable corollaries. Successors of the VNRC have educated the public and government (EU and national) bodies on applications of injections of Rb-somatomedins (BST, bovine somatotrophin or BGH, bovine growth hormone) as objectionable (but not in N America nor in many other non-EU countries) injectable production boosters for dairy-cows.

3.1.11 Use of BST is objectionable because it adds to the means of forcing the cow into even greater outputs of milk. The commercial dairy-cow, even in organic systems, is being pushed to yields of 10 tons a lactation or more. There are cows being bred now that have achieved 100-tonner status before they go for slaughter. Such outputs are many times greater than the requirements of the cow’s calf or in low-input grass-fed dairy-cows bred to yielding about 4.5 tons a lactation (i.e. without concentrations). However, cows forced into very high yields tend to yield elevated amounts of an insulin-like growth factor IGRF1, enough to raise concern for the European authorities to claim the right to exercise means, within the remit of the World Trade Organization’s regulations, to block competition from American dairy-produce with Europe’s; further, if the Americans overcame this objection, the European authorities have to consider warning labelling, a precaution that could also fall foul of the attitude of the USA’s producers and government agencies.

3.1.12 VEGA has been involved in these matters because of the long-standing doubts over the peculiar evolutionary significance of the cross-suckling over whole lifetimes of human milksops (and their pets). Bovine milk serves well with nutrients and protective factors for a calf growing fast to puberty- relatively faster than a human baby. Moreover, many human populations have not effectively lost the lactose intolerance that affects many species after the age of weaning. Routine consumption by people of milk from farmed animals is a recent event (like the advent of wheat-flour) in our evolution- say 40 generations, after the recession of the last Ice Age, compared with 100,000 or more from the appearance of our earliest ancestors. It comes as little surprise therefore that animal milks (and wheat) on which so much of our dietary now depends do not agree with some of us. Moreover, evidence accumulates that consumption of animal milks- and possibly fermentation does not overcome all the problems- raises factors such as IGRF1 in human consumers, in whom elevated blood levels are a marker of increased risks of cancer, especially of the breast. VEGA monitors such evolutionary corollaries very closely.

3.1.13 The Nature Cure Clinic set up in London in the 1930s represented the vegetarian connection with alternative medicine (which would now rate as complementary medicine). The NCC has gone through many vicissitudes, like many charities. It entered WW2 with in-and out-patient departments and survived the war as an out-patient clinic and restaurant, after losing premises in the bombings of London. It was progressive in being founded and controlled by medically-qualified doctors referring patients if necessary to alternative disciplines of naturopathy such as osteopathy, acupuncture, calisthenics, and homeopathy, and to dietary counsellors. Doctors ran the risk at that time of being struck off for such collaborations. One of the two Dr Allison brothers suffered this disgrace, but soldiered on regardless. (The brothers were of the family of millers famous for wholemeal flour and bread). The NCC continued the tradition of earlier decades that challenged orthodox medicine and the abuse of animals in cruel experimentation and in the production of vaccines. Anti-vaccination campaigning was directed before WW2 against almost compulsory international vaccination against smallpox, which was an embarrassment for vegetarian travellers, especially to India (Gandhi was a member of the London Vegetarian Society during the 1920s). Bernard Shaw and other Fabians and the Bloomsbury set also being members of this coterie, these campaigns enjoyed orotund advocacy; in fact, Shaw knew or knew of the protagonists in London of the factions in medical schools following the “magic bullet” or “stimulation of the phagocytes” interests. Characters in The Doctors’ Dilemma are recognizable: one-Professor Alexander Fleming- achieved great fame with the discovery of penicillin. Another issue of great significance in the 1920s and 1930s was the scourge of bovine tuberculosis and the controversies of pasteurisation and the swindling over watered-down milk. Bovine TB is in Britain again with further controversy, now over welfare concerns of badger populations. In neither epidemic has the welfare of the dairy-cow been duly appreciated by the farming industry.

3.1.14 Our late President, Dr Alan Stoddard, a lifelong vegetarian, practised as a medically-qualified doctor and osteopath soon after the end of WW2. He advanced to be a qualified consultant (in “manual medicine”) and teacher in a London NHS hospital, governor of the British School of Osteopathy, and writer of several much-translated textbooks. He lived to see osteopathy accepted as “respectable” by orthodox medicine. He had many of Britain’s vegetarian population under his thumb, including VEGA’s Trustees, one of whom is a Patron of the Nature Cure Clinic. This history teaches how the cranks drive the machinery and that VEGA aims at emulating a respect for vegetarianism as strong as osteopathy has earned in therapy.

3.1.15 In recognition of the fate of farmers and animals in the hoped-for decline and demise of the dairy/beef/veal industry VEGA has drawn interest and support for a husband-and-wife partnership on a 90-acre holding in East Sussex, who withdrew with disgust from the industry over the treatment of the cattle and calves in the workings of the live/deadstock market. This venture has been running now for about 30 years. Further details are available on the VEGA website. Dolly, one of the rescued (but uncloned) cows, has recently died, aged 42. A bullock, also rescued, has died aged 39. Upkeep of the farmer herd and their pastures has been maintained by charitable donations, notably from the Young Indian Vegetarians, who have appreciated the message in this example. No subsidy or grant can be claimed. In contrast public funding for the Over Thirty Months Scheme for the obligatory slaughter of animals diverted since the BSE epidemic from the food chain is costing, according to the FSA, £400 million a year, with a further £20m incurred by the Rural Payments Agency in administration and enforcement. Many newborn calves from the dairy herd are worth so little that farmers are loth to send them to market, and shoot them on the farm. Disposal and landfill taxes are further embarrassing factors in this miserable business. We are alerting “our” farmers to the possibilities in DEFRA’s rapid acceptance of EU proposals of modulation and eligibility for awards of single farm payments (by acreage). We note also that the FSA is charging £100 a shop to review licensing of butchers’ premises. We are glad to see signs that the FSA is now casting a butcher’s over the labelling of foods suitable for veggies.

4. Cheesytarianism

4.1 Another questionable application of GM has been represented in the dairying industry: generation of rennin for cheese-making. Traditional “ethical vegetarians” had connived at the use of animal rennet derived from the fourth stomach (the abomasum or vell) of killed new-born suckling calves (“bobbies”) in the dairy/beef/veal job. Traditional plant-derived rennins are known but not used commercially. Genetic modifications of some bacteria and yeasts (fungi) yielded chymosins and other enzymes with renneting and ripening attributes in cheese-making and, as processing aids, they were being introduced without notice to customers by labelling information. This was an issue that has exercised VEGA for a long time: the exemption of processing aids from lists of ingredients.

4.2 Cultivation of the term “vegetarian cheese” to embrace these developments emboldened the GM industry and authorities on novel-food processing to vaunt an unquestioning acceptance of genetic modifications, as well as some animal welfarists (who were conniving at and colluding with the fundamental evils in the dairy/beef/veal job- just think of BSE!) and Jews (for some relief from the restrictions of the parve meat-with-milk proscriptions). The industry is increasingly resorting to enzymes developed by biotechnology that it pleads need not be defined as GM, these being used for products whether or not described and labelled as “vegetarian cheese”.

4.3 Worse, the Vegetarian Society has accepted fees from the heavily-subsidized dairy-industry for approving such products from cruel practices discrediting all the purports of “green” plant-based diets and has escaped condemnation from organizations representing (or concealing in hidden vegetarian agendas) supposedly the welfare of farm animals and the worthiness of agriculture. Like the Vegan Society, the Vegetarian Society has attracted the attentions of the Charity Commissioners. The Vegan Society has been the despair in the vegetarian movement because of internecine strife and its association in the minds of legislators and manufacturers with violence. It is a tragedy that the vegetarian cause has been so compromised.

5. Green Planning

5.1 Successors of VNRC later to become VEGA furnished the Vegetarian Society in 1976 with a Green Plan for research on farming, food, health, and land, dealing objectively with the challenges and trying to enlist support for the initiatives started by the VNRC. They were acclaimed as the Society’s policy. They would have averted the confusion and disarray at the moment. The Green Plan embraced the wellbeing of all species (human and all other animals and wildlife, as well as the environment and resources such as water, air, fuel, and soil) - a full-blooded realization of the mission descried and pursued by the VNRC. The word vegetarian, qualified if necessary by prefixes (or suffixes) should suffice (e.g. lacto-ovo-vegetarian); the neologism vegan is otiose, confusing, and avoidably divisive; the word vegetalian persists, particularly on the European mainland, and implies a raw food consumer or fruitarian and would therefore find little application for manufactured foods or beverages. Grow Food, not Feed, is the Green Plan mission for a kind agriculture.

5.2 Launch of the Green Plan attracted enormous interest in the press, radio and TV. It also attracted respectful appreciation by farming journalists. We accompanied it with a Campaign for Real Bread, many objectives for which were attained in quick order. Labelling played a major part. Stacks of pallid loss-leader Mother’s Shame gave over in supermarkets seeking means of value-adding and variety to a range of informatively-labelled loaves (and flours), e.g. with contents and type of fat and salt, some from local, traditional bakeries. The market anticipated the ultimate achievements of legislators. No longer could the complaint be made that socks were better labelled than a loaf of bread. The customer was generally better served, as well as the interests of special groups. The initiative was chosen with appreciation of the agronomy of British cereal growing and with the introductions – still needing monitoring and definition – of the Chorley Wood process and of factory and in-store baking.

5.3 Carry-over in milling is common, as the testimony at the BSE Inquiry and surveys of drug and pesticide residues in feeds prove yet again. In our CAMREB campaign and with medical assistance we served the interests of celiac patients and sufferers with wheat enteropathies to explore possible enrichment of their diets with oat products, because many samples of oatmeal and derivatives, especially from small outlets, were contaminated by carry-over at the mill with residual wheat. This example of contamination, which indicated chances of relief for the disadvantaged populations, was reinforced by instances, especially in toddlers, of severe milk allergy after consumption of “non-dairy” or “vegan” commodities. It raises many questions over precautions and warnings, the needs of populations with various dietary aversions, and the trend in food manufacturing to pharmaceutical standards in dedicated premises. How many consumers know how to distinguish Marmite not made in a factory also making Bovril?

5.4 Advances in processes such as glycosylation and molecular folding will enhance the range of substances with high molecular weights that can be synthesised by microorganisms, avoiding the use of objectionable culture media and competing significantly with the exploitation of, say, milch-animals. Research and development in fermentation promise benefit in provision of innovative food processes relieving exploitation and cruelty to animals. Recent advances with the “milks of human kindness” obtained by feeding home-grown nitrogen-fixing pulses into gleaming stainless-steel vats are preferable to stuffing imported soya beans into mucky, miserable, and mastitic cows.

5.5 It is sad that these innovations ignore the possibilities in vaunting animal welfare aspects. Such is the market’s assessment of priorities in the consumers’ anthropocentric minds! Further, as with cruelty-free cosmetics, retailers are loth to juxtapose products pointing guilt on their like selling profitably in the same department.

6. What’s On the Label

6.1 Traceability and access to information on manufacturing practices are factors retailers must be required to furnish to all customers. Modern IT allows opportunities unconfined by space on labels. Proof of monitoring and the competence behind policing and assurances and approvals must be overseen by the FSA. In practical terms traceability of livestock must be by the best means for the animals’ wellbeing, i.e. to the standards required for pets being prepared for journeys to and from abroad. Ear-tags are likely to be torn out and lost and must be disallowed on several accounts. If foods can be delivered after on-line ordering, labelling and further information should be easily accessible by any customer with a computer.

7. Assalt course

7.1 In our interest in the Campaign for Real Bread and many other foods on the market we initiated many years ago an enterprise to expose the salt/sodium content in commodities on sale in the UK. This received lukewarm support from MAFF and the many interests that might be expected to endorse it. Marmite and similar extracts much consumed by toddlers and children came in for special attention (and rejection!). We were preparing nutritionally-assessed Day Plans of a week’s menus for the Vegetarian Society and calculated the sodium intakes as a sodium/potassium ratio, which seemed scientifically a more apposite measure. The Vegetarian Society accepted Marmite’s payment and approved the salty product. Soup cubes are another very expensive way of buying unnecessary salt; health food stores sell reduced salt extracts, which invite the FSA’s commendation.

8. Cosmetics, Toiletries etc

8.1 VNRC members and other vegetarian campaigners launched the anti-fur movement and the enterprises behind cruelty-free cosmetics, toiletries, and household goods, as well as clothing and footwear. This campaign has prospered, with some recent disappointments over weak restrictions on imported products. Franchising (i.e. Body Shop) overcame severe marketing problems; Body Shop also established exemplary systems of labelling and further sources of in-store information open to customers.

8.2 A campaign instigated in the EU and under examination in the UK, where it has support from Friends of the Earth and the Women’s Environmental Network, aims at testing for safety about 30,000 “homely” chemicals. This REACH project would include many domestic and familiar products encountered in farming, horticulture and food preparation and hygiene, as well as materials used in manufacturing and catering. In financial costs and value the chemical industry rates the project fatuous; in avoidable experimentation of animals it would be deplorable and inadequately budgeted for on this score by FoE and WEN. Warnings on soaps, detergents, disinfectants etc must surely suffice. If experiments on animals are rated irrelevant and misleading, the REACH project surely emphasizes its poor scientific value: education, labelling, and objective surveillance by the relevant government ministries and agencies, which include the FSA, are required for the public good. Washing-up liquid should carry the warnings with the prominent promise NOT tested on animals in the REACH project.

9. E150 OUT

9.1 The year a vehicle in the UK was introduced to our roads with this number plate we, while at the Vegetarian Society (as the Research and Publicity Section) and our involvement in Beauty Without Cruelty and its concern over animal experimentation behind sales of toiletries and cosmetics (it was expressing the Vegetarian Ethic thus), launched a campaign to oust inclusion of artificial colourings and other ingredients in such commodities focusing, for a number of scientific reasons, on caramels (then all varieties included in the labelling as E150). Support from the VS and the expected organizations was lacklustre and overwhelmed by concern of others on the coal-tar dyes, especially tartrazine and hyperactivity in children. However, the licensing authorities, against heavy opposition from the FDF and cola manufacturers, were concerned enough to differentiate by suffixes the most objectionable chemicalized caramels. Support for the campaign is still needed.

9.2 We descry several salient matters:

9.2.1 The innocence at many catering places of issues and information – and even interest- in the content and quality of the food purveyed. Some dishes contain pre-cooked items (possibly in animal fat) that undergo final preparation (with vegetable oil) in the kitchen before serving. Such notices and information available that may be of interest to many customers concern warnings or abrogations of responsibility on matters such as content of GM components or traces of nuts (blurring a definition of nutritious components of many veggie diets).

9.2.2 Vexatious confusions over descriptions disadvantage discriminating customers. For instance, the “vegetarian option” is at a glance suitable only for lacto-ovos. Use of the word vegan introduces misunderstandings of the concept of “real” vegetarianism and delays and consternations in queues as untutored staff repair to a bewildered manager or chef who, notwithstanding prior warnings, rustles up an almost protein-free salad direct from the fridge; and there’s no soya milk available for breakfast tea. It is slowly becoming recognized, e.g. in airline catering, that an option suitable for real veggies can satisfy demi-semi-waverers, omnivores, and carnivores and avoid segregation at the trough.

9.2.3 VEGA has been particularly concerned over these matters in institutional and communal catering. We have participated, e.g. at the Royal Society of Medicine, on catering in hospitals, universities, and prisons (a lot of “vegans” there!), in conjunction with the requirements, some usefully overlapping, of other “ethnic” groups. Celebrity foodies have expensively advised and propounded on catering in hospitals (including meals and snacks for the staff), which has received approbation from the Vegetarian Society and presumably dismay if we could arouse the FSA and DoH from their indifference. Prime offerings from the celebs are really cheesy –quiche and cauliflower cheese, for instance, with some exotic varieties. We can only advise- and hope to enlist- support from the FSA for our attentions and advice to real veggies (often too proud to submit readily to illness requiring hospital treatment) to choose an institution where friends can supplement the food on offer with more than the obligatory grapes, always with the understanding of a (probably already) overworked dietician.

9.2.4 Our complaints over the shortcomings of communal catering at which veggies are likely to be present include services at the FSA and at events organized by the Nutrition Society, British Nutrition Foundation, DEFRA, Royal Society of Medicine, and various veterinary societies; however, the British Veterinary Association “tries harder” and the catering at the Scientific Society’s conference centre in London has been splendid in this regard. The FSA claims that science informs its policies….

9.2.5 Over the conference season this last summer at various centres and universities within the UK a VEGAn booked in for vegan catering, with the additional explanation that this meant strict vegetarian. In all he had mingled with over 2000 diners and consumers of lunch boxes. They comprised a population with medical and health interests, catered for by experienced and well-known caterers. He was the only strict veggie out of the 2000, and the word vegan was never fully understood. What arrived at mealtimes was nutrient-deficient or in the junk category- oh, just for jacket potato and baked beans and crisp fresh lettuce, rather than lollo rosso recently recovered from some arctic store!

9.2.6 The British Atherosclerosis Society’s meeting at New Hall College was good: a strict veggie meal with no fuss (this was a girl’s college in term-time). The VEGAn had to spend a night in the cheapest B and B just outside the college, where his veggie needs were understood and catered for without fuss (“we often have American guests”). Likewise, a veggie restaurant in Cambridge knew its onions and is sympathetic to suggestions for inclusion in its daily menu of dishes chosen from a Portfolio recommended by medical authorities as an alternative to long-term intakes of OTC statins and by us in invited submissions to the Cabinet Office on Farming and Food policy for eventual consideration by the Curry Commission, named after its chairman. (And the B and B’s information in the room asked visitors to refrain from bringing in takeaways of just the types the FSA condemns).

9.2.7 These anecdotes contain evidence of the experiences of our own and others, and must engage the FSA’s interest and help. It confirms VEGA’s advice on blunted and unnecessary definitions; the word vegan is still little understood and ineffectual- it remains a niche-word- and its connotations, if anything, detract from desirability in the general public, as well as the marketing impressions of lack of taste and texture. The vegetarian concept has emerged from a niche into a rut of confusion when it could have benefited the world with unalloyed endeavour.

9.2.8 The meanings of vegetarian and pure vegetarian Indian restaurants require clarification.

10. Famine and Fasting World Food Day

10.1 Some members of the VNRC had independently reacted to Cold War issues and military displays and May Day trade union jamborees and excesses with relevant recognitions of the plight of populations in Third World. This entailed volunteering to forgo a meal and donating to famine relief the amount saved. This endeavour ran for some years, thanks to publicity in the New Statesman and the Sunday broadsheets. Two famous vegetarians, Brigid Brophy (novelist) and Ruth Harrison (the author of Animal Machines) were regular supporters. In the amalgamations of the late sixties the VNRC and this group integrated into the Vegetarian Society, which switched the initiative to continuous campaigning culminating annually in international celebrations of World Food Day on 16th or 17th October.

10.2 The campaign ran mainly by classified ads changing weekly in the NS and Sunday papers, then a very cheap and stimulating medium (Richard Crossman, then editor of the NS, refused one ad, which the Observer accepted only after the word filthy- on slaughterhouse hygiene- was changed to unclean; the Sunday Times brooked no objections from its major advertisers and asked for more from us). Local branches ran soup kitchens and various enterprises to emphasize the world food message and the Society entered with Oxfam and Christian Aid and others into a government committee (with one half of a civil servant) chaired by Frank (later Lord) Judd. The VNRC’s Green Planning and Grow Food not Feed policy, as well as experience in many countries (mainly tropical) overseas, were appropriate and one member of the Research Section of the VNRC was completing a project on agriculture of crops and their weeds and pests in temperate climates and at lower latitudes (these were “organic” times, pre GM).

10.3 The Judd committee failed signally to persuade the GPO to celebrate WFD with a special set of postage stamps. Many other countries in the FAO celebrated the day in this way. The civil servant was put on other duties, and the Judd committee was wound up. However, some of those issues are being worked on, particularly by scientists at Rothamsted, and, with less lofty motives, by enormous industrial interests. However, the agronomical matters and corollaries have persisted with the likes of VEGA and have informed consultations with DEFRA. The germ of revival of WFD celebrations, sown in discussions in the SUSTAIN group, to which VEGA is affiliated, bids fair to return to a prominence and relevance appropriate for attention and participation by DEFRA and the FSA.

10.4 Oxfam’s initiatives have been praiseworthy except for a venture to grow cassava (manioc or tapioca) in Thailand as a cash crop for export to Europe as feed for intensively-reared livestock. This ploy was ill-advised because of anti-nutritional factors in many tropical crops, which need special processing; further, intensively reared-livestock are now farmed in developing countries in Asia (including India), and South America, the meat and other (mainly poultry products and possibly some nasty viruses) and processed and ready-meals being exported to Europe and N. America. This is a wholly undesirable trend that offends a population much wider than professed veggies. However, Oxfam’s earnests on the international trade in cash crops such as sugar, tobacco, bananas, and cotton are commendable in Green Plan terms.

10.5 One investigation by a researcher now at VEGA revealed a sorry state in a British granary in an old wartime building in eastern counties. Bags of grain, some burst, were piled in store open to rodents, birds, and cats, all liberally leaving their excrement. The manager was reassuring: “it’s all reserved for famine relief”. Matters have improved, mainly by the calls for traceability and responses by major manufacturers and retailers, but we as vegetarians need the resources of DEFRA for reliable reassurances that some of staples of dubious provenance are not so contaminated nor in other ways (e.g. pesticide residues and mycotoxins and with heavy metals).

11. Collaborations

11.1 We have had much collaboration with TSOs, EHOs, the press, and other investigators in the course of our research and activity. Some prosecutions and testimony have ensued, with successful outcomes. Animal welfare proceedings are hampered by several factors, especially in rural areas and where, say, local employment is a powerful interest in inhibiting testimony and prosecution (factors in the arguments over hunting illustrate this). In our monitoring of livestock markets and slaughterhouses over the years we have witnessed many instances of intimidation and assault on officials. The MHS employs foreign vets whose job is hazardous. In one assault on such a vet a notorious slaughterhouse owner and dealer was fined more for errors in the paper work than for the attack. Professional loyalties sometimes impede proceedings against vets. A vet may also be implicated in a confusion of interests with indictments on a client.

11.2 Religious slaughtering (Jewish and Muslim) poses special difficulties, which daunt inspectors and authorities fearful of expensive litigation and appeals, the legal costs of which local authorities are reluctant to hazard and test. We have been able to “shop” a ritual butchers’ and slaughterhouse on a welfare matter; the local EHOs had accepted or ignored parlous hygiene.

11.3 We also shopped a vet peddling clenbuterol, an illicit growth-boosting drug, at a livestock market under the eyes of the police and market officials. This case had ultimately to be passed to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the vet was struck off. We were in contact with the authorities in the Low Countries, where a Belgian investigator was murdered. In Ireland we were involved with the press in investigating traffic implicated with subsidy swindles and illicit drugs of all sorts, as well as the IRA.

11.4 We have therefore some experience in litigation in matters of food law, especially when big companies can weigh in. We spent much time with advice and expert witness for the defence in the McLibel trial, as a result of which the judge opined on this part of the libel case that the indomitable pair had established “culpable cruelty” by McDonalds. No further action was taken; however, the firm had lost a lot of money and reputation; and lawyers had made a killing.

11.5 We hesitate to recommend to the FSA reliance on hasty legal definitions and proceedings. Big firms will be only too ready anyway to settle indemnifications privately, as has happened in infringements due to, say, lapses causing food-borne disease. If the FSA assumes responsibility for “suitability” statements and assurances manufacturers and retailers have a hedge against aggrieved customers. We bear in mind these factors in the contexts of health warnings on cigarettes and our own leanings for welfare warnings on products from the live/deadstock industry. The FSA has to ponder on these matters on warnings (rather than insistence on “straight” information on the labels) on commodities high in sugar, salt and fat (which may also clash with the expectations of consumers for foods suitable for groups such as vegetarians keen- as their literature shows- on health).

11.6 We have found the Inland Revenue very useful in clinching investigations on animal welfare and hygiene crimes that implicate- as is likely- tax offences. A successful investigation of knacker meat going “over the fence” into the food chain was nicely concluded by entry of the tax inspectors.

12. Marking our Territory

12.1 We can have no confidence in the FSA’s standards of performance in protecting vegetarian interests when its officers haven’t even considered the FAWC’s pronouncements and recommendations nor even responded to our urgings for engagement with the FAWC on matters that manufacturers and retailers rate of small consequence in the market, although an important factor for those with vegetarian persuasions and many others even better informed on animal welfare matters.
12.2 Legal eagles will have to come to terms with many definitions, for instance, cruelty, unnecessary cruelty and absence (of objectionable traces) for instance. The FSA faces the difficulty already, as do the RSPCA Freedom Foods, Soil Association etc, with disagreements even among their own ranks. Experience with Beauty Without Cruelty cosmetics teaches cogent lesions and emphasises, as the Real Meat Company illustrates, reliance on brand loyalty and the workings of a competitive market serving discriminating and well-versed customers. To its credit the RSPCA, the registered charity, sponsors and publishes independent and critical assessments of the performance of its Freedom Foods Company. It is the FSA’s responsibility to ensure that customers and their chosen investigators have easy access to such information without recourse to spies, whistle blowers, or planted shareholders.

12.3 It must be the FSA’s responsibility to ensure that leasing of logos, sales of symbols, and marks of approbation are relevant, meaningful, and generally understood, and that the administration of such schemes is policed and monitored by organizations fit for these duties and able financially to begin legal proceedings if allegations of infringements require them.

13. Trends

13.1 Statistics indicate a trend in the British public to a nation of meat reducers and dairy-frees. Vegetarian campaigners must still welcome a reduction by 10% in the national consumption of animal-derived products as preferable to a doubling of the population calling themselves vegetarians and enormously more of a conversion to strict veganism. Manufacturers and retailers must be encouraged to exploit this estimable trend. Labelling suggesting strict compliance must not inhibit a wider interest by emphasizing austerity and self-denial in a niche market. We have followed these suggestions through, hoping that the FSA and Depts of Education and Health will inculcate a sane and informed general interest in farming and foods, devoid of publicity tricks and resort to unstable celebrities.

13.2 Since the early 1970s VEGA and its forerunners have been involved with vegetarian populations of all sorts in epidemiological studies on diet and health. The Oxford Vegetarian Study was one of the first and represented the natural enthusiasm for promising expression of the animal welfarists’ 3Rs (Reduction, Refinement, Replacement) in the use of animals in medical research. Interpretations of the data have been spoilt by inaccuracies and unreliability in personal records of diet and lifestyle. Some “vegetarian” subjects were found to be eating more meat and animal fat than health-conscious omnivores enrolled as controls. The statistics are therefore suspect in terms of total numbers and associations. These problems have been met in the much more comprehensive EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation in Cancer) and means sought, possibly with markers, to generate more reliable records.

13.3 The success of these devices will interest scientists, the food and farming industries, and the FSA and DEFRA, and presage better data-gathering and results for the forthcoming long-term and big Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Biobank studies. Until then we have to warn the FSA of misunderstandings that we’ve come across. There’s the vegan and raw food activist we found scavenging the leftovers and sugar left on the tables after an event catering for meat eaters. He had averred that his B12 levels did not decline on his diet of oatmeal and cabbages. When challenged he stated that scavenged food did not count nutritionally as it wasn’t paid for by him. Further, the epidemiologists refused to believe that, as we found out, he was wont to drink his own urine (probably not others’, however). Then there was the keen cyclist who said he subsisted on grass and omitted to reckon chocolate bars as a source of calories. He couldn’t be ignored because there was a war on. Then there was the misinformation spread on the humble carrot as a means of augmenting RAF pilots’ visual acuity and success with the girls- and concealing the contribution of radar in locating and attacking enemy night bombers.

13.4 Muslim slaughterers are not averse to refusing a deferential soft drink for a pint. (This custom is apparently halal as long as the infidel pays- it’s an inhibition known in other pub cultures too). So interpreters of customers and their demands in commerce must exercise care in assessing “niche” markets and observances.

13.5 Post-war developments on nutrition, the discovery of vitamin B12, and fortification of the national loaf released the thrall for vegetarians were living in what was becoming a food market more unfriendly and certainly for strict practitioners of the discipline than pre-war. The human body had developed an adaptation to at least a gatherer-hunter form, and elaborate and tenuous argument failed to uphold the insistency of nutritional adequacy. Introduction of a soya milk (Plamil), extensively fortified as an alternative to animal milk, breached the resistance to fortification and supplements, and new veggies under the banner of vegans have become the nation’s main users. Food rationing ended 50 years ago. Britain’s socialist Chancellor of Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps (who is still regarded as an able manager of a battered economy), was a raw-food veggie (what might be called then a vegetalian) and an advocate opposing the pile-ridden and constipated Ernest Bevin in keeping the nation loaf brown. Bevin’s discomfort at the high-policy sittings must have led to some unfortunate decisions. The VNRC had to plead for lifting of the subsidy disadvantage suffered by wholemeal bread. An enterprising greengrocer opened a vegetarian restaurant above his shop in Tottenham Court Road, London, one floor of which was devoted to Roh Kost salads and muesli (which had been introduced from the Bircher Benner Clinic in Zurich). Smoking in this place was unheard of.

13.6 Nutritional assessments are significantly influenced by the changes in attitudes to fortification and supplementation, which are recorded inadequately and often imprecisely in surveys; further, the contents, formulations, and origins of the components must be appraised. In a survey with the MAFF we found some serious discrepancies between actual (by analysis) and declared potencies (by information on labels). We are not satisfied that these doubts have been resolved and would like help from the FSA to continue the survey.

13.7 Our inquiries and deductions have led to evidence of deficiencies in wider populations. Emphasis has fallen on vulnerable groups such as young and pregnant women and their babies and the elderly, and on certain anti-nutrient factors in foods such as soya that have become staples of vegetarian diets. Cognitive performance has become a new measure of dietary adequacy and the incidence of eating disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia) has become a serious factor in young women. Incautious dietary persuasions may touch off profound deficiency and irreversible harm. We have viewed with alarm vegetarian zealots, understandably inflamed by the proselytising of the meat and dairy industries, let loose with Jesuitical fervour on school children. They undo many of the benefits of sympathetic counselling. They also call for advice supported by good labelling and nutritional information.

13.8 VEGA’s website indicates our main concerns. Dietary intakes and bioavailability, as well as comprehensive and easily-available information in composition of food tables, are needed, particularly for the vegan element, on iron, zinc, calcium, iodine, selenium, B-vitamins, vitamin D (D2 especially), and on the composition of oils and fats- trans, omega6/omega3 ratios, CLA, and DHA, for instance, as well as sodium/potassium ratios.

13.9 Our study, still uncompleted, of brazil nuts, which are good sources of the element selenium, illustrates the need for research. Assessments of ready-mixed muesli mixtures found only one widely-available brand devoid of the nuts. Supermarkets have been responding to our pleas for year-round sales of nuts, rather than only at Christmas (when they are a rich source of nutrients ineptly applied at a season of dietary excess). However, vegetarians are a group influenced by Fair Trade principles, and tree-nuts such as brazils come from rainforests; accordingly, we have aimed at allaying misgivings on this score by prompting Fair Trade sales, e.g. through Oxfam shops. Labelling is essential in keeping discerning customers well-informed. We are also trying to revive cultivation, use, and sales of cobnuts (filberts) and hazel nuts from traditional plats in Kent and Surrey. We are hoping to give educational material for the Biome Project in Cornwall. We also hope that such endeavours will attract participation by the FSA.

14. Genetics, Breeding and Modification

14.1 GM cannot be ignored in the labelling requirements for, and information on, foods, household goods, clothing etc. Customers generally are concerned, and veggies, with the purports they express in agronomy and Green Planning, should be awakened to care and demand in their choices. The FSA and Consumers’ Association have been remiss in ignoring education rather than indoctrination, not explaining to careful consumers the commercial and agronomic differences between a Sante and a Russet Burbank potato, for instance, and methods of propagation that account for the cloning of “seed” potatoes and bananas, not to mention the dark history of the otherwise revered Golden Promise barley for good ale. Recent outrages over GM have been superficially based and badly handled by the food-industry and most consumer and foodie organizations.

14.2 All the evidence indicates that professed vegetarians plump for the anti-GM cause, imbued with that opposition almost to the exclusion of anything else and influenced by strident voices in organizations they consider “friendly” to their views. Vegetarian Society’s shilly-shallying, e.g. over rennins in cheese-making (which, like many processing aids, e.g. filters and clarifying agents, may not be consumed as such or be transformed in the processing to fragments or complexes unidentified.) illustrates this confusion.

14.3 Suitability for veggies of GM must be judged case by case. Insertion of fish genes into tomatoes, for instance, should prompt a not-suitable warning. Insertion of fish or, preferably, other marine genes, e.g. from sea plants, in order to endow terrestrial crops with the nutritional advantages, without the taste and contamination, of say, cod liver oil or consumption of fish, would seem to be acceptable. Peanuts genetically modified to remove allergens would be likely to rate as suitable. Additives such as citrates, entailing microbiological technology, are already accepted undistinguished and likely to remain so. A legalized minimal definition of vegetarian stipulations could deny it desirable accommodation to well-informed innovations in the farming and food industries.

14.4 Some challenges to be considered are milk and meat from chimeras and clones arising from pharmaceutical applications and wool, meat, and milk from sheep genetically modified to release their fleece without shearing (which would be claimed to reduce stress on the animal and reduce cost). These practices may not be acceptable in the UK, but permitted in countries from which we import the products.

14.5 Beefing up “milky” herds has long gone on without objection – and even embraced within approvals – by lacto-ovo-veggies such as the Vegetarian Society’s members and by many people styling themselves animal welfarists. The practice entails putting a stud bull with the notable culard genetics and characteristics (double muscling), by artificial insemination, on cows throwing calves with excessive dairy attributes. These tricks entail insertion of semen from a broad-beamed bull into a narrow pelvised cow, usually a black-and-white Friesian or Holstein. Calves sired by such processes, where the bull is may be a Belgian Blue, are likely to suffer birth difficulties and distress (dystocia) for the cow, especially if she is heifer. Normal and AI matings may cause such difficulties and consequent recourse to caesareans then introduce chronic problems with adhesions (scarring), possibly multiple, like those suffered by women after hysterectomies and other surgical interventions. Some sort of control over the workings of the dairy/beef/veal sector is achieved by the movements of the markets for beef, dairy produce, cows, and new born calves and subsidies, rather than agitated objectors to GM or infuriated animal welfarists, or the FSA and its observances on assurances on the cheesy side of lacto-ovo vegetarianism.

14.6 Developments in farming for bio-mass, bio-lubricants, biofuels, as well as for food and applications and value-adding for by-products and co-products, demand breeding practices in agriculture and forestry similar to issues that arouse controversy in the GM context. Manipulation of brassica crops such as oilseed rape for feed and food and for manufacturing purposes illustrate this point, and indicate needs for labelling to allay consumers’ confusions over choice. Farming practices over cultivations and networked irrigation under plastic, as well as livestock keeping in plastic sheds, will attract vegetarian interests in environmental and husbandry issues calling for further information.

15. Following the flag. The Seedling Emblem

15.1 We have argued elsewhere (see A Clash of Symbols news item on our website) that this flag of both allegiance and defiance, representing the promise in a sprouting seedling (but of what you may ask), was intended by the Vegetarian Society for unlimited distribution, in the manner of the CND symbol. Members now associated with VEGA devised the scheme and its execution and promotion. One of our Trustees holds evidence of this and of stickers displayed (but not for long) in the HQ of the Meat and Livestock Commission’s canteen when it began serving vegetarian meals for staff. It was widely copied, and printers’ blocks for the purpose were distributed. Regrettably, a number of “genetic modifications” were applied in versions that destroyed the simplicity and catholicism of the message.

15.2 One of our Trustees was closely involved with the artist who created the desired and originally-distributed design. He has since died. We contend that the unadorned and unaltered emblem can still serve its original purpose without restraint of tribute. Altered versions, e.g. with appended words, letters or numbers, may be eligible for copyright and restriction. We lament the confusion and setback to the original intention, but it is important that the public and the trade understand that promulgation of the veggie message is being unnecessarily restrained.

15.3 Further, in the context of the FSA’s considerations of vegetarians we call attention to declarations of interest and practice from all parties, by analogy with the charitable and commercial status of operations under the banners of Beauty Without Cruelty and the RSPCA. We have already cited in this memo an example in which the RSPCA charity commissioned a critical investigation, the results of which have been published, into the standards of monitoring for the Freedom Foods commercial branch. Members of the charity have also been fiercely critical of failure, allegedly in the paperwork in the offices and monitoring of Freedom Foods, Moy Park, and Tesco, to stop sales for some months of poultry not eligible for the Freedom Foods accreditation. This can be a problem at farms with flocks and cultivation managed under different standards of licensing. Mixing and passing off can easily occur.

15.4 Testimony and comment from, say, the Vegetarian or Vegan Society must declare the commercial interest, both in the manner described above or in accepting advertisements and advertorial in its publications- a practice that VEGA, like the Consumers’ Association, does not follow.

16. Free-Range: What does it mean?

16.1 This is a misleading description that the FSA and Consumers’ Association should have scotched some time ago, for reasons discussed at meetings attended by the relevant officials. Free-range applied to cattle-rearing might be acceptable; Anchor use it in their advertisements for dairy-produce from the special forms of farming in New Zealand. We have been successful in gaining changes and packaging in the claims and labelling of eggs sold by major retailers, and the Retail Meat Co has recently exposed alleged misrepresentations by M&S and Waitrose. Hardly any commercially-produced eggs satisfy the company’s standards, so it can sell very few, retaining, in its opinion, the customers’ loyalty in branded products not needing further monitoring, assurances, or approbation.

16.2 Definitions of free-range eggs in the Vegetarian Society’s stipulations are too vague to stand up to critical appraisal and legal requirements. Would customers be right in assuming that the eggs and derivatives satisfy Freedom Foods and Soil Association’s standards, except for the exclusion by the RSPCA, on perceived grounds of animal welfare (which we think have some validity in commercial practice), over debeaking (presumably beak trimming is implied). It would seem after all these years that the Vegetarian Society must clarify its “core position”, to which retailers and customers might otherwise assume it would easily slip. Manufacturers are unlikely to invest much accommodation to such uncertain demands.

16.3 In our experience (and the RSPCA’s) producers may aver that “we don’t trim the birds’ beaks”, which may be true, but observers of the flock see plenty of birds lacking the tip of their beak. In fact, the producer buys in poults, trimmed at a young age (and supposedly with less cruelty, acute or chronic).

16.4 As  

Registered Charity No. 1045293
© VEGA - 2008