VEGA News Item

Action and Repentance for Lent 2012 - 31/01/2012

Lent is a season of repentance following the revelry and crapulence of Christmas.
It starts on 22nd of February this year, following Shrove Tuesday (Shrive is an Old English word for confession), and lasts for 46 days. There is no doubt it’s needed now. We have used it as a means of personal reform with individual applications to different people. For instance, people who are interested in population, diet, politics, animal welfare and the environment might spend some of the time in Lent reforming some of their own affairs and lifestyle.

Lentils are for Lent

Lent could be celebrated in different ways in different families by having reform days during the week and different activities during the week, but with no detriment to their original purpose. It can be evidenced as changes of diet, for example, as illustrated by our recipes. It can also be celebrated in popular and corporate observances in which a Lent-style dish will be included amongst the choices.

Lent is there for everybody to observe and would be very good for the nation. It would show a bit of muscle to the purveyors of junk food and other follies and help to clear up agriculture, farming and food production. It would also lead to more research comprehending and including new sources of food and new technologies. The issues should remind the British Veterinary Association, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations of the true costs of the milk of human unkindness paid by the dairy cow.

Observance of Lent would demonstrate very clearly the advantages of lessening the consumption of animal-based products, especially meat and milk. This way we would be reviving the old practice of giving up meat for Lent and giving some meaning to the ‘five freedoms’ and recognition that farm animals have been neglected for far too long.

Lent would have other virtues as well in that it would emphasise a kinder world and reduce to some extent the strident advertising for deceptive foods. It would offer kinder methods of farming including better animal welfare, particularly of animals producing food for us to use.

Salutary Food from Salubrious and Sustainable Farming

One factor that has received far too little interest is the beneficial effect on animal welfare of meat-, dairy-, and cruelty-free diets. We have concentrated our thoughts on the mother cow because she plays an important part in what people eat: this must change to a more plant-based lifestyle. In particular, she must not be excluded from policies on animal welfare (as at present) because of her value in providing food and ancillary products such as footwear and clothing.

The cow is revered in many countries, especially in the East and in the Hindu religion. The subject of the first (and longest) chapter of the Koran is the cow. But the cow has become an animal machine through industrialised farming methods, with continual demands to increase milk yields. Efforts to work this machine even harder for mass-production subjects the cow to dangerous stresses and intensifies the cruelties. There is plenty of evidence of the pressures on farming and its ruthlessness as well as a range of environmental and health consequences, from BSE to the consequences of drugs, antibiotics and disease epidemics.

In particular we would cite information in the 2009 Opinion on the Welfare of the Dairy Cow published by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) (See reference 1 below). Several of us attended very productive meetings of FAWC where there was excellent provision for vegetarians and vegans and alternatives such as soya milk on display. At a stroke, the coalition government dismissed the positive efforts of FAWC in order to set up a whole lot of committees and experts, with ensuing delays to progress.

Further reasons for ridding our lifestyles of the monstrous regiment of food producers is the political and social importance of basic foods which should be plant-based and not animal-based. We think that the methods can be adopted by individuals acting on their own behalf and altruistically and can be an effective show of consumer muscle. In particular, vets, other animal defenders, and animal welfare societies such as the BVA, RCVS and RSPCA should be taking an appropriate lead and setting an excellent example in spreading this message.

We’ve chosen authoritative means of pursuing this policy and we suggest that it’s high time we took action and set a fine example by stimulating more research into plant-based eating patterns. The FAWC report, paragraph 72 (see reference 1 below) demonstrates the urgency:

“72. There have been many improvements and initiatives in the dairy industry to address key welfare issues since our last report in 1997. In terms of our main question however, the evidence is that the welfare of dairy cows has not improved significantly over the past decade. There are still critical issues about the welfare of the dairy cow that should be addressed over the next few years.”

Dr Alan Long
31 January 2012

References and Quotes

The text for these references can be found on the VEGA website at:

1. Opinion on the Welfare of the Dairy Cow
Farm Animal Welfare Council, 2009
Paragraphs 9, 15, 17, 19, 21, 25, 31, 42, 55, 60, 72-77

2. Management and Welfare of Farm Animals
Ed. John Webster, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Wiley-Blackwell, 2011
pp 9, 10, 21, 22, 100, 101, 103, 105, 111, 125, 131, 136-141, 153, 161, 163, 165

3. Further Information and Quotes

Global action to tackle antibiotic resistance
Emma Dorey, Chemistry & Industry News, 3/1/2012
1st and 7th paragraphs

Bill Clinton is named the animal world's new best friend
Susie Mesure, Independent on Sunday, 2/1/2011
First 3 paragraphs

Bill Clinton talks about being a vegan
Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times, 18/8/2011
3rd paragraph

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: the joy of veg
Guardian, 26/8/2011
2nd, 7th and last paragraph

Andrew Linzey quoted in ‘Government and Church Inaction Allows Animal Cruelty to Thrive Claims Oxford Theologian’
American Vegan 11-3, Fall 2011
5th paragraph

Quotes from Shakespeare
Antony and Cleopatra; Act 1, v, 67–75
King Henry VI, part II; Act III, I, 204-222
Twelfth Night; Act I, iii
King Lear; Act I, iv, 12-18

Quotes from The Bible
Proverbs 15:17
23rd Psalm


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