Vouchers for Fruit and Veg for Toddlers in Low Income Families
Pregnant women and toddlers from low income families will be eligible to receive free fruit and vegetables under a government scheme starting this week (27 November 2006).
(the child on the photo has nothing to do with the news item)
The Healthy Start program replaces the Welfare Food Scheme, set up during WW2 to protect the health of children during rationing.
Under the new scheme families on low income with children aged between one and 4 years will be eligible for vouchers worth £2.80 each week. All pregnant women under 18 years are eligible. Those with children under a year old will receive 2 vouchers a week.
The vouchers can also be used for cow's milk and formula foods, as well as for vitamin supplements. These are welcome changes in the government's schemes to improve children's diets and the embarrassments of poor parents to afford a variety of recommended fresh foods. Eaten raw, some may save costs of cooking and fuel.
Queries over what may be defined as fruit and veg will copy stipulations for the Five (or more)-a-Day scheme, over which there has been some debate concerning potatoes, beans and nuts; and it may take some more negotiating for extension to non-dairy milks and derivatives.
The scheme will not be very warmly received by British farmers, whose opportunities for growing appropriate fruit (eg bananas, citrus and apples) are limited. Nonetheless, prospects for beneficial choices and Salad Days for salutary purchases by a disgracefully large population of disadvantaged young people, reinforced by the current spate of educational programs and exhortations, bid fair for the future if the money is well spent.
VEGA Comments on an Animal Welfare Legislation
Proposed Changes to Animal Welfare Legislation in Northern Ireland
The definition of "Animal"
Q1.Do you agree with the definition of animal as “vertebrate animals, other than man”?
No, see below
Q2. Do you agree with inclusion of powers to make subordinate (secondary) legislation to amend range of animals to which new legislation would apply when or if scientific knowledge demonstrated that this is appropriate?
No. There are indications that invertebrates do feel pain and distress and they should be included right now allowing for mercy and the precautionary principle, not later. Invertebrates have the capacity to detect and respond to noxious or aversive stimuli and will try to escape or withdraw from e.g. changes in temperature beyond the animal's normal range, contact with noxious chemicals, mechanical interference, or electric shock. All of these might be expected to cause pain in humans.
Definition of “Protected Animal”
Q3. Do you agree with the definition of a protected animal?
Responsibility for an Animal
Q4. Do you agree with the definition of who is responsible for an animal?
Yes, with the addition of custodians
Q5. Do you agree with the need to extend the definition of unnecessary suffering?
To cause pain to an animal is cruelty, unless it can occur in therapies for the animal’s good. The word is unnecessary and confusing.
VEGA’s September Festivation in Science at Uni and Other Events
First Report. Participation, Activity, Campaigning
1. September was such a busy month for off-site activity and representation that we have to report in instalments and enter material gradually into our database. We apologise for the delay in posting our reports on our website and in our VEGA News mail-outs: we’ve not been idle.
2. Our preparations and activities over the summer came to a head as the start of the new academic year approached and with it a new intake of breath and students entering into university life and the challenges of catering and responsible living.
We had prepared material for freshers’ fairs and the catering and self-catering that students would have to experience, with special concern for campuses with a wide range of interests and activities, notably universities with strong departments of Science and Humanities, where the debates over science and ethics might be especially pertinent.
VEGA is an educational Trust, also imbued with practical considerations of meals at uni which were just as important as the catering for schoolchildren. Dietary and physiological – and psychological – changes at puberty and adolescence, some unfortunate and irreversible, engaged our attention as urgently as the wider academic issues.
3. Institutional catering affects staff, teachers, doctors, nurses and visitors at places such as schools, universities, and hospitals and it has to include provision for shift workers and consumers with special and well-understood needs.
A VEGA researcher has just returned from a day’s international conference at Birkbeck College, London University (on genetics and other factors in degenerative diseases such as parkinsonism) at which his special vegan offering was suitable, but appropriate only if he had been a celiac as well; much as the ordinary veggie fare appeared suitable for a strict vegetarian, as was proved when boxes of surplus sandwiches, still in their takeaway packaging, offered for doggy-bags, proved their acceptability, it seems that the caterers don’t understand that “normal” vegans eat bread and use oil and don’t lead protein-deficient diets.
4. September began with the British Association’s Festival of Science, held this year at the University of East Anglia (UEA) at Norwich. For our purposes it was an excellent choice: the campus itself is pleasant and modern, the accommodation and facilities are good, and the University is strong in the Sciences and Arts. Within the Campus or in the abutting Colney Park are the Norfolk General Hospital and the John Innes and Food Research Institutes; Norwich itself is within easy reach by frequent bus services and offers cultural entertainments, some provided within the Festival program.
The Uni is excellently equipped with athletic and sports facilities and environs have arresting characteristics from many points of view – the Norfolk Broads and Brecklands and Fens, to mention a few. The Sainsbury Building is an Arts Centre in the Campus and a reminder of the beneficence from the supermarket family, one of whom was until very recently a Science Minister in the House of Lords.
VEGA’s representative spent the whole week busy on the Campus, except for one day on a guided trip to an ancient forest and another on an archaeological foray: these provide material for on-site sessions back at the University. Can We Animals Communicate Telepathically?
VEGA Responds to Consultation on Welfare of Poultry at Slaughter
VEGA has responded to the DEFRA consultation on a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Poultry at Slaughter.
1. We congratulate DEFRA in producing such a comprehensive code in an accessible form and in a production that is robust and fit for use in the conditions of slaughterhouses. Excuses from slaughterhouses that copies are unavailable must count for nothing.
2. The Codes should allow for further developments in this rapidly-moving subject of the exploitation of birds and the environment and debate over ethics. We note the following topics in this regard.
2.1 The FAWC’s current studies on the slaughter of poultry and suggestions for gradings on welfare.
2.2 The relevance of killing game, wild and farmed, for purposes of food production, pest control, and recreation.
2.3 Greater demands for recording and information on killings carried out without prior stunning, as well as for data on DOAs and results of meat inspection (from which details of pre-slaughter conditions of rearing and handling could be traced, analysed and dealt with).
Preparations should be anticipated for scoring outputs on a welfare basis (such as the Five Freedoms) in the style of the MHS’s HAS's. These results should be available for public inspection and elements of the Animal Welfare Act relating to collections of animals should be inserted into the Codes, especially with regard to rights of entry by local authorities.
2.4 Regulations on the licensing, training, and frequency of fitness for purpose must be strengthened in an industry that is attracting low-paid workers of low calibre to do the dirty work for a public greedy for meretriciously cheap food and consequently sagging standards. The sheer scale of the killing industry calls for further consideration. Special care must be entertained for spent layers and breeding stock of low value in the food chain.
2.5 Culling and on-site slaughtering need urgent consideration as eventualities on a great scale or routine practices to obviate long and arduous journeys prior to slaughter. The Draft Code must be clarified on these matters: more guidance is needed on the use of gases and mixtures.
Is it feasible to use carbon monoxide, for instance, in low concentrations and admixture? Plenty of experience from human accidents and suicide attempts indicate relevant properties of carbon monoxide. It is a method used on farms, with condemned stock confined in a building into which exhaust from a tractor is directed.
2.6 We reiterate our objections to misleading descriptions that are likely to generate complacency and misunderstanding. The Draft Code perpetuates this fault. What welfare is there in the slaughter and killing of poultry subjected to conditions of war reaching to the proportions of massacres?
The Draft Code should be named Conditions and Control of the Killing, Slaughter and Culling of Poultry.
2.7 In a similar style of clarity many of the “shoulds” must be replaced with “musts” and deletions of words such as “avoidable” and “unnecessary” as applied to excitement, pain, and suffering must be made: they fudge issues and blunt legal processes.
3. Our comments and the final Code must apply to all uses of poultry in the production of commodities introduced into the UK from within or without the EU and to products as ingredients in composites (eg manufactured foods).
VEGA comments on a DEFRA consultation
Consultation on statutory guidance for Natural England on regional planning and associated matters
7.1.2.a In considering the scope of this guidance do you agree that natural England should work collaboratively and in conjunction with the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and Government Offices as appropriate and that co-operation should be reciprocated by those bodies?
Yes. Cooperation is vital between government, academia and industry and will enhance the benefits to the environment and to the public. Some kind of local steering groups could be set up to involve all relevant stakeholders (related to 6.5.2).
7.1.2.b A Champion for the Natural Environment - changes 6.3.2 Natural England will: • improve understanding of the natural environment by promoting and explaining its research and data to a wide range of audiences, including the interested public
Although it is important to include the interested public, it is even more vital to include the public that might not be interested or might not know about the issues Natural England will cover. It is imperative to make the information easily available to a broader audience. School education, e.g. in modules on citizenships, could include the elements of this.
7.1.3 In considering the list strategies for which Natural England will be expected to play a major role in the preparation of, do you agree these are the main ones?
Yes, although see point 7.1.4.
7.1.4 Recognising that we cannot, nor intend, to list all potential strategies are there any you consider vitally detract from the guidance by not being listed?
There is a lack of effective mechanisms for managing e.g. agricultural activity on common land and these issues should be included in environment strategies.
7.1.5 Do you agree the role Natural England will play in the formulation of the Rural Development and Structural Fund Programmes?
7.1.6 In considering the wider role of Natural England, do you agree the part it will play in the development and implementation of regional frameworks?
7.1.7 Do you agree Natural England should determine its own level of representation at sub-regional and local level particularly when dealing with Local Strategic Partnerships, Local Delivery Frameworks and Local Area Agreements.
Soya milk sales in grocery multiples are now totalling just on 80 million litres a year, according to data from AC Nielson / So Good PE: 09/09/2006, with an average increase over the last five years of about 10% year on year.
1. The modern typical dairy cow is reaching annual outputs of about 7500l (7.5 tonnes)*. A back-of-envelope calculation indicates that a like-for-like replacement in the human diet would release 15,000 dairy cows a year and an equivalent number of their calves from the dairy and meat herds and the conditions they suffer.
In Australia soya accounts for about 7.5% of dairy milk sales. In the UK soya's share currently runs at 2.5% (with household penetration at 13% compared to 21% in Australia). In 1998, the total yearly market in sales of soya milk was only 8m litres. Fewer cows means reduced emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
2. Some adjustments might have to be made because consumers avoiding dairy products for various reasons of health, but now availing themselves of the new products in the chillers and in UHT forms, would reduce the replacement by, say, a half; this would still relieve 7500 cows and their calves a year - and rising - from the thrall perpetuated on the animals.
These figures are probably underestimates and omit other salient features, such as:
2.1. Yogurts and other dairy derivatives and their like; as well as fifth quarter products, such as offals, blood, pet food, and leather.
2.2. Dairy cows yield "full" milk suitable for their calves but not for today's human consumers of liquid milk: the excess fat skimmed off has to be dumped into products such as butter, cheese, bakery products, and ice creams and confectionery. Fortification of soya milks and their basic properties raise their nutritional and health benefits to surpass those of traditional dairy products.
2.3. Soya-derived "dairy products" can avoid reservations over organic and non-GM designations, which bother organic and Soil Association producers dealing with customers abjuring commodities associated with such reservations. While the health issues are being rigorously promoted, the benefits accruing in animal welfare and environmental matters have so far been inadequately recognized and exploited.
* Our typical cow in the dairy / beef / veal system would hold to first service (by artificial insemination) and would complete 3 lactations and give birth to 4 calves, then being about 6 years old and culled from the herd to be slaughtered and butchered for manufacturing beef, offals, and fifth quarter products (such as hides and fertilizer), as well as contributing to undesirable slaughterhouse effluents. Our calculations assume no reduction in yield owing to mastitis, lameness, milk fever and other reproductive disorders, and to intoxications and injuries on the farm, dietary irregularities, bacterial and viral diseases, and environmental hazards (eg due to litter, such as old farm equipment, accumulators, tire wire, and plastic); these factors may determine the cow's early despatch "down the road".