You know we're all about fair trade here at Rabbit Towers - it's at the heart of what we do. But that doesn't mean it's all we care about. We're also passionate about the environment, and ways we can safeguard the fragile world we call home.
Many of you will know that as well as steering the ship at Eighteen Rabbit, Louise also works for the Vegan Society as their Head of Campaigns and Policy. This week, she's helped to launch the biggest campaign in the Society's history, Plate up for the Planet. They're challenging people to try veganism for seven days, to show the huge impact that animal agriculture has on the planet.
Did you know that the global agriculture industry is responsible for more harmful greenhouse gas emissions than the whole of the transport sector combined? It makes you think - perhaps the answer to climate change was being handed to us on a plate all along!
If you're concerned about the environment, are a vegetarian who's been thinking about cutting out eggs and dairy, or just if you want to be part of the hottest food trend around (don't ask me - ask Miley Cyrus!), why not sign up today? You'll get seven days of cool recipes, hints and tips. You never know, you may love it so much you carry on!
Slightly off-topic, but who doesn't like pizza? When Louise and I made a flying visit to London at the weekend, there was one place we knew we had to make a stop at. We'd read the reviews, we'd drooled over the photos, now it was time to get stuck in!
We found Picky Wops in an unassuming strip of shops on a busy Fulham street, the usual mix of bookies, takeaways, convenience stores and more bookies. As we wandered in we realised we hadn't been the only ones to have had the same bright idea, as the place was packed. We grabbed the last couple of seats at the counter and began to check out the menu.
The first thing that strikes you about Picky Wops isn't the amazing aroma of pizza, or the cool decor - it's the welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable staff running the show. Andrea and Cristiano, plus the rest of the team, went the extra mile to make us feel welcome and walk us through the menu. And this is where Picky Wops gets interesting.
What makes this place special is the bases. They offer six different styles of base, some of which give the traditional pizza a complete makeover. Choices include turmeric, hemp and spirulina, and each has a subtle yet distinctive taste. After this come the toppings, all freshly prepared to order, and cooked in the blazing furnace behind the counter. Louise went for the Protein Punch, featuring doner kebab and pesto, while I tried the Hot Dickens with salami and jalapenos.
Picky Wops lives up to its billing. For me, it's in the top three pizzas I've had in London, and I have worked my way through a few. Sadly they don't yet deliver to Hay on Wye, but it's surely only a matter of time! Until then, it's a new must-visit destination for us any time we're in London.
PS did I mention that all the pizzas are 100% vegan? That's actually the least interesting thing about the place though. With pizza this good, you won't miss out on anything!
I was asked an interesting question at West Midlands VegFest on Sunday. Are you a vegan? While you might think that would be a question you'd know the answer to instantly, I hesitated for a moment before saying no.
I do eat a predominantly plant-based diet. So that's vegetables, fruit, beans, rice, but no meat, fish, eggs or dairy. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, the food is delicious, and it makes me more careful about what I'm eating. So rather than transferring something from the freezer to the oven, I'm following recipes and making things from scratch - like these delicious deep fried "chicken" wings!
Secondly, eating a plant based diet has a hugely positive effect on the environment. In fact, factory agriculture accounts for roughly the same amount of carbon emissions as the whole of the global transport sector combined.
And of course there is animal welfare. With plans currently on the table for another factory chicken farm in Clyro, I couldn't in all good conscience enjoy my KFC.
At Eighteen Rabbit we sell a cool selection of different vegan items - from wallets to chocolate to skincare.
But - I'm not a vegan. Every now and then I'll get a pizza from Dominos, cheese and all. When we're in Mexico I'll be enjoying some delicious chorizo. When I'm at relatives' houses I'll eat whatever my host has prepared for me. It may seem like a hopeless contradiction. But actually my "sustainable journey" which started at Seventeen Events and continues at Eighteen Rabbit, has taught me that perfection is rarely possible. What matters is doing your best, as often as you can, and not giving up altogether when you choose a less than optimal path.
So I couldn't genuinely call myself a vegan - though I may well one day. For now, I am a proud member of the Vegan Society and enjoying doing whatever I can to promote a plant based lifestyle.
There's an old joke:
Q: How do you know if someone's a vegan?
A: Don't worry, they'll tell you!
So apologies if I've fallen into that trap. But I do have a sense of humour about it! Happy World Vegan Day anyway :)
Some more info on the interesting Powys Transition event about food and farming.
After reeling slightly from Patrick Holden's claim that a 70% meat diet was best for our health and the environment, I then attended a much more palatable session with Helen Porter, representing Compassion in World Farming. Helen spoke about the poor treatment of farm animals in the UK, despite some recent changes in legislation. Battery cages, which allow each egg laying hen the space of about one A4 sheet of paper, are now banned in the EU. However, the legal 'enriched' cages allow just 20% more space.
Helen emphasised the need for consumer behaviour change in order for the situation to improve. If people put pressure on supermarkets, or avoid them completely and buy locally, eventually retailers will respond to what their customers want.
There was a lot of talk about the prevalance of farmers markets in France and the different attitudes to food there. I made the point that it's all very well for us in rural Wales to talk about buying from farm shops and markets, but for many that's just not an option. A tight budget in an urban area often means less ethical purchasing, so we need to work out how ethical eating can be equitable.
The afternoon session was a talk from a local farmer whose farm is currently shut down with TB. Mark Williams told of the stress and upset that TB has caused his family farm. Whilst a non meat eater like me is somewhat cynical to hear that farmers are so sad when they're cows are killed due to TB (they're born to die after all), you could see the genuine upset as Mark explained how TB infected cows are killed prematurely. Of course there's a financial aspect, but the early slaughter is just not what farmers expect or want.
A traditional cattle farmer speaking to a transition town audience is probably either brave or stupid. The audience didn't stray from stereotype and threw a barrage of questions about permaculture, biodynamics and organic farming at Mark. He knew his stuff though and talked about how farming had changed over the years but how he personally believed that chemical fertilisers were improving his livelihood.
On the TB front, Mark called for a controlled badger cull which was not well received by the audience. Currently vaccination rather than culling is used in Wales. Mark's experience didn't change my view that culling is not the answer, but hearing a farmers first hand story was a useful insight.
This event covered a range of issues around food, farming and how it relates to our diet. The issues are complicated and there are many vested interests. It stimulated a lot of debate at the event, and has left me with plenty to think about.
Big thanks to Powys Transition for organising it - oh and for the lovely vegan lunch ;)
Avid readers of our monthly newsletter (sign up here!) may have noticed our preponderance to sharing vegan recipes with you lately. We've been following Michael Pollan's advice to: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
It's been a fun, healthy and (mostly) tasty experience. We've also been trying to keep up motivation levels by improving our knowledge on the subject. Despite being a vegetarian for 25 years and an environmentalist, I was taken aback by the information contained in the documentary, Cowspiracy.
We've all the heard that cows emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which causes global warming. But the scale of the impact of animal agriculture is quite alarming. In fact, the film argues that livestock and their by-products are the single biggest cause of global warming - responsible for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions.
A few more eye-opening facts: -
- 1000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk.
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction.
- A farm with 2500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
The worrying thing is, not one of the campaigning organisations who encourage behaviour change to protect the planet talk about animal agriculture! Cowspiracy tries to talk to organisations like Greenpeace to find out why they never campaign on animal agriculture, but they either won't talk to the flmmaker or they dodge the issue.
It seems that telling people to go vegan is not a popular message, and these charities don't want to risk losing donations. Cowspiracy is a fascinating watch and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in protecting our environment - it might not make you go full-vegan, but I'd be surprised if you didn't think twice before your next burger.