Down on the 21st Century Pharm – by Bill Palethorpe

In India, millions go hungry yet 37 per cent of arable land is used to grow animal fodder for animals for export. Just imagine that you are one of a party of six people from various backgrounds and countries going out for the evening. You enter the restaurant complex and the Head Waiter noting the chauffeur-driven car you arrived in and your smart clothes directs you to the luxury restaurant serving the best food and wines with the décor to match.

Meanwhile four of the other guests are being allocated to different grades of restaurant with the food and drink ranging from reasonable to not so good. Also the maintenance of the rooms varies from quite pleasant to rather run down and shabby.

Finally the last person is rather patronisingly shown to the queue for the basic soup kitchen. The food and water when available is of questionable quality and never enough for the men and particularly the women and children who desperately travel long distances on foot to reach it. When it rains the roof leaks whilst at other times the sun beats down on the rusty corrugated roof.

Multiply the numbers by one billion and that approximates to human life on God’s beautiful and abundant planet today. How on earth have we got ourselves into this situation where people are increasingly crying “we must save the planet”? One thing is for sure – the planet will adapt and survive; some say much better without us. It is us who rapidly and drastically need to change our lifestyle if our species is to survive.

I remember when I was growing up in the 1940/50s witnessing the hay making in the late summer; visiting the local farm and seeing the chickens scratching around in the farmyard. Amazingly my grandchildren’s farm books still show these scenes. Ducks swimming in the duck pond; cows grazing in the field and pigs foraging in the woods.

The truth is that first of all slowly but then more rapidly, insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides were applied to the land. Animals were regularly dosed with antibiotics and hormone growth injections. Then the animals were increasingly ‘factory farmed’ and out of sight. Try asking to look around a factory farm or an abattoir today and the negative reply will probably be excused by quoting the all encompassing ‘Health & Safety’ legislation.

In the 1950s I used to spend some of my school holidays on the Lincolnshire and East Anglian coast. There I watched in amazement at the fleets of fishing boats bringing ashore huge catches of herring, mackerel, cod and haddock. Today all of these species have virtually disappeared by over fishing. Later in that decade I joined the Merchant Navy; my voyages included trips to the west coast of South America. Here I witnessed hundreds of ships fishing for anchovy. These highly nutritious high protein fish were ideal to feed the poor of South America. However after being processed ashore they were shipped on to vessels bound for the USA and Europe where the fishmeal was incorporated into animal feed and pet food. Incidentally Scottish salmon farms now displace the same amount of waste as 9 million humans, i.e. almost twice the Scottish population, and 25% of deep sea fish caught are wasted not eaten.

In 1962 I was aroused and concerned to read Rachel Carson’s classic thought-provoking book Silent Spring. Although St Augustine said that “We live between the beasts and the Angels” the beasts are virtually innocent in the desecration and desertification of the planet whereas we are culpable in our destructive actions.

In early 2006 I travelled to Kenya and was shocked to see the effects of the East African drought on people, their cattle and the wild life. Also the environmental problems caused by extracting unsustainable amounts of water from Lake Naivasha for intensive flower growing and crop irrigation; both of these items are then exported by plane virtually solely for the luxury European market.

One of my Kikuyu friends has recently found work in Europe and I quote from their correspondence “when I look at the family I am living with; the way they eat, it amazes me and makes me realise how poor Africa is. The breakfast table is always full of different types of cheese, sausages, bread, all cereals and fruits, different types of jam also butters plus tea and milk. Then there is lunch . . . so many meats and sausages and frozen foods . . . and then in their food store and refrigerator / freezer so much meat (especially pork and beef); tubs of ice cream; crates of beers; and all types of fruit juice. They were amazed when I said that I take my bread dry; they have never seen or heard of that. When I look at the layer of butter they apply on their bread . . . these people really eat!”

The earth has enough for everyone’s needs, but not for anyone’s greed. – M.K. Gandhi.

Furthermore we are also physiologically herbivores (Genesis 1:29). All of the great prophets and saints as well as other people of a religious faith and indeed many of none down the ages showed compassion to their fellow humans as well as the beasts of the field. Job also noted that a vegan animal like the hippopotamus “. . . eats grass like an ox. See now the strength in his hips, and the power of his muscles”. Note also the horse, elephant, zebra, giraffe, buffalo and donkey.

Strict vegetarianism (veganism) is an important part of reconciling ourselves with the rest of God’s world. Meat processing is so incredibly inefficient (e.g. beef production approximately 10%). The global demand for meat has increased more than five-fold since the 1950s and in 2005 over 55 billion animals were slaughtered. Sentient animals are actually competing with us for land, food and fresh water. They out-number us by 3:1 and they emit massive amounts of methane gas. Almost every environmental disaster you have heard of since the 1950s is linked to the meat, dairy and fishing industries. The dairy industry alone is currently worth £6bn a year.

A truly David v Goliath battle is taking place for hearts and minds. For example in May 2007 a leaked Government e-mail expressed sympathy with the environmental benefits of a vegan diet and that Defra was “considering recommending eating less meat as one of the ‘key environmental behaviour changes needed to save the planet”. It provoked an immediate response from the National Farmers Union who said the suggestion was “simplistic” and “a cause for concern”. (‘Go Vegan to help climate, says Government.’ Charles Clover, Environment Editor Daily Telegraph 30 May 2007).

Whilst millions are living at or below the official poverty level and dying daily of starvation and drinking polluted water millions of others are succumbing to obesity, diabetes, heart problems, cancer; liver and kidney disease caused by excessive eating, smoking and alcohol. An area of land the size of five football pitches (10 hectares) will support 2 people with meat, 10 with maize, 24 with grain, or 61 with soya.

I am reminded of one of my earliest and favourite Sunday School hymns:

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

People have always turned to the bible for support and confirmation of their views. I am aware that like René Descartes some modern day Christian Evangelists consider that all other animals are provided by God for our use and enjoyment. Genesis tells us that God has given us fruits and seeds for our sustenance. There is no comparison today with two thousand years ago when Jesus was born in a stable and people lived much more in harmony with the land and their few domesticated animals.

In spite of the way modern Western humankind is ravaging the earth my faith tells me that this is the turning of the tide. This is a dangerous but adventurous and challenging time. By changing our lifestyle we can all help others in the developing world – the animals. To quote George Bernard Shaw:

they are my friends and I don’t eat my friends.

And we can help the incredible and complex world that God has entrusted to us and made us stewards of. To quote Mother Teresa:

We can do no great things . . . but we can do small things with great love.

If Jesus and Gandhi walked the Earth today what would they say and do my friends?

Notes:

(1) Bill Palethorpe is now retired but spent an interesting and varied working life in the Merchant Navy; then in banking & administration but mostly in the catering industry (he is a trained Chef and ex MHCIMA; MRSH; MRIPH) finally working for various charities including 6 years at the Vegan Society. A Quaker living in Eastbourne he is available to give talks & cookery demonstrations on veganism.

(2) Before adopting a vegan diet it is very important both for you and the vegan movement to get sound vegan nutritional information (B12;Calcium; etc) and advice.

(3) For further information please either e-mail Bill at hobdell@fastmail.fm or contact organisations including: Viva! & VVF; The Vegan Society; The UK Vegetarian Society; Hippo; Vegfam; Animal Aid; CIWF; QCA; MCL; WWF. Also books published by the internationally renowned Christian theologian Andrew Linzey.

(4) See also <www.vegansociety.com/html/people/lifestyle/faith.php> for a list of organisations that hold vegan and spiritual views.

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Categories: Living & Environment

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One Comment on “Down on the 21st Century Pharm – by Bill Palethorpe”

  1. January 25, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    Ciekawy blog, dodalem go do ulubionych, bede tu napewno wpadal czesciej

    Like

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