Food for thought…

With the recent horsemeat scandal and a number of other stories in the press casting doubt on where our food comes from and what it actually is, it’s not surprising that a number of people are now considering vegetarian and even vegan diets as the way forward. Some of my friends have been doing this for a while, but the longest serving vegetarian/vegan I know has to be my friend Joan Court – who became vegetarian as a teenager some 77 years ago, and is also a confirmed vegan.

Global FruitLocal author Joan explains that the United Nations have said a global shift towards a meat-free and dairy-free diet is necessary if we want to be able to eat sustainably in the future and reduce the impact of climate change; and a look at some of the UN figures that have been published in recent times also suggest that over a third of the food produced globally goes to waste – which sounds bad enough in itself, but even more worrying when you consider that food production accounts for 70% of our freshwater consumption, 80% of deforestation and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Joan CourtMahatma Gandhi – who Joan worked alongside in the 1940’s – suggested that vegan diets are beneficial for our own health:
It is very significant that some of the most thoughtful and cultured men are partisans of a pure vegetable diet
…and vegetarian and particularly vegan diets are, of course, kinder to animals – something Joan is all too keenly aware of. After moving to Cambridge in the late 1970’s to study social anthropology, she co-founded Animal Rights Cambridge – the longest serving animal rights group in the UK. They hold regular monthly meetings in the Mill Road area and have been involved in a number of local and national animal welfare campaigns – from persuading the Michelin starred Midsummer House restaurant to remove foie gras from its menu, to campaigning against live animal exports.

Animals BetrayedJoan’s latest book, Animals Betrayed, features interviews with a number of animal rights activists across the UK. It gives an insight into many of the issues faced by those campaigning for animal welfare and also sheds some light on why some of them first chose to become vegetarian/vegan. Some of those interviewed also talk about animal consciousness – a topic that has been the subject of much research and debate in recent years, including at the 2012 University of Cambridge conference ‘Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals‘.

Joan will be signing copies of her book at the RSPCA Bookshop on Mill Road on Saturday – 30th March – between 2 and 5pm. If you can’t make Saturday but would still like a copy of the book (published by Selene Press and priced £12.50) it’s available via Amazon or by phoning (01223) 311828. Joan will be happy to talk about a host of animal welfare issues on Saturday, so it’s a great opportunity to find out more …and she might even share her tips on the best Mill Road places to do a vegan food shop!

Book signing: ‘Animals Betrayed’ by Joan Court 
Saturday 30th March, 2-5pm – at the RSPCA Bookshop, 188 Mill Road CB1 3LP

Snow show

Snowy tree branchesWe’d been promised some snow and it seems that today (Monday) may be our best chance of catching a glimpse. Different weather reports have been predicting different things, including that it would be in the morning, evening, coupled with rain or sleet, very light, up to 5cm… or maybe not even at all! But, I am pleased to report that at the time of writing this it is actually snowing over Mill Road!

Snow birdThe Met office website suggests that the morning and early afternoon snow will be light, but that this will become heavy around 3pm today – great news for those of us who love the snow and will be at home at that time (cue snowball fight somewhere off Mill Road…!), though admittedly perhaps not so good for those that will still be at work or who are travelling. For those of you who want to keep up to date with the local weather forecast, I have discovered that the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory has a ‘Rooftop Weather Station’ and regularly updated web page with all sorts of useful weather info.

Snow treeI love the snow and have many happy childhood memories of sledging down local hills (so as you may have guessed, I did not grow up in Cambridge). In case we didn’t get any snow locally today, I was going to post some pics I took during last February’s snow visit. I think they’re rather lovely photos, so I’m still posting them; but the photo at the bottom of this blog post is one that I’ve taken just in the last few minutes (they were all taken in the Argyle Street area, just off Mill Road). With a bit of luck the snow will hang around long enough for me to get some decent daylight shots  and I can bore enthral you with even more photos!