Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas Turkey

Do you really need that turkey?

Please read Viva's factsheet on turkey farming below. After all we should know the facts before making our choices. - Jill.

Turkeys - Viva! Fact Sheet

Turkeys in their natural state
Turkeys have a zest for living and, treated with respect, they become very friendly. Turkeys have large, dark, almond-shaped eyes and sensitive fine-boned faces. Wild turkeys live in North and Central America. They are striking and handsome, graceful and intelligent. They roost in trees and roam in woodlands, eating vegetation and insects. They live in harems - the mothers being very protective of their young. An adult bird can fly up to 50mph.

Conditions in turkey farms
There are two main systems of turkey rearing:
a. Windowless units. The most common system where as many as 25,000 turkeys are kept in one shed. The birds are crowded together like broiler chickens, on a litter floor. Many develop ulcerated feet and painful burns on their legs and breasts as they spend their short lives standing on litter which often becomes wet, dirty and produces ammonia. Lighting is dim to discourage aggression.
b. Pole barns. These allow daylight and ventilation but conditions are still grossly overcrowded. Stress causes fighting and birds attack each others eyes and toes.

Slaughter age
Turkeys would live up to 10 years in the wild. Farmed turkeys are usually slaughtered between the ages of 12 and 26 weeks, although according to DEFRA some are as young as eight weeks.

Mortality rate
6%- 15% of turkeys die in sheds each year. Many die because they never learn to reach the food and water points (‘starve-outs’). Others die from disease or as a result of growing too quickly.

Turkeys peck at each others feathers, toes and eyes when overcrowded. Sometimes their eyeballs are destroyed by the pecking. Cannibalism can be common in intensive farms. Turkeys are often kept in near darkness to discourage cannibalism. In the wild, turkeys would not be aggressive but on factory farms birds are driven to aggression by the conditions in which they are kept.

Debeaking is considered essential to many turkey rearers. 10% of all turkeys are debeaked (DEFRA, Oct 2001) When turkeys are only a few days old, their beaks are partially amputated, a section of the upper beak being cut off with a red-hot blade or with clippers. Potential breeding stock are debeaked again at around 16 weeks, and sometimes at a later stage too. Beak trimming is painful and can result in permanent pain. Research at the AFRC Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics Research, Edinburgh, indicates that debeaking results in chronic pain similar to ‘phantom limb pain’ in human amputees. Birds have been observed, over a 56 week period, to show signs of behaviour associated with long-term chronic pain and depression, following partial beak amputation.
(“Behavioral Evidence for Persistent Pain Following Partial Beak Amputation in Chickens” - Michael Gentle et al, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 27 (1990) 149-157).

Toe removal is also performed on male breeding birds which can result in open wounds, blood loss and pain.

Desnooding is practiced to minimalise cannibalism. This is where the long fleshy appendage extending from the front of a turkey’s head over its upper back is removed with an instrument or pulled off.

When farmers want to prevent turkeys from flying, dewinging is carried out where the flight feathers of one wing may be clipped.

22 million turkeys are killed each year in licensed plants with an estimated 10 million being killed at Christmas (based on consumption figures, DEFRA, 23/10/2001).
Including small-scale enterprises which slaughter on premises, 35 million turkeys are killed in the UK every year. (Meat Hygiene Service, 1998)

According to the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), there are 50 slaughterhouses licensed to kill turkeys. 34 out of 50 plants stunning turkeys use the electric waterbath. Others use gas stunning and very low throughput premises tend to use an electric hand-held stunner.

UK slaughter legislation states that birds may be killed by decapitation or dislocation of the neck. These procedures do not require a license provided that they are carried out on premises forming part of an agricultural holding on which the bird was reared.

Decapitation is not widely practiced but neck dislocation is the most widely used method of slaughter on small-scale enterprises. Scientists Gregory and Wotton expressed concern about the effectiveness of neck dislocation in poultry. They tried crushing and stretching the necks of poultry (method 2 works in a similar manner to manual neck dislocation) and concluded that, “neither method consistently produced concussion and it is uncertain whether they cause instantaneous unconsciousness.”
(N. G. Gregory, S. B. Wotton, 1990. Comparison of neck dislocation and percussion of the head on visual evoked responses in the chicken’s brain. The Veterinary Record 126, 570-572).

Researcher Roger McCamley says that, “There is certainly a potential for welfare problems to arise when small scale seasonal producers kill large birds by neck dislocation. Usually, no training will have been sought or received and because of the small number and infrequency of slaughtering, little expertise in slaughter will be obtained.”
R. McCamley, 1992. The welfare aspects of poultry slaughter on farms. The Meat Hygienist, December edition, 5-11.

If turkeys are not killed on the farm at which they are reared, they are transported live to a processing plant. Turkeys are caught from the rearing sheds and stuffed into crates for transportation to the slaughterhouse. Rough handling often causes severe bruising and injury. At the slaughterhouse the birds are hung upside down with their feet in shackles for up to six minutes before they are stunned (DEFRA, 2001). Birds are in great distress at this time, especially those with diseased hip joints or legs.

The shackled turkeys move to an electrically-charged water bath through which their heads and necks pass. The electric shock is meant to stun the birds. Turkeys tend to arch their necks at slaughter and may not be stunned before they reach the neck cutter. Each year, conservative estimates suggest that around 30-40,000 will enter the scalding tank alive. Around 43% of birds will receive painful electric shocks before being stunned because their wings touch the electrically-charged waterbath.¨

Only a few breeding companies now supply most turkeys reared worldwide - British United Turkeys, Nicholas and Hybrid Turkeys. Reproduction in today’s turkey industry is by artificial insemination (AI). The modern turkey, like the broiler chicken, has been genetically selected to put on weight twice as fast as its counterpart in the wild. Now, male turkeys are too broad-breasted to mate naturally. In the wild, the turkey can fly up to speeds of 50mph, yet the modern male farmed variety cannot fly. Breeding turkeys can weigh as much as an 8-9 year old child (60lbs).

Collecting the semen
2 or 3 times a week the males are ‘milked’ of their semen by teams of operators whose jobs are to manipulate the males’ anal area until the phallus is erect (a form of human-to-bird masturbation) and semen is ejected, helped along by the pressure on the lower abdomen.

Insemination of the females
Female turkeys are caught and held upside down, while semen is introduced into the vagina by hypodermic syringe or the operator’s breath pressure, through a length of tubing. The repeated stress imposed by AI is extreme and unacceptable in welfare terms.

Eggs and chicks
All factory farmed turkeys never meet their mothers. Fertile eggs are transferred to the hatchery. After 28 days in an incubating cabinet the poults are hatched. At a day old the turkey chicks are transported to growing sheds with up to 25,000 chicks the same age. The lighting is dim and the heat is kept permanently high. Many chicks die from heat, stress, heart attack or bullying.

Most turkeys suffer from degeneration of the hip joints. In the ball and socket mechanism of this joint, much of the weight is distributed through a pad of cartilage. Under the stress of carrying an unnaturally heavy body, the structure breaks down, leading to degeneration of the joint. This leads to severe lesions and pain. Dr Colin Whitehead of the Agricultural and Food Research Council states that 70 per cent of the heavier birds are ‘suffering pain rather than just discomfort’.

The last decade has thrown up numerous examples of new diseases in turkeys. These include Rhinotracheitis, Paramyxovirus 2, and Salmonella enteritidis - a major new bacterial source of human food poisoning that can cause arthritis, blood disease, impaired immunity and death. Other diseases include Blackhead disease, Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale and Avian Influenza.

Turkeys are reared to be pathalogically obese. They have clogged coronary vessels, distended fluid-filled pericardial sac, abdominal fluid and a gelatin-covered enlarged congested liver. Their hearts can actually explode.

Artificial insemination spreads fowl cholera, a major bacterial disease of intensively reared turkeys.

Throughout their lives, turkeys may be given antibiotics and other drugs to prevent or treat infections caused by worms, fungi, bacteria and other microbes. More than a dozen antibiotics are approved for use in chickens and turkeys, including erythromycin, penicillin, tetracycline and virginiamycin.

Help stop the suffering - Action:

  • The most effective step that you can take is to stop eating turkey and to ask your family to have a meat free Christmas. Contact Viva! for free veggie Christmas recipe leaflets - view them online here.
  • Viva! has organised a nationwide door drop asking people to have a turkey free Christmas and offering free Christmas packs. Please help Viva! get the ‘cruelty free Christmas’ message out by distributing Viva! turkey leaflets through doors in your neighbourhood. Contact Viva! for free leaflets.
  • Give out ‘Turkey free Christmas’ leaflets outside your local supermarkets and butchers shops. Contact Viva! for posters to make placards and to put in your window at home.
  • For more info on turkeys and for information on how to go veggie and other campaigns, look on our website or phone or write to Viva! for a free veggie info pack.

Viva! Vegetarians International Voice for Animals
8 York Court, Wilder Street, Bristol BS2 8QH, UK
T: 0117 944 1000 F: 0117 924 4646 E:

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Christmas parties

Well it's official. Heidi has a better social life than we do!

On friday she was at her kindergarten party and today we had to cry off a party at a friends due to Heidi having an ear infection. Friday was lovely, she was at the party in the morning - and yes I did take a vegan cake (chocolate this time) so she wouldn't feel left out. I think I'm the only mum that makes so many requests at nursery school but the staff are really supportive. It's a whole different subject but as we are not religious we also don't want Heidi growing up to believe religion like it was fact so we ask for her not to join in bible stories and church visits too. Maybe some of the teachers hide when they see me coming!

I am hoping to get out for one night out this year, friday is looking promising but as any mother of small children knows, anything might happen!

So now I am planning for packing and for the trip. I called the airline to request vegan meals for us but they don't have them on the routes we are taking so I guess I have to take food (dried food only) on the, bread, crackers...doesn't sound so appealing and of course I can take baby milk as long as I taste it first...which takes better, breast milk or formula..will have to guess at that, formula smells quite horrible and just the idea of drinking my own milk is not filling me with joy. We have bought Heidi some new activity books for Christmas which we hope will keep her occupied but Miller is cruising now and almost walking and keeping him on my lap will be truly difficult and I don't envy anyone sat near us at all!

All parents are rallying round in a splended fashion trying to get the things we might need when we arrive, baby formula, soya milk etc. I think my mum has been studying labels on buy food for weeks which is really positive.

As an aside, I smelt a normal yogurt yesterday for the first time in a few months and it smelt so strong and pungent to me after not eating dairy for some time. It reminded me of something I heard some time back about the Japanese saying that westerners smell of milk, well, there is truth to it but much worse is that meat eaters do smell of rotting meat, that I noticed soon after becoming a vegetarian, I'm sorry to say it but it is true, maybe not all, all of the time but it's quite distinct.

Well, this blog is full of tangents so I'd better leave it there seeing as I have no coherent point to make!

Enjoy the run up to Christmas!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Vegan Christmas

Well I'm just getting organized for Christmas. We have the snow and most houses have little lights or candles in the windows which looks really pretty. Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve here in Norway, with Santa arriving around dinner time and the opening of presents just after that. We have chosen to mix both cultures and have some presents on Christmas Eve and still have a somewhat traditional English Christmas Day on the 25th....minus the turkey, chippolata sausages, prawn cocktail etc etc!

Last year we drove to Sweden for supplies and bought some vegetarian fillets and made a traditional dinner otherwise, with vegetarian gravy, roast potatoes, roast parsnips and carrots. We even had Christmas pudding arrive from friends in the UK! This year we may take a total change and have something completely different, not sure as of yet! We don't want to get too much in as we fly to the UK on the 27th for 2 weeks. We have to leave the dogs here but they are being cared for by one of our neighbours - last time we left them here with other friends they got used to lounging on their sofas and thought it was the height of rudeness when we returned and reminded them what a dog bed was!

So, we are excited about our trip and looking forward to catching up with family and friends and being able to go to a vegan restaurant (so looking forward to that!). We hope to make the most of the babysitting options with family and have maybe our first night out alone without the children since Miller was born!

Not so looking forward to the noise, traffic, crowds, keeping a tight watch over the children in busy places and so on - I was back last November and it was a culture shock then. Matthew has not been back for 2 years so I think he will see a big difference to the lifestyle we have now. We have tried to save up a little so we can bring some things home with us but yesterday old Bente (our volvo) broke down twice so maybe we have to start growing magic beans...!

Miller is just waking from his nap so back on duty! .... However, if you follow yoga baby ( you can tune in next week to see a special edition - 'Yoga Grandma' - filmed when Matthew's mum was here....she told me not to tell anyone but I think that means anyone she knows personally...!

Have a compassionate day!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Mad Cow

Am I mad to be vegan? Read on...

Article from

Mad Cow Disease: It’s Mad to Eat Meat

Downed Cow
According to a 2006 report by the USDA inspector general, USDA slaughterhouse inspectors are still allowing many “downed cows”—who may be infected with mad cow disease—into the human food supply illegally.

Mad cow disease is one of the most frightening diseases of our generation. Also known as “bovine spongiform encephalopathy,” it is a member of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. These diseases, which cause the brain to degenerate until it becomes “spongy” and lead to eventual death, are caused by misshapen proteins called “prions.”1 Researchers have traced massive outbreaks of the disease on factory farms to the meat industry’s cost-cutting practice of mixing the brain tissue of dead farmed animals into the feed of other farmed animals.…

Any animal with a brain has the potential to become infected with a prion disease and could pass the disease on to humans who eat the animal’s flesh. Scientists have already identified mad cow disease variants in humans, fish, sheep, minks, cows, deer, and cats.2,3,4 Although illegal in Japan and Europe, in the U.S. and Canada it remains common to include the blood, bone, and unwanted flesh of all types of farmed animals in the feed of chickens, turkeys, and pigs. Of all the animal flesh and bone meal that is processed into food for farmed animals, almost half is fed to chickens and turkeys, 13 percent is fed to pigs, and 10 percent is fed to cows.5

How Do People Get Mad Cow Disease?

When people eat infected animals, they can develop the human version of spongiform encephalopathy called “new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease” (nvCJD). This disease eats holes in the brain (which results in a spongy appearance), initially causing memory loss and erratic behavior. Over a period of months, victims gradually lose the ability to care for themselves or communicate, and they eventually die. There is evidence that a large number of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may in fact be victims of CJD.

Eating contaminated meat has caused more than 150 deaths worldwide. Thousands more are likely infected but do not know it yet, according to a study published in The Journal of Pathology, and it can take years for symptoms to develop.6,7 Millions of cows developed the disease in Europe in the 1990s and were killed and their bodies burned—although burning does not destroy prions. Hunters in the U.S. and their families may have contracted the disease by eating infected deer they killed.8

Order a free vegetarian starter kit to protect yourself and your family from mad cow disease, as well as heart disease, cancer, and obesity.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Daily eating habits

Are we getting all we need?

It's easy to read books on nutrition but a bit harder putting things into practice when you are a new vegan family. I thought it might help if I made a list of our daily eating habits and if I'm missing out something major I guess I'm hoping you will point this out to me!

However, if I'm doing pretty well then you can use this as a guide!

Heidi - aged 2.
Breakfast: Sinlac dairy free infant porridge made with Soya milk fortified with B12- I add linseeds (for omega 3) and vitamin D drops. Fruit juice (no added sugar, half water *I cannot get Heidi to drink soya or rice milk so add to her food)
Snack: Toast with plant margarine &/or banana. Fruit Juice.
Lunch: Tomato & Lentil Soup / Potato cakes / Crackers & grapes (depends, sometimes she is not so hungry at lunchtime)
Snack: Almonds & grapes / Vegan biscuit
Dinner: Pasta with mushrooms, onion, leek, tomatoes / Veggie chilli made with kidney beans, lentils, soya flakes / Paella made with rice, squash, mushrooms, asparagus / Potato wedges and grilld marinated tofu (the latter she doesn't et much of). Fruit or soya yogurt
Supper: Toast or fruit

Miller - aged 8 months.
*Takes 3 nursing feeds per day plus 2 formula feeds
Breakfast: Infant non dairy porridge made with hot water or soya milk with B12 (I take a B12 supplement so he gets this in my milk too)
Snack: Toast strips or cheerios
Lunch: Same as Heidi or something simple like sliced cooked carrots
Snack: Cracker or rice cracker, banana
Dinner: Same as Heidi or mashed potatoes with veg
Supper: Biscuit or fruit yogurt

Matthew and I:
Breakfast: Cereal & or toast
Lunch: Crackerbread and tofutti spread / veggie sandwiches / soup /beans on toast / pasta and veg with tomato sauce
Dinner: Casseroles / Chilli / Pasta & veg / Vegetable Rice / Veggie sausages & mashed potatoes / Cheese free pizza / cottage pie / Stir Fry

Add to that the odd piece of cake and that pretty much sums it up!

Comments welcome, especially if you are longing to share a recipe! Remember thought that we cannot get a lot of items - no vegan cheese, flaxseed oil, only one type of tofu etc.... But I'm always up for trying something new!

I have been asked for my carrot cake recipe 3 times in the past 2 weeks so I must be doing something right!

Til next time..

Thursday, 29 November 2007

So, last friday night and the car was full of goodies and food for the weekend I was running. Matthew offered to take everything down for me. It had been a cold day and the snow was thick. Here we have snow ploughs clearing the roads but no gritters like in England when it snows so sometimes there is just a layer of ice left on the roads. We have snow tyres so usually it is no problem. Not this night! I got a call a few minutes after Matthew had left starting with those lovely words..'Don't worry love but...'

He was going 20 miles per hour over the top of a hill and lost control. He knew there was nothing he could do so lifted his legs off the brakes and up towards his body so as to avoid injury and waited for the inevitable! He went down a ditch and through a fence, just missing a tree!

Fortunately he was fine and walked home. We called for assistance and got the car back onto the road. Our car is a bit worse for wear but let me tell you about our car...

She is called Bente. We always name our cars for some reason. This one is called Bente as it is a Norwegain name and when we bought her we didn't have much money so just wanted something to get us through the first winter. She was ideal and had had a active life, you could tell by the dents in her bodywork - so 'Bente' was a good name. Well 3 years later she is still with us and now has another huge dent in her old body! You can see Bente on the picture - that's our place.

Matthew's mum, Marilyn is having a great time with the children and has adapted well to the vegan house! She has not asked for anything and has even read my 'Peaceful Palate' cookery book!


Sunday, 25 November 2007

Healthy and happy...and tired...

Well the weekend has been fantastic. Two great days of peace and tranquility. I feel part of a community today and realised how much I missed that. I am lucky that the people here are accomodating enough to speak to me in English as although I pick up a lot of the spoken Norwegian now I still sound ridiculous trying to talk. I hope it wil change in the future but I find it truly difficult. I began learning italian before we moved over here and that seemed a breeze but Norwegian is all about how you say things and I can believe I am pronouncing things perfectly but no-one understands me at all! Anyway, that's a different subject altogether! My mind is tired but a happy tired. I am not a spiritual person but yoga has a way of transcending time and place whether you are spiritual or not and this weekend has refocused me.

So, you are asking, did I raise the vegan issue? The answer is this.. barely. I believe it is enough for people to know about my personal choices and they can take it from there. Sow a seed and who knows what will grow....some people might even stop by and read the blog once in a while...

Matthew's mom arrives on tuesday for a visit so we are looking forward to seeing her and the children will be pampered non-stop! My mom in the meantime is trying to buy us a tumble dryer so the kids don't get damaged by the damp washing we hang on the clothes horse...."if it's not one thing, it's your mother" (Peter Kay quote).

Just realised I didn't tell you about the car and the time!

Peacefully yours...

Friday, 23 November 2007

Weekend & weaning

First I would just like to comment on this picture. I wrote the blog entry below and knowing how difficult it is to read the first few lines I thought I'd add another pic. I went onto flicker creative commons and looked up baby bottle (can't remember the exact words but something like that) and this came up near the top. It made me quite emotional.

Anyway, must go as Matthew has just slid off the icy road and our car is now in a ditch... more on that next time, here's the blog entry!....

So I have just finished my preparations for my yoga and health weekend which starts tomorrow morning. I am really looking forward to a whole weekend of yoga, breathing exercises, relaxation, posture focus, discussion and good company. Although I am teaching it feels like time out for me in a way, considering most of my time is spent looking after two very young children!

I have taken the decision recently to partially wean Miller to make it easier for me to get out and do a few more things now. I have researched the issue and know most would recommend as a vegan wanting to raise vegan children that I should continue nursing for at least a full year but it is difficult. I teach in the evenings and Matthew was struggling to give Miller a bottle so I opted to express and combine bottle and nursing. However, that's not as easy as it sounds and my supply has dimished somewhat. So we are on a mixture of nursing and formula (I cannot get dairy free formula so I think Miller will have to have this until he is at least one.) I have to have a weekend away from home soon too so at least I feel comfortable knowing Miller is happy with a bottle and with Daddy putting him to bed sometimes (they get some special feeding time together too which is a plus).

Matthew is helping me cook a vegan lunch for the weekend tomorrow. He is making paella and he's pretty good at playing chef so I'm glad to have him onboard! I have made a carrot cake, some chocolate flapjacks and some of the mushroom and almond pate which I made for the first time just a few weeks ago and now love more than anything. I have bought a selection of breads and fruits too. I think..or at least I hope the group will be in for a pleasant surprise.

And so to bed to get some rest!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Yoga and Veganism

My lifestyle has changed over the years as I became more self aware as a person. Turning vegetarian seemed natural and vegan even more so. Living a peaceful lifestyle is very important to me and my family. I have practised yoga since my teenage years and qualified so that I could spread the word. One thing led to another and now Miller and I have a weekly vlog called 'Yoga Baby'. We aim to get mothers and their little rascals doing yoga for a variety of reasons. Mainly to have a great time whilst getting back in shape after childbirth but of course yoga is a lot more than that. Not least it promotes a healthy and non destructive lifestyle. Moving into stillness gives time for reflection and promotes positive thinking. I run yoga classes here and hope I present myself as someone who makes compassionate choices. I have no vegetarians or vegans as students yet try and make it known that I have made that choice and maybe raise some discussion. I believe yoga and a non animal diet co-exist beautifully together and would encourage anyone, new mom or not to give it a try!

If you are interested or if you know a new mom who would like to see the show, you can go to our site or subscribe through or itunes (we have a group 'Yoga Baby' on facebook too - the show is a free weekly series, demonstrating new poses and breathing techniques - sometimes it runs smoothly, sometimes Miller has other ideas!

I guess I like to think people can be flexible with their life choices...

Vitamin D drops for babies

Another short, succinct post as I just dropped by the site to tweak a few things and plan to write a more informative blog entry tonight when the little ones are snoozing but wanted to share this gem before I forgot it! I ran out of vitamin d drops for Miller a few days ago and it's essential for us - remember also we live in near darkness up here in the winter so can't get vitamin d from the sunshine! I asked Matthew to call at the pharmacy in Tromsø. They didn't have any and the assistant suggested cod liver oil as that particular brand had vitamin d in. Matthew said we were vegan and was told. 'Well, your baby won't get any vitamin d then, will it!' Matthew later said he wondered why some people chose their professions! We got it later from the local pharmacy who had plenty in stock and served us with a smile instead of condemnation.
Peacfully yours,

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Meat, fish or birds

Just a little something I spotted in the local supermarket. 3 chopping boards for the kitchen, each a different colour. I will translate from the Norwegian...

Different colours for good kitchen hygiene:
Blue for fish and seafood
Red for meat
Yellow for birds

Maybe people here don't eat vegetables.

Have a good weekend x

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


Pigs and Piglets: Bacon and crackling

Today I'd like to share a report I have been reading...

Access Farm Sanctuary Research Report,
The Welfare of Sows in Gestation Crates:

For more info go to

Modern breeding sows are treated like piglet-making machines. Living a continuous cycle of impregnation and birth, each sow has more than 20 piglets per year. After being impregnated, the sows are confined in gestation crates — small metal pens just two feet wide that prevent sows from turning around or even lying down comfortably. At the end of their four-month pregnancies, they are transferred to similarly cramped farrowing crates to give birth. With barely enough room to stand up and lie down and no straw or other type of bedding to speak of, many suffer from sores on their shoulders and knees. When asked about this, one pork industry representative wrote, "...straw is very expensive and there certainly would not be a supply of straw in the country to supply all the farrowing pens in the U.S."

Numerous research studies conducted over the last 25 years have pointed to physical and psychological maladies experienced by sows in confinement. The unnatural flooring and lack of exercise causes obesity and crippling leg disorders, while the deprived environment produces neurotic coping behaviors such as repetitive bar biting and sham chewing (chewing nothing).

After the sows give birth and nurse their young for two to three weeks, the piglets are taken away to be fattened, and the sows are re-impregnated. An article in Successful Farming explains, "Any sow that is not gestating, lactating or within seven days post weaning is non-active," and hog factories strive to keep their sows '100 % active' in order to maximize profits. When the sow is no longer deemed a productive breeder, she is sent to slaughter.

The overcrowding and confinement is unnatural and stress-producing since pigs are actually very clean animals. If they are given sufficient space, pigs are careful not to soil the areas where they sleep or eat. But in factory farms, they are forced to live in their own feces, urine, vomit and even amid the corpses of other pigs.

In addition to overcrowded housing, sows and pigs also endure extreme crowding in transportation, resulting in rampant suffering and deaths. As one hog industry expert writes:

Death losses during transport are too high — amounting to more than $8 million per year. But it doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out why we load as many hogs on a truck as we do. It's cheaper. So it becomes a moral issue. Is it right to overload a truck and save $.25 per head in the process, while the overcrowding contributes to the deaths of 80,000 hogs each year?

Prior to being hung upside down by their back legs and bled to death at the slaughterhouse, pigs are supposed to be 'stunned' and rendered unconscious, in accordance with the federal Humane Slaughter Act. However, stunning at slaughterhouses is terribly imprecise, and often conscious animals are hung upside down, kicking and struggling, while a slaughterhouse worker tries to 'stick' them in the neck with a knife. If the worker is unsuccessful, the pig will be carried to the next station on the slaughterhouse assembly line — the scalding tank — where he/she will be boiled, alive and fully conscious.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Where we live

We live in a village about an hour and a half south of Tromsø, the highest University town in the world. It's way above the Arctic Circle and a unique place to live! It's a stunnignly beautiful and quiet plave to raise our family and we do love most things about it, however difficult being a vegan here may be. We have the snow now and yesterday the temperature was minus 7 so I guess winter is here to stay. Heidi was in kindergarten yesterday and I needed to take a trip into Tromsø to go costume hunting for a tv trailer we are filming so we took Miller with us, all wrapped up and happy for a day out. The trip was really successful however my pockets came back empty. I decided to call at a health shop, there are two chains of health food shops in the town and prices are high. I came home with two small bags and mins 500 kroner which is around 100 usd! Ouch! So now my cupboards have some useful extras (including rice chips, vegan cookies, vitamin b12, soya milk in plain and strawberry, soy yogurts, infant cereal, marinated tofu...yes I know it's lazy but I sometimes have a busy day and it's nice to go for an easy option!...and that was about as far as my money went!) I basically bought one (yes just one, that's how much things are) of everything they sold that was vegan friendly, the selection isn't very big and I am disappointed that the stores also sell non vegetarian products right alongside the others eg leather shoes and would you believe baby food with calf meat in - yes I have emailed a complaint to the head office.

I know it is best to work with whole foods and I do enjoy my new found cookery skills but sometimes it's nice to cheat a little!

Have a positive weekend!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

My response

Firstly, apologies for the banner obscuring the words at the start of a new blog post, will try and sort that out soon!

Short and sweet today! In response to my phone conversation (see below) I sent my mom two emails. The first was a report from The Vegan, an indepth study of a vegan lifestyle for infants and toddlers, examining all aspects of the diet. The second was a blog by Collen Patrick-Goudreau (if you don't read her work or listen to her podcasts, you're missing out - - this particular blog was entitled 'Maternal Instincts' and moves me so much I hope it sparks some recognition in my mom too. I included a note from me that said 'some research for you if you want to read it, you don't have to' and then I don't feel like I'm forcing a negative dialogue.
Both children and Matthew have a cold today (no, I don't think it's due to veganism!) so at home with the chores today however it's nice to be able to check emails and post entries whilst at home now!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Conversation with Mom

I knew the conversation was coming and yet still wasn't fully prepared for it. As a new vegan, I had all my arguments ready yet my family seemed fairly quiet. Time passed and I sort of forgot about the lack of opposition. So today I am in the middle of a normal conversation with mom when we start to discuss our visit to the UK after Christmas. I will happily relay the conversation as I'm sure my mom will agree that she is guilty of asking questions she knows will upset me a little but she still asks them. We started by mom asking what food she needs to get in for the family when we visit. So, we are two adults, a two year old and our youngest will be 9 months. So I suggest (bear in mind it is just early November now and we are visiting end of december but mom is thoughtful and plans ahead) fortified soya milk, dairy free margarine, vegan substitutes eg veggie mince, pasta, beans, lentils etc. Hmm, a bit much, will send it on an email later, mom. So the kids need their own rooms now, I am still nursing but Miller sleeps better in his own space and just wakes once now in the night. Anyway, back to the diet… Are you sure it is a good thing for such young children to be on a strict diet? Yes, I am sure, I've done the research. So what don't you eat exactly? Well, animals or animal products. Umm. Well, that's meat, eggs, cheese, milk… Oh, it's quite restrictive then? Not really, you'll be surprised. We can eat cereal and soya milk, toast, pasta, casseroles, rice, soups…I'll even make you a vegan chocolate cake when we come. Are the children getting all they need? Yes, I think they are healthier than before. Heidi used to eat crisps as a snack, now she has almonds, hazelnuts and grapes. She used to eat heaps of cheese on toast, eggy bread and drink cups of milk and not much else. Now she eats veggie soups, casseroles, paella, basically all the healthy stuff she wouldn't eat before. She also has a supplement as a safe guard. Are you sure it's healthy. Yes, I've been researching it well. I think we have a better diet than meat eaters, meat eating has been related to many conditions including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and other things. We get all the protein we need from lentils, tofu… But what about calcium? Um, we have calcium fortified soya milk and you can get calcium from the veggies we eat. Where's your research from? I bought a vegan nutrition book, it tells me all we need to know. It's written by doctors. Um, are they vegan doctors? (Not sure about this one!) Um, not sure mom, think so. Have you read research by non-vegan doctor? At this point I was interrupted by my son getting into mischief – Miller is at pulling to standing stage and can easily get into sticky situations! So, have to go mom, not to do with the vegan stuff, just need to go….

Needless to say I left the conversation feeling a bit deflated. Shame as it had started with Heidi first talking with my dad and calling him 'Gramps' which she has had some difficulty saying and then singing songs to my mom. I did add late in the conversation that I hoped my mom knew I would not do anything other than give my children the best things they needed… I guess a lot of vegans can relate to this.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Annual Japanese Dolphin Catch

You may have heard the recent outrage regarding the Japanese dolphin hunts. Fisherman in Japan slaughter thousands of dolphins to be used in pet food. The hunts this year received added attention as protestors were involved in violent clashes with the fishermen.

Why is it considered such an outrage to murder Dolphins but perfectly acceptable to murder cows? Why this double standard? Well, aren’t dolphins intelligent? Yes they are. So are pigs. But Dolphins are friendly. So are lambs. Yes, but Dolphins are cute. So are 6 week old veal calves. But Dolphins live as a social group. So do other animals we abuse, given the chance. Ah but Dolphins care for their young. As do chickens, pigs, sheep, cows and ducks. Or is it just that it is not in our western culture to eat Dolphins. Or cats. Or dogs. Does that make it wrong? Or does it make all animal eating wrong. Surely if one is wrong then so is the other?

I recently saw a t-shirt which I considered purchasing. It had a picture of a plate with knife and fork. In the middle of the plate was a live dog. I cannot remember the slogan but it was along the lines of ‘why not, you eat other animals’.

I would hesitate as a meat eater before condemning other cultures for their animal slaughter. Look closer to home.

Of course it is not right to murder dolphins. 23 000 dolphins and porpoises each year are murdered in Japan. The sea turns red with blood. The killing must stop. IT MUST STOP. So must the murder of helpless, frightened animals which end up on the plates of people who would be as upset as me at the terrible fate of the dolphins.

Please. Please see that all animals have the right not to be murdered.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Cancer Link

Yesterday I saw a news report which highlighted a new report linking meat eating and cancer. Today I have been perusing the news sites and have found some interesting points which I'd like to share.

On the sky news website if you type 'red meat' in the search box, the first thing that comes up today is

1. Red Meat Linked To Breast Cancer

Eating small amounts of red meat every day can increase a womans risk of breast cancer, according to a study.

Number five..

5. Sausages And Burgers Could Cause Cancer

A food watchdog has called a meeting with manufacturers because an additive used in some sausages and burgers is feared to cause cancer.

Number seven..

7. Cancer Scare For Bacon Butty Lovers

Bacon butty lovers are being warned that eating five of their favourite snacks each week could cause cancer. The bacon research followed the diets of 135,000 adults.

Typing in cancer brings this up first..

1. Third Of Cancers Are Caused By Lifestyle

Up to a third of cancers could be caused by the victims lifestyle, according to researchers. (My note - this study highlights red meat, alcohol and smoking)

On to Google. Typing in 'cancer' brings this up first...

Poor diet ratchets up cancer risk
Excess fat can cause up to a third of all cases, study says, putting lifestyle choices on par with quitting smoking


From Thursday's Globe and Mail

November 1, 2007 at 4:15 AM EDT

The most comprehensive study ever undertaken on the association between cancer and obesity concludes that excess body fat triggers many types of the disease, as does the consumption of even moderate amounts of alcohol, red meats and processed meats.


A Harvard Medical School study has discovered a link between red meat consumption and breast cancer.

The researchers found that women who consumed more than one serving of red meat per day almost doubled their risk of developing some types of breast cancer, compared to those who ate fewer than three servings a week.

The epidemiological study assessed the diets of more than 90,000 pre-menopausal women in their 20s, 30s and 40s over 12 years.

The findings come after years of advertising promoting the health benefits of red meat and telling Australian women, in particular, to eat more iron-rich lamb and beef.

It seems that the meat industry can no longer promote red meat as being good for you. I wonder how long this will take to filter down into the general population. Not that long methinks. My parents, once daily meat eaters are aware that too much meat is bad for them. Now vegetarian pasta replaces mince hot pots. However, they still cling to processed ham on sandwiches and 'good' cuts of beef etc. So why instead of suggesting people 'limit' their meat consumption, don't the governments around the world suggest cutting out the meat? Surely advocating a vegetarian lifestyle would cause less heath problems, mainly diabetes, obesity and certain cancers? A vegetarian diet has been proven to improve health dramatically, for more information, please visit where you can see the results of long term studies conducted on vegetarians and vegans.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Article on 'fixed' dairy prices.

Today I want to share an article which Matthew (my husband) found regarding price fixes in the UK by the big supermarkets and dairy industries. It seems that there is a strong reliance on dairy addiction. People will pay whatever the price is as they class milk, butter, cheese etc as essential food items.

BBC NEWS 20 Sep 07 13:56 14:56 UK

Supermarkets 'fixed dairy prices'
Milk - The UK's big four supermarkets and dairies colluded to keep the price of dairy goods artificially high, the Office of Fair Trading has claimed.

The alleged deal led to consumers overpaying for milk, cheese and butter by an estimated £270m, the OFT said.

It accused Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and processors including Dairy Crest and Arla of involvement. The supermarkets denied the claims.

If found guilty of price fixing, the firms could face heavy fines.

Last month, British Airways was fined almost £121.5m by the OFT after it admitted collusion in fixing the prices of fuel surcharges.

"This is a very serious case," said OFT executive director Sean Williams. "This kind of collusion on price is a very serious breach of the law."

According to the OFT, stores and processors had already been warned the practice would limit competition and raise prices.


Mr Williams added that the watchdog would ensure it used its powers to punish such behaviour and "deter other businesses from taking such actions".

The Competition Act of 1998 prohibits agreements, practices and conduct that may have a damaging effect on competition in the UK.

The OFT has written to the big four supermarkets as well as processors Arla, Dairy Crest, Lactalis McLelland, The Cheese Company - part of Milk Link - and Wiseman setting out its findings.

It is now awaiting their responses to the claims - covering 2002 and 2003 - and any objections.

Morrisons said it was too early to comment fully, but added the group had never been involved with any of the actions mentioned by the OFT.

It also said that any Safeway involvement was another issue, as it would have come before the chain's acquisition by the group.

Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's added that they would "vigorously defend" themselves against any claims they had not acted in the best interest of shoppers.

Meanwhile, trade association Dairy UK added that price rises during the period in question reflected the major costs and income problems being experienced by dairy farmers.

Director general Jim Begg said: "Dairy prices for consumers in the UK over the last 10 years have been extremely competitive and remain so.

"The competition between the main supermarkets is well-known to consumers. Price rises have generally been below the rate of inflation and dairy products continue to be very good value."

'No rip-off'

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) also insisted there had been no attempt to "rip off the public" adding prices had been raised at the time to help ease pressure on farmers hit by low milk prices.

"What we were trying to do was to ensure that at least we could get the farm gate price up a bit to help preserve the supply line," BRC director general Kevin Hawkins told the BBC.

However, Sean Rickard, a consultant to the dairy industry and former chief economist at the National Farmers' Union, questioned whether farmers had actually seen the benefit of the price increases.

"If one looks back at the data, it does appear that there does seem to have been an increase in retail prices, even an increase in processors' margins, but the dear old dairy farmers really saw no tangible benefit, no lasting benefit from any such move," Mr Rickard added.

The OFT said it was "committed to sorting out the case as soon as possible," and hoped to issue a final decision by late 2008.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

This is a norwegian 'pølser'. It is a hot dog and comes in a variety of types made from various concoctions of animals and body parts. It is quite revolting. They are for sale in every petrol/gas station and newsagents. Sometimes they have bacon wrapped around them too. The smell disgusting and make me feel sick when I smell them. There is no escape from them. They are everywhere! I long for a place where I can feel at peace but outside my own home it is impossible. Everywhere I look is evidence of murdered animals. I go to friends and sit on leather sofas and watch people eat cream cakes, I see animal wagons drive past me on the roads, I see sheep huddling around hay bales in the minus temperatures and when I have to stop for petrol/gas, I get the smell of rotting flesh forced upon me.

When will the world sit up and take notice? I don't want to be angry but I can't help feel that way sometimes. It took me this long to realize my way of living was wrong and I changed it. What gets my back up are the people who know what is happening to these defenceless animals but still eat them and use them for their selfish purposes.

Why does my father in law eat Fois Gras when he knows what happens to those poor birds, why does he take pleasure in talking about it and ending the conversation with 'well, they taste so great!' Why does my Dad say that 'tofu' tastes like socks yet will eat veal, baby calf, cruelly separated from it's mother who is denied motherhood and killed before it has chance to know what life is (not infront of me though, that's the honourable thing).

Why does it hurt so much? Because I look at an animal and I believe it has a basic right to live. I believe it has feelings. I believe it has intellegence. I believe as human beings we have got it so wrong.

Peacefully yours,


Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Finallly, after three years wait, broadband is on its way to our Arctic home! I can even see the transmitter they have just put up on a nearby hill. Now we just have to wait. For so long we’ve been stuck with a poor dial up connection. I’m looking forward to getting on second life, making video calls with my family back in the UK and countless other things. It’s exciting for us, I know that may be difficult to understand but put yourselves where we are! It will be so good after not even having a net connection for the last few weeks to finally spend the time I would like on this blog, the yoga baby vlogs and other projects, as well as simply emailing and having the world at your fingertips.

I am writing this at home and will go through my routine later...stick my laptop in the car, drive to the studio, check my emails and post this up before driving for an hour to teach a yoga class in the town below us. The children are sleeping now so I have a little break in the day. Normal people would make a cup of tea and put their feet up, having a short break from two children aged 2 and 7 months but I have too many things I want to do, I never fit it all in anyhow! I’ve been scriptwriting whenever the opportunity has arisen (I have a commission for a children’s television series set on a local island – fabulous work and so much inspiration) so this is a little diversion!

Thanks for leaving comments, I’m sorry I’ve not been so pro-active in my responses – that’s mainly due to the above situation. I appreciate your feedback and suggestions. As a new vegan it’s great to get advice from other vegans and vegetarians. It’s also great to see that there are non-vegetarians visiting too. I checked the stats recently and was really surprised at how many people were visiting. Once I’m back upto speed I promise more pics and a more structured content.

On a side note, my daughter has a toy farm and I never thought anything of it until she was playing with it yesterday and I looked at it, there is a hen coup, a pigsty, a horse that can have a cart attached and fencing that comes with it to put all the animals inside. I now feel uncomfortable about her thinking that is normal and acceptable. Her grandparents bought it for her. What to do....

Til next time...

Saturday, 20 October 2007


I am still unsure of what to do regarding my dogs diet. I have been researching the issue but am just downright confused! I know of 2 companies that make vegetarian dog food, both in the UK and the US. I cannot get anything in Norway as far as I can see. I have emailed the two companies but have got no response. I know I can get it shipped here but as you can imagine with 2 Labradors and the amount they eat that is not a cheap option and I am not well off by any stretch of the imagination!

I have read that dogs do not cope very well on a meat free diet but it's really hard for me now to feed them regular dog food. There are pictures of dead animals on most of the packaging, I now know what is probably in the dog food, no matter what brand I can get here - don't forget my limitations (Friskees and Pedegree Chum being the only options) and frankly the smell of the food is just disgusting. I think about how many animals suffered every time I have to fill up their food bowls.

My solution so far and it's not really a solution is to only give then half of what I usually do and top the rest up with homemade vegetarian food. I usually make more pasta or casserole etc and give them that. They have always enjoyed raw carrots as treats and seem to enjoy this new combination.

My dogs are 10 years old and sisters. They emigrated out here with us and have been through many changes in their lives. I want what is best for them but at the same time, want an option that makes me feel that I am not adding to animal suffering.

Comments welcome!

Monday, 15 October 2007

TV show 'How to holiday greener'...

Being British there are a few things I hang onto living up here in the Arctic. One of them is British TV. We have a satellite package that includes BBC Prime. Now this is a matter of annoyance in our household as it was supposed to be the best of BBC programming but now has disintegrated into a channel that shows old repeats and utter rubbish. That’s a irrelevant rant on my part but needed to get it off my chest! Now to my point, I have found a program called ‘How to holiday greener’. It’s actually not even on Prime but on the Travel channel. It basically shows you how to lessen your carbon footprint when holidaying. This seems to boil down to taking remote camping holidays in the UK which might be well and good but personally I’d rather stay at home (sorry for being flippant but my idea of a holiday isn’t being alone in a tent in the cold with a flask and wind up torch – don’t get me wrong, I care a great deal about the environment but if everyone stopped eating meat, there would be no issue as meat eating is responsible for a huge amount of global warming..more on that in a later post). The first episode I watched had me stunned. It showed the presenter visiting a farm which had buffalo roaming around, majestic animals, the presenter was taken aback by their beauty. Cut to the same woman, eating a buffalo steak in the farm kitchen or restaurant (I can’t remember which) and salivating over the tenderness of the meat’. I called her some names I won’t repeat here and switched it off. When I saw it was on again yesterday my curiosity got the better of me. This week, they were advertising a remote Scottish village which there were no roads to, you could walk or take a boat. The presenter took the boat as it was an opportunity to go seal watching. I was ready, Seal watching, surely this would be followed by the eating of seal meat (they eat that in Norway on occasion – one comment I’ve heard is ‘It’s so hard eating them when you picture their cute faces’...). I was ready. No. Didn’t happen. Thank goodness! Two minutes later, a discussion about red deer, how they are so beautiful and many groups living in Scotland, but the numbers sometimes got too many (rather like Glaswegians) so here’s a green holiday idea, deer stalking! Yes, it’s all the rage, culls the deer and keeps the tourists happy.

So if you want to make a positive holiday choice, a green holiday choice, a carbon friendly holiday choice, then eat animals, shoot animals for pleasure... do anything other than what will really make a difference - stop breeding animals to be killed for food, therefore stopping all the methane emissions that have as much combined impact on the environment as all transport! Yes, really.

If you have time to spare please drop the travel channel a line and tell them what you think.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Goat's Milk

Today I have a little story to tell. It is a true story and my own.

We moved to this sleepy village in Norway when I was pregnant with our first child. The house was a traditional norwegian house in need of some loving attention. Our first winter was fantastic with our new little girl and we spoke of this being our home forever. Until one night in spring. I was woken in the night by a peculiar noise. At first I thought it was foxes but couldn't pin it down. It was a distressing noise and I had to rule out the sounds as children's as they did bear a similarity to a young child's cry. The next morning as I was in my kitchen I could still hear the same sound. I went out onto the veranda to look around but could see nothing. It seemed to be coming from near the barn nextdoor. I was getting distressed by the sound and was about to go over to see if an animal was stuck somewhere or if there had been an accident. I even thought with it being spring that one of their animals might be giving birth and having problems. You see, nextdoor to our home is a small family run goat farm. A nice farm, I thought when we first bought the house, the goats are daily taken out to local fields to roam around and often escape the fields and wander along the local quiet roads all day before being herded back home.

So, I was about to go over to see what the noise was when my neighbour, my perfectly nice neighbour, opened the barn door and exited with a baby goat which was completely limp and threw it into a trailer. Then he went back inside and came out with another, then another. Then I realised what that awful screaming noise was. It was a combination of baby goats being killed and the sounds of the female goats in the same barn, mothers of these young animals. I felt sick, I feel sick writing about it now, sick to my very core. I cried and couldn't speak for some time but my husband calmed me down. 'It's probably a disease Jill', he said caringly. 'We're moving' was my reply. I didn't believe my husbands response. I thought then that the goats were killed as there were too many young for the farmer to raise on his small farm. I was distraught and looked at houses for sale all that day. I wanted to go over and talk to the farmer but I knew he spoke no English and also knew I would wade in emotionally and shout so I tried to calm down.

Over the next few days we discussed what to do. We asked around but got no answers. Days passed, then weeks and in true bystander apathy, I let it go. I thought it must have been a one off, that there must have been a reason, it surely wouldn't be legal to just kill baby goats for no reason. If it happened again I would be sure to find out what was happening.

Then I turned vegan. why did I turn vegan...because I found out that the male calves of dairy cows are killed as they are an unnecessary part of the milk industry. It took a while but when I next thought of those goats I put two and two together. What would a farm producing goats milk need lots of baby male goats for. They have a few male adults there for impregnanting the females I presume but they don't need more than that. Surely male babies are just an inconvenience..... Sorry but I am starting to get really upset writing this so I'll try and make sense .... Now I am not one hundred percent sure that my neighbour was slaughtering innocent babies infront of their mothers but I think that's what was happening.... and if true then it will happen next year and the next...

So what do I do. Well, first I need to get the facts, I need to do this without ostracizing myself from the community, then I need to come up with a way to stop this happening, my first statement was that I would go and buy all the babies and start a goat sanctuary in the field we own nextdoor to the farm. Not sure that would work so my next idea based on a discussion with Matthew, my husband, was to go to the papers. Hmm, not sure they would care. Government, hmm, not sure they would care either. So I am in a process of thought now. Maybe I'll make a documentary film...

Moving house won't solve the problem, it will simply take my eyes away from it and distressing and heartbreaking as it may be, hiding won't change anything. This is a small family run farm where the goats are treated kindly in some respects (I know that's hard for a vegan to say about captive animals but there are a lot worse places) so imagine what it is like everywhere else. I don't know my strategy yet but I will let you know, maybe there is something you can do too, when I think of it.

Maybe next spring my garden will be full of happy little goats, leaping around and enjoying life in peace, maybe their captive mothers will hear their cries. Maybe there will have been legislative changes to stop this injustice or maybe there will be another heap of infant corpses on a trailer in the middle the night surrounding by the sound of mourning mothers.

As a mother, I implore all mothers (and everyone else) to give animals the rights we deny them.

Thursday, 11 October 2007


Well winter has well and truly arrived in the Arctic! Yesterday we were surprised with early snowfall. It has not stopped falling since and we are a blanket of white! It's really beautiful up here at this time of year. I've not seen the northern lights yet but I'm sure they'll make an appearance soon. Its such a shame however when such beauty is marred. I was admiring the scenery the other day only to see a sign in a cafe saying 'closed this week due to the Elk hunt'. Nice. Wonder if they'll be serving it up next week. I was listening to a podcast by Bob Lindon in San Fransisco the other day and it made me want to move! He was discussing all the good vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the area. I'd just be happy to get a vegan sandwich somewhere! Not a chance here. The sandwich spreads I ordered are not here yet and the shop is out of soya milk. It doesn't help that both of our cars are old and a bit useless which makes it tough to get out to work let alone thinking of where we need to travel to get ingredients! Thankfully the Sunday cooking day is really helping. I am at my studio and have just had the last of my mushroom and almond pate which was yummy, I was asked to add the recipe so here it is - note I don't measure things so apologies, you have to do a bit of guesswork!

Mushroom Pate:
2 handfulls of chopped or ripped mushrooms
1 handfull of sliced almonds (I guess you could use whole ones too)
1 clove of garlic
half chopped onion
Oregano or basil
Olive or rapeseed oil

Sautee onion and garlic in a little oil until soft. Add mushrooms and cook on a low heat for a few minutes. Throw in some herbs, mix and take off heat when mushrooms are cooked. Meanwhile toast the almonds for a few minutes in a hot oven, just until a little browned. Mix the two together and put in a blender (if a lot of liquid still in the mushroom pot then use a slotted spoon or mixture will be too thin). Blend to desired consistency and chill in the fridge before serving.

I usually make a batch and put in saved pots to take out when I go to the studio. Tastes great on flour tortillas with salad or on toast. Enjoy!

We also had homemade tofu burgers last night and they were good, good, good...much better than the substitute frozen burgers we've had before - that's another recipe for later and I can't take the credit, it was from a new cookbook!

I'm still without net access at home but we are due to get broadband in the next few weeks so really looking forward to that. I bet some of you are wondering why I live up here, especially now we are a vegan family with many frustrations, so I guess I'll tell you. This place is our sanctuary. We are lucky with our work and can survive working much less than we did in England with more time for our family. I am a theatre and yoga teacher mainly, working freelance with many projects. Right now I'm writing a children's television series. I trained for many years in the UK for little reward, not financial I might add but to feel like you are doing something useful and here I feel truly valued for what I do. I do wish that we lived in a more animal friendly place but then again maybe if I can use some influence here I may just change some minds.

Til next time x

Monday, 8 October 2007

Healthy living Seminar

I will soon be holding a yoga weekend here in my local town. I was asked by some of the girls I teach yoga to if I could do something over a weekend as they really love practicing yoga. I am the only teacher for some distance and it is a real compliment that I have a core group who are so involved. I decided that I should involve some yoga philosophy into the weekend and so during lunch on the final day I have taken it upon myself to give a talk and seminar on healthy living. Of course the philosophy of yoga involves living in peace with things around you...including animals...

Now, here is where I need to tread carefully. How to find a balance between keeping the enthusiasm of the students whilst not stepping over the mark where they start to resent me for my ‘out there’ ideas. I have already stated I am considered strange in my veganism. Infact i will say strange in my vegetarianism, most people I know here are as yet unaware that I no longer don’t eat meat but now don’t eat anything produced by them either. I have not yet been into my local cafe as a vegan as I know there is nothing I can eat. Every item on the menu contains the dead flesh of what used to be a beautiful animal. As a vegetarian I used to ask specially for them to make me a cheese baguette. Sometimes I was only charged half price as it seemed I was leaving out the main ingredient. Sometimes the kind owner would ask if I wanted egg in it as well to give it more taste. I am not being derogatory here, the people working there are truly nice but the whole concept of vegetarianism is not understood, that is the point I am making.

How then do I discuss healthy living without talking about my choices. That’s simple, I must talk about my choices but I must do so in a very careful way. If people I know well think I am insulting them by talking about veganism then people I don’t know so well may take much offense if I question the lifestyle they know. So I think the best way to go is to highlight facts about the health benefits of compassionate eating and not get over emotional about the issue. Work it into a shift in lifestyle based on improving the self rather than saving lives of innocent creatures. Of course, it is true that the health benefits are immense as soon as meat and dairy are minimised or eliminated if a healthy diet is followed but as a vegan it is really hard not to talk about why I am vegan, how unjust it is that humans are so arrogant as to believe animals are property and how upsetting it is to me every time I see someone eat a body part. Actually that is what I find the hardest of all. Watching people eating meat and now watching people drinking milk makes me so very sad. I want to run over and tell them ‘there’s another way, it’s a good way, it eradicates suffering and pain’ but I know I will be considered a freak, a mad woman, someone to avoid. So, one step, then another, careful, intelligent and honest.

It can be a challenge being vegan but the saddest part is that the food part is so very easy, it’s going out into the world and spreading the word that’s difficult sometimes, especially when it seems no-one wants to listen.

So thank you for your support and if you are looking for more info on support groups then please check back next week as I will be posting some links to some sites of interest.

On a side note, I am still without internet at home so am posting when I am at my studio, my kids forgave me for the interruption as I made my last post on the way home from a shopping trip, Heidi was hungry after her less than nutritious lunch and wolfed down a full bowl of pasta and veg followed by a soy yogurt and then ate half of my evening meal too (we try and eat as a family when we can but sometimes it’s just not possible). She used to dislike so many things but now she eats so well, she eats her own meals and some of mine, all the time, even if I’m just having cereal and soy milk or beans on toast. Now she thinks everything I make is gorgeous – didn’t she used to be able to taste anything with all the dairy I gave her in her diet...?

Friday, 5 October 2007

Feeling alone in the world!

Hi, just a very short note today to say thanks to everyone leaving comments on the blog, I really appreciate your feedback. I am writing this in the car sat outside my office using the wireless connection with my two children in the back getting frustrated at mum! This is because we are rebuilding the home computer and I have no internet access so just wanted to say I will be posting again soon but I may be a bit slow this week!

We've just had a day in Finsness, a small Norwegian town, to stock up on vegan goodies. My daughter kept picking up biscuits in the health shop and not one pack was free from animal products! Lunch consisted of bread as we I could find nothing else vegan in a hurry (Miller is still cranky with the arrival of his first tooth). So next time I know to make a packed lunch!

Better go!

God helg as they say here or 'have a good weekend'!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

What do children think?

I often comment on what a bad memory I have. I don’t recall a lot about my early years. I have recently wondered how I easily accepted that eating animals was the right way to behave. I know people go to a lot of trouble to disguise what is being eaten and here are a few examples...

- Most people refer to meat so it bears little similarity to the animal being eaten e.g fillet steak, bacon, chops, mince.... No-one wants to say the name of the animal (notice ‘veal’ instead of ‘calf’). There are exceptions e.g. lamb, chicken wings but people are so desensitised it just passes them by. *
*On a side note I watched a tv program yesterday and a couple were having a first date. The man had cooked and when the girl asked what she was eating the guy replied ‘pigs hooves’ and ‘tortoise’. The girl was horrified only to be reassured that it was only ‘pork dim sum’ and ‘chicken wings’, whereby she hungrily tucked in.... Is it just me?
- Advertisements mislead us – see the happy dairy cows tucking into the grass that most real dairy cows never see, see the happy bouncing lambs in the fields. These creatures obviously live happy and full lives.
- Money. The amount poured into governments by the meat and dairy industries reminds me of the tobacco industries some years ago. We pay you, you promote us. Telling everyone something is good for us doesn’t make it so.

So back to my point. When did I discover that what was on my plate was a piece of rotting animal corpse? The answer is I have no idea. Have I always loved animals? Yes. I used to be a member of all sorts of charities and refused to go to the circus. I even refused to go to Spain on holiday due to the bullfighting culture. Yet all this I did whilst eating meat. I first became aware that I had a choice in my eating habits when I was around 12 and momentarily turned vegetarian, until my mum gave me a beef and tomato cup-a-soup by ‘accident’, then I somehow fell back into the routine. It’s hard trying something like that when you cannot eat with your family as they are all having beef stroganoff and you are having beans on toast. My family were big meat eaters when I was young. Every meal had meat in it or my dad wouldn’t be full. Now they are following a more healthy diet. Infact last time they visited here for a holiday both my parents lost a lot of weight and are trying to keep it off! My dad is constantly surprised when we make a vegetarian meal that is worth seconds! We’ve not seen the folks since turning vegan so keep your eyes out for my New Year posts from the UK!

I wish as a child I had more awareness of the suffering of animals for humans to gobble up their bodies without a thought, I wish I had a stronger character that had stood up for myself in many ways back then but most of all I feel sorry for the animals I ate, whose lives I took. I am truly sorry. Maybe I can make up for it a little by telling my children what the red lumps on the supermarket shelves, why we don’t have animals milk in the fridge and why we feel it is not our right to harm other beings for our selfish habits. Maybe if someone reads this blog and makes a change, making 99 less dead animals per year then my conscience will be lighter.

I believe children should have access to the truth, it’s unfair to them and to the animals to feed them food so far removed from its origin that they have no idea what they are eating. I’m sure fish fingers, sausages and beef paste would lose their appeal if the disguise was removed.

Take care of yourself and those you share the planet with x

Monday, 1 October 2007

Quiet Days!

Life is very different in Northern Norway compared to what life was like living in England. It took me a while to get used to the slow pace here, sometimes I even got frustrated with it. People take time to respond to emails and telephone calls, people are not interested in work outside working hours and life grinds to a halt at weekends and holiday times. Of course, there are many benefits to this lifestyle. Family is valued above anything else and sitting with friends over coffee is a huge past-time. When we first moved here I often forgot that the shops mainly close at 1400 on a saturday (I was used to taking a full shopping day on a Saturday back in the UK), I forgot that you cannot buy beer after 2000 hours. I forgot you can only buy wine at a governmnet outlet which closes at 1600 weekdays and 1500 on a Saturday. I forgot that nowhere except the odd petrol station is open on a Sunday. Compared to the UK where food stores are open 24 hours, Sunday is a day to travel to outlet villages for shopping trips or to go the the garden centre or DIY store. I wonder how much more frustrated I would have been in those early days as a vegan! I need to travel to a health store to get necessary items and if I forget I'm just stuck! So with a family it is important I know what I need, when I need it!

I have a local health food store now who I can use for limited items. I can get dried beans, organic rice, pasta, tinned veggie meatballs, veggie hot dogs and soya milk. I request things but it is so difficult for them as they tell me how much they throw away because people just don't buy it! They have kindly got in just for us, tofu and rice pasta and I'm trying to make a case for vegan sandwich spreads ('Tartex' and 'Tofutti' I can get if I travel for an hour and a half) and soya milk with B12. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

So, I find it is best for me to have plenty of raw ingredients at home so I don't find myself in a situation without food! Saying that I have noticed the huge benefits of a vegan diet is most things go into your cupboard and not your fridge and although I spend more on certain items, my food bill has come down.

Yesterday I spent some time in the kitchen. I have started to cook more and am really enjoying it. Heidi chips in too, she loves helping to kneed bread and stir casseroles. I had 2 new vegan cookbooks to hand and thought I'd try some new things. As you can't buy anything on a Sunday I was forced to adapt some of the recipes but thankfully things turned out really well. I'll not write down the recipes yet as I think I need to tweak them a bit to get them perfect but for a first attempt I was over the moon. The results were the most delicious soup I'd ever made (a Mediterranean tomato and veg soup), a variety of bread and a carrot, banana and walnut cake with orange topping. Heidi had a bit of everything and Miller had some bread and I made him some mashed potatoes with carrot and spinach. My husband Matthew commented on how impressed he was with both my cooking and my desire to do it!

So, now I am enjoying the quiet days here in Norway. I cook, I practice some yoga, I read or listen to podcasts - and yes I do actually have 2 children under 2 but when you are relaxed, so are your children...most of the time!

Signing off now as Miller wants to play!

Saturday, 29 September 2007

10 Things I didn't know before turning vegan!

Hello and thanks for the great response I am getting for the blog. It's really encouraging!

Miller now has his first tooth and is using it well! I'd been feeding him almost pureed food but have recently introduced rice cakes (supervised) and he just loves them. He was chomping on big pieces with no problem (please don't try this until your baby is ready!). So I thought maybe he'd like some more solid types of food so yesterday he had small chunks of banana and a mixture of carrot and broccoli cut into manageable chunks.

He is so different from my first born who would only eat pureed fruit until she was around 9 months. The mess however that Miller makes when eating is unrivaled. I have a child gate between my kitchen and hallway as our 2 Labradors just eat anything and lick the kids at every opportunity no matter where they've been or what they've been doing (dog owners will understand that I think!). So they are sectioned off at times and the dogs just lie looking through the bars like deprived prisoners, watching Miller throwing his food all over the place!

Anyway, back to the point, I thought it would be a good idea to post some solid facts on the blog and to make it interesting to those already vegan who know this stuff I've made them reasons why I made the change, the things that moved me into action. And to those who are still eating animals, maybe they will help you understand what is going on out there.

10 Things I didn't know before turning vegan...

1.Because of improper stunning, many pigs drown or are scalded to death when they are put, still alive, into the scalding-hot water tanks that are intended to soften their skins and remove their hair.

2. Like other animals fish feel pain and experience fear.

3. Eating meat causes global warming. Animal methane is 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

4. Veal calves are confined to crates so small they can't even turn around and killed when they are just weeks old.

5. Female calves not raised as dairy cows are slaughtered for the enzyme rennet in their stomachs, used to make cheese.

6. Most chickens suffer from chronic respiratory diseases, weakened immune systems and bronchitis and more than 99 percent of chickens carcasses are contaminated with E.coli bacteria by the time they reach market.(According to a report from the USDA).

7. Research has proved that chickens are smarter than dogs, cats and some primates and pigs are smart too and are often intellectually compared to 3 year old children.

8. No species naturally drinks milk past weaning. A cow's calves are traumatically taken from her after birth so humans can drink the milk designed for them.

9. When taken from ocean depths, fish undergo excruciating decompression which often ruptures their swimbladder, pops out their eyes and pushes their stomachs through their mouths.

10.Animals rely on humans to make a change in their habits to stop their suffering. They cannot tell us to stop but all we need do is look at them to see what we are doing. Meat eating, drinking and eating animal secretions and treating animals as slaves to our desires, whether it be testing on them for cosmetics, wearing them for fashion or sitting on their skins is wrong. No question. It is wrong. And you know it.

Points 1-9 are taken from Peta's Summer 2007 Magasine (see

It's worth a visit to the Peta site and they will send you a vegetarian starter kit if you want a kick start (full of info and great recipe ideas).

On another note, if you are a new mother, I have just released a tv program on called 'Yoga Baby' - just the first episode there now with the second being uploaded later today - it's intended for new mums to practice yoga with their baby to get the relaxation they need whilst strengthening the body and the bond between mother and child.

Have a great weekend, why not see if you can make it better for the animals too.

Visit Yoga
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