James Hogan, a British animal rights campaigner who is a vegan, and has been for 15 years, joins the program.
James starts by describing what veganism actually is: "Veganism is a lifestyle more than anything else. It's a lifestyle which helps to reduce the suffering of animals, reduces our demands on the planet's resources, and, importantly, improves personal health. A vegan is someone who does not eat, or use, and that's an important addition, animal products. That includes meats, poultry, sea food, dairy products, and eggs, as well as products such as honey…"
Host John Harrison asks whether you have to be almost religiously committed to the idea of veganism, to have the motivation to give up things like eggs and honey. James answers: "It isn't something that people would normally embrace all at once…"
James believes that the upsurge in interest in veganism has a lot to do with the younger generation becoming much more aware of the consequences of the horrifying way that we have used animals for our benefit. "Particularly with the growth of factory farming in the 20th century."
There are of course many arguments against being a vegetarian, let alone a vegan on health reasons. James says, however: "as someone who has been a vegan for a number of years now, I have not had any problems with proteins or any other of the calciums. I don't believe there is any significant disadvantage in becoming a vegan and adopting a vegan diet….The number of times I have been asked if I am getting enough B12! That argument is easily met by taking a supplement, and that is what the vegan society here in the UK recommends….Experts say that milk is a vital source of iodine, which is useful for mental development. Well milk is indeed a source of iodine, but iodine is only in the milk because it's given to the cow as a supplement in its animal food. I haven't had a drink of milk in over 20 years, and my iodine levels are normal, because I take a supplement."
Clearly becoming a vegan does entail making some fundamental changes to one's eating habits. But, as James points out, "It doesn't have to mean a huge change in our relationship to food. Changes to one's diet should be made in an incremental way. In the UK we have something called 'meat free Mondays' which was first proposed by Sir Paul McCartney some years ago, and all it means is that one is encouraged to avoid meat on Mondays. If even the prospect of that is daunting, I would suggest in the early stages just making one meal a week meat-free. I certainly don't advise leaping in to begin with and trying to jettison all the foodstuffs that we have grown up with…"
The fact that more and more people are turning to veganism because they are appalled by the way that meat and dairy farms are treating animals, will of course have a growing effect on those industries. James says that "the pressure will only increase as time goes on."
There is a misconception; James explains that people who become vegetarians or vegans are martyrs in some way. "the food I eat, I'm delighted with, I've adjusted my palate and my taste over the years… I'm doing this because I enjoy what I am doing, that's the main thing."
James tells us what his meal will be on the evening of recording the programme: "I was given a nice bottle of Australian Sauvignon wine, starters will be a delicious garlic bread baked locally, the main course will be a parsnip and mulled red onion roast with mushrooms, bulgur wheat, apricots and cranberries, simply roasted in the oven for about 30 minutes and accompanied by potato cakes with humus and all washed down with a glass of wine. And not a slice of dead animal in sight." Put like that, I think I will try this.
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