Climate inaction or a shared appetite for a better world?

Overshadowed by Brexit, and much more trivial, news, last week, the world was presented with a groundbreaking climate message.

 

The social cost of climate change

The landmark IPCC special report, published on 8 October 2018, is more alarming than any previous climate report. Not only must we limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, instead of 2°C, we only really have 12 years to achieve this.

The global two largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters, China and the USA, are facing some of the highest social costs of tonnes of carbon emitted, as well as India (currently already paying $86/tonne CO2), Saudi Arabia and Brazil. Assuming 2017 CO2 emissions, the global impact is more than $16 trillion. The magazine Nature commented: “Acting like a magnifying glass, it [the social cost concept] highlights horrendous climate-impact inequality.”

 

Eating up our planet or providing a better plate?

While it is right to focus attention on cars, other transport, and energy and construction industries to curb emissions, nearly 30% of all GHG emissions are caused by the global food system, of which half (14.5%) by the livestock sector. Climate change, pollution, over-fishing and illegal fishing also cause disastrous results for the planet.

 

Lake fish

 

If we don’t act now, not many fish and coral reefs will be left in the oceans in less than 20-30 years. We’ll witness the disappearance of thousands of species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and other organisms, as well as much plant and marine life. And we’ll experience more extreme, deadly, weather and climate-related disasters. We have known the predictions for a while, but we’ve ignored the science and change advocates for too long.

With global population and income levels growing between 2010 and 2050, the environmental effects of the food system could increase by 50–90% according to a new analysis published 2 days after the IPCC report. Assuming we don’t introduce technological changes and dedicated mitigation measures, this would result in levels that are beyond the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity. The authors, Springmann and colleagues, recommend dietary changes towards healthier, more plant-based diets, improvements in technologies and management, and reductions in food loss and waste.

Globally, we need to see a 75% reduction in consumption of cattle meat, 90 percent less pig meat and half the eggs eaten currently. On average, we need to eat three times more beans and lentils, and quadruple the amount of nuts and seeds to obtain the same amount of calories (substantially more vegetables would obviously also help, and not just to reduce climate change but also to improve public health).

In wealthier nations, such as the United States and Australia, which have the highest animal consumption, dietary changes would need to be even more profound. Consumption of cattle meat would need to be reduced by 90 percent and dairy would need to be decreased by 60%.  Intake of legumes would need to be increased by four to six times to consume the same amount of calories.

These dietary changes can be achieved through education, subsidies for plant-based foods, changes to school menus, and increased taxes.

 

Be a part of the change

In the current socio-political climate where lies, deceit and gross violations of nearly all rights (human, non-human and environmental) are broadly rewarded, while facts and justice get distorted and denied, the 1.5°C temperature goal within a 12-year time frame seems sadly out of reach.

The New American, for example, reported the above-mentioned paper by Springmann et al. and concluded that the study had been designed in such a way to come to those diet change recommendations, because the authors were supposedly activists and had used scaremongering tactics… It’s very sad to see science being undermined in such a grotesque way by an increasing number of online and offline channels, and even more worrying to see the effects of these publications on the masses.

Millions of people are propping up self-serving politicians, regimes, and industries, and effectively drown out the voices and facts of more than 6,000 scientific references and contribution of thousands of expert and government reviewers worldwide in the IPCC’s and thousands of evidence-based reports. What happened to critical reasoning, logic, science and facts?

Even real climate change events, which are already wreaking havoc around the planet, causing trillions of dollars of damage, taking hundreds of thousands of human and non-human lives, and resulting in the most vulnerable being hit the hardest, don’t seem to capture people’s imagination to act now. We are oblivious and, frankly, selfish.

Every day we make decisions not only based on what we need but frequently on what is being offered to us. And herein lies the greatest threat, but also opportunity. We can work with the food industry, catering and service providers to enable better food options and encourage more plant-based menu options in public institutions. Policy makers may lag behind, but companies and caterers can make large-scale changes relatively quickly.

Help organisations such as ProVeg International increase everyone’s appetite for a better world, the Good Food Institute, and related food advocacy and awareness organisations to turn the tide. It’s not too late. Yet.


Mallorca – my number 1 vegan holiday destination

Sun, sea and island parties are the images that immediately spring to mind when thinking of the beautiful Balearic islands and particularly, Ibiza and Mallorca. But the islands offer so much more. While the beaches are indeed one of the main attractions, we can now enjoy fantastic vegan food everywhere whilst naturally getting our Vitamin D. However, care is needed with that strong sunshine, which I experienced on my penultimate day whilst attempting my first Triathlon (mentioned at the end of this blog).

In May I was cordially invited by the founders of Mallorca Vegan, Stephanie Prather and Manuel Lynch, to sample the many vegan menus across the island. I was pleasantly surprised to find foodies, and moreover vegan foodies, virtually everywhere. The standards of the vegan cuisine on offer are fantastic, and I have to admit many of the restaurants outperform those in the UK (I’m sorry, there are many wonderful UK vegan restaurants too, but Mallorca is just… different!). Who would have thought Mallorca would become Europe’s number one vegan holiday destination, and how did this happen?

My whirlwind gastronomy tour of the island took me to four towns, and in Palma alone I was served the most wonderful vegan food, in five places during three delicious days.

Bagel Café

On my first morning we visited the Bagel Café in Palma, which has the best fresh bagels, croissants, pastries and coffee in town, including gluten-free options from less than €2 to around €8. The majority of the choices on the menu are vegan or can be made vegan. Owners Andrew and Stephan have introduced thousands of people to veganised versions of what most people are used to, including a vegan ‘ensaimada’ pastry (traditionally made with lard). Their reputation is further enhanced by their stylish café ambiance, featuring high beams, a mezzanine and cosy seating arrangements. With relaxing Balearic music playing in the background, this an ideal place to hang out for breakfast, brunch or lunch.

Jasmijn Stephan and Andrew_Bagel cafe

Jasmijn, Stephan and Andrew at the Bagel Café

Bagel cafe

Healthy and delicious breakfast at the Bagel Café

Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy

In the afternoon we went to the Sabor (‘flavour’) Vegan Culinary Academy, founded by Stephanie, which raises standards in plant-based chef training. Very reasonably priced chef courses from 4 days to 4 weeks run throughout the year (sabormallorca.com).

The first graduating class of chefs showed off their skills by creating the most wonderful and amazing vegan dishes. Seven internationals, who called Mallorca their home but hailed from the USA, UK, Germany, and Hungary, loved their training, along with their local Spanish counterparts. Most of them had no prior culinary training. They had started their level 1 vegan molecular culinary course in February. Around 70 hours of taught contact time and homework that included learning about health, flavours and culinary techniques had made these students into competent and very creative plant-based chefs.

First class of Sabor Culinary Academy1

First class of chefs at Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy with Stephanie Prather (far right)

Brazilian colour salad1

Cuban Romance with Brazilian Colours (at Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy)

We were presented with a fantastic seven-course Mediterranean degustation lunch. Senses were aroused by flavour, texture, and creative presentations of intriguing sounding dishes, such as Collision at HollyRoot and Vine, Cuban Romance with Brazilian Colours, From Land to the Sea and Tartly Insane. Gastronomy techniques I had never heard of were skilfully applied. The Santanyi Triple mushroom shots, for example, were wonderful. Batter consisting of pureed asparagus and another one containing sweet potato was scooped up and placed in a liquid mixture of algae. A membrane formed on the outside while the asparagus and sweet potato remained liquid on the inside [see video]. Drinking the ‘shots’ resulted in the balls bursting open in one’s palate providing a very interesting sensation. ‘Spaghetti’ made from almond meal and other ingredients were presented with ‘sweetballs’, made of raw dates, nuts and other ingredients, which were then very briefly deep-fried. It was amazing.

Molecular culinary cooking techniques, with Rafael

Collission at HollyRoot and Vine2

Collision at HollyRoot and Vine (at Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy)

Sushi

From the Land to the Sea in preparation (tomato ‘sushi’ at Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy)

Vegan paella

 From the Land to the Sea in preparation (Vegan paella, at Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy)

Santanye mushroom shots

Santanyi Triple Mushroom shots (at Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy)

The lunch guests included three chefs of a Michelin star hotel; a radio presenter; the Editor of the Mallorca Daily Bulletin; Tony Rodriguez, the head chef of the oldest vegetarian (now vegan) restaurant in Mallorca, Bon Lloc; Svenja Gallé, head chef of Bellaverde Restaurant; General Manager Sven Rausch of the 4-star hotel Valldemossa; the Director of Tourism; and raw food goddess Mimi Kirk, who was named ‘sexiest vegan over 50’ at the age of 71, by PETA, several years ago.

Restaurante Bellaverde vegetariano & vegano

That evening we were pampered, once more. Of 133 restaurants in Port de Pollença, vegetarian and vegan Bellaverde restaurant ranks number one on Tripadvisor. Head Chef Svenja Galle has built up standards over the past three years and now enjoys a fantastic reputation. She aims to create vegan food that non-vegans really enjoy, that takes them by surprise, and make them want to come back for more. It is a place where people feel happy and relaxed. It is set in a romantic courtyard under 80-100 year old fig trees, accompanied by very friendly staff, as well as cats and dogs, which have been rescued by Coloma, who runs the lovely Pension Bellavista adjacent to the restaurant. Accordingly, Bellaverde is a major vegan hotspot. The inspiring haute cuisine dishes include as many locally sourced and sustainable ingredients as possible. The bread and olives were served with olive oil from 100-year old trees. I tried the delicious fresh truffle paste spaghetti, and my partner had the sweet potato filo pastry with sautéed spinach, cherry chutney and edible flowers. The vegan wines are clearly marked, and the desserts were to die for (we shared three between the two of us). Prices range from €6.50 for starters, and from €12 up to around €25 for mains.

Bellaverde filo pastry (iPhone pic)1

Sweet potato filo pastry with sautéed spinach, and cherry sauce (at Bellaverde Restaurant)

Spaghetti with truffle pesto

Fresh Truffle Spaghetti (at Bellaverde Restaurant)

Bellaverde sorbet2

Elderflower sorbet (at Bellaverde Restaurant)

Bellaverde

Bellaverde Restaurant courtyard

AK Svenja JdB and Stephanie

Andrew, Svenja (Head Chef at Bellaverde Restaurant), Jasmijn and Stephanie

Valldemossa Hotel and Restaurant

After a healthy and tasty Bellaverde breakfast and a yummy muffin the next morning, we made our way to the mountains where an amazing 5-course lunch was being prepared at four-star Valldemossa Hotel and Restaurant, which has magnificent views over the hills and valleys. Manager Sven Rausch is one of several at top end Mallorca hotels and restaurants who have embraced the vegan and vegan-curious visitor. Their reputation extends to Germany and beyond. Chef Ricardo had crafted two beautifully presented starters, two divine main courses, particularly the special risotto, and a mouth-watering dessert tasting including balsamic strawberries with mint gel, ‘Piña colada’ foam, chocolate cake with vanilla crème and Brazil nuts, and a touch of fruit tartar with ‘Pisco sour’ foam. Call ahead for an experience that will make you want to stay there forever.

Valldemossa

Valldemossa Hotel and Restaurant

Creamy rice at Valldemossa

Risotto with coconut cream (at Valldemossa Hotel and Restaurant)

Beetroot couscous at Valldemossa

Beetroot couscous (at Valldemossa Hotel and Restaurant)

Valldemossa dessert tasting

Dessert tasting (at Valldemossa Hotel and Restaurant)

Stephanie-JdB-Ricardo

Stephanie, Jasmijn and Ricardo (Valldemossa Hotel and Restaurant)

Cantina Vegana

Our tour continued that evening, with Kerstin Hering at Cantina Vegana. Kerstin has made an art of veganising local Spanish dishes and tapas, such as ‘sobrasada’, a traditional meat dish, which is a great combination of sundried tomatoes, spices and nuts, at Cantina Vegana. The mushroom ‘anchovies’, and homemade succulent vegan burgers are also best-sellers. Her juices and green smoothies are legendary. Kerstin commented that being in the business district of Palma meant that her clientele mainly consists of non-vegans who love the food so much, and keep coming back for reasonably priced healthy brunch, lunch and dinner options, ranging from around €4 to €12.

Cantina vegana

Cantina Vegana

Bon Lloc

On the third day we visited the oldest Mallorcan vegetarian restaurant (now completely vegan), Bon Lloc, founded by Juanjo Ramirez, who offers everyone a warm welcome and infects you with his smile. I had expected tasty but relatively simple dishes. However, I couldn’t be more wrong. Each dish is prepared with skill, talent and above all, dedication, by international high-end vegan chef, Tony Rodriguez, who creates the most wonderful raw and cooked dishes offering an adventurous menu. Hidden in the raw cannelloni that I tried was the richest creamy cashew paste I had ever tasted. I am highly motivated to buy one of Tony’s best-selling books. If you visit Palma, Bon Lloc is a must-stop destination. Prices vary from around €8 to €25.

Bon Lloc vegetarian restauran

Bon Lloc Restaurant

Canneloni at Bon Lloc

Raw Cannelloni (at Bon Lloc)

Cake at Bon Lloc1

Dessert (at Bon Lloc)

Tony and JdB

Tony (Head Chef at Bon Lloc) and Jasmijn

Ziva to Go

More raw vegan goodness came my way the next day at Ziva to Go, run by charming Swedish Petra Wigermo, who has a substantial following of both locals and internationals who have made Mallorca their home. A wide range of smoothies, juices, raw ‘burgers’ and ‘lasagne,’ as well as delicious chia seed porridge, spicy Mexican red cabbage salad and other amazing raw delights, feed the body and soul. Petra echoed Kerstin’s words and mentioned that many of her non-vegan patrons keep coming back as they just love the food. Drinks and food start at around €3.50 up to around €9 or €10.

Jdb and Petra

Jasmijn and Petra (at Ziva To Go)

‘Taste of the Mediterranean’

We ended the gastronomy tour, but not our stay, by visiting the Sabor Culinary Academy once more for a tasting event. Vegan versions of traditional dishes of 21 Mediterranean countries were served to around 60 people, including savoury and sweet treats, such as Greek dolmadas (stuffed vine leaves), flatbread and hummus from Syria, French mini quiches, creamy fake oysters, broadbean falafel from Cyprus and celebratory Hamantash (a triangular pastry stuffed with prunes) from Israel. The public verdict was unanimous; stunning food!

Fake oysters

Vegan ‘Oysters’ (at ‘Taste of the Mediterranean’)

Vegan-fuelled athletic attempt

After four days dedicated to just eating, my very overfed partner and I had been entered into the Mallorca Olympic Triathlon the next day. We feared we might sink during the 1.5 km ocean swim phase, but despite virtually no training, and never having swum in a wetsuit, or in fact doing a triathlon of any kind, we somehow managed to finish in respectable times. Compared to the top international triathletes present my result at just under three hours was nothing special; however, even finishing it, not coming last, and, more importantly, having hardly any pain afterwards, can only be attributed to a vegan diet, and in particular, all the amazing vegan food we had enjoyed during the previous week. Clearly vegan food is not only delicious, but seriously good for you too. Next year I hope we can field a large vegan team in the triathlon as it is amazingly good fun, and the best part is gorging on vegan food for days prior to the event, which I now consider an essential part of my preparation.

JdB finishing Triathlon

Finishing the Olympic distance triathlon in 2:58:50 (women started 5 minutes after the Elite men)

AK JdB triathlon finishers

Andrew and Jasmijn completed the Triathlon

JdB and Bruno

Relaxing with Bruno before the race

Need to know

Bon Lloc

http://www.bonllocrestaurant.com

Facebook Bon Lloc Restaurant

facebook.com/bonllocrestaurant

Cantina Vegana

Facebook Cantina Vegana

facebook.com/cantinavegana

Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy

http://www.SaborMallorca.com

http://www.VeganGastronomy.com (videos)

Bellaverde restaurant

http://www.restaurantbellaverde.wix.com/bellaverde

Facebook Restaurante Bellaverde

facebook.com/RestauranteBellaverde

Ziva to Go

http://www.Zivatogo.com

Bagel Café

facebook.com/BagelPalma

Valldemossa Hotel and Restaurant

http://www.valldemossahotel.com

Mallorca Vegan

http://www.MallorcaVegan.com

http://www.EuroVeganVoyages.com


The shredding of chicks

Hen at a UK animal sanctuary

Hen at a UK animal sanctuary

On the 10th of October Dutch MP Marianne Thieme of the Party for the Animals submitted a Parliamentary motion for debate on the 14th of October to ban the culling (i.e. shredding) of one day old chicks. Unsurprisingly, the motion was lost, as politicians from the mainstream parties voted against, including Labour, the Christian Union and the larger, right of the centre, parties Christian Democrats and Liberal Democrats.

 

One day old chicks are seen as a ‘by-product’ of the egg industry. Most people do not realise that the eggs they consume come with deadly consequences. Only hens lay eggs, so female chicks are kept alive for a while, destined to live a horrific and short life in cages. Naturally, chickens could live to well over 15 years, but after only two years laying eggs, they are considered ‘spent’ and are killed by being hung upside down, electrocuted and having their throats cut until they bleed to death. Not all die before they reach the scalding tank where they are plucked and rinsed in hot water; shockingly, some are still conscious at that stage. Having been to an abattoir I have seen the fear of these poor hens when being shackled upside down. Only very few hens live under so-called ‘free-range’ or organic conditions, and even they face many health and welfare problems and a premature death at the slaughterhouse. There is nothing glorious about eggs; it’s pretty miserable all round.

 

Newly hatched chicks

Of course, any male chicks are considered ‘useless’ to the industry. They are either gassed or shredded, and used for companion animal food etc. While these killing methods are relatively quick, they are not 100% effective, and obviously entirely unnecessary. There is no need for people to eat hens’  eggs, as there are plenty of plant-based alternatives that are healthier, and avoid the killing of one day old animals. Imagine human babies being taken away from their mothers just because they were the wrong sex, and killed (sadly, this scenario is not even completely fiction, however does not occur at the same rate as the killing of hundreds of millions of male chicks every year).

 

Politicians frequently protect industrial vested interests and prioritise human life over non-human sentient life. In this respect Dutch politicians are fundamentally no different from most other EU politicians. However, at least this motion was discussed in the Netherlands, whereas MPs in the UK are generally not championing animals’ rights (except for a few, who often have other portfolios and priorities, and generally do not get support from their own party members, let alone from the government parties).

 

As long as people eat eggs, killing day old chicks will continue. Veganism is the solution that removes this demand. In the absence of moral action by politicians, it’s up to us to make personal lifestyle changes. November is World Vegan Month, and The Vegan Society, or if you want materials in Dutch then the Dutch Vegan Society and EVA, are here to help.

 

I am certain that the tide will turn, in my lifetime, and that we are on a path of becoming more aware of ‘others’ in society, whether they be people in vulnerable circumstances, non-human animals, or whole habitats and ecosystems that need protecting. Before it is too late, humanity will change to preserve, rather than destroy life. A collective consciousness is working towards this peaceful goal.