Interview for U.K Health Radio
I was interviewed for U.K health Radio by Robin Daly, we talked of cancer, Victoria’s Promise, and the future of oncology, as well as some of the deeper questions.
I was interviewed for U.K health Radio by Robin Daly, we talked of cancer, Victoria’s Promise, and the future of oncology, as well as some of the deeper questions.
Nosey the Northcote Road, Peruse the Ibizan Promionades or parade the Post office Square, Brisbane, and you are guaranteed to find one ubiquitous offering amongst the cafes.,… avocado in a multitude of dissections, chopped, smashed, mushed, sliced and lathered on top of the very latest in gluten free artisan breads, and all for the price of a full weeks groceries. It is literally a world wide phenomena! So much in-fact that even the Mexican drug cartels are in on the act. The avocado industry alone is estimated to provide the Templarios Cartel with at least $150 million a year. That’s right, this little green fruit is going nose to nose with cocaine for a sniff of the underground economy.
Before you think this is an assault on those of you that regularly frequent your local cafe for a mid morning avo, I am certainly not, ransack my cupboard and it won’t be long before you find chilli flakes purposely bought to season my pompous bruncheon, and inspect the kitchen counters, you will be sure to find sourdough crumbs, remanence of my last gum cutting conquest. But why? Let’s be honest, I am just going to come out and say it, the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and avocados taste of nothing. They must be the blandest, most tasteless fruit on the market, in-fact I feel like it’s an insult to all the other fruits to even call them that, fruits that have worked tirelessly to enrich themselves in a generous offering sugar and water, just to be shunned by a lazy, dry, flavourless, momentarily ripe fruit (it’s actually a berry which only makes matters worse).
But peel back the surface and the rise of the avacodo is quite a fascinating cultural comeuppance. It has managed, through a process of memetics, of which the term meme is derived – memetics is a term coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, used to describe how cultural ideas are analogous to that of a gene. A new gene, put in simple terms, first appears due to a mutation on a previous gene, if this mutation is beneficial to it’s host, it survives, and is passed onto future generations. Meme’s work in a similar fashion through a process of natural selection, mutations and proliferation. Using Instagram as it’s primary vehicle, and an ever growing trend of healthy lifestyle luminaries, the humble avacado has been selected, first for it’s properties as a “superfood” with an admirable list of healthy constituents, including healthy fats, omegas, folates, Vitamins B6, E, C and K, then, and perhaps more crucially for its aesthtic appeal. It has all of the requirements to become the poster boy for a health revolution, its pastel green innards gift it with the perfect symbolic colour palette, offset against a brown toast and garnished in anything red, give the avocado a photographic finish worthy of adorning the feed of even the most scrupulous instagrammers. As the carefully co-ordinated images start to filter across the favoured lifestyle bloggers, their likes validate this as the breakfast of choice, and the meme begins to spread. Before long im stood in my kitchen, in my pants, squeezing lime onto my carefully “smashed” avacodo wondering when I am become such a suggestible idiot.
I am actually delighted that with instagram nice healthy food looks nicer on someone’s feed then a Mcmadeoutoffuckknowswhat double coronary burger. It is great to see. Understanding how memes take hold in such a powerful way that they can jump from a tree, to a photo to our mouths, all over the world, can help us understand how to protect ourselves from more dangerous cultural ideologies and how to help proliferate and create ones that positively impact our health and each other. Im off to cover myself head to toe in coconut.
This month marks the one year anniversary of my Veganism, well Vegan/Plant based diet rather than hardcore Vegan, I have to admit to wearing a leather belt whilst typing this… around my neck… with an orange in my mouth. No, they are holding up my jeans, or my jeans are holding it up, one way or another, it’s leather. But for the purposes of this article, every waiter that has looked at me confused and angry, every dinner party I have ruined or not been invited to… I am a Vegan.
So, one year a Vegan, and I have to be honest with you, it has been tough, but not for me, for the people around me. Two years ago my friends and family had to endure me on the Paleo diet, making them feel guilty every time a morsel of pasta or bread wondered in the direction of their mouth. Hearing me endlessly eulogise about the benefits of the Paleo diet and carb free living. Now, they have been made to feel guilty basically anytime almost anything circles their expectant tastebuds. You may think this is a bit of an oxymoron, or that simply, I’m a moron, for switching between what appears to be on the surface, completely opposing diets. But actually, it was the Paleo diet that put my first foot in the vegetative vegan camp (if like me, you just imagined a campsite filled with people with dreadlocks, white people with dreadlocks, vests made of hemp, BO, bare feet, a campfire and a big communal bowl of seeds, then A) you have an attention deficit disorder and B) that is probably what a Vegan camp would look like). The basis and assumption of the Paleo diet is as follows; we should eat foods that would have been available to us in the Paleolithic era, because our bodies have not changed or adapted to these modern foods developed since the recent agricultural revolution. This made a lot of sense to me, however, as I continued my research, it became increasingly obvious that during this era, or at least the era of the Paleolithic that is being referred to in this context, we were already evolved physiologically (and basically cognitively) into the beings we are today. So really there is nothing to suggest that the dietary choices of a paleolithic man, relatively speaking, wouldn’t have been just as hap-hazard as the modern day American (sorry America, but you know…you know). Which lead me to the question “what did we actually evolve to eat, what nutrition defined the way are bodies work, the processes, what food sources moulded us into the humans we are today? (the same humans we were 60,00 years ago)“. The answer, plants. No I thought. Bloody vegans are right, so I said to myself there and then, I would rather be fat and dead then a Vegan. I would stick to the next best thing, and try and eat whole-foods that are either grown or born (even that sounds a bit creepy doesn’t it, “I shall only eat things that are born”) anyway, I digress, a lot, it’s why my articles are so long, and bordering on un-readable, but you are still reading, thank you, even now you are still reading this, even though I am still digressing, and openly a vegan, and have no trousers on (I took the belt off, felt guilty when my first sentences made me question why I had a leather belt, then my trousers fell down, which answered the other question).
Then, I co-founded a cancer charity. Part of my self appointed duty, as someone involved in a cancer charity, was to begin researching and investigating causes of the disease, possible ways of preventing and combatting it. Amongst my conclusions, yes, you guessed it, the bloody vegans were one step ahead again. It transpired that meat and dairy are highly carcinogenic, right up there as a leading cause, and I mean right up there with smoking, The World Cancer Research Fund suggesting a plant based diet is the best form of prevention (Source) and even Cancer Research admit that red meat and processed meats are responsible for many cancers, and they don’t like to admit that anything causes cancer apart from getting old (Source). Unfortunately this wasn’t the end of it, during my research I also found out that meat and dairy are the leading cause of heart disease, which is the number one cause of death, thanks to the LDL cholesterol you only find in animal produce (source). This, I must admit, did not come as a huge surprise to me having already understood that we are more herbivorous creatures by nature, with the evolutionary advantage of being omnivorous in times of need. But, it still wasn’t enough to tip the scale! I had cut out processed foods and red meat, and most dairy at this point. But the thought of being vegetarian was pretty ludicrous to me, let alone vegan. I have been a recognised dodger of vegetables since I was knee-high-to-a-grasshopper, many a time I was kept up at the dinner table until ten at night looking helplessly over an ever more putrid and un-appealing gaggle of cold broccoli and brussle sprouts, that I had partially regurgitated on previous attempts of consumption. Accompanied by the intermittent soundtrack of my dad reminding me that there are people starving in Africa, to which I would suggest he sent them my Broccoli, a retort that would only sentence me to another further hour of brussle sprout staring. Before growing into the teenager that got a plain McChicken sandwich, and young adult that would ask for “no salad with that“. So as you can imagine, meat was not something that I really intended on cutting from my diet.
Then came Cowspiracy, you may have heard of it, you may have even watched it. But it was the straw that broke the camels back. In a documentary that I can only describe as a tirade, an assault of rational, researched, logical and horrifying stats, interviews and science that is unavoidably un-nerving. By this point, just to add yet another reason to pop me on the not invited list, I was starting to really get to grips with climate change, and by get to grips, I mean I was starting to realise we are all basically f*@ked unless something very drastic changes. It is beyond disrepute no matter how many toupee sporting, billionaire, megalomaniac, misogynist, racist, presidential candidates (god help us both if by the time you are reading this that needs to be changed to president) call climate change bullsh*t. To any sensible and balanced individual, the overwhelming, undeniable factual evidence for climate change is there for all to see. It is a huge threat to our species, huge. So when I learnt that animal agriculture, is head and shoulders, by far and away, the number one cause of climate change, drought, and famine in the third world (source), I knew I was faced with a very, very important decision. Finally, I decided to remove the blinkers I was happy to keep on, and take a peek at the way the animals are treated in modern mass-agriculture, I always knew it was bad, my sister was a vegetarian and I used to make fun of her about it and wind her up about the abattoirs. But when you see it, in depth, you can’t really forget. The cruelty is disgusting, haunting and quite frankly, barbaric.
I still could not possibly see how I would survive as a Vegan, but in my mind it came down to this:
Reasons not to eat meat:
Reasons to eat meat:
Everyday a person on the Vegan diet saves (source):
I had to give it a go. To the amusement of my closest friends, most of whom didn’t think I would last the afternoon. I decided I would take it one day at a time, not put any pressure on myself, if I had a day when I ate meat, or some dairy I wouldn’t write the whole thing off and just keep moving in the direction of fully plant based. To my surprise, I found the first week so easy, way easier then I was expecting. It’s a difficult thing to describe but it felt like “this is the way I am supposed to eat”. Energy was up, mood was good, won’t go into detail about the plumbing, but let’s just say I felt good inside and out. The main thing I found was that being organised, planning and looking into meals I could make or buy that were interesting, the stereotype that I had in my mind was that vegans basically live from salad to salad, turns out, could not be further from the truth. My diet is way more interesting and varied now then it was when I was eating a Paleo diet.
I would be lying if I said it was all plain sailing… it isn’t. Whenever you are doing something that is outside of the cultural norm, you are guaranteed to provoke a reaction from people, intrigue and questioning, sometimes anger, which I am always happy to answer, the difficulty is that it is hard to explain to someone why you are on a vegan diet without sounding like you are attacking their way of living. I reserve no judgement of people that don’t follow a plant based diet, it would be highly hypocritical of me if I did, seeing as I have only been doing it for a year. It can be difficult eating out. Grabbing food on the go can be problematic. The occasional craving for cheese. I found that I have spent a lot of time having to justify my choice to people, but most of the time it ends with people saying “actually, yea, makes sense, would love to give it a go“. The questions of where do you get your protein? – The vegan diet is actually very rich in total proteins, and in-fact proteins that are more readily used by the body than those derived from meat, such as; chickpeas, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, quinoa, soy, grains, all great sources of protein (without going to the even more lengthy and boring explanation of amino acid profiles). Calcium? Leafy greens, chickpeas, kale, almond milk, sweet potato, oranges and broccoli are all better sources of calcium then milk or cheese. Or there are the short answers, can’t get protein without meat? The current Mr Universe is a Vegan (source). Calcium? All minerals and vitamins are derived from either the sun or the earth, I go straight to the source rather than having them second hand via an animal. Ironically, diets high in animal protein promote the loss of calcium from the body, so really the question should be fired back in the direction of the asker (source).
We are a product of our culture, it is very difficult to step outside that, if we were all brought up as vegans, and our restaurants, supermarkets were all geared towards a vegan lifestyle and someone came a long and said, “I eat dead animals and drink calf’s milk”… I think we might have a few questions for them, they may even be sectioned. I honestly believe that in the next 100 years, the Vegan diet will become the most prominent, A – because the survival of the planet and the people on it is kind of dependent on that, as stated by the U.N. (source) B – it will save millions of lives (source) and C – because as information around illness, longevity and optimum health becomes more readily available and understood, as the agricultural industry loses its chokehold on the media, through more independent media sources on the web, people will naturally gravitate towards what is the optimal diet of the human species (source). Bottom lines is, I don’t need for anything to be killed, tortured to stay alive happy and healthy. If there was no plants based foods around, I would probably think differently. But there are. If I couldn’t digest plant food, I would be out there myself trying to hunt. But I can.
When I look at a cow, or a chicken, or a pig, I don’t salivate, I don’t think, mmm, Im hungry. So I don’t really need the evidence to tell me that isn’t what I am supposed to eat. If I was left alone in a field with a cow, and hungry, with my bare hands, could I kill it and eat it? definitely not, I don’t have claws, sharp teeth.., and I can’t see myself resorting to bending down beneath it and suckling it, I would probably take a look around for a few berries first. So I try not to let packaging and marketing separate me from that reality.
For me this salubrious lifestyle has been the easiest “diet” I have ever been on to stay in shape, feel energetic and healthy, with the added bonus of making some sort of contribution for the rest of the world. I also credit veganism with helping me stay sanguine over what has been a challenging year. I would, as I am sure you can predict (if you have been kind and patient enough to read this far) recommend it.
If you would like to try a 7 day Vegan diet – see how it feels for you, I have written out a diet plan to help out you can find it here: DIET PLAN
If you would like to get more detailed and factual information around the true cost of modern agriculture, I have written a more in depth report: READ REPORT
Some notable Vegetarians/Vegans…
Approaching the question “Is it ethical to eat meat”, it is important to address the subjective nature of ethics. A long debated area in all disciplines, philosophy, law and the sciences. What is, and what is not ethical can always be argued as conjecture, the opinion of the individual or the collective. Social and cultural biases can also have a profound effect on what is, and what is not considered ethical. When dealing with ethics you can try and include widely accepted concepts of morality, but in practice, an individual will be guided by their own moral compass. So to answer this question I shall do so from the stand point of my own personal guideline of ethics. I will use arguments to support them, but with an understanding that my morality may vary from my reader, with neither being invalid.
For me, when looking at the question of consuming meat there are a few key areas to consider, evaluate and draw from before concluding whether meat consumption is or is not ethical. These areas are, environmental impact, treatment of livestock, personal health and wider economic context.
This is going to be quite difficult for me to articulate, and i’m sure it will be met with disagreement. As I am sure many of you have seen in recent days, weeks a plethora of positive news around the e-cigarette.
Now, the first thing I want to point out before I rant on is, I have no doubt that it is healthier than smoking. That is not my issue.