Monday, 30 July 2007

Lose weight with the V-Plan Diet

Forget faddy diets which are doomed to failure, the V-Plan Diet, developed by the Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation (VVF), is a lifestyle choice that has a solid scientific basis. Research has demonstrated that it can produce greater weight loss than Atkins, Weight Watchers or the Zone diet. According to the British Medical Association vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, large bowel disorders, cancers and gallstones, so from a health perspective the V-Plan Diet makes bags of sense.

The 40 page V-Plan Diet is chock full of healthy recipes and straightforward advice to assist weight watchers. The UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey have reported that meat and meat products are the primary source of fat in most people’s diets. Numerous studies have shown vegetarians and vegans to be both slimmer and healthier than meat eaters, with decreased risks of health problems and longer life expectancies, despite veggies eating the same quantity of food as meat eaters. Plus, if around 10% of meat eaters stopped consuming meat or animal products there would be enough grain left over to end world hunger, which is certainly food for thought.

The V-Plan Diet is a fantastic way to tackle the growing obesity epidemic, which is on the verge of overtaking smoking as the leading cause of death. Rather than encouraging quick fixes it proposes a long term solution, which involves altering eating habits. On average veggies’ BMI is lower than meat eaters by 2, which is quite significant. Vegetarians tend to weigh less and have less body fat than meat eaters according to research. A study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine demonstrated that low-fat vegan diets result in quite dramatic weight loss without having to restrict calories, carbohydrates or portion sizes or even exercise!

It is not enough simply to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, you need to eat natural rather than processed foods. A Harvard University Study of 75,000 women over 10 years found that the more vegetables and fruits women eat, the less at risk they are of becoming obese. You can eat a limitless amount of fruit and vegetables, with the minimum being five servings a day.

Below is one of the delicious recipes from the V-Plan Diet, which can be downloaded from the
Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation Website.

Lunch – Hummus, Tomato & Alfafa Sprouts in Pitta PocketsServes
1.5 minutes (10 if making hummus)Per serving: Calories (kcal) 352, Fat (g) 6.4

Keeps 2-3 days in a sealed container in the fridge. You can buy hummus in supermarkets but it is easy and cheap to make your own – and it won’t be so high in salt! Alfalfa sprouts are tiny green shoots full of vibrant vitamins and minerals. They are found in plastic bags in the chill section of health stores or delis.

1-2 dollops of hummus
2 small wholemeal pitta pockets or 1 large wholemeal pitta
1 tomato, sliced
Handful of alfalfa sprouts

1. Lightly toast pitta bread.
2. When warm, slice a little bit from the top if it’s a pocket or slice in half if it’s a large one.
3. Open pitta carefully.
4. Spread inside of pitta with hummus.
5. Add alfalfa sprouts and tomato.6.
Serves 4. 5 minutes

If you have leftover chickpeas, use them in a salad, soup or stew. They also freeze well.

1 tin chickpeas
1 tbsp tahini
1⁄2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic depending on taste
Juice 1⁄2-1 lemon depending on juiciness
Juice from chickpea tin
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Drain chickpeas, retaining juice.
2. Blend first five ingredients.
3. Add some juice from tin if necessary –traditional hummus is quite runny.
4. Season and serve.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Vegan Beauty brand of the week: Organic Botanics

Considering that 60% of what we apply to our skin is absorbed into our bodies and most conventional beauty products contain a cornucopia of synthetic chemicals that have been linked with a variety of illnesses, including cancer, it seems crazy not to buy organic beauty products. Almost 100% of all plant products used in cosmetics are grown with artificial chemical fertilisers and sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, leaving residues of these substances in non-organic ingredients and therefore products. If you think about it logically, a pestcide is designed to repel or destroy particular pests, whether insects, fungi or bacteria and so it follows on that these chemicals can cause adverse reactions in our skin cells.

Along with poisoning human beings, ironically in the name of beauty, there are still beauty products that are tested on millions of animals, to evaluate the toxicity of the chemicals used in those products. Rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits and other animals are forced to swallow or inhale huge doses of toxic substances, or else endure the pain of chemicals burning into their eyes or shaved skin, whilst they are completely immobilised with restraints. Manufacturers that have sanctioned such treatment in the name of beauty, couldn't be further away from the true realisation of that term. There is no beauty to be found in the suffering of living beings.

Brands who stick their neck out and create genuinely natural products are a breath of fresh air in a world of mass-produced, chemical infused 'beauty' products. Even better are those companies who refuse to test on animals and avoid the inclusion of animal ingredients in their beauty and skin-care items.

My brand of the week, Organic Botanics, is an ethical, family run company, which was established by herbalist and vegetarian Celsi Richfield and her family, over eight years ago. Celsi has been producing natural skincare for over 20 years and eventually she came up with Organic Botanics, a range of unique vegan and cruelty free products with certified organic ingredients and thankfully without chemical nasties, such as: parabens, artificial colour, synthetic perfume, chemical UV filters and petro-chemicals.

Organic Botanic's range of skin-care products consist of organically grown cool-pressed plant oils, herbal extracts, floral waters, aloe-vera, pure essential oils and other lush, natural ingredients. Having sampled a few of their products I am now officially a huge fan and their Moisturising Nutritive creams (rich in natural vitamins, nutrients and anti-oxidants with a natural UV filter) and Satin Body Lotion (rich in vitamin E and sunflower, almond and apricot kernel oil) will be taking pride of place on my bathroom shelf, alongside my other organic and vegan beauty brand favourite, Raw Gaia. If you haven't tried Organic Botanics yet, I suggest you do so right away!

Friday, 13 July 2007

PETA's cyberspace anti-fur protest

PETA US and animals rights supporter and vegetarian Stella McCartney are coming together to cohost the world’s first anti-fur protest on Second Life – a 3-D virtual world built and owned by its residents, which you can join at anytime from now until 29th July.

This demonstration will occur on a purpose built island in the Second Life virtual world and visitors can lend their virtual support. All those who participate will receive a goodie bag, chock full of anti-fur accessories, for their avatars to utilise in spreading awareness about the anti-fur campaign to the 8 million residents of this online settlement. Visitors can also donate money in the currency of the island (Linden dollars), which PETA US will exchange for real money to benefit animals.

Millions of fur-bearing animals are slaughtered each year on fur farms and in the wild. 85% of the fur industry's skins come from factory farms where animals are held captive in shocking conditions, often trapped in small cages. Some animals are conscious whilst they are being skinned and others are poisoned, gassed, beaten to death or electrocuted with rods that are forced into their mouths or anuses. Companion animals such as cats and dogs are also used for fur. The online protest is not only a fun activity but a serious endeavour, so get protesting.

As well as the joys of cyberspace involved, there are bonafide prizes, including two tickets to McCartney’s spring 2008 runway show in Paris, one of her Appaloosa bags and her Care skin care line. The competition is for a new slogan based on the tagline, “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.”

To enter the virtual world and take part in the 3-D protest go to the website and enter “PETA and Stella McCartney Anti-Fur Protest” in the search field, to discover the island.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Advocates For Animals takes on Tesco

Why is it that animals are loved by most people, yet their suffering is tolerated by the majority? We all recoil at the RSPCA adverts on the television that show cats and dogs in awful states, yet how many of us think about the farm animals that are kept in the most torturous conditions? When people tuck into their breakfast eggs and bacon do they think about the suffering of the animals they are eating? Advocates for Animals is one of Britain’s leading animal protection organisations and provides a voice for animals. They campaign against animal cruelty in all its nasty, horrid forms.

Which brings me unfortunately onto the topic of battery hens. We all know how cruel the treatment of chickens is on factory farms, yet supermarkets still support the practise of keeping chickens in tiny cages with barely room to move. One of Tesco’s egg suppliers has been exposed by Advocates for Animals for keeping up to eight chickens in wire cages that are legally only permitted to hold a maximum of five. It is bad enough that chickens are kept in cages for their entire life, unable to stand up properly or to stretch their wings or legs, but to cram even more into these tiny cages is criminal.

Advocates for Animals has launched its ‘Go Cage-Free’ campaign to try to persuade Tesco to stop selling eggs from caged hens. The campaign will focus on educating the public about the plight of caged hens and visiting Tesco stores in 16 towns to spread their message.

The supermarkets have the buying power to dictate to farmers how they treat their livestock. It is about time supermarkets used their clout to ensure that all farmers they deal with treat their livestock with humanity and stop the barbaric practises of factory farming. If supermarkets are unsure about this issue, maybe we can help them to decide by not buying eggs from caged hens. The easy answer to cruelty in farming is for us all to become vegan, but for most people this is not an option. The next best thing is for people to be aware of what they are buying and only buy animal products that are sourced from farms where animals are kept in a humane environment and allowed to live their lives in a natural way. The supermarkets depend on us for their profits, so if we spend our money ethically, they will have to change their policies.

We can make the difference!

Friday, 6 July 2007

Marc Bouwer shows ethical is fashionable

Marc Bouwer is one of the top fashion designers, known as the man that dresses celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Paris Hilton, Shania Twain and Mariah Carey, his creations add glamour and style to many red carpet events around the world. He is an influential designer in the world of high fashion, so, when he decides to go ethical and stop using any animal skins or products in his designs it’s big news. Bouwer stopped using fur, leather and wool from his collections once he became aware of the horrific conditions the animals were kept in. Thanks to PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals) he saw videos of animals being subjected to the most painful and barbaric treatment, such as conscious cows having their hooves and lips cut off.

This is not an unusual practise in the world of animal farming, this is not some rare occurrence, animals are routinely kept in conditions that cannot be described in any other way but torturous.

Bouwers 100% animal-free clothing line ‘Imitation Is Life’ premiered at New York Fashion Week. Bouwer proved that fashion does not have to be part of the animal trade, fashion can be as glamorous and exciting and beautiful without the cruelty. Hopefully more designers will follow and distance themselves from cruelty and make an ethical statement as well as a fashion statement.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Get your FREE vegetarian starter kit

There are so many great reasons for becoming vegetarian and vegan, from boosting your health to helping the planet. According to a 2006 U.N. report, rearing animals for food produces more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, planes and ships in the world combined. Raising animals leads to the production of vast amounts of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, all of which are incredibly detrimental to the planet. Feeding grain and water to farm animals and then slaughtering, processing and transporting their flesh, expends a great deal of energy. Farm animals take up a great deal of land, in fact over two-thirds of agricultural land worldwide. With water scarcity being a problem, a vegan diet uses much less water than a beat based one. An average cow consumes around 100 litres of water a day. Plus, people are starving because crops are being used as food for farm animals, rather than nourishing some of the world's poorest individuals.

The biggest step we can take towards halting global warming is becoming vegan. To give you a helping hand, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are providing a free vegetarian starter kit, chock full of recipes, tips on changing to a vegetarian diet and much much more. If you need an incentive or more information, order your kit online today!

July 14th: National Day of Action Against Tesco

On July 14th Viva! is planning a National Day of Action against Tesco, because of the inhumane practise of chopping up live turtles. In its China stores Tescos are selling live Turtles, which are either decapitated in the store itself or taken home to be chopped up.

Tesco purchased the Hymall chain of 39 supermarkets in China and failed to halt the store’s policy of selling live turtles. If they can coax the turtle into popping its little head out of its shell, they chop it off. The head can live for up to an hour after being decapitated.

The live turtles that people take home may be boiled alive or have their shells sliced off and organs and fat cut out, whilst they remain in constant pain.

According to Tescos they are killed quickly to reduce suffering and sourced in a sustainable way. The truth of the matter is that it’s very difficult to kill turtles in a painless way because of their slow metabolism and ability to live on small amounts of oxygen and most turtles sold are caught in the wild and laundered through turtle farms. I agree with Viva! and the Tortoise Trust when they say: “We find Tesco’s attitude ethically repugnant and morally bankrupt.”

If you want to complain to Tescos see the Viva! website.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

V-Pro hemp protein powder (not just for athletes)

In my younger days as a keen martial artist and general fitness fanatic, my main concern when becoming vegan was getting enough high quality protein. I had fallen for all the, "you only get protein from meat/fish/chicken/eggs" rubbish that gets repeated over and over at gym’s around the world. If only I had known about Virginia Foods V-Pro hemp protein powder! This amazing protein powder is organic, vegan and of a form easily assimilated by the body. V-Pro can be used in smoothies (it blends really easily), added to cereals and porridge and sprinkled onto both hot and cold food. It tastes yummy too, so yummy in fact my girlfriend keeps using my V-Pro.

For all you body-building types, here’s the important stuff – V-Pro is 50% protein, of which one third is albumin (as found in egg whites) and two thirds edestin (a plant protein similar to that found in the body). V-Pro contains all the essential amino acids plus high levels of arginine and branch chained amino acids essential for muscle repair and growth.

I take tubs of V-Pro when I’m travelling and if I’m out for the day I take a couple of V-Pro smoothies to get me through the day. So, whether you’re exercising or training, or just need a good source of protein in your diet, try V-Pro hemp powder, its easily absorbed, tastes good and my girlfriend swears by it.

You've got milk (but it's unhealthy and cruel)

Imagine, one day after giving birth to your precious child, it is cruelly torn away from you. Meanwhile you are attached to a pump that constantly milks you, whilst you are fed antiobiotics and hormones to enable you to produce yet more milk. Your child is being fed milk replacers, including blood from your own species, so that your milk can be sold to other humans. You spend another 5 years standing on a cold concrete floor, surrounded by your own waste whilst you are forced to produce around 50 pounds of milk every day. You develop inflammation of the mammary glands (mastitis), perhaps caused by E.coli or other bacteria, and then you are sent off to be slaughtered.

If we saw this happening to human beings, we would call it torture, yet it happens to cows on a daily basis, so that we can consume milk, which we think is healthy for us (this is a grave misconception!) and many people don't even bat an eye lid. Many consider the lives of the cows to be less valuable than their own, but this is just a product of tradition and conditioning. A life is a life, by any other name.

Female cows are artifically inseminated a short while after their first birthdays. Once they have given birth they lactate for 10 months, before being inseminated again. Cows natural lifespan is around 25 years, but the stress caused by the poor conditions in animal factories results in disease and reproductive problems that makes the cows worthless to the dairy industry after a few years, at which time they are sent to be slaughtered.

Milk production has increased from 116 billion pounds of milk per year in 1950, to 170 billion pounds in 2004, yet there are about 6 million less cows on U.S. dairy farms than there were in 1950. Normally cows would only produce 16 pounds of milk each day for their calves, but they are forced to produce 50 pounds per day, to create milk for human consumption. Cows would usually live off grass, but they are forced to eat dead animals to increase their milk production.

Milk can potentially contain E.coli or one of 150 other types of bacteria. In one millilitre milk can legally contain as much as 750,000 somatic cells (white blood cells and skin cells that are shed from the lining of the udder.) Studies have demonstrated that giving cows cleaning housing, more space and improved diets and bedding, lowers the somatic cell count as well as cases of mastitis.

Drinking milk also subsidises the veal industry. Male calves are taken away from their mothers when they are one day old and chained into cramped stalls for three to 18 weeks, to be raised for veal. They are fed a milk substitute that causes them to gain a minimum of 2 pounds per day. Their diet is deliberately iron deficient causing anaemia, to make their flesh remain pale. Rennet, an ingredient found in many cheeses, is created from an enzyme in their stomachs. The calves suffer from diarrhea, pneumonia, and lameness as well as being frightened and longing for their mothers.

Large dairy farms damage the environment, as manure from the animals pollutes groundwater, rivers and streams. Animals in animal factories, which includes dairy farms, generate 1.65 billion tonnes of manure each year, much of this contaminates our waterways and drinking water. Farmed cows and sheep are responsible for almost two fifths of the total quantity of methane created by human activity. Methane is much more detrimental as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. One litre of methane has the same effect as over 60 litres of carbon dioxide. The contribution of animal farming to climate change exceeds our transport system. Livestock are also responsible for 9% of all CO2 emissions.

The rearing of livestock uses up over two-thirds of agricultural land in the world and one cow, reared by the dairy-products industry, can drink around 50 gallons of water per day.

Humans are the only species that imbibe milk after infancy or drink the milk of another species (apart from the milk fed to animals by humans). Cow's milk is designed to meet the nutritional requirements of calves, not human beings! According to the American Gastroenterogical Association, cow's milk is the primary cause of food allergies among infants and children. Studies have shown that autism and schizophrenia in children may be connected to the body's inability to process casein (a milk protein). When the children were given milk-free diets, symptoms of these diseases vanished or decreaseed in 80% of the case studies.

We think we need milk for calcium, but although American women consume huge quantities of calcium they have some of the highest incidences of osteoporosis in the world. Chinese people consume half the amount of calcium and have low rates of the illness. Medical studies have suggested that milk can actually increase women's risk of developing osteoporosis, to the point where, T. Colin Campbell, professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University has said, "The association between the intake of animal protein and fracture rates appears to be as strong as that between cigarette smoking and lung cancer."

Humans can get adequate protein from nuts, seeds, beans, grains and other legumes. Eating too much animal protein has been linked with an array of illnesses, including colon and liver cancer.

The alternative is to stop buying milk! There are plenty of other options, such as: soya milk, rice milk, oat milk and almond milk. They taste better, they don't come from a cow's colostrum, they are much healthier and don't involved animal cruelty!

Friday, 29 June 2007

Is ‘ethical’ fashion as ethical as it should be?

lamb.jpgI think the growing trend towards purchasing ethical products and garments is fantastic. I hope it is a lasting change rather than a fad. However, I have to take issue with a couple of things. I have noticed that many ‘ethical’ fashion brands and labels use non-animal friendly products, such as silk and leather. None of these are particularly ‘ethical.’ To be honest, wool’s not great either.

Silk is the fibre that silkworms weave to produce cocoons. The process of obtaining silk involves boiling silk cocoons for twenty minutes, until they are soft and opened out. There are many humane alternatives that can be used such as nylon, silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments. At the very least peace silk should be used, which lets the silkworms live out their full cycle. I can appreciate that some brands are recycling old silk garments, to avoid creating more waste, but anything new could be made using other more animal friendly materials.

Billions of animals are killed for their skin every year to produce leather. They are castrated, branded, dehorned and have their tails docked without any anaesthetic, before bleeding to death and being skinned. Most of the leather used in the U.S. and Europe comes from India, China and other countries that have minimal or no animal welfare laws. China is the world’s largest exporter of leather and 2 million cats and dogs in China are killed each year for their skin. The rearing of animals for leather has been linked to climate change, water pollution, land degradation and the reduction of biodiversity. I am aware that some ethical brands use vegetable tanned leather, which is more environmentally friendly than regular leather, but it is still not very ethical.

You might think that wool is pretty innocuous. It’s more than just a haircut for the sheep. Shearers are usually paid by volume so they often work at a fast pace, with no regard for the animal’s welfare. They frequently kick, punch and cut the sheep when shearing them. A large proportion of the world’s wool comes from Australia and New Zealand, where around 140 million sheep per year are subjected to mulesing, whereby shears are used to slice large chunks of skin off the rear ends of live sheep without anaesthetics. Intensive sheep farming is again responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental degradation.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. I appreciate that ethical fashion does not necessarily mean vegan fashion, but I do think that those producing what they deem to be ethical items, should take the welfare of animals into account. Rearing animals for their skin/wool/fur is not environmentally friendly or ethical, in my opinion.

[via Hippyshopper]

Vegan shoes galore!

Vegan shoes used to be frumpy, clumpy and incredibly unattractive. Those days are thankfully gone and there are now some wonderful vegan footwear brands, producing striking and cruelty free footwear. Many people like the comfort factor and breathability of leather shoes, but unfortunately it's a dirty business. Millions of animals are slaughtered every year for their skin, being subject to castration, branding, dehorning and tail docking (minus anesthetics), before bleeding to death and being skinned. Animal skin is then converted to leather with dangerous chemicals, dyes and other toxins, that are exceedingly harmful to people and the environment. Rearing animals whose skins are eventually transformed into leather uses vast amounts of fossil fuels. Farm animals create large amounts of toxic waste which is absorbed into the ground and surface water, polluting wells and rivers and contributing to global warming. The vast amount of land used for grazing also contributes to a negative environmental impact.

A study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed that a solvent utilised in tanning leather has been linked with a heightened risk of testicular cancer. Additionally when you buy leather products, you may sometimes be purchasing leather from Asian cat and dog tanneries. For more information see is an alternative. Some fantastic vegan footwear brands have emerged that provide stylish and ethical vegan shoes. Three of my favourites are featured below. I will be featuring more in coming weeks!

Beyond Skin

Beyond Skin is an exclusive vegan footwear label that was established in 2001, by Natalie Dean, a make-up artist in the music and fashion industry. Beyond Skin footwear is hand-made to order in the UK, by a small manufacturer in East London, utilising a range of man-made fabrics such as polyester (kinder to the environment than viscose, which is processed with acid chemicals) and cotton backed polyurethane (which is less damaging to the environment than PVC). Polyurethane is not perfect by any means, but it is a whole lot better than leather! Beyond Skin is a firm favourite with celebrities such as Natalie Portman, Sadie Frost, Amanda Holden and Joanna Lumley.

Charmoné Shoes

These are my current favourites.
Charmoné Shoes were founded in 2006, by Jodi Koskella and Lauren Carroll who noticed a gap in the market for stylish vegan footwear. They work with the aim of producing beautiful, luxurious and sexy shoes that are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free. The shoes are crafted in Italy, utilising high quality Italian microfibers that are constructed like leather, allowing the skin to breathe. The materials used are free from PVC, instead using a polyurethane coating.

Bourgeois Bohéme

Bourgeois Bohéme, a 2007 PETA Proggy Award winner (for Best Cruelty-Free Shoe Retailer) is a trendy on-line boutique providing a range of vegan, natural and organic accessories for men and women. Their products are ethically sourced and the leather alternatives they use are mostly biodegradable. Bourgeois Bohéme endeavour to use recycled products when possible and are Vegan Society approved, as well as being PETA Business Friends.

[via Ethical Fashionista]