All posts by 3valleyvegns

A local group to support and encourage a compassionate, cruelty-free, vegan lifestyle. We hold cooking sessions, tasting sessions, information sessions on everything from cruelty-free moisturisers to leather-free walking boots; vegan textiles to the best dairy-free cheese for cheese sauce!

26 Sep: Great Big Green Week event: 3 Valley Vegans circular walk of Todmorden

Sunday 26th September 2021, Carr and Craggs Moor and the Stones menhirs (standing stones). Around 8 miles / at least 5 hours including lunch stop. (Please note the change of date!)

The Great Big Green Week logo

The 3 Valley Vegans event for September 2021 and the Great Big Green Week is a walk in the hills to the southwest of Todmorden.  This will be a great opportunity to explore an interesting and beautiful area whilst grabbing time for informal discussions about vegan diets and their environmental, ethical and health benefits.  

The route juxtaposes renewable energy sources against coal mining in the past. It also passes through land used for animal agriculture and provides a chance to see some standing stones.  In the past, the remains of a fossilised shark have been found in this area once covered in rainforest.   

Todmorden hill walk 2
  • Booking essential: email rob@3valleyvegns.org.uk if you wish to book a place and receive rendezvous instructions.
  • Food & drink: out of respect for others on the walk, please only bring vegan food & drinks.
  • Stops: there will be a lunch stop together with a couple of snack/drink stops. Bring your own food and drink.  Ensure that you have plenty of water and energy giving snacks/fruits. There are no shops or cafes on the route.
  • Ascent: 390 metres or thereabouts.
  • Difficulty: moderate with a long steep climb near the start.  The terrain is boggy, slippery and wet in places.
  • Attire: please wear waterproof walking boots and dress appropriately for the weather. Also bring waterproof & warm clothing even if the forecast is for good weather.
  • Dogs welcome: but note that there are several stiles en route and most lack a dog-pass.  There are sheep and cows in some fields. Rabbits and deer have also been seen on this walk.
  • Walk with us at your own risk.  There will be a guide but every person joining the walk is expected to take responsibility for their own safety. There will be no formal provision of first aid support.
Sheep in Todmorden
Farming equipment in Todmorden

“Bet you’d love a bacon sandwich”

One of the clichéd comments that get thrown at vegans (and vegetarians) is the idea that we yearn to eat bacon, that euphemism for the flesh of a pig.  Even if sourced locally from one of those rare ‘free range’ pig farms, a young pig has to be slaughtered to provide that unnecessary source of nutrition known as bacon.  It’s also classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) by the World Health Organisation.  

Sentient Media recently published a story about an advertising campaign by the world’s biggest pig-flesh exporter, Danish Crown.   This campaign is being challenged as greenwash; a misleading, unsubstantiated and/or irrelevant statement or claim that a product, service or company has a low impact on the environment.  In this case, the advertising campaign is an attempt to overcome the growth in public concern about the links between meat consumption and climate change.

Here’s a link to the story.  Before you read it, bear in mind that most of the pigs that end up being slaughtered for food will have come from factory farms. Viva’s film Hogwood shows the kind of conditions that pigs have to suffer in British factory farms.  Also consider the fact that a significant portion of the feed for pigs and chickens in this country is soya beans grown in South America. This has been linked with deforestation of the Amazon and forest fires.  As for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with eating a pig’s flesh compared with other foods, the graph below is derived from peer-reviewed academic research. Whilst pig flesh is not the biggest per kilogram contributor to climate change, it’s around four times worse than tofu and nearly 29 times worse than nuts.

Chart of greenhouse gas emissions of food product, where beef is by far the highest
Chart showing how beef is by far the food product responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions. Source: OurWorldInData.org

Featured image: Sentient Media

CANCELLED: 22 Aug: Picnic in Hebden Bridge

UPDATE: Apologies, due to the heavy rain this weekend, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our picnic event. It would not be much fun to sit on saturated ground without shelter. If you have emailed us to confirm you were going to come, please look out for a new reply.

Come and join us for our annual pot luck picnic! This year we will of course be following government instructions and keeping a safe social distance throughout, and sadly not sharing food this time.

  • Sunday, 22nd August 2021 at midday.
  • Calder Holmes Park, Hebden Bridge
  • Meet between the cafe and the path to the railway station (see photo).

As usual, everyone is welcome to come along, we just ask that you only bring vegan food or drink (thank you for respecting the wishes of our vegan members). Please bring your own cutlery and plate. We will probably be sitting on the ground, so you may wish to bring a portable seat or blanket.

If you want to come, please send us an email. Dogs are welcome too. If the weather is bad, we may have to cancel, check here or look out for an email if it comes to that.

See you there!

Featured image by Carroll Pierce, CC BY SA 2.0

Feed our Future: providing meat-free and plant-based school meal options for all

FEED OUR FUTURE: Calderdale 

Sometimes it can seem hard enough to get a school just to provide vegan meals for vegan pupils. Many parents have faced this battle. Feed Our Future aims to go much further than this. Working with ProVeg UK and Plant-based Health Professionals, the campaign wants schools to have two meat-free days every week and offer attractive plant-based options on the other three days. Asking for two meat-free days per week doesn’t display lack of ambition – it’s all that’s possible under the current School Food Standards, which require meat to be served three days per week, dairy five days per week and fish once every three weeks. The Standards are due for review but there is no timetable for this so far. 

Where local authorities have declared a climate emergency, this proposal can be presented as a measure which will help them to meet their climate change targets. Plant-based menus also improve children’s consumption of fruit and veg and are more inclusive in terms of dietary and religious requirements.  

Calderdale has declared a climate emergency – indeed it was one of the first to do so – but does not have control of school meals, delegating the matter to individual schools or groups of schools. There are also several academy schools which are not under local authority control at all. However, Calderdale is working with an organisation called Food for Life, which is part of the Soil Association. Liz and Myra  met the Calderdale lead from Food for Life, and found her to be very responsive to our proposal. Indeed, they had already trialled some plant-based meals with school caterers. Unfortunately, the cooks were not impressed and considered that the children would not like the food.  

We are undeterred, however, and have held a second meeting attended also by Colette Fox of ProVeg UK. By means of its School Plates programme, ProVeg UK has an innovative approach to designing menus in a way to make all kinds of food appealing to children, and also provides free training to school catering teams 

Our next step is to set up a meeting with the Calderdale Public Health officer with responsibility for sustainable food. We hope she will be able to help us make some vital contacts with school heads. 

Food for Life so far works with 11 local authorities in the north of England and the midlands. We hope via this campaign to be able to make a difference to school food in Calderdale and beyond. Watch this space! 

FEED OUR FUTURE: Bradford 

3 Valley Vegans member Anne Taylor lives in the Bradford area, where the situation is different from Calderdale. Read about her experiences campaigning on school food. 

Following my own family experience of trying to get vegan school meals under the free school meals system unsuccessfully until near the end of the free period, I have been writing to councillors and my MP in Bradford. Emails to my MP have resulted in communications between myself and Vicky Ford MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, regarding the School Food Standards, which make it mandatory for schools to provide meat 3 times a week and dairy every day to all school age children. I have found out the School Food Standards are underpinned by the Scientific Advisory Committee for Nutrition (SACN) with their public health nutritionist a member of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board beef and lamb sector board and acting chair. The AHDB provides educational resources for schools about where our food comes from, though no mention of the impact on the planet.  

I have discovered there are many groups involved in trying to change the school meals system, and recently came across Joe Brindle’s campaign Teach the Future, which is about making all school subjects include climate change education. I have emailed Joe regarding the importance of the food provided at schools too which he has replied to and agreed food is something that needs to be looked into, so is passing on to his team. 

I have emailed various councillors with influence over health or the climate emergency but have had a poor response so far. I have also made a Freedom of Information request for a list of which schools get their meals from private catering companies and which have school meals provided by the council. I am awaiting a reply. 

I believe the more people who contact their MP or councillors or talk to schools about this the greater the chance that change will eventually come. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to focus on the Feed Our Future campaign for two days meat free days per week. 

You and your gut microbiome!

What is the microbiome?

Did you know that there are as many microorganisms living inside and on you as there are cells in your entire body?  That means that half of your body is made up of other living beings – microorganisms – which are so small that they can only been seen through a microscope. Microorganisms include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae and viruses. They live in and on different parts of your body but most of them are in your digestive tract (gut) and most of the microorganisms in the gut that affect your health are bacteria. Collectively, all these microorganisms are called the microbiome (or microbiota) and recent research indicates that the microbiome has a huge impact on your health!

Everyone’s microbiome is unique to them with different numbers and types of microorganisms; some of which are good for you and some are not. There is still so much we don’t know about the microbiome but this article will discuss how the it affects our health and what you can eat to improve your own microbiome.

The microbiome and our health

Many different factors affect your microbiome including how you were born (e.g. by caesarian), whether you live with other animals, lifestyle factors, such as diet and exposure to toxins, use of antibiotics and other medicines and stress. These factors affect both the number of bacteria, the types of bacteria and the diversity (how many different species there are).  Everyone’s microbiome is different and there is now research looking at how different foods could be used with different people to improve their health.

The bacteria and other organisms in the gut depend on us for their survival but they also give us something back, as long as they are healthy and there is a good variety of bacteria. Some bacteria that live in our gut are good for us, some don’t have any effect and some are not so good for us. The ones that are good for us can do lots of different things, for instance:

  • Produce nutrients such as vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.
  • Digest some types of fibres to produce short chain fatty acids and gases which fight a number of diseases (more about these later).
  • Produce chemicals that inhibit the growth of other microorganisms that cause disease e.g. Clostridium difficile and E. coli.
  • Produce other chemicals that interact with the nervous system or reduce levels of inflammation in the body.

There are many different ways in which we think the microbiome helps to prevent disease. For instance, it is particularly important for a healthy immune system. The body interacts in a complex way with the microorganisms in your gut to improve your immune response to infection so that you can fight off the invading bacteria or viruses without fighting your own cells and organs.

Some species of bacteria in your gut produce chemicals called short chain fatty acids which are vital in tackling a range of diseases. For instance, one of these short chain fatty acids called butyrate provides energy for a type of human cell that destroys cancer cells. Butyrate also helps to regulate glucose levels. Another short chain fatty acid called propionate regulates the body’s feeling of fullness after eating. Acetate, another short chain fatty acid, regulates cholesterol in the blood and again may help to regulate appetite.

Some microorganisms produce chemicals which produce an inflammatory effect in the body whilst others produce an anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation is linked to a wide range of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

There is increasing evidence that the microbiome is linked to a healthy brain and to your mental health. For instance, research suggests that eating certain foods can improve your feeling of well being and a healthy microbiome is involved in the production of the brain hormone serotonin which helps to stabilise your mood and make you feel happy.  Other research suggests that conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are more likely in people with an unhealthy microbiome.

Unhealthy bacteria produce chemicals which help to cause disease, such as a chemical called TMAO which raises the risk of heart disease. TMAO is produced by the bacteria in the gut when you eat animal products, so vegans are at an advantage here.

The microbiota may also play a part in the development of obesity. People who are obese have different microbiota from healthy weight people. In fact, recent trials have taken place to assess whether transplanting microbiota from the gut of a healthy person into an obese person can improve their recipient’s microbiota, although the findings have so far been inconclusive.

At present research indicates that the microbiome is also linked to a range of other conditions and diseases such as autism and allergies. Sadly, many of the studies that show these links have been done on mice and it isn’t clear how the findings translate to humans.

What can you do to keep your microbiota healthy?

Foods which produce an unhealthy microbiome are processed foods, foods high in sugar, alcohol and animal-based foods. So, the key is to reduce these and increase healthy foods which are those that your beneficial bacteria need to survive. These foods are carbohydrate rich plant foods and are collectively called prebiotics. This means a varied plant-based diet with a wide range of unprocessed vegetables, fruits, nuts and pulses; these all contain the fibre which your healthy bacteria love. Research shows that the greater the variety of food eaten, the better the diversity of the microbiota. If your diet is currently low in plant foods, build up the amount of fibre slowly so that your gut bacteria have a chance to adapt.

In addition to prebiotics, research also suggests that probiotics may be useful. These are foods which already include the healthy live bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, in them. Probiotics are fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and live (plant-based) yoghurt. Other foods may contain probiotics, such as tempeh, miso and some nut cheeses.

To summarise, eat lots of different types of mainly unprocessed plants and include a variety of plant-based probiotics.


Words by Liz Readle, Certificate in Plant-based Nutrition, University of Winchester

Image by Geralt via Pixabay

Inspiring interview with authors of new book: ‘Rethinking Food and Agriculture’

Watch an inspiring interview hosted by the Vegan Organic Network

Rethinking Food and Agriculture, New Ways Forward. Dr Laila Kassam and Tony Martin

The book ‘Rethinking Food and Agriculture is edited by Laila Kassam (Animal Think Tank) and Amir Kassam (University of Reading) with chapters from a range of academics and activists.  The book highlights the urgent need to ‘rethink’ the food and agriculture system and highlights ‘new ways forward’, including alternative paradigms of agriculture, human nutrition and political economy that are more ethical, sustainable and just.  Contributors include Robert Chambers, David Jenkins, Tony Juniper, Dr. Shireen Kassam, David Montgomery, Vandana Shiva and many others.  It’s a wonderful contribution to the science and philosophy supporting the urgent need to transition to a non-violent vegan food system and restore a right relationship with ourselves, other species and nature.

The book outlines how the multiple health, climate and biodiversity crises we are facing are deeply interconnected and that these interconnections need to be better understood for meaningful system-wide transformation to be possible. In order to understand these interconnections the book explores the different stages in the food system from farm to retail and the different participants in the food system including farmers and their communities, civil society groups, social movements, development experts, scientists, and other food system actors who have been raising awareness of these issues and implementing more sustainable and just food system solutions. 

The book also undertakes a deep exploration of the underlying beliefs, values, ethics and motivations, which drive the global capitalist economic system including the food system.  The authors comment that, “injustice toward and suffering of humans, other animals, and nature is ultimately an issue of values and ethics. Responsible food and agriculture systems must be shaped by ethics, equity, quality of life, and informed engagement of civil society that is connected both locally and internationally.“  The concluding chapter distills some of the key themes and ways forward explored in the preceding chapters.  It uses these themes to inform the concept of “inclusive responsibility” which embodies a vision of a healthy food and agriculture system. 

“An inclusively responsible food and agriculture system would encourage society to focus on agroecological sustainability as an integral part of overall ecosystem sustainability based on planetary boundaries.  Such a system would place importance on quality of life, pluralism, equity, and justice for all.  It would emphasize the health, wellbeing, sovereignty, dignity, and rights of farmers, consumers, and all other stakeholders, as well as of nonhuman animals and the natural world.  The concept of “inclusive responsibility” is ultimately based on an understanding of the interconnectedness of nature and the place and responsibility of human society within it.“

The authors have created a website, which shares extracts from each of the chapters.  You can read a brief summary of the chapters and…you can also ask your library to order a copy.