Category Archives: Blog

Blog posts by members

Viva! campaign to protect against future pandemics

Calderdale based group 3 Valley Vegans are backing the Viva! campaign which highlights the risks from the coronavirus to those with underlying health conditions.  A healthy vegan diet can help you lose weight, reverse type 2 diabetes, and protect heart health, reducing your risk of severe Covid-19.

Viva!,  the UK’s leading vegan campaigning charity,  have written an open letter to Boris Johnson, urging the government to support and encourage plant-based food initiatives to transition our food system and eradicate our reliance on unsustainable animal agriculture.

Covid-19 is just one of many zoonotic diseases including SARS, MERS, Ebola and HIV – all of which came from animals – and new viruses are appearing with increasing frequency. It is a stark warning of what’s to come if we don’t act now.

In their letter, they state that

“…across the globe animals are kept in horrific conditions in factory farms and wildlife markets. These settings provide a fertile environment for the transmission of viruses between different species and are the leading contributor to global heating. Meat and dairy production are responsible for 60 per cent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, while the products provide just 18 per cent of calories and 37 per cent of protein levels around the world (Poore, 2018).”

Avian and swine flu are particularly worrying due to the often thousands of chickens and pigs kept in one shed, with over 800 mega farms in the UK. In Cheshire recently an avian flu outbreak, although so far not posing a risk to humans, has resulted in the culling of 13,000 chickens at one farm, and an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has now been declared across the whole of England meaning that it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict bio-security measures to help contain the disease.

Bird flu hit the headlines in 1997 when it was found that a strain of flu virus was spreading from poultry to humans in Hong Kong.  Luckily this strain didn’t spread quickly between humans and therefore didn’t spark a global pandemic, but Dr Greger has warned of this possibility in the future, in his book published in 2006 “Bird Flu, A Virus of Our Own Hatching” especially as chicken consumption has increased dramatically.  Swine flu in 2009-10, however, did become a global pandemic originating in Mexico, near some of the largest pig farms housing thousands.

Ending factory farming of animals is the only way to prevent future pandemics.

For more information visit Viva.org.uk

3 Valley Vegans takes a break to recharge and reflect

Did you know, 3 Valley Vegans has been running for six and a half years now? In this time, we have delivered countless workshops, stalls, talks, films, our own music concert and our own festival. We have spoken to hundreds of people in the upper Calder valley and beyond, with visitors to our website from as far away as China, India and Australia. (Quick fact: our most viewed recipe is for Dorset apple cake.) Furthermore, there are over 200 posts on our blog, and we have a volunteers award from The University of Manchester.

Over these years, we have seen the vegan landscape shift. Supermarkets are reporting staggering increases in sales of plant-based alternatives. There are more people eating vegan food and following a vegan lifestyle than ever before, some inspired by the time to reflect during lockdown for COVID-19. At the same time, the impact of climate change only increases, while both systemic and localised animal welfare issues continue to cause concern.

The core group of members who arrange, plan, organise and review the online and face-to-face presence of 3 Valley Vegans has recently shrunk and we have decided it is time to take a break. We would like to use the next few months to recharge and reflect on what the aims and activities of the group should be, most appropriate to the needs of the community as it now stands. We are planning to come back around Veganuary 2021, hopefully we will be allowed to conduct one of our ever-popular cookery demos (without the worry of social distancing). 

Until the new year, we will continue to run our Facebook page and Facebook group; in fact, we strongly encourage you to share your news and events or local businesses to our Facebook group. We will keep our Twitter account running, and our eating out guide and shopping guide. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer in the new year, you can tell us at any time! Until then, keep doing what you’re doing, talk to each other, and maybe we can all help to realise the recent forecast that 12 million Brits will be meat-free by 2021.

Adapting to climate change: the vegan answer to declining agricultural yields

Rob Baylis, MSc, MIEMA, CEnv
July 2020

The decade between 2020 and 2030 is probably the most important in the history of humanity.

There is a choice to be made between two alternative futures.  The first is to treat the Climate Emergency with the same level of urgency as the Covid-19 pandemic by cutting emissions of greenhouse gases sufficiently to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Centigrade above what it was before the industrial revolution. In doing this, the quality of everyone’s lives will be much improved through better jobs, lifestyles and health along with reduced air pollution, more natural open spaces, more comfortable homes and less scope for conflict.  This will be especially important for the most vulnerable people in societies across the globe who will otherwise suffer the increasingly unequal and unjust impacts of climate change.

Scientific analysis channelled through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us that this choice will necessitate a reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050[1].  To achieve this, the level of emissions in 2020 will have to be cut by 50% by 2030, halved again by 2040 and the remainder eliminated in the following decade[2].  ‘Net zero’ will mean that any unavoidable emissions will have to be absorbed by carbon ‘sinks’ such as through restoring forests.

The second choice is to take inadequate, token or no action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, or even to grow them as is happening now with increases in consumption of animal products in some parts of the world, Amazon deforestation, Australian investments in coal mining, enlarging airports and the G20 nations (including the USA & UK) providing £95.5bn of unconditional support for fossil fuel firms between March and July 2020[3].   This business as usual choice will trigger irreversible climate changes (tipping points).  It is currently projected to deliver a disastrous global average temperature of over 4 degrees Centigrade by 2050[4].

Regardless of which path is chosen to the future, humanity will be forced to adapt to the changes in climate that are already with us now and those that are on their way as a result of historic emissions and the remaining ‘carbon budget’ that cannot be exceeded if global average temperature rise is to be no more than 1.5 °C above what it was before industrialisation.  Climate change is the cause of slow but already unstoppable rises in sea levels, retreating glaciers, more erratic monsoons and increasingly severe storms and heat waves.  The more frequent and intense instances of flooding in Calderdale must surely be local manifestations of climate change and the very heavy downpours it brings.  

Adaptation to the consequences of climate change is rarely mentioned in the mainstream media other than in the context of flooding.  One example of this media vacuum was a landmark report published in September 2019 by the Global Commission on Adaptation.  That report, Adapt now: A global call for leadership on climate resilience[5] indicates, amongst other things, that food insecurity is worsening because of more intense and frequent droughts and floods.  These impacts will be accompanied by a greater prevalence of pests, parasites and disease thereby reducing the productivity of land further.  

The Adapt Now report contains a very chilling forecast that agricultural yields could decline by as much as 30% by 2050 if ambitious action is not taken to limit climate change[6].  This would be linked to global demand for food increasing by 50% and prices rising by 20% for billions of low-income people.  At the same time, the report posits a 70% or higher growth in consumption of animal products.

To accept growth in the consumption of animal products without question or without proposing action would seem to be misguided but that is what the ‘expert’ authors of the Adapt Now report do.  Their proposals for adapting to declining agricultural yields are confined to that age-old substitute for action – more research – along with ‘digital advisory services for small-scale food producers’ and ‘expanded access to and use of adaptive technologies and agroecological practices’ that support ‘climate-resilient crops, fish and livestock’.  Or simply, tiptoeing around the edges of the symptoms rather than tackling the root cause of the problem.

Whilst it is laudable to focus on small-scale food producers and co-operatives, especially those in the less privileged parts of the world that will suffer disproportionately from the impacts of climate change, the Adapt Now report proposes no actions to reform large-scale food production.

Meat and dairy consumption accounts for at least 14.5% of worldwide carbon emissions[7] and so there is already a compelling case, on climate change grounds as well as health, ethical and other reasons, for a widespread switch to a vegan/plant-based diet.  However, animal products also account for 83% of agricultural land-use whilst serving only 37% of protein and 18% of calorie consumption[8].  Therefore, vegan/plant-based diets must be a solution to food insecurity and discriminatory injustice associated with the projected decline in agricultural productivity.

The IPCC’s Climate Change and Land report, published in 2019[9], did attract media attention because it was brave enough to address animal-based agriculture. It argued that ‘dietary changes could free several million km2 (medium confidence) of land’ by 2050.  Others have estimated that a global shift from animal to plant-based foods would reduce agricultural land-use by 76%, and water pollution by 49% compared with 2010 levels[10].

Recommendations to cut consumption of animal products are regarded by the media and politicians as contentious because people would need to change their addictions and habits to make the reduction happen.  Governments, particularly right-of-centre governments, are keen to avoid what they see as limiting personal freedoms[11].  Despite dietary change being a low-cost tool for tackling climate change, another key reason for institutional resistance to it  is the noisy and misleading objections from animal-agriculture’s vested interest groups and lobbyists.  Moreover in the UK, for example,  parliament is well known for being dominated by MPs with animal agriculture interests. In a future article, I will return to analysing the validity or otherwise of arguments by vested interest groups but dietary change has to be taken seriously if humanity is to adapt to a 30% decline in agricultural productivity.

Logically, there has to be two ways to make this adaptation.  Either, use more land for producing food, or eliminate inefficiencies in the production and use of food.  Given that the availability of land for agriculture is limited and there is much inefficiency in the use of existing agricultural land, it makes sense to tackle inefficiency as a priority. 

There are various aspects of inefficiency in food production.  One aspect is the estimated 9.5 million tonnes of food wasted in the UK every year[12].  Out of this, 380,000 tonnes of meat is wasted with a  value of £3 billion according to a  meat industry initiative Meat in a Net Zero World[13].  There is room for optimism here since both the public and private sector In the UK agree that food waste should be cut dramatically.

Not surprisingly, Meat in a Net Zero World fails to address the fundamental inefficiency inherent in meat (and other animal-derived foods).  Animals exploited for human food spend their lives converting plants into flesh, eggs and milks at the same time as releasing greenhouse gases, defecating, urinating and converting food into energy.  In contrast, vegans eat plants directly.  The result of this is that the mean area of land required to produce beef is 164m2 per nutritional unit compared with 3.4m2 for peas[14].  That’s 48 times more land for beef than needed to grow peas to provide the same level of nutrition. 

Part of the reason for the huge disparity in land requirements is the large areas dedicated to growing animal feed instead of food for direct human consumption.  Changing to a vegan/plant-based diet will therefore be crucial in liberating the land necessary to cope with the forecast drop in agricultural productivity if cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are not enough to limit global average temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Centigrade.   It will also release land for restoring natural vegetation, such as forests, to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


[1] https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/

[2] J. Falk, O. Gaffney, A. K. Bhowmik, P. Bergmark, V. Galaz, N. Gaskell, S. Henningsson, M. Höjer, L. Jacobson, K. Jónás, T. Kåberger, D. Klingenfeld, J. Lenhart, B. Loken, D. Lundén, J. Malmodin, T. Malmqvist, V. Olausson, I. Otto, A. Pearce, E. Pihl, T. Shalit, Exponential Roadmap 1.5.1. Future Earth. Sweden. (January 2020.)

[3] https://www.edie.net/news/11/G20-nations-funnel–151bn-of-Covid-19-recovery-funding-into-fossil-fuels/

[4] Interpolated from https://climateactiontracker.org/

[5] https://gca.org/global-commission-on-adaptation/report

[6] This is in addition to forecasts that the UK has less than 40 years of fertility left in its agricultural soils due to intensive farming.

[7] http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/197623/icode/

[8] Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360, 987–992

[9] https://www.ipcc.ch/srccl/

[10] Poore & Nemecek, op. cit.

[11] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45838997

[12] https://wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Food_%20surplus_and_waste_in_the_UK_key_facts_Jan_2020.pdf

[13] WRAP, 2020, Banbury, Meat in a Net Zero world

[14] Poore & Nemecek, op. cit.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Vegan school meals: why should they be available for all and how can I help?

3 Valley Vegans is informing parents about campaigns to get vegan school meals on the menu for all school children. Some Calderdale schools are now providing vegan meals for those requesting it, but we believe vegan meals should be available for all, as an option, for the environment, health and the animals.

Why support vegan meals in schools?

There are many sources to consider which advocate or encourage plant-based diets for all ages:

  • Veganism is supported by the Human Rights Act 1998 Article 9 which protects personal beliefs including veganism. This has been reinforced in a 2020 legal case in which ethical veganism was confirmed as a protected belief under the 2010 Equality Act in the same way as religious beliefs. The case therefore removes any doubt that it is illegal to discriminate against vegans by treating them less favourably than others i.e. not catering for them with vegan meals that are as equally nutritious as those served to non-vegan pupils.  Also, there is a wealth of evidence that shows a vegan diet to be healthy, and to be preventative with diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (see the China Study). Many children suffer from dairy intolerance, which may cause eczema, who for health reasons need to avoid dairy.
  • The World Health Organisation states processed meat is a group one carcinogen, and red meat which includes beef, lamb and pork as a group 2 carcinogen. In the WHO School Policy 2008 framework it states “A nutritious diet should meet the nutrient and energy needs of students and be based on a variety of foods originating mainly from plant-based sources.”
  • The British Dietetic Society recognise that a well-planned plant based diet is suitable for every age and lifestyle, and the NHS confirm this.

By providing a vegan option in schools, the government will be addressing human rights, environment, health (government guidelines encourage us to eat more fruit and veg, 5 a day, as recommended by WHO), and poverty (free school meals for vegan children).

What can I do as a parent?

ProVeg offer support to schools on how to increase the intake of vegetables, fruits and other plant-based foods.

The Vegan Society have a template letter which families can use when writing to schools. They also have letters for caterers and educators too.

Calderdale Council no longer provides any catering to schools.  Therefore, we suggest you write to individual schools, although some schools provide the catering for a number of others in the area and deliver prepared meals daily. Nevertheless, it may be worth referring to a Calderdale Council internal human resources policy, introduced recently in response to the climate emergency, that requires meals and catering at Council events to be plant-based by April 2021.  This is relevant since many school staff (not academies) still receive their salaries via the Council.

Did you know that it’s still mandatory for school caterers in England to serve meat, fish, and dairy? Sir Paul McCartney, MPs, and environmental, health, and other groups have asked the government to revise these guidelines so that schools have a choice in the matter. Add your name to the healthy children’s meals petition by PETA UK.

In summary, have a look at the template letter or better yet craft your own using the sources above. Write to your children’s school, or the one where their food is prepared and ask what they are doing to support you. Add your name to the healthy meals petition.

Image by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay

Plant Based Health Professionals write open letter to UK government

On World Nutrition Day in May more than 200 NHS doctors and other health professionals wrote an open letter to NHS leaders and the UK Government urging them to make radical changes to the current unsustainable and unhealthy food system. The letter received considerable attention on social media and was also published in The Metro.

The letter was produced by Plant Based Health Professionals UK, a rapidly growing organisation of doctors and health professionals whose aims are:

  • to promote plant based nutrition for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases
  • to education health professionals and the public on wholefood plant based nutrition and
  • to provide evidence-based recommendations for public policy on nutrition.

The letter stresses the need for rapid, nationwide changes to the obesogenic and unsustainable food environment in the UK, which has added to the UK’S COVID-19 death toll.

Three in four of the world’s new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic and are mainly transmitted through wildlife trade and factory farming. This combined with the increasing demand for cheap meat and dairy is contributing to environmental degradation and the rise of antibiotic resistance. The letter also stresses that 90% of global wild fish stocks have been over-fished or fished at capacity and farmed fish are contaminated with antibiotics and chemicals that pose a risk to human health.

Poor nutrition is of particular importance to communities of lower socio-economic means and is disproportionately affecting minority ethnic communities which makes them particularly vulnerable to disease.

The letter proposes changes such as the banning of subsidies and introduction of taxes for junk food, soft drinks and animal farming; banning of advertising which increases the consumption of unhealthy foods and importantly the introduction of subsidies to move towards a predominantly whole food plant based diet in order to improve human and planetary health.

The full letter is available to read at Plant-Based Health Professionals UK and you can see a video of the doctors talking about the urgent need for change.

Worth Valley Vegans: a new group starts up nearby

Guest blog post by Anne Taylor

This is a group to bring together people in the Worth Valley and Keighley area, who care about animals, the environment, and health, to share ideas and information, to support others in adopting a vegan lifestyle and to campaign to end all animal cruelty.

My plan in forming this group is to be able to put forward information to members of the public about the connection between food and lifestyle choices, and animal cruelty, environmental damage, and health. This has become even more urgent since the coronavirus pandemic. Although believed to have been started by the ill treatment of animals in a wet market in China, many people are not aware of the links with industrial animal farming, where animals kept in filthy and cramped conditions have become a breeding ground for deadly diseases, including swine and avian flu, meaning the next pandemic could be just around the corner. The only way to prevent this is for large numbers of people to stop eating meat.

Members of the group or anyone who wishes to join is welcome to share ideas for how to spread this message, whether that is by street campaigning, writing to MPs, newspapers, or linking with other likeminded groups, all ideas appreciated

If anyone wishes to contact me for more information please email Anne Taylor at worthvalleyvegans@gmail.com or go to their Facebook group.