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Switching to a Plant-Based Diet

Updated: Aug 27, 2023


A poster of the sacred cow Kamadhenu to discourage the consumption of beef - various deities are contained within her body. Ravi Varma Press (1897)


"We must change our diet. The planet can't support billions of meat-eaters." David Attenborough in 'A Life on Our Planet.'


Animal Suffering


Systemic abuse is, unfortunately, rife in factory farming. Fortunately, many brave activists have caught footage of what has been happening in the animal farming industries and are exposing, informing and educating the consumer and lobbying for change. In this blog I have compiled various sources and information which can inspire people to make the change if they feel compelled, or to help current vegans with their advocacy work.


For some good documentaries exposing what is happening in the animal farm industries I would highly recommend watching the following:


'Land of Hope and Glory' from the UK

'Dominion' from Australia:

'Earthlings' from USA:

And ‘Cowspiracy’ on Netflix

I would also recommend following Earthling Ed’s activism work.


It is important to remember that if you are buying meat you are supporting this industry and paying for a low-wage worker to kill an animal – the people who work in these dire situations often experience de-sensitization, PTSD, depression, domestic violence and suicide. “People don’t want to work in abattoirs any more. The industry is linked to psychological and physical damage.” From the following article. There are also many health concerns with meat consumption which I have detailed at the end of this blog-post.


I’d also highly recommend this short video by Earthling Ed and below is a quote from this speech he made to thousands of students in universities across the UK:

“The purpose of what I’m going to say and the purpose of the film is to make you question yourself. It’s to make you maybe question the lifestyle that you’ve been living all your life and make you ask the questions that I asked myself. Are my taste buds more important than the life of an animal? How do I morally justify taking the life of an animal if it’s unnecessary? These are the questions, the rhetorical questions that I was forced to confront within myself. And hopefully maybe you’ll question yourself with. Now if you get an idea and you put that idea into society long enough it becomes a societal norm. Now if you keep fuelling that societal norm, over time it forms part of society’s culture. You pass culture from generation to generation, it becomes tradition. Now we need only look across the world right now to see that culture and tradition are not good benchmarks for morality….

"The Yulin dog meat festival is an annual festival where tens of thousands of dogs and cats are bred into existence, they’re mutilated, they’re killed and ultimately they’re eaten. Is it therefore moral to kill and eat a dog if doing so forms part of the community’s culture or tradition? What about in Bok Nal were again an annual festival where tens of thousands of dogs and cats are killed. Is that moral?...Can we really justify that behaviour by saying it’s something we’ve always done or it’s cultural or it’s traditional? Now it always strikes me as so strange that we have this moral hypocrisy in society where we view some animals as different to other animals. Why is that? Why is it that so many of us in society get so angry and upset at the notion of a dog being hurt and killed? But laugh at those that get angry and upset at the notion of a pig or a cow or a chicken being killed…Why is that we have this moral distinction? After all, all of these animals are alive. They all think, they all feel, they can all suffer, they can all show compassion and receive compassion and most importantly they all deserve to receive compassion. So what gives us the right? What gives us the right to arbitrarily point the finger and decide who lives and who dies? What gives us the right to inflict pain, suffering and ultimately death on to an animal that wishes to avoid pain, suffering and ultimately death?


"Now one of the most commonly cited justifications that people use to try and excuse our consumption of animal products is the notion of a food chain. Now food chains are incredibly important. They help maintain natural ecosystems, they help maintain natural population sizes of wild animals…now what we do to animals when we selectively breed them, when we forcibly impregnate them, when we take their babies away from them, when we mutilate them, when we exploit them for what isn’t ours like their milk and their eggs, when we take them to slaughterhouses hang them upside down and cut their throats has nothing to do with a food chain. It resembles nothing like what you would see in the natural world. It has nothing to do with maintaining healthy population sizes or maintaining the ecology of environments….What always strikes me as strange is that when people see these parts of animals they say that it puts them off their food. When people see graphic content like this they often say to me I don’t want to see that it’ll put me off my food… If you were naturally meant to eat animals not only would you be able to watch them being killed, you’d be able to kill them yourself yet so many of us feel the opposite of hunger when we see animals being killed. We feel repulsed, we feel angry, we feel sad, we feel frustrated, we don’t understand why they’re suffering so much.”


The public have been kept in the dark about this subject for far too long. Some people don't question basic things like 'why does a cow produce milk?' They do not realise that the mother has to be forcibly impregnated and her baby taken away almost immediately after birth, and then grown up with a bottle, some given milk-replacer or waste milk.


Future Visions of Ethical Farms


I think that symbiotic, harmonic and respectful partnerships could be found between domesticated animals on permaculture or biodynamic farms for example. With less demand for meat there will be less genetically-modified animals (who are forcibly impregnated) brought into existence. Huge amounts of land are required to grow crops to sustain animals such as cows – with meat reduction, however, more land could be freed up – this land could be used for re-wilding, forest gardens, wild areas, so that populations of wild animals, that are facing extinction, could increase. These shifts and transitions would all take time and it would evolve organically. Yes, there would be less domesticated animals being born, but places such as permaculture farms could keep and care for existing populations of domesticated animals in symbiotic partnership (without abusing them or exploiting them for their meat or secretions) and could use, for example, cow dung since it is highly nutritious for growing plants. I am sharing some ideas here about transition processes for our society if we did reduce meat consumption and encouraged a direction towards veganism.


This article talks more about biodynamic farming and vegan concerns – and how they could be brought together in partnership.


Rudolf Steiner, who also established biodynamic farming, was a vegetarian and he “gave many indications elsewhere on the effects on us of different substances and diets such as tea, coffee, chocolate, potatoes, vegetarian, and raw food diets etc. He himself was a vegetarian but he does not say what is better for an individual but rather explains the effects and each must decide for themselves.”


(Image from wildfoodcafe.com)


Farms and Astrology


His techniques may sound peculiar and I would urge people to have open-minds regarding these subtle cosmic forces:

“When our founder Rudolf Steiner gave his eight agricultural lectures to farmers looking for answers in 1924, he didn’t go into a detailed explanation of how the preparations work, but rather explained how to make them. On the other hand, he did give copious indications and explanations of how to take into account the processes and forces and substances working in nature. This includes the working of the planets in the soil, in plants and in animals…There are the 12 forces coming from the different areas of the universe – the forces of the zodiac – which play a massive role in nature and animal life, and the diversity of plant life and the creating of seed.”

The cow is highly valued in a biodynamic system and are considered to have great spiritual purpose (as Taurus) and were prized by Rudolf Steiner. Originally developed in 1924, biodynamic gardening was the first of the organic farming movements and was drawn from Steiner’s ideas which sought to see the interconnection between human, livestock and wildlife well-being, soil fertility and plant growth in order to create ecological harmony. Organic sprays and composts are commonly used to aid fertilization as well as practises which enhance the forces of nature in the environment rather than destroy them – the farm or garden itself is seen as an organism and self-sustaining, with each part working like an organ. Biodynamic gardening also works in harmony with the rhythms of the earth and the cosmos and practitioners observe the cycles of the seasons, the sun, moon and stars and choose optimal times for sowing, planting, harvesting and taking care of the land.


At the moment, biodynamic farms do not specially kill animals for their horns which are discarded at the slaughterhouse. In the future, with a reduction of meat and therefore slaughterhouses, cow horns could be acquired after an animal died of natural causes – it’s important to note however, that some biodynamic farms do engage in slaughter of animals, so please do your research carefully.

For more information about this process of using cow manure and horns please read the following article.


Cattle, sheep and ponies roam freely up on Dartmoor in Devon


It’s interesting that Steiner felt this way about the spiritual value of cows – they are deeply revered in India and considered sacred - many states prohibit their slaughter and they are tenderly cared for in Hare Krishna farms and milked by hand with strong connections developing between people and animal which I have witnessed after staying at a Krishna eco-farm in New South Wales – although I don’t consume milk as a vegan, I deeply respected how the cows were revered, loved and decorated with flower garlands during celebrations. More information about the practises of a Krishna cow farm in London can be found here, where the cows are bred naturally and the calves are kept with their mothers for a longer connection.


"Here, because we have an atmosphere of cow care, the animals themselves are a lot more peaceful and tranquil, and maybe it's also because there is no sense that they are going to be killed by us."


The Divine Cow - Taurus


Cows are connected with goddess energy – in Hinduism, the earth-goddess Prithvi appeared in the form of a cow and Kamadhenu was a divine bovine goddess and considered the mother of all cows. In Nepal, cows are associated with the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. In Celtic mythology, Damona was a cattle goddess and in Ancient Egypt cows were deeply revered, symbolizing motherhood and fertility and some sacred bulls were thought to be incarnations of divine powers. You may also like to explore the story about the spiritual awakening of Lakshmi the cow, with her 'mentor,' Ramana Maharshi. In astrology, the earth sign Taurus is symbolised with the bull or cow.


As we awaken in consciousness and remember our oneness we are invited to look deeper and see beyond a human-centred lens. We are invited to see the divine intelligence at play – that everything is an aspect of consciousness and exhibiting unique characteristics, densities and facets of consciousness. It is my belief that the universe has the eternal capacity for infinite possibility and in this realm, (of duality,) it can provide space for two opposing options to seem like the reality - to give people the experience of choosing to be an atheist, agnostic (not choosing) or theist. In terms of taking responsibility and making a choice - I choose to see life as magical and sacred and as such, life reveals itself to me in magical and incredibly enchanting ways and I feel very grateful for the loving experiences I have had with animals who have shared their insights with me in spiritual capacities.

Sculpture of Kamadhenu at the Batu Caves, Malaysia


We are then invited to understand animals in a completely different way and a more magical universe can open up for us. For example, those who study earth energy, ley lines and dowsing are very aware that cats enjoy sitting in areas of geopathic stress, whereas humans and dogs do not, for example. Animals can be deeply impacted by earth energy just as humans can and interact with it in different ways. It is thought, in geomancy, that ant hills are found over crossings of underground water – think how fascinating life can become when we start to broaden our gaze and look beyond our limited human or society oriented focus. Think about the deep intelligence of a bird as it works with vast patterns and frequencies, that a human mind could never conceive of, as it migrates. I love this quote by Einstein that Earthling Ed uses to describe how intelligence is largely subjective: “If you judge a fish on their ability to climb a tree they will spend their whole life believing that they are stupid.”.


This is also a beautiful quote by Rudolf Steiner from his lecture ‘Outlooks for the Future’ to keep up the hope: “In future, a great hymn of praise will be sung to vegetarianism, and people will tell one another, as if they were speaking of some ancient memory, that their ancestors used to eat meat.”




Images from various permaculture workshops in Bali

A 'Permablitz' day in Bali with local children - this is a movement which helps people to set up their own permaculture gardens.

The Power of Permaculture


When reading the work of Rudolf Steiner it is important to remember that this was written one hundred years ago before the advances of intensive farming and so we have to be careful not to associate his thoughts about farming with how farming is at the moment and keep it in context regarding the age in which it was written.


I think it is very important to consider what will happen to the farmers with this transition. They have been doing this for centuries and these are deeply-ingrained ancestral patterns we are uprooting and transforming. Our world is changing and with many experts recommending that the most important thing we can do for climate change is reduce our meat consumption, the demand for vegan food will be increasing. There are now many organisations that can help farmers transition so that they can cater to these new markets – there are also biodynamic and permaculture organisations who can help farmers transition even further into holistic, symbiotic and sustainable systems which are good for the planet.


Some farmers may find it difficult to transition to growing plants since their land may not be suitable for arable farming, however there are many permaculture projects which are helping people to build soil. There are some good videos online about some extraordinary success stories, such as building gardens in deserts. There really are endless possibilities with this technology.


Farmer Subsidies


In the UK, a proportion of our tax is given to farmers to financially support what they do which keeps the cost of animal products affordable for the public – without these taxes, meat prices would actually be unaffordable for many people. Such subsidies could just as easily be given to farmers to help them transition and the Vegan Society offers financial help to farmers who wish to make this shift. We need to care about the farmers – we all need to come together to share ideas on this transition for the sake of our planet during this time of transition and the ideas and shifts will be gradual and organic. With less demand for meat there will be less genetically-modified/domesticated animals (forcibly impregnated) and brought into existence. Huge amounts of land are required to grow crops to sustain animals such as cows – with meat reduction, however, more land could be freed up – this land could be used for re-wilding, forest gardens, wild areas, so that populations of wild animals, that are facing extinction, could increase. These shifts and transitions would all take time and it would evolve organically. There would be less domesticated animals but sanctuaries, healing centres with animals, or places such as permaculture farms, could keep and care for domesticated animals in symbiotic and loving partnership (without abusing them or exploiting them.)


The earthouse, held up by 21 oak tree trunks at the Ancient Technology Centre in Dorset


Health Impacts


What about our health – is a plant-based diet healthy? We can avoid the diseases associated with meat consumption such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes etc by switching to a plant-based diet and studies have even shown that it can reverse such conditions as heart disease. There are some good documentaries on Netflix such as ‘What the Health’ and 'The Game Changers.' The British Dietetic Association which is the largest body for nutrition in the UK fully supports plant-based diets and the internet is full of information for people to find out about all the nutrients that they would require to make the switch and do it healthily. Many are discovering more about food intolerances that they have such as lactose intolerance, which is when you cannot digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products - it is possible to discover these results at various nutrition clinics.


It is also important to be aware of how manipulation is used regarding needing to eat animal products, please watch this video about eggs by Nutrition Facts who examine peer-reviewed studies with the intent to ensure there is no unfair bias or profit motive behind their nutritional advice.


In the video, it is explained that eggs can’t be described as ‘healthy’ but only with vague terms such as ‘nutrient dense.’ You can see this language of manipulation used directly in this BBC article: "“The egg is meant to be something that has all the right ingredients to grow an organism, so obviously it’s very nutrient dense,” says Christopher Blesso, associate professor of nutritional science at the University of Connecticut in the US." Notice how he also describes how eggs are "to grow an organism" - not a human, remember, an organism. Soil could also be described as something vague like ‘nutrient dense’ but it doesn't mean it's healthy for humans to put it in their body.

Stress Hormones


I think it’s also important to think about the energy of the animal’s life which we are putting into our body and think about the negative effects that this has on our own energy field – “The Journal of Animal Science and researchers at the University of Milan's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine recently confirmed that fear experienced during slaughter significantly elevates meat's levels of stress hormones—adrenaline, cortisol, and other steroids. Studies on human consumption of artificial growth hormones, which are believed by many to affect our reproductive systems and other bodily processes, have already resulted in policy changes in many countries, including those that make up the E.U. Attention is now turning to these naturally occurring fear-induced hormones as scientists worry that their consumption causes similar problems.” From the following article.


A beautiful Roman herb and vegetable garden at the Ancient Technology Centre in Dorset


Addiction


Yet what specifically is blocking people? Meat and dairy products can actually be addictive and contain chemicals which affect the brain like opiates:

“Cheese contains casein. It also contains casein fragments called casomorphins, a casein-derived morphine-like compound. Basically, dairy protein has opiate molecules built in. When consumed, these fragments attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics attach to.” From the following article.


If you are vegan, I am curious to find out how you kicked your habit? Was it a slow or a gradual process? When I first became vegetarian at the age of 19, I really struggled with giving up bacon – I missed the taste – I switched over by continuing with the same meals and replacing all meat items with vegetarian alternatives. It took a few weeks but eventually my taste buds adapted and the cravings disappeared – I then began experimenting with new recipes and found that my taste buds were getting enjoyment out of vegetables which I’d never experienced before! It felt wonderful to find so much satisfaction from a piece of broccoli. I soon began to love the taste of my new diet and the best benefit of all was that my conscience was clear.


“According to Dr. Neal Barnard, the author of Breaking the Food Seduction, it takes just three weeks to kick cravings for addictive foods like meat and cheese. This explains why 21-day vegan programs are so popular—and effective. If you stopped eating addictive foods for three weeks, you’d crave them much less than you would if you had eaten them the previous day.” From the following article.


Meathooked


If you are really struggling to give up meat, you might find the book ‘Meathooked’ by Marta Zaraska insightful:

“We know producing and consuming it is terrible for us, the planet, and billions of farm animals, so what keeps people hooked on meat? Marta Zaraska’s fascinating Meathooked provides a lively, compelling look at the many reasons humans are addicted to animal protein. Whether you’re a vegan, a hardcore meat-lover, or somewhere in between, this book will help you better understand why you and your loved ones eat what you do.” Review by David Robinson Simon.



Images from a delicious Greek cafe called Gaia Pulses in London (gaiapulses.com)


Making the Shift

Some people might feel that they find it difficult to go ‘cold turkey’ from their meat addiction and will wish to find ‘more ethical’ options but I think we need to be careful about using this phrase. Can it ever be ethical to take the life of a being who wants to live when it is unnecessary? I’m noting that ‘ethical’ has been used quite a lot about kangaroo meat since they are not farmed and killed with a single shot to the head (ideally) although it seems that joeys can get killed in the process.



Now some might argue that kangaroos need to be culled and there is currently a big divide in Australia right now on this topic – often a mother will be killed and the joey will survive, this child needs to be intensively looked after for around two years taking up a lot of resources, time and energy. Is this really the most effective way and have dynamics shifted since the huge forest fires?


We are covering a huge topic – animal farming has been with us for centuries and we all carry romanticised visions of Victorian farms of cows in green pastures surrounded by trees. In the 21st century the reality is shocking – hedgerows and forests have been stripped away, huge fields of crops cover the land for miles in some areas with few trees in sight, animals are put in industrial systems and treated with no respect. No longer do hands tenderly touch them. Machines pump at them, grind them up, hang them as their throats bleed out - they move on conveyor belts and hooks and rooms are designed to gas them. We have designed all these machines for this purpose. We have created technology which abuses nature profoundly and it needs to stop.


There are many communities and groups which you can join where you can find kinship on your journey or support if you need it in learning more about nutrition. There are some good documentaries on Netflix such as ‘What the Health’ and ‘Uprooting the Leading Cause of Death.’ The British Dietetic Association which is the largest body for nutrition in the UK fully supports plant-based diets and the internet is full of information for people to find out about all the nutrients that they would require on a vegan diet, how to source them and how to do it healthily without risk of deficiency.



The Bumi Langit permaculture farm in Java, Indonesia


Here are some useful links and Youtube channels for nutrition information and recipes if you want to try a plant-based diet:



Courses in herbalism and nutrition by Elven Scholar who is a raw, vegan doctor can be found at his websites: http://elvenscholar.org/courses.html

How do you feel about your diet right now? Have you felt inspired to make any changes? I would love to hear about your stories and visions for a beautiful planet.

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