I know I’ve been a bit remiss over the last few days, but things are hotting up on the allotment and – because the evenings are lighter – we tend to forget the time and arrive back at the flat late, leaving an unholy rush to get food organised. But the beds are looking good and the broad beans have survived the latest storm with another on the way. The hotbed is now full and has gained 6C over the past 48 hours, so now it’s capped with soil it will romp away. The infrastructure jobs like moving and plumbing the water butts are at last looking possible. There’s a whole list of things to do, but at least we’re not chafing at home.
We are, however, chafing a bit up at the allotment because the annual challenge of seed compost has made its appearance and we’re unable to agree on what to do. It really is difficult to find well made peat free seed composts. We use coir modules for many things, but there are some vegetables that need to be pricked out. We’ve experimented with SylvaGrow and it’s not the best for seed sowing. We use it for many other purposes but we’ve not been successful with some. Home made peat free compost – unless we buy in all the ingredients – uses soil and compost that haven’t been sterilised and so could in theory lead to damping off and other fungal problems. I’m sure a solution will eventually be found but it’s been a headache.
But I was browsing this morning, thinking about borlotti beans – which we really like. I was musing on whether we really do need to move towards synthetic or manufactured proteins as we decrease our meat consumption. A very little bit of research showed that the kind of pulses we can grow easily in the UK – like borlotti beans, lentil, dried peas and so on – are packed with protein and rich in no end of other important vitamins and minerals. This is important because the preferred route for many in the food industry is to grow and almost always import soya and high protein wheat to use as a feedstock, not just for animals but for manufactured foods as well. So it seems a perfectly possible and well tolerated way forward for all of us to eat less meat and more pulses – not only are they rich in protein and nutrients but they’re also high in fibre – that’s got to be a double whammy and the best thing of all is it locks out the industrial food manufacturers. From what I can discover this makes a perfect diet for vegetarians and vegans. No need for tofu and Quorn, and fake burgers and bacon; no need for spirulina products to be allowed to flood the market.
This, of course can only address the climate and species crises if at the same time there’s a total change of heart over farming policy and the subsidy system. For decades farmers have been paid to remove hedges, invest less in labour and more in machinery, and increase productivity at the expense of both soil and wildlife habitat. by dousing the land in poisons. I was completely taken aback this morning when I turned up an opinion piece by George Monbiot, written in 2010, in which he accepted that his previous position of advocating universal veganism is, or rather was wrong and that the way forward could be to allow some meat production in small and ethically run farms and smallholdings. Now to be fair he seems to have changed his mind since, but surely there is room for a less polarised discussion on meat production with a view to contributing to a solution to the present crisis.
All power to vegetarians and vegans for pointing out the ethical issues in meat (and fish) eating; but it remains an ethical choice and not a pantechnicon solution to be imposed at the expense of many thousands of jobs and without any guarantee of success. There’s no reason we couldn’t bear down on the cruel treatment of animals, and the reopening of many more (properly supervised) local slaughterhouses would make a big difference. We need to support local initiatives through the way we buy food. We used to keep chickens in our orchard some years ago, and although I never enjoyed killing them I got myself trained to kill them quickly and humanely by a local butcher. It’s not an act to be undertaken lightly or thoughtlessly but I believe it was an ethically justifiable thing to do. We gave up because foxes took to raiding in the daytime and trust me – they don’t kill chickens quickly or humanely at all. If you find the very thought of this disgusting or appalling then I’m sorry. I respect your principled stance as I hope you will accept mine.
There are other – many other – actions we’ll need to take, but the key point is that we can do it locally and sustainably and without relying on food manufacturers and agribusiness to feed us. The only green thing about the green revolution were the countless people who swallowed the lie. Bring on the lentils!