Will compulsory calorie labelling on menus reduce obesity levels in Scotland?

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts in his final column on the Scottish governments plans to make it mandatory for restaurants, pubs and takeaways in Scotland to include the number of calories in our food and drinks.

In April this year, Maree Todd MSP – Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport in the Scottish Government launched a public consultation on plans to make calorie labelling on menus mandatory in restaurants, takeaways, cafes and even hospitals. This consultation fulfils a pledge made in the SNP’s 2021 Out of Home Action Plan. The Plan builds on the commitments made in the 2018 Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan and recommendations made by Food Standards Scotland (FSS) to Scottish Ministers in 2019. Mandating calorie labelling at the point of choice was one potential way to support the Out of Home (OOH) sector to make a key contribution in improving the dietary health of all Scottish citizens. Pre-packed food is not within the scope of these proposals as there are already requirements to provide nutrition information for pre-packed food. Pre-packed food for direct sale (PPDS) is within the scope of these proposals. Similar legislation is already in place in England, where any food serving outlet with over 250 employees have been legally required to display calories since April 2022.

In a recent survey Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity found 95% of Scots affected by eating disorders would be negatively impacted by calorie labelling on menus, with many worried it would increase feelings of fear and guilt. So, what happens now? Will this add fuel to the fire? There has been an increase of people suffering from various eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia since the last decade. Young people have been facing the brunt of this epidemic as peer pressure and constant shaming on social media has led to some even resorting to suicide. This policy of the Scottish government has the potential to wreak havoc with people’s lives and exacerbate the problem even more. As an organisation, we believe focus should be on informing and educating people about the positive or negative impact about the food and drinks they consume on a daily basis. Young people should be exposed to cooking from a very young age eg. Primary and secondary schools.

Consultant Psychiatrist in eating disorders Dr Stephen Anderson, said: “There is no good evidence that this kind of calorie labelling is effective in reducing obesity. We also hear from people with eating disorders that this would have a detrimental effect on their eating disorder. Calories are one aspect of nutritional information but on its own this figure is not particularly helpful”.

“Suggesting that people need a specific number of calories does not take into account the individual’s physiology, gender, race and activity. This could be particularly harmful for children and young people where limiting calorie and nutritional intake can have significant impacts on development. A wider public health initiative looking at social and economic determinants of obesity and improving the population’s nutrition is likely to be more beneficial than listing calorie content on menus”.

We completely agree with the above statement as this is not how food should be consumed. Cooking and eating should be a joy and is meant to be spontaneous and inspiring for all who indulge in this life sustaining activity. It does not make sense to have people removing their calculators or apps to decide what they can and cannot have depending on the total calories highlighted on the menu. This will have a negligible impact on the very issue the government is trying to address and eradicate.

Finally, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Peeblesshire News and readers of my column for supporting my personal and organisations views and opinions over the years. Thank You.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 26th August 2022

UK government pushing for GMO’s via gene-editing technology

 

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the UK governments easing of regulations around gene editing and has asked Scottish ministers to consider allowing gene-edited crops to be grown in Scotland.

Corporations and scientists in the pockets of big pharma are always on the lookout for a perfect opportunity to peddle their creations on an unsuspecting public. Brexit and the pandemic have given these capitalist opportunists a perfect situation to push for the loosening of legislation controlling the quality and safety of our food; both locally grown and imported from abroad. Westminster is hell bent on removing environmental and health safeguards that environmentalists fought for in this country for decades. So, what is happening now at Westminster? The Tory government in London has introduced a Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill which would set different rules from the EU following Brexit and has asked all devolved nations including Scotland to allow gene-edited crops to be grown. The Scottish governments environment secretary MSP Mairi McAllan dismissed the idea saying that Scotland will set its own food standards under devolution and will not accept any constraint placed on its food policies.

What is gene-editing? Gene editing basically allows scientists to change a plant or animal’s DNA. Many experts would consider it one step before GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organism) which is currently banned in Europe and the UK as a whole. Since Brexit, the UK government is hell bent on eroding all our food and environment safety laws that we as a country fought so hard to achieve over the past many decades. I have previously in my columns highlighted citizens to be vigilant against corporations, lobbyists and greedy politicians who are now convinced that the only way to grow and feed the population in the UK post-Brexit is via gene-edited or GMO foods!

Under the UK’s internal market legislation, introduced by the Tory government at Westminster, anything approved for sale in one part of the UK must be available across the whole of the UK. This legislation basically undermines “Devolution” in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We are already seeing the chaos caused by the “Northern Ireland Protocol Bill” and its hasty signing off as an election promise in their manifesto by the Tories in the 2019 general elections. MSP Mairi McAllan has written to her Westminster counterpart saying: “If the UK government is determined to press ahead with this legislation, it must take steps to ensure that its revisions to the definition of a GMO (genetically modified organism) do not force products on Scotland which do not meet standards here without the consent of the Scottish Parliament”. Simultaneously, also raising concerns about the impact of the bill on Scotland’s food exports to the European Union which currently still has a ban in place for GMO’s.

So, what can we do in Scotland to stop this mad onslaught on our food and its impact on Scottish soil and water in the coming decades if this bill is passed? Once again be informed about the technology that is being promoted, ask questions to your elected MSP/MP and try to understand the link between corporations like Monsanto, politicians and large-scale food producers. The citizens always pay the price when things go wrong, let’s make sure this does not happen to Scotland’s land, water, air and health of its population.

*Originally written & published in the Peeblesshire News and WION.

The Queen Celebrates While Citizens Struggle to Eat and Heat Their Homes

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day in his final “View from Stooriefit Mountain” column. This week it’s the preparations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations while citizens have to choose between heating and eating!

Since 2010, the Conservative and Unionist party have with the support of other Unionist Parties (Labour, Lib-Dems and DUP), systematically eroded the rights, health and financial wellbeing of the working class, NHS frontline staff, individuals claiming benefits, disabled and young people. The benefit system has been cut to the bone and is on the verge of a complete breakdown, while private corporations have increased their profits on the back of the unemployed and vulnerable groups especially children by providing a disgraceful and humiliating experience for those that had no choice but to claim a pittance from the state through the governments flagship welfare reform policy via Universal Credit.

The pandemic, high cost of living and a low waged economy have all contributed to create a perfect storm for many of us having to choose between what any sensible person would argue is a basic human right. While the current government at Westminster is happy to make millions for its own MP’s and their families and friends including donors, we the people are left with no options but to either go hungry, skip meals so we can provide for our children, wear jumpers in the house as heating is unaffordable or commit suicide as the demeaning process of claiming benefits initiated by Tory MP Ian Duncan Smith takes its toll. This is only compounded by the richest Chancellor of the UK, Rishi Sunak inflicting further financial hardship and pain through his economic policies and budget which will tip many citizens into all out rebellion and the coming of a social revolution.

While all this is happening, the country is gearing up to celebrate the Queens Platinum Jubilee next month with huge amounts of money pumped into the economy both nationally and internationally. What have we become as a nation? It’s the classic Marie Antoinette’s statement; “Let them eat cake’ before she went on to become the last Queen of France after the French revolution and literally losing her head on a guillotine! Do we in this day and age need the Queen and the Monarchy? The answer is a resounding No! The Queen is so entwined in the running of our country, politics and via the Head of the Church of England, that any democrat will struggle to justify the Monarchy’s involvement in British life let alone politics. The excessive wealth and control that the Queen holds is not only obscene but utterly ridiculous in this modern age. Her Majesty’s subjects are in poverty, struggling with their mental health and trying to keep a roof over their heads for themselves and their children all at the same time, while the Queen and all her family and relatives are living lives of luxury and untouched by any economic catastrophes all paid for by us, tax payers.

So, what can we do as citizens to stop this obscenity from continuing? Simple! Make your views known to the powers that be, in this case all your elected representatives and secondly, stop voting for a political party that supports the Monarchy financially at the expense of us ordinary citizens and thirdly refrain from participating in any function, event or celebration that is organised to commemorate this monstrosity.

Finally, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Peeblesshire News and readers of my column for supporting my views and opinions over the years, including those readers that also disagreed with me. Thank You & God Bless.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 27th May 2022

Cost Of Living Crisis in Rich Britain

 

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the cost-of-living crisis in the 5th richest country in the world according to GDP.

In my previous columns I have tackled specific aspects of the state of this country since 2010 and the deliberate and callous attitude by the Tories at Westminster to undermine and reduce the welfare state, first created by Labour after World War II. Since the pandemic began and lockdowns were first initiated in March 2020, we at You Can Cook were stopped right in our tracks by the inability to deliver any of our services to communities locally and across Scotland. A huge loss to many that relied on our services and the nutritious and delicious food that many accessed and enjoyed while learning to cook and eat healthy meals daily for themselves and their families.

We have seen a consistent rise in people and children going hungry because of benefit cuts and sanctions imposed via the DWP on parents; that due to unemployment, disability and lack of opportunities had their only source of income abruptly cut. Add the rise in energy costs since April and we are now in a perfect storm. In many cases we stepped in to provide extra food through our cookery classes so that participants could take home with them meals to share with their families. As an organisation we have been at the forefront of this crisis helping support struggling children and their parents who could not afford to buy food. I will never forget seeing children feeling tired and coming to school hungry because their parents could not feed them breakfast in the morning or even worse dinner the night before!

Since Brexit this problem only got worse due to rising costs of basic foods and putting a huge financial strain on many working-class families and those that have to rely on benefits for no fault of their own. The pandemic, job loses, reduction of benefits and now the unfolding energy crisis has already pushed millions into debt, poverty, homelessness and mental health problems. We have just started to deliver our cookery sessions this year and have already seen a huge increase in the prices of essential commodities like milk, bread, fresh vegetable and fruits, meats, and many other staple foods. The ability to provide extra support has been jeopardised due to high price increases. Children unfortunately are facing the brunt of this situation as they are left feeling vulnerable, hungry and desperate for some relief. The Scottish government is doing it best to mitigate the shambolic rolling out of Universal Credit which is the root of the problem and forcing even more citizens on to foodbanks like never before.

As an organisation we have been in a unique position to help and support the most vulnerable in our community and we have spoken truth to power. Our organisation is not funded by local or national governments. This gives us leverage to raise difficult issues with politicians and bureaucrats albeit at a financial cost to ourselves. Trying to raise awareness about nutritious foods and how to access fresh produce is in jeopardy as the massive price increases in the last few years is making it impossible to convince and motivate people to swap their ready meals for some fresh home cooked meal. Foodbanks are here to stay and have become part of the welfare state. A sad state of affairs in modern Britain.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 6th May 2022

Priti Patel’s Immoral Asylum and Refugee Policy

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s Priti Patel’s racist and illegal policy to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Its mind blowing to see the brazen attitude the Tories have taken despite the party gate, energy crisis, Rishi Sunak’s wife’s non-dom status and many scandals to have hit Boris Johnson and his merry band of criminals. They are invincible and rightly so, because they have a solid majority in parliament and mandate from the English voters to do whatever they want for the good of making Britain Great once again.

So! What’s the big fuss about this new draconian refugee and asylum policy introduced by Priti Patel? Well! Quite a few legal, moral and ethical issues to start with, as the Tories have been keen since they were voted in 2010 to copy the Australian model of immigration and dealing with asylum seekers and refugees fleeing war torn areas. The country of choice has a very recent history of genocide and the current President Paul Kagame, ex-military, has been in power since 2000 and is well known for his iron grip on the country. Kagame previously commanded the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Ugandan-based Tutsi militia. Human Rights Watch has claimed that since Kagame took office, people have been prosecuted for doubting the official government’s explanation about the genocide. The rights body lists a long series of murders, disappearances, politically motivated arrests and illegal arrests of critics, opposition members and journalists. So much for the UK government’s record for dealing with tough regimes and dictators around the world when it suits them.

The initial costs to the Rwanda scheme are £120 million for up to five years. This excludes all other support costs which the British taxpayers have to bear and also, we have to keep in mind the UK governments obscene levels of always going over-budget by millions. Does anyone remember the original cost for rolling out Universal Credit?  It was £40 million over 4 years! It is now over £300 million and counting. Taking responsibility is not the strongest point of this Tory government. My question is, will all refugees and those seeking asylum be sent to Rwanda once they arrive in the UK? The answer is no for now as only Ukrainians fleeing war are being offered full support and direct access to some benefits and other privileges that other refugees and asylum seekers can only dream about. The Tories once again have shown utter contempt to equality, immigration human rights and other laws, both locally and internationally.

Finally, who gets the initial £120 million contract to move refugees to Rwanda? The usual suspect Infosys, the company that was founded by Rishi Sunak’s father-in-law! Ms Murty, Rishi Sunak’s wife reportedly owns a 0.91% stake in the business, which has secured £50 million in UK public sector contracts since 2015. Rishi Sunak was a shareholder in this company but transferred his shares over to his wife before he became an MP in 2015. Akshata Murty’s stake in Infosys is believed to be worth £500 million, meaning she’s likely to be richer than the Queen. Rishi Sunak has not mentioned this stake or most of his wife’s other assets in his register of financial interests – a Parliamentary information resource intended to ensure open democracy. Double standards, nepotism and corruption is what the Tories do best.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 22nd April 2022

What is the Good Food Nation Bill? Part II

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the good food nation bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament last year in this final part of his two-part column.

In my previous column I wrote about what the “Good Food Nation Bill” is and when and why it was first introduced and its main objectives. This column will now focus on what the Good Food Nation Bill actually does in practice and the importance of linking it with the Right to Food Scotland Bill. Government bureaucracy is the same no matter where you are on this planet, some countries may be more efficient than others but overall, the workings and processes are very similar and tightly controlled. This is the current Scottish governments flagship policy and has come a long way since 2014 when the idea was first introduced to the public. To give credit to the SNP, it’s a very forward and radical way of looking at food in Scotland and for the very first-time food will become an indicator of people’s health and well-being and hopefully a human right!

So, will the bill do what it intends to achieve in the coming years for the people of Scotland? The answer is not very clear as yet, since we are at the very beginning of a very long process. The initial bill tabled is vague and very ambiguous and not very clear as to who will be finally responsible for providing or not providing good nutritious food to the citizens of Scotland. At first glance the bill seems to address all the main factors in determining who, when and how the policy should be implemented, but as they say in any flagship policy, the devil is in the detail. Having read the bill we as an organisation are not fully convinced that this policy will do what its intended to deliver to its targeted audience especially children, low-income families, people on benefits and vulnerable groups. The reason being that all benefits are not in Holyrood’s control eg. Universal Credit. In determining the content of the national good food nation plan, the Scottish Ministers must have regard, among other things, to the scope for food-related issues to affect outcomes in relation to — (a) social and economic wellbeing, (b) the environment, (c) health, and (d) economic development. These factors alone make it impossible from the onset to expect any constructive, positive, long-term outcomes for the very section of society that it aims to benefit and address food related health problems and inequalities. Most aspects of the bill as mentioned before are vague and will not go even close to eradicating the very problem this bill is meant to address.

Local authorities and health boards are required by law to draw up “Good Food Nation Plans” along with a specified public authority! Not sure what and who this refers too. According to this bill “food-related issue” means; (a) a food matter, or
(b) any other matter connected with (i) the availability of food, (ii) the production, processing or distribution of food, (iii) the preparation or service of food for consumers. The onus will be once again on big business and corporations to heavily influence this bill in their favour as profits will start to tumble if more food is grown locally and by small farmers and community groups.

I and many other across the political divide have argued that Scottish Labour MSP Rhoda Grant’s The Right to Food (Scotland) Bill should be included as part of the Good Food Nation Bill to ensure no one goes hungry in Scotland. If the bill became law, the Scottish government would have responsibility for ensuring that food is available, accessible, and adequate for everyone. This ultimately will help support citizens of Scotland in achieving good, cheap and affordable nutritious food for all. In a nutshell, a slow but steady start to what could well become a shining example for the rest of the world to see an effective and robust food policy delivering at grassroots level all across Scotland.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 1st April 2022

Western Hypocrisy to Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the blatant hypocrisy and racism of the western media on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

For the first time since the 9/11 terrorist atrocities committed in America, I have decided to switch off the news due to biased, utterly false, mostly selective and racist reporting from most western news channels about the current war and refugee crisis unfolding in Ukraine. Any sane person with a bit of knowledge about the collapse of the former Soviet Union, will be shocked and appalled by the drums of war beating almost daily through news outlets in the West, especially Britain and America.

So, what really is happening? Why are we demonising Russia and who is benefiting financially from all this pain and suffering that is currently being inflicted on the Ukrainian people? In order to understand this, we need to go back in time when the Berlin wall fell and the Soviet Union (USSR) was broken up into pieces and 15 countries were born including Russia. The west instead of taking the opportunity to be humble in victory, carelessly and arrogantly went about antagonising Russia further by first allowing former Soviet bloc countries to join the European Union and then push for many of the former Eastern bloc countries to join NATO in a strategic alliance in order to surround Russia. In the early 2000’s there was even talk among Western intelligence and politicians to place nuclear missiles in the newly joined NATO states in order to deter any future Russian aggression. Putin who was a former KGB agent saw the demise and humiliation of his country by the west and once in power systematically started rebuilding Russia to its former glory! Since 2007 he has repeatedly warned NATO and its allies to stop their colonial expansionist policies. But because of a weakened economy, the US/UK and its allies kept probing the wounded bear time and time again. In a nutshell, the invasion of Ukraine is the outcome.

During the campaign to garner support for an illegal war in the US, France objected to this interference in a foreign state and what did the US politicians’ resort to because of this defiance; looked to boycott all French goods and even renamed French Fries to Freedom Fries! Anyone that seeks to avoid war and instead focus on diplomacy is ridiculed, called a traitor and an enemy of democracy and freedom. War is never the answer and it seems we have not learned this lesson. NATO should have been dismantled after the collapse of the former Soviet Union but the West’s colonial mindset and arrogance of superiority has led us to where we are with the Russian situation.
It’s not too late to back away and offer support to Ukrainians while holding talks with Putin. All refugees should be welcomed, not just blonde, blue-eyed and white as we are seeing a clear and racist shift towards opening our doors to people based on the colour of their skins and religion. While writing this column I heard on the radio that the UK government has offered £350 per month to anyone willing to take in a Ukrainian refugee. I rest my case.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 18th March 2022

What is the Good Food Nation Bill?

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the good food nation bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament last year in a two-part series.

Last Sunday I was invited to be part of the BBC Radio 4 “The Food Programme”. You Can Cook along with Locavore; Edinburgh’s new organic and ethical supermarket. Our organisations were the only two social enterprises that took part in this programme that assess the country’s health and food system, and looked at what opportunities and hurdles lie ahead as the Good Food Nation Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament last year by MSP Mairi Gougeon for Angus North and Mearns and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands.

So, what is the Good Food Nation Bill? The Bill requires the Scottish Ministers and certain public bodies to create Good Food Nation Plans. The relevant bodies identified in the Bill are health boards and local authorities (or councils). Other public bodies may be required to produce plans in the future. The Scottish Ministers and relevant authorities need to have regard to these plans when carrying out certain functions. These functions will be set out by the Scottish Ministers in secondary legislation that will be considered by the Parliament. The Bill was created to support the ambition of the Scottish Government that Scotland becomes a ‘Good Food Nation’. In 2014, the Scottish Government published a discussion document titled ‘Recipe for Success: Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy – Becoming a Good Food Nation’ which made a commitment that by 2025, Scotland will be “a Good Food Nation, where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day”.

The Bill encompasses the following key concepts:

1. the people of Scotland taking a keen interest in their food;
2. the people who serve and sell food ensuring that it is good quality food;
3. everyone in Scotland having easy access to the healthy and nutritious food that they need;
4. dietary related diseases declining;
5. the environmental impact of food consumption decreasing; and
6. Scottish producers ensuring that what they produce is increasingly healthy and environmentally sound.

Children in Scotland have responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Good Food Nation Bill, calling for the right to food to be incorporated into Scots law. Some readers may be aware that the ‘right to food’ Scotland bill covers very different aspects of food and was proposed by Labour MSP Rhona Grant and the intention is to incorporate the bill in Scots law. In the final part of my column, I will look at what the Good Food Nation Bill actually does in practice and the importance of linking it with the Right to Food Scotland Bill in order to have a positive and long-term impact on Scotland’s population and environment.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 4th March 2022

Energy Price Rise Pushes Many Into Abject Poverty

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the cost-of-living crisis due to a steep hike in energy prices.

What a rollercoaster ride British citizens have been on since Brexit, covid-19 and now the fatal energy blow being delivered to hardworking families in this country. From April this year electricity and gas tariffs will go up by over 50% on average, thanks in part to the price cap being removed by Ofgem and a free for all in a capitalist energy market. The working poor, pensioners, benefit claimants and ordinary folks will have to make a serious choice of whether to feed themselves and their families or heat their homes to keep everyone warm and comfortable. A disgrace for the United Kingdom as it belongs to the G7 club of rich nations.

While rising energy prices will affect most households across the country, they are more likely to disproportionately affect those on the lowest incomes. In the financial year ending in 2020, the poorest 10% of households spent more than half (54%) of their average weekly expenditure (£298.90) on essentials such as housing (including electricity and gas), food and transport. Those in the richest 10%, in comparison, spend 42% of their average weekly spend of £1,073.20 on the same essentials. As usual, during any economic crisis, it’s the working class that suffers the most and are often blamed, even though it’s the fault of our elected politicians and their lobbyist friends and donors.

Locally the Tory run council introduced iPads for all high school pupils and primary 6 & 7’s a few years ago as part of their levelling up agenda. I had pointed out in my columns that many pupils from low-income backgrounds may struggle to even charge their free iPads due to their household’s using prepayment metres! None of the elected councillors were aware of this major financial barrier and were absolutely clueless when asked by me.

A perfect storm is brewing for many households in Scotland as a decrease in wages, increase in high food prices and from April a massive energy price hike. Rishi Sunak has not extended the £20 Universal Credit last year as that would have help cushioned the impact a little. The current rate of pay and benefits don’t fit well with a rich nation like the UK. Prepayment meters will see the highest price rise and they are mostly used by the poor and most vulnerable in our society. It beggars’ belief that the citizenry can be so easily mislead and benefit claimants scapegoated again and again for the deals made by politicians to rob the tax payers via their friends and families companies which are setup simply to steal money officially through various tax havens.

Overall, considering predicted energy price increases alongside a reduction in real wages and the planned increase in national insurance contributions, the Resolution Foundation feared a “living standards catastrophe” in 2022. It estimated that taxes and energy bills would rise by an average of £1,200 per household in April 2022 under current government plans.

It’s time to act and take back our country (Scotland) from the rich, powerful and corrupt institutions of the United Kingdom!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 18th February 2022

Veganism – Pros & Cons

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the pros and cons in this final part of his two-part column on veganism.

In my previous column I covered what veganism is and its origins as a lifestyle choice for health, ethical and environmental reasons. A vegan diet is a plant-based lifestyle that prohibits the consumption of all animal products, with many people adopting a vegan diet for health, environmental and strong ethical beliefs concerning animal welfare. Strict vegans will also avoid using any products that have been tested on animals or wear leather or wool. So, let’s talk about the pros of veganism.

Turning to a plant-based diet may help slow down climate change. The production of meat implies high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn contribute to global warming. By avoiding meat consumption, we can improve our ecological footprint and help mitigate the issue of global warming. A vegan diet will eliminate meat consumption which is associated with a variety of health problems as it increases the risk for heart conditions and cancer. By refraining from meat consumption and relying on a vegetable and fruit diet instead, you may be able to improve your health level significantly. Becoming a vegan can also help reduce modern society’s obesity problems. Another upside of the vegan diet is that it reduces the need for factory farming. We consume excessive amounts of meat nowadays and those amounts of meat can only be produced with the help of industrial meat production plus the animals are treated very poorly. By refraining from meat, we could significantly reduce the need for factory farming since the overall global demand for meat could be reduced.

Our meat-based diet also implies serious soil pollution since for the production of animal feed, large amounts of chemical fertilizers have to be used. By switching to plant-based foods we will minimise and reduce the negative impact of products used to grow food for animals reared for human consumption.

Soil pollution also often implies the contamination of our groundwater. Sooner or later, harmful substances that are contained in our soil will be washed into the groundwater, which may lead to serious issues for the local population, especially in regions where people are heavily dependent on clean groundwater for cooking and other parts of their daily life. Since soil pollution and the related groundwater pollution are often connected to excessive factory farming, switching to a vegan diet may be a valid tool to improve our groundwater quality.

Let’s now look at some cons of becoming a vegan; Vegan diets can be low in protein and fat and can be harder to maintain sufficient protein intake. A huge risk of vitamin B12, iron, calcium and zinc deficiencies. Greater reliance on supplements for athletes to achieve nutritional requirements. Due to the industrialisation of our food chain since the green revolution in the 50’s and 60’s, where oil-based chemicals and fertilisers were overused to produce cash crops to make billions for big corporations, the soil in most parts of the world is heavily depleted of essential nutrients which in turn lead to poor quality of food produced. A vegan diet can be more expensive and you may need to motivate and discipline yourself a lot more. A vegan diet is not suitable for people with certain health issues and social isolation can also be a major problem. For instance, in regions where veganism is tabooed, you might have a hard time finding friends since people may be quite skeptic regarding your lifestyle.

In conclusion, it’s wise to make an informed decision before turning to a vegan lifestyle and diet and do your research properly and take professional health advice.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 4th February 2022