Monthly Archives: June 2015

“The change will come”, says Andrew Wilkie MP

Image of cat. Source: Flickr/ Martine

Source: Flickr/ Martine

With all the madness emanating from Australia’s Federal Parliament, one might forget that there are some decent politicians amongst the crowd. Andrew Wilkie, Independent Member for Denison, Tasmania, is such a politician with integrity. A voice of reason and compassion. Last month, he spoke at the RSPCA’s Animal Welfare Seminar 2015. His topic was “Why animal welfare matters to me”.

I want to highlight some of the points he made.

Mr Wilkie expressed the view that governments, and in particular the Federal Government, need to take stronger action to protect animals.

There is clearly a greater need for greater government intervention when it comes to animal welfare. There is no doubt in my mind. And in my mind it needs to be a Federal Government intervention, which we’ve barely seen. Self-regulation does not work. … And what better example than the recent exposé of the greyhound racing industry.

And voluntary model codes of practice don’t work either. How many different interpretations are there when it comes to free-range chickens.

So why are governments so weak on animal welfare, and why is it so hard to make political progress? There are many reasons, but Mr Wilkie pointed in particular to the fact that governments are beholden to vested interests, to political donors. He suggested that political donations are a corruption of good governance.

There are also conflicts of interest. For example, in Australia an estimated $4 billion each year is gambled on greyhound racing, and $16 billion on thoroughbred racing. Governments, mainly the state governments, benefit from this. So it presents an enormous conflict of interest.

But animal welfare is important to the Australian people. Wilkie reports that of all the issues he is involved with, animal welfare is raised with him most often, and animal issues attract the biggest response to him personally and to his office.

Of all the issues I am involved in, the issue that consistently attracts the strongest response from the community and the biggest response is when I open my mouth about animal welfare. So I think the polls are right. I think the vast majority of people in this country really care about animal welfare, and would really like to see governments intervene more and ensure that our animals are treated better. I have no doubt.

We need to keep the pressure up and keep chipping away.

The change will come. Change does come.

It’s an uplifting talk. A good video clip to watch when you’re despairing about the state of politics and our politicians.

Greyhound dog named Listen. Source: Flickr/ FootAJ

Source: Flickr/ FootAJ

All the presentations from the RSPCA’s Animal Welfare Seminar 2015 are available online.


Vegan now mainstream? – Yes, but elsewhere

Source: Flickr/ computix

Source: Flickr/ computix

As I wrote in the previous post, in my part of the world – inner suburban Melbourne – it’s easy to be vegetarian or vegan (veg*an). Restaurants and shops cater for us. But the further I get away from home, the more difficult it is to find decent vegan food. By decent I mean not highly processed and full of sugar, salt and unhealthy fat.

In Germany …

It’s different in Germany, where major supermarket and discount chains now cater for the needs of veg*ans. There is also a vegan supermarket chain. Veganz was founded in 2011, has nine supermarkets, and a turnover of € 12 million. Its home brand products are also available in the supermarket chains Kaisers Tengelmann, Globus, Metro and from later this month in Edeka.

An estimated 10% of Germans follow a vegetarian and 1.1% a vegan diet, with women and young people much more likely to do so. A survey of 850 vegans conducted at Hamburg University found that they are on average 32 years old, female (80%), well educated, and nearly 90% were vegan for five years or less. They came to live vegan mainly through friends.

An article in the economics part of the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper claims that the vegan trend is increasing since it is marketed with a focus on lifestyle rather than moral argument. In particular, sales of the following plant-based products increased during 2014:

  • dairy cream alternatives (59%)
  • soy yoghurt (43%)
  • soy drinks (15%)
  • meat alternatives (13%)

Meanwhile, the sale of meat and sausages (-4%) and dairy drinks (-3%) decreased during 2014. Germans still eat a lot of meat and sausages, but the trend is downwards. So much so, that companies that in the past have exclusively produced animal products are now also offering veg*an alternatives. Surprisingly, while food labels with animal welfare information are becoming more common, organically produced meat is not gaining a greater market share (currently 2%).

During the first quarter of 2015, turnover of veg*an products increased by 27% compared to the same time a year earlier.

Source: Flickr/ Storm Crypt

Source: Flickr/ Storm Crypt

And in other countries …

One in ten people in Sweden follow a vegetarian (6%) or vegan (4%) diet, according to a poll conducted by Demoskop earlier this year. Of the non-vegetarians, 37% said their interest in purchasing vegetarian products had increased over the past year. Young people are most likely to describe themselves as veg*an (17% of 15-34 year-olds).

In Britain, 12% of the population follow a veg*an diet. Many more are cutting down on meat.

In the UK alone, Mintel estimates the meat-free food market to have hit £625 million in 2013 and further forecasts it to rise to £657 in 2014, up from £543 million in 2009. Indeed, Mintel’s research reveals that almost half (48%) of Brits see meat-free products as environmentally friendly and 52% see them as healthy.

Research from Mintel also found that 12% of global food and drink products launched in 2013 carried a vegetarian claim, up from 6% in 2009; and 2% of global food and drink launches carried a vegan claim in 2013, up from 1% in 2009.

Source: Flickr/ Rick Ligthelm

Source: Flickr/ Rick Ligthelm

Back to my last post. I had asked the major supermarket chains – Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Metcash – whether they had recently launched veg*an products and whether they expected the demand for veg*an products to rise. Metcash never responded, and the others advised that changes in their product range are up to customer demand.

So let’s demand more veg*an products. A plant-based diet is good for our health and that of the planet. It’s kind to animals. It’s the ethical choice.