About joetait

A PhD student at Southampton uni, studying pure maths. Have various interests, which often change quite significantly, but generally centre around being a nice person to some degree or other. I like to make a point of not following general, according to my ability to do so (extricating myself from capitalism does not seem realistic right now!). I try to be logical. Atheist. Linux user. Vegan. That'll do for now. http://www.personal.soton.ac.uk/jjt1e10

Milk is the Key to Being Vegan

This is very much based on personal experience, and I am sure there are lots of ways to get in to being vegan, but knowing failed vegans, current vegans and people who go on about how hard it must be, I have come to the conclusion that dairy is one of the most significant factors in being vegan.

For me personally, I didn’t have dairy for years and years before I went vegan, for health reasons. It might have been part of the reason that I didn’t go veggie – no meat and no dairy is pretty close to being vegan and I assumed it would be very hard. Now that I am vegan, I think that the years of experience not having dairy help me a lot. I am used to all the alternatives, know what to use instead and what things to avoid that you might not realise straight away. And getting used to these things was quite easy, because when I was eating meat I could easily make a meal centred around chicken, lamb or beef and no-one would really care that there was cheese on the table or yoghurt in the curry (sorry, that was the best example I could think of).

By comparison, not having meat is very easy. Few things do not have a meat substitute if it is imaginable at all; veggie pies, sausages, burgers, nut roasts etc. – the list goes on. Psychologically it feels like a bigger step (to me at least) but in reality it is very very well catered for (in the UK at least). And I really didn’t notice or even think about not having dairy – at no point did it occur to me that it might be convenient to use anything dairy based.

However, I think (and obviously this can only be my opinion) that if someone starts by going vegetarian, it is very easy to end up being reliant on dairy. Obviously dairy products will probably already be a regular feature in most people’s cooking, even to the extent that one could probably make a lot of dishes featuring some sort of dairy product as a central part of the meal. And of course, it is a ready-made replacement for meat in terms of its universal appeal, protein content and the ability to have a lot of it. There are other specific circumstances, such as a lot of sweet products containing milk, the creaminess of meals  and milkshakes. And once you become so reliant on something it can be at least a huge psychological barrier, even if not a real one, to finding alternatives.

On the flip-side, by not having dairy you get used to a whole host of dairy free meals and cooking, and as already stated, many of these have alternatives that are exactly the same (bar their meat content). So practically no adjustment is needed to start cooking the new versions of all your favourite dishes.

Lastly, a quick comment on the egg situation – the only things that are significant for me for eggs were omelettes and cakes. I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth, and how many omelettes can you really eat!!

So, I genuinely think that if you are having an issue with going vegan, focus on the dairy. Maybe cut that out before the eggs (I imagine most people wouldn’t want to go back to meat), and really try a whole range of alternatives and new meals and veget


Petition to recognise Palestine

Just a quick post to point out that there is currently a HM Government petition calling for the UK to vote in favour of the Palestinian bid to join the UN. The fact that it is done through HM Government epetitions means that if over 100,000 people sign then the Govt. is bound to discuss it in the House of Commons. Anyway, the petition is well worth signing in my opinion, as it will mean that Palestine can get a proper hearing and that Israel will not have free reign to do want they want to them. However, I am not going to do an analysis of the situation here at all, just sign if you agree 🙂

The link again is here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/593

Help the World by Doing Nothing

I recently found out how to help medical science, mathematics, physics, and even art, while doing absolutely nothing (disclaimer: it may take an initial 5 minutes or less to start helping indefinitely).

Nearly all the time that computer will not be working to the max, and this is what “distributed computing” is all about. You let a university or organisation somewhere use the spare bit of your computer via the internet, and that is it. You install a computer and it runs in the background, just like anti-virus software.

I have installed the protein folding version of these, which is by far the most used. Some very clever people at Stanford send some stuff to my laptop about how proteins “fold” (I don’t really know exactly what that means), it beavers away at working it out and then sends the data back. This then helps with cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well as other diseases.

There are many others though, and a list of highlights includes:

There is a full list of all websites (including some that are in alpha and beta) on Wikipedia.

Hopefully this will encourage a couple of people to use this and help the cause 🙂

Five Reasons to be Vegan

I am a vegan. A lot of people end up asking why when they eventually find out, enough that I now have a “standard” response. My five reasons make up this response:

  1. It is cheaper
  2. It is healthier
  3. it is easier (and fun)
  4.  It is better for society at an international level
  5. Animals get a pretty raw deal when it comes to meat production

I will give an overview of these points here:

1. Per kilo, meat, eggs and dairy are some of the most expensive bulk ingredients (I am not counting specific herbs etc, like saffron, that would not make a meal). I think it is relatively clear that on average it would be cheaper to live as a vegan than as meat-eater, but I have a (not overly scientific) article here if you really want a separate opinion. Given that the main issue people seem to have is protein, then as red lentils have more protein, at about a quarter of the price per kilo, that seems to be something of a misnomer. Bean burgers are cheaper than beef burgers, lentils are cheaper than chicken and nut roast is cheaper than lamb, not to mention that you can substitute them with vegetables anyway.

2. This is probably a controversial point. It may well be the case that a completely vegan diet is not completely optimal. But what is certainly the case is that pretty much everyone who eats meat eats too much. According to the American Dietic Association it is at least as healthy, and is okay for “individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes“. The NHS also say this, and I am sure there are other organisations too.

One reason it is healthier is the generally large increase in fruit and veg that is consumed. This is obviously not exclusive to vegans; anyone eating meat could reasonably increase this too. Whilst I would maintain that it is a lot easier when you are vegan, as there is a constant reminder that you should. This may be the reason that the NHS  say that “vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes“. However, I would respect and say it is quite right if someone ignores this argument as they say they will just eat more fruit and veg.

What is harder to ignore is the evidence that meat causes negative health effects. For example, red meat can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease (the former is contested, but seemingly only by the meat industry, who I am happy to say have enough of a vested interest to be disregarded). Meat is also difficult to digest, and factory farmed meat is especially bad for you, with all the chemicals and unhygienic conditions it will be made with.

On the subject of dairy, most people can’t digest it. Why would you eat (drink) something you can’t digest. It doesn’t make much sense to me. What is worse still is the absolute scandal that is the dairy industry selling milk as a good source of calcium, something people will invariably tell you if they find out you are a vegan. But this is wholly false. In fact, milk actually increases your chance of getting osteoporosis. Other issues listed in the link above include cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pesticides and other chemicals. This is not an exhaustive list.

3. For me, it is easier and more enjoyable to be vegan. I have always cooked for myself “properly” since I left home. I do things from scratch as much as possible and don’t think I have ever had a microwave curry or anything like that. I also enjoy cooking a lot. Given this, being vegan means one of two things. If I can’t do a meal at all then it means I have less to choose from for dinner, so it is an easier choice. Alternatively, I can try different things and see how they work. And experimenting with food is always a bit of fun!

4. There are many, many social effects of eating animal products. I do not intend to mention them all here, or cover any one of them in the appropriate detail. But hopefully you will find something new in this brief overview.

The most obvious and humane issue is the fact that eating meat deprives people of food. If you eat a chicken, then for everyday of that chickens life it had to be fed food, presumably three times a day. Most commercial factory farmed chickens live 39 days till they are killed (quite shocking in itself). So that is about 120 portions of food. It is quite clear that you could make a lot more by growing food for people, e.g. lentils or rice, than by driving the food to the chicken (environmental effects coming next), then the chicken to the slaughterhouse, then to the shop and you buying an eating it. It is hardly a system made to maximise food. Not long ago rice prices took a sharp rise internationally, and with rice being the staple food for many of the worlds poorest this had an awful effect on them. And one of the contributing factors to this was the fact that less was being produced as the land was being used for animal production.

Another massive issue is that of global warming. Meat production contributes about 130%  more to global warming than transportation. That was a 2006 stat, which estimated meat to contribute about 18%. That has since been revised to over 50%!!!  There are lots of ways it does this; deforestation, overuse of water, extra transport of food, cattle farting of course and the fact that growing crops would help absorb CO2.

Antibiotics are used on factory farmed animals all the time, and this contributes heavily to  lessening their effect. As long as we still have prescriptions for humans we shouldn’t be allowing this.

Lack of space – eating meat takes up ten times more land space.

5. The classic reason (not my original one) is the cruelty to animals. This is worse than you could imagine. The turn over for people working at factory farms is astronomically high, due to the mental anguish caused. Other than that I can not really say anything that you won’t know already, but I will include a video, which has disturbing scenes and I advise caution before watching.

If you have spent a lot of time researching where your meat is from and only getting stuff that is appropriate then I guess I would say that is a lot better, enough that I wouldn’t criticise, as if all meat was produced properly then a lot less would be consumed, just because of the price increase.

DISCLAIMER: If you wish to change diet, obviously consult the appropriate literature  before hand, just to make sure. The NHS website has plenty of info on their website for example.

Clothes Shopping – How Uneccessary!

My sister came to visit this weekend and insisted on browsing the local shops. A lot of fashion now seems to be going back in time, which just reminded me of how arbitrary fashion is. AS far as I can see, and I open to corrections, fashion is dictated by shops, adverts and designers. Fashion is purely aesthetic, and though some things may derive from usefully designed items of clothing, that is now very rare. I am not inherently saying that anything aesthetic is bad, or that clothes are bad as they mostly are aesthetic, I am just clarifying that as being my opinion.

Now, I have enough clothes for a couple of years, bar some trousers, so why would I buy more? Do you buy new crockery, tables or clocks for random reasons, just to chuck out the old ones that are fine? Probably not, so why clothes? And they aren’t much cheaper than the the other things I mentioned! I also don’t see why anyone would go to anywhere but a charity shop right now for clothes, but I guess that is more personal.

Something I would like to re-iterate throughout this post is that I am not saying that no-one should be allowed to go shopping or anything of that ilk, but that people do it without thinking. People do a lot of things without thinking, but I can’t think of many things that are done on this scale without thinking. So I would like to think that if I make one person not care any more about what they wear, up to the point of avoiding being arrested or beaten up in the street, that would be great 🙂

Anyway, to look at some of the harmful aspects of the clothing industry:

  1. Sweat shops are very common place in the production of goods for the industry*
  2. The advertising encourages a whole host of image based mental health conditions
  3. A lot of bullying at young ages will be based on how fashionable someone is
  4. This then continues in to older age as classism – just look at exclusive balls
  5. A massive waste of money and resources

I am aware that it is an individual choice to go shopping. But, to say again, I think it is  undertaken more than almost any other (unnecessary) activity and with less though than almost any other (unnecessary) activity. If the number of people shopping was only a tenth of what is I would have little issue and not be writing this. However, this is not the case, and I would like to make people think about this.

Before I look at the points above, there is one other pet peeve of mine on this issue. That is the way it is assumed that one knows about fashion. People would not kick up a fuss if I didn’t know which car is more expensive, which brand of rice is nicer or which shampoo is the most effective. But if I wear my trousers too high at the waist I will be laughed at. Unless I did it in a specific time frame, then I would have been laughed at for NOT doing it. What has changed exactly…?

I think the first three points are quite self explanatory and not very controversial at all. I would be interested if anyone knows if the price you pay for clothes bears any relation to the conditions it was made in though. Please let me know if you aware of the situation.

Point 4 is similar to this; why do I need to know whether a black or white bow tie is “better”? And what difference will it ever make to you which I am wearing. Why limit what music people can see and enjoy live according to whether or not they can afford to buy certain clothes. I like classical music, and I am sure I would love to go and see an opera, but I really don’t like wearing the “appropriate” clothes. Fortunately, this seems to be less of an issue that it was.

With regards to point 5, I would like to know why clothes seem to be one of the only things you can’t have too much. I can think of nothing else which people so universally have too much off. Any charity shop will show you what an abundance of excess clothing people have to just give away. There are no other sort of products you can guarantee being able to get second hand. Other than books perhaps, but they do have a practical use (and are still not available in the same quantities at all).

So basically, I see fashion as a useless excess that has far too much of the UK in it’s grasp, and I really don’t understand why. I just hope people become less obsessed in future.