Harmony and sustainability could be closer than you think

Why did Europeans have all the “cargo” – axes, umbrellas, factories and shops, when other cultures, such as those of the Native American Tribes, maintained more traditional lifestyles. How much could this disparity have to do with Animals, and what can we learn from it.

Summarizing 15 years his research about “all of human history” into once sentence, Jared Diamond says: “The differences among the histories of people on different continents is not due to biological differences between the people themselves, but instead down to differences in the continental environments: especially differences in the wild plants and animals that could be domesticated.” He believes that this one sentence summarizes human history.

One example of the effect of geography on development is that, despite California having the lushest farmland in the world, Native Americans never cultivated it – and so never had the benefits of “early and productive agriculture.”

Diamond claims the reason for this is that the native animals in California were Deer and Grizzly Bears – animals not prone to domestication. The vegetation did not lend itself well to domestication either – and so California was never farmed until plants and animals were “imported” from Europe.

While his ideas are disputed, even considered to be unsophisticated, I think is a wonderful lesson for us in what Diamond says.

I have read many times about how tribes from Papua New Guinea and per-colonial America lived in harmony with Nature – without mass farming, a sustainable lifestyle was vital. If Diamonds theory is correct, then it wasn’t genes, religion or lack of imagination that prompted this wonderful way of life: they lived sustainably because they needed to. Their survival depended on it.

Perhaps this shows that we are just as capable of living sustainably – in harmony with the natural world – when our survival depends on it. And it does so now!


Listen to Radio 4’s “The Life Scientific” from 4th Dec 2012 for the full interview

“Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamonds, is available on-line from Foyles (who pay their taxes!!)

Ethical Buisness; Ethical Life. Vol 1.

Welcome to Ethical Business: Ethical Life – we aim to showcase the people behind some of the amazing Ethical Businesses we have met through running Ethical Pets. This first volume is about Kevin, a friend, customer and all round inspiring guru chap. He runs a great small business called Lakeside Ethical Treats… and he does it all to raise funds for West Midlands Vegan Campaigns! It’s hard to sum up Kevin without gross overuse of words such as “dynamic” and “enthusiastic”. I think he is most simply encapsulated by his answer to the question “how many hours a week do you work”, he replied “Personally I wouldn’t call it work! But it’s got to be over 70 I think.”

When did you start your ethical business and what happened next?

My group Midlands Vegan Campaigns organizes the annual West Midlands Vegan Festival and various other vegan/animal awareness events throughout the year. With the festival costs increasing every year, I spent many months considering how I could raise more funds. It obviously had to be something ethical, but I also wanted to do something that would itself promote Veganism.

The idea came to me at The West Midlands Vegan Festival in October 2010: the festival featured 2 new stallholders, Goody Good Stuff sweets and Moo Free Chocolate. Goody Good Stuff sold out half way through the day and went home, and Moo Free also had an excellent day. Within 2 weeks of the festival, I had ordered a load of stock from both companies and Lakeside Ethical Treats was born!

First of all, we had stalls at various fairs and sanctuary open days in the run up to Christmas 2010 – and then an on-line store was set up too. The ‘shop’ soon started to stock delicious chocolate creme eggs, made by Birmingham based Chocolate Wendy House (consistently our most popular product over the past 2 years). The trial period went extremely well: it was clear the shop had great potential.

Since then the stock range has increased to over 120 lines! I believe that Lakeside Ethical Treats is now the biggest vegan confectionery shop in the world, and it’s without doubt the only vegan sweet shop to be run by volunteers to allow all the profits to go back into vegan awareness events!

photo of kevin with his dog toby
Kevin and Toby (who is a big fan of Ethical Pets!)

The West Midlands Vegan Fair cost over £10,000 to run this year, and while Lakeside Ethical Treats helps to meet this cost, the shop has become about much more than fund-raising. During 2011, our stalls could be found at over 80 events throughout the year, everything from local group meetings, rallies, food fairs and big festivals.

The shop really showcases the vast array of vegan chocolate, sweets and snacks available – therefore promoting Veganism itself..

Describe an average day in the life of you.

My life revolves around vegan/animal rights/environmental campaigning and awareness raising. That’s the way it’s been pretty much since I first got involved over 15 years ago. My life is far from conventional – I admit to being totally and utterly obsessed!

Much of my time is spent organizing vegan/cruelty-free fairs and festivals. For example, taking stall bookings, arranging speakers/cookery demonstrators, updating the website, designing leaflets, promoting the events via magazine adverts, social media, press releases etc.

When orders for chocolates etc come in they need packing and dispatching and I of course have to update the shop website and maintain stock levels, making sure there’s enough stock for the big events.

I’m active in the animal rights movement in various other ways too, for example, I help

Photo of kevin doing a talk
Kevin at the Brighton March for Farmed Animals

coordinate coach transport to national demonstrations. I also run The Redditch Green Fair and I am the moderator for the Redditch Freegle group, which I formed 7 years ago – it now has over 12,000 members!

To top this all off, I am a Green Party activist and Parish Councilor for the village of Feckenham, which is within the borough of Redditch.

What are your ethical principles and how do they guide and motivate you?

Firstly and most importantly, everything I put my name to has got to be cruelty-free and vegan. Environmental friendliness is also critical.

Although I was not fully aware of the animal farming industries until my mid-twenties, compassion and eco-living has dominated my entire life.

This is largely down to my Mother, who was, for example, campaigning against the Canadian seal slaughter way back in the early 1960’s. My best friends have always been the animals around me and I wouldn’t want it any other way. The wonder of animals and the natural world is imprinted within me, just like words through a stick of Blackpool rock.

In this over-consuming mad world, I struggled, at first, to come to terms with the idea of selling products, but eventually I came to the conclusion that food is the most ethical product to sell – particularly when it’s vegan and organic, fair-trade, locally produced etc. Most products from Lakeside Ethical Treats tick several of these boxes.

People will always want to buy sweets and chocolate, so you can’t get much more ethical than Vegan confectionery sold in aid of vegan awareness raising!

Any words of wisdom?

People are more ready than ever to taste the delights of Vegan cuisine and to learn the benefits of plant based diets – many are now changing their diets as a result. A massive 54% of visitors to this year’s West Midlands Vegan Fair were non-vegans!

We need to take advantage of peoples growing curiosity: the time is ripe for compassionate vegans to get more organized and coordinate food fairs and festivals everywhere. Don’t say it can’t be done in your town: look at what has happened in Wolverhampton!

Donald Watson, founder of The Vegan Society and inventor of the word “vegan” said in 1944:

“A common criticism is that the time is not yet ripe for our reform. Can time ever be ripe for any reform unless it is ripened by human determination?”

So, lets get more active and speed up the dawn of a vegan world!!

kevin in a santa hat
Come and meet Kevin at the Kings Heath Christmas Fair!

Come and buy some yummy chocolate from Lakeside Ethical Treats at the Kings Heath, Birmingham Cruelty-Free Christmas Fair – on Sat 15th Dec, 10.30 till 4pm

Ethical Pets will be there too!!