Tuesday, 22 May 2012

If you're worried about conservation then make more effort to conserve the creatures in your care

I don't blog much about general animal rights issues, but this article annoyed me sufficiently to change my policy for the morning. The tl:dr of it is that zoos and aquariums are getting into hosting the sort of events that you wouldn't think anyone with two brain cells to rub together would allow near wild animals. When I was younger and working on circus campaigns, I got quite into reading the work of David Taylor, an exotic animal vet* who for many years based his practice at the (thankfully now defunct) Belle Vue zoo in Manchester. I have many, many disagreements with Dr Taylor which boil down to animal rights vs animal welfare perspectives - I'm sure everyone knows that debate. I believe in getting rid of zoos and circuses, he doesn't. Nonetheless, there were times when I was sympathetic to his perspective, even as a young person without many nuances in my thinking who had gone in prepared to dislike him. One such occasion was when he talked about the firework display held adjacent to the zoo each year - the zoo and theme park had the same owners, which could have been the local authority, I don't have the book here to check, anyway the people who actually worked day-to-day with the animals thought that letting fireworks off next door was a truly shite idea but they didn't have any choice in the matter. This makes it incredibly frustrating that the actual zoo management are encouraging these things - for fucks sake, that is not conservation, anyone who has lived with domestic cats and dogs knows that certain things don't mix. Either the concern for conservation or the pretence that this is the objective is going down. The only bright spot I can see is that it might help the public see through the pretence... *The animals were exotic, he tried to be

Monday, 21 May 2012

Down the pub!

No, that is not where I have been when on haitus from blogging. Well, not all the time. Anyway, the Guardian's Word of Mouth blog currently features this post, posing the question "Do you find the idea of a pub that serves only vegetarian food attractive or off-putting?" If you know me at all, you know my answer. You probably even guess that I might prefer a vegan one - Glasgow has several bars that are at least most of the way there, so it's doable. But (and you knew there'd be one, right?) I'm not convinced vegetarians - by which I mean ova-lacto vegetarians who eat anything not directly derived from meat - are a sufficient target market. They can after all get fed pretty easily in the UK. This means two things. 1) There have to be decent vegan options. That should go without saying, but in my experiences of vegetarian eateries it hasn't always been the case. (usually, but not always) 2) It has to be somewhere meat-eaters would also go. This means the food has to be up to scratch. You might at this point be rolling your eyes at the idea of accommodating people who aren't vegan. Fix your eyes back in place, though, and consider this - new vegans don't come out of nowhere, and they don't just come from existing vegans having sex. (Not disparaging those who do) Demystifying veganism is vital to encouraging people to go vegan. Tasty, readily available food in a good atmosphere strikes me as a good step here. Unfortunately either the spin of the article or the pubs mentioned in it don't seem that great. I would find the middle of Smithfield Market an offputting location, for a start, and the food sounds a bit uninspiring - a jacket potato sounds more like the sort of thing I'd eat at a pinch in the canteen at work rather than a meal I'd make an effort to go out for. Not great for their business, or our image. That's sad, because there are many great vegetarian and vegan pubs around! For example
Stereo in Glasgow (more a bar than a pub, but you get the idea)
The Red Lion in Great Bricett, Suffolk - I haven't been there personally but the reviews speak for themselves.
The Gardeners Arms in Jericho, Oxford - I've been here loads of times and always liked the food and the atmosphere. (There are two pubs with the same name in Jericho though, make sure you head for Plantation Road)
The George in Brighton. I went in there a few years ago while on holiday and liked it then. It has been through a few upheavals, and there were stories going around that it had dropped in quality and started to serve meat. The menu they have now seems to be back to vegetarian with several things that appear vegan (although the labelling seems a bit crap).