Wednesday, 18 December 2013

European candidate urges people to vote Green next May to protect animals

Last week I became a candidate for the Green Party for the European Parliament for the North West of England region. Elections will be held next May along side local elections, for which I will also be a Green Party candidate in the Manchester City Council elections, for the Chorlton ward. As a vegan and an animal rights activist I urge all who care passionately about animals to vote for the Green Party in the European elections, and I will explain to you why this is one of the best things we can do to help animals.

From a purely animal rights point of view there really are not many political parties in the UK worth bothering with. There's only really the Green Party and the Animal Welfare Party (AWP) who are active and have even semi-decent animal rights policies. You can take a look at the Green Party's animal rights policies here: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ar . Both the AWP and the Green Party are standing in the European Parliament elections next May hoping to gain seats. The AWP (under their former name Animals Count) only stood in the Eastern region in the 2009 European election and received 13,201 votes (around 0.8% of the vote). This time round they are committed to standing in the London region, but will not stand in other regions unless they can get hold of enough funding/donations. They say they need 140,000 votes in London to get an MEP elected claiming that there are around 500,000 vegetarians/vegans in London and therefore they only need a small percentage of their votes. It is very unrealistic that they will achieve that quota given that the Green Party only managed to achieve 190,589 votes at the last European election and UKIP only managed 188,440 votes at the last election. The AWP does not have the national, regional or local presence and has not built it's name up enough to achieve that level of success. They need improve their vote by more than 10 times the amount they received in 2009, yet their profile has not significantly grown at all since 2009 and they still no not have a single person elected at any level.

The Green Party's MEPs (Member of European Parliament) have an excellent record when it comes to animals. Every few months the Green MEPs publish a newsletter on the work that they and the Green group in the parliament have been doing to improve things for animals (latest issue can be read here: http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Final-Making-Tracks-Compressed.pdf ). Keith Taylor, MEP for the South East for example worked hard to keep the EU wide ban on the sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals to 2013 when the industry was putting on pressure to delay the ban. Green MEPs worked hard to ensure the ban on battery hens was achieved. The Green group has worked hard to tighten up regulations on fishing so that fishing trawlers do not destroy our oceans. These achievements wouldn't be possible without Green MEPs. Voting for the AWP in London could prevent the Green Party's animal spokesperson Caroline Allen from being elected as she is second on the Green Party list. Being very generous, if the AWP get around 30,000 votes that could be the difference that the Green Party need to getting Caroline Allen elected. In many parts of the country the Greens were just less than 2% away from getting someone elected. In the North West where I am a candidate they were 0.3% away from defeating Nick Griffin.

If more animal advocates voted for the Greens next May it might be that extra amount we need to get a handful of extra MEPs. Since the last Euro elections in 2009 the Greens have grown tremendously, in 2010 Caroline Lucas was elected as the first ever Green MP. In 2011 Brighton & Hove City Council became the first Green-led council ever, which has led to vegan options becoming available in council owned canteens and other places where the council has influence. This year Jenny Jones became the first Green Party politician to be appointed to the House of Lords. We have never had such a great opportunity to make so many gains nationally. Good results in the European elections will do wonders for our chances in the General Election in 2015 when Caroline Lucas is up for re-election as an MP. Caroline Lucas does a lot of great things for animals in parliament. She has fought against the badger cull and has fought for the ban of wild animals being used in circuses amongst other things. If she did not get re-elected it would be a great loss for British politics at a time when people have very little faith in politicians. Well the Greens are something different. We care about the common good. We care about creating a society that benefits the planet and all beings living here, including animals.The very realistic alternative if people don't vote Green is that we will get more UKIP and Labour MEPs and they will not champion animal issues.

Further reading on Green Party animal rights campaigns, especially regarding the European parliament:

Friday, 6 December 2013

Cooperative fan-ownership, the future of football

A couple of weeks ago I witnessed a true phenomenon for the first time ever, I watched an FC United of Manchester match. They are the most amazing and unique football club I have ever had the pleasure of coming across. The passion and dedication of the fans was like nothing I had ever witnessed before in football. There were less than 2,000 people there but it felt more like 10,000 and apparently that was a poor match for attendance and atmosphere. What really impressed me is how pleasant the whole atmosphere was. There was next to no swearing and none of the chants I usually expect to hear about putting down former players of the club or rival clubs. It was all positive. There was also a lot of politics. Me and my friends went to the clubhouse before the match and at half time and there were many banners in the clubhouse and a lot were political. This is an entire different way of running a football club and is the future of the sport.

Fan ownership is by no means new and has been around for some time. In Germany nearly all football clubs are by law at least 51% owned by their fans. One of the world's largest clubs, Barcelona are a fan-owned club. In England fan ownership hit the headlines when Wimbledon FC moved to Milton Keynes, and eventually changed their name to Milton Keynes Dons. Original Wimbledon fans weren't at all happy with this and they formed a new club called AFC Wimbledon in 2002, owned entirely by fans of the football club. The club have been going strong and have had 5 promotions in 8 seasons and are now a league club, just one league below MK Dons. Since then there has been a wave of clubs being owned by their fans, which can broadly be put into 2 different categories. Firstly, phoenix clubs. This is where a club ends up dissolving/no longer existing (usually due to not being able to pay off debt) and fans of that club form a new club entirely owned by the fans. Notable pheonix clubs replacing former league clubs include: AFC Wimbledon, Chester FC, Darlington 1883, AFC Rushden & Diamonds, Scarborough Town and Scarborough Athletic. The second category of fan-owned clubs are where clubs have either come into financial difficulties or the owners of the club have become unpopular with the fans and the fans have bought the club off the former owners. This is usually done via a supporters trust becoming the new owners of the club, and the supporters trust is owned and controlled by it's members who are fans of the clubs. Notable league and former league clubs that have become fan-owned include Portsmouth, Wrexham, Exeter City and Wycombe Wanderers. When Pompey Supporters' Trust took over Portsmouth FC in April 2013 they became the largest football club in English history to become fan-owned. As early as 2010 Portsmouth were playing in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final, but following financial difficulties the club barely survived liquidation and were relegated 2 seasons in a row. Towards the end of last season the supporters' trust put a lot of work in to secure the club for the trust, and despite being relegated fans are rejoicing the new era with attendances up by 26.5% and over 10,000 season tickets were sold during the pre-season (compared to 7,250 the previous season).

The main club I've supported in recent years has been Fleetwood Town. When I first watched Fleetwood about 10 years ago when a friend of my Dad played for the club, they were getting attendances of around 150 per match and the highest paid player was paid in the region of £90 a match. The stadium included just one actual stand which covered a small section of one length of the pitch and around 200 seats, behind both goals were little more than a small roof with grass in front and the other length of the pitch was just grass. This was also around the time that Andy Pilley took over as chairman of the club and since then he has invested several millions of pounds which has mostly been improvements to the stadium bringing capacity to around 5,500. Under Pilley the club have risen from the North West Counties Football League Division One to The Football League League 2, a total of 5 promotions in 9 seasons and average attendances are now around 2,800. There is a good chance that the club could get promoted again this season as they are currently 2 points away from the top. Despite recent success, I am very worried about the future of the football club. Why? Because at some point Andy Pilley will cease to be chairman of the club. It could be in 2 years, 10 years or 30 years but at some point he will go and so will his money. Unless the club gets another wealthy businessman take a dedicated interest in the club, it will struggle to keep up league status. This is why I wish there was a supporters' trust that could take over the club from Andy Pilley when he decides to leave the club. This way the club will not get temporary funds from wealthy investors which could potentially lead to financial difficulties further down the line. Twice in the history of the club it has wound up due to financial difficulties, the current Fleetwood Town F.C. is the third incarnation of the club having been formed in 1997. If you're reading this and you are a Fleetwood Town fan, please try to set up a supporters' trust and buy a small stake in the club. I would gladly join but due to living in Manchester I could not get involved much.

So many clubs have been a victim of punching above their weight by having investment from a wealthy chairman, who leaves the club in financial ruin when they leave the club. Take a look at former league club Darlington. Former owner George Reynolds built a 25,000 capacity stadium for the club costing £20 million in 2003. This was despite average attendances for the club was less than 3,00. He had plans to make the club a Premier League team only to bring the club into administration and leaving a few months later the stadium was complete. The following seasons involved a downward spiral and eventually the club was effectively dissolved. The successor club was not allowed to use the 25,000 seater Darlington Area. If all clubs were owned by their fans then clubs would only be able to invest as much as the fans could invest (along with money from sponsors, prize money and potential TV money of course). A similar fate looked likely for Wycombe Wanderers when Steve Hayes owned the club. He intended to move the club to a new 17,000 capacity stadium which was unpopular with fans considering their current ground Adams Park only opened in 1990 with capacity of around 10,000 is more than enough for their average attendances of less than 5,000. The club, making a loss was reminded by Hayes that they needed his financial support to avoid being placed in administration. Fortunately however the supporters' trust took over the club in June 2012 and the future of Adams Park and the financial security of the club are secure. Stadium relocations are often unpopular with fans, and sometimes can be popular with fan. Under fan-ownership it's the fans themselves which can decide if they want a new stadium of would prefer to develop the current ground if needed.

Since the formation of the Premier League, tickets and merchandise for the tops clubs have continued to become more expensive. It's now cheaper to watch a Premier League match every week on Sky Sports than it is to buy a season ticket to most Premier League clubs. This has led to English football culture being shifted from one where everyone goes to watch their local football team, to one where most people watch Premier League matches on TV. The result of this is that some clubs are making more out of money from TV rights than from ticket sales and in modern football a lot of that money had gone to giving players higher wages. If clubs become owned by their fans, they can choose to lower prices of tickets to matches and pay players fairer wages, which would usually means lower wages in the top leagues. The fans can decide whether to invest in players or the stadium or to save funds to protect the finances. Fan-owned clubs have better attendances with fans being happier with how the club is being run. Because fans are so much more involved in the running of the club, they are more likely to be investors in the club. FC United of Manchester have been able to raise more than £2 million from their fans towards building their new 5,000 capacity stadium due to be opened in around a year's time, with some fans investing several thousand pounds via community shares (which do get paid back in a few years time). I bet near enough all of Manchester United's fans don't put thousands of pounds each into the club.

So for all of you football fans, I encourage all of you to join or set up supporters' trusts or support your local fan-owned football club. Here's a list of fan-owned sports clubs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fan-owned_sports_teams . It's better financial stability for your club, it's better financial stability for the sport, it gives fans what they want and it will stop big money from dictating which clubs are successful.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Public Common Ownership or Cooperative Collective Ownership?

Consider the basic definition of socialism and/or communism - common ownership of the means of production. What does it mean? What are the practical steps towards achieving this? What are the best forms of common ownership and are there alternatives worth considering? This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately and thought I'd do a blog post on the topic so here we go.

It's obvious to me that we could do with an alternative to the normal methods of private ownership. Private ownership is entirely run for profit, and in almost all cases the majority of the profit goes into the hands of the directors and shareholders rather than the ordinary workers who actually make the private companies their money. Of course the idea is supposed to be that people will not pay for services unless they are useful and good value for money, and any business that does not fulfil those 2 requirements will go out of business. Once upon a time this may have been the case, but no more. As time has gone on private companies have done as much as they can to spend as little as possible and done as much as possible to earn as much money as possible. In the name of competition, as time has gone on there have been less and less companies and more and more monopolies, where there are many industries controlled almost entirely a small handful of massive companies. This has lead to worse rights and pay for workers because when a multi-national company kills off small businesses and then builds a warehouse in your home town employing a thousand people, what alternative do people have for work other than work for other similar companies? It has also resulted in companies doing what's bad for the environment because that is usually the cheapest option. At the extreme end of private ownership just look at the American healthcare system. Instead of their healthcare system being run to help improve people's health and to heal the sick and injured, it is run entirely for profit. This has lead to thousands of people dying from not being able to afford the healthcare they need. Big private companies don't care about you, they don't care about the environment, they don't care about people in the third world who they are keeping in poverty, they only care about profit.

Common ownership is where everyone owns and has some form of democratic control over something. In practice this means public ownership, although under different systems it could be run differently. Collective ownership is similar but instead of you owning something by default, you opt in to owning it. One of the main forms of collective ownership, and the main one I support is cooperatives. In society today most business is exactly that, business and solely for profit, and for the profits of the big bosses, managers, directors and shareholders. Business structured either under public ownership or cooperative ownership are run for the interests of either the public or the members of the cooperative and therefore seek the interests of the many and not the few. But why do we need both?

Firstly take a look at public ownership. At the moment everything in public ownership is run by either the national government or by local councils or regional/national parliaments or assemblies. These are all themselves run by politicians from political parties elected by the general public. The current democratic system is deeply unfair where politicians are not directly accountable to the people who elected them and the party system is undemocratic with it being run by the parties who have lots of money and can win under first past the post. In an ideal situation this wouldn't be the case and we can change this. I believe in my lifetime we will at least see a change from first past the post to some form of proportional representation and I also believe there will be better legislation to make politicians a little more accountable to the people who elected them. In the mean time we can scare politicians into giving us a little of what we want by threatening to vote for other candidates at the next election, or better yet electing better politicians who will give the people what they voted for. In my ideal situation at least local councils would be run under pure democracy as opposed to the current elected representative democracy so that all citizens living in the council boundaries get the chance to be involved in decision making. It's this decision making which is key to the whole thing. With everyone being able to have some say in the decision making we can get down to services and society as a whole being run for the interests of the people. Take the NHS for example, the aim isn't to make a profit, the aim of the NHS is to treat unwell, sick and injured people. The aim of the fire brigade isn't to make a profit, it is to put out fires and potentially save people's lives and limit any damage caused by any fires. These are actually services which are of use to people and are run to be of use to people.

Now cooperatives. There are many different types of cooperatives; housing coops, workers coops, consumer coops, credit unions/cooperative banks, etc. Like publicly owned services, coops are run democratically and for the interests of their members. Some cooperatives are for profit, but instead of the profit mostly going into the hands of a small number of people it gets shared equally between members unless the members agree otherwise. There are certainly some grey areas for me when it comes to cooperatives, largely being that I am not sure if in my ideal society having workers cooperatives provide services that the service users do not have any democratic control whatsoever. On the other hand, should service users have the same control over the services as the workers? Let's use shops as an example to demonstrate this. Should we support shops being run as a workers coop or as consumer coop like the Co-operative Group is. The Co-operative Group is run by it's members (under a elected representative system) which can include it's workers, but the majority of it's members are it's customers. I am a member of the Co-operative Group and I shop at the Co-op probably about once a fortnight yet I have as much right to stand for election to the bodies which influence decision making as people working full time at the Co-op or people who shop there every single day. We can talk about cooperatives fitting into a market based economy or a society without money or a market as we understand it but that's another discussion for another time, let's assume for now that coops can fit into both scenarios .

How do they both fit in together? It's clear to me that there are some industries that people shouldn't have choice but are currently privatised and therefore people are given choice. Take gas and electricity for example. It doesn't matter who supplies your gas and electricity, at the day of the day you get the same product and use it the same way. Getting gas from a different company doesn't change how you use the gas, just how much you pay for the gas. Yet, the amount of money and resources wasted on advertising and competing between other companies for your custom is ridiculous and that is a cost that could be saved for the consumer. The same can be said for public transport, nationalise it and you save a lot of running costs and still supply the same service and people don't need to choose between 2 different services to get a bus or train from the same A to the same B. I believe that services where it doesn't matter who supplies the service should be publicly owned. You shouldn't have the choice of several different fire brigade companies, or different libraries on the same high street. However, there are some things I think you should have choice in. Take bread for example. People have different tastes in bread and different companies supply different types and flavours of bread. Same goes for all food, drink, clothes, entertainment, restaurants, pubs, clubs, hairdressers, etc. Those services should be run as cooperatives, with membership open to either just the workers or perhaps the workers and the service users. Having those services run by either the local council or the national government would take away people's freedom to choose from their own preferences. This way you get a society run for the people and by the people (or the 99% if you prefer) rather than just for the profit of the few.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Why I am not leaving the Green Party.

Over the last couple of years, quite a few decent activists have left the Green Party for various reasons. Some have gotten a bit fed up that the Greens aren't achieving a lot and therefore have decided to join Labour. Many have had enough of what's been happening on Brighton & Hove Council where the Greens have administered cuts and caused a strike of bin workers over reducing pay for male bin workers. While these things are true, I am not going to leave the Green Party. I still believe the Greens are just about the most radical party in at least England. The Greens are achieving things and making changes throughout the country. With over 130 councillors, 2 London Assembly Members, 2 MEPs, an MP and a life peer in the House of Lords the Greens are achieving things that no other left-wing party could possibly be achieving at the moment.  The alternative at the moment is not worth considering.

First of all, let us consider one obvious alternative - revolutionary politics. Having a revolution to overthrow capitalism and to replace it with some form of socialism is a very very good idea. Until this happens we will still have some form of capitalism, and I hope I don't need to explain the evils of capitalism here. I do want a revolution to happen. However, before we have a revolution we need to have the vast majority of the population willing to participate in the revolution and before that happens, things in society need to get a lot worse. Near enough every revolution that has ever happened as a response to tyranny. No revolution has happened purely because of a campaign to build for a revolution. There will be a time for revolutionary action but it is not now. And while there are plenty of good positive changes that can be made outside of electoralism (that the Greens should support), in the mean time, I see electoral politics as one of the best ways to create wider change.

Another alternative, join another left-wing electoral group. I'm opposed to this for 2 basic reasons. Firstly, other than the Greens I have yet to discover another left-wing electoral group that takes issues outside of socialism seriously. Issues such as environmentalism and animal rights are just as important as worker's rights and human rights. The Green Party's policy document, Policies for a Sustainable Society is several hundred pages long and covers many different topics. You can read it here: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ . Secondly, the Greens have spent the last few decades building up their name and becoming more and more electable while no other left-wing electoral group has prioritised becoming electable and winning elections for anywhere near this long. I did have hope for Respect at one or two points, but they seem to have blown it and are dwindling. There are many unelectable left-wing parties and alliances that keep on changing, in-fighting and splitting the left-wing vote. The left does not need this.

For those unhappy with the progress of the Greens, wanting to be part of creating change quicker than the Greens are delivering is tempting at times. That's why some people are joining the Labour Party instead of the Greens. Part of the thinking behind this is that they offer a better and more effective opposition to the Tory-led coalition government. While it is true that Labour are the party most likely to defeat the Tories at the next general election, if you think this is any alternative whatsoever you are kidding yourself. Ed Milliband and Ed Balls have both said that they won't reverse any of the cuts or welfare reforms that the coalition government have put into place. Even before the 2010 general election Labour were saying they want to perform similar amount of public sector cuts, just over a longer period of time. The theory behind this is that cutting too quickly will do too much damage. But would delaying sacking public sector workers by one year really have made that much difference in the long run? They would have still been made unemployed and less jobs would have been made available. Sorry Labour but you are just Tories in disguise. The Greens are the largest party opposed to all public sector cuts.

This brings my onto my next point, Brighton & Hove Council. Many people have left the Green Party because of what our councillors have been doing on Brighton & Hove Council, the only council in the country where the Greens are the largest party (although we do not have a majority of councillors). The Greens have made some unpopular choices in Brighton such as passing on government cuts to the council, raising car parking fees to around the region of £15 a day and tackled a gender pay gap of bin workers by lowering the pay of male bin workers rather than raise the pay of female workers. I don't know if I could remain a local member of Brighton & Hove Green Party if I lived there, but I don't and therefore I don't see the impact they're having. The vast majority of voters across the country don't even know we are the party administering Brighton & Hove City Council, and in fact I have found when going out canvassing that a lot of people haven't even heard of Caroline Lucas MP. I'm not excusing what the Greens have done on Brighton & Hove Council, I would have much rather they refuse to implement a budget with cuts and therefore left the Tories and Labour to have passed a cuts budget while instead leading an anti-cuts campaign across the city. While that is what I would have preferred to have happened the truth of the matter is that no matter what happened there would have been cuts to the budget of Brighton & Hove City Council. If the Greens had not passed cuts, either Tories and/or Labour would have passed a cuts budget or Eric Pickles' department would have forced a cuts budget upon Brighton & Hove. And let's not forget, the Greens don't even have the majority of seats on the council so can be outvoted at any point. Outside of Brighton however I notice that Green councillors are making good positive changes throughout the country. My local party used to be North Lancashire Green Party, which includes Lancaster who have had at one point 14 seats (2 county council seats and 12 city council seats) and attending their meetings was a delight as it was full of reports about what councillors had achieved, from parking permits to stopping a Tesco from being built, from the canal side being tidied up to delaying the closure of the indoor market. What I think I am most proud of those Lancaster councillors is they have told me that when they first started winning seats back in 1999 the party with the majority of seats on the council would propose and pass motions without anyone questioning them or debating things (possibly even from within their own party before being proposed), and thanks to the Greens putting forward amendments to motions and always questioning things, council meetings are now full of debate. This is a good thing for democracy.

Yes, despite what's happening in Brighton the Greens are achieving lots of great things throughout the country. Even just small things achieved by a single lone Green councillor such as getting trees cut back so that road signs can be read or getting a grit bin installed or helping a resident order a new recycling bin. While these small things are not going to change the world, where we have greater power we have achieved greater things. In Kirkless for example our councillors have managed to get free insulation for hundreds and hundreds of social houses that has saved people money on their heating bills which has gone directly into the local economy. In London all buses will be running on hybrid engines soon because of our Green Assembly Members. Lancaster City Council is now a living wage employer because of Green Party councillors. The list goes on. The mainstream parties are not pushing for these changes throughout the country and the smaller left-wing parties are not anywhere near to achieving this amount of change as they hardly have anyone elected at all. Sticking with the Greens is helping to get people elected who will be making good left-leaning changes throughout society.

What about the future? Will the Greens drift further and further to the right as they gain more seats or as more members of the mainstream parties start to join us? After attending Young Greens convention last month I can assure you the future of our party is radical. The Young Greens (for all members under 30 years old and student members) are full of radical ecosocialists who continue to push for radical policies and campaigning. Ideas such as getting young adults involved in trade unionism, citizens income, cutting the pay ratio in any company down to 10:1, the living wage and smashing patriarchy were all discussed and gained wide support. I often see environmentalists join the party for environmental reasons, and a couple of years down the line they realise they need to oppose capitalism in order to protect the environment. There was a lot of talk about putting serious resources into getting some of these radical Young Greens elected as councillors. The majority of people on the London Federations of Green Parties' committee are now Young Greens and left-leaning influence is growing all the time. I can't wait for the future of the party to begin.

So I would urge those who agree with our principles and policies to join the party and stay in the party. Tactics, strategy and direction can be debated and changed by the members of the party, so if you don't agree with a few things that have been happening you can influence changes in the Green Party. We're a bottom up rather than top down party, and I'm proud of that.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Young Greens convention comes to Manchester

Anyone who is a member of the Green Party of England and Wales and is either under 30 years old or is a student is automatically a member of the Young Greens of England and Wales. Every year the Young Greens host an annual convention. This year I'm delighted that this year the convention is coming to Manchester. It takes place this weekend (26th-27th October).

What's the role of the Young Greens? Well, there are various different important roles that the Young Greens play and could play for the Green Party. Firstly, to give young members a chance to meet other young people who share similar views. Most party members are over 30 so this is important for young members. Secondly, to ensure the interests of young people are considered throughout the party. Thirdly, to encourage and train young members to become important active members of the party. Fourthly, to promote and train the talents we have within our young members. Fifthly, to recruit more young adults to the party. Sixthly, to have a presence at students unions around the country. Seventhly, to persuade more young adults to vote for the Green Party. There are more things the Young Greens do and can do as well.

What happens at the convention?  Young Greens used to hold their AGM at the Green Party's conference before they started having convention. Now they hold it at the convention and this gives a lot more time for official business of the AGM. This involves hustings for and electing the committee and other bodies of the Young Greens, motions to amend the Young Greens' constitution and other official documents and accepting the reports from members of the previous year's committee. There's also a lot of workshops at the convention on a range of topics, including some that are for the interest of non-students. Some are training workshops, and some are workshops that come up with proposals for what the Young Greens should be doing. At a workshop last year we decided to change the logo of the Young Greens. There sometimes are sessions on Green Party policy and what Young Greens thinks of them, and sometimes this has resulted in motions being put forward to the national Green Party conference to change policy or the rules of the party. There's always social activity as well, and a crash space for people with sleeping bags. Luckily I live in Manchester and therefore get to sleep in a bed for the first time! Hurray!!! I have even slept at a Young Greens crash space for a weekend without a sleeping bag before.

I think there is a lot of scope for the Young Greens to increase the activity of our young members. A lot of progress has been made over the last decade but there is still a lot more to be done. There are only 1 or 2 active regional Young Greens groups, and a huge amount of universities that do not have a Young Greens group running. This is why I am favouring Clifford Fleming for co-chair of Young Greens. Clifford has done a great job in getting both Manchester Young Greens and the regional Young Greens North up and running and active. This has been a great success and has increased active membership. Clifford has a real knowledge of why and how students vote (or do not vote) and I believe his input will be very useful for helping towards improving the student vote for next year's European elections. Clifford also has a good way of explaining party politics to people new to politics. I also think he'd do a good job on GPEx and it would make him a good activist for the party for a long time hopefully. He's used to winning elections with him being the campaigns officer for Manchester University Student's Union, having won an election to get that post. Please vote for him if you're attending or submitting a proxy vote.

I hope to see a lot of great Young Greens this weekend. Come say hi to me. If you want to know anything about Manchester while you're here, ask me as I'm local.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Speciesism: The Forgotten Discrimination

I often get good left-wing activists tell me that speciesism isn't a real thing and that it's used as a bullying tactic and that it's actually offensive to human-centric struggles. A lot of people have never heard of speciesism, or don't understand it and even get offended by the use of the term. I'd thought I'd clarify what speciesism is all about in this blog post. Hopefully this will help some people to understand speciesism.

To everyone who accepts speciesism as a genuine term, and especially to those who are anti-speciesist speciesism is one of the general forms of discrimination. Just like sexism is discrimination based on sex, racism is discrimination based on race, speciesism is discrimination based on species. It is the belief that your species is superior to other species. Some people have argued that discrimination can only be applied to people and therefore speciesism is not a general form of discrimination because in their eyes only human beings can be people. This way of thinking is in and of itself speciesist. Some definitions of discrimination do not use the term people, but instead use the term individuals, and that would class all non-human animals as open to discrimination in the form speciesism.

Like all forms of discrimination, the use of the term speciesism has often been wrongly used by both speciesists and anti-speciesists. In my view people discriminate on 2 different bases, through ignorance and through the belief that some individuals or groups of individuals are superior to others. Take racism for example, some people discriminate against immigrants because they wrongly believe that immigrants are taking more state benefits than the taxes they pay. This is factually incorrect, and is ignorance. In my eyes this does not make those people racists, but it does make those individual acts of discrimination racist. If they knew that most immigrants work, pay taxes and might not even be eligible to claim state benefits then they would be less likely to discriminate. A true racist, I would argue, is someone who continues to discriminate even though they are aware of all of the facts because they believe their race is superior to other races. They could (but not always) be persuaded to change their beliefs however. I apply this thinking to speciesism. Just because someone takes part in speciesist acts, it does not automatically make them a speciesist. There is a lot of ignorance about speciesist issues, and the ultimate solution to speciesism is a difficult one (veganism).

All forms of animal exploitation are in fact acts of speciesism, from meat eating to zoos, from animal testing to the fur and leather trades. If you believe it is okay to treat animals in this way, or even that they were put on this earth for this purpose, then you are being speciesist. If you are reading this and you are a meat eater, don't worry I am not calling you a speciesist. The meat industry is a speciesist industry and you are supporting that industry, but how am I to know why you are a meat eater? In a society where from the moment you were born to the day you die animal products are pressured and even forced upon every human being, it can be difficult to know any better. One example of ignorance about a speciesist issue is how the dairy industry hides forced impregnations (in my view, rape) and tearing a calf from it's mother 2 days after the calf is born. I didn't know that even when I was vegetarian. Another example is that some people believe that greyhounds or horses in the racing industry are looked after well, but this is not true - over 300 horses are raced to death every year in the UK, and more than 15,000 greyhounds are put down every year because they are not good enough to race. The speciesist industries put an awful lot of money into advertising to make you unaware of these issues. When you get handed a burger at a takeaway or when you buy a leather jacket you weren't informed of how they were produced, weren't shown footage of the screams of the animals. Ever seen an advert for cheese or milk where they show (often cartoon) cows actually wanting the product for themselves? There is a lot of money put into creating a false image that animals are happy to be exploited for our own indulgence, when the reality is very different.

When people state that the term speciesism is offensive to human-centric struggles I get baffled. I have heard the claim that all struggles have to be fought and won by the groups that are oppressed, (I.E. women's struggle fought for by women, class struggle fought for by the working class, etc.), and that only oppressed groups can liberate themselves. I wonder if this would apply to child abuse, where children usually cannot stand up for themselves, or with other oppressed groups that are not able to liberate themselves. Should we not try to liberate oppressed groups who are not able to liberate themselves? I'm not advocating that people should get involved in direct action and smash up animal laboratories, animal liberation can take legal forms such as vegan outreach as well. In fact, all you have to do to be a part of the anti-speciesism movement is to be vegan, boycott animal industries and value all animals are morally equal to humans. This does not stop you from being involved in human-centric struggles, nor does it stop you from being further involved in the anti-speciesism movement. Often when I take part in animal rights actions I get asked why I am not campaigning about human issues, or even if I care about humans, I question them why they aren't at that moment themselves campaigning on human issues, and that I do in fact also campaign on human issues as well. It is often the person who accuses anti-speciesism activists of not caring about humans that does not campaign on any issues at all.

There is often a hypothetical scenario given to discuss speciesism and animal issues in a philosophical way. Imagine you are on a boat which is sinking due to being too heavy, and that there's a dog and a human on the boat and the only way to stop the boat from sinking is to throw either the dog or the human overboard. Which would you choose? Let's say for arguments sake that it is a young puppy and an elderly human, both of whom have around 10 more years to live. As both species are sentient it is speciesist to favour one species over another in this scenario. Both have the ability to enjoy life and to suffer. Neither are superior to the other, nor more worthy of life.

Here, watch the film Earthlings. It's about our relationship with animals. Vegan actor Joaquin Phoenix (from Gladiator, Walk The Line) narrates it, and vegan musician Moby does the music.

For further info:
Wikipedia page for speciesism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciesism
Speciesism: The Movie: http://speciesismthemovie.com/
Earthlings film: http://earthlings.com/

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Introducing: Greens For Animal Protection

Anyone who knows me will know that I have two massive and major political loves that dominate my life. Veganism/animal rights and the Green Party. The Green Party has by far the best animal rights policies of any party which isn't a single issue animal party in the UK. This was a really important factor for me joining the party. Our animal policies include banning all forms of animal testing and putting research into alternatives, banning zoos, opposing the badger cull, banning the sale of fur, banning factory farming, ensuring all companion animals (often called pets) will be microchipped and registered while breeding of such animal monitored, banning all animal circuses, banning whaling and introduce animal rights officers for all local authorities. There's still a lot of work to be done to improve these policies, but there is also only so far we can go before we start to alienate the general public who by large are not abolitionist animal rights activists.

Greens For Animal Protection members at recent Green Party conference in Brighton. Source: http://carolineallengreenlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/green-party-calls-for-immediate-end-to.html

I am delighted to announce the formation of Greens For Animal Protection, a group of individuals in the Green Party who care passionately about animal issues. The groups aims include improving the animal rights policies of the Green Party, promoting the animal rights policies of the Green Party, ensuring the Green Party works with animal rights groups and ensuring the Green Party is a part of the animal rights movement. The group is in it's early stages, only forming a few months ago. What the group plans to do has not been decided yet and it will all be decided over the forthcoming months when we hold a few meetings. I'm really excited about this group though, and it has gained a lot of support at the Green Party's recent Autumn conference in Brighton last month. The group also has had a presence at national marches including the national march for badgers and the march against the Tory conference last month where thousands of badger cull protests were involved in the wider anti-Tory march, and is starting to have a presence at vegan fairs around the country.

Green For Animal Protection at the nation badger march. MEP Jean Lambert is directly to the right of the banner


Greens For Animal Protection members and supporters include:
So far we have a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/GreensForAnimalProtection and a Twitter account here: https://twitter.com/Greens4Animals . One day we might set up a website or a blog and when that happens I'll hopefully let you all know. Our email is: greensforanimalprotection@gmail.com and phone number: 07703 558724.

If you'd like any speakers from Greens For Animal Protection to come and speak at a meeting please do not hesitate to get in touch via Facebook or Twitter or email or phone.  I'll also give updates on this blog about Greens For Animal Protection activities.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The controversy of pets

In my last post I talked about the abolitionist animal rights approach. This is a follow up from the post to address a few comments I've been getting about one thing in particular I mentioned. I mentioned that being an abolitionist means opposing all forms of animal use and exploitation including pet ownership. I got a fair few comments from people either disagreeing with that view point, or not understanding what is wrong with owning pets. I find this issue is possibly the most controversial animal rights topic, or perhaps second to animal testing for medical purposes. This is the animal rights issue I came to terms with last myself. I turned vegan because I was opposed to how we get our food and clothes. It took me a couple of years to understand why I should oppose animals in the entertainment industry when I saw people protesting against horse racing. Id' probably been vegan for around 4 years when someone told me I can't be an animal rights activist if I believe in pets, which made me think. I thought about it a lot and did some research and came to the conclusion I hold today. I would say that owning a pet is towards the least cruel and least exploitative form of animal use, and nowhere near as bad as the food and clothes industries. First thing to be said is that a better term to use is 'companion animals' as that's what they are.

I would say that most abolitionists have a short term and a long term strategy separate to each other when it comes to companion animals. In the short to medium term it can be morally acceptable to an abolitionist to have a dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, whatever animal in your home under three basic conditions. Firstly, that you are re-homing an animal. So that basically means an animal which it's previous "owner" has abandoned. This will include all animals in animal shelters, etc. Do not buy from a breeder as this keeps up the 'pet trade', and someone is still profiting from exploiting animals. Secondly, everything you do with the companion animal must be to benefit the animal. Basically, look after it well and give it a good standard of living. Lastly, spay or neuter the animal if it hasn't already been done so it doesn't breed. Under these three conditions all you are doing is giving an abandoned animal a better quality of life than the animal would be getting in an animal sanctuary. Plus, you are helping out animal sanctuaries by ensuring there is one less animal they have to put resources into looking after. It costs a lot of money and volunteer house to run an animal sanctuary and most of the independent animal sanctuaries could use extra financial support (until capitalism is overthrown of course). If you go to one of these animal sanctuaries that re-home their animal and you are given a choice of what animal you would like to take home, it's always better to choose an older animal. The reason for this is that young puppies and kittens are more popular and a lot more likely to be chosen by a family than an elderly animal. An elderly dog or cat could spend years of it's life in an animal sanctuary before it ever gets re-homed, if it ever does. Plus, that will mean less of a commitment from you as the animal will have less years to live. This short term strategy will just help out animals now who might otherwise be suffering. For every dog in someone's house, there's likely to be another 4 in sanctuaries.

The longer term strategy (which the short term strategy will help achieve) involves no-one ever breeding animals, no-one "owning" any companion animal, or looking after one. No domesticated animals existing what so ever. Feral animals might still exist however, but they live entirely wild lives and it should be kept that way. The problem has been domesticating the animals in the first place, and then centuries of breeding and cross-breeding the animals and promoting our right to owning a companion animal. The vast majority of these breeds have been created by humans by cross-breeding other breeds. They are not wild or natural breeds at all. Plus nearly all companion animals are fed food produced by humans, and quite often that will include meat products. We are producing a lot of meat products for cats and dogs. As well as not supporting breeders, we need to educate the masses so they understand why we shouldn't be breeding and artificially keeping these animals alive. Once we stop breeding them then there will be no need for animal sanctuaries or groups like the PDSA. There will be no more abused companion animals. No more unwanted abandoned animals. No more animals that depend on us to keep them alive.

Companion animals have something important in connection with all other domesticated animals. Domesticating animals has always been for human benefit and never been for the animals benefit. Forcing an animal to breed (which is pretty much always rape) and then keeping them under our control for our benefit and forcing them to rely on us for their entire life. Pretty much every part of their lives is controlled by us, especially when you look at animals other than cats. Cats could possibly be an exception as they are let out of the house freely often, but all other companion animals are totally and utterly controlled by us throughout their entire lives. Whenever you look a rabbit in a rabbit hutch, keep a hamster or guinea pig or rat or other rodent in a cage, etc you are controlling their lives. When it eats, what it eats, where it lives, where is does it's business, whether it gets to mate, if it lives with any other animals of it's own species, if it lives with any other animal of another species full stop. It's always going to be this way if we treat animals as property, and that's what pets are, property.

In conclusion: don't buy, adopt!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Animal rights & veganism is crucial to left-wing & environmental politics

Disclaimer: While I am a member of the Green Party, this blog post is not about changing Green Party policy, or the message of the party. This blog post is just about why environmentalists and people on the left should take animal rights and veganism seriously.

Recently I've been thinking about how a lot of my left-wing and socialist circles are almost entirely human-centric and discuss animal issues very little at all. As an animal rights activist this upsets me. Likewise a lot of animal rights activists don't consider human struggle any worth either. The environmentalist movement doesn't take veganism as seriously as it should considering animal produce is the leading industry for greenhouse gasses. I believe animal rights and veganism needs to be a big part of the left-wing and environmental movements, and I'd like to explain why.

First of all I think we need to understand animal rights before we can understand why it needs to be a part of left-wing movements. When I say animal rights, I mean abolitionist animal rights as opposed to animal welfare which is not the same thing. Abolitionism within animal rights means abolishing all forms of animal use, because there will always be animal exploitation otherwise. This means we all have to go vegan, zoos and animal circuses will be banned, animal testing to be abolished, and we stop all breeding of animals. This includes pets, which for some people I can understand is a difficult concept to get their head around. It certainly took me years of being vegan before I figured out why we shouldn't have pets. I will say this about pets though - looking after an animal from a rescue centre or animal sanctuary is giving that animal a better quality of life so most abolitionists don't have an issue with having rescued pets/companion animals. The basic idea is that if humans use animals then it is for their own gain and not for the animal's gain, and the animal doesn't have complete freedom. In other words, it's animal slavery. Animal welfare still supports animal slavery, just a "kinder" form of animal slavery. There isn't a single form of animal use which is necessary to human existence. We don't need to eat, hunt, be entertained by, play with, watch or do any of the other things we do with animals. I see no moral justification for not caring about animals this way. Furthermore, I see an important part of being left-wing is opposing all forms of discrimination, and that must also include speciesism. Speciesism is discriminating a being based on it's species, which it cannot help, the view that your own species is superior to other species.

I guess I could describe myself broadly as a green veganarchist. This means I favour a form of anarchism which looks after the interests of the environment and doesn't involve any animal exploitation. Veganism without anarchism is just another consumer lifestyle, anarchism without veganism is just another oppressive regime. I could also describe myself as an eco-socialist. Basically whatever you label give to my politics, I believe that there are several ways we could run society that I would be happy with as long as a few things are taken into consideration. I will not be happy with society until we have egalitarianism (an equal share of wealth and resources), a fully democratic society, an ecologically sound society and the abolition of all animal exploitation. If we are to create a society where all people are to be considered equal, and to be given equal rights and equal share of resources, then I find it hypocritical and wrong if we don't have a relationship with animals where they are also our equals. Humans and non-human animals are all sentient beings. We all share the ability to suffer. On this basis all animals should be given equal moral value. If it's morally wrong to exploit humans, why is it not also morally wrong to exploit other sentient beings? In my view, you can't have a truly left-wing society until all sentient beings have freedom and are not being exploited, and that must include all non-human animals.

 When it comes to the environment there is no excuse to ignore veganism and animal produce. The industries that produce animal products are the single largest contributing industry to greenhouse gasses contributing over 18% of greenhouse gasses (some people report the figure to be as high as 51%, but I'm unconvinced) which is higher than the entire transport industries, including aviation which in total produce around 13.5% of global greenhouse gasses[1]. I say the word greenhouse gasses because carbon dioxide is not the worst gas for climate change by a long way. Methane is at least 20 times worse than carbon dioxide and nitrus oxide is over 300 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. Cows, pigs, sheep and chicken all produce both methane and nitrus oxide. When you take into account that for 1 pound of meat it can take up to 1,000 times more water and 10 times more land than producing 1 pound of plant based food it really doesn't make any environmental sense not to be pursuing a plant based diet. Getting our food sources from animals is so much more inefficient than plant based food because through an animal's life they use up energy in moving, growing, digesting food, excreting, etc. This means that you have to feed an animal far more pounds of food than you get out of it. It is far more efficient and environmentally friendly to feed plant based food directly to humans. If animal product industries are causing nearly one fifth of all greenhouse gasses, more than any other industry, why isn't the environmental movement focused on veganism? Why does the environmental movement focus far more on aviation when the aviation industry causes a lot fewer greenhouse gasses? I've never been able to understand this. I'm not at all saying we shouldn't challenge the aviation industry, I'm just saying there's little point if we're not also challenging the bigger causes of climate change at the same time.

This also has a huge knock on effect around the world. In 3rd world countries around the world more and more land is being stolen for food production, without the the locals getting any of the food or being able to afford any. A transition to a vegan diet will mean that we require a lot less land to produce the same amount of food. This would mean more land in places like Africa and South America could be kept under local control rather than under control of massive multi-national food corporations. It could also prevent wars as there have been wars over land scarcity in places like Darfur.

To be an animal rights abolitionist, all you have to do is be vegan. I'm not saying that we have to go any further out of our way to help animals, all we have to do it just leave them alone. If you're committed to veganism, it will come easily to you. It's not as difficult as you might think and there's plenty of help out there. Once you're vegan it's up to you if you want to do more for animal rights and there are plenty of local groups all around the country. You can focus on human issues or environmental issues if you'd prefer to do that. Veganism can be a healthier diet as meat and dairy are generally not healthy for you. Either way, we can't continue to ignore veganism and animal rights if we call ourselves left-wing or environmentalists.

Further information on veganism and animal rights:



Thursday, 3 October 2013

Vegan friendly Lancaster

Okay, since the success of my recent post reviewing my favourite 10 vegan friendly places in Manchester, I thought I'd give another city dear to my heart a go, Lancaster. I'm not going to include Morecambe in this as I haven't been there properly since I was a kid. If you have never been to Lancaster before, please go. You will love this big historic hippy city (okay, it's small for a city, but it is very hippy). Visit the Castle and Williamson Park, and the canal, and the Lancaster Museum, and Dalton Square, and of course some of my vegan friendly suggestions here. Again the list changes all the time, and there's places I still haven't tried, and there will be new places set up every now and again. I'd like to dedicate this blog post in memory of Bohemian Wraps, one of the best places to go for vegan lunch in Lancaster which closed down last year. Here's 10 of my favourite vegan friendly places to visit in Lancaster:

10. Pizza Margherita












This place isn't the world's most vegan friendly restaurant, but if you order their vegetarian pizzas without cheese, they're vegan and they do serve vegan ice cream for desert. I haven't been to this place in years, but it still seems to have the same menu. The service is good and the food isn't bad either.

Website: http://www.pizza-margherita.co.uk/

9. The Novel Cafe














This is a really nice coffee shop in the heart of Lancaster that also sells lots of great second hand books. There is a children's area and internet access. They serve soya milk with hot drinks. You can also get fruit juices and other soft drinks. Very reasonable prices. All in all, a great coffee shop.

8. Lush Lancaster







As ever, Lush cosmetics, 100% vegetarian and over 90% vegan offer great vegan cosmetics and toiletries. The last year has seen them fight proposed laws that will force the ingredients of their products to have been tested on animals. Lancaster has had a Lush for around the same amount of time as their campaign against animal testing, around about a year or so. If you fancy a nice relaxing treat, have a try of one of their bath bombs!

Lush Lancaster Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LushLancaster
Lush website: https://www.lush.co.uk/

7. Go Burrito









Go Burrito is a cheap fast food cafe that serves burritos (oh you guessed that did you?). There are plenty of vegan options, and they are all yummy. They also do nachos too. You can sit in or takeaway, or order for delivery. They do catering as well and are soon to open a cafe. Open 11am until very late at night, this is the perfect fast food option on a night out in Lancaster.


Website: http://www.goburrito.co.uk/

6. Health'n'Brew






In a nutshell, this is Lancaster's independent answer to Holland & Barrett (and that's with Lancaster having the largest Holland & Barrett in Lancashire and South Cumbria). Like most independent healthfood and wholefood shops these days, Health'n'Brew stock from Suma, the country's largest workers co-op, a wholesaler which deals in vegetarian products. That fact instantly makes it better and more ethical than Holland & Barrett. I first noticed this place when I first tried a sugar free diet (it didn't last long unfortunately), and noticed that they sold Plamil sugar free chocolate spread, which is great for sugar free. Reasonable prices, and by the looks of it are 100% vegetarian.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YourHealthStore
Website: http://www.youronlinehealthstore.co.uk/

5. The Sultan of Lancaster














Situated 2 minutes walk away from Lancaster's famous Dalton Square and Lancaster Town Hall, The Sultan is a great curry house, which offers a little more than what you usually expect at an ordinary curry house. I believe it to be run by Muslims so the entire restaurant is alcohol free and as a teetotaller I love that fact, plus it makes it a bit more children friendly. As you entire, you will notice how beautiful the building is. It looks like it was once a church, or at least a church hall (could some from Lancaster clarify this for me please?). Excellent service, excellent food, good starters, good mains. Plenty of choice for vegans, but they do also serve meat and diary products.

Website: http://www.sultanoflancaster.com/

4. The vegetarian food stall at the Charter Market

Okay so I can't find any photos or website for this as it's just a guy selling vegetarian food twice a week at the Charter Market. He does lovely falafel wrap with good salsa. He also does good vegan potato cakes. You can watch them all be fried for you in from of your eyes. Brilliant. Usually found outside Lancaster library on Wednesdays and Saturdays in a green trailer. He's a really nice guy as well.

Lancaster Charter Market website: http://www.lancaster.gov.uk/community-and-living/markets/charter-market/

3. Dominick's @ The Gregson Centre












There is one reason to go to The Gregson to eat and that is vegan pizza complete with vegan cheese. Amazing stuff. They also sell Lancaster Brewery vegan bottled beer. It's not in the city centre either, just a short walk on the way to Lancaster Cathedral. I like to go here on birthdays as it's one place that's open late into the evening. Lots of people just go there to drink as well. The Gregson Centre has a hall at the back where bands play and other events happen every now and then. Upstairs they have their own cinema, which if you bring enough people and your own DVD you can watch whatever film you like for free there. Next door is Donimick's takeaway where they sell the same food but for takeaway. The main downside is they do serve meat and diary products.


Dominick's website: http://www.dominickatgregson.com/
The Gregson Centre website: http://www.gregson.co.uk/

2. Whale Tale Cafe






The first ever vegetarian cafe I ever visited. My parents used to take me here a lot before I was vegetarian and before I knew that it was a vegetarian cafe. Here you'll find the best vegan breakfasts in Lancaster. They've even won a PETA award for the best vegan breakfast in the UK, although I don't quite agree. It is good though. The Whale Tale salad is easily the best salad I've ever had. Actually it's a selection of different salads, and not just your usual salads either. If it's good weather when you visit this place, I'd advise having your food out in the back in the garden. I usually can't resist a tofu BLT with vegan garlic mayonnaise. Followed by an amazing vegan chocolate cake of course, with vegan ice cream obviously.


Website: http://www.whaletailcafe.co.uk/

1. Single Step Wholefood Co-operative















Down a busy side street full of cafes, charities shops, hairdressers and a pub there is an alleyway. Down the alleyway there is a shop. This is no ordinary shop. This is a non-profit workers co-operative selling ethically sourced wholefood goods. This is the best treasure in Lancaster.

So like Unicorn Grocery and 8th Day featured highly on my top 10 in Manchester, a 100% vegetarian wholefood co-op features highly on my list of vegan friendly places in Lancaster. Nowhere cares more about how our food is sourced and sold to people than independent wholefood shops. Single Step has been around since the mid 1970s, making it one of the oldest surviving co-operatives in the region, if not the country. Single Step own the entire building they sit in, which also includes the Whale Tale Cafe and Lancaster Resource Centre (aka LaRC).

You can buy herbs and spices by weight at Single Step. You can buy lots of fresh bread, fruit and vegetables. You can buy vegan chocolates and sweets, lots of different vegan milks, vegan cheeses (including Vegusto), vegan condiments and oils, vegan fake meats, vegan ice cream, vegan toiletries, etc etc etc. They sell a range of vegan and vegetarian cook books. There are 2 magazine racks full of left-wing & anarchic magazines, animal rights & vegan magazines, permaculture magazines, etc. At the start of the shop there is very large notice board full of notices for all sorts of radical things happening in and around Lancaster. Opposite there is a large display of leaflets advertising lots of local groups and events. Single Step is a special place.

Website: http://singlestep.org.uk/

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Manchester's top 10 vegan friendly places.

Update: this post is at least 2 years out of date, new places exist and some of these places have sadly closed down. I've made a new list of  Top 10 vegan places in Manchester 2015 so click that link for a more up to date list.

For the first time ever on my blog I thought I'd do a review of something. I have recently moved back to Manchester after 2 years of living back in Lancashire. As a vegan, I have been delighted by the choice of vegan friendly shops, cafes and restaurants there are in Manchester. I thought I'd do a review of my top 10 places to go in Manchester for vegans. Since I've been asked why places in Greater Manchester are not on this list, I will clarify that this list is for the City of Manchester only. I might end up doing a Greater Manchester (excluding the city) list at some point when I've tried more places. This list will probably change order, and 2 or 3 of them will not even make my top 10 on another day. Plus the fact that new places pop up every now and again will mean the list will change even more. There are even some places I have yet to check out. Here's Happy Cow's list of veggie-friendly places in Manchester: http://www.happycow.net/europe/england/manchester/

Runner-ups:

  • Dough Pizza Kitchen, City Centre
  • YeoPans, Chorlton
  • Hunters, City Centre
  • Go Falafel, City Centre & Fallowfield
  • Bistro 1847, City Centre & Chorlton
  • On The Corner, Chorlton
  • Falafel, Rusholme/Curry Mile
  • Odd/Odder/Oddest, City Centre/Oxford Road/Chorlton


10. This & That, City Centre














This & That is the best place in Manchester to buy rice and 3. Haven't ever heard of rice and 3? Well it's simple, you get a portion of rice and then you get to pick 3 different curries from a range of curries. It's usually less than a fiver and there are 3 or 4 places around the Northern Quarter and the Green Quarter that do this.

9. Safad, Gay Village

Plain and simple, the best falafel and houmous wrap in Manchester. Quite cheap as well. Otherwise Safad is just your average kebab house. Situated on the street behind Canal Street, it is a perfect place to eat after a night out at Satan's Hollow.

8. Mod's Veggie Cafe @ The Thirsty Scholar, City Centre (near Oxford Road Train Station)














Mod's cafe has changed venues over the years and was best when it's was Mod Pop Cafe on Oldham Street at a shop called Pop, however it has since moved back to Thirsty Scholar. A great place for a quick burger and chips at a cheap price in a central location. The beer's not bad either. Run by ska and northern soul DJ Mod, whose partner runs Manchester Vegan Society. Not entirely vegan, but entirely vegetarian.

Thirsty Scholar website: http://www.thirstyscholar.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MODSVEGGIEVEGANCAFE

7. Earth Cafe, City Centre














Earth Cafe is 100% vegan, except for the fact they offer cow's milk with tea/coffee. Based in the Northern Quarter, Earth offers lots of rich, filling and healthy vegan meals. Really wholesome food. It's a shame this place isn't open late because I would love to eat out here before doing something in the city centre.

Website: http://www.earthcafe.co/

6. Fuel Cafe Bar, Withington












This cafe was the first place I ever tried sweet potato wedges, and along with sweet chilli sauce it is amazing. This is probably the most southern entry to this list. One of the best places for a vegan breakfast, or a vegan falafel burger. The room upstairs is free hire and lots of people put bands on there as well as artsy sort of events. The bar is excellent, and has lots of organic choice (although I don't drink alcohol so what do I know?). By public transport you just need to get any bus from city centre to Didsbury and get off at Withington and it's on the main high street, Wilmslow Road. A really nice treat.

Website: http://fuelcafebar.co.uk/

5. Anand's Vegetarian Deli & Pan Centre, Rusholme/Curry Mile















Sitting on Manchester's curry mile, Anand's is a great cheap place to get some Asian cuisine, particularly assortment of various deep fried deli delights. They also have a large range of fresh curries, but not the usual ones you get in Indian restaurants. You can even take things home with you cold as if it's a shop. Really good value for money and well worth the visit. 100% vegetarian, but not 100% vegan, but they are very helpful if you tell them you're vegan. Please request soya milk with your tea/coffee so they stock it more often if the demand is high enough for them.


Facebook (I can't seem to find a website): https://www.facebook.com/AnandsDeli

4. The 8th Day Supermarket & Cafe, City Centre/University area










This was one of the first veggie places I ever discovered in Manchester. Sitting right next to the student's union of the university I went to, Manchester Metropolitan University on Oxford Road, I went to this place for my lunch on an almost daily basis. I first started going here on the way to seeing bands at the Manchester Academies. Run as a workers co-op with lots of ethical principles. Upstairs is a vegetarian supermarket full of all sorts of ethical brands, downstairs is a vegetarian cafe. The cafe has quite a varied menu and range of cakes, nearly half of them vegan. 8th Day cafe is my favourite place in Manchester to have a vegan breakfast, without a doubt. As well as various groceries the upstairs has a deli counter where you can get lots of  vegan cake or pasties heated to take out if you just want something quick and cheap on your lunch. It is towards the more expensive end of places that are vegan friendly however, but not too extortionate.


Website: http://8thday.coop/

3. Teatime Collective, Hulme












Originally just a way of someone sharing food with friends, later progressed to catering at fairs and festivals and protest camps and as of September a new cafe & vegan ice cream parlour based in St Wilfred's Centre in Hulme. The latest edition to Manchester's vegan family. This cafe is really cheap and very good quality. At the moment the menu changes every day, as does different the flavours of the ice creams. They do a lot of pies, sandwiches and stews, etc. Very cheap food, but quite a small cafe if the weather is bad outside. Takeaway is available.

Website: http://www.teatimecollective.co.uk/

2. V Revolution, City Centre












One of the latest entirely vegan cafes in Manchester, opened around a year and a half ago. Based on Oldham Street not far from Aflecks Palace. Set up as a place for punk and vegan lifestyle, selling punk and hardcore records as well as lots of vegan junk food. Yes foodwise, this place in Manchester's answer to Vx in London. If you ever wanted to try a vegan Mars bar or a vegan Reeses peanut butter chocolate cupcakes, you can get them here. They also do lots of ace vegan burger bar style food. Burgers, hot dogs, bacon, cheese toasties (they have Vegusto and Veganic brands!), soft drinks and cakes. Their prices are fairly reasonable. Oh and they also sell some cool zines. This is a place you can take a non-vegan and they probably wouldn't complain much.

Website/Facebook (they fail at having a real website): https://www.facebook.com/vrevolutionuk

1. Unicorn Grocery, Chorlton












Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton is a co-operative grocery supermarket which happens to be 100% entirely vegan. This month Unicorn celebrates it's 17 birthday. Founded in 1996, Unicorn is owned and managed entirely by it's permanent members of staff who all get an equal say in how the business is run and an equal pay and share of the profits. Unicorn has a strict set of principles which involves ethical sourcing of products; healthy, sugar free and animal product free products; sustainable employment for their members; as low an environmental impact as possible (no items are ever flown in by plane) and supporting the local communities. 1% of their wage bill goes to local projects which fit their principles and 4% of their wage bill goes to helping poor people in the economic south of the world set up their own businesses.

The model Unicorn apply involves buying as much raw ingredients as possible in bulk (by the pallet) and packaging it themselves. This way they manage to keep their products at prices competitive with supermarkets. They offer almost every type of food you could want in a vegan kitchen, and also alcohol, children's clothes, toiletries, gardening supplies, a vast range of teas/coffees, etc etc etc. They support lots of local and regional small organic growers and food suppliers. Their annual turnover is more than £4 million. All in all, excellent ethically sourced vegan wholefoods at really cheap prices. I believe this to be the single best supermarket in the entire of the UK. If your town or city would like one of these, Unicorn have produced a guide to setting one up and would also be happy to speak to you and give you advice.

Website: http://www.unicorn-grocery.co.uk/

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Tories are coming to Manchester!

So it's conference season again and we've already had Greens & Lib-Dems conferences with Labour's conference ending tomorrow. This Sunday the Conservative Party are coming to Manchester until next Wednesday. This will mean for perhaps a whole week several roads will be closed to give way for delegates to the conference. It also means there will be a lot of people protesting in Manchester. This Sunday the TUC have organised a march against the NHS reforms the coalition government has brought forward where I'm expecting at least 5,000 people to show up.

The Conservatives came to Manchester just 2 years ago to the same venue, Manchester Central (formerly the GMEX Centre) and I was at the march then. Difficult to estimate figures of how many people turned up, but it was several thousand. Now that we've seen a lot of the reforms which were promised 2 years ago, I expect a lot more people to show up this time round. I was at the back of the march with the animal rights activists who oppose the government's plan for the badger cull, which has now gone ahead in 2 pilot zones (see my previous post on the badger cull here: http://jakewelsh.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/why-badger-cull-should-not-go-ahead.html). There were roughly 500 animal rights activists. Stuck at the end I wasn't sure if we were getting the most coverage that we could. But at least we were together and not all over the place, mixed up with everyone else.

Lots of people up and down the country are angry with what this government is doing. Sweeping welfare reforms that have torn families apart. The bedroom tax that means some people have to move out of a cheap 2 or 3 bedroom house and move to a much more expensive 1 bed flat all in the name of saving money while multi-millionaires who have 10 spare bedrooms don't get any penalties. The introduction of Universal Credit will make it harder for people to budget, and will reduce the amount of benefits people could claim. New private contracts in the NHS which signal the deepening of privatisation of the NHS. The badger cull will murder over 70% of all wild badgers in England. Major cuts to the budgets of almost all councils in the country. All this while the richest people in the country have been getting a 5% tax break. There's more than enough reason to come out and protest.

The march is starting at Liverpool Street and sets off around 11am. The march will finish at Whitworth Park at the beginning of Rusholme/Curry Mile so hey we can all go for a curry of falafel afterwards! I'll possibly be there with the anti-badger cull group again, but there's plenty of other groups you can join in along the march. I'll see you there, right?