‘Mum, would you eat an endangered, native bird if you were marooned on Kapiti Island for months and couldn’t get back and it was just standing there all flightless and you were just really sick of eating leaves and stuff?’ I get asked questions like this regularly by my children, this particular one was a bit controversial but it got me thinking. It’s about a year now since we committed to a plant based diet and it was most definitely one of the best lifestyle changes I personally have ever made. I feel healthier and lighter, I think my skin is brighter and best of all my conscience is in pretty good shape - pretty good, but there is one major conflict that makes me, up here on my high horse the ultimate hypocrite. We may have given up eating animals and animal products but we still sell them to our customers which makes us not just hypocrites but capitalist hypocrites who are actually compromising our values to run a business. Before you judge, hear me out and hopefully you’ll get where I’m coming from. You know how we’re not just born knowing it all? What’s right, what’s wrong, what’s something in between? The past year has been a journey of realising that what we’d learned and believed over the past almost 50 years of being alive was just that, a belief - not necessarily a truth or the only way. Pre-conditioned sounds dysfunctional and serious but ultimately, we’re all pre-conditioned in some way. So when you know what you need to do, in spite of how challenging it may be, it’s difficult to avoid doing something about it. And we’ve known for a little while now but to be honest, we’ve been afraid to change. The reason for this is because the business is our only source of income so to make a sweeping change based on a moral dilemma was always going to be risky. And everyone’s telling us not to do it and a very small minority (i.e. one person) is telling us to do it but also there’s the ego involved when you’ve created recipes that people love and keep coming back for and you’re just going to get rid of them and it’s just easier to keep the status quo… and the excuses go on. But we’re going to do it anyway. Over the next few months we will make incremental changes to our menu. It won’t happen overnight but we will keep you posted when changes are going to be made. Why? Because we want to run a fully sustainable business model and serving animal based foods is counter to that vision. And look we have friends at both ends of the dietary spectrum - our activist vegan friends will say we aren’t doing enough, fast enough and our die-hard meat and dairy eater friends will think we’ve gone mad. That is until they sample our new menu which we promise will exceed everyones expectations. And time will tell if Porirua was ready for a solely plant based eatery aye. So we shall see. So why are we so passionate about this? In a nutshell, because we love the planet and we love animals and we want to do our little bit to protect both. Now readers who are really averse to giving up their meat and dairy (we were you once too) may not want to read on because it is going to sound a little preachy but you can’t escape the facts right? Following is the rationale for the changes we are going to make. You may or may not be aware that NZ has one fo the highest methane emissions per capita in the world, due to the sheer number of cattle and sheep we farm. It's big business - our biggest. In 2009, nearly half of NZs export income was derived from farmed animals and their products. By 2017, NZ was the worlds 12th largest meat and dairy exporter (by value), and the number 1 exporter of sheep meat and dairy products - all from our little, wee piece of turf. So, there’s going to be a significant impact, there’s just no denying it.
NZ is also among the top 10 meat eating nations in the OECD. And the intense pressure on our environment isn’t just limited to meat production - although we ranked 125th among nations by population in 2017 we produce a massive 3% of the entire planets dairy products. One study actually calculated the cost of dairy production when considering the costs of repairing the environmental damage and although we make around 18.1 billion from our dairy industry each year the costs to repair degradation in biodiversity and removing stuff like nitrates from drinking water and dealing with greenhouse emissions and soil compaction would cost us around 15 billion - and that’s possibly on the cheap side. A 2009 study found that kiwis consumed, on average, 142kg of meat per person, per year. That’s quite a lot aye. According to various studies, including the one in the link below, adopting a plant based diet is one of the 4 most impactful actions one can take to reduce greenhouse emissions. If we keep going the way we are currently trending global demand for livestock products is estimated to increase by 70% by 2050 to feed a growing population. The irony is that globally, the calories from cereals currently fed to animals represents the annual calorie needs of more than 3.5 billion humans. So the environment is one thing, and that’s concerning enough you have to admit. Didn’t we just have the warmest May globally since recordings began? Some will read this and say it’s just a myth - no such thing as global warming. But me personally? I think there could be something in it. I’m trusting the scientists who have devoted their lives to it. But then, what about the animals? We’re humane here in NZ right? We don’t do awful things to animals. We’re kind meat and dairy eaters. Weeeeeeeeelllllll…..that’s debatable, but probably only if you really want to keep eating them.
NZ has been ranked 30th out of 50 countries surveyed in an Animal Cruelty index. These 50 countries are responsible for 80% of the animals farmed for food globally. So we are the 30th most cruel nation on earth when it comes to animals. 160 million animals are farmed in NZ each year and also In NZ, intensively farmed animals are are often bred to grow unnaturally fast, and to be so highly productive that their health may be compromised. The World Health Organisation recommended that farmers and the food industry stop using antibiotics routinely but here in NZ we probably won’t have them abolished until around 2030. But more on that to come as we gradually change out our menu. We reckon you will see our rationale at every point along the way based on the environmental, nutritional, gastronomic and moral pro's and cons of replacing each of our current recipes with a plant based alternative.
So over the next few weeks we will be running 2 for 1 bagel Tuesdays as we phase out our animal based menu and bring in the new plant based equivalent that will replace it. This gives you the opportunity to not only grab yourself a free bagel, but also see just how delicious our plant based alternatives are. So this is a promotion aimed at our dedicated meat and dairy consumers. Come on, give it a whirl! On a final note, i'm a little concerned that this post will be controversial and inspire extreme opinions from both sides of the dietary fence. But before you crucify us for not going plant based soon enough or for going plant based at all or for any of the statical information we have mentioned or for causing arguments in your home or for making you question your own entrenched eating habits please bear in mind that we aren't experts. We are just humans learning as we go, making mistakes here and there but ultimately trying to do what we think is for the best and hoping to inspire others to do the same.
And so as I bring this post to a close, I had better circle back to the question originally posed to me by my daughter; 'would I eat an endangered, native bird if I was marooned on Kapiti Island', and to be honest, I’m not sure. Keeping a starving human alive in a compromised situation is quite a different scenario to factory farming the shit out of the planet and scoffing animals and their bi-products 3 times a day over the course of a human lifetime. So yes, possibly I would if I really had to. But thankfully, I don’t have to.