The nuance of Kenya

On Remembrance Sunday in Nairobi nearly a decade ago, an ancient Kenyan veteran told Sam Mattock, a British ex-cavalry officer, that he had lost his second world war service medals. Could Sam help replace them? In a culmination of Sam’s personal efforts, King Charles III, on his visit to Kenya with Queen Camilla next week, will present medals to four veterans who fought for the empire in North Africa, Madagascar and Burma. The youngest of them, Kefa Chagira and Ezekiel Anyange, are 99. John Kavai is 101 and the eldest, Samweli Mburia, is 117 and served as a corporal in Burma. One hundred thousand African troops fought the Japanese in

Why are vegans addicted to replica bacon?

Queueing behind a young woman in the supermarket I became fascinated by the items she had placed on the conveyor belt. Several bottles of expensive booze had gone through first, followed by six tins of chickpeas, two bits of broccoli, then packet after packet of processed meat substitute products.  Cheese-free cheese, ham-free ham, soy this and tofu that, and something to make a curry with that was simply called ‘Chunks’… Bringing up the rear, rather fabulously, were two enormous crates of an energy drink called Monster Energy Ultra. I was bursting to ask this lady: ‘Has it ever occurred to you that the reason you need 24 large cans of

In defence of cows

‘They’re going to have to stop cows,’ said my mother, looking doubtfully down at her plate as we tucked into a roast dinner. It was not like her to come over all veganistic, but she had been watching the BBC where she had got hold of the idea that cows might have to be banned because ‘they can’t stop them breaking wind’. Put the entire working population on veganism for a week and see what happens And nor should they, said I, cutting off a juicy slice to push into my mouth, the builder boyfriend and my father also chomping away as we sat around my parents’ dining table. I

Do speeding fines work?

Fine lines Would Suella Braverman be more likely to stick to the speed limit had she chosen to go on a speed awareness course instead of being fined? A government-commissioned study in 2018 looked at the reoffending rate among 1.4 million drivers who had accepted the offer of a speed awareness course and compared it with that of drivers who opted to take three points and pay a fine instead. Within two years of taking the course, around a quarter of drivers had reoffended. However, the rate was lower than it was for motorists who had chosen to pay the fine. The relative reduction of reoffending was put at 12-23%

In praise of meatless steak

Sirloin, rump, tomahawk, fillet, rib-eye. However it comes, is there any food that gets salivated over more than steak? Restaurant reviewers compete to outdo one another with their florid descriptions of the sensual delights of tucking into a particularly prime example. But then steak comes loaded with far more than a dollop of garlic butter or hollandaise. More recently, tucking into a juicy slab of meat has also become a bold statement of ‘I will eat – and live – as I please’, a carpe diem rejection of vegan-botherers and eco-worriers. Veganism is on the rise, with the number of vegans in Britain quadrupling between 2014 and 2019. This month

My dangerous flirtation with veganism

I have a confession to make to Spectator readers. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s time to come clean (no, I haven’t become a Labour voter – the Tories have been bad, but not that bad). I’ve been experimenting with using meat and dairy substitutes. Hear me out. I’m not proud of what I’ve done. As a right-of-centre comic, indulging in anti-woke sentiment, eating animal products is a badge of honour – the unspoken custom of our movement. Ceasing to do so is the kind of thing which could raise alarm within the ranks, like a bite on the neck in a zombie film. My main motivation for this possible

I won’t ever look at cows the same way again: Andrea Arnold’s Cow reviewed

The latest film from Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank, American Honey) is a feature-length documentary about a cow, starring a cow, with almost nothing else in it, apart from this cow. It feels like a test. Can I watch a cow for 93 minutes? What does this cow do that’s so interesting? I see cows all the time from the train and they just sort of lounge about, ruminating, don’t they? But this wants you to look, really look, at what it is to be a cow. And you do and you will invest. (Oh, Luma.) Arnold spent four years, off and on, filming Luma, a cow at a

Surrey’s vegan wars

One of the village vegans gave the bacon sandwich resting on top of the recycling bin outside my house an accusing look. I had placed it there, on a plate, for the builder boyfriend who was underneath my jacked-up Volvo which had been making an alarming high-pitched wheeze. I always bring him a coffee and a snack when he’s fixing something, and as it was late morning, and he had missed breakfast in order to drive us to the horses in his truck because my car was emitting a wheeze from the undercarriage, I brought him a bacon sarnie. And so it sat perched on the green bin that stands

Giving up meat won’t make us greener

There was a nifty about-turn last week when the so-called Nudge Unit, the government’s behavioural policy advisory body, abandoned its proposals to get us to shift towards a plant-based diet and away from eating meat. Among other exciting intiatives it suggested ‘building support for a bold policy’ such as a tax on producers of mutton and beef. It pointed out that the government could get people used to a vegetarian diet through its spending in hospitals, schools, prisons, courts and military facilities – you can just imagine how that would go down with soldiers, prisoners and patients – and declared that a ‘timely moment to intervene’ would be when people are

The podcast that makes the world strange, mysterious and compelling again

It’s interesting that we have decided shaming and yelling are the easiest ways to change people’s minds. Which is not to say I do not think there are people in this world who deserve to be shamed and yelled at: people who use the term ‘cancel culture’ sincerely, people who are deeply invested in the marriage and divorce cycles of celebrities, Meryl Streep. But do I think yelling at Ms Streep will accomplish what I fervently wish for, which is for her to stop ruining perfectly fine movies with her barely adequate performances? No. Every issue in our cultural lives is politicised right now. Just searching through various podcasts I

A vegan’s defence of field sports

In modern Britain, the quickest way to prove that you’re a good person is to show that you love animals. People share cat videos and pose with dogs in pictures for dating websites. Anyone who is seen to hurt animals — like the Danish zoo that culled a giraffe or the lawyer who clubbed a fox — is sent to a special circle of social media hell. Those who participate in field sports reside in this inferno: the men and women who shoot, stalk or hunt. They are killers in a society that doesn’t like to see death. When polled, around 85 per cent of the British public are in

Could this pandemic be the death of veganism?

‘Do you want some of the private stuff from out the back?’ said the butcher to the builder boyfriend, leaning forward over the counter and winking theatrically. The builder b winced a little for this was starting to feel like the terrifying scene in League Of Gentlemen when Mr Briss starts selling a mysterious and highly addictive ‘special’ meat to the residents of Royston Vasey. Thankfully, this butcher was only selling private lamb. He revealed his secret stash to the BB because he took a liking to him. The butcher grinned, revealing big teeth between rosy cheeks, before disappearing out the back and returning with an entire side, which he

Is a double-barrelled surname still posh?

Lock, stock and double barrels In Rebecca Long Bailey, who sometimes hyphenates her name and sometimes doesn’t, the Labour party may soon have a leader with a double-barrelled surname. Is such a name still an indication of elevated social class? — According to an Opinium poll in 2017, 11 per cent of couples now use a double-barrelled name on marriage. — The changing social connotations of double-barrelled surnames can be seen in the England football squad. Three of the 24 current members listed by the FA have double-barrelled names. — By contrast, none of the 23 members of the Conservative cabinet does, although the wider body of 33 ministers attending

How veganism became mainstream

I have just returned from Canada, which seems to share Britain’s new-found obsession with veganism. There, chains such as Burger King and KFC are offering plant-based alternatives to meat-based meals. Five years ago could anyone have predicted this? True, vegetarianism has been growing for many years, but did anyone foresee its most extreme variant rapidly ‘crossing the chasm’ to go from an oddball niche to a standard lifestyle choice? The ‘chasm’ is that mysterious and often impermeable barrier all technologies and behaviours must traverse if they are to make the critical leap from being a weird minority interest to an unquestioningly accepted option. Some things (mobile phones, Facebook, washing machines,

Dear Mary: Can I ask my vegan friend to buy eggs and bacon when I stay with her?

Q. The other day a dear friend rang from her car with all the time in the world to burn as she crawled along the Hammersmith flyover. I was at my desk working, as I politely told her. Now she has described me as unfriendly. How can one appropriately deal with the frequent asymmetry on the leisure-work spectrum of two interlocutors as a result of the use of the mobile when walking or in a car or train? — O.R., London SW1 A. The busy one should say: ‘How lovely to hear from you. Can I ring you back later when I’m alone?’ The suggestion that there is someone else

Vegans should go cat-free

Is it ethical for vegans to own cats? It’s an interesting question because vegans look set to take over — there are more than 3.5 million now, up from 500,000 in 2016, and a fifth of us say we’d eat less meat if only we could be bothered. Veganism is the life-style choice for the thoughtful and planet-conscious. The only thing more 21st century than veganism is cats. Cat ownership in the UK is growing at almost as impressive a rate. A quarter of all British adults have cats. There are 11 million of the sinuous little horrors weaving in and out of our homes. More Brits own cats than

Food for future thought

The Way We Eat Now begins with a single bunch of grapes. The bunch is nothing special to the modern eater: seedless, one-note sweet. It appears to be unchanged from those which might have been dropped into the mouths of Roman emperors. But, Bee Wilson explains, the grapes’ sweetness, their lack of seeds, their sheer abundance and affordability makes them a wholly different beast to those eaten by our forefathers. As she puts it: ‘Almost everything about grapes has changed, and fast.’ From there, The Way We Eat Now expands outwards to examine the peculiarities and vagaries of our modern eating habits. How they vary across different countries and continents

The great carniwars

As January — the month of penitence and tax returns — grinds towards its close, it would be foolish to imagine we can go back to a life of thoughtlessly eating, drinking and making merry. Dry January might give way to Wet February, as grateful drinkers furtively crack open the rioja, but the intense passions aroused by Veganuary now seem set to continue all year round. Veganism — the shunning of meat, fish and all dairy products — was once regarded as a harmless but inconvenient hobby. Vegans got used to the mild panic they triggered at other people’s houses if the host hadn’t been pre-warned: the alarmed mouthing of

Meat-free moggies

As I write, my cats and a visitor from the next street are hammering into their food, at nearly £5 a box. Once they only ate greens to make themselves vomit, but now they relish food labelled, ‘garden fresh’, containing carrots, pumpkin and pulses, plus ‘prebiotics to aid digestion’. I watch them eat and wonder how cats have evolved so quickly from savage carnivores into something more like middle-class ladies getting their five a day. Not that long ago, pets were fed scraps or, if they were lucky, Spratt’s Patent Food, which provided Puss and Fido with boiled horse flesh and beef blood, sold from barrows by street urchins. Tinned

The curse of having to go vegan

I’m on a no-alcohol, no-caffeine, no-sugar, vegan diet. It’s less fun than it sounds. Occasionally I cheat, but mostly I don’t, because I don’t want to upset the lovely doctors at the Infusio clinic in Frankfurt who gave me my stem cells for the Lyme disease treatment and who insist they need the right anti-inflammatory, alkaline diet to thrive. And besides, even though it’s horrible, I’m quite enjoying, in my masochistic way the rigour and the punishing asceticism. Also, it has given me insights into a world which I never imagined in a million years I would ever enter. Vegans walk among us. They are everywhere. But you don’t really