Friday, 16 May 2014

Book Review: Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat

Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat
Philip Lymbery, Isabel Oakeshott
Kindle Edition

Farmageddon came along at exactly the right time for me, when I was reassessing my diet and exercise habits with the goal of increasing my health and fitness levels. One thing that was frustrating me was how little information there is about the food we buy every day in the supermarkets. Though you sometimes know where it came from, there isn't any detail on how it was made, or explanations about what all those terms and ingredients really mean. Farmageddon confronts this knowledge gap face on, discussing how the intensified farming practises that are behind a significant amount of the food on shop shelves is damaging the environment, animals and us.

I already knew how horrendous the meat industry can be, and thought I was reasonably well informed. Reading Farmageddon revealed details that I wasn't aware of, and covered other areas of the farming process not related to meat. Discovering people have died from falling into vats of pig excrement, that vast amounts of antibiotics are fed to animals packed together for profit margins and that companies own the patent on GM seeds so farmers can't reuse the seeds their crops naturally drop; all of this was logical but things I had never consciously considered before.

It also offered a historical perspective on how all this intensified farming came to be, demonstrating how sensible it seemed at one time. By no means does it make farmers the bad guys, but instead shows they are as much a victim of intensified farming practises as consumers. It also does not claim that just because a farm is small or not intensified that it will treat the animals any better. Lymbery makes no bones about the fact that some of the worst places he's seen are small farms.

Written by the now CEO of the charity Compassion in World Farming, it takes a global view but inevitably focuses more on the USA, where farming practises are particularly intensified compared to Europe. The charity have long campaigned for farm animals to be treated respectfully and for their suffering to be as limited as possible, and I like that at no time in the book did I feel that I was being criticised for choosing to eat meat.

Understandably the work of the charity is also a feature of the book but it doesn't feel like an attempt at self promotion or a self-congratulatory monologue. Instead it's a demonstration that no matter how bad practises may be right now, they can get better. Campaigns, consumer pressure and government action can all prevent the disaster that awaits us if we continue to give animals large doses of antibiotics, if we continue feeding crops suitable for humans to animals instead, if we continue to chop down rainforests to make way for those same crops. It's hard not to be convinced by the end of the book that our current push for intensified farming is not sustainable and ultimately self-destructive.

If you care at all about animal welfare this is a must-read. If you care at all about what the food you eat could be doing to you or your family, this is a must-read. The truth is hard to swallow (sorry, couldn't resist) but this is vital information for everyone to know.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Overactive Imagination

This weekend I was by my ownsome as the BF was out of the country. I kept myself busy as I didn't fancy being in the flat all weekend talking to the TV but inevitably I had some time without any company. And I've discovered I could never live by myself if I want to write stories.

Sunday I wrote another scene on the short I'm working on. It's a pivotal moment, when a big secret is revealed, but in the process some creepy shit happens. Think phantoms, threat and mysterious noises, that vanish as soon as you try to find them. Pleased with the progress, I decided to finish off in the middle of things so I can continue easily later. And was met by a very quiet flat that seemed to be watching me. I sat on the sofa and tried to watch some TV but couldn't stop myself looking down the hallway. Have I locked the door? Should I get up and check? What if someone tries to break in and you didn't bother to check? For crying out loud get a hold of yourself.

I got up and checked the door (which was locked). Then I put the chain on (which I never do). I decided to play games instead of watching TV, as it gives me less chance to think about how someone might break in and kill me. On a top floor flat where the main door is also locked and you need a key fob to get in... Thank Christ I wasn't watching Crimewatch, the only program on UK TV that scares the bejeezus out of me. I'd likely have ended up curled in a corner of the living room, one of the kitchen knives clutched in my hand with a death grip.

Don't be fooled by the hilarious sketch - this show is terrifying.

So yeah, I don't think living on my own is an option if I want to write stories - getting myself out of the fiction is a lot harder when I don't have anyone else to watch out for lions, tigers, bears and potential knife wielding maniacs.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Bob Hoskins 1942 - 2014: "I apologise for f*cking nothing"

Sad news last week that the great British actor Bob Hoskins has passed away at 71-years-old. What I loved most about him was his lack of seriousness, about himself or his profession, signified by his comments in interviews (the quote in the title is when he talked about filming Hook. Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams were all apologising for bad movies they'd made. Needless to say Hoskins refused to do the same, in his own eloquent way). It's genuinely difficult not to love the guy, and that's before considering what a fantastic actor he was. He's played criminals, cops, plumbers and a host of other characters and below I've listed my favourite Bob Hoskins roles.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

It's actually hard to imagine how challenging this role must have been for Hoskins; actors now have at least some tennis balls on a stick to direct their eye level at, but back in 1988 there was nothing. At best they had rubber mannequins to do rehearsals with but during actual filming it was all up to the actor's imagination. Hoskins' performance is fantastic and his ability to channel the required brooding noir detective Eddie Valiant, while talking to a cartoon rabbit with attention deficit disorder, is a must-see.


I can hardly remember Mermaids but I do recall three things: (1) I loved it, (2) Bob Hoskins was great in it and (3) Cher's face is fascinating. Hoskins plays the good hearted shop keeper who eventually wins over Cher. What's best about it is that ol' Hoskins was hardy what you would call traditional love interest material but his performance is spot on and totally convincing.

The Long Good Friday

Hoskins plays a gangster trying to become a legitimate business man, and in the process stars in one of the best British gangster movies of all time. Controversially I am not a fan of "geezer gang" films, (Guy Ritchie films leave me cold, except for a few moments) but I really liked The Long Good Friday. Maybe it's because of how incredibly seventies it is...


"I've just had an apostrophe." "I think you mean epiphany." This will forever be the film that defined not just the titular character for me but of his bumbling first mate and friend, Smee. Hoskins makes the perfect Smee, trying to keep up with Hook's ideas and mood swings. Yes, the film has some truly atrocious child acting going on but then so did Harry Potter; if you've never seen this, then you really must. *Interesting fact!* Hoskins played Smee again in the TV series Neverland, though sadly Dustin Hoffman did not return as Hook. Haven't seen Neverland but now I kind of want to...

Super Mario Brothers

I should probably be embarrassed to say this but I'm not; I really liked this film as a kid. I watched it a lot. It had dinosaurs and a princess and... I don't know it just clicked for me. It's an awful film with very few redeeming features (which is why I have only watched it once as an adult) but has a place in my heart nonetheless. A lot of that is also to do with Hoskins playing the perfect Mario Mario (not a typo). Which is all the better when you consider how much he hated the film; "It was a f*ckin' nightmare!"

Snow White and the Huntsman

Yeah, yeah I know - Hoskins has been in loads of great stuff and I include this? But it was fantastic seeing him on the big screen again, and as it's his last film I think it has to get a mention. He also plays a dwarf with my last name as his first name, so wise old dwarf gets my vote. I also really like the film, and not just because of Chris Hemsworth. Visually stunning, I'm a sucker for a fairy tale retelling and this film ticked all the boxes for me.

Rest in peace Bob - hope you're having a pint or two in the after.