Linklog entries in August 2022

Monday, 29 August 2022

Abergavenny Food Festival 

I’m really looking forward to the Abergavenny Food Festival in mid-September.

On Saturday 17 September I’ll have the pleasure of interviewing Henry Mance about his book How to Love Animals. Mance is chief features writer for the Financial Times and I’ve long admired his writing and witty interventions on Twitter. I bought and read his book when it first came out and have returned to it many times since to find various references. I’ll be asking him about his journey from vegetarianism to veganism and the experiences and evidence which led him to change his diet.

On Sunday 18 September I’m part of a panel discussing the dismal state of our rivers (particularly the local Wye and Usk) and what we can do to clean them up. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two years researching pollution to the Wye, particularly from agricultural sources, including the 20 million chickens in the catchment – so it will be interesting to share the stage with a representative from Avara, the company responsible for the majority of those chickens.

Off-stage, aside from sampling lots of delicious food and watching great chefs at work, I’m most excited about watching Saturday’s debate ‘Meat: Should we still be eating it?’ as I think it’s one of the biggest questions we face. Having read Mance’s book (and others, including Regenesis by George Monbiot and We Are The Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer), I’m pretty persuaded that the answer is ‘No’ – but I’m always interested in counter-arguments and this event has an excellent panel.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Sep/Oct 22 issue of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine 

I’ve written a feature for the latest edition of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine (Sep/Oct 22) called Portrait of a Cow.

I was really moved, earlier this year, watching Andrea Arnold’s documentary Cow, which followed a dairy cow called Luma on a farm in Kent, over the course of a few years. There was no commentary or explantation for the scenes presented, it was simply a filmic invitation to consider the life of this mammal. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had so many questions – was Luma’s life typical of a British dairy cow? How much did she get to be outside? How did she feel about being separated from her calfs at birth, year after year, so that humans could take her milk?

I set about finding out and spoke to lots of fascinating people in the process – including farmer George, from Park Farm in Kent, where Luma lived.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Best reusable nappies 

The Telegraph asked me if I would once again test the best reusable nappies on the market – updating my guide from 2019. I agreed because:

1) I’m a big fan of reusable nappies – 20 cloth nappies have the potential to prevent thousands of disposables going to landfill

2) I now have a second child to test them on.

I don’t usually dabble in ‘consumer journalism’ (because I’m much more interested in our powers as citizens than consumers) but I consider this piece in the public interest.

Lots of consumer journalism feels like it’s recycling press releases. When I tested these nappies, I really tested them. Once again, as in 2019, I tried out loads more nappies than I ended up writing about (for example, I found that Aldi’s Mamia reusable is cheap for a reason, with fraying stitching which made me suspect it wouldn’t last as long as the others). I could also draw on the experience of using reusable nappies on my first child for nearly three years (until he outgrew them) and I consulted many friends who’ve used them too.

The reason I wrote my original piece for the Telegraph in 2019 was because I couldn’t find an independent reviewer who had tested loads of nappies and compared them. My rule as a journalist now is to write the pieces that I want to read, but can’t find written anywhere.

Whilst many of my favourite nappies from 2019 were still available, there had also been lots of changes. Brexit and global commodity prices have changed the market, meaning some companies had folded or were no longer able to sell their nappies in the UK at a competitive price. Meanwhile a few new players and products had taken their place.

The economics have also changed. In 2019 it was clear that using reusable nappies would categorically save you money and lots of it. Once you’d made the expensive up-front investment in buying a load of cloth nappies, you were reaping savings over the next few years, rather than shelling out constantly for disposables. However, with the steeply rising energy costs, some people are now frightened to put on their washing machines. The cost of washing reusable nappies is presently comparable to buying the cheapest disposables. I appreciate the economics are a fast-moving picture, and disposables may soon rise in price too, so I avoided financial comparisons and focussed on the environmental case for cloth nappies instead.

I’m extremely grateful to Wendy Richards, the guru behind The Nappy Lady, for all of her advice and assistance whilst I was researching. She rightly made me try terry squares this time because they’re the ultimate budget option and they absolutely do the job!

I’d also recommend parents ask for reusable nappies as presents – they last far longer than clothes (which are outgrown in weeks or months by babies and toddlers) and they can look just as cute.