The Mount Lavinia Hotel is well known for their incredible vegan buffet on poya days consisting of over a hundred vegan dishes from all over the world, along with their special vegan menu – both firsts in Sri Lanka. Following the tradition of promoting vegan food to Sri Lanka, on 1st November, Mount Lavinia Hotel partnered with Meatless Monday Sri Lanka and Humane Society International to celebrate the Workd Vegan Day.
In 2018 on World Vegan Day, the Mount Lavinia Hotel introduced a special vegan high tea for the first time in Sri Lanka to celebrate this special day. This year on World Vegan Day, the Mount Lavinia Hotel celebrated one year of success with their vegan high tea in partnership with Meatless Monday Sri Lanka and Humane Society International. The event was highly successful with both vegans and non-vegans turning up at the hotel to enjoy the variety of vegan food available to them at the high tea.
(Winners of the Meatless Monday competition enjoying the vegan high tea with family)
At a special price of 1,100 rupees, the high tea was well worth the price as it consisted of a range of both international and fusion items that were an absolute treat to everyone present. The high tea platter was made up of traditional English scones served with jam and vegan cream, a few Sri Lankan dishes with a twist such as spicy “Lavariya”, traditionally a local sweet and miniature coconut rotis with a delicious filling among others. For desserts, they had a beautiful range of unique fusion sweets that were a treat to the taste-buds.
(Scones with a Sri Lankan touch to it)
(Spicy Lavariya and other vegan delicacies)
For vegans, it was another opportunity to treat themselves to vegan treats without the hassle of explaining their diet multiple times or having to question the food being served. For the non vegans, it was an opportunity to devour delicious vegan food and open their eyes to everything the vegan world has to offer.
The Vegan Day celebrations continued with a cookery demonstration conducted by Dr. Pablis of Mount Lavinia Hotel which focused on teaching the Meatless Monday team on making vegan Sri Lanka food.
(Thadsha from Meatless Monday team assisting Dr.Pablis in the food preparation)
Reconciliation or as most of us call it “Sanhidiyawa” has been a hot topic for us in Sri Lanka lately. But not only us, most countries value the idea of reconciliation and are working towards building a safer environment where all ethnic groups and religions are equally respected. But, this is between our own kind, the human kind. We give less thought when it comes to co-existence with other species and nature. We often forget how all things are connected in this ecosystem and how our actions could cause ripples across the whole system.
Today, the 22nd of May is the International Day for Biological Diversity and this year’s theme is “Our Food, Our Health”. Food and Health are pressing issues in the world today as 422 million people suffer from diabetes as of 2014 and 17.9 million people die each year due to cardiovascular diseases according to statistics produced by the World Health Organization. Let’s talk how all of this is connected.
Biodiversity is one of nature’s most precious gifts to the mankind and as such to protect it is also up to the mankind. The air we breath, the water we drink and the food we eat are all dependent and an integral part of biodiversity. Biodiversity is a vital part for our survival and today, it’s in crisis before us.
Our food; how it affects the biodiversity
Among our most destructive actions such as coal power plants, transportation etc., animal agriculture and industrial fishing are the top most causes of climate change and species extinction. As per cowspiracy facts, livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of total worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. It is also one of the biggest reasons for deforestation of rainforests.
How cattle ranchers are chewing up the Amazon rainforest. Courtesy: Greenpeace / Daniel Beltrá
Livestock and livestock feed covers ⅓ of earth’s ice freeland. These destructions to the ecosystem result in rising temperature levels causing the arctics to melt. Cattle manure that is released to the oceans is one of the most significant causes for ocean dead zones. Each year, It is estimated that 335 million tons of manure (measured in dry weight) is produced by livestock in the United States alone sea water to mix with an enormous quantity of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen. This process, referred to as eutrophication causes the oxygen levels in the area to drop which is bad news to all living things a body of water.
To make things even worse, the coral reefs around the world are dying due to overfishing and rising temperatures in the sea. Half of the Great Barrier Reef which is home to to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 types of hard coral, one-third of the world’s soft corals, 134 species of sharks and rays, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles and, more than 30 species of marine mammals, is already dead.
Great barrier reef in March 2016 and May 2016. Credits: XL Catlin Seaview Survey
Each species in the world is affected by climate change which results in uprising temperatures and sea levels, irregular rainfalls and many of such species listed as endangered or going extinct. These include bumblebees, whales, Asian elephants, Giraffes, insects, oceanic bird species, sharks, coral reefs, monarch butterflies,great apes, polar bears, pacific walrus, and seals that rely on arctic sea ice.
Biodiversity plays a vital role in our daily lives although it is not so apparent. Our health relies heavily on the very ecosystem that’s being destroyed by us. Humans need fresh water, food and fuel sources as requisites for its survival. Our actions that cause destructions to the biodiversity or more specifically to its ecosystem services have significant impacts on our health. The air we breathe are becoming polluted due to high emissions of greenhouse gases and other sources of CO2 to the atmosphere. Cattle manure disposed by animal agriculture, tons of plastic disposals, mercury and other chemicals being released to the seas are eradicating the coral reefs and expanding ocean dead zones. The plastics we dump into the ocean turn into microplastics over time is consumed by the fish and ultimately ends up in our own bodies. Some fish are considered to have high levels of Mercury in them and doctors around the world pregnant mothers to refrain from eating them minimize the impact on the unborn child. These actions have impacts on all of us in ways we cannot imagine.
Furthermore, in comparison, our meals have now become less diverse. They contain more animal products and less plants. These meat based products we produce, by compromising large amounts of crops, water and land is destroying our own health. One such example is the processed meat that is categorized by WHO as a group 1 carcinogen which is within the same category of tobacco, while red meat is categorized as a group 2a carcinogen. But, we are even more than happy to share such products with our children. Animal based food with high amounts of fat content are also the prominent cause behind type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Therefore, it’s now time to re-think if all of this Destroying the rainforests, releasing CO2 to the atmosphere, wasting gallons of water to produce animal feed that goes into producing meat to satisfy the demands of only one part of the population while 815 million people are suffering from chronic undernourishment, destroying the marine life are all ecosystem disruptive actions. It’s time we find our roots to reconcile with the ecosystem which indules, forests, deserts, oceans and all types of species.
SLYCAN Trust and Member of Parliament Venerable AthuraliyeRathana partook at a symposium on “Mindful Easting” organised by Humane Society International in collaboration with IOGT VIỆT NAM and GIÁO HỘI PHẬT GIÁO VIỆT NAM held at the Vietnam Buddhist Institute of Hanoi. A few of the key speakers at this event including Ven. Thero were, KhenpoWangchuk of Bhutan, founder of Jangsem Monday in Bhutan Karma Dendup and Humane Society International – Farm Animals Asia Pacific Programme Manager Robert Lucius. The symposium was also an opportunity for KavinduEdiriweera from SLYCAN Trust to present its recently initiated Meatless Monday campaign.
Representing Sri Lanka Ven. AthuraliyeRathana stressed on the wastage of high calorie vegetarian foods that are being used to feed genetically modified breeds that are solely for meat production. He argued that thousands of people could have been fed with the “feed” and that would also contribute towards the reduction of carbon emission by way of reducing the meat supply. Furthermore he stated that people need an attitudinal change. He explained that instilling and promoting sustainable methods of living and toxin-free agriculture concepts would help to create the required outcome of a healthy eco-system. VenRathana also initiated the Bill through a private member Bill in Parliament in 2009.
The symposium was also an important event for SLYCAN Trust as it was instrumental in providing more perspective towards its recently initiated Meatless Monday campaign.
“It was interesting to see how different countries worked on their meatless Monday campaigns and the approaches they were taking. Our campaign is new in Sri Lanka and this symposium would no doubt be beneficial in making it a success in the coming days,” said KavinduEdiriweera from SLYCAN Trust.
The speakers at the event focused primarily on “Buddhism and environmental protection”, the teachings of Lord Buddha and his environmentally friendly lifestyle. They further stated that human beings must first pay gratitude to our key elements, earth, sun and universe and secondly towards everyone in society, ancestors and to the environment around us.
“Animals have no ability to have conscious thought or reason. We are people of higher intelligence. Many Western philosophers have constantly reiterated on how we should not harm animals out of moral obligations and should treat them with as much as we care humans,” said Humane Society International – Farm Animals Asia Pacific Programme Manager Robert Lucius. He went on to say that animals are not different from us it’s only the breed that differs.
The speakers went on to emphasise on the importance of using the modern technology to not destroy the present environment but in its best interest. In addition it was also stressed that there should be no room for error when it comes to the protection of environment. As modern societies we are aware of the adverse effects of deforestation and industrialisation that especially affect this side of the world.
Lucius explained how people have been misled and how they continue to be superficial about the consumption of animal products. The industrial revolution too was cited as an example that was responsible in the transformation of a system that was profit-driven negating other factors related to the industry. These include genetically modified bodies that prevent the natural behaviour of animals and injecting of chemicals prevent catching diseases until they are being slaughtered among many other mal practices.
(Meatless Monday pop-up stall featuring Fit Sugar at the Good Market)
To create a wider outreach and to carry forward the important message of leading sustainable and meatless lifestyles to a substantial audience, the Meatless Monday Sri Lanka campaign hosted a stall at the Saturday Good Market that was held on the 15th of December 2018 at Race Course Grounds, Colombo 07.
The Meatless Monday stall featured two home bakers named ‘Fit Sugar’ and ‘Smokey’s the Brownie Bar’, who are in the business of sustainable production and ethical food sourcing. Fit Sugar produces vegan and gluten-free cakes, cupcakes and other baked products while Smokey’s the Brownie Bar produces vegan chocolate brownies. One of the main aims for hosting the stall was to create awareness of the numerous meatless food options available to consumers even in the form of baked produce which are traditionally associated with dairy and eggs.
The Pop-up stall also consisted of educational and promotional material regarding the Meatless Monday campaign, which included postcards, book marks and leaflets which were used to distribute to the visitors at the Good Market. The representatives of the Meatless Monday Sri Lanka team was able to educate the public on the importance of shifting towards meatless lifestyles in light of many environmental benefits while promoting animal welfare and personal wellbeing.
Every Saturday, the Good Market succeeds in bringing together more than 3000 visitors to the Race Course Grounds, who come in search of organic and health produce from the local vendors that gather from around the country. All throughout the day, the Meatless Monday Pop-up stall was visited by a wide range of interested parties such as school children, college students and families.
Meatless Monday Sri Lanka took its outreach campaign to Chilaw on the 17th of November 2018 to create awareness on the importance of shifting to meatless and sustainable lifestyles to mitigate climate change impacts among other environmental and health benefits. The campaign collaborated with ‘Harita lanka’ and conducted an awareness session during a tree planting event that took place along the Chilaw main road.
Meatless Monday was able to distribute knowledge and promotional material in the form of leaflets and speak to the gathered audience, which consisted of more than 70 volunteers from around the Chilaw area, on the importance of leading humane lifestyles as it brings about many environmental and health benefits. The importance of shifting to a plant based diet was highlighted because one of the main benefits is that it helps reduce the carbon footprint of each person. The audience was enlightened about the growing livestock industry and how it has been recognized as one of the main contributors towards GHG emissions because animal farming consumes an undue amount of natural resources and contribute to deforestation while harming the air and water quality. Ms. Iyanthi Kulatilaka from the Meatless Monday Sri Lanka team noted that, “livestock including poultry, accounts for about 14.5 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. So it is important to ensure that our food production is sustainable, eco-friendly, and uses a minimum of resources without overburdening or exploiting the resources of the planet.”
(Ms. Iyanthi Kulaitlaka speaking on the importance of adopting sustainable lifestyles)
To highlight the possibility of shifting to sustainable and meatless consumption, the Meatless Monday program also provided the volunteers with a cruelty-free, vegetarian lunch which was enjoyed by all, and the audience unanimously accepted that it is possible to enjoy a hearty delicious meal without any meat components.
To celebrate World Vegan Day on the 1st of November, and to create awareness on the importance of going meatless and the need for a shift towards meatless lifestyle options, Meatless Monday Sri Lanka along with Mount Lavinia Hotel organised a video competition requiring participants to submit a 60 seconds video on why they think it is important to reduce meat consumption. Out of the many video entries five lucky winners were selected and awarded with a free ticket to the Vegan High Tea that was organised by the Mount Lavinia Hotel, on the 1st of November.
(Winners of the video competition at the Vegan High Tea)
The Vegan High Tea organised by Mount Lavinia Hotel was completely free of animal based produce but was successful in keeping in line with a traditional British high tea. The Vegan High Tea consisted of dairy-free scones, sandwiches and cakes; fried mushrooms and cauliflower croquettes; cold vegetable salads, dairy-free chocolate truffles and fruit components; with an endless supply of tea and coffee with dairy-free milk.
(The Vegan High Tea)
To further promote meat reduction on world vegan day, Meatless Monday Sri Lanka partnered with ‘Fit Sugar – Healthy Bakes’ and organised a social media campaign asking work spaces to pledge to do Meatless Monday for a month. The medical faculty from University of Colombo, staff from Durdens hospital, staff from Shanti Sena Sarwodaya and staff from J. Walter Thompson an Advertising firm; pledged to go meatless during the month of November and won a vegan chocolate cake by Fit Sugar.
(Students from the medical faculty of University of Colombo with their winning vegan chocolate cake)