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VegHist Ep 4: Ashoka. On India’s animal advocate Buddhist king and the spread of the śramanas; with Bharati Pal and Suchandra Ghosh; at the Kalinga rock edict, India

A sculptured elephant walks out of the stone. Brahmi "pinman" script is superposed on the background. There is a Buddhist pagoda in the background.

In the largest ancient Indian empire, at the height of its power, its Buddhist king advocates for animals in his edicts, and tries to change India for good.

Episode 4: Ashoka

In the fourth century BCE, the śramaṇa movement (anti-violence anti-ritual ascetics) has produced three religions: the vegetarian Jains, the freegan(ish) Buddhists, and the mysterious (and now vanished) Ājīvikas. The Mauryan Empire is absorbing almost all of the subcontinent, from present-day Afghanistan to the Bay of Bengal.

At its height in the middle of the third century BCE, the king – Ashoka – has edicts carved in stones and columns across the realm. Alongside the rulings and propaganda you might expect, his edicts oppose the slaughter and abuse of animals.

Ian travels to the Indian Museum in Calcutta to speak with historian Dr Suchandra Ghosh. And he visits a hillside that looks down on the battlefield that – King Ashoka says – turned him way from violence forever, and where Ashoka erected an edict that still stands today.

Play or download (44MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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VegHist Ep 3: Pythagoreans. On the Cults of Orpheus and Pythagoras in Ancient Greece; with Hugh Bowden, Michael Beer, John Wilkins, and Armand D’Angour

Ancient Greek men on hillside, playing music to welccome the dawn.

In Ancient Greece, vegetarianism belongs to a secretive subculture – amongst the mystery religions of Orpheus and the musical mathematical cult of Pythagoras.

Episode 3: Pythagoreans

The Greek philosophers knew about vegetarians. But they were part of cults associated with the mythical figure of Orpheus, and the guru of harmony and number – Pythagoras. The people who introduced the concept of reincarnation into Greece.

In the British Museum, Ian talks to Hugh Bowden, the head of the classics department of King’s College London and mystery religion specialist. There, Prof Bowden examines what its artefacts of Greek life and death tell us about attitudes to animals. Including – some suspect – an Orphic pocket guide to Hades.

Play or download (43MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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VegHist Ep 2: The Middle Path. On Siddharta Gautama, and Buddhism; with Rev Varasambodhi Thera, Peter Flugel, and Richard Gombrich; at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India

Buddhist monks under a large tree

Ian travels to the tree where the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment, and explores the paradox of his early followers’ attitudes to vegetarianism.

Episode 2: The Middle Path

Of the many monks of the ancient Indian kingdom of Magadha, only one has become a global household name. Buddhism will spread ahimsa to the ends of the earth, and inspires many millions of vegetarians today.

And yet the oldest Buddhist texts seem to portray the Buddha eating meat. Hear commentary from theologians from both vegetarian and meat-eating interpretations of Buddhism, the insights of world-leading historians, and a dramatisation of the moment in early texts where vegetarian Jain activists clash with Buddhist meat-eating.

Play or download (43MB MP3) (via iTunes)
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VegHist Ep 1: Ahimsa. Mahavir, the Jains, and other śramaṇas; with DN Jha, James Serpell, Richard Gombrich, & GC Tripathi; at Veerayatan, Rajgir, India

Mahavra_1900_art_pd_800pxsq

In the Ganges plain in Northen India in the middle of the first millennium BCE, the idea of “ahimsa” – non violence – emerges.

Episode 1: Ahimsa

Ian visits the intellectual hub of iron age India – the Kingdom of Magadha. He discovers a subculture of vagabond philosophers that developed two world religions; and the vegetarian order of monks and nuns who became the torchbearers of ahimsa.

Play or download (41MB MP3) (via iTunes)
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Digital Vegans: Picking up the Tab, with Stephanie Redcross of Vegan Mainstream

Digital Vegans: The Tab

As the internet transforms the media landscape, how can vegan organisations and businesses survive and thrive? In the midst of the crowdfunding campaign for Vegetarianism: The Story So Far, Ian McDonald interviews Stephanie Redcross of Vegan Mainstream.

Play or download (23MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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Palm Oil: with Catherine Laurence, Eric Lambin, Orangutan rescuer Daniek Hendarto, RSPO SG Darrel Webber

Listen to Radio Show (pic of cleared forest; a truck drives away along a dirt road)

Palm Oil

Palm oil is everywhere – from cooking oil to soap to vegan margarine. Equatorial rainforest and peatland are cleared and replaced with serried ranks of oil palm trees (Elaeis guineensis).  The biodiversity of Borneo and Sumatra, including  the iconic Orang Utan, is threatened by habitat loss.

Some vegan activists say no product that causes so much destruction can be considered vegan. But is palm oil really worse than the alternatives? And can poor countries like Malaysia and Indonesia develop without it?

Environmentalist Catherine Laurence helps me disentangle the thicket of issues.

Hear academic experts Eric Lambin and Robert Greenland; vegan baker Ms Cupcake; primatologist Georgina Ash; vegan MP Kerry McCarthy; the boss of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil; and vegan Indonesian palm oil activist and Miskin Porno lead singer Daniek Hendarto.

 Play or download (38.3MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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Science Fiction and Animals: from Jonathan Swift and HG Wells to Star Trek and Doctor Who; with Sherryl Vint, Robert McKay, and Tara Lomax

The Woking Martian. Pic CC-BY Ben Sutherland

Science Fiction and Animals

From Jonathan Swift’s talking horses to Star Trek’s Vulcans, from HG Wells to the Wachowskis, science fiction tackles the big questions about our relationship with other animals.

Join the experts who investigate where animal studies meets media theory. Discover the themes in famous books, film, and TV – as well as the cult sci-fi stories that examine food ethics, the boundaries of humanity, and alternative ways of living.

Discover what the experts really think of Planet of the Apes; what Soylent Green used to made from before they started using people; and hear everyone’s favourite Time Lord try to talk a monster out of eating humanity in our Doctor Who sketch.

Play or download (18.5MB MP3(via iTunes)

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Cats: Ethics. With Erin Red, Evolution Diet’s Eric Weisman, and vets Lorelei Wakefield, Andrew Knight, and Jean Hofve

cat licking lips

Cats: Ethics

Last show’s investigation of whether cats can be vegan leaves us with an ethical quandary. What should vegans feed cats? Erin and I reflect on listener’s comments. The three expert veterinarians examine the moral issues. And I ask Eric Weisman, CEO of major US vegan cat food brand Evolution, some tough questions. (30 min) Play or download (18MB MP3(via iTunes) Read More…

Cats: Can they be vegan? With vets Lorelei Wakefield, Andrew Knight, and Jean Hofve; and special guest Erin Red

Listen to the show! (pic: Tortoiseshell cat)

Cats: Can they be vegan?

Three experienced veterinarians with experience of vegan cats say whether and why they think cats can thrive on a vegan diet.

Jean Hofve argues – out of bitter experience – that cats need meat.

Andrew Knight advocates a vegan diet for cats – if you do it right.

Only Lorelei Wakefield has published a peer-reviewed study to try to discover who is right.

(23 min) Play or download (15MB MP3(via iTunes)

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Extended interviews on iTunes, starting with Dr Julia Minson

If you’re like most of our listeners, you get The Vegan Option show via the podcast feed – an automatic index of shows that’s read by iTunes, Stitcher and other “podcatchers”. (If you haven’t heard any of the shows – what are you waiting for? Use the “Listen” menu at the top, pick a show that piques your interest, and press play. That’s the other way of hearing episodes.)

The shows usually focus on topics rather than individual interviewees – talking to a range of people to get a full picture. This can mean that only a few minutes out of an hour-long interview gets into the show. (This isn’t unusual for public radio documentaries.)

Some full interviews are posted on the website – such as our conversations with Peter Singer and Gary Francione for the episode “Peace on Earth”. But should they go in the podcast feed as well? Diana asked on the Facebook page and “yes” not only won the vote, but for some people it was the only way to get the extended interviews.

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