Posts Tagged ‘ Animal welfare ’

Have you seen my shampoo??

Let’s play a game of Spot the Similarity… Can you see it yet?

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You have to look quite closely… Got it yet? Yes, they all carry the Cruelty-Free International logo (or leaping bunny, as I call it).

Why have I showed you this picture? Well, it’s to show (UK people mostly) that it’s really easy to buy cruelty-free. In fact, you might even be buying products without realising. You might recognise some of the brands there. Here’s a picture of them all facing the correct way:

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This is the little fella you should be looking for.

So, as you can probably gather, this is my bathroom. And these are the products Ben and I use every day. Looks pretty normal doesn’t it? Let’s do some name-dropping. There’s Sainsbury’s, Autograph by M&S, Co-operative and Superdrug. There are also a couple of names you might not have seen before — Bulldog and Faith in Nature. The former is actually sold in Sainsbury’s and the latter is often found in the health food shops like Holland and Barrett. What about when it’s time to clean the bathroom? Well, if you’re on a super tight budget, I’d head over to somewhere like QD stores or ASDA, more recently, and pick up an armful of Astonish products. They’re often only £1.00 a go and we’re quite impressed with their efficacy. I wrote a post about Astonish a few years back. You can read it here.

Anyway, I thought you might like a little peep into a cruelty-free bathroom.

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How To Be Nice and Normal (part two)

So that’s how it all started for me. It became part of my daily life and eventually seeped into other areas of it. In fact, I remember the day I became a vegetarian quite clearly. It was a nice day, and I was at home. The post arrived and my Ethical Consumer mag was in it. Leafing through it, a jumble of inserts fell out, and one from a charity called Viva! caught my eye. It had pigs on the front and inside told the story of farrowing crates. I read it and sat on the sofa thinking “I don’t think I want to eat those sausages in the fridge”. And that was it. I didn’t eat meat from that day on. My husband was a little dubious at the time as we’d both previously guffawed at vegetarianism. But very soon after I gave it up, so did he.

Again, another steep learning curve to tackle. No more sweets, some wines were clarified with bits of fish, some cheesecakes had gelatine in… It was interesting. We were also now that awkward vegetarian couple who you dreaded cooking for. And let’s not forget the age-old questions: “Do you eat fish?” and “How do you get your protein?” People joke about it, but I am always being asked about my protein requirements. Sometimes I feel like saying, “After this much time without enough protein I think I’d be dead by now.” But I don’t. Because I’m nice.

Which brings me to the point of this little exercise. How to be nice and normal. By which I mean how to live a compassionate life without wearing any hemp trousers or foregoing sanitary towels. I’m sure those cups are brilliant, but I’m just not into that. And if you’re a man reading this and you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest you keep it that way. For your own sake.

Now, I’m no saint. I can be horrible if I want to be and I can gossip and stir as well as the next woman. But since meeting my husband (a very compassionate man), I feel like I want to be a better person. I guess it’s catching. And doesn’t it give you that great feeling when you do something nice? Instead of going out of your way to avoid the Big Issue seller on the street, why not go and buy one? They’re actually an interesting read, and he’s really trying to make a difference in his life. Yes, it’s cliché, but you know I’m right. If there’s anyone you should avoid in the street, it’s those bloody ‘Chuggers’ that follow you into the doorway of the nearest shop:

“Ello there darlin’, how are you today?” A handsome young man in a pleather tabard moves in.

“Er.. No thanks…I’m just on my way to…” I begin hunkering down, walking quicker and removing eye contact. A forced smile is plastered on my face.

“Aw, babes, you break my heart… talkin’ of which, would you like to dona-”

At this point I run away into Boots and hide behind the lubrication aisle.

No, I do not like the Chuggers.

But I do have time for the older gentleman standing quietly outside M&S who is collecting for the donkeys. And I will buy the homeless man sat on the ground a bacon sandwich (I won’t force vegetarianism on the homeless — I know how bloody tasty bacon sarnies are) and a cup of tea. You know, I felt amazing after doing those really little things. I jumped out of an aeroplane for charity once, and I can categorically tell you that buying someone a sandwich is infinitely more fun than a tandem skydive from 11,000 feet. You know what they say: no act of kindness is ever wasted.

Another, maybe odd, thing to do is move animals out of the road (if it’s safe, of course). I often drive early in the morning and it’s like a horror scene some days. On the best days there are no dead bodies or they’re squished beyond recovery. On the worst days they are still alive, lying in their own blood in the road. On more occasions than I’d like to mention, I have stopped my car to move an animal, only to find it severely wounded, slightly maimed or just dazed. I have also seen the worst side of humans on these mornings. Now my husband tries to tell me that sometimes people don’t realise they’ve hit an animal. Yes, this is true. Only yesterday I moved a handsome young fox that had obviously run out and clipped his head on a car. Probably went unnoticed. A quick death I reckon (and hope). What I absolutely cannot understand is how people can drive over (yes, over) a live, injured animal. The image sticks in my mind and I don’t think it will ever leave me. Let me tell you a couple of stories that I hope will stir something in you, as it did with me.

On this morning I had stopped on the side of the road to move a muntjac deer. I thought he was dead, but being a large obstruction in the road, I decided to move him.  As I ran towards him, I watched in horror as the cars trundled over his body. Sickeningly, I saw him flailing around in the road. I picked him up and placed him onto the grass verge. I sat and called the RSPCA, and whilst doing so, he died next to me. I think I cried all the 25 miles to work.

A few years later I was again, driving to work when on the crest of a hill I saw some magpies fly up. A dead animal ahead, I thought. Yes. A dead rabbit? I’ll move him. I got out, rubber gloves on and began to walk over to him. Just then, a motorcyclist stopped next to me and, thinking I’d hit it, asked if I was ok. I explained that I hadn’t, what I was doing and said thanks anyway. Off he went, and I turned to the rabbit. Then I saw it. This wasn’t a rabbit. It was a leveret. I’ll never forget the moment I looked into its gorgeous eyes, because they were looking up at me. It was alive. Its entrails were hanging from its bottom and there were long circular blood trails all around it where it had tried to move out of the way. It looked at me, panting desperately. I wasn’t and never will be prepared for something like that. I didn’t know what to do. I really don’t think that I could kill something myself —  And isn’t that selfish? I looked around. There he was — the motorcyclist! For some reason, he’d stopped up the road. I frantically waved him down and he came back. I explained that it was still alive and asked if he would be able to put it out of its misery. Yes. I watched this little leveret close his eyes and then slowly open them again; he must’ve been so tired. The motorcyclist told me to turn away. And I did. I heard his heavy boot crush that beautiful little creature and then he moved him into the hedges. I thanked him and we parted ways. It was a long time until those blood trails disappeared from the road, and I think it’ll be even longer before that little leveret disappears from my memory.

So the point of those awful stories? Please don’t assume they’re always dead. I’ve picked up many more animals that have successfully recovered from the roadside — a maggoty hedgehog, a dazed pigeon and a baby rabbit (lying next to his dead mother) to name a few. If you’re prepared correctly, you can easily collect them from the roadside and drop them at a vets or have them collected by the RSPCA. Just make sure you have a box handy or you could have an escaped pigeon in the foot-well of your car, shitting all over your carpets and seats (don’t do this — it’s stupid and dangerous, obviously).

Compassion is a wonderful and terrible thing, because it makes you empathetic. And it’s empathy that keeps me awake at night sometimes. I tortured myself for weeks thinking about how much pain that leveret was in. What it must’ve thought when the magpies were pecking at it. How tired it felt. How scary the cars were as they roared past. The coldness of the tarmac on his paws. That, more than anything so far, has disturbed me. And you know, sometimes it makes me not want to stop because it might happen again. But if it’s not totally squashed into the road and it’s not too dangerous to stop, I’ll move it. It’s also a bit of respect, too, don’t you think? You wouldn’t leave your grandma out in the road to get mushed into the tarmac, so why leave that cat / deer / rabbit / pigeon / other silly animal that doesn’t know the green cross code? I know that it can’t be helped most of the time, and not all people are monsters, but it makes me sad all the same.

How are we doing so far? I haven’t depressed you too much, have I? The basics really are: don’t buy your blusher or your bleach from shitty companies. Go vegetarian. Or if not, have one veggie day a week. Chuck a hi-vis jacket, a box and some rubber gloves in your boot and go save some animals’ lives (safely, of course… Hazard lights, people!). Oh, and buy a Big Issue once in a while. Do it all, or nothing at all… This is just the way that I like to live. It’s my opinion and we all know that opinions are like arseholes. Everyone’s got one (and sometimes they stink).

A few other awesome things to do:

  • Give your stuff to charity. By the time you listed it on eBay, sold it, wrapped it and took it to the post office, you could have dumped it on the lap of some lovely volunteer and gone on your merry way. One man’s tat is another man’s soon-to-be tat. And so the world keeps turning…
  • You could be the volunteer in the charity shop, having someone’s stuff dumped in your lap. Imagine nosing through all that. All for the charidee, man. Or do a bit of cat-cuddling for Cats Protection. Yes, you can cat-cuddle. I did, and it was great.
  • If you like meat too much to give it up, then do the Meat-Free Monday thing. You could have mac’n’cheese, omelette and chips, veggie pizza… there are lots of things to choose — it’s all tasty. Supermarkets do great vegetarian foods nowadays. Except the bacon. Don’t try the bacon. And if you cannot go without your steak and chips try to buy organic meat.
  • Smile. I am a care assistant and it’s actually amazing how much difference smiling can make. I think it makes you a cheerier person inside. Smile and the world smiles with you. It’s true, ya know.
  • Say please, say thank you, say sorry and always cough into your elbow. It’s good manners, dammit. Thank you

So like I told you at the beginning — I’m a normal person from a normal background. I don’t have hairy armpits or wear toe-rings. But I want to be a nice normal person. Not the normal person that spits in the street or chucks their McDonald’s bag out the window of their car (because they couldn’t possibly leave it in the foot-well until they got home). And just to clarify: I’m nowhere near the nice person that I want to be — and I probably never will be. None of us will be. It’s impossible to be nice all of the time. I’m a person and you’re a person and we might not like each other. We might go home and bitch to our husbands about each other. But the next day, we’ll wake up and think: maybe she had a bad day / maybe she’s scared of me / maybe I’m scared of her / maybe I’m crazy and I imagined it.

In all, be nice to everyone and everything whenever you can. Please (see?).

How To Be Nice and Normal (part one)

Okay, let me start by saying I am a normal person. I was brought up in a normal street, in a normal town by my normal parents. I have a normal job and have normal interests.

I grew up in a town called Colchester in Essex, but I was born in Germany in 1988, where my father was posted in the British Army. When I was six months old, we moved back to England and my father left the army and went to work for British Rail. My mother, a night care assistant, had a keen interest in Persian cats and her and her sister bred pedigrees for a while in the 90’s. We always had at least five cats and one dog in our house. Although I don’t condone cat breeding, I believe this was how my love for animals bloomed.

My parents bought their first house when I was about three and it eventually became a home for a menagerie of animals. Although it wasn’t always perfect, it was great to have the experience of looking after so many different animals. We had cockatiels, fish, canaries, dogs, hedgehogs, cats, rabbits (to which I was allergic I later found out)  and best of all, ferrets. The first ferret we cared for was an injured little fellow who was found by the railway tracks. I’ll never forget Monty, as he was the friendliest, gentlest rescue animal I’d ever met. We kept him, along with other rescues for many years.

So, a fairly normal upbringing. I say fairly, because there came a time in my parents’ lives when they became interested in animal welfare. I think it was around the time we first heard of the link between bTB and badgers. They joined the local badger group (North East Essex Badger Group) and became very involved in sett monitoring and the like. Many times I sat in the car while my father loaded a dead badger he’d been called about into the boot. We would bring it home to measure it, weigh it and record any other information about it. I don’t remember what he did with the corpses, but I’m sure it wasn’t anything weird! We would spend hot summer days at shows and fairs, sat with two taxidermied badgers on a stall, giving out stickers to children and getting people to sign petitions. I also remember my father spending hours cutting out badger shaped mdf boards with his jigsaw and painting them. The best bit was that he would sneak out after a night shift and put them on roundabouts to raise awareness of badgers’ plight. My dad, the original Banksy.

The badgers inevitably led to other wildlife causes, and we ended up becoming members of the League Against Cruel Sports. My mother was proud of her navy LACS mug and would use it whenever we had people come over. We went out a few times with the hunt saboteurs and I distinctly remember being threatened by a very effeminate huntsman on his very large horse. A few times we went to the anti-hunt rally on Boxing Day in Maldon and one year I almost got on the news, had I not been gurning so much in front of the camera (I did get in the newspaper, though).

All this took place before I became a moody, uninterested teenager. I think it all became a bit uncool when I (being on the chubby side) was named the “Ten-tonne badger” by some boys in my class.

And so passed my awkward teenage years, my early working life and my first boyfriends. I eventually met my now husband and my interests began to change. I can’t even remember what started it, but I took to spending my mornings on Twitter. I was that person on your feed that bombards you with petitions to sign. I signed up to various animal charities and even did a skydive for Wood Green Animal Charity (which I wouldn’t recommend to anybody in their right mind. The skydive, that is.) I would receive magazine after magazine telling me of the plight of animals in circuses, zoos, abusive homes, slaughterhouses and laboratories. I began to read about the lab animals in particular. They were being experimented on for cosmetics, household cleaners, medicines, you name it, they injected or ingested it. I suppose I could see the reasoning behind medicinal experiments (not that I agreed), but mascara and detergent?

I must admit that I probably read some far out stuff about it all, but I also read some decent material, too. Most of which came from the BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection). I liked their Cruelty Free campaign. It was simple: boycott the brands and companies that condone vivisection and choose a company that carries the ‘Leaping Bunny’ logo instead. So, I looked at every product we bought — shampoo, detergents, toilet cleaner, toothpaste, bars of soap and all of my make-up.

Boy, was I surprised at what I found. Turns out that the majority of mainstream products are really owned by about six big companies. These big companies are, according to information provided to me on the net, unscrupulous. But then, they are massive corporations. The big names I found in our cupboards belonged to Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, Procter and Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Mars and L’Oreal. I had no idea, for instance, that Wall’s ice-cream belongs to Unilever. James Wellbeloved pet food belongs to Mars. Pampers nappies belong to Procter and Gamble. Even more worrying is that The Body Shop, who specifically sell their products on the premise that they aren’t tested on animals, are owned by L’Oreal, a company that does test on animals. Now sure, you could buy from The Body Shop and their products won’t have been tested on animals, but you’re then effectively giving L’Oreal your cash to spend on other products that may be. Did you know that Marmite and Dove are both owned by Unilever? I don’t much care for Marmite (I hate it, actually), but it’s funny how these huge corporations have their fingers in so many figurative and actual pies. It may or may not interest you, but I think it’s interesting when you can dig deeper and find out who belongs to who.

Anyway. One day, after much reading, I emptied my cleaning cupboard and my make-up bag and gave what could be used away. I discovered that The Co-op was a brand that was BUAV approved and had been for some years. It was very handy and we stocked up on our household and personal essentials there. It was a steep learning curve though, as we hadn’t anticipated that food items would come into the matter. All of our regular brands were now out of bounds and we didn’t even have the BUAV to help us there. It was best just to stick to own brands. We gradually found some nice companies and some big names that we could buy — Superdrug’s own branded cosmetics were all BUAV approved, as were M&S and Sainsbury’s and later on, Morrisons. The list gets bigger every day, I’m sure, and it’s quite heartening. When I first set out on this journey I felt like it couldn’t make much difference, but I believe consumer power does work. Speaking of which, I couldn’t have gotten very far without the help of a magazine called Ethical Consumer, which does just that. It gives you the knowledge you need to use your consumer power well. Based on a points system, it tells you which companies are most ethical in each field — say environmental impact or animal welfare and the like. I found it really useful and found some great companies because of it.

Nora the Chicken

I follow @OneLittleEgg on Twitter and yesterday they posted a picture of Nora the chicken on TwitPic. Very poignant.

 
Please share this and hopefully it will make people think so ... on Twitpic

The Day I Lost Faith In Humanity

I recently witnessed something horrific. I thought that I should write about what I saw a) because I can’t get it out of my mind and b) I don’t believe people much care about this issue. I am, of course talking about roadkill.  Now I am no stranger to the red mush in the middle of the road. I live in the countryside and unfortunately see too much of it. Often it’s dead rabbits, pigeons, hedgehogs and rats. These poor little fellows have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and have paid dearly for it. When I see them I often think, who is missing them? Offspring? Mates? Someone must be. And then there are cats. Too many times I have spotted tabby stripes laid out along the kerbside. My partner recently picked up  very young cat from the side of the road. He knocked on doors to find the owners, but to no avail. Someone was missing that little cat and probably still is.

Now I understand that it’s difficult when you’re driving. I am a driver. I came across a squirrel on the A14 early one morning and he was in the left lane so I moved over and slowed down. He then ran into my path and I felt a bump. I was horrified but I couldn’t see him behind me and on checking the next day there was no body. In this instance I wasn’t able to stop, so I can understand why there are many dead animals on busy A roads and Motorways. It doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking though when you see a beautiful fox ripped apart and strewn across the road.

A few times I have stopped to move dead / injured animals from the road. Once was an injured hedgehog whom I took home and twice I have removed dead badgers from the roadside. It still amazes me that people fail to notice such large animals. Ok, Ben tells me they might suddenly dart out in front of the car. Yes that’s true. But I would say that can’t always happen. Badgers with facial injuries… Clipped as they stood at the roadside? And I would admit I pay more attention to the verges sometimes than I do the road.  I’ve etched every detail of the roads to my house into my mind so I know if there’s something different on the road.

So back to the reason I’m writing this post.

It was approximately 6:40am and I was on my way to work. I was travelling through a 30MPH village when I saw a lump in the road. It was half-light but I saw him clearly. A Muntjac Deer. I slowed up, drove carefully past him and turned around so I could stop on the other side of the road. He appeared to be dead as his neck was twisted in such a way it looked broken. I put on my hazards lights and found my rubber gloves. I also had a Hi-Vis vest that I put on. I exited my car and stood next to it, waiting for the traffic to pass. I’d assumed that they too would see the deer. It was fairly large, about the size of a dog and in the middle of their lane. To my disgust the first driver drove over him. Their tyres bumped over this animal’s fragile body as though it was rubbish in the way. The next thing I saw will haunt me forever. As the first driver went over him his legs began to kick out. He was still alive. I cried out as the next one went over and flung him nearer the centre of the road. I ran out and stopped the oncoming traffic and scooped him up. He seemed only small but he was incredibly heavy. Blood was pouring from his back-end as I laid him on the grass. I was shaking with anger but I checked for a pulse. It was so fast and erratic but he was indeed still alive. I needed to call the RSPCA so I went back to my car and called. She asked me if he was still alive; I told her he was but I’d go and check. But when I got back to him, blood had started coming from his nose and his pulse had gone. He was dead. I told her he was gone and she said their was nothing they could do. After that I couldn’t catch a lot of what she was saying on the other end as I was choking back my tears. I admired how beautiful his big, dark eyes were, gave him a stroke and said my goodbyes.

As I got into my car I started to cry at the callousness of people. I genuinely couldn’t believe what I had seen human beings do. That poor animal. I couldn’t begin to imagine the pain he must have felt when those huge cars crushed his delicate body. The image of him flailing around in the road didn’t leave me all day and I still can’t forget it now. I asked Ben to call the council that morning to collect him which they have done now.

There seems to be a lack of responsibility when it comes to hitting an animal with your car. If you hit a dog, you are required to stop by law (Road Traffic Act 1988)  and I would presume that most people do. But many people hit animals and forget them. As with my deer and my hedgehog, they could still be alive. Wild animals are sentient too and don’t deserve to be left suffering on cold tarmac. What dignity is left for that animal when it’s remains are spread across the road in a mush of fur and innards? We wouldn’t do that to a fellow human.

If it’s safe to do so, stop your car with your hazard lights on,  put on a high visibility jacket and some rubber gloves and move the animal to the verge. If it’s alive, stay with it and call your local wildlife rescue or the RSPCA emergency line: 0300 1234 999. I always carry some old towels in my boot just in case I need them for an injured animal. And obviously, don’t compromise your own saftey, but please give a second thought to whoever or whatever will be waiting for that creature sprawled out in the road.