Sunday, September 25, 2011

Meat Free Monday?

If I had my way, it would be a meat free day, every day. Paul McCartney first inspired the Meat Free Monday movement to encourage people to give up meat for one day a week in a bid to "save money, reduce your environmental impact and live a healthier life..." (MFM site).

What scares me the most is that I can't understand how we live in a society where the thought of abstaining from meat for one whole day is such an abhorrent idea? How did we get to a point in this modern day and age, where we're so reliant on animal protein to sustain us? Without going on a rant about the obvious cruelty involved in the meat industry, if we were to break it down by just looking at the negative health effects of eating animal protein on a daily basis, then surely that would be enough to persuade people to give meat the flick for a single day a week? Apparently not.

We could also look at animal agriculture's effects on the environment from both a land degradation and greenhouse gas emissions perspective... Animal agriculture is a massive contributor to both and at a rate that is nothing short of alarming (have a read of today's The Age article on banning beef), yet despite this fact, despite the proven negative health effects of eating meat, and most importantly despite the cruelty involved in factory farming, we as a society still feel it unforgivable to be asked to give up meat for one day a week.

As the demand for meat seems to keep increasing, as does its impact on our environment, we need to find a better way to communicate to a seemingly ignorant public the obvious correlation between diet and climate change. I would love to go out and shout "Go Vegan" to every passer-by, but in reality an abolitionist cry may effect change in less than a handful of people if that. Some may disagree with me on that point, however, what I think is initially needed to aid a smoother transition to a vegan diet/lifestyle, is more government-funded education on meat consumption and its negative effect on our environment: what it means for us and our planet moving forward.

If animal cruelty and meat's health-risks won't sway people away from eating meat, then maybe we need more stronger messaging around how our food choices are killing our planet, depriving other humans of food, destroying out last surviving rain forests and increasing water pollution?

Perhaps we could consider a tax on beef? Have animal agriculture included in the federal government's carbon trading scheme?

A start, at least for our planet, would be to go meat free for one day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Funky Vegan Handbags!

When I need to buy a new handbag or a pair of shoes, I have to admit I tend to shop online. I find that with a bit of research I can get something that fits my style and is within my budget, and that generally the variety online is a lot better than what I can find here in Melbourne. The only downside is that it's not as great for the environment because you're not purchasing locally, however some designers will offer carbon offsets with your purchase so it's always good to try and look for that.

I stumbled across these great vegan handbags made by US designer Crystalyn Kae and got a great deal on a couple of bags that were that were on special, including free shipping which always makes an added bonus!

Her range is varied and not all of it is vegan-friendly, so make sure if you're browsing you select the 'shop by style' tab at the side menu bar, and then choose the vegan option.

This black and tweed bag has been fantastic! It doesn't look too sturdy in the photo, however it's managed to fit my laptop, note books and diary no problems -and lugging it around daily to work, it's still kept its shape!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oscar's Law -The Reality of Puppy Farms.

Nearly three years ago my partner and I walked past a Pets Paradise store and decided on the spot that we would buy two puppies. Impulsive. At the time we knew nothing about puppy factories -hadn't even entertained the thought that dogs could be factory farmed let alone that pet shops could possibly play a role in the facilitation of these farms...

Thirty minutes later we were back at home with two puppies, signed paperwork and enough toys and bedding to entertain these two dogs for a lifetime! Unfortunately we had no idea that our spur-of-the-moment emotional purchase would be one of the worst decisions we ever made, and also a sad learning curve for us on the reality of puppy farms.

Both our mixed-breed Labradors were sold to us at apparently 10 weeks of age. Confirmation from our vet told us they were in fact more around the 5 week mark, hadn't been weaned correctly, were full of worms and had an infection that might not see them last till the end of the week. Our vet asked us where we bought our boys from and after hearing we plucked them from a window of a pet store, slowly began to educate us on the profitable industry that sees so many puppies churned out to the masses at the expense of the pups' health, their parents' living conditions, and the ignorance of the public -my partner and I included.

Edward (the black puppy in the photo) and Leonard (the brindle) managed to survive the week, but their health never fully regained. Both had stunted growth, with Edward's bones not developing properly and requiring an elbow operation at 14 months. Leonard unfortunately developed a cancerous tumour in his chest which eventually spread to his lungs. Leonard was just shy of two years of age when he passed away of a cardiac arrest, his heart working overtime to try and keep beating against the cancer that had consumed it, yet in the end not strong enough despite the best hospital care.

My partner and I had many conversations with our vet and the hospital vets about why our dogs had such a rough start to life (health-wise), and why Leonard developed (or was born) with a cancer that grew so rapidly without any symptoms till his last days? The conclusion from the vets was simply that it was the reality of what they see happening more and more frequently. The reality of purchasing puppies from pet stores that are 'stocked' with puppies from puppy farms. 

I mentioned that it was one of the worst decisions we ever made, but that's not entirely true. We have a beautiful boy Edward that's still with us and we had a wonderful two years with Leonard that gave us many happy memories. Also, a couple of months after Leonard passed away we ended up adopting (from a shelter) another little boy who now has a forever-home with us after 10 months of living in a shelter. So not all was a bad decision!

Next weekend there will be a local rally for Oscar's Law that my partner and I will be attending. Oscar's Law calls for:
  • An end to puppy factories;
  • Councils to properly police standards in breeders around the country;
  • Stopping the sale of factory-bred puppies in pet shops, classified ads and online.
I hope that with time and awareness more people will become educated about the right way to bring a dog into the family, and help get behind the Oscar's Law campaign to put an end once and for all to factory-farmed puppies.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Run Lola Run

I run. A lot.

Ever since the age of about seven, I've been running. A big part of my childhood was Saturdays spent at Little Athletics competing against other gangly-limbed kids all entertaining thoughts of becoming star olympians on the track circuit. I still remember how proud I was of my ribbon collection, counting my blue red and green ribbons monthly and comparing my times for each of my 'star' events!

I was never a long distance runner, sprinting was my forte. Hurdles predominantly. However, fast forward a number of years later (a lot of years later!) and I love my longer distances. 5km/10km races and occasionally a half-marathon. I have sometimes thought about doing marathons however love the challenge of putting in a lot of speed in the shorter distances, so until I can 'race' a fast 21km, then marathons will be on hold for the moment!

I run 5 days a week: 2x speed sessions, 1x easy run, 1x tempo run and a weekly long run of about 15km-20km. I go the gym twice a week for a weights session and about once a week I try and do an easy yoga class. To some people it might sound like a massive effort, but when you've been running for a long time and really enjoy it it almost becomes something you can't live without.

The great thing is I do it all on a plant-based diet AND have almost double the amount of energy doing it, than I did in the days where I ate meat and dairy! I often get asked the usual questions: what do you do for protein, what about your bones (calcium), how do you manage to run that far on 'nothing'?! I would be lying if I said those questions didn't get tiring after a while, but answering them has almost become a memorized dialogue so I tend to tune out a bit when entering the discussions!

So, my can't-train-without food ingredients that I wanted to share with you that are essential to my training diet/nutrition, are:

Whole grains! Barley, brown rice, millet, amaranth to name a few. Not only do they all contain an essential blend of vitamins and nutrients, they also provide a stable supply of fuel and energy for training.

Sea vegetables! Not appealing to everyone's taste, but these super plants of the sea have done wonders for my energy! Wakame, arame, kombu, hijiki, dulse and of course nori. Full of iodine and calcium they are great to add to soups, salads, stews or even eaten toasted. Eat in moderation.

Adzuki beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, split peas...! That will silence the protein questions :-)

Coconut water! An excellent source of electrolytes and potassium. Great for a post-run recovery drink.

Kale! Of course there is an endless list of tasty and fantastic vegetables that any vegan eats, but I have to say that kale is an essential on my weekly shopping list. Purple, green or dark kale -I love them all. Raw is my preference, either in a smoothie or in a salad, but steamed with a drizzle of umeboshi vinegar is delicious also. Full of antioxidants and jam-packed with calcium, I would say I eat/drink kale daily. I am also really loving  Loving Earth raw kale chips! Mmmm.

For something sweet, I make these fantastic little energy balls of dates, shredded coconut, activated walnuts and raw cacao. I blend them together and then store them in the fridge and they are a great snack throughout the day, and also satisfy my sweet tooth.

Last but not least, I am not usually a fan of sporting supplements however I have to say I am a fan of Vega Wholefoods products and occasionally when I'm running out the door in the mornings, or if I feel like an extra recovery drink after a hard session, I will blend up a Vega Whole Foods Optimizer Smoothie.

There are so many inspiring athletes out there that excel at what they do and don't consume any animal products in the process. Brendan Brazier, Carl Lewis and Rich Roll to name but a few. And then of course there's the every day runners like myself that do it for fun and fitness (and still, somewhere, in the back of their minds, entertain thoughts of being an olympian runner in their next life)!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Media... A love/hate relationship

Without a doubt, the media has power. Power to communicate, power to influence and power to promote change. The latter is what's been seen with the mass turn out yesterday of over 20,000 Australians nationally, in support of a ban on live export trade.

I can't remember a time in animal welfare history that the public has stood so unanimously and decided on an issue like this, and I thank Four Corners for its media coverage of Lyn White's Animals Australia footage that reported on the cruel and deplorable, not to mention inhumane treatment of cattle being exported to Indonesia. For years a lot of us have already been aware of the treatment of both sheep and cattle being exported to Asia and the Middle-East, however it took that footage being aired nationally on Four Corners to reach the hearts of Australians from all walks of life. After the show aired, streams of responses poured in -letters, emails, phone calls.  This subsequently generated more news coverage on the more commercial stations: 10, 9 and 7, and articles in national newspapers. Awareness soared, outrage grew, the meat and livestock industries for the first time in years grew concerned, and finally, the Government realised that the public weren't going to stop until a call to action on banning live export took place.

From mainstream media the support flowed through to social media, with numerous support pages popping up on facebook that supported the ban on live export and further encouraged public involvement in contacting members of parliament to ask for support on a bill to end live export. Whilst the momentum was strong for a couple of weeks following the Four Corners footage, unfortunately a lot of focus was lost with the subsequent media coverage of the newly proposed Carbon Tax. Following on from that, and a couple of weeks out from the national rally to end live export, certain media channels and newspapers then when on to report that perhaps Lyn White's footage had been a hoax, that she'd paid abattoir workers to intentionally abuse the filmed animals to help her create and fabricate a story! It is that side of the media that forms my hate (or dislike rather, hate is such a strong word!) relationship. The media is never loyal and will always go with what creates a story, disregarding the impact that that story might make on their readers/viewers, some of whom aren't able to decipher between the lines and see truth for what it is.

We who care for animal welfare and animal rights need the media. What ABC did with its coverage of the treatment of Australian Cattle has been incredible, inspiring, and quite frankly long overdue! It's enabled Animals Australia to create more television and radio ads, create more campaign awareness, and show the Australian public what their Government is willingly playing a part in. I hope that this is the start of more media coverage around animal issues, and if it takes shocking and horrific video footage to get the media there, then so be it. I am getting really tired of apathy -it's time for a change and time for the public to see the real treatment of animals.

I hope a change for the better is executed on Thursday, however if it's not it won't be without a concerted effort by thousands of caring Australians and animal-welfare groups like Animals Australia and RSPCA. And, it's a symbol of what power the media can impart, if used correctly.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Of Love and Ethics...

Being in love isn't easy all the time. And it certainly isn't easy when you don't eat/drink/wear animal products but your partner does... I met the love of my life before I became a vegan. We moved in together and lived in relative bliss right up until the time I decided I wanted to overhaul my life and live a more cruelty-free lifestyle. As some of you would know from my blog chronicles, S was happy to give the new "menu items" a go, even loving a lot of the new dishes to the point where he'd request I cook them again and again! Over time he went from eating a meat-based meal every night to eating one about every fortnight or so. However, about a year afterwards we moved our separate ways...

Retrospectively, he cited our split down to the fact he'd felt immense pressure to change his diet and his lifestyle ways because of my beliefs; beliefs that he'd felt I was forcing onto him on a daily basis. Of course, I was offended and angry and completely disagreed with his perspective, and so decided I'd rather be alone with my ethics than be with someone that knew of the cruelties inflicted upon animals, but still chose to eat and wear them!
I loved him before I chose to go vegan and even as I was apart from him I still loved him and missed him. It was a daily battle in my head and heart and I felt so much confusion and frustration around it... Eight months later and we are back together, about to move in with each other again, in two months time. Some vegans might say -how could you?! How could you live with someone that eats meat?! Shock horror. And yes, quite frankly it will be a bit of shock horror and I'm not sure how I will go with it. We have talked in depth about me being "vegan" and S not, and we have even discussed children, raising them and how we would come to make that work (S is happy with vegetarian but not vegan, and I am willing to meet him in the middle with that). Compromise, it's so much harder than I thought. We've also had to work out some "house rules" such as no meat in the house and no animal products, however S will still eat meat if he feels like it (about once a week), just not at home. And as for leather... Hopefully one day he will just stop wearing it. Arghhhh. We are even planning on going to visit a psychologist to discuss how we can work on potential conflicts around this issue if (more like 'when' as I'm sure they'll come!) they arise...

I find it so hard -the apathy I sometimes feel from those around me (including S), around animal welfare. People see footage on TV of animal cruelty, they see photos of puppy farms, seals being clubbed to death, pigs being taunted and tortured before slaughterhouse death, yet they'll still laugh as they down a beer and sausage sizzle, gush when they bring home their cute little dog from the pet shop, and still think they look "luxe" when they sport fur vests or leather jackets... Sometimes I feel so alone in how I feel and yes, perhaps sometimes I can be a bit forceful in how I choose to educate others on animal welfare and rights, but animals don't have a voice so someone needs to help them. Right? I just hope that my new journey with S will be a happy one. I know he tries and he's made so many positive changes in his diet and lifestyle for animals. I guess I can't have him 100% like me because he isn't me -he's him! I just hope that in time he will make even more changes to his lifestyle because he sees it as something he wants to do as his own choice...

Has anyone else ever been in this situation before? Or is?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cruelty-Free Beauty Products

The other week a couple of friends emailed me asking what skin care products I use, so I thought I'd do a post on the cruelty-free skin-care, body-care and make-up products that I use daily. Where possible I try and support vegan-only companies, but if that's not possible then I make sure that the company is a cruelty-free company (doesn't test on animals), and that the products I use from their range are vegan-friendly (no animal ingredients).

These two concepts can be confusing for some people (it definitely confused me initially)! A company stating that they are "cruelty-free" may just be referring to the fact that they don't test their products on animals but that their products may still contain animal-derived ingredients. With these companies it is worth contacting them to find out which of their products are specifically "vegan-friendly."

"Vegan-friendly" is generally a term that refers to a product that is suitable for vegans. The product will contain no animal-derived ingredients whatsoever. Some companies are both cruelty-free and vegan, whereas other companies are cruelty free with some vegan products. So bottom line is, it's always worth researching the company and their products first!

Also, buying Australian-produced products is great because you are saving on transportation and the impact that has on the environment plus at the same time supporting locally-produced products. I have to admit I am yet to find some cruelty-free Aussie products that don't react with my skin-type (highly sensitive), and so you will see that from my list there is only a very small percentage that is Australian produced and owned.

Please also note that the below products are just what works for MY skin type. Everyone has different skin needs and different financial budgets, and whilst the products below work really well for me, that's not to say you can't find some equally great products that are a lot cheaper/less packaging/more natural ingredients. For me, natural ingredients can also equate to big irritants for my skin, so finding great products has been a trial and error process for me.

** CF+V (cruelty-free company plus vegan-only company)
**CFC only, VF product (cruelty-free company only -not all their products are vegan-friendly, but this particular product is vegan-friendly).


  • DeLorenzo hair shampoos/conditioners/hairspray (CF+V)
  • Dr. Hauschka Neem Hair Lotion (CFC only, VF product)
Toothpaste: Phyto Shield Herbal Toothpaste (CF+V)
Deodorant: Body Crystal Botanica (CFC only, VF product). They are owned by a perfumery company which is not vegan, and I am still waiting for confirmation that "Queen's Perfumery" is indeed cruelty-free. If it isn't then I shall be switching deodorants, so if anyone knows... Let me know!

  • MAC everything (well, nearly)! Foundation, lipstick, mineral powder/bronzer, mascara, eyeliner, lip liner (CFC only, VF products). MAC are great -very willing to let you know the full ingredient lists for their products. It can be a bit exhausting scrolling through the list and checking the ingredients, however they do quality products so it is worth the research.
  • Dr Hauschka lipstick (CFC only, VF product). Again, ask them for their ingredient listings as some of their products contain animal-ingredients to produce the pigment colours (same as MAC).
  • Inika Eye Shadow (CF+V)
  • i.d. Bare Minerals Glimmer Eye Shadow (CFC only, VF product).
Makeup Brushes:
  • Powder brush, blush brush, eyebrow shaper and bronzer brush all by EcoTools (CFC+V)
So they are all my products! I would ideally like to reduce the amount I use so that I can save on packaging, perhaps even start researching making my own cleansers etc from non-irritating food ingredients. Any tips?!

Also, please let me know if perhaps something I have listed is incorrect. I have stuck with these products for a while now, so maybe over time their company or ingredients have changed. I welcome any feedback!