Thursday, 26 May 2011

Petition Bump

We posted this back in April but it deserves a bump now that it's fallen off the front page:

Say No to Cruel Cosmetics

This is a campaign from the BUAV to get the EU to adhear to it's 2013 deadline for outlawing the use of animals in cosmetics testing within the EU. The EU is not confident that suitable alternatives to animal testing will be ready by 2013 but we say that safeguarding the cosmetics market in this manner is deeply unjust given the cost to the animals. Please join us in saying that we, as a society, do not need yet another shampoo or make-up brand and we reject the use of animals in developing these unnecessary products. There has been too much injustice in the past, lets move on and move away from it.

Please remember that whatever happens, your choices as a consumer are the most powerful. Sign the petition but please vote with your wallet as well. Choose cruelty free brands such as Lush and those that are BUAV approved (look out for the bunny logo!). There are so many gorgeous, vegan, cruelty free cosmetics and toiletries avaliable in stores and online.

Monday, 23 May 2011


My comment on an article about neglected pets on The Guardian website:
I'm dissapointed at the number of "who cares?" style comments. This story is about avoidable abuse, exploitation and neglect that is caused by apathy, misinformation and a lack of proper research. It doesn't matter whether the victim is a goldfish, a rabbit or a child - it is avoidable and inexcusable. Why does it matter that you don't care about a rabbit? I don't particulary care about footballers but if it transpired that they were often abused or exploited by their managers, I'd be concerned. This story isn't really about rabbits - it's about how selfish, blinkered or ignorant people make decisions that cause harm to others.

There are many problems in the world, as a number of commenters have pointed out. So what? Why do we have to 'ration our compassion'? A concern for plight of abused children (for example) doesn't give anyone an excuse to neglect their companion animals. If you can't look after an animal properly and don't have the sense or decency to do some serious research into the creature you wish to keep, then don't get it. Simple as.

All my companion animals live well. The first thing I do when adopting a new animal is research, research, research. I have the feeling I am in the minority, however. I worked for a major UK pet retailer for a number of months. The sheer number of customers who come in and either refuse to take advice or do research into the animals is shocking. Many just want the smallest, cheapest enclosure and want to feed the cheapest food. They want a fun toy and are totally unprepared to look after a living, sentient being. This is so prevalent that the actual advice that you get in pet shops is affected. The upper management know that most customers don't want a big committment or to spend a lot of money. They encourage staff to make the whole process seem easier than it really is, offering substandard advice and stocking cheap, tacky and inadequate equipment for the animals so that ignorant, selfish customers are not put off by the higher prices associated with large, good quality enclosures or properly formulated feeds. Sometimes the staff are not aware of how much the advice they are giving is 'dumbed down', especially if the staff are not experienced with animals or inclined to do their own research. I remember joining the company as a keen aquarist - I was very quickly told to shut up and toe the company line, or I could lose my job. I was repeatedly discouraged from giving proper advice and every day I had to make decisions that I knew put animals into abusive situations. Unless I wanted to lose my job, I had to enable animal abuse. It's as simple as that and the sad thing is that most of the other staff just nodded along with it. Most believed that the company was right because their advice was 'expert approved' and refused to take on board infomation to the contrary. My manager even believed a number of factual falsehoods and refused to listen when I explained that (for example) ammonia is not a kind of bacteria (very relevant to fishkeeping!). I eventually left in disgust.

Caring about humans doesn't mean you shouldn't care about animals. If you get a companion animal, please research widely into its needs and please adopt from a shelter or rescue. The pet industry is a horrible thing; animals churned out like cheap toys, the conditions are cramped and often unclean, the animals are taken away from their mothers far too early, often given a terrible diet and many will never see a vet if they are sick. All of this before the animal reaches the pet shop. We have no right to do this to sentient beings just because we want a living toy or an 'unusual' gift for someone. Pet overpopulation is completely our fault, as a society. We are the reason so many animals languish in shelters or get destroyed because they are unwanted, abused and badly trained. We are the reason that so many 'owners' don't know or don't care about the animals they keep. Please help those who are already in 'the system' and don't pay breeders and shops to produce more. This goes for all animals, from goldfish to geckos to cats to dogs.

If you don't have time for an animal or have 'better things to worry about', then that's fine. Don't get the animal. Neglect doesn't show that you have important things to do in your life, it doesn't show that you have your prioreties straight. It doesn't show that you have common sense, or don't get worked up about the little things. It shows that you're selfish and irresponsible.

Friday, 13 May 2011

On Goldfish

A recent post from Practical Fishkeeping caught my eye, so I thought I'd write a little bit about goldfish.

Goldfish make the perfect low maintainence pet. They are sold by almost every aquatic retailer and the equipment they need - tanks, bowls, decorations and food - are widely avaliable. They are small and don't live very long, but they are easy to replace and their life cycle is a great way to teach children about life and death, or to provide a fun companion for someone who doesn't want a long-term committment. They can be kept anywhere in the house - little aquatic paradises nestled onto coffee tables, kitchen counters and bedside tables. A great gift for someone who has everything. When the time comes to flush yet another ex-fish down the toilet, we'll feel a little sad but won't let it trouble us too much. After all, it's only a goldfish.

At least, these are the myths we tell ourselves. The reality is rather uncomfortable and something quite a lot of people don't seem to want to hear.

The fact is, goldfish are one of the most abused 'pet' animals in the world. They are sold in their millions, widely avaliable from pet shops, garden centres and fairs. They are bred in factory-like conditions, churned out like any other product to be packaged, shipped around the world and eagerly sold to well meaning people who don't know the first thing about how to look after an aquatic animal. They are often kept in bowls or tiny tanks. Only the luckiest get a filter to keep their water clean. Many languish in water that doesn't get changed from one week to the next, slowly dying in their own filth. We can't see the filth, apart from perhaps a little poo on the gravel but it's there. Invisible, lethal ammonia that turns the clear water from fresh to toxic in just a few days. These beautiful animals barely grow, kept in tanks that are just too small for them. They get stunted and eventually die from a horrific combination of organ failure and poisoning. If they're really unlucky, they'll get some kind of ailment such as ulcers or fin-rot. Most will simply die young and unblemished, to be replaced by another unlucky creature who is unlikely to make it out of its infancy.

Because, you see, 3 weeks or 3 months or even 3 years isn't 'old' for a goldfish. If only I had a pound for every person who assured me their 'old' fish was doing brilliantly, at a mere year or two of age. The fish that did brilliantly until it died and they wanted  someone to sell them a replacement. The fact is that goldfish can (and should!) live well into their teens and it is certainly not unheard of for them to live until they are 20 or even 30. They are also not 'small', despite the fact that most of them are sold when barely bigger than a large marble. Those cute, 'mini' goldfish that the retailer assures you will never outgrow the chic tank that is 'just perfect for the coffee table' are just babies. Tiny, helpless babies that should grow to between 8 and 24 inches long, depending on variety. Many don't get beyond a couple of inches before their poor living conditions overcome them and they die a slow, pointless death. Goldfish mis-information is so engrained in our collective conciousness that most retailers, books and even dedicated goldfish care websites won't tell you just how big they can get, how long they live, how messy they are and how much room they need. A quick Google search for 'goldfish care' comes up with page upon page of total rubbish.

These are the goldfish 'facts of life'. Mass produced for an immoral, profit driven 'pet' market. Sold by people who are poorly trained, apathetic or told to keep their mouths shut about proper animal care by their management. Destined to live in small tanks with poor water conditions. Destined to suffer and then die young. All because the consumer is too selfish or too ignorant to even think about researching their needs. All because animals are treated like commodities, like things.

We were no better, Avalanchian and I. As children we had goldfish in bowls and it didn't strike us as odd that the poor things didn't live very long. We were sad (I remember crying when my 'Phoenix' died) but that's just how things were. As far as we were concerned, this was normal. This was 'nature'. It was only when I wanted to start keeping goldfish again as a 21 year old that I actually did a little research and realised how wrong we had all been. How wrong millions of people around the world still are.

Now, Avalanchian and I have three rescued goldfish, although only one of them is gold. Actually, he's not even fully gold. More a medley of metallic colours. They live in a 4 foot long tank that holds some 300 or so litres of water, which they share with some rather unconventional tank-mates - a ruby shark, two Chinese algae eaters and an elusive bristlenose plec. Their aquatic home is rather wild, full of fast growing plants and a lot of hair algae. Nonetheless, the water is cool and clean, providing a stable haven for the fish. We have other tanks around the house, full of happy, healthy fish and amphibians. I sometimes lift the lid on a tank and breathe in the earthy, fresh smell of tropical life. I remember the smell of my old goldfish bowl, back when I was a child. I remember that distinctive odour that I assumed was normal, that I never questioned. Sometimes that smell haunts me.

Please, don't pay for someone to abuse animals for you. Don't buy animals from shops and don't take them home as prizes from the fair. There are so many animals - from fish to dogs to horses - that need forever homes with someone who will research their needs and make a committment to them. So many advertised for sale or adoption, from rescues, shelters and regular folk who find they can't look after the animals anymore. If you buy an animal from a shop or a breeder, you're just perpetuating the cycles of abuse and neglect. Animals are not toys, not ours to do as we please with. They're not decorations, distractions or designer accessories. They are sentient beings who deserve respect and who should not be treated as things.

Meet Samwise, Merry and Red:

If you have fish or are thinking about keeping them, check out the Tropical Fish Forum (don't worry, it has a coldwater and goldfish section) and Practical Fishkeeping

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Disconnect of Ricky Gervais

Today, I got this in an e-mail from the League Against Cruel Sports:

Ricky Gervais, anti-bullfighting? Good man! However, something was bothering me.

"Bulls should not be used to fight for our entertainment"

"... tens of thousands of bulls are still being maimed, tortured and killed for 'entertainment' each year"

"It's crazy that our money has any part in sustaining this cruelty"

All this coming from the man who said:

"The roast dinner is the king of dinners. And the king of roast dinners is the Christmas dinner. There'll be organic, free-range roast turkey. There will be little cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon, there's no doubt about it. Roast potatoes. I will have one Brussels sprout, and eat it like a good boy. And peas. And really caramelised cooked parsnips and turnips so they're like crisps and really thick …"

This duality stikes me as somewhat perverse. One moment he is asking me to help alleviate the suffering of 'tens of thousands' of animals that are killed unnecessarily for entertainment, sport and pleasure and the next moment he's claiming that a good animal roast is the king of dinners. So it's not OK to kill an animal for sporting entertainment but it is OK to kill an animal because you enjoy chomping down on it's corpse? However, to be fair to the man he does recognise the disconnect. Sort of. He admits to a sqeamishness about animal flesh that means he is only comfortable eating food that doesn't have a close resemblance to the animal it once was. He makes exceptions for poultry and 'disguised' meats (so, sausages wrapped in bacon?) that don't look as though they could jump up and gambol around his table. One gets the impression that vegetarianism has a serious allure for him, if only he could bring himself to give up on animal flesh. So why hasn't he? It seems as though, contrary to his insistence that it is wrong to kill animals for entertainment (and one presumes that extends to other pleasures, otherwise it's a deeply arbitrary distinction), he doesn't have a problem with animals killed for the pleasure of eating them. What he does insist, apparently, is that the animals lived a good, free-range life and were killed humanely.

I'm sorry, Ricky, but there is nothing humane about animal exploitation. You can't breed, fatten and kill with kindness. Using animals for food necessitates devaluing them to commodities, to products. They are bought, traded, owned and sold with the profit of the vendor and the pleasure of the consumer in mind. It may be true that the animals don't know what their fate will be and can live a relatively 'good life' in sunlit pastures (if 'happy meat' propaganda is to be believed) but this isn't some humane idyl of happy animals and caring consumers, this is simply exploiting the fact that the animals are not aware of their coerced future to justify exploiting them in other ways. It's OK, because the animals are happy while they are alive, don't know they're going to die and will be killed quickly? I presume this kindly sentiment doesn't extend to humans. I can only imagine the shock and outrage that would be caused if some farmer stated he was using humans as commodities, to be sold as slaves and killed for food. Would this be justified as long as the people in question didn't know of their fate and felt their living conditions were adequate for their needs? What if they were just too stupid or brainwashed to realise they were not free? Or maybe it would be OK if they just didn't care about being free, preferring to stay where they would be warm and well-fed?

Whether you are comfortable with the idea of humans being compared to non-humans, the point remains that we don't grant our fellow humans basic rights and freedoms simply because they are intelligent or philosophical or able to express their preferences in a language we understand. We grant them rights, the most basic of which is not to be used as a thing or a commodity, because they are individuals who are aware of their world and able to form preferences (however basic) for what happens to them. They are someones and it doesn't matter if they are stupid, ignorant, unattractive or disliked. They are someones, not somethings and we (should) treat them as such.

Surely, surely this extends to animals as well?

Ricky, I hate bullfighting as well. I hate the idea of an animal being used as a mere thing for pleasure or entertainment. And that is why I am a vegan. It is not enough to require humane standards of care or to campaign vocally on a few instances of animal abuse that are rather divorced from our everyday lives. If you are serious about animal rights, please respect them and that means starting with the most basic right any sentient being can have - the right to be seen as a someone and not a something, an individual and not a tool, a free being and not a commodity.

Please, Ricky. Go vegan.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Great Disconnect

It's the title of the blog. It's kind of important. It's time we talked about it.

To shamelessly borrow and slightly modify an example from Gary Francione, imagine you discover there is someone on your street who enjoys beating puppies with crowbars and then slicing their necks open to watch them bleed to death. Sick, right? Maybe he buys them from breeders, adopts them from shelters or steals them from around the neighbourhood. Maybe he tempts desperate strays to his door with the promise of meaty treats. Whatever methods he uses, he gets hold of these innocent creatures and then beats and bleeds them for fun. It's the kind of thing you see in messed up horror movies or when news readers recount the past exploits of serial killers. It's the kind of thing that makes you want to find the nearest dog and hug them, just to reassure them and yourself that it's going to be OK.

Imagine you, driven by the desire for justice for these poor beings, tell the police and the guy is arrested. His story is all over the news, the internet forums are buzzing as animal lovers rush to condemn this deeply disturbed man, veterinarians tell magazine interviewers of the excruciating suffering these animals must have endured. How could anyone do something like this, let alone for fun.

You tell friends and family about this story, wondering between you how someone could become so broken that he would do this to defenceless animals. One person you tell looks at you quizzically, and gently asks why you’re so upset. Isn’t it obvious why you’re upset!? No, your friend replies. You eat meat, don’t you? You wear leather, don’t you? You consume dairy, don’t you? You don’t need to do these things, you do them because you enjoy it. So why are you so upset?

At first, this seems like a tasteless joke. Eating meat is different. Humans have always eaten meat, it’s natural for humans to eat meat, humans are designed to eat meat, humans need to eat meat. And leather is just a by-product, right? As for dairy, cows don’t die to produce milk! But you’d be wrong. Humans don’t need to eat meat. Maybe we once did many centuries ago, when food was scarce and lacked essential nutritional variety, but not anymore. And leather is rarely a by-product and even if it was, even if animals didn’t suffer and die specifically to produce shoes, furnishings and jackets, would you really use something from a murdered human even if it was ‘just a by-product’? As for dairy, millions of cows spend a few terrifying, exhausting years giving birth to calves only to have their babies torn away in the first 48 hours of life so that the mother can be hooked up to machines for cheese platters, milkshakes and your morning coffee. The calves are then sold at auction when days old, the vast majority destined to live in tiny cramped stalls for a few tortuous weeks until they are slaughtered for veal. Some are not deemed worth even this hellish fate and are killed soon after birth, the unwanted waste of the industry.

This is not necessary. This is not even remotely necessary. This is abuse on the scale of tens of billions of animals every year to fund human tastes and greedy pockets. This one of the largest, most powerful industries on Earth and it’s hell-bent on keeping you believing that its products are essential to your lifestyle and health. And as long as you believe that, you’re paying someone else to torture and kill animals on your behalf. And in the end, whether you want to accept it or not, this is all done for pleasure, for desire, for lifestyle. For fun.

This is our great disconnect. We're so used to seeing cows, sheep, chickens and pigs (not to mention goats, ducks, deer . . .) as commodities that we fail to see that they're living, breathing beings with as much right as you or I to live undisturbed and unharmed by humans. We're so used to seeing these minds as mindless, so used to seeing these beating hearts as currency, that we don't really notice what our lifestyles mean to these animals. And when we do notice, we push those thoughts back down and try to find easy justifications to lift the guilt we might feel, if only we dared to feel anything. We're so used to seeing some animals as pets and companions, worthy of our love and respect that we fail to notice that the animals we're abusing every single day of our lives are just as worthy of love and respect. We're so busy looking for the differences, the reasons not to change our behaviour that we miss the similarities, the reasons to change.

This is our disconnect. If you see it, please - go vegan.


"The cow is a poem of compassion." Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Dietary Classifications

Today I saw someone claim to be a "vegetarian who eats some fish". Really? What tree do fish grow on? Or maybe they come out of the ground, kinda like potatoes?

Bullshit. Might as well claim to be celibate because you only get laid once a month.

So we thought we'd follow in the footsteps of vegans who are far older and wiser, and give you a list of dietary classifications:

Vegan - avoids anything made with animals, tested on animals or that otherwise exploits animals. It goes beyond a diet and impacts upon all sorts of lifestyle and consumer decisions. And you know what? It's awesome.

Raw foodist - eats a very high percentage of uncooked food. It is believed to preserve the nutritional value of the food. Usually vegan.
Fruitarian - only eats raw fruits, seeds and nuts that can be gathered without killing the plant. Some only eat foods that have already fallen from the parent plant and that must be gathered from the ground. Some only eat fruits, omitting nuts and seeds. 
Strict vegetarian - does not eat any animal flesh or foods made with other animal products, but may still use non-vegan household products or cosmetics, as well as wear animal skins, silk or wool. Essentially, the diet side of veganism without the animal rights side.
Vegetarian - does not eat animal flesh but consume products that come from animals such as dairy and eggs. Should probably read this and this.
Ovo-lacto-vegetarian - a vegetarian who does consume eggs and dairy. See above.
Ovo-vegetarian - a vegetarian who does not consume dairy but does consume eggs. See above.
Lacto-vegetarian - a vegetarian who does not consume eggs but does consume dairy. See above.

Pescetarian - someone who avoids eating animals except for fish. Sometimes wrongly referred to as a kind of vegetarian diet, which is rather mysterious as being vegetarian entails not eating animal flesh.
Pollotarian - someone who avoids eating animals except for birds (usually chicken). See above.
Pesce-pollotarian - someone who eats fish and birds, but no mammalian flesh. See above.
Flexitarian - someone who sticks to a largely plant based diet but who occassionaly 'indulges' on flesh. See above.

Inspired by VegBlog

Audio: Abolition vs. Regulation

Gary Francione and Robert Garner discuss abolition vs regulation on Animals Today Radio

Azrayel's Journey to Veganism - Part One

I used to love meat. Dead animal on my plate? Nothing better. I even referred to myself as a carnivore because I really disliked vegetables. They were an annoyance, a chore. A box I had to tick. Roasts, steak, burgers, fish 'n' chips. That was where my heart lied. A meal wasn't complete without some tasty, tasty flesh.

I didn't really think about my food, at least not for a long time. Meat was food, meat came from animals, animals were food. That's just how it was. It was so common, so unremarkable, so obviously natural that I did not question it. I felt no guilt, no doubt. By the time I was in a position to really consider my actions and establish my own preferences, I was so firmly conditioned to view animals as food that the very concept of not eating animals was just bizzare and incomprehensible.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


One of the five fire-bellied newts that we rescued. They came to us emaciated and each missing at least one limb. Now they are fat, healthy and have a full compliment of body parts! Yay for regenerative abilities.

Dear Humans

One of the reasons that shit people exist is because you insist on procreating with them. Please, don't moan about how your significant other is a jerk who doesn't understand you and then make babies with them. Don't like it? Don't breed more of it.

Definition: Carnism

So, Avalanchian mentioned carnism in our last post. It's not a very common term, so we thought we'd talk a bit more about it.

Carnism is the opposite of veganism. It is a modern term that is used in the place of 'omnivore' to refer to meat eating humans as it more accurately describes the human relationship to the animals they eat. Phrases like 'omnivore', 'herbivore' and 'carnivore' signify a biological need or predisposition whereas 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' denote a choice based around beliefs. Using 'carnist' instead of 'omnivore' to talk about people who eat animals highlights the fact that eating animals is a choice based on the belief that it is acceptable to use animals for human purposes, and not an irrepressible biological need.

However, eating animals is rarely seen in terms of a choice. It is "the done thing" and considered not only normal in many societies, but as an utterly uncontroversial default behaviour. It is an invisible belief, a kind of conditioning - very few people actually stop to seriously consider the beliefs they have about the human use of animals, or about animal ethics. They eat animals because that is how they have been brought up and how their ancestors have been brought up. They eat animals because there are major financial and political interests in perpetuating the use of animals, and these interests are expressed constantly in advertising, professional advice and healthcare. Eating animals is just what normal people do. On the other hand, those that defy that status quo are seen as having a philosophical position and this sets their diet and lifestyle aside from the norm.

Carnism is a better, more accurate description of the prevalent cultural paradigm. As vegans, we want to highlight that most humans are carnists, not true omnivores, and by showing that the default diet of many humans (especially in developed nations) stems from choices and beliefs rather than needs, we hope to challenge the philosophy behind it.

For more information, check out the CAAN website.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Hell is Other People: How to breed a carnist

The other day I was sitting in the middle of a conversation (with my mouth firmly shut I might add, I learned early on to pick my battles) where the participants were discussing the Easter period. Specifically, they were discussing what to do with the newest family member, a two year old girl, on Easter sunday. The general consenus was to take her to a petting zoo style farm to see the cute little new lambs. Then they were to go home and eat.... you guessed it... roast lamb! Yum!

Now, I am used to people just not connecting the lump of muscle on their plate with the bleating fluff balls they fawn over. I was, in fact, expecting the conversation to end there, but I was surprised by the continuation. Amazingly they continued by saying, "I'm not sure if she'd like the idea of seeing the lambs and then eating them." Okay, straight away a few things strike me. First of all, they are accepting that this kid would find this upsetting. Does this not any ring any alarm bells? That they can agree that there is something intrinsically upsetting about this for a child? Secondly, I see people talking about cute animals and then tucking into one in the next breath every day. The extent of this is so large that it is no longer shocking. What did amaze me was that they SAW this disconnect! I should have been happy but what followed was pretty demoralising.

"Well just lie to her about what it is! Just say that it's meat! She doesn't have to know!" Was the proudly agreed solution to this inconvenient problem. This was the jaw dropping part. Not being a parent I find it very difficult to argue for or against telling white lies to your kids. Santa and the Tooth Fairy (sorry to any kids reading this but... well.... are your parent's really letting you read this blog?) are slightly odd lies to tell, but they do create a sort of magic. When a pet dies and "is sent to a farm" is a bit meaner as it seems to side-step around actually teaching a child about life and death for the sake of avoiding tears. But lying to a child about whether an animal was sacrificed for their plate? For the sake of, what I assume is, convenience? That seems like a whole different board game to me (I don't play ball games much).

This had me thinking a lot about Carnism. As a vegan you hear a lot about the ethics of raising a child vegan and how doing so would be forcing your beliefs on your child. Vegans have a ready response to this which is usually along the lines of "All parents force beliefs on their child. We all happily teach our children not to steal, not to be violent and not to throw food across the room. I am also teaching my child not to kill and exploit animals for pleasure." I had never really thought about the flip side: that carnists actively teach their children TO kill and exploit animals for pleasure. Not only that, but they have to do it in such a subversive manner in order to program this behaviour into the child.

The final bizare thought I had was: "they are discussing this infront of me. A known vegan!" They didn't even blink when discussing this. I was stunned that this was even happening. I'm not sure if they even knew the implications of what they were saying. It felt like advocating the subjugation of women infront of a known feminist. Either it was done without any thought, done to bait a reaction, or simply because veganism isn't taken seriously.

I didn't comment, so I guess we shall never know...



 "Animals can communicate quite well. And they do. And generally speaking, they are ignored." Alice Walker

Monday, 18 April 2011

We are the ones we've been waiting for

You must be the change you wish to see in the world
Well, it's true. This isn't some do-gooder bullshit. This isn't some "believe in yourself and you can achieve anything" sentiment that we might tell to disillusioned children. He's not asking us to cure cancer or relocate to some nation torn apart by civil war in order to help with peacekeeping efforts. 

What he is saying is very simple - it is absurd to believe one thing and do the opposite. How many people have you heard state that it's awful that animals are killed for their fur, and then wear leather? How many people have you heard say that it's a shame that the rainforests are being chopped down, only to take a bite out of a [insert name of fast food chain here] beefburger? How many people have your heard cry out about the immorality of testing cosmetics on animals, only to buy make-up without checking the testing record of the company? Or perhaps you've heard someone bemoan the use of fossil fuels, due to their social and environmental impact, while they make little or no effort to move onto sustainable and environmentaly stable fuel sources in their own life?

Our everyday choices matter, and not just to us. Our choices are not just about personal taste, quality of life or convinience. They have wide ranging impacts beyond our lives and our homes, and say a lot about our beliefs. If you think the tar sands pollution is shocking, or think that pumping industrial waste into water sources is inethical, or want to see our seas brimming with life, then start making the consumer choices that back-up those beliefs. Stop waiting around for someone to make the decison for you, by banning or outlawing whatever practice you object to so that you don't have to conciously make the decison to give up something you enjoy or find useful. Stop waiting for other people, and start making meaningful decisions. Put your money where your mouth is because that is the only vote that these companies acknowledge.


Sapph and Sin

We rehomed these two when a good friend of ours found them, newborn, in his shed. They currently have their "evening crazies" so we hope that by posting a photo of them sleeping, they might get the idea!

Plus, they're super cute and photo worthy.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Recipe: Creamy Tomato Pasta

This is something we've been eating a lot of recently. It's great for a scrummy quick-fix as it only has a handful of ingredients and is very quick to cook!

Tomato passata (or equivalent in fresh, blended tomatoes)
Vegan 'cream cheese' (we like Tofutti)
Pasta of choice (best with spaghetti!)
Tomato ketchup (a squirt for sweetness)
Fresh/dried basil (to taste)
Fresh/dried rosemary (" ")
Fresh/dried thyme (" ")
Sea salt
Black pepper
Olive oil

Measure out enough pasta to cure any hunger pangs, and place into a saucepan of boiling water. Lower heat to a simmer and add sea salt, a bit of basil (and/or any other favourite herbs) and some oil. Mix well and leave to cook.

Place appropriate quantities of passata into another saucepan and bring to a medium heat. Quantities really depend on you and how saucy you like your pasta! We'd use about a cup between the two of us - I think. Get it warm and keep it moving. Stir in 2-3 good sized dollops of Tofutti (or similar) - more makes for a thicker sauce, less makes for a thinner sauce (duh). You might have noticed by now that we don't really deal in measurements! I'll remedy that for next time . . . anyway!

Stir in the Tofutti until the sauce is smooth and a lovely pinky-orange. Add salt, pepper and basil to taste, as well as a splash of tomato ketchup for some sweetness. Keep it moving until the pasta is cooked, then drain the pasta and dump it in with the sauce to get it well coated! Serve straight away.

Om nom nom nom.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

What is 'vegan' and why are we blogging about it?

The Vegan Society defines veganism as "a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose".

Veganism is many things to many people. It is often expressed as a 'personal choice' or 'lifestyle', but for many vegans these phrases completely fail to capture the significance of their decision. It is also described as a "living protest" against the use and abuse of non-human animals, but this seems to misplace the essence of veganism.

Veganism is as obvious to a vegan as not eating humans is to (most) humans. It isn't a choice, it isn't a lifestyle, it isn't a protest. It isn't about 'doing the right thing' or 'expressing an opinion' or even being 'consistent with our beliefs'. Vegans see their life as as much of a choice as regular folk see theft or murder. Most of us don't go through our day seriously considering the relative merits of killing someone and then conclude that it is probably not a good idea, or that it would hurt our career prospects or that it might make for awkwardness at dinner. We don't kill people because you just don't do that shit. Veganism is simply the way that people behave when they realise what animal exploitation actually means. It isn't a choice or a lifestyle, it just is.

So if it isn't a personal choice (at least no more than not murdering children is a personal choice), why do we need to blog about it? Surely, if it is so self evident, and not a political or cultural expression, we don't need to talk about it? Well, the fact is, most people just don't see it that way. It's not that they like torturing water fowl or think that tearing a few day old calf from it's mother is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. They just don't really think about it. Eating and using animals is not just very common. Its not just that some (most) people actually believe it is acceptable when all the facts are considered. It's just that a lot of people (intelligent, perceptive, compassionate people) don't think about it. Not really. They might say things like "I could never be vegan, I like bacon too much" or "I don't think animals are as important as humans" or "it's natural". They might even know about some of the horrors that occur when humans view animals as property, and they might even consider themselves as believing in animal rights (usually translated as "kicking puppies is bad"), but their knowledge and beliefs don't translate into action.

And honestly, when lives are on the line, we think this shit is pretty important. We want to talk about being vegan - be excited about it, tell other people about it, make others think about it. We also want to get some of our own thoughts down 'on paper' and figured that The Internet was just the bottomless cesspit of self-absorbed rambling that we needed. Plus, vegan baking is ALL KINDS OF WIN.

(This was only supposed to be 'a couple of paragraphs')