Can vegans eat home grown honey?

This is a topic of debate that I see very often and I am always interested in the different arguments for each side. I therefore though it would be fun to hear from you guys as to what you would do: Would you eat home grown honey? And by home grown I mean honey that comes from an individual’s own hive that they keep as a hobby, rather than from a farm or commercial enterprise that is mainly keeping bees for financial gain.

Do vegans usually eat commercial honey?

Obviously everyone is on their own vegan journey so there is no ‘correct’ answer, however from my experience and from speaking with other people the majority of vegans tend to avoid commercially produced honey. Some argue that it is because it is an animal product means a vegan should never eat this as vegans do not eat, wear or otherwise use any animal products as much as they possibly can. Honey would be no different.

Others have also mentioned that commercial honey comes with a large degree of exploitation and that on commercial scale honey farming the welfare of the bees is of least consideration. To harvest honey, bees need to first be smoked as this makes them sleepy and less aggressive, and then the actual harvesting part can cause the death of a lot of the colony’s bees because they get trapped in the machines or get trapped in the honey comb as it is being removed from the hive. Since the entire message behind veganism is to avoid causing harm to any living being as much as possible, by buying commercial honey you are directly funding the continuation of this practice.

The other point I see mentioned quite a bit is that the bees actually need the honey – it is their main food source and when winter comes it is all they have to survive on. Bees need the honey to survive, we don’t. So why eat something we don’t need, especially when there are so many vegan options out there that do the same job such as maple syrup and agave syrup, and in many cases are also cheaper than the honey on sale.

But how does home grown honey differ?

The largest plus of a person keeping their own bees and therefore being able to harvest their own honey is that they would know exactly what is being done to the bees. There would be no (or at least very little) concern over exploitation, as the bee keeper would only take what they wanted and would always ensure that the health of the hive came first. At least, that would be my thinking should I ever keep my own bees. I would know exactly how healthy the hive was, how much honey was produced and if I wanted to take a little amount for myself I would make sure that the hive always had enough honey in the combs to ensure a healthy winter.

The scale of honey harvesting would also be far smaller. One person can only eat so much honey, and even if they did gift it/sell it to friends or family this would be no where near the same scale as a commercial enterprise. 10 jars (let’s say) of honey is barely a drop compared to the hundreds of thousands of jars that are produced every day by a commercial company. Let’s also assume that a jar of honey would last a family a month – twelve jars or honey a year for one person is still a tiny amount compared to the commercial production line which needs to make millions a year.

There is also a very slim chance of a private person selling honey for a profit. Sure they may want to get rid of some excess honey and make a little bit of money on the side but again, if we assume it is only being sold to friends and family this figure is still likely to be around £100 a year (assuming they sell one jar for £2-£5 to maybe 10 people once a month for a year) which is nothing compared to the thousands (if not millions) of profit made by some commercial brands.

Linking to all of the above, you would assume that someone who does keep their own bees doesn’t do it simply so they have free honey: beekeeper doesn’t appear to be the most relaxing of past times and you would expect that someone who would be interested in keeping bees would do so because they have a general interests in the bees themselves. Yes the honey is nice, but they much more enjoy seeing the hive grow and change and develop over time, seeing how the bees interact with one another, and also perhaps feeling like they are playing their part in helping to protect the best pollinator around. Bees are already in great danger from commercial grade pesticides and farming practices, and without bees many flowers and crops would cease to exist without the required pollination taking place. There are many campaigns ongoing to help bring the pollinators back and by keeping a hive, it may help someone feel like they can protect at least this hive from any future troubles.

Would I personally eat home grown honey?

Ok so I don’t actually like honey. I don’t really like syrup either. If I want to add something sweet to my porridge or pancakes or oats, I will usually go for fruit or (arguably the most unhealthy option out of everything) a literal spoonful of granulated sugar. So I have really gone most of my life never eating honey. However I do try to avoid it as much as I can when it comes to premade packages, such as breakfast bars or granola, where honey is so regularly used as a healthier sugar source.

But I think that even if I did keep my own bees, I would still be very reluctant to eat the honey. I would always want to ensure that my hive was healthy and had enough honey to keep them fit and healthy so I wouldn’t really want to take that away from them, especially for a product that I wouldn’t normally eat otherwise. Now perhaps I would sometimes take some honey to gift to a friend or family member for their birthday or Christmas, but again this would be maybe 4 jars a year? A tiny amount in the grand scheme of things and again I would only even consider it if I knew that my hive had more than enough to keep them healthy.

As with everything I do, my main concern is always the animals. Everything I do, I do for them. Sure the environmental impact and sustainability aspect is always a plus, but the animals are always at the root of any decision I make: If an animal had to suffer or be disturbed to get this product to me, then I don’t want it.

What do you guys think? Would you eat home grown honey? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions so please do leave me a message below!

T xxx

What is the difference between plant based and vegan?

I do get asked this a lot. When people find out that I follow a vegan lifestyle, they almost always ask ‘oh, so you must be plant based then”. Which then brings the discussion regarding what the difference is between ‘plant based’ and vegan’. So I thought it would be fun to open up the discussion here!

The main difference

After some research online, the general consensus seems to be that ‘plant based’ is a diet, whereas ‘vegan’ is a lifestyle choice. They are not exclusive though, as many people who follow a vegan lifestyle will also follow a largely plant based diet, but there are many vegans out there (and for the most part I would include myself in this) who do not follow a fully plant based diet, just as there are many who do eat a plant based diet who do not also follow a vegan lifestyle.

What does ‘vegan’ really mean?

The Vegan Society’s formal definition is: “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

I also want to highlight that the Vegan Society definition is that veganism is a lifestyle – it is not just about what you eat. A plant based diet however is just that, a diet. While some lifestyle changes may be needed to always ensure you are eating a plant based meal, this diet only extends to one aspect of your life – what you eat.

Lifestyle vs diet

I for one will always say that I follow a vegan lifestyle, and not just the ‘vegan diet’ part of it all. I do not eat meat, eggs, dairy, honey or any other product that comes from an animal. I also do not wear leather, silk or fur and do my utmost to ensure that I do not buy any product at all that contains any sort of animal products – this can be anything from the type of glue I use in crafting projects to the type of laundry detergent I use.

A diet on the other hand, is purely the food. Now if you have read even the smallest part of my blog, you know full well that I am as far from p’plant based’ as one could possibly get. Now while this is something that I am working to change for my own health reasons, I do not follow a vegan diet purely for the health benefits that come with it. Quite frankly it has only been very recently that I actually started to take my own health seriously (which can be a discussion for another day). But from what I have been able to see online, those who do follow a purely plant based diet do it largely for their health. While animal welfare may be a concern of theirs, it is not the deciding factor. You will no doubt have seen the stories in the news of athletes and celebrities who follow a plant based diet who make a point of saying that this is purely for the health benefits that come with it. As mentioned above, you can be plant based but not vegan.

I always like to take the opportunity to highlight the part that says ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ because I think that this is very important to remember. There is no such thing as a perfect vegan. It is a myth and a very damaging standard to try to achieve. If you need medication in order to simply get through the day, then take this even if it is tested on animals. If the only thing that gets you through hay-fever season is local honey or bee pollen, then take this. The way I like to think of veganism is that everyone should be doing their best, and this will look very different to everyone involved. At the end of the day, you have to be well enough in yourself in order to promote veganism in the way you want to, so if you don’t look after yourself for fear of being deemed an ‘imperfect vegan’ then you would never achieve anything.

Conclusion

It seems quite obvious that being ‘plant based’ and being ‘vegan’ are not exclusive, and there is of course a large degree of overlap between the two. But I also think that they need to be considered individually when you are first getting started on your own vegan or plant based journey, because the two terms can be used interchangeably and has even confused me a few times!

What do you guys all think? Please do leave a comment or even email me privately if you wish to add any comments or have any other questions you would like discussed.

T xx

Are cat cafes vegan?

As a quick disclaimer, I will not be discussing pet cafes as a whole, only cat cafes. I simply do not agree that all pets can be used for pet cafes Rabbit cafes for example are terrible ideas simply due to the very delicate nature of rabbits, and I imagine a dog cafe could get very out of control very quickly because of how excited dogs can get. This little article will only look at cat cafes, although I may look at other types of pet cafes in the future.

What is a cat cafe?

Exactly what it sounds like. It is a coffee shop, where you can enjoy numerous hot beverages and tasty pastries and cakes, while also cuddling the cats that live in the cafe. Many cat cafes also work closely with re-homing centres (or act as a re-homing centre themselves) so that the cats you see in the cafe with you can be adopted out into the community.

Now anyone who loves cats would obviously want to attend one because is there anything better in this world than a hot mug of coffee and a purring cat asleep on your lap? Absolutely not. However I have seen a lot of conflicting articles and comments about whether or not a cat cafe is humane, ethical and by default, vegan. Are the cats being exploited so the owner can sell more coffee? Is the welfare of the cats really the paramount importance?

My experience

I grew up with cats. I have photos of me as a two year old literally climbing into the cat bed so I could snuggle with my childhood tabby and black cat, Mog and Dale. When they both crossed the rainbow bridge, we then got Jinx. In fact the only time I lived in a home without a cat was when I moved into my own property – and even then we filled our home with the gerbils and our bunnies. Having spent at least 25 years of my life living with cats, I feel an overwhelming sense of comfort when I am around cats – they really are like home to me – so naturally cat cafes are absolutely my cup of tea!

I have been to a few cat cafes, and in my experience they have always been very cat centred. Each place has had very strict rules about how you act while in the cafe, to make sure that the cats are never disturbed or scared by the people around them. All of them also had rules about how many people were allowed in the shop at any one time, and as well as limiting how many can come in per group and not allowing any children under the age of 12 into them. The cafes that do allow younger children in though also make it a strict rule that the children should be supervised at all times and should not be allowed to approach the cats without adult supervision with them.

That being said I have also looked at other cat cafes which I didn’t feel were cat focused: I have looked into the window of them and seen young children running around the cafe floor, barely any hidey holes for the cats to shelter in and even from the outside could tell it was far too noisy inside. You also know it probably isn’t cat focused when you can’t even see the cats when you look inside.

As to whether or not the cafe itself is ‘vegan friendly’ regarding the food, every place I went to had a decent selection of vegan foods and drinks. So in that sense I think you’d be hard pushed to find a cat cafe that doesn’t cater towards vegans: if it doesn’t have even one plant based milk to offer or even a basic vegan cookie, then it’s probably just a bad coffee shop anyway.

The pros of a cat cafe

It is common knowledge now that spending time with animals is good for us: It lowers our blood pressure, slows our breathing and decreases our feelings of loneliness. As with most medical treatments though,animal therapy is very rarely something that can be offered to everyone and if you live in rented property or a house share or in a busy city, you may not even be able to have pets of your own. Places like cat cafes allow people to come and go as they please and spend as much time as they wish with their kitty companions.

I also believe that cat cafes are frequented by people who already love cats, so will already be doing their utmost to make sure that cats in the cafe are happy. They are people who won’t care about getting cat fur all over their trousers, or mind having a cat sit next to them while they eat and drink. Therefore while each cat cafe will have it’s own set of rules, I imagine the majority (if not all) of the patrons would adhere to the rules even if they weren’t told to.

I also believe that this method of re-homing is far more beneficial for the cats than being in a shelter. While shelters do amazing work (and I will always advocate and support my local shelters) they can be very sad places. I’m sure we have all seen the videos of cats in small little bunkers as they watch person after person walk past their window and not even stop to say hello. It’s heartbreaking to see and I can’t even think what must be going through the cats’ mind when this is all they see everyday until someone decides to take them home. But with the cat cafes, the cats have far more freedom to wander around the people and to actually show off their personalities. They can run and play and sleep wherever and however they like, and are also socialised to be used to being around people: they become used to the noise and the bustle of people coming and going and getting multiple cuddles a day in the process. Now I for one, would injure myself in a rescue shelter – I would take a look at the very first cat and I would end up trying to take the entire shelter home with me. At least in a cat cafe I know that the cats have a warm and safe home until their forever family comes along. Not that I wouldn’t take them all home with me if I had half the chance….

I have always found the staff in these cafes to be amazing: They are always professional and attentive, and you can tell immediately that they love each and every one of their kitty cohorts. They have always been very knowledgeable about the cats and about their needs and personalities. I have also seen the staff politely showing guests how to correctly play with the cats, from which toys work best with which cat and the best way to use the toy to bring out their natural hunter instincts. For example, if you have a rug or a blanket, use a stick underneath it to play with your cat – something about it being ‘underground’ drives cats wild and they absolutely love trying to catch it. The thinner the stick too the more likely it is to slip through their little toe beans, which just makes them even more determined to catch this evil stick!

The cons of cat cafes

It is common knowledge that cats are very territorial creatures and are also very high maintenance. If they are not happy with something, they will definitely tell you about it!

One of the main issues with cat cafes is the concern that large numbers of cats should not b e kept together. Both Cats Protection and the RSPCA have stated that cat cafes are not the most suitable environment for cats to live in, especially when they have to deal with multiple groups of people coming and going contunously throughout the day. They also have to deal with a lot of petting and playing, and since cats mostly sleep for between 12-16 hours a day they are not the most social of creatures.

The RSPCA also raised concerns around the stability of the cats’ environment. As with most animals, routine is key. They can be sensitive to smells and temperature changes which may be an issue in a cafe. Cat cafes are very popular and see a lot of traffic so I can see why having too much change could potential cause stress to the cats who live in the cafe. Cats also require a lot of space and opportunity to exercise and climb, which is why many charities recommend having at least some sort of garden available if you wish to adopt a cat. Naturally though this is very unlikely in cat cafes, as most are in very built up and urban areas, with no more than a small concrete foyer around the back and a busy main high street out front.

Despite how cats may appear, they can be scared very easily by loud noises. As such it is also recommended to have lots of hidey-holes for cats so that they can get away and hide from any situation which they deem to be scary. This could range from fireworks outside, to children to simply too many people in a room.

There is also the issue of cat personalities. Every single cat is different and not every cat is suited to life in a cat cafe. Territorial, overly skittish or short tempered cats are more likely to get easily stressed in a busy and changing environment, and when cats are scared, annoyed or threatened that is when the claws come out. Which would be terrible for all involved: As someone who has been around cats my whole life, I know that if my cat takes a swipe at my hand it’s because I have annoyed them in some way, however if you have never spent time with cats or you’re a young child, you may think this is a mean kitty and get very upset. To combat this, I have seen some cat cafes who have a ‘revolving door’ system with their cats, where the cat can come and go from the main floor as much as they please to a completely private area that is shut off from guests. Most cafes also seem to make a point of only hosting cats that do meet the personality requirements to ensure that they can live with other cats and also won’t find the constant traffic stressful or annoying.

The other concern I see raised most often is the issue of regulation. Yes cat cafes are held to the same health and safety and food standards of other cafes, but the issue is that cat cafes are not like regular cafes. The cats welfare is largely left up to the cafe owners and with so much going on at any one time during a busy day, it is no doubt hard for the staff to ensure every single customer is adhering to the rules when it comes to interacting with the cats. There are talks that stricter policies and standards will be needed as the popularity of cat cafes grows, but again this itself is a slow process.

Final thoughts?

In short ALWAYS do your research. I personally would be very hesitant to visit a cat cafe if they allowed large groups or young children to visit them. I also always check their house rules, and if I cannot find them easily on their website I am even less inclined to visit them. I also like to look at the interior of the cafe to see how many climbing shelves there are, how many hidey-holes I can see, how many sleeping spots are available and to see what other enrichment they have for the cats. I believe there is one in London which has a giant cat wheel where the cats can run (like a hamster wheel, but cat sized) as well as lots of interconnecting tunnels around the cafe so that the cats can move about freely without needing to interact with people if they do not wish to.

Have you guys been to cat cafes? What are your thoughts on them?

T xxx

The reality of the dairy industry

Earlier this month BBC Panorama released an expose into the diary industry. The programme contained undercover footage of a dairy farm in Wales and showed very graphic footage of abuse and violence towards the cows, the calves that were of no use being piled into skips and just the overall low conditions of the farm itself. Obviously it received quite a bit of backlash, with many farmers claiming that this was not an accurate depiction of what happens within a dairy farm: Some farmers were claiming that they loved their cows and treated them with the highest degree of animal welfare, and that this farm in Wales was an outlier that did not do the dairy industry any justices. Which made me start to question what the conditions of a dairy farm should be and while the vegan in me knows that there is no way to have exploitation free dairy farming, the academic in me wanted to look into whether there could be such a a thing as humane dairy farming.

Now of course when researching this matter there are so many different resources to use and I have tried to keep things as balanced as possible. I will link all of the articles I have found throughout this little essay, but I am not going to go too in detail about the legitimacy of each source (i.e who funded the research, who wrote the article, the political platforms on which I found them, the degree of neutrality of them all etc) and that alone could be an entire essay subject all of it’s own. As with all things, make sure you check sources and to always take everything you read online with a pinch of salt: I am trying to remain as unbiased as possible in order to open the avenue for discussion, but as this is a subject I am very passionate about I am sorry if some of the bias comes through!

How is milk actually made?

According to Dairy UK there are roughly 1.9 million dairy cows currently being used in the UK. According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) they predict a total of 12.52 billion litres for 2021/22. This may seem like a lot of milk, however this is 1.2% lower than the 2020/21 year. They also state that there have been dips in milk production over the past two years due to changes in calving seasons, which leads me onto the next point.

A cow is a mammal, and as such only produces milk when they have a baby. According to Diary UK a cow can produce milk for around 10 months after giving birth to a calf. One of the biggest arguments against dairy farming is how it treats the calves: Female cows are raised to become dairy cows like their mothers and the male calves are either destroyed, used for breeding programmes or sold to veal farms. AHDB even have a whole section on how to raise the female calves quickly to ensure that the farmers make a profit on them by the time they have had their second lactation.

But once you have a pregnant cow, they will be pregnant for around 9 months. During this 9 months they will begin to produce milk and can be milked during their pregnancy. Milking then stops when the cow gets to around 60 days before she is due to give birth, which is known as the ‘dry period’ where farmers are to let the cows’ udders heal prior to their calf’s birth. One reason for this is because, as with all births, cow births can be very traumatic, and if you have a cow that is too stressed out or unsettled leading up to birth then the farmer runs the risk of complications during the birth, injuries to both the cow and the calf, and in some worst situations stillbirths or unhealthy cows and calves that cannot be used the next year. After giving birth a cow can then be re-inseminated after 28-30 days.

Baby calves are then separated from the mothers immediately and put onto a food called colostrum, which is a milk-like fluid made my mammals who have just given birth. Over a period of time the calf is then weaned off of the colostrum and put on a different type of feed until they are ready to be used for dairy production. And the cycle repeats itself for the female calves until they stop producing milk and are then sent to slaughter for beef production.

Which clearly shows how a dairy cow spends the majority of a twelve month period pregnant. I will admit when trying to find information on all of this, the actual official websites were very sparing on the details and their websites are not at all user friendly. It seems the majority of the information is contained in their publications and of course these publications are only available if you purchase them or subscribe to them through some sort of union. I did find one though from the AHDB which was a very intensive guide on how to promote calving seasons and how to ensure a healthy calving season every year and to maximise profits.

Which is what really gets to me: the cows used in dairy are seen as nothing but means of production. Their sole purpose to to make a product that their farmers can profit from, and once they stop making a profit for the farmer then they are sent to the beef industry. But where does this language come from?

The laws for dairy farming

Under UK law all domestic animals are considered chattel i.e they are property. Your cat, dog, rabbit, cow, sheep, llama. They are nothing more than property in the eyes of the law, so whatever they do you as their human owner are responsible for. There are numerous law cases surrounding personal injury claims where a dog has bitten someone and the human owner has been held negligent for the behaviours of their animal. This is governed by the Animal Act 1971 where strict liability applies if your animal causes harm to another person or property. However the Animal Welfare Act 2006 sets out that anyone who is in charge of an animal (be it as a pet, livestock, boarding situation etc) must not cause any ‘unnecessary suffering’ to that animal. If they do cause unnecessary suffering then they will be guilty of an offence and face criminal charges under this act.

Now there is no definition as to what counts as ‘unnecessary suffering’ stated within the act, so case law needs to be very heavily relied upon. I will not go into the details of this here (as again it is a LOT and would require a LOT of reading, re-reading and cross referencing and again will most likely need to be a whole separate essay on its own to really get into) but as a basic that is the standard that animal welfare standards are measured against. For those who may not know, and as a real side note, I am currently a trainee solicitor and during my law degree we spent many a module on ‘the reasonable man’ as a standard for measuring why certain actions were done. Again, it is a whole issue that is up for debate and is a whole other essay on it’s own. But I digress…

In England The Farm Animal Welfare Council provide opinions to the relevant government bodies (Mostly DEFRA) on how welfare is and/or is not being met within farming industries. One of the main issues that constantly arises in their opinions is that as the demand for milk has fallen over the years, in an attempt to improve profitability and to keep their farms running, farmers are allowing welfare standards to fall. According to Compassion in World Farming, most dairy cows have a life expectancy of around 3-5 years as dairy cows are highly prone to lameness and mastitis.

Now despite extensive online searches I cannot find anywhere government related that states the exact space that a cow needs to live in in order for their welfare needs to be met. I found another publication from AHDB and one from the RSPCA that state that the environment must be ‘adequate’ for the cow’s welfare. Which states nothing really, because again it is very open to interpretation and can change from farm to farm. There is no consistency in how welfare is managed and (at least from my research) enforcement of those welfare standards seem to be very subjective. You have a number of bodies (DEFRA, RSPCA and farming unions) who appear to be working together to increase welfare standards but a lot of this seems to be on the mutual understanding that farmers will simply ‘just do them’. I have not been able to find any real reports on who inspects the animal welfare, how often these are carried out or what happens if you are not meeting these standards.

This yet again beings me back to the main issue with dairy farming (aside from the animals themselves) is that the law does not adequately define what is and is not allowed. The same could be argued for all animal welfare standards across the world as the laws have so much room for interpretation and therefore it is up to the courts to decide whether welfare needs have been met. But again the court can only make decision on a matter if there is a question on whether welfare needs have been met by a specific farm/farmer/individual. Many of the articles I have found state that mastitis (a condition in dairy cows where their udders become inflamed either due to infection or trauma that can be fatal) and lameness (where cows can no longer walk and have lesions on their hooves and legs that cause intense pain) are serious concerns within the dairy industry and many steps are being taken to try and eradicate these problems to improve the profitability of dairy farming.

Mastitis and lameness though are also both conditions that are directly impacted by the environment in which a cow lives. Lameness is brought on where a cow is made to stand for too long, not able to move around properly or is made to stand on uneven/unsuitable flooring for long periods of time. Mastitis is thought to be caused by over milking, where the instruments used to milk a cow are not cleaned properly or are not applied correctly or comfortably and as a result cause infections and trauma to the udders. Both issues clearly highlight though that the welfare positions in place are clearly not enough to solve these very common and clearly very prolific problems within the dairy industry.

Exploitation?

Now there is also the debate to be had over whether factory farming versus family farms. If I had a cow, that lost her calf at birth, would it still be exploitative for me to milk her? What right do I have to milk her? According to Alberta Milk, cows need to be milked to avoid their udders becoming engorged and uncomfortable for the cow. But again this is on an industrial level milking farm, where you want to make a profit from the milk that your cows are producing. I have been able to find very little information on the benefits of milking a cow: There are numerous articles on how milking a cow is beneficial for us (for health, money, productivity on the farm) but I have not been to find any that actually deal with it from the cows point of view. I would imagine that yes, at first the cows udders may get very engorged and uncomfortable, the same way that a woman’s breasts do when they have just given birth. But after a while milk production would slow down, less milk will need to be expelled, until eventually no milk is made at all. Again this is just my assumption, but surely that is standard biology?

Now when you look at how the dairy industry functions, how can it not be exploitative? Cows are kept constantly pregnant, their babies are taken from them, their milk is farmed, treated and then sold on mass for a high profit, and as soon as the cow is no longer producing milk she is then sold to slaughter. How is there any other way to look at this? All of the publications I read from farming unions and pro-dairy organisations referred to the cows and the calves as a production machine – cows exist so that we can milk them and once they stop making milk they are destroyed because they no longer serve a purpose to us. The articles (if you do want to read them) talk about the cows as though they are machines and that it is the role of a farmer to learn how to completely control their cows, from when they go into heat to when they calf to when they can be destroyed.

And I know that there will be some people who will argue that if we stopped drinking dairy overnight what would happen to the cows. But the reality is that dairy cows only exist because we have selectively bread them to produce more milk than is needed. Plus, it is a stupid argument because the reality is that the world will not give dairy up overnight. It will be a gradual process, whereby less cows are bred to be dairy cows and so the number of cows left at the end of it will be a fractional amount of the current 1.9 million currently out there.

Conclusion

I always find that the reality speaks for itself. Dairy is not concerned with animal welfare and is only interested in making a profit for itself. Cows are no more than machines and it again highlights the capitalist ideology that as soon as something no longer provides you with a profit, you throw it away.

And there is a part of me that recognises that dairy farming is a huge and lucrative business (although that is on the decline currently) and they do produce a lot of jobs for the surrounding neighbourhoods. However, is that not the nature of industry? Is that not why competition exists? With the rise in plant-based milks why are dairy farmers not cutting their losses and investing money in to plant based alternatives? If they know that their cows are producing less milk and their profits are down,instead of investing 20% of their income to raising and rearing new dairy cows, why not use that money to invest in growing oats?

While dairy farming may have been a lucrative part of society, I feel that the world is changing at such a rapid rate that the farmers need to adapt or die. As does every single other industry out there at the moment. Even from a business perspective, surely this is the only thing that can be done?

If any of you want to discuss the issue, p[lease do leave me a comment or send me a message. Also if you have any other useful articles or resources for me to check please do pass them along!

T xxx

Superdrug sugar and oil body scrub

One of my goals for this year is to take my skincare a bit more seriously. I am inching ever closer to thirty and while I do feel like my skin is pretty good, I know I don’t give it the attention it really deserves. I have been doing a lot of research and over the years I have worked out that my skin is quite sensitive, but living in England also means that my skin is pretty dry.

I have used the Vitamin E range from Superdrug before and got on pretty well with it. The night cream I use every night and it really does help hydrate my skin without being really heavy or oily. It also doesn’t make my skin break out or leave my face bright red because of heavy fragrances or chemicals in it. So I decided to try some more of their range, starting with the body scrub.

In the past, most body scrubs I used would just leave my skin bright red. Plus I think they all contained the microplastic balls in them (which is what made up the ‘scrub’ part of the product) so they are obviously no good now. I have seen people can make their own body scrub using sugar or ground coffee to act as the scrub element, so I tried to look for these more natural products moving forward.

I have found this body scrub to be brilliant. The sugar works as an exfoliant without it being very rough and harsh on my skin, and as it is sugar it does dissolve as you scrub. The oil also makes the whole scrub feel very soft and gentle, and when I get out of the shower after rinsing off, my skin feels so moisturised and soft. It means I also do not need to then also apply my body moisturiser as I am already done.

I use this maybe once or twice a week – definitely not every day – and find that it is more than enough to give my skin that little extra moisture boost while not being too harsh with the exfoliating. It has been exceptionally good during this winter season: It has been so cold these past three months – more so than usual I would say – and this scrub has really helped stop my skin from getting too dry. There is also something so comforting and relaxing about coming in from -3 degree (Celsius I add) weather, to a hot shower and soft scrub to literally wash the day off of you and leave you feeling so much nicer.

The tub was £6 and as you can see from the picture it is a huge tub (300ml according to the label on the tub anyway) and I bought it beginning of December and it is only now half empty in February. A small handful of product goes a long way so you can be slightly more sparing with the product than you think you can. As I say, it will most likely last me until about April based on my current usage, and for £6 that is a bargain. Granted it doesn’t do anything special – it smells nice, but isn’t heavily fragranced – as it really just does what it says on the tin. It is quite basic but it does that really well. You could easily find a more luxurious product, but as an affordable option this stuff does all that it needs to.

Overall: 8/10. Nothing special but does exactly what it needs to and still feels lovely.

T xxx

Squirrel Appreciation Day

21 January marks Squirrel Appreciation Day!

This day was introduced by Christy Hargrove, a wildlife rehabilitator to encourage people to learn more about the UK’s most common wildlife. It is to help promote the welfare and care for our red and grey squirrels. Now I have only ever seen grey squirrels – outside our house we have a number of very large trees which are always being climbed by a group of the little grey guys. It’s quite funny seeing them around this time of year because they are so chubby I am always amazed they manage to make it up the tree in the first place!

But it turns out that grey squirrels are not our native squirrel. The red squirrel is actually our native breed, and the grey squirrels were introduced to the UK by the North Americans in around 1800. Unfortunately the grey and red breeds do not get along, and the grey squirrels forced the red ones to have to move to more remote and uninhabited areas of the UK. Today, there are estimated to only be around 140,000 red squirrels left and they are mainly located around Scotland and very northern parts of the England. There are multiple campaigns currently ongoing by the Wildlife Trust and the RSPCA to help promote squirrel welfare and to help bring the red squirrel populations up.

Threats to squirrel populations

The main issue squirrels face is that, namely, grey and red squirrels cannot live together long term. Due to their sheer numbers, grey squirrels have taken over most of England and the UK and as such red squirrel populations are dwindling. Grey squirrels also carry (but are unaffected by) squirrelpox which is fatal to red squirrels. Hence the main reason why the two species cannot live together long term. There are a number of organisations though that are currently working to help create red squirrel protection zones which would stop their habitats from being lost to deforestation or to grey squirrel populations. I shall leave links to a number of these campaigns at the end of this blog if you want more information on the work and conservation efforts done.

Unfortunately, squirrelpox is still relatively unknown although a vaccine is currently being developed. This vaccine however will not be ready for some time still (mainly due to the issue of how to actually administer the vaccine to red squirrel populations), and so the main way to protect red squirrel populations is to simply keep them away from grey squirrel populations. As it stands, there is very little chance that squirrelpox can be transmitted to humans (and even if it did, there is very little evidence to suggest that it would even be harmful to us) however it is always encouraged to not handle wildlife unless absolutely necessary (due to safety or welfare concerns for example) and if so to always wash your hands thoroughly to avoid any sort of contamination. It probably goes without saying, but this applies to every type of wildlife and not just squirrels – if in doubt, leave them be and call the RSPCA or other wildlife organisation who can advise on how much contact (if any at all) is needed in a situation.

The other issue is the reputation that squirrels have and the lack of knowledge around them. In the winter especially, people always assume that squirrels hibernate like many of the UK’s mammals. But that is not true. Physically a squirrel is just not able to store the amount of fat that would be needed to sustain them throughout the cold winter months and so hibernation is not an option. It also explains why they are known for being bird-feeder thieves, taking all of the best nuts and seeds and leaving very little for the bird populations in your garden. Squirrels are also crepuscular (i.e are most active during dawn and dusk) and so are usually active when most birds are still asleep.

How can you help?

The main way to help look after your local squirrels is to have squirrel feeders in your garden. These should be placed away from your bird feeders, preferably near to trees and higher up than a normal bird table would be. Wildlife World have a specially created collection of squirrel feeders that will help keep them fed and hydrated (as well as entertained) during the winter and colder months. You can find a link to those here.

Another way to help them is to simply enjoy them. Where I live, I have a little gang of squirrels that live in the trees nearby and they are honestly such characters. If anyone has ever visited St James’ Park in London, you will no doubt have seen the incredibly confident and borderline tame squirrels that harass people for some of their lunch, picnic or coffee. As mentioned before, always avoid handling wildlife unless it is an absolute emergency but many may still let you get quite close to them to watch them eat, play and scurry around in the ground looking for their buried nuts. As with all animals, squirrels are complex and adorable animals to see in their day to day routines, and even on my most hectic and crazy days, the little nutters outside my house never fail to make me smile.

For more information see the links below

If any of you do have squirrels, share some pictures on here of your own little neighbourhood clan! Also, if anyone has red squirrels please send as many pictures as you can – I can’t believe I didn’t even know about these little guys until researching for this post! I will definitely be looking out for these guys next time I am up north.

T xxx

Whats plants are poisonous to cats?

With the Winter Solstice now passed, it is the time of the year where we start to look towards the spring and the summer. For many people, this may include planting new seeds, both figuratively speaking and literally speaking. January through to March is normally the best time to plant many flowers and vegetables so that by summer they are ready to bloom, turning your currently drab and lifeless garden into an oasis of colour and fragrance.

But what if you have a cat? Aside from the concern that they may try and dig up your seedlings or trample over the shoots as they begin to rise, there are a number of common household flowers and plants that are actually very dangerous for your pet to even be around, let alone eat. In many cases the pollen from some of these plants can cause a wide array of respiratory, skin and eye issues that may be quite hard to treat. I have therefore made a list of the most common plants that are poisonous to our feline friends, in the hope that moving forward you will either omit these plants from your gardens this year, or at least move them to an area where your cat cannot get to.

As with all things to do with pets, if you think your cat may have ingested something they shouldn’t have ALWAYS take them to the vet as soon as you can to ensure that they get immediate attention.

Outside flowers

Now I feel this is the most important issue, as with a garden you do not know what wildlife will be coming and going on a daily basis. Not only do you have your own cats to worry about, you also have neighbourhood cats, strays, feral cats and natural wildlife such as foxes, badgers and hedgehogs (in the UK anyway).

The most common types of flowers/plants that are poisonous to cats include:

  • lilies of any kind – the majority of lilies are poisonous to almost every type of animal and people too. As pretty as they are, I would again advocate that you do not have any type of lily in your home or garden just to be on the safe side.
  • foxglove
  • dogbane
  • water hemlock
upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Plu...
Dogbane flowers

There are also a number of flowers and plants that you should be cautious about putting into your garden, unless they can be planted somewhere where you know your cat (or any other wildlife) could get to easily. These include:

  • bluebells
  • clematis
  • daffodils
  • wisteria
  • tomato plants
  • Rhododendron
  • dahlias
  • hyacinths
  • peonies
Paeoniaceae | Description, Taxonomy, & Examples | Britannica
Peonies

There are however a wide variety of flowers and plants that are completely safe for your cat to be around, and the Cats Protection have a full list which I shall leave here.

Inside plants

According to Cats Protection, there is only one family of indoor plants that is toxic to cats and those are cycads. This family of plants look similar to ferns and are often confused with types of palm trees. From looking at these types of plants they appear to grow quite tall, so the chance of you having one inside your house are quite low.

There are also a number of plants that can be dangerous for cats to ingest, although they are not necessarily toxic to them. If ingested, it is likely that your cat will experience nausea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal problems, but they will not be poisoned. The most common of these include:

  • Aloe vera
  • Poinsettia
  • English Ivy
  • Peace lily
  • snake plant
Indoor Peace Lily Plants: Growing A Peace Lily Plant
Peace lily

Please see the list here from Cats Protection for a full list.

Cut flowers in the home

Aside from the ones outside, you must also be cautious of the flowers that you bring into the home. Again the pollen alone can be enough to cause serious skin irritations or respiratory issues to your feline companion so it is best to double check any flowers in your home to make sure that they have not been nibbled on, or that no pollen has fallen onto the ground where your cat may be able to sniff/lick/touch it.

This list also applies to any flowers that you may grow in your own garden (as above) and so if you do wish to bring those flowers inside, you must make sure that they do not come into contact with your cat in any way. I for one will always advocate that if there is even a slight risk to the well-being of your pet, then simply remove it entirely from your home and garden and simply go for cat friendly options.

The most common toxic type of flower are lilies as discussed above, so again I would say to just completely avoid lilies in your home or garden.

Other types of flowers that you should be careful with are:

  • Hydrangeas
  • Chrysanthemum
  • lavender (quite a surprising one)
  • peonies
  • poppies
  • Tulips
  • sweet pea flowers

Some of these are quite surprising as they are probably some of the most popular flowers for people to have in their home. I for one am surprised that peonies are toxic, as they are my favourite flower! But now I know that they are potentially bad for my cat’s health, I now make sure to only ever have fake flowers. Again a full list of flowers can be found here from Cats Protection.

Final thoughts

As I have mentioned above, I always air on the side of caution. I will always put the welfare of my pets above the aesthetic nature of my house and/or garden. If you are ever worried, consult your vet or the Cats Protection website for full details on what plants and flowers should be avoided.

The other alternative is to do what I do: buy fake flowers! Not only do many fake flowers look IDENTICAL to the real thing, there is ZERO chance that I can kill it, meaning i don’t feel bad about any flower or plant dying as soon as I bring it home. As someone who has never had (nor is ever likely to develop) a green thumb, this option works perfectly for me to fill my house with beautiful flowers while ensuring that they cause no harm to my pets.

I hope you have found this article informative and I hope that it will inspire you to try new and varying flowers and plants for this coming year. If there are any others that you think should be added to the list, then please do let me know in the comments. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing pictures of all your wonderfully colourful – and now cat friendly! – gardens come summer!

T xxx

‘The reality of…’ series

When I was thinking about ways to improve this little blog, I thought about some of the things I wish I had known more about before I started on my vegan journey. There is so much information out there that it can be very overwhelming to really know what the reality of a situation is: I knew that eating meat felt immoral to me, but why did i think this? I knew that most vegans don’t wear wool or silk, but what was this based on?

Veganism can tend to be viewed in a very black and white mind frame, in that you are either 100% perfect or you are a bad vegan. Even when I have looked into some of the issues for my own interest and for my own information, the amount of information was still too overwhelming to really wade through, and the information was at both ends of a spectrum: Either 100% good or 100% bad. There was very little middle ground, and I think that this middle ground is where many people sit when deciding whether or not to begin a vegan lifestyle.

I therefore thought it would be helpful to see both sides of the arguments on a number of different topics and issues. Hence, ‘The reality of…’ series was born! I really want to be able to not only deepen my own knowledge of a topic, but also to share that information with others and open up a chance for discourse and discussion. I do not believe that anything in life is as a simple and good and bad, and this is always something that has really interested me. It will also be interesting to see what new things we learn along the way and see if that in turn affects our views on other subjects.

I truly believe that a person can never be too informed about a situation and as someone who loves learning and reading up on different viewpoints and arguments, I am really looking forward to seeing where this series goes. I cannot guarantee when I will post them, as I already think some topics may be WAY more complicated than others and therefore will have way more information to read through. But I will be aiming for at least once a month to begin with and see how I get on with that!

If any of you guys have any topics or issues that you would like to discuss or wish me to research, then please do let me know in the comments, or even send me an email and I shall do my best to get through them!

T xxx

Ben and Jerry’s Vegan: Save our Swirled Now

It has been 28 degrees (Celsius) here in England for the past week, and let me tell you that us British are NOT PREPARED for such prolonged heat. It happens so rarely in England and without any warning, so naturally we all just sort of freak out a bit when it gets to anything over 25 degrees. To anyone reading this who lives in a tropical or normally very hot country who may be thinking that 25 degrees is not very hot at all, please do remember that England rains 90% of the year and when it is not raining it is either completely grey or snowing. Heat is a strange occurrence that we still have not got to grips with.

I, however, love the heat. As someone who normally runs about 5 degrees colder than everyone else around her, I love being able to wear a t-shirt and not freeze instantly. If I am being honest, 25 is the perfect temperature for me. Mainly because it means i can eat ice cream for lunch and no one says anything because they too are melting.

Ben and Jerry’s are probably the best ice cream makers in the world. I don’t even think that’s an opinion anymore. They are so universally loved that you cannot think of ice cream without thinking of Ben and Jerry’s. And while I am STILL holding my breathe for a vegan phish food to be released, their vegan options are still a really good choice if you want something a bit more exciting than simply chocolate or vanilla.

The Save our Swirled Now flavour is their social justice campaign flavour to bring to light the issues surrounding climate change. So not only are they selling you ice cream, but they are also bringing your attention to a very real issue that needs very real and urgent support. The packaging is 100% plant based recyclable, and all ingredients are fair trade. For more information on the whole campaign and to read more on climate change, see these links:

The Ben and Jerry’s official Page

WWF Climate Change Fund

Earth Day page

National Geographic info page

There are hundred of articles out there about climate change and what we can do – individually and as a society – to reduce our impact on the environment, but these are the best starting point to see the facts and figures.

As to the overall flavour of the ice cream…it’s nice. It is quite sickly – due to the coconut, the caramel and the chocolate chunks – so you can’t eat more than a few spoonfuls in one go. But it does have a very nice balance of the flavours, and it is very refreshing on these hot summer days: With some fruit and maybe a little bit of whipped cream you’d have the perfect summer treat. The chocolate chunks also add a lovely crunchy texture to the ice cream, but just be careful you don’t crack a tooth on the very large chunks. I am not a fan of vanilla, so it is actually really good to have a flavour that is a bit more exciting than vanilla without being just pure chocolate.

But honestly, when my food also comes with a side of environmental activism, I am 100% a fan! The price of most Ben and Jerry’s Ice creams seems to be about £5.50 which is actually such a rip off when the non-vegan versions are only £3. Is it worth that money? For some flavours yes, but not so much for this. But would I pay that extra £2.50 to help support global activism and outreach tasks across the globe, and all I have to do is eat some ice cream? Absolutely.

Overall: As a flavour, 5/10. As a way to make an eco-conscious purchase, 9/10.

T xxx

How to have a sustainable Christmas

Christmas has just jumped up on us hasn’t it?! Usually you have all of November to prepare for Christmas and to ease into the festive spirit after Halloween, but as the UK spent all of November in lockdown, I emerged from my lockdown to endless Christmas tunes, Santa figures everywhere and far too much red and green decorations.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas: cosy pj sets, lots of food, time off to totally relax with my family and friends, wrapping up presents so they look all cute. But Christmas is also quite a wasteful time of the year, largely in part to the amount of wrapping and packaging that comes along with it all. I have tried my best to make sustainable choices this year, and thought I’d share with you guys some of my ideas that I have found really helpful over the Christmas period.

1. No wrapping paper

Most wrapping papers contain a plastic backing or covering on them and so cannot be recycled.I no longer buy wrapping paper. All of my presents have been wrapped with brown paper and I then also buy some ribbon or string to tie around presents to make them somewhat presentable. I have also seen some examples of people who buy a stamp to decorate the brown paper whoever they wish. Other alternatives is to wrap presents with newspaper, or even to wrap them with another gift: If you have bought someone a pretty scarf, you can use this scarf to wrap up another one of their gifts. You could also use reusable canvas bags or gift bags, so that once the present has been given the person then also has a useful bag to use moving forward.

2. Shop second hand

This can be hard, as I appreciate that not every single area of the country will have affordable charity stores, but even just buying a few good books or DVDs or CDs, or a nice new jumper for the winter from goodwill or a charity shop can make a big difference. Normally these places are cheaper than buying brand new in store (although with some charities this is not always the case) and you can also find some really cool, vintage style pieces that the recipient will no doubt love. It also helps you get used to not buying into fast fashion and helps you look out for more sustainable shopping options.

3. Shop locally/small

As with the above, this is not always easy. Places like Etsy have a lot of options available, but can sometimes be really expensive for what they are. That being said, if you know of someone on your Facebook or local area who makes candles or embroidery kits or can paint really pretty portraits, why not support them? Not only will you be getting some lovely handmade gifts to give people, you will also be helping to support a local and small business, all of whom have probably had a very tough 2020.

4. Make your own

Now you do not have to be overly creative in order to do this sort of gift. For example, if you know that your mom’s favourite hobby is sitting down with a good book and a big mug of tea, why not create a ‘Christmas Hamper’ for her which includes a few charity store books, a selection of different teas and maybe a fair of really fluffy and snugly socks. Not only is this way more personal for the person getting the gift, it can also be a lot of fun hunting out tiny little bits that you know the recipient will really appreciate. In previous years I have also made ‘Activity Jars’, where I fill up a jar with a load of different activities to do so the recipient can use it throughout the year if they are stuck for something to do. Get creative and see what you can come up with!

5. Buy sustainable gifts

One of the easiest ways is to buy people useful things that they already use every day. Items such as reusable coffee mugs, metal straws, wax food wrapping, canvas bags and refillable or insulated water bottles are all really good gift ideas that also support sustainability. Most people will use these items on a daily basis already, so buying them a sustainable version will mean they get a useful gift that they can use the whole year round.

Have you guys found anything else that helps with a sustainable holiday season? Let me know in the comments and I shall make sure to try them all out this year! Now to actually begin my own shopping…

T xxx