Should pugs be banned?

You will no doubt have seen the headlines this week regarding the Blue Cross’ latest campaign to tackle the ‘vicious cycle of over-breeding’ that is currently seen in pugs, bulldogs and other breeds of flat faced dogs. The increase in use of photos of such flat-faced dogs has led to a spike in popularity and thus more puppies are being bred to meet this new demand. However, aside from the normal health issues that come with any kind of unethical breeding, flat faced breeds are naturally more prone to a number of health issues.

The Blue Cross is asking and campaigning for marketing companies to stop using flat faced breeds in their own marketing campaigns as part of the #EndTheTrend campaign. Blue Cross are asking marketing firms to use a wider range of dogs in their marketing, hoping to showcase more underappreciated breeds and promote more diversity among dog populations. While the Blue Cross hasn’t actually said this, I personally would also like to see more use of rescue dogs, or dogs that are not ‘pedigree’.

The campaign is mostly centred around dogs, however the Blue Cross have also said that the health concerns of flat faced breeds of pet can also be seen in Persian cats and lionhead rabbits. My little bunny is herself part lionhead, so I am all for bringing more awareness to any breed of animal that may suffer niche health problems compared to their non-flat faced peers.

The health issues that come with flat faced breeds (the scientific term for this is brachycephalic, or brachy for short) include spinal problems, eye issues, heart issues and the main one, breathing issues. Due to the nature of their flat faces, the nasal cavities are either too short or non-existent which makes breathing very difficult for the breed. That ‘wheezing’ noise that pugs make is not cute – they literally cannot breathe properly.

Despite what the headlines suggest there is no call to ban the breeds from being owned in the UK, but there are calls to put heavier regulations onto breeders to ensure that their litters and dogs are correctly monitored and the correct health checks are carried out. I personally will never support breeders – it is one thing to adopt a pet who is already pregnant or you get an accidental litter in early days of ownership, but to actively make animals breed purely so you can make a profit just doesn’t sit right with me.

The current legislation

At the moment in England and Wales, a person who breeds 3 or more litters of puppies in one 12 month period must have a licence to do so under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (LAIA for ease). A person must also have a license if they breed dogs and advertise as a business of selling dogs. There is current guidance released which states that an activity can be defined as a business if the operator makes or carries out the activity in order to make a profit, or if they earn any commission or fee for the activity. In theory therefore, if a person has an accidental litter and gives the puppies away for free, then this would not require a licence.

How this is all regulated however it is hard to tell. Licenses are issued by local authorities, and so it is up to the local authorities to regulate and monitor each licence holder to ensure that they are meeting the correct standards. The Kennel Club also runs a scheme of Accredited Breeders and currently runs the largest database of pedigree dogs and a separate register for crossbreed dogs. However this Accredited Scheme appears to be done through a general application and requires any prospective breeder to pay a fee before they can be accepted. The Kennel Club website does state that they have qualified assessors who carry out checks on the breeder, their premises and their litters and dogs, but it does not explicitly state how often these checks are. I would have assumed annually, but I can’t say for certain.

Enforcement

As mentioned above it is hard to tell just how regularly breeders are checked and how enforcement is dealt with. The Kennel Club seems to have their own process, whereby any breeder who is deemed in need of improvement will be reassessed within a set period of time. However they then do not say what happens if these improvements are not made. It seems to suggest that all the breeder stands to lose is membership to the accredited scheme, but nothing more. At least, not from what I have been able to see.

Illegal trading

One of the big things to come from the COVID lockdowns was the increase in people who bought puppies. Spending the majority of their time inside meant it was the perfect time for people to buy a puppy as they now had ample free time to socialise, train and bond with their puppy, as well as providing many people a good excuse to leave the house for more than an hour a day to provide walkies. However this demand meant that many people were buying puppies – whether knowingly or not – from overseas and in many cases the puppies were not given the correct vaccinations or were taken from their mother too early and unfortunately would not survive for longer than a few months once in the UK. You may recall stories such as this one doing the rounds during 2020, with many families suffering heartbreak.

In 2020 a new action plan was published by the UK government with the help of RSPCA that will seek to limit the amount of puppies that can be imported from other countries. It will also seek to stop the importing of pregnant dogs or those who have had their ears cropped. The RSPCA are currently asking for signatures to support this bill, which will also apply to farm animals and primates once in force. You can find the link here.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think should happen?

Do you think banning a breed would be beneficial or do more harm than good?

What do you think the best solution would be?

I would love to hear what everyone thinks about this topic! Please do leave a comment below or feel free to contact me privately if you have any thoughts on the matter or if you find any other interesting resources related to this.

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

‘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

Is the American Dream real?

I was looking through some old photos over the weekend, and making myself sad about how I (and almost the entire world) have not had a holiday in almost 2 years!! I love travel, and now more than ever the travel blues and wanderlust has truly set in. The idea of getting on a plane and travelling to far away lands to meet new people, new cultures and (most importantly) new foods sounds like a fantasy to me right now.

So I thought I would share a few of my favourite finds over the years of my vegan discoveries, and I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the places I have visited. I am going to start a little travel part, where I can talk about the vegan food I have come across on my travels and also let you guys know which places are worth the visit and which are better missed.

In 2018, my partner and I went to LA for 2 weeks and it was…odd. I have been to LA before but I went when I was 16 and honestly I think LA was a very different place 10 years ago. The sheer size of the city itself baffles me. I have lived in London before, and worked in London for most of my professional career. London, I sometimes forget, is a tiny tiny little city compared to others. England as a whole is a tiny little island. It baffles me that in England, I can walk from one end of London to the other in under 2 hours (give or take). I can drive to Scotland in 4 hours. In LA, you drive for 3 hours and you’re still in LA. Blows my mind.

I have also never seen such a harsh contrast in money before. In London, the majority of places all look the same for the most part. Even in my area there aren’t really any ‘poor areas’. There are of course homeless people, but I also always see support workers and outreach workers on the street talking to them and helping them. I see people offering them food and drinks and any spare change they have. In LA, I would walk past huge, high-rise apartment complexes that have ‘For Rent’ signs hung across them, with make shift tents and shanty towns set up underneath them. I also noticed that all of the homeless people I saw, seemed to have a mental issue of some sort. They were either standing in the middle of the road with no shoes on, staring at the sky, or were swaying in the streets muttering to themselves. I would drive through beautiful well kept streets with mansions on every corner, drive across a set of lights, and see derelict houses with smashed in windows and beat up cars with no tires on in the drive ways.

Now I know that London has it’s share of issues, as does every city and neighbourhood across the world. But I had never seen such a harsh split between wealth as I did while I was in LA. I have also never felt my privileged so much before. We stayed in a hotel that was in Downtown LA, about a ten minute walk from the finance district. On our first night, after a 12 hour flight, we ran across the road to the McDonalds to grab something quick for dinner before we both passed out from exhaustion. We stood in line, and were greeted by 2 different people showing us their crack pipes, and the other ten people eyeing up our trainers. Needless to say….we left. And never went back in there again.

There were some parts of LA and the surrounding area that were beautiful, and were the picture perfect ‘American Dream’ that we are all sold. I completely understood why people wanted to live in those areas. Hell, ever since I first visited LA when I was 16 I planned my whole life around one day moving to LA and living by the Californian coast and surfing every morning. But that dream came crashing down around me when I saw how ignored some parts of the city were. Not even unkempt, or lazily maintained….there were places that had clearly not seen any care from the government or services in decades. There appeared to be no infrastructure at all to help anyone. And maybe it’s just who I am but I couldn’t ignore it all.

Now maybe it was because we went in November, so there weren’t many tourists, the weather wasn’t always bright sunshine and there weren’t any crowds to hinder our views of places. Venice Beach was the biggest shock to us: There was barely anyone there. We walked along the boardwalk and were met with the homeless people trying to sell us their crafts and boarded up shops. We saw two shanty towns that had been made down side streets, and the entire strip just looked….sad. It didn’t look anything like the Hollywood movies would have you believe, with the bustling crowds and muscle beach jocks and the beautiful life guards running in slow motion along the golden sand. It looked abandoned.

Despite everything though, we still had a wonderful time. We got to go to Universal Studios, Disneyland and even got excellent seats to watch WWE Survivor Series live at the Staples Centre. It was a holiday of exciting highs but truly upsetting lows. To see a city that is so often painted as the Land of Dreams, to in reality just to be completely mundane and in some place downright depressing. I have walked alone in London at 2am, and never felt unsafe, but in LA we were genuinely worried to be out past sundown. We were usually out at 7am as soon as the sun came out and then back at the hotel by 7pm when the sun went down.

If any of you are from LA, please PLEASE tell me your experiences of living in LA. Am I just being cynical? Have I just gotten too used to England life and customs that anything different to that shocks me to my core? Am I sounding like a bit of a pompous cow? Obviously this was just my experience, and part of me is curious to go back during peak tourism season to see if LA is a totally different place when it is full of people. I do have some truly wonderful memories of LA and the surrounding areas, and I think LA will always hold a very special place in my heart. But I also feel like LA is best to be dreamed about, rather than lived. If reality and practicalities were no issue, I would still love to live in a little seaside apartment where I can surf every morning and jog along the beach in the evening. But unfortunately the reality is not that and the practicalities of life in LA (and America as a whole from what I have read) mean that the American Dream is something that is not, if ever, actually achievable.

If you are an American, or a LA local, please let me know your thoughts. Let me know if there are any non-tourist areas that I need to visit instead and I shall add it my travel plans! Stay safe everyone.

T xxx

100 POSTS!

How strange to think that this is now my 100th post on Taylor Tries Her Best! To think that I started this blog purely to talk about my newest vegan discoveries and now look at where we are!

What’s even weirder to think about is that I have written 100 posts, of which at least 90 of them have been about a vegan meal in some way, and yet I have only just started to try everything that is available out there. Which is why I find it so hard to answer the question ‘What do vegans eat?’ because – clearly – we are just as spoilt for choice as the rest of society is. The idea that vegans are super lean, super green, animal loving machines that only eat salads and fruit is so alien to me: If this blog teaches you anything I hope it’s that vegans come in all shapes and sizes and get their food from the exact same places as everyone else does…we just don’t use animals to do so.

But mainly, thank you to everyone who has joined me on this platform. I appreciate every single one of you and hope that over the many years that I hope I can run this blog for, we can discover new and exciting recipes, treats and meals together as a team.

Be safe out there guys, and I shall see you all soon for another day of me stuffing my face!

T xxx

Can vegans visit zoos?

One of the big dilemmas that many vegans face (myself included) is the issue regarding zoos: We want to see wild animals that we may never get to see, but we also don’t know how we feel about these animals being taken from their natural habitat and put on display for us to stare at. Now there are laws in place that state how big animal enclosures must be, how these animals are to be treated and how these animals are to be transported and cared for during the move between zoos. However, just because something is protected by law that doesn’t mean that it is inherently moral to do so.

Animal rights and zoos will always be a minefield because there are so many conflicting points to debate. So much so that you could write a 10,000 word essay on animals within captivity and the influence this has on their rights…which is exactly what I did for my undergraduate law degree! But for ease, I shall try and summarise the main points as best I can, as well as provide you with further information where you can read up on the matter and come to your own conclusion.

Conservation

One of the big reasons to keep zoos part of modern society is that they could be argued to be a huge source of conservation for endangered animals. London Zoo, for example, carry out conservation efforts in nature reserves around the world, using part of the money they earn through donations and zoo tickets to fund these efforts abroad. But with all conservation, the real reason why conservation is needed is because the wild animals are being hunted to such an extent that they are now at the risk of becoming extinct. One could argue that the main issue regarding animal welfare is that the trade and hunting of animals needs to be (ideally) completely stopped and properly policed, which would then allow the animals in turn to rebuild their numbers naturally without the need for human interference. However as this is unlikely to ever happen (at least not in the next 20 years) conservation efforts allow zoos to help these efforts abroad while collectively looking for a better solution. You can read more on the London Zoo conservation programmes here.

Education

This is very closely linked the conservation work, as most zoos run education programmes. These programmes help to educate their visitors and schools about the real life issues that are facing their favourite animals: deforestation, hunting, wildlife trade, pollution, human interference etc. All of these issues impact on animals in a variety of different ways, and for many people they would not know about this impact had they not learnt about it at the zoo. Now during university I actually worked part time at London Zoo (as a retail worker, not actually with the animals…unless you count the guests…) and it always surprised me how little people knew about the animals they were looking at. For many of the guests I spoke to, the zoo was their first real introduction to these animals as real life, living beings that needed our help. It is one thing to hear about the threat to tigers due to poaching in the news, but to actually see these beautiful creatures up close brings the reality to your doorstep. These animals do not want to be in captivity, but for many of them these animals have not known any different: They have been bred in captivity to keep their numbers up because their wild counterparts are being hunted to the point of extinction. By educating people to this nasty reality, zoos can help people take real action by donating to conservation efforts, volunteering abroad or by spreading awareness themselves of the issues that are affecting animals world wide.

Now of course this raises the other issue of breeding animals within captivity, only to keep them in captivity, but again these issues are so complex and have so many different aspects that require further research and debate, that one blog post would never be able to do it any justice! One big reason against animal breeding programmes in captivity is that zoos physically do not have the space to ensure that the animal gene pool is varied enough in order to help those animals survive in the wild. You can read more about these issues here.

Lack of natural behaviour

Another thing that really struck me while doing my research is how different animals react to life in captivity. It may seem quite obvious: prey animals thrive while predatory animals tend to suffer more. For prey animals, in the wild they are – naturally – hunted for food by the bigger animals and thus do not tend to live very long lives. Therefore in captivity, with this threat of being eaten removed, they can surpass their usual life expectancy. Plus with all of this extra free time they’ve now gained (since they no longer have to fear for their lives every day) they are free to play, explore and mate as much as they wish, meaning that when you see them in the zoo they are most likely displaying their very natural behaviours that you are less likely to see in the wild.

The predators on the other hand do not display this behaviour. When I worked at the zoo, I sometimes got to work near the lions, and people were always upset that these lions were not running around and roaring 24/7. To which we would always reply ‘why would they?’. (PSA: Lions do not roar unless in a fight, but they do make strange howling noises at dawn. If you are ever near Regents Park at about 6/7am, listen closesly and you may actually be able to hear the lions morning alarm!) In the wild these predatory animals would usually have to walk vast distances every single day in the hunt for food, but in captivity this food is delivered to them, every day at the same time, and so they have no need to hunt. And also, let us not forget that lions are called big cats for a reason, and when was the last time you saw any cat do something that it didn’t absolutely have to do? If my cat is lying close enough to her food, she sometimes won’t even stand up to eat. This is why you do not see many big predators in captivity: The longest a Great White Shark has ever been kept in captivity was 198 days, and this was only because it had to be released for eating the other sharks in the exhibit with it. While I am all for education, I somehow don’t think a child needs to see another creature ripped to shreds by a shark.

Feeding issues

Another big issue that keeping predatory animals in captivity raises is how to feed them. Many large predators eat whole other animals in a day or two, and this puts a massive strain not only on the zoo to be able to afford to supply such food, but also on the animals that are being killed needlessly to feed an animal that does not need to be in captivity in the first place. As we saw with our friendly shark above, most sharks feed off of seals, turtles and other large fish, which would not only be hugely costly to have imported into the zoo on a weekly basis, but also counterproductive: why pay money to help turtle conservation efforts while simultaneously paying for turtles to be captured and killed to be turned into food for your zoo animals? While this example is a bit extreme, it does raise the question of the needs of the few or the needs to the many: Is it better to let one animal die out in the wild, or let hundreds of less endangered animals die to support it in captivity? This is not an easy question to answer, and it is essentially an issue that needs to be debated in an entirely separate blog post, but it is still important to think about this issue and to research if there ever could be a happy medium.

Nature reserves

For those who do not go to zoos for moral reasons, nature reserves could be the happy alternative that combines the best of both worlds. The animals are kept in relative freedom (i.e, they are not confined by cages but their territories are limited to the space of the reserve) and yet people are still able to visit and to see these animals in a more natural setting. Nature reserves also bring with it their own levels of protection, in that hunting in national reserves are (for the most part anyway) illegal. There can be some work arounds, but for the most part the animals within nature reserves are protected from any poachers and are a big source of tourism: People will travel far and wide to see an animal in their natural habitat, and this in turn provides money, jobs and continued support for the countries with nature reserves and the communities around them. Nature reserves still help to educate people, and help with conservation efforts, while allowing the animals within them to live almost entirely free of any human interaction or interference. But it does also allow for humans to step in when needed, to patrol the boundaries for any poachers, to provide veterinary care whenever an endangered animal becomes sick. Nature reserves therefore help to provide a healthy balance between humans helping animals to survive while still allowing them to live free and natural lives.

What are your thoughts? How do you feel about zoos? Let me know in the comments below as I always want to hear the different opinions surrounding these issues.

T xxx

Black Lives Matter

The death of George Floyd has shocked and enraged the world and the protests that have been and continue to be carried out in the USA over this past week are long overdue. But this is also the first time that I have ever been face to face with my own privilege. As it stands the only thing I have working against me is that I am a woman, and this is something that I have always actively fought against. I am here to hold my hands up to say that while I was aware of the injustices that have been happening, I never felt like there was anything I could do because I am not American.

But enough is enough. I recently came across a video that was shared by Vanessa Grimaldi on Instagram (her page can be found here) which showed how black parents are having to raise their children to deal with everyday racism. No one should ever have to be raised to fear the police, or to fear that they will be killed or unjustly punished purely because of their skin colour. I am sickened, angered and appalled that racism is still as pronounced as it very clearly is and I am also so embarrassed that I was not aware of this. But on her page, Vanessa also shares a really helpful document (here) on all different types of resources that us white people can use to educate ourselves and to help support anti-racism work.

Billie Eillish also released a statement that perfectly sums up why the #blacklivesmatter movement is so important and she expresses it in a way that I can not do justice to. You can read it here, and again it shows the massive issue that seems to always follow anytime Black Lives Matter is mentioned. Yes all lives matter, but as it stands society still seems to believe that black lives matter less than other lives.

I have spent so much of my time fighting for the right of animals, to protect our environment and to ensure that everyone is respected and protected – regardless of their gender, race, sexuality, religion or any other identifier that you want to pick. A person’s life and their value as a person should never be based on their skin colour, and it seems so alien to me that this sort of hatred still exists in the world today. If I was to be completely honest with you all, I am not 100% comfortable about discussing these issues, but this isn’t about me. These conversations need to happen and change needs to come about. Proper, real change that will mean that black kids can go to school without fear of being harassed by the police, or that their skin colour will effect opportunities throughout their life. So get uncomfortable, get mad about this and do something about it. This list here is also a good place to start!

It’s time that I, and all white people, use our privilege to help those who have been oppressed. The list above has been a great resource to start with and as I find more I shall share these with you too. I am learning and currently educating myself more about this issue and how I can help, and if you guys have any other resources or comments or advice to help to spread the message then please do get involved, leave a comment and let me know.

Stay safe, stay strong and together we will all get through this. If 2020 has taught us anything it is that we need to support every member of society and to work together to ensure that racism is once and for all a thing of the past. 

UPDATE: 2/01/2020

Here are a few more resources that I have found if you are also looking for more information:

https://www.theblackcurriculum.com/ourcurriculum – a social enterprise to bring Black British History to the general curriculum. They have a lot of information, worksheets and lessons available for teachers and students to use in school. You can also donate to their cause through the website.

There is also a link here to add more diversity to the current English GCSE curriculum, by adding titles such as ‘I’m no longer talking to white people about race’ By Reni Eddo-Lodge to the list of books that are to be studied.

Here is a list of American Bail Funds that you can also donate to (if possible) should you not be able to attend a protest in person but still want to help those at the protests. This is American specific, but anyone in the world can donate.

You can use this template to write to our MP. You can find out who your MP is by using this website.

This one is a little outside of the box, but you could try to protest virtually: Chinese players of Animal Crossing have been using the game to display political protest messages. Create your own signs and have them available to download for the wider community, or share these creations on other social media to help spread the message further.

A fellow Blogger, Blogging By Hayley, has this really useful history page about black history in the UK.

Update: 05/06/2020

Here is also a full list of the petitions that you can sign in the UK. They only take a few seconds to sign and are also a good way to be involved with change if you aren’t sure where to begin.

T xxx

What my bullet journal taught me

I’m sure you have heard it before but having a bullet journal genuinely changed my life!

img_20200527_172102

As you can see, my bullet journal is not the most artistic of places. Mainly because I am not a super artistic person…yet! I have used this lockdown period to play around with watercolour painting and it has been nice to play around with something new. I am most definitely someone who needs to write stuff down as it helps me plan out my day and shows what I need to do and what I need to work on. Even when I was at work, I was The To-Do List Maker in the office: Everything is colour co-ordinated and everything is written down in a notebook somewhere. Dated and indexed, of course.

1. To accept chaos

As someone who strives to be perfect in every aspect of my life (and is something that I am working hard to combat), my bullet journal became just another form of stress for me because if a spread didn’t turn out exactly how I imagined in my mind (which was very often!) I would deem myself a failure and not use the bullet journal as it is intended. As I have said before I am not artistic. I can doodle as much as the next person, however whenever you look at bullet journals on Pinterest or on YouTube those bullet journals are genuine works of art.

While I have been using a bullet journal for the majority of this year, I have learnt to just accept that perfection is not always obtainable. Plans will change, and this will result in a big old line through the page. Bits will be scribbled in and scribbled out, dates will undoubtedly become confused and sometimes the whole spread just needs to be binned because it doesn’t actually work for what I need it to. I now know to use my bullet journal for exactly what it is intended for: organisation and stress relief…I write what I need to do or remember and if it is messy, then oh well. I forget that no one will be seeing this but me and if I don’t mind, then it really doesn’t matter.

img_20200527_172126

2. That I really don’t do much

Another thing I realised during my first few months of bullet journalling was seeing just how empty my first few spreads were. No wonder I always felt unmotivated because I was literally going to work, coming home, sleeping and then doing that day after day after day. I wasn’t doing anything for me. Sure I would see friends, but when I looked back at the month I had had, I noticed that even these were only really a couple hours out of my weekend.

I therefore realised just how much time I had and that I should spend at least some of that time on me. Even if I only did 20 minutes of exercise once a week, it was at least one thing during the week that I had done that was (at this point anyway) out of the ordinary. It is something that I always make sure to do, so that even if I have a really busy day at work I make sure to go home and watch a YouTube video or read a page of a book or even go for a long walk through the local park. Now, I feel that my time is being spent more wisely and I am finally making progress on those little personal projects that I always wanted to start.

3. That I do not need multiple notebooks on the go at one time

I will be the first to admit that I LOVE notebooks. And stationary. Of every variety. It is one of the few things that I can genuinely say that I am obsessed with. So naturally I always have tons of notebooks lying around and not being put to their intended use. As with before, I always believe that a pretty journal deserves to be filled with pretty writing, and as my hand writing is not the prettiest I have always been hesitant to dishonour those notebooks with it. But again, I learnt how to let go of everything always looking ‘perfect’ and I have also learnt that a notebook does not need to be used for one particular task: Sure, I could have ten list books going at one time, but why bother with the stress of remembering what list is in which notebook when I can compile it all into one notebook. This way, no matter what it is I am looking for, I know that it will be in my bullet journal. And since I also make sure to index my pages or at least have them in a semi-organised order, I know exactly where in my bullet journal to find the information I am after.

4. My bullet journal keeps me focused

One of the big selling points of a bullet journal is that it can be a form of accountability. Every time I set up the month ahead for my journal, I make sure to include a list of three goals for the month ahead. At the end of the month, I then include a place to see whether any of those goals worked and what needs to be changed to make it work for next month. This has meant that I have finally managed to set those important routines and habits that help me get through the day, from remembering to take my vitamins to making sure I workout or prepare a blog post. This also means that I am actually sticking to the goals that I make for myself and also means that I actually achieve these goals. And let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying that crossing off an item on your To-Do list.

If you guys use a bullet journal, what have you found works well for you? Also let me know what spreads have been life-savers/changers for you so I can give them a try!

T xxx

Hug your pets today

Yesterday, we lost our Merry.

img-20190828-wa0005Little Merry enjoying a bit of banana in my hand

He was about 3 years old and had been on the decline for a few days. We made vet appointments just to be sure but he didn’t make it to them. He died at home, next to his brother Pippin, with me and my partner nearby to help comfort him in those last moments.

He was, without a doubt, the sweetest and most calming presence in our lives. We got Merry and Pippin after we had moved into our first place together. We were still commuting into London (an hour each way) and working super long days, but coming home to them both made the flat we were renting really start to feel like a home for us. Merry was always the calming presence: He always kept his cool and only lost it if he saw a piece of banana coming his way. He would sit happily up on our shoulders and survey his kingdom from on high, and there was no greater pleasure for him than running away from us around our flat and making us chase him, always staying just out of arms reach or waiting until the last minute before hopping over our hands and running circles around us.

IMG_20180428_152458The ultimate floof

Even when we moved house into our first owned property, when we were rushing around trying to get everything sorted and get everything into place, Merry was completely unfazed. He and Pippin slept almost entirely through the house move and when they did wake up to explore, they ran around again as if they owned the place, Merry always making sure that Pippin didn’t get trapped in any small space and didn’t run into anything he shouldn’t have. Merry helped us to slow down in the evenings and to remind us that everything can be a game if you want it to be. Even in his final hours, he would sit quietly in our hands, nibble on his favourite chocolate treat and lick our fingers as thank you. No matter what is happening, there is always time in the day for a treat.

In one way I am so grateful that we are in lockdown, because it meant that I could be there for him in his last moments. I know that he lived a good life and was probably one of the most spoilt little gerbils in the whole world. But it still hurts. I know that he is in a better place now, where it rains yogurt drops and there are endless tunnels to dig and explore. I feel very grateful that of all the gerbils in the world, we were lucky enough to get Merry.

So please hug your pets today. Tell them how much you love them and how honoured you are to be their guardian. Enjoy the moments when they are driving you mad or testing your limits, because those will be the things that you look back on and laugh about. Hug them close and spoil them because I can guarantee you that they are completely worth every second of it. Yes this hurts, and my house already feels a little bit emptier now that he is gone, but if given the chance to do it all again I would. Without any hesitation. Without any doubt in my mind. Merry made me a better person, and if you have never had pets I understand why that may seem like a strange concept, but Merry taught me how to enjoy the moment, to explore everything that I come into contact with and to see every new environment as a chance for a new game.

I had a lot of plans for this week as it is Mental Health Awareness Week. But those are now out of the window. So instead, I am going to cuddle Pippin, buy him all of the new toys he wants and help my household through this grieving process. Which in a way, I guess is also looking after my Mental Health anyway!

Stay safe everyone, give your pets a massive hug from me, and maybe take today to enjoy all of the little moments that you have with them. If your pet falls asleep on you, I guess you now have no choice but to nap with them!

T xxx

 

Wash your hands!!

It has been a bit of a weird time this week. Half of the world is going mental about coronavirus, while the other half is pretending that nothing is happening.

I have been super busy this week, trying to figure out what the plan is for everything moving forward. And I’m sorry to say, there is no real plan because there is so much unclear at the moment. So this is just a little note for everyone:

Stay safe out there, look after each other and keep your hands clean!

T xxx