Can vegans support zoos?

I want to have a discussion with you all, because it is something that I have been very interested in for some time. When I was at university I actually did a whole dissertation on whether zoos were good or bad for animal welfare. I went in thinking that there was no way that zoos could be a good thing, however through my research it actually turned out to be a very grey area of animal welfare. I am therefore very keen to see what all of your thoughts are on this subject.

Now this is by no means a comprehensive essay: My dissertation was 10,000 words and even that required a lot of editing down! But I wanted to bring to light some of the main arguments for and against zoos, and the issues that come with them. I have tried to include as many links as I can to articles and research, but as I say I cannot include every single piece of research that I have ever done on this subject. If you have any other interesting or useful reads, please do leave them in the comments below!

Animal welfare

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, any animal in captivity is covered by this act. Zoos and aquariums are also covered by the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 although this act was amended in 2002 to create more obligations on Local Councils when deciding whether or not to license a new zoo, as well as to ensure that animal welfare practices were more in line with the EU directives. In summary, the animals are to have a suitable environment, prevention and protection from harm, suitable food supplies and their living must be as close to the wild as reasonably possible to achieve.

The issue with legislation though is that it is a blanket. It has to cover so many different species, situations and objectives that it can fail when it comes to practically applying the rules contained within it. A study carried out in 2002 by Clubb and Mason found that elephants die far younger in captivity than they do in the wild. One suggestion is that these animals especially have very complex social structures, one that can be hard to recreate in a captive environment. Their social structures are also constantly changed by the zoo, either to keep groups small or to trade members for a new member to either increase chances of mating or to bring in new visitors to the zoo. Elephants are known to create lifelong bonds with the children and other members of their group, and to constantly have your social group changed undoubtedly has a negative impact on the animal’s emotional and mental well being. They are also huge creatures that are used to walking miles everyday – roughly the same distance from London to Oxford! There is no way any zoo are able to create an environment that really allows for this amount of exercise, and when they do not have the adequate amount of exercise, they can develop a number of physical conditions which they would not have had they been in the wild.

There is also the common knowledge that highly intelligent animals struggle to cope mentally within captivity: If you have not yet watched the 2013 movie Blackfish, I would highly recommend it. It shows very graphically what can happen when a highly intelligent animal is stuck in an stimulating and unrewarding environment. The film highlights very clearly that not only is animal welfare needed for the safety of the animals, but also for the safety of the staff, handlers and keepers who look after these animals. There are countless articles about zoochosis, whereby animals in captivity begin to show symptoms of mental and physical illness: This can include pacing, biting and headbutting the environment around them, heightened aggression towards keepers and other animals in the enclosure, swaying and over grooming to name a few. Some animals, such as great white sharks most infamously, do not even survive a year in captivity: The longets a great white was ever held in captivity was for 198 days.

However this tends to be most common in the larger (usually hunting) animals: bears, killer whales, elephants, big cats and primates. Prey animals, such as meerkats, giraffes and gazelle, tend to do quite well in captivity and are less documented in exhibiting signs of zoochosis. The logical conclusion to this information is that prey animals undoubtedly live longer in captivity because they are not being constantly hunted by bigger animals: they do not need to run and hide at every noise, they do not need to be on alert while eating. For many captive prey animals, the ones born in captivity have probably never even seen a predator. Granted some of this nature will be innately woven into their DNA – to be skittish and scared and on edge at all times – however if you have never seen a lion before, would you know to run? Are these animals still suffering? Of course there is a lack of research surrounding this area and the affect it can have on every animal, but it does make you wonder and is something to be contemplated.

Conservation

A paper by William Conway suggested that while conservation efforts were needed, regulation still is not universal enough to ensure that every single zoo does the same level of work and to the same standard. Every country has their own legislation in place to ensure that zoos carry out a degree of conservation work, however this varied largely across the world. Conway suggests that work needs to be done to create a more cohesive world wide plan, since zoos rely so heavily on other zoos for their animals.

London Zoo, for example, spend a large amount of their profits carrying out conservation efforts, with Woburn Safari Park carrying out multiple conservation projects at their own zoo as well as fundraising to support the efforts of conservation charities abroad. A large part of conservation though is understanding the animals and their natural behaviour and this may not always be possible to monitor in the wild. Zoos allow scientists to observe animals around the clock, to check on their psychical and mental characteristics so that this information can be published to other zoos and experts, and better conservation efforts can be made to suit the needs of the animal in question. Conservation methods can be made to be specific and measurable for that exact animal species in question, rather than trying to use a blanket method for a number of different species.

Education and awareness

This is probably the biggest reason why zoos exist, especially nowadays. I remember going on many a school trip to London Zoo and getting to spend all day hearing about the animals and their different characteristics. As a massive animal lover, there is something truly magical about seeing these amazing creatures in real life. I imagine for some people, it gives a real life animal to put to the horrible stories of deforestation, poaching and climate change that we see on the news. It is one thing to see images of a poacher standing proudly over their kill of a wild lion, but quite another to see that same lion standing before you in a zoo. You see the animals that we as humans are affecting and impacting with our actions and it can really drill home to you the changes that need to be made worldwide to protect them.

A large part of zoos (and I know in some of them they do this anyway) should be to show the impact that we humans are having on these animals. Yes these animals should be in the wild, however these are why animals cannot survive in the wild anymore: orangutans are losing their habitats to deforestation and rhinos are being poached to extinction for the belief that their horns hold medicinal remedies. More awareness needs to be raised around these issues, and it is up to zoos to not only educate the general public to take action, but to also step up and demand better protections are granted to these animals so that they do not end up in zoos as the only means for these animals to actually survive. In 2020 alone, roughly 50 species of animals went extinct (not including the 100s of species of plant life which also went extinct), and the number of animals classed as endangered rose by 16,000 in the last year alone. There are now around 40,000 endangered species around the world, and for many people the only time to ever see these endangered species in the flesh will be at a zoo.

Animal trade

This links very closely to conservation and animal welfare, because unfortunately the trading of animals amongst zoos is necessary for conservation efforts: The European Endangered Species Programme is made up of a number of zoos across Europe, who all work together to increase managed breeding within their endangered species. It is quite obvious therefore that animals are constantly being traded between each zoo, especially when you think that without trade between these zoos, the risk of inbreeding heightens with every new generation born – and this is clearly not going to be helpful for conservation plans.

Now I think we all know that the animals are not transported in first class accommodation: of course there are laws in place to say what an animal must be transported in, but I doubt they are in a luxurious plane all to themselves with entertainment and food available whenever they wish. They’re not on Qatar Air right? Unfortunately that is just a reality of the industry, and way more work needs to be done to ensure that these practises are improved and sustained for the future. But as with all of these things it is a work in progress and it will take more than this blog to kick the whole world into implementing change.

Is the trade industry necessary? For conservation plans, yes, undoubtedly it is. Without these trades, managed breeding programmes would not be able to exist past the first new generation as the risk of inbreeding becomes far greater and harder to manage in one zoo on their own. However, would the entire EEP even exist if better measures were put in place world wide to stop the unsustainable killing, deforestation and poaching of these animals in the wild? Another debate for another time but it is something that needs to b e weighed up when discussing this issue.

Economic/tourism implications

Something that also needs to be considered is the economic impact that zoos have on a city. London Zoo alone have roughly 1.25 million visitors every year and with a day ticket costing around £35.00, that is an obscene amount of money being raised. That doesn’t even include the amount of revenue brought in for the food and drink, plus donations from supporters. The taxes that they pay must be in figures that the likes of us may never even imagine. Zoos are also a massive tourist draw, with people travelling all over the world to see different animals. San Diego zoo on its own is an entire day out – look at the size of this place! Every country in the world relies heavily on tourism to bring people into their country and to show off their what their country has to offer, and a massive part of that may be their world renowned zoos.

This also doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of people it takes to run a zoo and the amount of jobs that a zoo creates: Aside from the actual keepers and handlers, you also need to account for chefs, waiting staff, retail assistants, security, account teams, corporate managers, HR staff, garment makers for the clothes on sale and the toys which can be bought, the graphic designers for the zoo signs and information boards and the architects and labourers who build the exhibits and the enclosures. Millions of people world wide are employed by zoos, so to get rid of them completely would mean millions of people lose their livelihood. Even I worked at a zoo while I was studying at uni, as a part time waitress, and I was just one of a team of 50 people. Zoos are a massive industry and for many keepers, I imagine their entire life has been in training to work at a zoo, to care for these exotic animals that very few people ever have the chance to see let alone care for.

My thoughts?

Personally, I am still so conflicted. I know that zoos are important and I think it would be incredibly damaging to abruptly close down an entire industry. I also believe that zoos are beneficial for some animals and actually provide a better quality of life than they would have had in the wild. But that does not mean I am happy that these animals can’t live in the wild. In an ideal world, these animals would all be left to live, thrive and enjoy their environment without us humans barging in to take from them. I try my best to always advocate for animal welfare, but it would be naive of me to ignore the impact that zoos have on this work. The donations they provide to other charities that carry out real groundwork in other countries is fundamental in helping create change.

Now would I chose to go to the zoo if I had a day off and nothing to do? Probably not. But if my nephew or my family wanted us to take a trip to the zoo as part of a family day out? I would go, not only so that I could spend time with my loved ones and see these beautiful and majestic creatures up close, but also because again it is the education and awareness that zoos can create that can inspire new people to take a stand to protect an animal they have just fallen in love with. I hope one day every animal can be at peace and at home in the wild, but until then I want to support conservation and education efforts.

As I said, this is by no means meant to be comprehensive, and it is only meant to provide you with a basic overview of some to the main issues surrounding zoos and the work that they do. But I hope it has at least inspired a thought in you, and has inspired you to do more research into what you as an animal lover can do to help protect them – both in captivity and in the wild.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments, and if you guys have any other interesting articles to read, then please do leave those in the comments as well!

T xxx

NaNoWriMo 2020!

November is National Novel Writing Month and NaNoWriMo is a worldwide charity that helps people write their novels and pieces of literature. November is the big month, where WriMo’s aim to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This works out to an average of 1667 words per day.

I have taken part in NaNo 3 times previously, and have also done their CampNaNo’s in July and August, where people are encouraged to write whatever they want, for whatever length, for the whole month to encourage people to create something new and exciting for the world of writing. I talk about my previous experience in this blog here. 2020 has undoubtedly been a tough year, and I have actually had some pretty bad writers block for most of it: It can be hard to truly escape the world when the news is constantly bombarding you with the latest figures and depressing stats. But as England has now gone into another 4 week long Lockdown, I thought now would be the time to truly dive into my imagination and try and get back to creating something new.

If you want to find out more, you can find the website here. If any of you are taking part, please do connect with me online! My NaNo username is TailsMcleod. And if you have any writing prompts to throw at me to help with the writer’;s block please do let me know!

Stay safe guys and I’ll see you soon!

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

Plant Kitchen Sweet Potato Katsu Curry

Well I messed this up ROYALLY!

img_20200617_182921

So we have had a very busy week and with the weather being what it has been this entire week, we decided to just head out and grab ourselves a ready meal. So far so good. We don’t actually own a microwave and for the most part have never ever needed one. But we double checked all of the instructions to be sure that we could cook everything in the oven. We were both happy so we came home ready for a nice easy meal that we didn’t actually have to cook.

Got home, read the instructions again – still all good. Shoved it into the oven for 10 minutes and when I opened it up to turn it all around and check on the progress, I was met with this….

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The plastic container had melted.

Luckily, the sweet potato chunks that were included had to be cooked on a separate tray with the rice and sauce to be cooked in the plastic container. TURNS OUT….only the sweet potato was to be put into the oven. The rest was meant to be microwaved.

Unimpressed GIFs | Tenor

To be on the safe side, I just threw the katsu part away and made myself some butter pasta to go with my sweet potato chunks. The sweet potato chunks were really nice and had a lovely crispy panko covering on it, but as it was only 4 pieces it was not really a meal by any standards. If only it had some sort of sauce – a katsu sauce maybe? – to go with it, then it would have been really something!

So not only did I not actually end up eating half of the meal, I also realised that despite my many years of practice – I CANNOT READ PROPERLY.

PSA: Check the instructions! Always. If in doubt, get another 2 or 17 people to check the instructions for you. 

Overall: Epic fail. And as I don’t have a microwave, I may never get to fully enjoy this meal. Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be in my room eating biscoff spread straight from the jar and contemplating my life.

T xxx

Veganism and fast fashion

For many people within the vegan community, they chose to go vegan for the environment. Animal agriculture is the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, beaten only by the consumption of fossil fuels. Roughly a third of all of the Earth’s non-ice land is used to raise the 70 billion livestock animals needed to meet demand, and this in turn causes large amounts of deforestation to make enough space for these animals to grow. A study showed that beef consumption caused on average 1,984 pounds of CO2 emissions annually, and by swapping beef for plants, this cut C02 emissions by 96%.

But one of the other biggest drains on our environment is that of fast fashion. Fast fashion is a term used to describe fashion trends that quickly follow any new runway season. Large retailers, such as Zara, H&M and New Look are the most prominent in the fast fashion industry, as they churn out new collections at least 3 times a year. IN 2018, the fashion industry contributed 8% of all man-made greenhouse gases. While 8% may not seem like much, that is still more than both aviation and shipping combined!

The other issue that arises with fast fashion is that of sweat shops. Due to the cheap labour that can come from sweat shops, many companies will outsource their labour to places such as Bangladesh and Cambodia. The labour is cheap, so it keeps their overall costs down and means that they can turn a bigger profit. However the issue with sweat shops is that the workers are almost always in poor working conditions, with little to no health and safety protection and for very small wage. Everyone knows that sweatshops exist and that they are not appropriate working places for anyone int his modern world, but unfortunately our desire to constantly be consuming the latest fashion trends means that sweatshops remain open and in business. Sweat shops are also a cestpool for exploitation and wage theft, where people are forced to work in terrible conditions because they have no other option, and also do not have the proper employment infrastructure in place to adequately protect their interests while working for these industries.

Veganism itself is, by definition, a way of living that causes the least amount of harm. This does not exist purely for the animals. Do not get me wrong, I love fashion. I have had a subscription to Vogue since I was 14 and have spent so many hours admiring the beautiful collections that have been created over the years. I am also human, and sometimes there is no greater joy in the world than finding that perfect dress that makes you feel like a princess or a pair of jeans that fit both your hips, waist and your butt perfectly! But I cannot ignore the fact that those perfect jeans were made by exploited members of our world, and that by buying them I am undoubtedly contributing and perpetuating their exploitation.

But what can be done? In reality we cannot simply not buy clothes, because walking around naked is still illegal (or at least highly frowned upon) in almost every country in the world. And our bodies will also undoubtedly change as we go through life, from growing as children to adults, to pregnancy, to weight gain, to weight loss, to old age. Our bodies are constantly changing and therefore we will need clothes for each of these stages in our lives. The struggle is very real, because the main issue starts at the very top: Fashion designers and makers need to start creating collections that focus on sustainability and longevity, rather than items that can be worn twice and thrown away. Admittedly a lot of companies are now working towards this, with the Paris Agreement coming into force in 2015 and giving many companies, including those within the fashion industry, a good kick up the butt to get their sustainability plans in order to cut their carbon emissions to 0 by 2050.

But what can you do as a lay person?

1. Recycle

In recent years the idea of ‘thrifting’ has become a lot more mainstream, but it also serves a very important role in society. I personally, have bought almost all of my clothing second hand over the last 2-3 years, with the only exception being underwear (for obvious reasons!). Charity stores, good will and even apps such as DePop and eBay can have beautiful items of clothing, in great condition that cost more than half the price if you were to buy it in store. The money also goes to charities, so in some cases it can be like giving a donation and getting a pretty little outfit in return. And what’s not to love about that?! It can also work in your favour, as any clothes that you have outgrown (especially children’s clothes) you can always use online places or car boot sales to sell unwanted clothing, therefore giving the clothes another chance at life while putting a little bit of extra money in your pocket.

img_20200428_175049A Miss Selfridge beaded dress that would usually retail for around £100, I managed to buy for £17 from a lovely lady on eBay. It fits me like a glove and lets me live my Gatsby Fantasy! It is beautiful and I love it and will never wear any item of clothing ever again. I will be married in this dress, I will be buried in this dress, and I will carry it with me into the after life.

2. Upcycle

Sometimes, no matter how much you love an item of clothing, you just outgrow it. Or you see the ideal outfit in a charity shop only to realise that it is the completely wrong size for you. In these cases, you can do what is sometimes called a ‘thrift flip’ and you can turn an item of clothing into a whole new outfit with just some basic sewing skills. Not only does this mean that you get even more wear out of your clothing, it will also teach you a valuable skill that means that you can personalise and save your own clothes from having to go to landfill. If you need inspiration, there are hundreds of incredible talented people on YouTube who can show you some ideas and teach you some of the more basic sewing skills to get you started.

3. Quality over quantity

Now I appreciate that I am saying this from a rather privileged position, in that I can chose to shop at slightly more expensive stores because I earn enough to do so. As much as I love Primark for it’s cheap vests and t-shirts, I know that it only costs £2 because it will probably only last me about 3 months before it starts to fall apart. One of the ways I shop is that I go for a well built item of clothing, even if it is not the cheapest item out there. For example, I have a knit jumper that I bought from H&M around 10 years ago and IT IS STILL GOING STRONG. I would honestly be lost without this jumper and it has gotten me through some seriously cold English winters without fail. One of my most expensive purchases was a Ted Baker cape coat, which I purchased 7 years ago, which I still break out every single winter because it is the warmest, most snuggly coat that I have ever found. Plus it is absolutely beautiful and timeless, which means that it never goes out of style and looks amazing with everything that I wear.

4. By sale items or from outlet

Following on from my Ted Baker coat, I also bought this from an outlet store, so while I still paid a decent amount of money for it (around £120 if I remember correctly), it was way cheaper than if I had bought it directly from the store as soon as it was released. The joy of outlets and sale items is that it saves you a lot of money overall, while also preventing clothing from ending up at landfill. Recently, if I have had to buy anything new, I only shop during the sales and only buy it if it is on sale. If I can stop at least some clothes from just being sent to landfill, then I might as well save myself a few quid in the process!

5. Buy timeless items of clothing

Again, not everyone has the privilege of buying items that are timeless: Kids for example will outgrow an item of clothing as soon as you buy it. But if you are just shopping for you, buy items that you know will never go out of style or that you know you will never fall out of love with. Most fashion trends are cyclical, and will no doubt come back around in a year or two. If someone had told 5 year old me that those jelly shoes I adored would still be really cool when I was 25, I’d have laughed at you! I only buy clothing that fit my personal style and that I know that I can wear multiple times, for multiple occasions, that fit with multiple other outfits. For example, I have a Topshop blazer that is pink check (Think if Clueless and Legally Blonde had a fashion baby) that I bought about 2 years ago for £60, and to this day I still get a stupid smile on my face when I put it on. It is preppy but sophisticated and also makes me feel like an absolute dream when I wear it. And since the majority of my wardrobe is either black or pink, it goes with everything else that I own!

6. Invest in a capsule wardrobe

Now this one will take a while, and there is a lot of research and trial and error that needs to go into one. Again, you can find inspiration on YouTube and the wider web. A capsule wardrobe is essentially a wardrobe that consist of around 30 items of clothing that are interchangeable with one another, meaning that you no longer have to think about what you are wearing. If you wake up late for work, you can throw on any skirt with any top and know that it will look amazing. You can wear the same dress to a wedding one weekend, to a work do the next, to drinks with friends afterwards. The idea of a capsule wardrobe is to not only take out one stress in your life (such as spending most nights planning what you’re going to wear the next day) and also cut down on your consumption of fashion: If one of your shirts is beyond saving, you know that you only need to replace one top, rather than changing up your entire wardrobe. Capsule wardrobes are also really flexible and personal, so can work for anyone. Granted they do take some time to sort out, but the process can be a fun and creative process that allows you to truly develop your own sense of personal style.

7. One in, one out

Another rule I follow is that if I buy a new item of clothing, I have to donate/sell another item. One great incentive for this is that if you see a dress that you absolute adore, and know that you will get a lot of wear out of it in the coming years, then have a look through your wardrobe to see if there is an item of clothing that you haven’t actually worn in a while. My favourite way to do this is to turn all of my hanger hooks around at the start of the year/month. I go about my life as normal, and if in 3 months, I realise that I haven’t worn a few items of clothing I take them out and reassess. Why haven’t I worn them? At the start of this year I did a massive clearout and sold/donated at least half of my wardrobe. I have now spent the past 6 months finding items of clothing for my own capsule wardrobe and don’t feel bad about having an overstuffed wardrobe because I already removed so many items that were just wasting away.

8. Look after your clothing

This one may be obvious but it does pay to learn how to properly look after your clothing. Dry clean what needs to be dry cleaned. Hand wash what needs to be hand washed. Now granted, I have been the same size since I was about 13 years old (give or take a few pounds!) but the majority of my wardrobe I have had for years: I have some tops that I have owned since sixth form that still look brand new today, and dresses that I have worn to countless social events over the years that never go out of style. I have also learnt basic clothing repair and alterations: If a dress becomes too short or no longer hangs right, I can turn it into a skirt/top combo instead and wear the pieces separately. Needless to say, the better you look after your clothing, the longer they will last you and the better for the environment this can be.

Side note: I will be the first to admit that my wardrobe is probably not 100% vegan. I’m certain a few of my jumpers contain wool and I also have a pair of leather Doc Martins that I have owned since I was about 17. But as with all things, veganism is not an all or nothing: If you do own something that contains animal products, if it something that you wear everyday and you love it, then keep wearing it. Wear it until it literally turns to dust. The worst thing to do would be to simply be wasteful with it. As I said, I have items of clothing that I have owned for years that I am certain contain some form of animal product, but the clothing is still in perfect condition, it still fits, and I still love it. I will not just bin it, because then it means that the animal was wasted. It just teaches me to be more mindful of what I am buying and to double check where my clothing is coming from.

I hope this helps and if you need any more information let me know. I can point you in the direction of some of my favourite YouTubers or tips for bidding on eBay. Also let me know if you have found any other tips that help you buy clothes in a more sustainable manner so I can implement them into my own life. Happy clothes hunting lovelies!

T xxx

 

Dating a non-vegan

One of the most common questions I get when I mention that I live with my boyfriend and that I am vegan, is whether or not he is vegan too. When I say no, they immediately respond with ‘then why are you with him?’. And to this day I never know how to respond to that question. So in an attempt, here follows a rather soppy post of appreciation for my boyfriend, Henry.

fb_img_1584870579028Henry and I at 19, in my university halls

For background, I met Henry in secondary school. We have now known each other for around 10 years at this point, and have been dating for just over 5 of those years. We now own a home together and are slowly but surely filling it full of fur babies to grow our little family together. But before we dated, he was (and still remains to be) one of my best and closest friends. He was my best friend long before he ever became my boyfriend. He has been by my side through all of life’s ups and downs, from going into university, to entering the job market, to moving out of home for the first time. And to this day he supports me in everything I do, which also includes my veganism.

I will never be the type of person who will ‘force veganism’, but I also do not hide away from the facts behind it. That chicken on your plate was once a living being, with it’s own life and thoughts and interpretation of the world around it. It didn’t have to die, but by continuing to buy meat you add to this cycle of killing animals for your own consumption. If after I tell you all of this information you still choose to eat meat, then fine. But then don’t sit there and say you love all animals when your food choices clearly state otherwise. And this realisation was something that Henry never shied away from: He knew that his actions and his words would sometimes contradict each other, but he has been so open to learning new things that he inspires me everyday to try something new and to be open to new opportunities.

IMG_20181116_111630Henry and I at 25, being cheesy tourists on our trip to LA in 2018.

When me and my partner moved in together, he agreed that we would not have any meat in the house. The only exceptions I have made are for fish fingers, eggs and cheese, but even these are a rare occurrence. Everything else is vegan friendly, so the majority of our meals together are vegan. Recently he has decided that he wants to go vegetarian: My partner loves to cook and as such watches very many a YouTube video about how to prepare stunning dinners. But he watched one where it involved preparing lobster and he made the connection between the living animal becoming the dead meat on your plate. I also like to believe that he has seen how easy it is to avoid meat products and animal products all together, and so never feels like he has to miss out on any of his favourite meals. Yes I have helped to show him alternatives, but he made the conscious decision to give up meat on his own terms and in his own way. Which is really all we can do sometimes.

Veganism is not about living the perfect life. It is about living a life that causes the least amount of harm possible. And this is a concept that is constantly changing and evolving as more and more information comes out and nowadays people are going vegan for a whole variety of different reasons: for the animals, for the environment, for their health, for fitness reasons, for cultural reasons. Every single vegan has their own story and their own journey into veganism and it is not my place to force someone to follow veganism for the same reasons that I do. I have found that veganism only works, and only becomes a true lifestyle choice, when you have a very clear and personal motive for going vegan.

But the reasons why I am with him are not simply determined by his willingness to go vegetarian. And I don’t think that veganism should be the only reason why you are ever with a person. Yes your morals and values need to be compatible, but the biggest thing for me has been the amount of respect he gives veganism. When I said I wanted to go vegan he simply said ‘ok, if that’s what you want’ and has never stopped supporting me. Whenever we go out for dinner, he makes sure that I can eat something there first. If he is out somewhere and sees a new vegan treat for sale, he will pick it up for me to try. He doesn’t make me sit in steak houses, or attend spit roast dinners. He will take me to rescue centres and nature reserves rather than zoos or aquariums. He respects that veganism is an important aspect of my entire personality and accepts and encourages this without any caveats.

So why am I dating a non-vegan? Because he is funny, kind and caring. He is one of the loveliest people I have ever met and he inspires me everyday to be the best version of myself possible, be it in the gym or in my career, or even in my vegan culinary pursuits. It also helps that he is makes me cry with laughter on a daily basis, and always knows how to cheer me up. He is also insanely handsome and still gives me butterflies even after all of these years. The fact that he eats eggs or cheese once a week barely registers on my radar, and it is not something that I would ever consider a deal breaker. This doesn’t mean that I care about animal welfare any less, or that I am not that committed to veganism, it simply means that I have a partner who is learning and growing and we are building a life together that helps to promote all of the ideologies that we as a unit share. Henry is passionate about health care policy and mental health initiatives, and while I am not as clued up about this as he is, I am still learning so much from him that is helping me to understand more of the world around me and how I can help different causes that I would never have known existed were it not for him. We grow together. Slow progress is still progress and we are learning together every day.

Also, people need to stop thinking that a person’s relationship defines who they are as a person. Both Henry and I are separate entities that have our own ideologies and desires that are separate from each other, but the joy of a relationship is learning how to mix these together and to build a lasting relationship with someone that is based on mutual respect and understanding.

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So that is why I am dating a non-vegan. 

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

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

 

The End of Camp NaNoWriMo

The Lord Of The Rings Mueller Report GIF by reactionseditor - Find ...

My end word total for my Camp NaNoWriMo project:

32,098 words

My goal had been 30,000 but in hindsight I actually think I could have tried to push myself and tried a bigger target. In November the goal is 50,000 and with how my story was going and how much time I had to write, I think 50,000 would have been a more decent goal during isolation. So far my 30,000 words are only just scratching the surface of my story!

May will now be spent writing even more of this story. I am not going to set myself any word count goals, as Camp NaNo made me realise that I focus more on the word count than I do on the actual story itself. If it takes me 100,000 words then so be it, so long as my story is well rounded, well written and a true journey for the reader. So my goal for May will now be to finish my story – and by that I mean have all of the main plot points written so that June can then be spent editing and rearranging the story to make sure it flows as it should.

How did you guys all do with CampNaNoWriMo? What was your end total and what are your next steps with your story? Let me know in the comments as I always love to see how everyone else tackles these big challenges.

T xxx

Happy Earth Day!

In honour of today, and in honour of this gorgeous earth that we live on, step away from the computer and go outside. If you are in lock down, go for a little walk outside, or just sit by an open window (preferably one which gets some sunshine) and take a look at the sky…it is SO BLUE! Just take a little bit of time to appreciate the world in which we live and to reflect on the impact we as a species are having on it.

Screenshot 2020-04-22 at 16.46.18The park outside of my house looking like an actual green-screen movie background!

Stay safe everyone and if you want more information, see the Earth Day website here.

T xxx