looking good

isabella rossellini via www.rsi.chDelving deeper into this vegan enquiry, thoughts seem naturally to turn to items other than food that I buy or have bought courtesy of the life and service of a non-human animal. I have never been a big cosmetics user, I subscribe to the view that the less stuff you put on your skin the better, but I suppose I have been a bit a bit of a snob in my time for what I did buy was the best that I could afford. Best I interpreted as higher-end products that had sophisticated ingredients and were backed by some kind of branding or celebrity that I somehow aspired to. Isabella Rossellini was the face of Lancome for 14 years and I couldn’t imagine a more sophisticated looking woman to emulate.

I have been passively aware that animal testing for cosmetics was a continuing practice but along with farmed animals, was not aware of the extent or, not to put too fine a point on it, the torture that is endured. Fortunately since March 2013 there has been a European-wide ban on companies testing new cosmetic products or ingredients to be sold in the EU. The Leaping Bunny stamp gives consumers the peace of mind that not a single commodified creature has had their skin or eyes irritated, burned, scarred or damaged for the sake of what is in their make-up bag or in the bathroom cupboard.

As with most things in life their are exceptions and loopholes, that’s why we have discussions around corporate tax avoidance and evasion (is there really a moral difference?). Cosmetics companies who have markets beyond the boundaries of the EU can continue to test on animals outside of the EU and then sell those products everywhere, including inside the EU (all smacks of something similar to the dreaded TTIP). This let’s off the hook the global  brands especially those who sell to China, a market that has created a bit of gold-rush fever among multi-national corporations who are greedy for the massive profit potentials. The Chinese, you see,  insist on a variety of tests, including those on animals, before a cosmetic product can be launched into their expanding market. So if you want to sell a mascara or a moisturiser in Brighton, Berlin and Beijing you have to animal-test.

Moral of the story is that I look for the Leaping Bunny stamp and check brands on their website. Happily there is a great range of products from specialised brands to supermarket and drugstore favourites. Now, as I run out of a product I replace it with something from a UK or EU  firm that puts compassion at the heart of its business or at least is beginning to realise it’s important to some of us.

PS – Isabella Rossellini is now an active conservationist, board member of Wildlife Conservation Network and a completely wacky film maker – see Green Porno clips here.

Image via rsi.ch






cook & learn

chef on old fashioned tv setThere’s a lot of food on the telly, and a lot of it in prime time. Shows regularly spawn chefs who become household names and their books range from coffee-table art to handy manuals. It seems safe to deduce that people like to cook. Even the timelessly entertaining Come Dine With Me would seem to prove this, although with varying degrees of success.

Last year, a study commissioned by an organic dairy firm sampling 2000 Brits, concluded that 58% of those polled preferred to cook than dine out and most spend an average of 49 minutes on 5 nights out of 7 in preparing an evening meal. 21% cook every night, which would include me with varying degrees of success as in CDWM above, about which I am often less entertained! There are lots of other interesting conclusions from the research (see here) but essentially it seems there are a lot of confident cooks nationwide who are willing to experiment with ingredients and to cook without a recipe.

Importantly, over 60% of those polled say they are influenced by TV chefs and inspired by their use of new ingredients and techniques. So, I am surprised that for example, of the 178 recipes turned up in a BBC Masterchef search there are only 10 vegetarian and only one of those could be called vegan, while the “disruptive force” that is Jamie Oliver (rated first in a poll to find the nation’s favourite TV chef) has 149 vegetarian recipes and 39 vegan on his site – I do make an allowance for this guy as he is on a laudable mission to shift people away from fast food feasting to healthy home cooking, and all for removing food and agriculture from the dreaded TTIP.

I realise there is an art to cooking fancy animal cuts and exotic sea creatures, although if memory serves me well more than half the experience is in the seasonings and accessory veg, so wouldn’t it be exciting to give professional and amateur chefs a meaningful challenge, take them right outside their comfort zone now and again and get them to dream up some vegan dishes? Do some vegan Bake-Offs? And show the TV-foodies in the UK what I already know from the local chefs who have pop-up restaurants in my locale that creating tasty, exciting and nutritious vegan meals is right on point.


Emily Davison RIP

Suffragette Emily Wilding DavisonIf ever I need retail therapy, my drug of choice is books with stationery, especially notebooks, a close second. Time stands still when I am browsing in a bookshop which makes it best as a solitary activity, any sense of someone else getting fidgety and bored curdles the moment like cider vinegar in soy milk. I use online bookshops if I am looking for particular titles or want to send books as gifts, but as the high street has become a homogenous, culture-free, theme park of shopping with the demise of small independent retailers of any sort (and the demise of real choice), I feel I am doing my bit to try and keep books available. I have never bought an e-book for myself; they are the meat-substitute of the literary world.

Since January, when this vegan enquiry began, I have acquired five new cook books, two books on nutrition and another five books on veganism with reference to agriculture, food production and climate change. I have never learnt so much in so short a time. I am clued up on nutrition sufficiently to know that the global western diet as a piece, not just the eating of non-human animals and products, is harmful to health and shortening the lifespan of adults and children everywhere, and  I understand better than ever that all the choices I make in my everyday life, all of them, are interconnected and affecting an entire ecosystem, namely this blue planet.

I am also acutely aware that I can’t stand on my own  in front of the galloping horse of global capitalism like Emily Davison and stop 57,000 cows a day being slaughtered and going through the golden gates of just one fast food chain, or turn the Earth’s thermostat down as easily as I turned down the one in my own house to save resources, but I do know that I can use the vote Emily and other women fought for me to have. No vote is a wasted vote. And if the choice is hope over fear, then there is only one choice.

thursday update (iv)

note to self post it note1. No need to worry about my work trips to Moscow, eating out vegan style is doable, but I will pack miso soup sachets, porridge oats, and seed mixes.

2. Caring about the food I eat and the way it is farmed and produced cannot be separated from acquiring greater political awareness e.g. the scandalous TTIP and the even more scandalous realisation that something so far reaching is outside of the democratic process.

3. Sometimes sweet, chunky, milk chocolate is the only thing that will do. But I haven’t given up on the idea that whatever it is in my body that craves this food can’t be satisfied by something vegan.

4. Life is not too short to stuff portobello mushrooms, which are apparently just grown-up button mushrooms.

5. Best soup of the week: another carrot favourite this time roasted with orange zest and caraway seeds before blitzing with stock.

food is a political issue

TTIP protestThere is a knock on effect to being concerned with intensive farming practices, it leads to an increased understanding of the insidious relationships forged between governments and Big Business. TTIP stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It sounds like a straight forward initiative to promote mutual business benefits between the US and Europe, but scratch the label and there’s more than just food and environmental matters to be super concerned about.

TTIP negotiations include the greater commercialisation by US companies of UK health services and water provision, and the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). These allow companies to sue governments if policy or regulatory decisions lead to a loss of profits. This leads me back to food. TTIP’s thrust on regulatory “convergence” wants to bring EU food safety standards in line with the US, which is far less strict in terms of the use of GM ingredients, of pesticides and hormones in farming, and of potentially toxic substances (chlorine bleached chicken, anyone?). As mad as it may seem, these substances and practices can be used until proven unsafe, rather than used only once proven safe.

There is no public consultation or referendum on TTIP, but there is a general election in May. The only party who has challenged it on all counts is the Greens.

Read the Huff Post on TTIP here 

Read Green Party on TTIP here

Image via the independent.co.uk