Admitting Where Our Food Comes From

Monday, 27 November 2017

Unless you’re completely new to my blog, you’ll already know that I don’t eat meat and haven’t for nearly three years now. I gave it up initially for my health (red meats in particular triggered my IBS symptoms), then for the environment and for animal welfare. In spite of what you might think of meat-free people though, many of my views about meat consumption and animal welfare have remained unchanged since my younger years guzzling beef burgers and gnawing on chicken wings.

One of the biggest criticisms that many vegetarians and vegans have about meat-eaters is the hypocrisy of our meat consuming habits – what is and isn’t acceptable to eat, what is and isn’t acceptable to find outrageous and cruel, and ultimately how distanced we’ve become (namely in white Western culture) from where our food actually comes from. It might surprise you to know, but even when I was an avid ‘carnivore’ with a real disdain for vegetarians and vegans, I still saw and called out that hypocrisy and I continue to do so today as a vegan. Sad thing of course, is that people took my criticism much more seriously when I spoke as meat-eater to meat-eater than they do now!

I’ve been mulling this over for a while, but after seeing a few tweets recently following an episode of Countryfile, I thought I may as well put fingers to keyboard and type something out.

Perhaps my biggest frustration as a vegan isn’t that people can’t see the environmental devastation that their eating habits cause, or that they don’t appreciate the suffering that eating meat or dairy causes animals or the communities in the nations livestock feed is mass produced. It’s that within the age of fast food and easy availability and the realities of slaughterhouses being hidden far, far away from our prying eyes, most of us have either forgotten or are in denial that the animal products we consume were from just that: animals.

It’s not unusual to hear people say that they don’t like eating meat on the bone because they don’t like to think about the animal it came from. They don’t like to be shown images of captive animals or what lies beyond the gates of slaughterhouses. Customers of restaurants routinely complain if they find a chicken feather in their chicken meal, or evidence of hair on the flesh of an animal that, when living, did indeed have hair. Even the biggest meat-lovers will often still say that if it came down to it, they wouldn’t be able to kill an animal themselves unless their lives depended on it. This is the most difficult attitude for me to navigate as a vegan, and was one I found difficult to navigate in the years before I gave up meat, too.

For me, it has always been simple. If I had to in order to feed myself, or if we lived in a society where killing animals ourselves was necessary in order to eat them, I would’ve done it. I killed fish myself when I went fishing. I ate meat off the bone because I knew it was an animal, and animals had bones. I loathed hearing people complain about seeing whole fish in fishmongers, made uncomfortable by the eyes of the dead fish watching them, and I hated that parents would file complaints over butchers displaying pig carcasses in their windows because ‘it’s too gruesome’ or ‘it frightened their children’. When I was a child, I knew bacon came from a pig. I knew that the dead pig would become the food, and that this was just ‘how it was’.

I’m not the type of vegan that demands that everyone become vegan overnight, that all animal slaughter end instantaneously and that it’s in everyone’s power to give up animal products (it’s not). I’ve spoken before about ways non-vegans can help support vegan causes, and how important it is to understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and that this impacts our abilities to live and consume as ethically as others might. What I do expect though, as an absolute bare minimum, is that if you are going to consume animal products that you understand and don’t shy away from where it came from.

Ultimately, I am now and always have been of the opinion that if you can’t handle the reality of the meat on your plate – if you can’t bare thinking about a cute pig dying for your bacon sandwich, or any kind of reminder that what you’re eating is an animal – then you shouldn’t be eating meat. If your conscience makes you feel so uncomfortable being reminded that what you’re eating used to be a fluffy little lamb or a chick or a cow, that should be a signal to you not to eat it. If you’re fine with the idea of someone else slaughtering something for you behind closed doors, miles and miles away so that you can bury your head in the sand, but it makes you sick to your stomach to think of doing it yourself, then you shouldn’t be eating meat.

Of course, as my post on intersectionality references, contrary to what many vegans suggest, it simply can’t be this black and white for people with financial difficulties, families to feed, different religious or cultural backgrounds, physical or mental health needs and so on.  I refer here instead to those who do have the level of privilege, comfort and capacity to think more critically about their food choices and potentially make changes.

Even so, I don’t blame the kinds of folks who think this way for having this attitude; it’s a product of a society that has become almost completely detached with where our food comes from and what’s in it. The average person has little concept of what real nutrition is, what ingredients are used in our foods, whether our foods are grown locally or in countries hundreds of miles away. Particularly when it comes to industrial farming, the companies behind it work hard to keep the truth from us, so it’s only natural that we are left in ignorance in some respects. 

What I believe we need to work on is a combination of holding companies accountable, refusing to accept being left in blissful ignorance about the source of our food, and listening to and understanding our own guilt. We no longer live in a time when we’d pop to the local butcher who sourced their meat from the farm we know down the road; we’re almost entirely cut off from the path our meat takes to our plates nowadays. We can’t afford to forget and deny where it comes from, as that only leads to decreased welfare standards and gives even more control to food giants when it comes to what we can and can’t know about our food (meat or otherwise).  This is an ethos that should be applied across the board too, not just in the consumption of animal products.  For example, how many people who can access better are aware of the cruel reality of sweatshop labour and know that it’s a horrid practice, and yet continue to push it to the back of their minds and spent £100s in Primark at every opportunity?  We take for granted what a privilege it is to be able to say “I’d rather not think about it” and carry on as normal.

If you can’t stand the truth and have alternatives available to you, then to not take those alternatives is hugely hypocritical. Funding something that makes you feel sick or that you hate just because you like the taste or how it looks and when you have other options is behaviour that has been normalised that (I believe anyway) really shouldn’t be.

If you’re able to come to terms with the fact that something died for your meal, or you accept the fact that death and suffering is a necessary consequence of eating meat, or you feel perfectly capable of killing to eat yourself, then I have no issue with that. Honesty and acceptance of reality is hard to come by in the world we live in now, and I respect those that understand that reality and own it. If you can’t stomach it though, and you have the knowledge and resources available to you to make a change in your lifestyle, then why keep dancing around the truth that you already know makes you so uncomfortable?

What are your thoughts?

Making More Ethical Christmas Gift Choices with Oxfam

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year for anyone, but throw being vegan or low waste or having other strong ethical consumer principles into the mix too, and it gets even more challenging. When you want to only buy ethical products and to avoid fast fashion and sweatshop labour, and you not only have a limited budget but relatives that request not-so-ethical purchases, you start to get your own fair share of holiday guilt weighing you down. Shopping ethically and sustainably is a minefield at the best of times, but there are still ways you can give wonderful (and affordable) gifts and make a positive difference in the world.

I probably don’t need to introduce Oxfam, as they’re one of the most recognisable charities in the UK, and are an organisation dedicated to tackling poverty at a grassroots level, responding to disasters and spreading awareness of the real, human issues surrounding social and economic inequality, climate change and more. Out on the streets, they’re most likely known for their charity shops where you can pick up some cracking second-hand finds, but they also stock a variety of gifts and goodies that all contribute to helping people help themselves out of poverty.

Oxfam were kind enough to send me a selection* of some of the treats they have available this Christmas, as an alternative to the usual mass-produced, ethically questionable products that line most shelves around this time of year.

They’re not for everyone, but one type of gift I love are those that give more than just a physical item, and they’re a perfect option for those relatives or friends you know who have everything they need and insist that they don’t actually want anything. Oxfam offer a variety of charity gifts that skip the item and send your money straight to those that need it on behalf of your loved one, from much needed supplies to contributing to shelter and education. You can even give your friends a pile of poo – but it’s actually a combination of manure, fertiliser and training to allow people to grow their own crops and make a living!  Plus, hello, this is a very amusing card and gift on top of actually being a very good cause to put your money towards.

For the beauty lovers among us, Oxfam have a lovely selection of organic, cruelty free and many vegan skincare, bath and shower items. I first tried Faith in Nature in a VeganKind box a couple of years ago, and I was excited to see that as well as stocking a massive range of Faith in Nature products, they also have little gift boxes like this one, which is full of different flavoured bubble bath minis. This type of gift is perfect for people who are already cruelty free, or as a little taster for those of us who’re dipping their toes in or just starting their cruelty free journey.

Another wonderful vegan option they offer is the Southsea Bathing Hut Vitamin Sea Hand & Body Balm, a multi-purpose product that can be used as a hand and foot cream, lip balm, moisturiser or even a make-up primer. These are all natural artisan products that are hand-made in Portsmouth with the aim of bringing back the city’s heritage as a soap-making city. This one is mint and orange scented, smells incredible (although the mint is definitely the dominating scent) and is deeply hydrating!

What Christmas gift hamper would be complete without cards? Charity Christmas cards are a staple of the season, and Oxfam offers a range of their own. These woodland folk art inspired cards have a super cute Scandinavian vibe, and last year Oxfam's Christmas cards raised enough to fund three years of a project helping children in Niger to recover from malnutrition. They also do a few bits and pieces including gift wrap, tags and things to make your own decorations, like these paper chains made of FSC certified paper (although it would be even better if they were made from recycled paper too).

There’s a selection of gorgeous, handmade decorations and homewares that Oxfam are stocking right now that I’m really enamoured with. This washbag is one of a range of products made in India using cotton and kantha stitch, produced by an organisation called Aspiration that supports local artisans.  Mine is the perfect size for my storing my make-up brushes.  The colours and pattern are lovely, and you can find similar colourful, statement goodies in their shops and online too – I’m in love with this recycled sari bunting, and their gold sequin baskets made in Vietnam from natural seagrass would make an amazing practical and pretty gift (it’d also make one heck of a blogging prop every now and again, in my humble opinion).

If you’re also vegan like I am, you’ll know how tough it can be to track down a good advent calendar that doesn’t cost the earth. You can pick up this absolute beauty by Divine from your local Oxfam shop, and it’s £4.99, vegan and palm oil free. Better still, it’s animal themed! This particular advent calendar was made with the Woodland Trust, and 3p from the sale of every calendar is donated to the Trust to help protect, maintain and restore the UK’s woodland. Each door contains a 70% chocolate little critter, and behind each critter is a daily animal fact. Vegan chocolate that also helps animals and our local environment? Perfect!

If you happen to pop in one day, many Oxfam charity shops also stock a small range of other vegan-friendly chocolates from Divine and a few other brands.

If you want to put together your own hamper of gifts, they even sell this handmade hamper basket to create your own custom selection!

I hope this post helped to give you a bit of an insight into some of the fair trade, ethical gifts offered by Oxfam this year. They have a whole range of items in their online shop, from second-hand clothes to gifts they’ve sourced that help to fight poverty and support vulnerable people around the world. Christmas is an important time of year to reflect on not just the love in our lives, but the privilege we have too. Whether you choose to buy from Oxfam this year or not, there are plenty of options out there for you to make more ethical, sustainable purchases for the holiday season. Charity shops, eBay, indie brands, local artists, vintage markets and more are all wonderful options that can support local people, donate money to worthy causes or lessen your contribution to fast fashion and harmful labour conditions.

What are your tips for ethical shopping this Christmas?

* This post has not been sponsored or paid for, however all of the items photographed in this post were given to me free of charge.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

On emotional walls.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

I don’t have a lot of friends these days. This is partly because of, well, life (I’ve moved so often since starting university that it’s made it difficult for me to make and maintain friendships) and partly my own doing. I don’t talk too much about my mental health on my blog or social media because, frankly, I never feel like I have much of a right to. The struggles I deal with are so minute in comparison to real mental health struggles, that I don’t always feel right using my own voice instead of amplifying others’. Nevertheless, I’ve come to realise that my mental health has played a huge role in my ability to make lasting, fulfilling friendships, and not in the way you’d expect.

I’ve had a few shitty friendships. You know the type; the one-sided ones that drain you of all of your emotional energy, and give you nothing in return. I learned how to read people and whether or not they actual value and respect me as a person and a friend after a while, and my talent at judging others’ characters and my apparently distinctly INFJ distaste for acquaintance-ships and pleasantries have allowed me to swiftly navigate myself away from other potential disasters or unfulfilling relationships. Running in tandem with these experiences though, has been the evolution of my mental health issues, and I knew early on that toxic relationships that take and take and take do not mesh well them.

I’ve had some huge ups and downs with my mental health, and have gone from being utterly terrified of meeting new people to putting myself in situations that I never would’ve thought myself capable of. I’ve pulled myself up from the deepest lows I’ve experienced yet, to being confident, comfortable and steadfast in who I am and what I can do. And yet, you never really ‘recover’ from certain types of mental health issue. You can make improvements, you can manage it, you can live your life sometimes forgetting that it even exists… but it doesn’t mean that you don’t slip up and it doesn’t rear its ugly head again every now and again and send you plunging back into that dark place you thought you’d long escaped.

I realised only recently that this reality has played a huge role in my relationships since I got a firmer grasp on my mental health. To put it simply, I’m selfish. I not only disengage with people that I don’t feel are a good match for me, but I disengage with those who are, but who carry too much baggage or are too dependant on me, too. There is a very tiny, tiny number of people for whom I will happily volunteer to help bear their mental and emotional burdens, while I subconsciously keep the others at arm’s length.

At first, I thought I was just being a cold, distant bitch. Maybe I am – I’m sure it probably comes across that way to whoever’s reading this. But it’s more than that; it’s a defence mechanism.

I’m sadly the type of person who just naturally absorbs other peoples’ issues. Without even meaning for it to happen, their sadness becomes my sadness, their stress becomes my stress, their dark days become my dark days. I willingly transform myself into their therapists or confidants and spend my time apart worrying about them, thinking about them. And, even when the problems are more superficial than that, I find that I have a finite amount of emotional energy that eventually gets sucked dry if the person in question doesn’t deposit as much into the Bank of Emotional Investment as they withdraw.

I’ve worked so, so hard to get myself to the point that I’m at now where I’m happy and self-assured and no longer battle daily with the same demons I used to, and I know from experience how fragile this state of mind is. I’ve slipped before, and it doesn’t feel good. So, I cling to that, and whether I realise it at the time or not, I steer myself away from situations and relationships that might be detrimental to it – needy colleagues with emotional issues, acquaintances that regularly need shoulders to cry on, those friends who always seek advice about the same problems but never actually listen. I might reply, but I don’t fully engage or encourage, because I’m not prepared to be that emotional baggage handler again. I’m not prepared to put my own mental health on the line in order for someone else to lean on me anymore. I’m not prepared to be the person that’s always there for someone, but gets little to no support in return again.

It’s pure and simple selfishness, but it’s self-preservation. When your emotional and mental state, however stable it might appear at the time, is ultimately like walking a tightrope, you can’t afford to keep inviting other people in and shouldering their problems. Take on even a little bit too much, and you risk everything you’ve built coming crumbling down. Of course I try to be there in a crisis and when I’m desperately needed, but I’m unwilling to be privy to every issue or drama or emotional trauma going on in the lives of those I know (save for that select few) when I know all it will do is weigh and drag me down until I ultimately snap and I’m back to square one again.

I’m a bad friend, a bad colleague, a bad family member. I’m absolutely selfish. But, when the consequences of taking on someone else’s emotional baggage or negativity or drama is absorbing all of it and losing your grip on your own mental health and happiness, distancing yourself is more than not having the time or the patience or just not caring about the person. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s simply that I’ve learned through trial and error that I have to pick my battles and decide whether or not I have to prioritise caring for myself instead.

Review / Phee's Makeup Shop Eyeshadow Single in Polilla

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow
Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla EyeshadowIf you’ve been following me on my blog and social media for a while now, you’ll know I tend to be a matte kind of lady – matte eyeshadow, matte lips… the only shimmer I used to like was dewiness on my skin and a highlight as bright as the sun on my cheekbones! Today’s review is about one of those rare gems that brought me around to the shimmery, metallic way of thinking, and is a member of the Phee’s Makeup Shop family that I’ve talked about a couple of times before.

Polilla is sold as an eyeshadow single, and as with all of Phee’s products is handmade in Sheffield, cruelty free and vegan. In some lighting, it looks like a relatively unassuming metallic turquoise in the pan, but once swatched or applied to your lids, it reveals itself as a stunning shade of rusty brown with turquoise reflect and has an incredible level of dimension and pizzazz.

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow Swatch

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow

It’s difficult to do justice to it in photos and even in videos; the colour shift is oh so impressive in person but it simply doesn’t translate with as much vibrancy when you try to capture it! Like it’s sisters from Phee’s Makeup Shop, it’s very opaque, with one swipe of a fingertip enough to give full coverage of the eyelid, and being brown-based it is still considered neutral and can work with a variety of other colours. Even so, I have to admit I rarely – if ever – actually use Polilla with any other eyeshadows, purely because it works magnificently on its own. Blended out, the brown tones in this shade start to stand out more than the blues, creating a beautiful warmth that (I think, anyway) means you can get away without crease colours or transition shades. With the colour packed onto the lid and blended out into and above the crease and under the eye, you get a nice reddish brown frame that diffuses into to a more opaque duochrome with the turquoise shimmer dancing on the lid.

Can you believe that an eyeshadow primer and Polilla are the only things used to create this eyeshadow look?

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow

Phee's Makeup Shop Polilla Eyeshadow

Polilla can be purchased from Phee’s Makeup Shop either in a compact for £10.50 or pan only for £6.50, both for 3g of product. Like Phee’s other products, that’s much more than you tend to get from high end or high street brands! It’s an eyeshadow that’s well worth the investment, too.  It’s wonderfully versatile and can be used for neutral, everyday makeup or as an exciting addition to more glamorous looks.  A little goes a long way too; it’s one of the most used eyeshadows in my collection, but I’ve barely made a dent in it because the colour payoff is that good.

Phee’s shop has recently undergone a bit of a change, and now only opens temporarily for pre-order instead of being open for orders all year around. If you follow Phee on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to her mailing list, you’ll be one of the first to know when pre-orders are approaching. If you’re really interested, there’s a pre-order window until midnight on 4th November (today!) so if you want to grab this little beauty or any of the other eyeshadows or highlighters from Phee’s Makeup Shop, don’t miss out!

All products used:
Inika Organic Primer with Hyaluronic Acid
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion*
Sleek Makeup Colour Corrector Palette
The Body Shop Moisture Foundation SPF15 in Shade 01†
The Body Shop Lightening Shade Adjusting Drops
Illamasqua Skin Base Lift Concealer in Light 2†
Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade in Dark Brown
Lily Lolo Mineral Eyeshadow in Black Sand†
Barry M Take a Brow Brow Gel in Brown
Phee's Makeup Shop Eyeshadow in Polilla
Pixi Extra Eye Bright Liner
PHB Ethical Beauty Natural Mascara in Black
Ardell Demi-Wispies Falsh Lashes in Black
theBalm Down Boy†
Phee's Makeup Shop Glow Highlighter in Bellini
Lily Lolo Finishing Powder in Translucent Silk
Nabla Cosmetics Dreamy Matte Liquid Lipstick in Sweet Gravity

* Parent company is not cruelty free. 
† Product is not vegan.

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