Making kind choices in your everyday life.

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How to buy the free-est of free range eggs

Posted by on Mar 9, 2014 in Eggs | 0 comments

“It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” – J K Rowling

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These photos depict some very lucky, happy chooks. They sleep in an enclosed yard with a cosy shelter and run rampant during the day on the property. They live (and supplied our morning eggs) at my favourite “escape from Sydney” getaway – Mill Paddock Cottage, in Mountain Lagoon.

If, like me, you are not lucky enough to have sufficient land and/or knowledge to house your own band of merry egg producing chooks, you need to buy eggs from the shop.  Many people (actually 60% according to a recent Choice survey) make the effort to only buy free range eggs which is a wonderful thing and shows that peoples’ views are changing as industries become exposed and we become more educated about what really goes on in the despicable world of factory farming.

However, this perplexing world we live in does not like to make things easy for us to be kind. Labeling is confusing and deceptive and uses words such as “farm fresh”, “vegetarian” and “eco”  to try and conjure up an image which is far from reality. Businesses prey on people’s desire to do the right thing. There are no standardised guidelines about what “free range” actually means.

Most of the free range eggs you see in the major supermarkets (at around the $5 – $6 a dozen price range) fit into the highly questionable box in my opinion. In fact, half of the free range eggs sold in Australia come from only 3 producers (Novo, Pace Farm and Manning Valley) and some squeeze 20,000 – 40,000 birds into a hectare despite the Model Code capping it at 1,500 birds per hectare.  Although Coles and Woolies appear to be do the right thing by banning the sale of their own branded caged eggs, they have set their own, arbitrary stocking density rates at 10,000 birds / hectare (this equates to 1 bird per square meter). At such high numbers, the vision one would expect from the description of free range is not viable.

So, to make the right choice, first check out this chart put out by Animals Australia which simplifies the egg world jargon.

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Furthermore, there are reliable accreditation bodies which can point you in the right direction. Humane Choice and Certified Organic have the most rigorous standards – including low stocking densities, no beak or wing clipping and independent audits and are a great place to start in terms of buying genuinely free range eggs. To compare the 6 accreditation bodies so you are further informed, just click here for Sustainable Table’s great guide.

This guide – Animal Welfare Labels is very informative about many of the eggs you would of seen on the supermarket shelves.

This guide from Flavour Crusader is a fantastic one for exploring all the smaller, independent egg producers available out there.

My little family goes through about a dozen eggs in 10 days. I usually buy either Organigrow, Egganic or Organic Eggs from Clarendon Farms  (I find them at Thomas Dux supermarket) as they tick all the right boxes for me and I feel confident that I am actually getting what I pay for (which is around the $9-$10 / dozen mark). As is a running theme in my blog, the kindest options are overwhelmingly the most expensive ones (for good reason) so just eat less of a good thing – or even eat none at all. This is what Part 3 of this egg topic will be about. Why do some people choose not to eat eggs ? How does one cook without this apparently staple ingredient ? What about all the products we buy that contain caged eggs ?

As for wanting free range eggs when you are out and about at your favourite cafe or restaurant, the RSPCA do have their Shop Humane initiative to locate cafes who use “humanely produced” (I use this term loosely and with some reservation) animal products including eggs. I like the Organigrow link which shows which restaurants /cafes which use their genuinely free range eggs. Otherwise, unless you ask, the assumption would have to be that they use caged eggs.

I have gathered together some interesting articles which I found interesting  in case you want to be the best informed free range egg buyer around.  I would love your feedback on this topic – what do you look for when buying eggs ?

10,000 eggs to a hectare is no free range : ACCC

Plan hatched to crack row over egg labelling (SMH)

Free range egg definition change rejected  (SMH)

With Eggs, some chooks are freer than others (SMH)

– Interesting contrast of opinion between the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd and the Free Range Egg and Poultry Ass. of Australia

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Caged Eggs

Posted by on Mar 2, 2014 in Eggs, Factory Farming | 0 comments

“Imagine being trapped for your reproductive system. For your entire life. Then all the thanks you are given for it is death” – Tamara Kenneally (photographer).

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One of the beautiful girls we met at Little Oak Sanctuary

I find it very disturbing that NSW’s Primary Industries Minister Katrina  (“I’m perfectly comfortable with purchasing caged eggs”) Hodgkinson buys caged eggs. Not only would she be on a substantial income but her portfolio involves looking at all things to do with farmed animals.

I wish that she would remember that these birds are living, thinking, feeling creatures and not machines to do with what we wish. Smart, inquisitive birds squeezed on top of each other in ammonia filled sheds….standing on sloping wire 24 hours a day, having no room to stretch their wings or experience sunlight. Their sensitive beaks are clipped shortly after birth, their freedom and joy is non existent. How is this legal in our country ? (aside from the ACT that is, as of a few days ago – woohooo !).  11 to 12 millions hens in Australia currently exist like this before being ripped from their cages at around 18 months of age to be slaughtered when their egg production wanes. All in the name of our insatiable desire for cheap and plentiful eggs. Approximately 70% of eggs consumed in Australia are still produced by the systematically cruel battery cage method. There is clearly enormous room for improvement.

As per all factory farming, it is easy to forget about these hens as they are hidden from the consumers’ eyes in far away sheds. Luckily, for the curious and kind consumer, there are numerous websites to unveil what is deliberately hidden from us. This series of photos by the talented and brave photographer Tamara Kenneally is my favourite. Her photos do not need facts, figures and commentary. They speak for themselves.

As a city slicker, I have not had much experience with hens so was intrigued by meeting some on my recent visit to Little Oak Sanctuary which rescues an array of farmed animals. There was a beautiful bevy of recently rescued battery hens who’s enthusiasm for everything (bugs, our shoe laces, dirt scratching, running maniacally) was endearing. The thought of their previous lives of deprivation and pain was bitter sweet.

Meeting these ex battery hens made me all the more determined to make kind and considered choices for, amongst many things, eggs. Unfortunately, it is not quite as simple as buying a carton of free range eggs from the supermarket……we all need to consider the myriad of other quandaries :

Just how free range are your eggs ?

Are there any ethical dilemmas with buying even the kindest of free range eggs ?

What about all the foods we eat that unwittingly contains caged eggs ? By eating such foods are we really only making a token effort with our free range egg buying habits ?

Is egg free baking / cooking the real deal ?

These issues will be explored in part 2 & 3 of my posts about eggs….stay tuned ! In the meantime, please view this short clip from Animal’s Australia. The footage of the hen’s only experience of the outside world on her way to be slaughtered (at the 6 minute mark of the video) never fails to bring tears to my eyes and keeps me inspired to stay informed about the evils of factory farming and all the alternatives available to me.

Would love to hear any comments you have to make about this topic.

Want to know a bit more ?

Australian Egg Farming : The Inside Story

Battery Hens : Voiceless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Become a Sticky Beak

Posted by on Jan 26, 2014 in Cruelty | 0 comments

“I don’t believe in the concept of hell, but if I did I would think of it as filled with people who were cruel to animals” – Gary Larson

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Luke Rowles (featured in photo above), I applaud you. At the age of 15, Luke saw a group of cowardly thugs kicking and beating a fox (who’s mouth they had taped shut) in a yard. Luke charged into the yard, yelled at the men before grabbing and rescuing the fox. He treated the animal’s wounds and released him/her back into the wild. Not surprisingly, Luke and his family have gone onto create a dog rescue group in Bulgaria – RSDR after moving there from the UK.

Unfortunately, the world needs so many more brave Lukes to counteract the staggeringly high number of dreadful, cruel people we regrettably share our world with.

We certainly don’t need people like the possible 32 “witnesses” to the Ingham’s turkey abattoir torturers who refused to provide statements to police. This meant that the charges were withdrawn due to insufficient evidence and not one person was convicted for these vile offences which were caught on film in 2013 at the Tahmour abattoir. Enraging.

Nor is our cause assisted by a judicial system which gives offensively lenient sentences such as that given within the last few days in an Ipswich court to a Brisbane woman who deliberately starved her 2 dogs to death in 2013. Suspended sentences and good behaviour bonds seem to be the way that heinous animal cruelty offences are dealt with by the Australian judicial system. Unjust and short sighted (given the well established link between animal cruelty perpetrators who go on to commit violent offences to humans). Grrrrrr.

Animals cannot speak so they need sticky beaks like you and me to keep an eye out for them. They need us to be brave, persistent and nosy (I am not adverse to peeking under the odd fence on my daily dog walks) and to speak out for them when people are treating them badly. They do not need us to shy away from or avoid the issue because it is confronting.

Cruelty to animals takes many different forms – much of it is legislated and therefore legal (such as factory farming, animal experimentation and live animal exports). You can show your anger by writing letters, attending rallies, donating money, educating yourself and not financially supporting any of these “industries”.

Then there is cruelty which happens around where we live or travel – much of which is hidden behind people’s fences or on isolated properties. What we all CAN do is to report any cruelty we see or become aware of. This may take the form of someone who does not provide shelter or adequate food / water to their animal, does not provide veterinary care to their sick or injured animal, leaves their dog in a hot car or more overt abuse such as hearing or witnessing someone beating, kicking etc their animal. You may hear rumours of dog fighting in your area or get knowledge of a greyhound trainer using live animals to train their dogs. You may be driving behind an animal transporter truck where animals can be seen to be suffering. Even a little piece of information is worth passing on – it may initially just form the basis of an intelligence report but, coupled with other reports, may lead to positive action.

Animal Welfare legislation in Australia varies from State to State and is summarised here :

In NSW, you can report animal cruelty to :

* NSW Police – including the Rural Crime section

* RSPCA

* Animal Welfare League (AWL)

* Animal Liberation – take anonymous reports of animal cruelty, targetting isolated NSW country areas.

All offences are outlined under the Protection of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTAA) which is a good place to do your homework if you are wondering what does actually constitute an offence and so you can be well informed when you make the report. With all the exemptions to the Act, it can become a bit confusing for the lay person. I am still trying to figure out if farmers are exempt from providing their stock with shelter from the heat / cold which is one of my latest missions (after recently driving through a searingly hot NSW and observing the number of farm animals who had no access to shade).

Relevant links on who to contact to report animal cruelty in other States are :

* Western Australia

* Victoria

* South Australia

* ACT

* Tasmania

* Northern Territory

As for social media, I have found the following groups to be a great source of information. If you want to learn more about where animal cruelty, dog thefts etc are occurring around Australia (and, therefore, how to avoid it from happening to your beloved pet), I encourage you to “like” these groups. They are well informed, non fanatical people with a collective aim of reducing cruelty to animals in Australia. I have learnt so much in recent months about not only the prevalence of animal cruelty but also about the emergence of dog fighting in Australia. Along with the rise in this black, desperately cruel, underground world is the theft of people’s pets for “bait” dogs – hence why I would now never leave my dog tied up outside a shop or discourage everyone I know  from advertising an unwanted animal as “Free to Good Home” on the likes of Gumtree.

* Aussies Against Dog Fighting and Abuse (a wealth of information, not just about dog fighting).

* Keep Talking

This issue is very close to my heart for a number of reasons. I would love some feedback from you if you have had any dealings with reporting animal cruelty. Thank you !

 

 

 

 

 

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Laundry

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Not tested on animals - cleaning etc | 2 comments

“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do” – Jana Stanfield

 

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There is a two fold purpose for this not very scintillating sounding blog topic.

1. Public humiliation in order to make me clean up our disgrace of a laundry.

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Before……horror scene !

 

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1 hour later !!!!

2. To promote some animal and environmentally friendly laundry options (as well as demonising some of the well known brands who still test on animals).

Many of us make an effort to ensure our shampoos and make up have not been tested on animals but forget that the many items that we use around the house are also often tested on animals and / or are harmful for the environment. I hope that the following guide helps you to source a kind product and reward the companies who are doing the right thing with your patronage and avoid those who aren’t.

This page from the Shop Ethical guide is very easy to follow and points out the good, the bad and the in between clearly. This page from Animals Australia names and shames well known companies who still test their products on animals.

My household has been using the Australian made Earth Choice brand for a while which is very affordable, can be bought in bulk and easily sourced at Coles and Woolies. I like the fact that they also appear on the Choose Cruelty Free list and they are animal product free.

If you prefer to avoid the big supermarkets, Tri Nature ticks all the environmentally and animal friendly credentials. As do the products sold by the lovely company Ethikool who are passionate about raising awareness and funds for the orangutans in Borneo (who are losing their forests and lives to the devastating palm oil plantations). All their products are staunchly palm oil free and they have some great deals if you buy in bulk.

As for the well known companies to AVOID, don’t give your money to :

* Drive, Omo, Comfort and Surf owned by Unilever who get a big, black cross from reliable sources including the Ethical Shopping Guide and PETA’s Cruelty Free Guide for a range of issues, including animal testing and worker exploitation.

* Cold Power, Spree, Dynamo, Fab and Fluffy owned by Colgate-Palmolive are criticised by the Ethical Shopping Guide for animal testing (however they are reported by PETA’s Cruelty Free Guide as “working for a regulatory change” which means they only test on animals when required by law.)

Regrettably, in my mega laundry clean up I found some of these products (Comfort) in our cupboards. The great thing about this blog is that I am learning as I go too.

A rather gross fact that I did learn during my research was that Di Hydrogenated Tallow Dimethyl Ammoium Choride is a fan-dangled name for horse / sheep fat often found in fabric softner. I much prefer the Spotless crew’s (Shannon Lush and Jennifer Fleming) alternative suggestion of putting equal parts bicarb soda and vinegar in with your rinse water for your towels and sheets. I also like their tip of adding lemon juice to rinse water to  whiten whites. Much less toxic sounding option than bleach.

How do your laundry products stack up in the kindness stakes ?

If you want to learn more about animal testing – the suffering it involves, why it is unnecessary and what you can do to help combat it, visit the informative Humane Research Australia site.

 

 

 

 

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Goodbye 2013. Hello 2014.

Posted by on Dec 29, 2013 in Uncategorized | 8 comments

“Live each day as if it’s your last”, that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that ? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy ? It just wasn’t practical. Better by far to simply try to be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your electric typewriter and work hard at….something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.” – Emma Morley, a fictional character from one of my all time favourite books “One Day” by David Nicholls.

This post is not really keeping with the theme of the blog but, then again, part of treading kindly surely involves sharing what you have enjoyed throughout the year ?! Without further ado, this is what I have enjoyed in 2013 (am sure my Virgo friends will be proud of my diligent list makings skills throughout the year !) – peppered with a few pics of an animal, Garp (along with his best friend Ivy), who knows how to lead the best life ever…..and his tips on how to do so.

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Embrace Friendship (and symmetry)

 

Books – Fiction

Like A House on Fire – by Cate Kennedy. The equivalent of people watching in a book (short stories).

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love – Sarah Butler

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

The Sunshine Years – Asfaneh Knight

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The occasional bout of naughtiness is ok

 

 Books – Non Fiction

Madness – Kate Richards (unputdownable memoir about mental illness and what it feels like to live with).

Sex, Drugs and Meditation  – Mary Lou Stephens (did not make me want to do a 10 day silent mediation retreat but was entertaining and enlightening to read about)

Free the Bears – Mary Hutton (if you need some inspiration about wanting to make a difference about something you are passionate about)

Quiet – Susan Cain (if you loathe the limelight and are after some explanation as to why – a very interesting read !).

Changing Gears – Greg Forsyth (loved this book about a couple cycling through Australia and their quest for a more sustainable, meaningful way of life which sounds very earnest but it was very entertaining).

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Protest about what is wrong in this world

 

 Movies

Did not see nearly as many as I usually do…so just a select few…

The Quartet (sweet movie about the going ons in a retirement village filled with talented musicians).

Amour (bittersweet movie about old age) 

Blue Jasmine (a voyeuristic look into Cate Blanchett’s character’s life unravelling)

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Laugh lots

 

Series

The Bridge (continuing my obsession with Scandinavian crime shows)

Enlightened (cringeful to watch but very funny)

Top of the Lake (by the very clever, creative Jane Campion – set in New Zealand)

Twentysomething (very funny Aussie series)

Orange is the New Black (excellent black humour-ish series about women in a US prison – addictive !)

Redfern Now (from the superb Jimmy McGovern – loved “Cracker” 20 odd years ago and this too was a great series).

Girls (younger, quirkier and more realistic version of Sex In the City)

 

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Turn up the charm or cute factor if required

 

Music

Have reclaimed my youth by returning to JJJ which helped me to discover…

London Grammar

 

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Explore

 

Getaways

Mill Paddock Cottage in Mountain Lagoon, NSW.

Tegal Sari, Ubud, Bali

Naya Gawana Resort, Bali

 

Eating Out

Mocan and Green Grout, Canberra

Nourishing Quarter, Surry Hills, Sydney.

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Hold on passionately to what is dear to you

 

In 2013 I Learnt how to…

Make candles (and had lots of lovely people buy them to raise money for Animals Asia)

Grow mushrooms (a surprisingly complicated feat !)

Has been lovely….

Meeting some beautiful new people through my wing man Garp, gathering a few more likers and subscribers together to read my blog witters, getting down to Melbourne to see old  (figuratively that is !) friends and gaining more clarity and insight about what is important to me.

Would love to hear what has made you happy in 2013 in the comment section below. Am always up for some recommendations from like minded souls about anything.

As for 2014….I have a lot of  plans on the horizon which includes more travel, lots more animal product free cooking, clocking up 100km of hiking (get those walking shoes ready Sam), learning how to do Tai Chi (for my increasingly geriatric body and ever chattering mind), writing many more informative blog posts  and, of course, helping out the animals and environment however  and whenever I can.

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Stay unique and true to yourself

 

I hope that 2014 brings you happiness, fulfillment and adventures. Would love to hear what you hope it has in store for you ! xxx

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