Making kind choices in your everyday life.

Environment

The getting of wisdom to make kind choices

Posted by on Feb 15, 2015 in Dairy, Environment, Factory Farming | 6 comments

“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight” – Albert Schweitzer

I sincerely hope that my voice through my blog never comes across as preachy or holier than thou-ish. If it ever does, I humbly apologise as I certainly have no right to be this way. I have spent the majority of my life doing the very things which I rant against on this blog. Over my 40 something years on this earth, I have, without a second thought, gnawed on pigs trotters, ridden elephants and posed for photos with baby gibbons in Thailand, thrown bread to bears in a barren bear pit, enjoyed nights out at the greyhound track, bet on racehorses at “Royal Randwick”, used make up, shampoo etc by companies who test on animals and eaten a mountain of cheese and a ton of sausages. 9 out of 10 shoes I’ve ever bought have been made of leather, “lambs fry” and “lambs brains” (eek) were sometimes breakfast growing up.  I’ve dined on dozens of Peking duck pancakes, caught fish, probably inadvertently eaten hundreds of caged eggs, snuggled under duck down quilts, gawked at animals in too small enclosures in zoos and aquariums and am probably responsible for the death of an orangutan or two by consuming / lathering myself in products containing palm oil and the list of shame goes on. I am grateful to have never worn fur or eaten foie gras but still, my track record is far from worthy. I even kind of, (cringe), made fun of  a vegan family we knew whilst I was a teenager and found their rice cake eating,  meat abstaining ways completely “extreme” and weird. I have done all of these things whilst always being someone who passionately “loves animals”. I don’t feel that I am a kinder or more empathetic person these days than I was growing up – I have, however, made a conscientious effort to educate myself about these issues and, as a direct result, my ways of living and eating have changed.

I have met a few people recently who revealed that they did not know (or had never thought about the fact) that cows have to have a calf each year to produce milk (and then this calf will be taken from its grieving mum at around 5 days of age and, if male,  slaughtered – after legally not having to be fed or watered for 36 hours and so on). These are intelligent people but they have never learnt and, hence, thought about this fact. Educating ones self to all the travesties which are going on around us in our everyday lives is difficult. It  usually comes from a reading or viewing which is upsetting, it is not taught to us in school nor is it is rarely shown on TV as it tends to make people switch channels. The Easter Show where city kids are meant to learn about the country have straw filled pens bustling with happy piglets on display rather than the concrete floored, windowless sheds which are the reality of how the vast majority of pigs raised for food exist in Australia. Kind of the agricultural equivalent of Santa Clause. Big business and government will do everything it can to keep the grim reality hidden and advertising will be intentionally deceptive. There are sinister steps in Australia heading towards US style Ag-Gag Legislation (which aims to “gag” covertly obtained footage of animal cruelty and punish whistle blowers) and the government has refused to install CCTV footage in abattoirs to keep things even further from our view.

The unfortunate irony is that there are many people who love animals but will refuse to educate themselves about what really goes on because, understandably, they cannot tolerate seeing animals in pain or being mistreated.  So the very people who the animals of this world are relying on to forge a kinder path are sadly absent. They end up unintentionally contributing to and funding horrendous animal cruelty because they do not know enough about what goes on to be shaken into action and change because of their catch 22 situation of not wanting to be witness to suffering. These animal loving people need to be brave and challenge their own discomfort to balance out the ambivalent, those who do not care less and those who actively, greedily and mercilessly encourage and protect cruel industries such as intensive “factory” farms (I’m speaking to you Barnaby Joyce and Katrina Hodkingson!).

The former filet mignon, lobster eating investment banker, Phillip Wollen is perhaps, the best example of what an about face turn someone can take after educating themselves. In his case, it started with a business trip visit to a slaughterhouse and went on from there. Please take a minute to have a read about this incredible philanthropist and his Melbourne based Kindness House (where staff get in trouble if they DON’T bring their dogs to work !) which helps animals and disadvantaged people worldwide. He is a remarkable person.

The changes in my life have not had the earth shattering momentum of Phillip Wollen but I am proud of the changes that I have made (despite some faltering and weaving along the way ! – and I still am a long way from living the kindest life I could) – I just wish I’d educated myself earlier. As with all things which involve substantial change, remember you don’t have to do it all at once – that can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Is there something you are “into” to start off with, which maybe you could learn a bit more about to help you make better informed and kinder choices ? Cheese ? Woolen yarn ? Ham sandwiches ? Chicken soup ? What goes on behind the scenes to produce these, at first glance, inoffensive products ?

With a bit of knowledge under your belt, you may find yourself asking “is it right for an intelligent animal to be virtually immobilised for weeks to months at a time (sows), is it OK to castrate an animal without anesthesia (steers, pigs), is there anything right about allowing an inquisitive bird to live on a sloped piece of A4 sized wire mesh so she cannot stretch her wings (egg layers), should water loving ducks be living without water in intensively raised sheds (ducks), can we justify 30 seconds of suffocating terror for some cost savings (gassing of pigs), is a pair of leather boots from the skin of an animal who has had his tail broken and chilli rubbed into his eyes to make his exhausted body walk to be slaughtered really worth it (leather), is it OK to take a sheep’s fleece in the middle of winter (wool) or have shearer’s beat them out of impatience, can we justify sending animals to a terrifying death overseas because it makes us money (live animal export), is farmed fish OK despite the fact that it will take a huge amount of wild fish to feed that fish, is it environmentally wise to continue to support the livestock industry when it is one of the biggest contributers to carbon emissions and global warming, is it OK to suffocate male chicks or mince them alive so we can have eggs (including free range) ?” And the list goes on. You will probably find yourself answering a resounding “no” to each of these questions. No, it is not right, nor kind, nor intelligent, nor logical.

These days we have the internet so everything you need to know is at your finger tips, for free. There are some great movies and books available too. Here are a few resources to get you started on your learning journey (or you may find what you are after in one of my previous posts ?).

I gain a lot of my knowledge from Voiceless and Animals Australia and love One Green Planet’s tips, recipes and wisdom which arrive in my in box a few times a week. There are also these great sources……which I’ve either read / watched or have been highly recommended.

Documentaries available on the internet

Lucent – set inside regular intensive piggeries around Australia

Earthlings –  narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with soundtrack by Moby

Books

The Ethics Of What We Eat – Peter Singer

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows – Melanie Joy

Farmageddon – Philip Lymberry (I am currently reading this intriguing book which reveals the true cost of cheap meat)

The Pig Who Sang to the Moon – Jeffrey Mason

Movies

Black Fish

Project Nim

Cowspiracy

This week’s post is dedicated to little Scully who, last week, was rescued from a factory farm but died a 4 days later from an illness related to her time on the intensive piggery. Thanks to the wonderful photography of Tamara Keneally who took this touching photo and has educated thousands through her simple, quiet images of farm animals at sale yards, on trucks etc where no words are needed to convey their message.

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My next quests are to learn more about how honey is produced and how to source medication which has not been tested on animals. There is so much I want to learn and, yes, my lifestyle habits will no doubt continually evolve as a result. I would love to hear what you have learnt about which has led to a change in your life or something you would like to learn about in order to live a kinder existence.

 

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Plastic free July – Plastic Bags

Posted by on Jul 13, 2014 in Environment | 6 comments

“There is absolutely no reason why a single plastic bag ever needs to be produced again. It is absolutely within the capability of everyone shopping in the known world to vow never to use a single plastic bag again” – Mark Watson (from his very funny book “Crap At the Environment”.)

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My nanna trolley and big squid bag

 We are half way through “Plastic Free July”. Although I haven’t formally signed up, I am trying my darnedest to adopt the “refuse single use plastic in July” motto – namely water bottles, plastic bags and coffee cup lids. In keeping with the above quote, I am going to take it one step further and make a vow to myself not to ever use a plastic bag ever again. I think, armed with my pretty nanna trolley and array of re-useable bags I have collected, it will be an achievable and fairly easy feat. (Don’t have a nanna trolley in your life ? – check out these ones !)

I have been pretty good with my (non) useage of plastic bags for many years now but I still remain a bit “crap at the environment” – in quite an illogical manner too. I refuse to buy bottled water whilst out and about but I drink my fair share of large plastic bottled mineral water and cranberry juice at home.  Inconsistent and illogical – most definitely !

There are many good reasons to try to rid our world of plastic bags. They fill up our landfill (429,000 recyclable plastic shopping bags are dumped there in Australia EVERY HOUR !!) and, horrifyingly, find their way (even from land fill via the wind)  into our oceans and rivers where they suffocate, cause obstructions in the digestive system or maim thousands of birds and marine animals like seals, turtles and whales – who often mistake the plastic debris for food. Only 3 % of bags are currently recycled and 10 million new plastic bags are used every day in Australia. They are made from non-renewable crude oil which is obviously unsustainable. Plastic bags take up to 1000 years to break down and, even then, this process leaks toxins into the soil.

NSW is being left behind (again) with what seems to be an easy to fix problem.  Bag taxes in Ireland and Denmark have led to massive (around 90%) decline in plastic bag use. Single use, light weight plastic bags are banned in the  ACT and South Australia and Coles Bay in Tasmania has been plastic bag free since 2003 due to the threat that plastic bags posed to migrating whales (and a one man campaign from the local baker – love these stories !!).

If, like me here in NSW, you are twiddling your thumbs, waiting for your State government to make some kind of educated reform about plastic bags, we can take some action for ourselves. This is what I’m doing – not just this month but from now on :

No longer using bin liners: In our Odd Couple household where I am very much Oscar and my fella is totally Felix Unger incarnated, I thought this suggestion may cause some horror. I have been given the green light but am under strict instructions that I am now the keeper of the bins in every respect for this proposal to work. I am 1 week  in and, so far, so good. Anything a bit dribbly (like the old baked beans I just turfed) is wrapped in newspaper prior to being deposited into the bin and everything else is carefully placed in either the recycling bin or the compost bin as per normal.

Making a habit of saying “no bag thanks, I have one” no matter where I am shopping :

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www.bagladies.com.au

 Again, illogically, I have mastered the no plastic bags at the supermarket fairly well but as soon as I purchase something from somewhere else, say Myers for example, this rule often goes out the window. But no more. My pretty little scrunched up bags will remain on standby in my handbag permanently. You don’t have to stick with the ubiquitous “green” supermarket bags either…..there are so many cute ones available…..food shopping wise, I love my aforementioned nanna trolley and have just discovered these ones, which I have my eye on for next time. I have a few Onya ones for general use as they scrunch up easily and are made out of plastic bottles (!!).

* Bagladies have a great array of captioned bags including the one pictured above (with $3 going to PETA Australia).

Using biodegradable dog poo bags : I cannot think of a viable alternative to plastic poo bags for our dog and I am too scared to investigate what is considered viable for people who are determined to live completely plastic free. I buy these biodegradable ones from Maxpak but I like the look of these too as a profit (50% !!) goes to dog rescue groups and they are biodegradable.

Donate some re-useable shopping bags to someone not so environmentally “keen” : In this case, at my workplace. Our “social club” shopping is always done through the use of a multitude of plastic bags as nobody is ever organised enough to buy the green bags. I have just ordered 5 of these cute ones from Animals Australia to donate to my workmates – which not only promotes re-useable bags but also compassionate shopping, whilst supporting the brilliant work of Animals Australia.

Taking those inadvertent collection of plastic bags to a good place : In general, I do not like the duopoly of the big supermarkets but Coles and Woolies have done the right thing by supplying bins to take your plastic bag waste which cannot be recycled via your normal household bin system. Coles participate in a worthy scheme known as Redcycle where your “scrunchable” plastic waste (including biscuit packets, pasta bags, bread bags, shopping bags) is made into outdoor furniture for schools and kindergartens. This enables so much of our waste to be used for good (furniture) rather than evil (landfill).

Scorn the thick plastic soil, mulch, compost gardening bags :  Aaaahhhhh – this particular dilemma is driving me nuts. If you were to peer into my garage, you would find a pile of gardening plastic bags reminiscent of the most devoted hoarder. I have written emails to all and sundry about where I can recycle them and, to date, nobody has given me a solution so there they wait until I find one.  The irony of buying soil, mushroom compost and the like to do the eco friendly thing of creating a vegi garden whilst being left with swathes of thick, un-breakdownable plastic to be sent to landfill does not escape me. Unfortunately, I only had this epiphany about 6 months ago, at which time I bought some lovely big, white sturdy, reusable bags from my local hardware shop. The next time I need some soil, I will visit my local gardening center equipped with my bags to manually shovel and fill them up. Slightly less convenient but good exercise, cheaper and definately kinder to the environment.

Reuse where possible : Rather than relying on glad wrap and the like, a plastic bread bag or similar can be used again and again and again to accommodate your lunchtime sandwich.

Ignite the beachcomber within : I love the “Take 3” initiative (of taking 3 items of rubbish away with you when you visit the beach, rivers etc). There is a slight feeling of this being like picking up a grain of sand in a desert when you do this but you still have the satisfaction that the one bottle top or straw you remove from the beach may be one less thing for a beautiful sea creature to ingest.

Niggling those big businesses into doing the right thing : Writing a quick letter or face book post is a good way to have a bit of a vent to those big businesses who have so much influence on our habits. I wrote on the Cole’s facebook page with my suggestion about how shopper’s who are doing the right thing by bringing their own bags (and, therefore, cutting the costs for the supermarket) should receive a little incentive (like a small shopping voucher). Shops like to please consumers so feedback is a good way of voicing your concerns. My local council is next on the list. Petitions are always good too – here is a link to Animal Australia’s one seeking to ban the one use plastic bags in Australia and New Zealand. It takes 1 minute to complete.

Using alternatives when fruit and vegi shopping : I am going to invest in something from here to get around the “what do I put my baby spinach in ?” dilemma at the fruit shop. Until then, the paper bags usually reserved for mushrooms will do.

It a nut shell, the mantra of the 5 R’s – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Re purpose, Recycle (in that order) – is a good way to live, for many things, not just plastic bags.

Planet Ark has an informative FAQ page about plastic bags if you want to learn more.

I would love to hear if you have any tips on reducing your own plastic bag usage. Please let me know in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

 

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