Making kind choices in your everyday life.

Say NO to duck/goose down products

Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Clothing | 7 comments

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love” – Mother Teresa

 


Now that winter is just around the corner and our thoughts turn to warming jackets, doonas, puffy vests, sleeping bags, pillows and the like, please avoid buying products containing duck/goose Down. Until recent years, I didn’t give down products much thought and equated them with luxury and warmth. No longer !

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I have discovered that down feathers are collected from birds by one of two means – most commonly as a by product of intensively farmed meat and fois gras birds or, horrifyingly, from live birds where they can be “live plucked” up to 6 times per year before being slaughtered at a young age. It goes without saying that this obviously involves an enormous amount of pain and terror for the birds. They are forcibly held down as their feathers are ripped from their bodies which often tears their flesh, only to be crudely stitched up again without anesthetic. Both methods are derived from cruel practices with the former, by product option being yet another way of supporting the vile intensive farming industry or, worse still, the fois gras producers.

China, Poland and Hungary are the biggest producers of duck and goose down. People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) estimates that 50% of down comes from live plucked birds, yet the Feather and Down industries in China and Europe provide figures of approximately 3 %. I would imagine that the figure lies somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, there is little transparency in tracing where the feathers have come from. (In 2009, a Swedish Doco estimated that in Hungary 50-80% of down products came from live plucked birds. IKEA independently reviewed this figure and found it to be accurate and, impressively, cancelled their order of products.)

Avoiding down products does not mean going chilly, quite the contrary as there are so many alternative warm insulation fillings such as PrimaLoft available.

 

 For Doonas

Doonas and pillows containing synthetic fillings are widely available but, next time I am in the market for a new doona, I will be going to :

Bamboo Village. Bamboo is sustainable and, surprisingly, warm (I invested in some bamboo thermals last year for winter in New Zealand and stayed cosy).

For Puffy Jackets

All the big, outdoorsy companies (Katmandu, Patagonia, North Face etc) have a plethora of down free options.

This one, from Patagonia may be a bit dramatic for our mild Sydney winter (and perhaps a tad shiny for my taste).  However, not only is it down free BUT it is filled with recycled soda bottles and second hand fabrics so is very environmentally kind. I am also impressed by the transparency and honesty shown by Patagonia towards their down products which they talk about in a refreshingly unbiased manner here.

If you don’t wish to go down free, at the very least, purchase your garment from one of the suppliers who claim to avoid feathers from live plucked birds. These companies include IKEA, Katmandu, Patagonia and Marks and Spencer.

Whilst researching this topic, I got a tad side tracked and ended up stalking overseas companies who make gorgeous, warm coats free from any animal products and, maybe I am stating the bleeding obvious BUT the overseas winter stuff is all on sale for us Australians at this time of year. I prefer to buy Australian when possible but our Northern Hemisphere friends really do know how to do the cold weather thing better. Take a look !

* Voutecouture Vaute3_large: A US Company. Their coats (see pink one to the left) and clothes in general are beautiful and cruelty free.

* Irie Organics : A UK Company who specialise in Hemp based coats and clothes which has a dowdy ring to it (“Hemp”) but some of the jackets are lovely so don’t let the Hemp word put you off ! They donate to Sea Shephard too from the sale of some of their products.

As an interesting aside, the only real cruelty free feather product which exists is EiderDown. If your pockets are lined with gold, it is something you could consider (US$1975 (!!) for an EiderDown pillow is the going rate). The feathers are left behind in the nests of the Eider Ducks in Iceland each Spring and pain stakingly gathered to make some outrageously comfortable doona or pillow for some lucky, rich person.

 

 

 Further Interesting articles / videos

Cruelty Beneath the Covers : Go Down-Free with Alicia Silverstone

Can Down be Ethical or Green

Down and Feathers

A Vegan Friendly Winter Parker

A Guide to Insulated Winter Jackets that are not made with Duck Down

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Non Dairy Milk

Posted by on Apr 14, 2013 in Dairy | 2 comments

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Ghandi

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My quest to discover a kinder way to live has led to the dairy products in my diet undergoing a gigantic revamp. Have a read of my “dairy” post to find out what has caused my shift away from dairy. I do want to continue to supp0rt the “kinder dairies” though so am not doing away with dairy for good but I am consuming a lot less of it and am enjoying discovering the multitude of alternatives out there.IMGP6094

I will continue on all things dairy for the next few weeks and give you some delightful alternatives to cheese, milk, yogurt, icecream, cream, butter and so on so there is no deprivation involved – only some doors opening into a brand new, kinder culinary world.

You only need to cruise the long life milk section of the supermarket to find the plethora of milk aternatives on display. The photo above shows the variety of “milks” or whatever you wish to refer to them as, lurking in my kitchen cupboard but my chosen few are :

* Bonsoy. At around $4.50 for 500ml it is not cheap but I only use it in coffee so a carton lasts me for the week. I now understand the uproar a few years ago when it was banned from our supermarket shelves for a short time. Good cafes use it as it wins hands down as a milk substitute for your coffee. I now even prefer it to regular milk. It takes a couple of practice runs to get the heating issue just right. It will congeal if you put hot water into it cold so you need to heat it first. I fill a third of the cup I am using to have my coffee in and heat it for 45 secs on med high in the microwave.

* Regular So Good Soy milk is my “milk” of choice for cooking creamy sauces if you’re not after  a coconuty flavour (for Asian dishes, coconut milk is the best – why did I neglect to include this delightful substance from my photo ?!?!). Soy milk is very affordable to buy and easy to find.

* Almond milk is my favourite of the milks for smoothies, porridge and cereals. The So Good Almond Milk is sweetish and great tasting. Again, pretty affordable these days. If you are very enthusiastic, you can even make your own almond milk which I am very keen to try….less packaging and cheaper.

* For travel, the little soy creamers are handy. I bought mine from The Cruelty Free Shop who, along with Vegan Online, sell some delicious looking coffee creamers which I intend to stock up on for my impending trip overseas.

So, get cracking with some dairy free cooking. My recipe of the week, a moussaka-esque dish but better,  uses soy for it’s creamy sauce and it was divine. If I may say so myself.

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Recipe of the Week – “No Lamb” Middle Eastern-Style Bake

Posted by on Apr 14, 2013 in Recipes - Savoury | 0 comments

Thank you to Mouthwateringvegan.com for this one. She is one talented chef and shares some tantalising recipes on her blog.

As I didn’t really alter it at all, I will be lazy and just post the link – here.

Here is how mine turned out. As with all these type of layered dishes, it tasted even better a few days later. It is a bit of work so is not one for the working week. Nor is it in any shape or form slimming. For the dairy free cheese (a topic for my next post), I used Sheese (the blue cheese flavoured one) – it is hard, tasty and grate-able and can be found at smaller specialist supermarkets such as Harris Farm but any dairy free cheese will do. Nutritional Yeast flakes are found in Health Food Shops and create the cheesy flavour (and, are apparently very good for you too). IMGP6083Hope you enjoy this dish as much as my little family did and, apologies for the slightly feral looking casserole dish.

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Meat Free Week thanks

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Factory Farming | 2 comments

“I think the concept of Meat Free week is a great way to promote not only the inhuman approach of factory farming, but also a way to bring a more mindful approach to consuming meat in our daily lives. If we all even just took the approach of having some meat free days in our lives, it would be a huge step in assisting to create a positive change in our world and the environment in which we exist.”
Rebecca Quade

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Thank you to those who participated in the Meat Free Week Challenge. Have sent the promised donation to Voiceless  and the offer stands (I will donate $10 per person who completes a meat free week) for any time you wish during the year.

Whether or not you took part, I hope you’ve been inspired to try out some delectable meat free meals from the blogs I mentioned in the last post (two further ones very worthy of note which have recently caught my eye are The Vegan Pantry and mouthwateringvegan) and given some thought to the ways that each of us can help the billions of factory farmed animals around the world and the ensuing environmental and health problems which come with factory farming.

 

I made it through my Vegan Week Challenge witIMGP6071h just a couple of hiccups and a resulting self imposed fine to Meatfreeweek – firstly for using Oyster Sauce in my Pad Kee Mao dish and secondly for not querying the content of a biscuit I bought at a cafe which would have no doubt contained egg which would’ve almost certainly been from a caged chook.

On the plus side, I found some new recipes to try and have even embarked upon the quest to make Vegan Cheese with the help of Miyoko Schinner’s “Artisan Vegan Cheese” book. Pictured above is my first attempt at the “Sharp Cheddar”. Despite much eye rolling and harassment at home about my new hobby, I am quite excited by the contents of this book which promises the recreation of all my dairy favourites such as meltable mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan with the use of, primarily, cashew nuts and a few obscure ingredients such as xantham gum and rejuvalac.

My “Cheddar” cheese was pretty good for my introduction into the strange new world of vegan cheese making but the texture could do with some improvement to make it convincingly cheddar-esque. Will keep you posted…..there is still much fun and kitchen messiness to be had with my jars of fermenting rejuvalac, mountainous packs of cashews and agar flakes.

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Meat Free Week – it’s betting time !

Posted by on Mar 14, 2013 in Factory Farming | 1 comment

Every man and every living creature has a sacred right to the gladness of Sping time” – Leo Tolstoy

A beautiful quote from Tolstoy but, sadly, the majority of animals bred for food (or for their milk or eggs) in Australia and around the world do not get to experience such “gladness”. They will not get to feel the sun on their back or a refreshing cool breeze on a hot summer’s day. This is because they were unlucky enough to be born into a world where they are not protected by law and they are treated as products, not like the sentient beings that they are who feel fear, joy, pain and loss. They were unlucky enough to be born into a factory “farm”.

The wonderful organisation, Voiceless, has come up with a way of raising awareness about the issues surrounding factory farming through their meat free week campaign. The site discusses why factory farming is cruel, how it is dreadful for our environment and the health benefits which can be gained from a meat free diet (or from a reduction in the amount of meat you eat).

the truth is hard to swallow

I also recently read a great article on Mamamia. It is a balanced, not overly confronting read which summarises the issues well.

You have a few days to prepare yourself for your week long pledge with me. I will give $10 to the Voiceless campaign for every person who commits to going meat free from the 18th to 24th March 2013. To clarify, this means no fish, chicken, prawns, sardines, anchovies, minced meat, quail, pork brothed pho, lamb, bacon……..the list goes on ! All you need to do to commit is let me know as a comment to this page or on facebook. Despite the utmost faith I hold in you, if you renege at any time during the week, you will be up for the $10 donation. Fair ? It’s not often that I say this but, I want to give some money away !!! I will hunt you down at the week’s end and see how you fared and, hopefully, work out how enormously out of pocket I am going to be.

I will be joining the pledge too but will be going a little bit further, by committing to a week long vegan pledge. I can do better with my diet. I would class myself as 90 % vegetarian (I still have salmon every couple of weeks or so)  and 80 % vegan (am still eating my “kindly sourced” eggs and milk a couple of times a week) so there is definately room for improvement in the kind eating stakes for me. I am discovering that an increasingly plant based diet does not mean deprivation – but it does require a bit of  imagination in the kitchen if you want to step beyond the lentils and tofu eating caricature (not that there is anything wrong with lentils and tofu!).

The Voiceless campaign is not about everybody converting everyone to becoming vegetarian or vegan and it is not about vilifying people who like to eat meat. It is an awareness and fund raising campaign and may lead to some delicious meat free recipe discoveries. Also, my sweet man is doing the pledge. If he can, trust me, anybody can – this is a man who truly loves his steak.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh, but what am I going to eat ?” I hear you scream !

The internet will be your friend on this week long journey. Here are my favourite sites and, trust me, you WILL find an abundant array of recipe suggestions here :

The Kind Cook (you will fall in love with it’s author, Mel, and her recipes)

The Mindful Foodie

Veggie NumNum

Humane Society (subscribe to their recipe of the week option)

Sanitarium

Healthful Pursuit

Search “vegetarian recipes” on Pinterest – you will get 1000’s of fabulous suggestions from around the world.

If you are after something quick and easy, I recommend the Linda McCartney range of vegetarian sausage rolls, pies and sausages (my favourite – they are the best vegi sausages I have ever eaten. As somebody who actually likes the taste of meat, I must say that they are convincingly “sausagey” tasting.). Not that I like spruiking anything from the big supermarkets but I have noticed that Woolies have a new “Macro” brand of vegetarian quick and easy meals for sale.

Finally, let’s kick things off with my recipe of the week. I have no idea where I pilfered it from so I cannot give anybody credit. Somebody deserves credit for it though. It is quick, cheap, nutritious and delectable.

Spicy Lentil and Zuchhini Soup

Serves 3-4

1 tbsp oil, 1 chopped onion, 3 grated zucchinis, 1 tbsp of garlic finely chopped, 1 tbsp tumeric, 1 tsp of chilli flakes, 1 litre of “chicken style” or vegetable stock (I use the Vegetarian Massel brand), 1 cup of red lentils, salt and pepper to taste.

Fry onions and garlic in oil, add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Then simmer for 30 mins.

Good luck in your pledge everyone and don’t forget to let me know of your commitment via a comment – no procrastination, do it right NOW !

 

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Banana Icecream

Posted by on Mar 13, 2013 in Recipes - Sweet | 1 comment

There is a recipe which crops up regularly in vegan / vegetarian blogs and with good reason too. It is a simple, unbelievably tasty, animal product free dessert or snack and is healthy too.

In keeping with my recent dairy themed posts, this is a conventional ice cream substitute (only way better) which makes a regular appearance in our house. Try it, you will not regret it.

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Serves 2

2 frozen ripe bananas

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tbsp peanut butter

Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top

Put chopped up frozen banana into food processor and churn until it magically reaches the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Add golden syrup and peanut butter and churn for another minute or so. Put into ramekins and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Mmmm-mmmm ! x

PS The golden syrup and peanut butter can be substituted for a myriad of other ingredients such as cocoa, coconut, carob drops, nuts….whatever you desire really.

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Kind Dairies

Posted by on Mar 8, 2013 in Dairy | 4 comments

“I’m only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do” – Helen Keller

Moving on from the sad truth behind the conventional dairy farm onto some posts about what you CAN do to make some kinder choices when it comes to dairy products.

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I am working through all the dilemmas which come with making kinder food choices and have reached the point where I am still consuming a small amount of dairy (predominantly feta cheese and Greek yogurt) but it is only at home and only from one producer – “Baramah Organics” (and the yogurt containers are good for food storage, hence nutty container collection in photo !).

I plan to gradually eliminate dairy from my diet – due to the similarities to the “humane meat” oxymoron….despite the fact that these cows appear to lead good lives (and I am referring to the lucky few who live on the “kind” dairies) and that their farmers should be supported for the care they give to their land and animals, I personally do not feel comfortable with any animal being forced to go through the ordeal of becoming pregnant and giving birth every year just so her milk, meant for her baby, can be consumed by humans. And, after she can no longer give us any milk, she still ends up facing an undignified and premature end at the abattoir which does not seem fair. No other adult animal does this (steals milk from another species) and it is undeniably exploitative of us greedy humans to force an animal to produce milk year after year just because it tastes nice and we can.

Additionally, the health claims associated with dairy food are some what dubious….after all, the Japanese, one of the lowest consumers of dairy in the world, consistently achieve the greatest longevity. More and more people are becoming lactose intolerant and I have learnt that calcium can be easily gleaned from plant based sources and the delicious recipes using dairy alternatives are endless – I am  learning to cook without cheese, cream etc and am loving it (as is my waist line – let’s face it, cheese makes you fat !).

In the meantime, however, I have a partner who has no desire to say farewell to dairy so….we’ll do the best we can in our little household to keep us all happy.

The run down on the kind dairies that have caught my eye in Australia is as follows  (I have fixated on the bobby calf issue as this is the aspect of dairy farming which I find the most confronting). These farms are all superior to conventional dairies (ie the industrialised ones which produce the cheap milk and cheese found everywhere) in respect of how they look after their animals and land and their cheeses contain non animal rennet (regular cheese contains rennet which is sourced from the stomach of calves). The milk, cheese and yogurts from these dairies are significantly more expensive than your standard supermarket milk / cheese but, at least by spending a bit more, you are less likely to over consume and contribute to the world’s insatiable demand for cheap dairy products. Plus, you can be satisfied that the farmers who are going out of their way to do the right thing are being paid for their efforts (as opposed to the ridiculously cheap milk being sold by Woolies and Coles – what better way to bankrupt Australian farmers and create sad, unhealthy animals hey ?). Plus, they taste so much better than your average milk and cheese.

Barambah Organics

This dairy is located in Queensland. To quote from their website “At Barambah Organics all the calves that are born on our property stay within our care. Our calves are not considered by us to be waste products.

At the age of 6 months we take the females to another one of our properties which is 20kms from the dairy farm. There they have 1,300 acres to roam, and we take the males to our 1,000 acre property at Murgon. No Barambah calves are sent to the abattoir.”

They produce unbelievably delicious yogurt, milk, labna and cheeses and they are getting easier to find at the shops , Australia wide.

Elgaar Farm

Another dairy which obviously cares deeply for it’s animals. I find their products a bit harder to source in Sydney (although their products – milk, cheeses, yogurts, cream and butter – are sold at Dr Earth, Newtown). Like Barambah, the calves are not separated from their mothers until they are much older and the cows are retired on the property when they have outlived their milking days rather than being sold to the abattoir. They offer a cash incentive to return the containers. Read more about this kind Tasmanian dairy here.

B-d Farm Paris Creek

This dairy is in South Australia and it’s products are readily found in health food shops and some smaller supermarkets. Their calves spend a few days with their mother before being placed in a group of calves and their mother still feeds them before she is sent for milking. The dairy tries to sell the male calves to local farms but sends to nearby abattoir after several months if there are too many. They have a good range of yogurt and cheeses including Bries and Camemberts.

Mungalli Creek Dairy

Another Queensland dairy doing the right thing. I wrote an email to them and received a very comprehensive reply detailing the care they take in respect of their land and animals. The calves are kept with their mothers until old enough to be removed into a group of calves. The male calves are usually given to neighbouring farms and if there is a surplus, they are humanely euthanased and buried on the property. (Still sad but so preferable than what happens on the conventional dairy farm).

The Mindful Foodie, one of my favourite blogs, has written a similar article about the dairy dilemma and has also included information on 2 kind sounding goat dairies (which face the same issues as cow dairies in terms of the unwanted male offspring) – Hindmarsh Valley and Holy Goat in Victoria. Goat cheese from Nimbin Valley in NSW appears worthy of note too, from an animal welfare perspective.

Best practice is to have an inquiring mind and ask questions – particularly at Farmers Markets where cheeses etc from smaller dairies are often sold. Or, send an email to the company – from my experience, most appear pretty obliging and are happy to answer questions.

Keep an open mind about trying some dairy substitutes which will be my next dairy related blog topic………..whilst on the topic, I am off to whip up a vegetarian lasagna with cashew cream “cheese” for tonight’s dinner…if it is presentable to the public eye  (some of my creations are far from it) I will even share it with you ! X

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