Wednesday, 6 June 2012

An easy choice


When people ask me if going vegan was difficult:


I love Kristen Wiig so couldn't resist sharing this :)

Reblogged from we-are-all-earthlings

Friday, 4 May 2012

Strawberry season

Hi!

This is just a quick post to give an update on the hair-colour-change saga. I know right, what an interesting life I lead!

Well, to begin with I was in the salon for four and a half hours. I used to think 2, 2 and a half when I was a white blonde was a long time! To tell you the truth though, it certainly didn't feel like 4.5 hours - how time flies when you're having fun! I've had shorter shifts at work that felt eternities longer than that morning did. Anyway, the day before I'd tried to remove as much of the colour as I could using a technique I found on an online hair colouring forum (the inernet, hey?) Apparently it worked for some of the users with permanent colour but even with my semi-permanent, nothing budged. So at the hairdresser's my hair was bleached, bleached and then bleached again. Eventually I was looking in the mirror at a... well, an odd-looking person to say the least. I had mousy brown roots, fluoro yellow mid-lengths and fluoro orange ends. My hair was high-vis! Then red hair dye was applied to the lightest yellow parts and a semi-permanent was put over all of it. I had no idea what colour they were putting on at the end: the bits left around my hairline started to tinge brown over time so I thought I was in for a light brown? But I didn't want to get my hopes up that I'd no longer be fluoro so I waited...
As my hair was dried it looked quite a bit like my natural colour, but I stepped outside of the salon and BAM! Dark strawberry blonde? A browny-ginger? It's an odd colour so I'm not quite sure how to describe it. I was really self-conscious about it at first as there's a slight ginger element to it but I decided that noone but me knows that this isn't what I'd planned for, so I went out into the world trying to rock my new hair colour. And I've had compliments! The only downside is that I was warned by my hairdresser that the semi wont last long so I'm checking in the mirror every day for any signs of that ghastly orange resurfacing. Fingers crossed it stays hidden for a while!
The day was topped off though by my 'poverty': I couldn't pay for the appointment after all that! Extremely embarrassed, I slunk off home to borrow money off my partner, and put it through the next day. Dearie me!

So, now the question is... do I go back again in a month or so and do it all over again in an attempt to go blonde? Or, seeing as I'm pretty close at the moment, do I just gun for my natural colour from here? Time will tell...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Little April showers

Yes, I know it's May, but only just! With winter approaching, it's starting to get a bit nippy around the house at night. I've been wearing cheap slippers nabbed from an overnight stay at a hotel a few months back, but my partner's tootsies have been suffering since the demise of his old, worn, much-loved uggboots. So we went out to a few cheap department stores to try and find animal-friendly versions. (Since the brand name Ugg was developed, I'm pretty sure noone can officially call them uggboots anymore. One store we went to were calling them 'men's slippers' even though they had small, loafer shaped slippers in the next aisle, and these ones clearly came up above the ankle in a boot style. Anyway...) No luck in one store as the upper was real leather, but a cheaper shop was our friend - fully synthetic uggboots and for a tenth of the price! My partner has even remarked that his feet get too hot in them, if that could be a bad thing. Winter, here we come!

Talking about uggboots has made me think about all the things I own that aren't vegan. Not just the soaps and the hairsprays, but my sheepskin car seat covers. My duck down quilt. My pure wool blanket. My woollen beanies and scarves and gloves and jumpers. The woollen squares I started knitting last year to make a baby blanket. My silk skirts. All the books I own that are printed with animal-based inks. It's overwhelming. To be honest, though, I have no intention of throwing any of these items away, and will only search for vegan replacements if or when they wear themselves out. I know this would disgust some vegans out there but in my eyes, the damage has already been done. From a financial standpoint alone, I can't afford to give all these things to op-shops and start from scratch. As long as I don't buy any new leather, silk, feather items, then I'm not causing any harm. And if I contributed to the animal's suffering by buying these items made from their body parts, the least I can do is get a bloody good run out of them right? Surely waste would be an even bigger problem?
I guess there are a lot of things in the world of veganism that rely upon individual choice. I heard a story from a friend of mine of a vegan she knew that wouldn't eat anything from a restaurant if the plate it was served on was washed with other dishes that had had meat on them. Now, I personally find that to be a bit extreme, but I'm sure that person didn't and I'm sure many others wouldn't.  It's a bit weird to think that I lead a lifestyle many people would think of as extreme, yet there are probably so many out there who think I'm copping out or that I'm not doing enough. I know my partner for example, threw away a lot of the items he owned that weren't vegan as he just couldn't stomach using them anymore. I, on the other hand, still wear patent high heels and use Maybelline mascara...

What else...

I wasn't able to catch you up completely in my last post, so what other developments can I fill you in on?
I began the search for vegan makeup. (Let me tell you, as someone who usually gets a kick out of buying beauty products, it is a major hassle trying to replace them all with vegan versions. One step at at time...) Online blogs and forums led me to a few, but the easiest to access was Nude by Nature mineral makeup. I eyed off their product range, worked out what I wanted and sent off an email asking for a list of ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised with their quick and informative response, but disappointed to see that their primer, lipgloss and mascara all contained animal products. Their stuff is a tad hefty in terms of price, so I waited until I well and truly exhausted my current powder supply and had enough money to buy the Mineral Cover (foundation) and Finishing Veil (powder). Their blush was vegan too but it only came in one shade - a dark brown-toned pink - and it didn't suit me at all, so I refrained. I've been using the foundation and powder ever since. At first it took me a bit of getting used to, after 9 years of applying liquid foundation. It was strange to slowly build up cover, to know how to get an even coverage and know when I had enough or not enough on. I'm not blown away, but I'm not disappointed either. I look a touch paler than I did wearing my old liquid foundation, and my oily shine still breaks through the makeup after a number of hours but I haven't downgraded and my products are cruelty-free, so I'm happy!
I'm still on the lookout for vegan lipstick, blush, mascara and eyeliner so it'll be a while until my makeup bag is completely animal-friendly.

My partner and I were walking through a local street arts festival the other day and we came across a little vegan stall. We scored a whole heap of free stickers (who doesn't love free stickers?), my partner scored a new vegan shirt, and we both scored a potential new group of friends! Well, maybe. Turns out, the tiny vegan community in our town meets up every so often to hang out, eat vegan food, chat and maybe watch a DVD or listen to a guest speaker. Considering we are the only vegans that we know, it sounds like a great place for us to find new networks. We've both joined the online community, so now it's just a matter of mustering up the courage to go along to one of these gatherings. Thank the lord for my partner I say, as I'm so shy that I can guarantee I wouldn't go if I were on my own! Fingers crossed we meet some nice, like-minded people there - wait, who am I kidding, they're vegans! Of course they'll be nice and like-minded! So I guess fingers crossed there's some future friends there. It'll also be a refreshing change to have real vegans to talk to. I tend to shy away from mentioning much about anything vegan in real life for fear of people interpreting my musings as judgemental, evangelical or snobbish. It'd be good to be able to talk openly about anything and everything vegan.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Resurfacing

Hello!

It has been way too long since I last posted but the university semester really ramped up and I fell behind on my posts.
A lot has happened since the end of February, it's just a matter of remembering it all!

My hair colour change has been scheduled for tomorrow. I'm still going down the path of going blonde, then natural. My hair has some red in it so as of tomorrow I'll be a ginger (and not the pretty kind) but hopefully that won't last too long. I've managed to source vegan hair dye, as well as vegan hair bleaching kits. The bleach is a little harder to get unfortunately as the online store doesn't ship internationally. If I do manage to work out a practical way of getting it sent over then I may be able to stay blonde for longer than a few months, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

I've been using the Oil Cleansing Method for a few weeks solid now. If I'm perfectly honest, I can't say I've noticed a huge difference in my skin. It still gets oily, I still have pimples... actually, I have noticed more pronounced blackheads on my chin over the last few weeks now that I think about it. I'll keep plugging on though, as it's certainly saving me money. And if it's not making my skin worse, then that alone is worth the effort!

The Fertility Awareness Method is still under construction. By that I mean that I'm still trying to work out my body before I can rely on it as a concrete method of contraception. Despite having no active baby-prevention strategies underway at the moment, I'm really enjoying the knowledge I'm gaining about my body. At the doctor's the other day, after I told him I was no longer on the pill (and wasn't interested in any type of hormonal contraception) he reminded me to check for pregnancy if I stopped having my period. I confidently told him that I'd know if I were pregnant a long time before I noticed my period was late, something I definitely wouldn't have been able to say before.
   I've been off the pill for a few months now and there have been definite changes. I've lost weight, seemingly all from my bust (boo!), my periods are more painful than they were on the pill and my cycles are taking a while to settle into a natural rhythm. My last cycle lasted for 49 days, my longest ever! I have no idea what was going on for those 7 weeks but hopefully it's my body getting all the weirdness out of its system and I can start to rely on some patterns. My poor partner's patience is wearing quite thin, I can tell you!

In terms of food, we've been trying out a few new concoctions recently. I've tried a new vegan cheese recipe which is very nice and so so easy to make. Also, after my Krispy Kreme dream in my last post I decided to check once and for all. I was disappointed (not surprised) and amused to see that according to the official website, in terms of animal products, Krispy Kreme doughnuts only contain eggs, butter, milk, yoghurt and whey! A local imitator, Dreamy Donuts also came up negative on the vegan-friendly search. So I set about making my own. It took me a few different recipes and some constructive criticism from my partner before I found the one. The good part is that it takes so long to fry the bloody things that it's an occasional treat, and also much cheaper than store-bought versions.
    I'm a real junk-food addict, and giving up a lot of my vices in the process of becoming vegan has been really difficult. Even now, after about 8 or 9 months, I still crave potato chips. It takes all of my willpower not to buy them in the supermarket, even knowing that they aren't vegan. I've never managed to find anything that satisfies that craving. Maybe I never will. I realise these are totally first-world problems, but I do live in the first world!

I think that's about all I have time for right now, but that's definitely not all I have to say, so I'll be back later with more updates. I'll do my best not to leave it two months until the next time I post!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Online!

The internet issue has been resolved (at least for now... my modem's a bit temperamental). So this is just a quick post to say hello and give some updates.

After talking it over with my partner, I have decided to go blonde for the few months before money gets quite tight. I'm sure there will be an intermediate orange stage but I'm willing to pull it off. In a way I don't think the ginger will be quite as bad as the weird colours that seem to come out when hair is tinted. Then it's up to me to source some vegan hair dye for the move back to my natural colour. It's quite exciting actually. I really miss being blonde (honestly, they do have more fun) and it'll only be for a few months so I'll have to enjoy it while it lasts. That plus there are many people in my life who have never known me with my natural hair colour. Hmmm, interesting.

I had a dream the other night that I was about to break my 'vegan vows' and eat Krispy Kremes. All I needed was the go ahead from my partner and I would have launched right into them! This is actually quite far from the normal patten of my dreams where I wake up sweating after a nightmare in which I've unknowingly consumed meat or cheese. Ahh it's quite funny to see how veganism really does penetrate your whole life - even your subconscious!

Off to bed for me now. I need to make getting a decent stretch of sleep every night a bit of a habit... 40 hour weeks of class time and poor sleep are starting to wear me down I think.

Happy dreaming!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

20 days and counting...

Yikes! It's been almost three weeks since my last post. Sorry to my readers but the internet issues have still not been resolved. That, coupled with me starting 40 hour weeks means I haven't really had a whole lot of opportunities for writing blog posts.

I'm happy to report that I'm still lactose free. I've been asked quite often in the last few weeks whether I'm on any medication, and it's certainly been strange to answer in the negative. Strange, but good. The basal body thermometre was purchased not long after my last post. My only complaint is that it beeps incessantly and when you're taking your temperature at 6 in the morning, it's not the most pleasant sound to the ears. So the FAM is well underway... I'm learning lots but I think I'll have to wait a few months as my body gets back into a natural rhythm and I can rely a bit more on its signals.

I've yet to start the Oil Cleansing Method. I've been waiting for the funds to be a little less tight so I can buy castor oil in bulk and give it a go. I'm super excited about it though, it's just one of those things that feels right without even trying it. On a similar note, a friend of mine brought the movement that is "No Pooing" to my attention. The idea is similar to the OCM in that shampoo actually strips the hair of its natural oils, meaning it overproduces and we need to clean it more often and so on and so forth in a positive feedback cycle. Apparently if you give your hair about 6 weeks to get over stopping shampoo cold turkey and find its own balance then you really have no need at all for shampoo. I should mention here that while I'm very tempted to give this a go, I also have hair that needs to be washed every day. It's very fine, but there's a lot of it and it greases up like you wouldn't believe. To top it off I've just started a new course at uni and figured that I wouldn't give off the best first impression if I were to rock up to class and/or clinics with a greaseball on my head. So for now, I've put the shampoo ban off until winter when I can wear beanies every day to disguise my lank locks.

While on the topic of hair, I've been tossing up in my head my future colour options. I haven't had my natural colour since I was 17 and I quite like it that way. Towards the end of the year however, funds will become extremely tight and it may be that colouring my hair is one of the areas that will be cut from the budget. Also, I'm aware that it's probably very unlikely that the products used at my hairdresser are vegan/ not tested on animals. This is truly where veganism and vanity are in conflict for me. A good vegan would source vegan hair colour or go au naturale immediately. But I am so insecure about the blah-ness of my natural colour that I'm really tempted to live out the next few months as one last hurrah before my financial situation forces my hand.
I hadn't planned to dye my hair for the rest of my life. I had it all worked out in my head. In a few years time, I would go from my dark locks to being a blonde again, and once I had children (and less time for hairdressers) it would be a relatively easy transition back to my real hair, light brown. But I'm dark at the moment, and aside from letting my roots grow out foryears or tinting my hair until it resembles brown (neither are really options) I'm not quite sure what to do. In a compromise between veganism and vanity I may have to sacrifice my vegan ideals for a few months and bleach my hair in order to transition smoothly to no colouring at all. Do the ends justify the means? I'll need to ponder it some more I think.

I'll end with my vegan 'moment' for the week. While having a discussion about high cholesterol with a member of my immediate family, I thought I'd throw a little vegany goodness into the mix. "You know what really reduces cholesterol? Eating no animal products." To which this person replied,"Well then what do you eat?" I'd better clarify that this person is intelligent, world-wise and full of common sense but this was not a joke. It was a serious criticism of my diet. Don't get me wrong, I'm no stranger to this kind of 'ignorance' but to hear it coming from someone who is quite familiar with my vegan diet, cooks vegan food for me and peruses vegan cookbooks to find good recipes just for my benefit was a big shock. As some fellow vegans mentioned, comments like this are usually a reflection of non-vegans' insecurities at their own diets when faced with your healthy changes. I'm not sure, but I really hope it's defensiveness and not close-mindedness.

Until the next time I have internet access and a spare moment,

Love.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Take that, milk!

To begin with I must apologise. It's been way too long since I last posted (ten days!) but I'm having internet difficulties at the moment so please bear with me.

I am very happy to report that progress has been made in my camp. I have been officially lactose-free for six days now! No more antidepressant and no more contraceptive pill. It's a tad strange not having to pop pills before bed time every night but really it's just two less things to think about, and who couldn't use that? This also means that I'll be starting the Fertility Awareness Method of birth control very shortly. It'll be a steep learning curve I'm sure, but I'm very excited to see how things turn out. I just need to purchase a basal body thermometre, so once I have some funds things will be on their way.

Mentally, I'm finding the transition away from antidepressants relatively smooth. It probably hasn't been the best week to stop as things have been a bit tumultuous in my world recently but everything is looking pretty good... fingers crossed. I must say I am shocked at the physical toll the withdrawal is taking on my body. I have been unwell for days now, all side effects of stopping the medication. It's certainly a reminder of all the chemicals contained in those tiny little pills, and makes me even more thankful to be free of them. Natural all the way!

On a different note, I mentioned in a previous post that I'd been looking for a vegan moisturiser. I tried Yes to Carrots moisturiser with SPF 15 and I'm pleased with the results. The only downside is that it is actually more expensive than Invisible Zinc so I'm still trying to decide whether or not this is a long-term option. I'm also excited to announce that I'll be trialling a new method of skin care very soon. I currently use Sukin foaming cleanser as it's vegan, environmentally friendly, made in Australia and just really really nice. In the name of saving money and going back to basics, however, I've decided to give the Oil Cleansing Method a go. The idea is that the skin (even if oily and pimply like mine) has its own pH balance and we are continually disrupting that when we use cleaning products. The most gentle and effective way of removing oil is by using... oil! Companies have replaced this idea by using harsh emuslifying products that strip the oil (good and bad) off our skin and the skin has to overproduce to compensate. So hopefully by fighting oil with oil, my shiny face will no longer put marine life at risk, and my pimply skin will no longer resemble the gravelliest of roads in the Welsh leg of the World Rally Championship. I'll keep you upated on my progress, of course,

Your lactose-free friend.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

What's wrong with this picture?

I came across this image while searching around during my previous post. It kinda jumped out at me as being, well, a little ridiculous.

Ummm... all leather is recycled. I know the company using this image are trying to be 'environmentally friendly' but come on. Someone used that skin for their whole life. They sheltered under it. It kept them warm, it felt the cold. It protected them from the elements and from diseases and infections. Someone needed that skin. Someone's life depended on that skin until we killed them, tore it off them, processed it chemically for days and days to prevent decay and made it into something else for us to use secondhand. Something entirely less vital.

Sooooo yeah. All leather is recycled.

Still learning

Did I ever mention I'm not perfect? No? Well, probably because I thought that wasn't necessary. But in actual fact, when I read articles, comments, blogs and musings of fellow vegans I usually am left with the impression that these guys can do no wrong. They all seem so smart and level-headed and so totally, totally committed to their cause. Which, by the way, I am as well (committed I mean). But, alas, I am not perfect.

I got a new facial piercing just over a week ago, and was instructed to take Nurofen (anti-inflammatory) as often as possible for five days afterwards to try to minimise the swelling. So at the shops on the way home, I chucked a bottle of Herron Blue (my preferred alternative - Aussie made) in my basket. Despite quietly thinking maybe the whole ibuprofen thing was a scam, I took it every six hours for the next five days. It was only on the fifth day when I was lazily skimming across the info on the packet when I saw the words: contains lactose. Oh my god. Part of me was thinking, "Really? Really? Herron as well?!" while another part of me was thinking, "Come on... are you really that surprised?" I just didn't think to check. Why, I do not know. But I'm not taking them anymore and if I ever have a need for it at a certain time of the month I'll just have to tough it out I guess (or find animal-derivative-free alternatives).

Also, I'd been expected a package from the U.S. for about two weeks, and was so stoked when it arrived on my doorstep this morning. I hastily unwrapped the shoes that were inside, some gorgeous white and silver brogues, but as I pulled them out of their paper, something just... felt wrong. I turned the shoe over and sure enough, stamped on the sole: leather upper. Quite different to the lactose scenarios, I felt instantly unwell at the thought that I'd just purchased leather shoes. I smelled them, and the familiar cured, chemical but somehow organic odour was there. Obviously it's a real shame that I can't wear these lovely shoes, but I was just so annoyed at my own 'vegan incompetence'. I checked the website to make sure I hadn't been misled, and there, clear as day, they were described as "leather shoes". Why I didn't notice that before, why I didn't check for the materials I'm not entirely sure. It may have been because I thought for their price they had to be synthetic. It may have been because a lot of the shoes on this site are described as "vegan faux-leather" and I'd skim read and added the rest in. Whatever the reason, I'm so ashamed that I bought these shoes. I feel sick at the idea of paying for someone else's skin. I really wish there was an "I'm vegan and didn't realise these shoes were leather" option on the return slip. I guess the cost of shipping them back to America will just have to be my punishment.

So, see, I'm not perfect. I call myself a vegan, but I guess I'm still getting used to it. As long as I learn from my mistakes though I should be okay.

Yippee!

This is just a small celebration post for me to mark the momentous occasion - I've reached 100 views! I know it's not much in the grand scheme of things (especially not in the blogosphere), but I started this little blog less than a month ago and to have had you, my readers glance at my ramblings one hundred times by now is very flattering. Thank you for your support. Goodness knows it's very hard to get a blog up and running and maintain a steady readerhsip with the thousands there are floating around in cyberspace. So here's hoping my numbers continue to increase, and that I continue to write stuff worth reading! Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

With the soulful eyes...

From the age of eight until the age of twenty-two I enjoyed one of the most precious friendships I ever hope to be gifted with. I had a best friend in the form of a Beagle. He was my constant companion; we grew up alongside each other, sometimes lost our temper with each other (but always made up) and comforted each other during difficult times. Losing him was one of the hardest things I've ever done and I still miss him everyday. One of his most inspiring personality traits was that he never whinged. He was so stoic. Over the years there were times when he was sick or he was injured and he never ever once complained. I thought it was just one of the wonderful things about my dog in particular, but when I came across this post on the inspirational Tree Kisser I realised it was a characteristic he was destined to have.

As a vegan I am obviously against testing on animals, as well as being against animal experimentation in the name of 'scientific research'. Even so, reading Tree Kisser's post made me burst into tears because I know firsthand the loving and gentle nature of a Beagle. Obviously all animals are deserving of protection and freedom from barbaric practices like product testing, but I guess the image of those poor little guys really hit home. I remember seeing a few of them while I was watching Earthlings, in cages, with wounds and obviously ill and in pain. But there was no malice there, no anger. Only sadness and disappointment. As if mankind weren't horrible enough, I try to imagine the reaction humans would have if kept in the same horrific conditions and routinely tortured. We certainly wouldn't be anywhere NEAR as forgiving, placid and sweet-natured.

So everytime you buy some moisturiser or foundation, mascara, lipstick, shampoo, conditioner or even just handsoap, look for a label that says 'we do not test on animals'. Free yourself from complicity in the systematised torture, abuse and murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent, trusting creatures. It's just not necessary and it's absolutely heartbreaking.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

The weight of the world

I can't quite remember where I first came across the idea of the 'joy of veganism', but it really resonated with me.
I've mentioned it before, but opening yourself up to the truth about animal products and the industries that churn them out can be quite overwhelming. The sheer degree of mass slaughter, imprisonment, torture, grief, fear and suffering that's involved is quite simply overwhelming. Sometimes it's even difficult to think about. It's depressing stuff, and the secrecy, human complicity and apathy of so many makes it quite hard to bear. But at the same time, a lovely gift came from my step into veganism. All of a sudden, due directly to my own actions, I was no longer involved. I was no longer responsible. I was no longer financially supportive of any of this suffering. The atrocities of which I was now aware were happening despite, and no longer because of, me. This means that although I sometimes get so upset that this pain continues, I tread a little bit lighter daily. I'm doing the best job that I can. It's a strange situation but I believe the more affecting it is to think of the negatives involved in animal industry, the more uplifting it is to distance yourself from that.

There is certainly a profound indescribable joy that comes from being a vegan.

What if

Disclaimer: I am not racist. I mean no offence to any readers. But discrimination should not be supported in any form; you can't say that one type is acceptable (speciesism) and another (racism) is not.

An ad for formula in some junk mail the other day got me thinking (the formula was listed as casein-based).
What if we decided that the mammary secretions of a species entirely separate to our own was not cutting it nutritionally? That if our children needed to be formula-fed, then it should at least be as nutritionally sound as their own mother's breastmilk? And what if we decided that in order to get that formula, we'd target helpless inhabitants of refugee camps in war-torn African countries and mechanically rape and impregnate all women of child-bearing age? We'd look after them and feed them while they were gestating for nine long months, while they were preparing mentally and emotionally for the arrival of their child. And what if, once the child was born, we tore the newborn away from his mother, ignoring her protests and her grief, ignoring the baby's confusion and suffering? What if we took the milk that was destined for that little baby and we collected it from the mother, pasteurised and dehydrated it and used it to make formula for Western babies? What if we murdered the male babies and kept the little girls captive so that they could grow up and be routinely mechanically raped and contribute their own milk once they came of child-bearing age? And what if we kept their mothers imprisoned and constantly bearing children she wasn't allowed to hold until she was no longer able to produce adequately profitable amounts of milk, at which point, at best, we'd leave her to her poverty.

And mothers in first-world countries could breathe sighs of relief that despite not breastfeeding for whatever reason, at least their children were able to be raised to be big and strong on nutrient-full human milk. "Thank goodness for formula", they'd say.

What if?

Thank god for milk.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Exceptions to every rule

I mentioned at the end of my last post that I would be talking a bit more about medication and how it relates to veganism. Obviously my last post made it clear that I believe wherever possible, if you can drop animal products from your lifestyle (including those in medication) then you should. But I do think there are exceptions.

If you google veganism or go on a trail of inspiring stories found on the internet, more often than not, the overwhelming consensus among converts is that magic seems to happen. Their anxiety decreases, their hair gets stronger and shinier, their skin clears up, they feel happier and healthier, and of course the weight usually just falls off once they cut animal products out of their life. My guilty secret is that while I wish I could add my own success to all the other stories out there, I can't.

I'm going to assume it wan't related to my shift to veganism, but unfortunately for me, my most serious health scare came shortly after I became a vegan. Bad timing. 2010 had been a tough year for me, but 2011 may have been even harder. The result was that in about September/October of last year I was diagnosed with depression. It was a shock to say the least, as someone with no history of mental illness in her family. I'm glad it was recognised when it was because it was a horrible place to be in, and I was able to be pulled out of it relatively quickly. My doctor who specialises in mental health was quick to precribe antidepressants to treat me but I wasn't so keen on taking them. These were mind-altering drugs we were talking about here, not just some antibiotics and I knew that if I did choose to commit I'd be staring down the barrel of months of strict drug-taking. My depression was telling me that there was no point trying to treat anything, that there was nothing to treat and that no treatment would work anyway. But I was approaching exam time at university, and after discussing my current state of mind with three separate experts on the subject, I felt reasonably confident, if very shocked, about my diagnosis. I decided my last semester at uni was too valuable to jeopardise and so I started taking the antidepressants.

Around the same time, I was given a new pill packet with lactose listed as one of the ingredients, and it didn't take me long to check the SSRI packet. Yep, lactose. This whole ordeal presented me with two dilemmas. First of all, I was a new vegan who was consuming lactose every night before bed. Second of all, my shift to a healthier lifestyle unfortunately coincided with a bout of depression. It meant I wasn't able to claim all the wonderful improvements that other vegans claim. It wasn't a dramatic shift to a healthier me, a me that was happier, stronger and more peaceful. Instead, I was at my lowest point: weak, afraid and sick.
Part of me thinks that perhaps my shift to veganism did have a role to play. I was suddenly so aware of all the endless atrocities that humans were performing against every animal imaginable. The grief and helplessness were overwhelming. I also became a vegan rather reluctantly; I have a massive sweet tooth and for a long while I was lamenting the loss of all the foods I couldn't eat. I found comfort in delicious food, and that security blanket was ripped away. Maybe these things were the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak? Or mybe it was just a case of unfortunate timing. Whatever the scenario, I'm here to say that the shift to a healthier lifestyle doesn't always have instantaneous benefits. I wish it had for me, but it just didn't.

Mentally, I'm stronger now (although it's quite disconcerting to be aware that your own experience of your mental strength may be due to medication you're on and not actually coming from within. This makes it difficult to trust that I'll be okay once I do stop taking the antidepressants). The difficulty I face is that I knowingly and willingly consume animal products. So why did I have such a strong opinion on this in regards on contraception? In my honest opinion, contraception is not a necessary drug. By this I mean (excluding rare cases of hormonal imbalance etc.) most people choose to start taking the pill to avoid pregnancy or to control their period, and they could stop it whenever they wanted with only a minor inconvenience in terms of finding alternate forms of contraception, or having to deal with bad skin or heavier periods. But once you start taking an antidepressant, it's a bit of a sentence. As much as I feel fine, I'm not stupid enough to ignore the role that this drug is playing in my brain chemistry and the havoc that it could wreak if I suddenly stopped taking it. Your metal health is not something you should mess with. Even if it means you're technically not a vegan because of the ingredients involved.

So, as much as I hate it, the way I see it, I genuinely don't have a choice here. I've been told that at least 6 months is an adequate amount of time to take the antidepressant, and when it's up, I'll be glad to stop. But until then, my mental health is more important than the trace amount of lactose I'm ingesting. It's a tricky situation, but isn't life full of those? I've experienced personally and secondhand how things can go wrong when someone is mentally unwell, and it's not a risk I'm prepared to take.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

I'm vegan but...

This post may be a little TMI so don't say I didn't warn you...

One of the interesting things about re-jigging your whole lifestyle is that while you may get used to checking the labels on everything before you buy it relatively quickly, the stuff that you already own seems to just escape your attention.
It was this way for me for my contraception (the pill). I'd been on the same type of pill for approximately 4 years when my doctor gave me a packet of a different type with a prescription to match if I felt like changing. And we all know what I'm used to doing with packets... reading the ingredients! I was surprised to discover that this pill contained lactose in the ingredients list. So when I got home I checked the pill I normally used: lactose. WTF? Why is milk in fucking everything?!
I didn't really give a whole lot of thought to it after that as there wasn't much I thought I could do about it, until one day I was cruising my favourite vegan forum and found a thread about contraception. One poster said she was vegan but that she needed to be on the pill to avoid becoming pregnant and there wasn't much she could do about the fact that one of the ingredients was lactose. Needless to say, I understood her point of view at first. But my logic seemed kinda twisted once I read another post. This person was claiming that to be aware of the animal products contained in medication and to take it anyway was not only hypocritical and lazy, but voided any claim to veganism. You can't be vegan in every way except for the pill, she was saying. You may as well be vegan in every way except for the chocolate. And I realised she was right. If I didn't at least try other avenues of birth control, I just wasn't vegan*.

Where am I going with all of this? I've recently bought and nearly finished reading a wonderful, enlightening book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility. This book covers intimate details of the female reproductive system and provides the reader with information to avoid or plan pregnancies using the Fertility Awareness Method, which is more reliable than the Billings or Rhythm Methods, and is all-natural, so very good for vegans or just health-conscious people who are fed up with the constant side effects and risks associated with various current birth control methods.

Now that I'm adequately educated, I'm finishing my current pill packet and will be starting the FAM as soon as it's done. I'm really excited to learn as much as I can about my body but also to be ridding myself of artificial hormones and animal products. Yay!

*This is my attitude concerning medication such as contraceptives. There are exceptions to every rule, and medication such as those prescribed for mental illness are just one example. I will post later with my thoughts on this subject.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Train to Auschwitz

My day had been relatively normal. My partner and I were heading into the city for the afternoon when I noticed a truck in the left-hand lane of the freeway. It was a sheep truck but it took me a while to realise that this wasn't empty as I'd previously thought. As we passed it slowly I had plenty of time to realise it was full of sheep, some baking in the full sun on the top level, all of them crammed together in tight quarters with no room to move. I saw plenty of woolly bottoms, but I also saw lots of faces looking confused and sad. Down the length of the truck I made eye contact with many of the sweet-faced animals before the cruel-faced driver stared back down at me and then they were in the rearview mirror. I turned to my partner as I thought of the horrible fate that awaited them and burst into tears. "They're all going to die", I cried.

I've seen sheep trucks my whole life, heading towards the harbour to be shipped off to God knows where for slaughter. They always upset me, but I think now that I have a pretty good idea of what lies ahead for them, the despair was palpable. I can't save them. Every day hundreds of sheep, maybe thousands leave our port and sail out to sea, still cramped in those tight quarters, some dying in transit from exhaustion or dehydration, only to be greeted at their final destination by a slow tortured and painful death, usually after seeing their companions go before them. Stopping the live export trade is a tiny step in the right direction, but it's not enough, and we haven't even achieved that yet. I'm trying to do my bit by not contributing to that process anymore, but sometimes the sheer enormity of what I'm trying to stop just gets to me.

I only hope those poor friends didn't see me crying so that maybe at least for now, their worst fears haven't been confirmed.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Vanity

Okay, so I'm in the middle of the difficult process of trying to find a suitable replacement for my non-vegan beauty products. I'm not talking facial masks and extravagant hair treatments, simply my facial moisturiser. At the moment I use Olay which has always served me pretty well, up until I started caring about testing on animals, that is. Now I haven't bought anymore Olay since then, and although I've cut down severely on my usage, I still do use it occasionally.

I'm a creature of habit. I've used Olay mosturiser on my face every day for about the last nine years. I like it and I don't really want to change. My main problem is finding a moisturiser that contains sunscreen as I have very pale skin which burns in about 10 seconds flat. I also happen to have very oily skin which is prone to pimples and it is really hard to find a moisturiser that doesn't make me look as though I've quickly dipped my face in a frying pan of sunflower oil before leaving the house.
I bit the bullet the other day and forked out $20 for a 75ml tube of Invisible Zinc facial sunscreen. I thought for the cost I'd surely be getting a superior product but it was like spreading margarine on my face, with a sheen to match. The stuff was just so thick and ├╝ber greasy I had to wipe it off after about ten minutes. I've also been eyeing off Sukin for a while because I love their foaming cleanser, but the only moisturiser that contains sunscreen is also part of the Ageless range and is a bit dear.

So all I can do for now is reluctantly keep using the old products I already had and keep my eyes peeled for new possibilities. If anyone has any cruelty-free suggestions, I'd love to hear about them!


Editor's note:  The moisturiser with SPF 15 is not listed on Sukin's website.
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Gary Yourofsky

I have to sing the praises of this man. What an incredible speaker. I came across his video through a vegan group on Facebook, which is actually kind of funny, as I would think that his target audience is probably those who aren't vegan yet. The title of the clip is The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear, which is obviously a subjective claim, but the speech is pretty freakin' good. Gary is an amazing speaker, a knowledgeable guy and obviously very passionate about his cause, which in case you hadn't guessed by now, is veganism.

He's speaking to a group of university students, something he apparently spends a lot of his time doing, and presents in the short space of an hour basically every argument you could make for being a vegan. In my opinion, the environmental angle is slightly neglected, but he does a great job. The only part of the speech that I didn't appreciate was having to sit through the mountains of vegan food options widely available in American supermarkets. Jealous!

If I wasn't vegan or vegetarian before hearing Gary speak, then I would be afterwards. This is another one of those resources I wish I could share with everyone. It's a great video, really enjoyable for the most part and worth a watch even if you're already committed to the cause.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Earthlings

Health reasons weren't what got me off on this path in the first place. It was empathy.

As a child, I was acutely aware of the fact that I had empathy. I also knew that I had too much of it. My sensitivity to others was at times so overwhelming I used to wish I could be the complete opposite: heartless and indifferent, just so that I could have a break. I hope this doesn't sound conceited, but it's true. I used to stress about the ants I was inadvertently killing any time I walked outside. I was sensitive to a fault. So when I finally stopped the disconnect and realised I could no longer participate in animal slaughter, the floodgates opened, and becoming vegan was in hindsight a logical transition.

I've mentioned that the big moment for me was when I chose not to watch animal slaughter. This was nothing new or surprising, it was just that I'd never been presented with an opportunity before. When I found out about Earthlings through an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, researched it, and, of course, talked about it with my partner, there was no doubt in my mind that this was something I didn't want to see. I remember looking it up on IMDb for the content advisory: the film was basically non-stop slaughter. For those that haven't seen it, the film started out as a project led by director Shaun Monson who wanted to do an expose on the pet industry in America: puppy mills, unwanted animals and the like. But the final result is so much more. It focuses on how humans use animals for profit in five areas: pets, food, clothing, entertainment and science.
My partner ordered the DVD from the US, and there was a quote on the package that made me realise I was being selfish. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: "We must not refuse with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies." So I sat down on the couch, legs tucked in, heart racing in nervous anticipation, peeking out from behind a cushion. I later had to drop the cushion because I needed my hands to hold tissues instead. I cried during this film, I cried the entire way through. I had to really fight to keep it together enough that I could continue watching, because every instinct in me was telling me to curl up on the floor in a ball, shut my eyes tight and bawl my heart out.
Earthlings has been nicknamed "the vegan maker" for good reason. I was already vegan, but Bryce Dallas Howard summed it up really well when she said, "Watching Earthlings is the greatest gift I have ever received. I cannot believe how ignorant I have been in the past."

This film is a miracle, it really is. It's insane the degree to which we humans live in total ignorance, happily consuming, consuming, consuming without even a second thought as to where our steak, our eggs, our jacket, our furniture or our pets come from, or what is behind our makeup, our soap, our zoos and our circuses. It's frightening, disgusting, but above all absolutely heartbreaking. To echo Bryce Dallas Howard, I am truly so glad I know what I do so that I can choose not to be a part of it.

Monday, 2 January 2012

The China Study

If I had ever wavered on consuming dairy products before I found this book, I was as strict as could be after reading it. Putting my ethical concerns aside, I now avoid dairy, meat and eggs like the plague. They may as well be.

I discovered this book after becoming vegetarian, in the early days I spent trawling through animal issues on the internet, scrolling down through seemingly-endless comments on various blogs. I was learning a lot but how reliable were my sources? I could never be sure that what these vegans were talking about was truth or just biased information. When one commmenter claimed that "milk causes cancer", well, I was blown away. This was extreme, especially with the reverence and fear with which we treat "the Big C". But my interest was piqued and I kept reading. The China Study was mentioned. I kept reading. The China Study was mentioned again. And again, and again. I went to different articles, different blogs and this title to a book I'd never even heard of before just kept coming up. So I researched the book, told my partner about it and not long after we bought a copy from our local New Editions bookstore. My partner read it before me (normally I would find it unbearable to have to wait to read a new book but I was so busy with university that I didn't even mind) and would excitedly relate to me snippets of information from the book, all the while begging me to please stop drinking milk.

The title of the book tends to put people off, I think. It is all about nutrition, so why the China Study? Well, the research presented in this book all stems down to an ongoing epidemiological study started decades ago in China by T. Colin Campbell, PhD where the effects of nutrition on human health first began to be truly realised. In the book, the results of the China Study are presented, as well as the results of many other scientific and medical trials and studies, all relating to nutrition and the role that it plays in our health. Basically, animal products are ridiculously dangerous for our health, and plant-based whole foods are ridiculously good for us. We all sort of knew this already, right? Everybody knows that fruits and vegetables are good for you, and that eating too much cheese or red meat may cause health problems. But I was, and I suspect most other people who consume a Western diet are, totally unaware of the true impact that animal products have on disease development. For example, although heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in Australia, we all sort of think of it as an fat person's problem, yeah? That if you eat a well-balanced diet, drink alcohol in moderation, and exercise regularly, then we'll be exempt, and that heart attacks are bound to happen if you're overweight or just generally unhealthy..? Well in the 1950s autopsies were performed on the bodies of 300 American soldiers killed in action in the Korean War. The average age of the soldiers was 22 years old. Military medical researchers found that 77% of the hearts of these soldiers showed large evidence of heart disease. Now when you think of heart disease I bet a fit 22 year old soldier doesn't spring to mind as the typical victim.
But heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, gall stones, obesity, multiple sclerosis and dementia can all be prevented or their effects reduced by avoiding animal-based foods and consuming a plant-based, wholefoods diet.
On a personal level, I have in my extended family one family member who may be obese, two who have died from cancer, four more who have fought cancer and survived, some of them multiple times, one family member with Type 2 Diabetes, one with Alzheimer's dementia, and immediate family members who have struggled with weight issues and had multiple incidences of skin cancer. (Editor's note: I can now unfortunately add one family member who has had a massive stroke.) So, no heart disease, and no autoimmune diseases, but just about every other sickness that could be prevented or managed with a plant-based diet. And while written like that it may seem like a lot, is it really? Think of your own families, and people that you know. What's the bet that your own experience of these diseases is not too dissimilar to mine?

I am incredibly grateful to have found The China Study. So many myths about food have been exploded, so many fears about inevitable illness allayed. I'm no longer feeding myself with poison. From a health perspective, I am so relieved that veganism is the absolute best way to live. I found the information in this book so precious that I gifted a copy to each immediate family member for Christmas in the hope that they can avoid a life of illness. I only hope that they read it, as it truly is a life-saver. I wish everyone could have access to the information that this book provides. Well they all do, it's just a matter of choosing to read it.