Cruelty free – the first steps

Cruelty free

Over the last year, making sure our purchases are as cruelty free as possible has become increasingly important to us.

Barbara Rabbit feeling scared - an argument to go cruelty freeIt makes sense, really. We have three rabbits that we love – they’re our family.

But elsewhere in the world, rabbits aren’t curled up on their comfy Ikea beds, dreaming of the bananas they had last night. They’re in small cages, wondering when they’re going to next be pulled out and have some new cosmetics tested on them. It’s purely luck that Ned, Gingee and Barbara were born into a different life.

Animals are so sensitive. Barbara wasn’t treated very well in her first home. She was nervous when she came to live with us. It took her well over six months to feel comfortable and show her true, bossy personality. Look at her there – hiding behind the bin, just because she was afraid.

The cruelty free situation in the UK

Testing cosmetics and toiletries on animals has been banned in the UK for a long time. Since 2013, cosmetics that have been tested on animals may not be sold anywhere in the EU. That’s pretty awesome.

I knew all of that and kind of thought I didn’t have to worry about cruelty free products. But that’s not quite true.

In China, companies must test their cosmetics on animals. That means that if a company sells their products in China, they are paying to hurt animals. And by purchasing products from those companies, that means I’m paying to support this, even if my particular bottle of shampoo hasn’t been squirted into a bunny’s eye.

Some companies may also test cleaning products or other chemicals on animals. There isn’t an outright ban on this in the UK.

My first steps to going cruelty free

It’s tempting to go through all your cosmetics and toiletries and throw out anything that doesn’t have big obvious text saying “Not tested on animals!” But don’t. You’ve already purchased those, your money has already gone to those companies. I felt like finishing the shampoo, but doing it thoughtfully, was more respectful to the animals that had suffered, rather than throwing it out and disregarding what they’d been through.

So I didn’t do anything immediately. It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

I did some reading instead. We wanted to plan for the next time we needed toiletries, cosmetics or cleaning products. I needed to do a fair amount of research on this, as I have very sensitive skin. I don’t want to end up with a whole range of wonderfully cruelty free products that end up harming me! The goal is for no one to have to go through discomfort!

A really easy way of seeing if a product is cruelty free is to look for the leaping bunny.

Fortunately, it turned out that a lot of my current products were already cruelty free. Fabulous! Here are some of the brands I was already using:

Toiletries

  • The Body Shop
  • Burt’s Bees (however, there is some controversy over this)
  • Marks & Spencer’s own brands
  • Molton Brown
  • Superdrug’s own brand

Cosmetics

  • Barry M
  • The Body Shop
  • China Glaze
  • Ciaté
  • ModelsOwn
  • Stila
  • Too Faced

Household cleaning products

  • Method
  • Sainsbury’s own brand

Note: not all of these products are entirely vegan, but they haven’t been tested on animals at all. Some of these brands are owned by parent companies that test on animals, as well. That’s something I need to look into further.

For now, though, I’m mostly buying new products from Superdrug’s own brand (bath creme, for example), The Body Shop,

I’m working on putting together a more comprehensive list of cruelty free products, including ones I want to try, so watch this space!

Gingee the rabbit in a hat

Gingee says: “You can look fabulous without hurting animals!”

A vegetarian view on those poor piglets

Full disclosure: I am a pregnant vegetarian. I’ve been emotional about this all day. If you fall into either of those categories, maybe skip this.

Maybe you heard this story today. If you don’t want the full details, it’s about some piglets who were saved from a fire, and later served to their firefighters as sausages.

I read the story on the BBC site earlier while looking for something else. I saw the headline and thought, no, that must be wrong. It’s too cruel. I shouldn’t have clicked the link, but I did. And I read it and I had to go to the loos at work and cry.

I became a vegetarian for two reasons. Here they are:

Gingee the brown rabbit

Ned the white rabbit

The brown one is Gingee and the white one is Ned. Gingee is bossy and clever and thinks he’s in charge of everything. Ned is tiny and affectionate and can run faster than the speed of light. And it’s a pure accident of birth that they ended up being born as rabbits who became pets rather than meat rabbits.

When we first got them, people (friends, colleagues, people who thought they were being funny) used to ask me whether I’d ever eat rabbit. What I’d do if rabbit were served to me. What if it were these rabbits? And, at the time, I did eat meat.

I heard that question one too many times. My husband made me a bacon sandwich one day and it hit me what it was. I sobbed for about an hour. “I think you need to go vegetarian,” my husband prompted me. “You really don’t seem comfortable with meat any more.”

He had a point. I still eat fish sometimes (mostly due to research suggesting it’s beneficial during pregnancy), but am generally a very happy veggie now – and, I’m proud to say, so is my husband. He doesn’t eat fish, but he never did. He started by cutting out chicken, and finally cut out all meat in about February this year.

So we’re happy and at peace with our consciences. It doesn’t stop me feeling upset about stories like this, though.

Those poor piglets. They must have feared for their life – twice. How is it humane to save their lives just to kill them later on?

Pigs feel pain. Pigs feel fear. They see their peers being slaughtered first and they are clever. They know what’s going to happen.

Yes, if it weren’t for the demand for bacon/sausages/pork, maybe those pigs wouldn’t even have been born. But, I guess my question is, would I – would you – rather go through a life of fear and pain before dying young and afraid, or just never have to feel anything at all? Because I think I’d rather the latter.

I know I can’t stop pig farming, or sheep farming, or close down abattoirs. I can’t convince everyone to go vegetarian. But I can be a small part of lessening the demand. I can choose to buy Quorn products when I have a craving for meat. I can choose to put my money towards meat free meal options, so I’m not paying towards the slaughter of these animals. When I serve food to friends or family, I can choose to give them delicious vegetarian meals.

It’s not enough. But if enough of us do it, it might be one day.