Sunday, 13 July 2014

ZSL Abseil for Lions! A big thank you to everyone who sponsored...

Yesterday afternoon was my Abseil for Lions challenge and luckily it all went without a hitch... although I have to say leaning backwards over a 90ft drop was one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life. Aside from the jelly legs and pre-abseil nerves it was a brilliant day out with friends and family and I'm so glad I did it.  The abseil, however, is really nothing compared to the outcome and purpose of it - which was to raise money for the planet's dwindling Asian lion population. So in this post I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who sponsored the abseil and donated to the campaign, as everyone who knows me will know that animal conservation is a passionate subject for me and I'm so pleased to be able to say that together everyone has helped raise a grand total of £221.96!!!

The Lions 400 campaign is such a brilliant cause and as I really can't say thank you enough to everyone who sponsored I want to provide you with some more information on what your donations will mean for the Asian lion population - so you can all feel super super good:

  •  At the moment, the Asiatic lion exists only in the isolated Gir forest of India and as the campaign name (Lions 400) suggests, there are only 400 individuals of this ancient species remaining. The Gir forest is at capacity and this is forcing more and more Asian lions to wander into the unsafe territory surrounding the forest in search of food. Part of the ZSL conservation project (funded by your donations) includes preparing a new and safe area of forest - which will have a protected status - in the same region of India. This will enable the Asian lions to expand their range into new territory without the risk of hunters or poaching. Expansion is vital to the survival of the Asian lion, for whilst they remain grouped in one area just one natural disaster or disease could mean extinction for the species.

  • Your donations will also help the ZSL extend their leading conservation technology to the rangers and custodians of the Gir forest. Forest rangers will be able to receive real time data and combined with a unique ‘lion hotline’ set up by ZSL, this technology means ' the forest ranger rapid response team will be able to act immediately on problems and mantain the harmony of the forest with the community that lives in and around it'.

  • The Lions400 project is also working on extending accurate and effective veterinary care to the lions of the Gir forest with their vet exchange programme. Your donations will help to fund the training of forest rangers in 'the latest and best disease surveillance techniques and veterinary procedures' ensuring the wild lions can be treated successfully. Your donations will also mean the ZSL can send their expert vets to India where they will run accessible veterinary training courses for trainee Gir forest rangers. 

These are just short examples of the amazing work that the ZSL are doing in India to protect the last 400 Asian lions but thank you again to everyone that donated and I hope this has helped you realise what a difference your money will help make to the Lions400 campaign!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Going cruelty free, a collection of myth-busting thoughts...

Why make the "effort"? Why go cruelty-free?

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, I've been a bit low on funds and I must use up all my current make-up before I get to make any exciting new purchases! However I thought I'd take this opportunity, not to do a product review or beauty feature but to focus a bit more on the thinking behind cruelty-free. My cruelty-free approach to cosmetics gets a really favourable response and generally sparks conversation. People are positive and supportive and kind. They applaud the idea, but at the same time many people feel the need to tell me why they personally don't buy cruelty free: 'it's too expensive', 'it's too much effort', 'it's not as good as my current make-up'. Occasionally when shopping with friends, they will awkwardly apologise - 'sorry Annie', 'oh no don't judge me' - when buying non CF make-up. This makes me a little sad, as I'm not here to judge, no-one should feel like they have to apologise for their choices. My blog is here not to shove the cruelty-free ethos in people's faces but to raise awareness of the brands that are cruelty-free, it's here to give people a choice and information. Because that's what going cruelty-free is all about for me, it's making choices here and there that you can be confident in.

To answer the question 'why go cruelty free?' it's tempting to post a photo of a tortured rabbit, a blind kitten, or a burnt and hairless mouse. And yet, no one wants to see that, people have had the shock treatment, everyone already knows the facts, they've heard the numbers. I think the question that needs to be posed back is: 'well, why not go cruelty free?'

Again, the reasons: 'it's too expensive', 'it's not as good as my current make-up', 'I don't care', 'it's too much effort' might pop up but I intend this post to act as a kind of cruelty free 'myth buster' as I mull over my own experience of and thoughts on making the transition to cruelty free. It might just be a lot of nonsensical rambling but I hope someone, somewhere, gets something from it...

I think a common misconception might be that going cruelty free is an all or nothing sort of thing.'Going cruelty-free' wasn't a snap decision for me, it's been a gradual transition over one or two years where I have tried and tested different products and replaced those I can with cruelty free alternatives. I can now happily say that my make up bag is entirely made up of cruelty free products.  Likewise, the shampoos, conditioners and body washes in our household have all made the transition, along with many of our household cleaning products, too. Yet that's not to say everything non cruelty free has been chucked out. My MAC concealer lasted me two years and has only recently run out and so I have only now replaced it with a cruelty free alternative. I also have lots of old Rimmel eyebrow pencils - that have been sharpened down to the nib admittedly - but I still use these in-between buying new Body Shop or BWC pencils. The point is however, that making the change to cruelty free doesn't have to mean throwing away everything in your house that isn't CF certified, or going to the shops and spending a fortune on new hair and make up products.

It's all about choices, the next time your foundation does run out or you're looking for a new mascara, in the same way that you might consider buying a Maybelline foundation instead of a Rimmel,  consider buying from a cruelty free brand. You might love it, you might hate it BUT it's the same process and decision making that would go into a Maybelline Vs L'Oreal Vs Max Factor Vs Rimmel choice - so, what have you got to lose? £10.99 ? £5.99 ? Naturally some money would be spent, and if you didn't get on with that make up perhaps you might feel it was a waste of money, or perhaps the cruelty-free alternative is slightly more expensive than your usual brand?

To help demonstrate how I view the money side of going cruelty-free, consider these two situations.

  • Imagine you are walking by a shallow pond and you notice that an animal - say a cat or puppy - has fallen in and is drowning. Of course, you think, you must save it. Then you remember that you're wearing a brand new pair of expensive shoes and they'll get ruined if you rush into the pond. Is that a reason for not saving the animal? Of course, I'm sure most people will answer without hesitation: no, the life of this animal is worth more than a pair of shoes, no matter how expensive.  (Peter Singer originally posed this theoretical question about a child)

  • Now, a more straight forward example. Imagine if you have £10 to spend and are given two possible outcomes. Option one, you spend your £10 and nothing happens. Option two, you spend £10 and an animal is tortured and killed. It seems an obvious decision, or perhaps it seems an unlikely scenario...

and yet this is a choice that is being made by billions of people at make up counters every single minute.

And herein is my thought process - and I'm sure the thought process of many thousands of others who have pledged to go cruelty free - is that ten pounds a waste of money when every cosmetic decision you make is, effectively, a life or death decision? For me, it's not whether I can afford to buy cruelty-free, it's whether I - my conscience - can afford not to. 

Now for the 'why make the effort?' 'it's all poor quality' myth busters ...Is it an effort? Is it difficult?

No! Many many people shy way from cruelty free because it's just not obvious enough, it's not shouted about. The lists of naughty and nice, of parent companies, where to buy where not to buy, may seem endless, too confusing, and sometimes contradictory. However there are so many resources to help you on your way to cruelty free. There are the many cruelty free brands, the leaping bunny and CF labelling on products, blogs, (Yoohoo! Over here!) and much more that can help you.

However, from personal experience, it's not about memorising long lists of what to buy and what not to buy. It's about finding products you love. I can't give you a definitive list of what companies test and what companies don't test off the top of my head (that would be impressive) what I can - easily - do however, is list my favourite products. My Body Shop foundation, my Naked shampoos and conditioners, my Treacle Moon bubble bath, my Burts Bees lip balm, my Urban Decay mascara. You see? Going cruelty free is about discovering products you love and sticking with them. It's not about trawling the beauty counters looking for the leaping bunny logo or sending endless emails to companies (that's my job!), simply make cruelty free choices where you can and once you find a product you love - stick with it!

I started with the big name brands, The Body Shop and UrbanDecay, but over two years I've discovered many more fantastic companies I would never have known about if it weren't for my cruelty free journey; OCC, Beauty Without Cruelty, Manic Panic etc. Even better, is the excitement when I discover that a brand or product I've always loved - Barry M nails varnishes anyone? - are cruelty free. Going cruelty free really isn't about 'giving up', it's not a sacrifice, it's enjoyable! My make up bag has better products in than it ever did before my switch to cruelty free and that isn't to do with them being cruelty-free, it's because they're GOOD. I'm looking outside the box of mass produced high-street make up and finding specialist brands that have been used by celebrity make up artists for years (Face Atelier, OCC).  Finding good quality, cruelty free make up isn't a bonus or a surprise, it's the norm!

Really in this post I've just outlined a few of my own thoughts and experiences surrounding cruelty-free shopping however I hope it might have shed some light on the ways in which you can begin to make cruelty free choices and to have broken it down into not so much a "massive lifestyle overhaul" but lots of small "here and there" decisions. If you're thinking of choosing cruelty-free next time you do a make-up shop then check out my Go Cruelty-Free page for more information and a list of CF brands or check out my Beauty Features page for product reviews of some of my favourite CF products. 

Will be so interested to hear peoples responses to this so please leave any comments below!