Buying Cruelty-Free

Since I’ve become conscientious of my diet and have implemented a more plant-based way of eating, I decided to change some of the daily products I use so that they also fit a cruelty-free way of living. Now I check labels before I buy anything from lip balm to detergent and deodorant. It wasn’t difficult nor was the difference in costs substantial.

I found a lot of cruelty-free products at Trader Joes for very reasonable prices. I bought their hand soap and toothpaste. Once I finish up with the shampoo and conditioner I’m currently using, which I mistakenly thought was cruelty-free, I’m going to give their hair products a try.

 

 

The Trader Joe’s bar soap comes in a two-pack and cost $1.67. Although the product is not tested on animals, it is not vegan because it has honey. I haven’t tried the toothpaste yet, I’m currently using Tom’s. Tom’s is another great cruelty-free brand, as is Seventh-Generation and Ecos. I bought Ecos detergent and dish detergent that are plant-based and contain no animal ingredients and are not tested on animals.

 

Below are some products I found at TJMaxx. These are all vegan products. Even though the lotion and shower gel say honey, they are vegan as there is not real honey in the product.

 

Nutri-C has become my favorite face lotion. Trader Joe’s also has their own cruelty-free lotions, but I have yet to try them. For make-up I use E.L.F cosmetics because their entire line is vegan and is available at a variety of stores.

These are just a few of the animal-safe products I use. I’d love to know some of your cruelty-free favorites.

Love Dogs? Then Boycott China

My Twitter feed has blown up with tweets about the upcoming horrendous Yulin Dog Meat Festival that is set to take place on the summer solstice. If you don’t know about this barbaric festival, take a moment to Google it, and then do what you can to raise awareness. Tweet, donate, share on social media. I have signed petitions and tweeted up a storm against last year’s festival, but the festivities went on, and over 10,000 dogs and cats were stolen from streets and backyards to become someone’s meal in the most brutal way.

It is utterly disgusting. I don’t think that tweeting and signing petitions are enough. Short of flying to China myself and rescuing as many dogs as I can, the only thing I can think to do from here is to boycott everything that is China.

How hard would it be to boycott Chinese products? I don’t know because I’ve never tried it before, but I’m bracing myself for a huge challenge.  A call to boycott “Made in China” isn’t new. Most likely everyone’s heard that cry before. I do try to be a conscientious consumer (although I really hate referring to people as consumers, because we are so much more than consuming maniacs, at least we should be, but I will call myself a consumer in this case), especially when it comes to the food I buy.

I am not an over-shopper. I hate shopping. Usually something has to break before I consider replacing it. I finally bought a new phone last month after three years with my old one, a Motorola that most likely was made in China, by a six year old, even though Motorola is an American company. (Yeah, this boycott’s gonna be tough.) It’s not that I suddenly got sick of my old phone. It lasted a long time, especially considering that I didn’t buy it new. The thing just suddenly stopped sending texts, and probably receiving them, too. 

When I told a friend about my plan to boycott all that is China, he informed me that if I shop at Walmart that it would be impossible to find anything that isn’t made in China in that store. Luckily, I don’t shop at Walmart. I can probably count on both hands the amount of times I have stepped into that store in my life. I stay away because of what I believe are unfair employment practices.

Since I won’t even buy food for my dog that was made in China, because of the many recalls pertaining to food and treats for dogs in recent years that were made in the country, steering away from food made in China shouldn’t be difficult at all.

However, it is my plan in the next few months to buy a new computer. And this is where the Chinese boycott may prove difficult. The desktop I am currently working on is eight years old, and, like my phone, I believe that too was bought refurbished. I would have to call an ex-girlfriend if I really want to confirm this, because she’s the one who bought the computer for me, but the specifics aren’t that important to me. I won’t be making any phone calls to her anytime soon. So, the question is, can I find a computer that isn’t made in China? I’ll soon find out.

I also need a new desk chair because the one I just threw out was, no kidding, twenty-one years old. I did not buy that new either. I didn’t buy it at all, actually. The chair was given to me by my sister’s boyfriend at the time. I was looking for a chair and he had one he wasn’t using. It was a comfortable chair. A lot more comfortable than the temporary seat I am sitting in right now. Will I find a comfy desk chair that isn’t made in China? Again, I’ll soon find out.

In the much more distant future, I will hopefully be looking to purchase a new car NOT made in China, rather America, preferably. I am currently driving a ten-year old Dodge. Knock on wood, the car’s been good to me. And I’ve been happy with it. Like my old phone, my computer, and my old chair, the car, too, was not bought new. This lack of “newness” in my life never occurred to me until now. I guess I just don’t need “shiny and new” all the time.

I like broken-in. Worn. Reliable. Experienced.

I am starting my boycott on all Chinese products today. I know the country won’t feel my sole boycott in the slightest, and children and women will still be forced to work long hours at slave wages in deplorable conditions. And, most likely, the horrific Yulin Dog Meat Festival will still go on this year.

But at least I will no longer be contributing to a country’s barbarities.

I’m through with you China.

 

 

made-in-china-boycott

 

Photo is public domain.

 

So Much Has Changed. Time Does That.

In the last few years, I have become a strong animal rights advocate.  I have protested against pet stores that sell puppies from puppy mills (which is most of them). I have joined forces against Ringling Brothers, (with their known cruel treatment toward their animals) when the “Not-So-Greatest-Show-On Earth” came to my city.  And I have protested against fast-food giants and the cruel way farm animals are treated and killed.

I have significantly limited and/or omitted meat and dairy from my diet.   Before I made the decision to cut out meat, I did some research about how to make the switch to a vegetarian diet safely. Surprisingly to me at the time, I found that eating less meat helps the environment. This made the decision a definite no-brainer for me. I’d be improving my health, living a more compassionate lifestyle, and decreasing my impact on the planet. Three slam-dunks!

The more I research and learn about the horrors of factory farming and climate change and the meat industry’s disastrous impact on Mother Earth, the more motivated I am in doing my part in ensuring our planet’s health.

I’m ashamed of the many years I’ve lived in oblivion. I used to think nothing of eating meat everyday, sometimes with every meal. Nor thinking twice about tossing an empty can or bottle into the trash, instead of a recycling bin. And I absolutely loathe the memory I have of my now ex-girlfriend and I, visiting a pet store and gawking at all the cute little puppies while promising that once we move in together, we’d come back to that very store (ironically, it’s the same store I was asked to leave recently when I insisted to the owner  that I be able to visit the place their puppies come from)  and buy a puppy. BUY A PUPPY??? NEVER would that thought EVER enter my mind now, but it had then.

So much has changed. Time does that. I don’t mind change when it’s for the better.  Now, I think a lot about the animals and the environment because in many ways, the two go hand in hand. The best way to protect the environment is to stop, or drastically reduce, your consumption of meat, which in turn benefits the animals.

I wouldn’t feel right proclaiming my love for animals, and then eat them. And I couldn’t call myself an environmentalist if I ate the very food that is “responsible for 80 percent of the planet’s deforestation, 70 percent of freshwater use and 30 percent of human-generated greeenhouse gases.” (Nature World News)

It pains me when I see my mother drinking bottled water at home instead of filling a glass using the refrigerator water, or buying a Brita. According to utahrecylces.com, 35 billion plastic bottles are thrown away every year, with only about 25% of the plastic made in the U.S being recycled.  For me, bottled water is used only for when I am on the go. But when I am home, it’s a glass and my Brita.

I don’t drink much coffee, but when I do, I use a coffee pot, not those environment-killing Keuriq cups.  According to TheAtlantic.com, “In 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times.”   Billions of  K-cups end up in our landfill each year. That’s a lot of money spent to kill our planet.

The more I read, the more I learn, and some news is hard to take. I recently discovered that a popular animal-rights group I thought was a friend, may actually be a foe. PETA is not the “animal rights group” I was duped into believing they were. I’m in the process of learning more about their stances regarding pit bulls, Breed Specific Legislation, and No-Kill Shelters, so I can’t write anything definitive right now.

But I’ve read enough from reputable sources to know I am never giving another dime to this organization.loving-mother-cow-and-calf1If you are looking for a way to help animals, and are considering donating to PETA, please give to your local animal shelter instead. From the information I’ve gathered so far, your local shelters are probably doing a lot more than PETA to keep the animals alive….More on that later.

 

Who Defines What a Hero Is?

fireman

This emotional picture recently popped up on my Facebook Newsfeed with the caption, “If Bruce Jenner wants to be a woman, so be it. His body – he can do what he wants to it. But please – stop calling it heroic, courageous & brave because it isn’t. This is heroic, courageous & brave………”

The above statement screams ignorance. Yes, the picture above is very heroic, courageous, and brave, but who gets to decide what’s heroic, courageous, and brave, and what isn’t? To people not dealing with gender issues or feeling they were born in the wrong body, Caitlyn Jenner may seem to only be playing “dress-up.” But for those struggling with this issue, and hating the bodies they live in, and fearing they will spend their ENTIRE lives never able to express on the outside, the person they know they are on the inside, Caitlyn Jenner is a hero because she’s shown them they no longer have to hide in shame, or kill themselves because they don’t know what else to do.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Sun-times, 41% of transgender individuals have tried to kill themselves at one point in their life. 41 percent! To put that number in perspective, according to a study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, 4.6% of the general public have attempted suicide in their life. One doesn’t need to be a mathematician to notice the significant difference in those numbers.

The two transgender individuals who were interviewed in the Sun-Times article had both attempted to end their life, and did so because they were constantly “harassed, bullied, victimized, discriminated against, or rejected by family and friends….” A suicide attempt came at the age of 13 for one of the individuals, and as a freshman in high school for the other.

They were kids. Children. Minors. At an age when most young people are excited about their future, dreaming of being a famous baseball player, or imagining themselves as the next Taylor Swift, there are kids who have already bore so much pain that they give up on life. Feeling hopeless enough by the time they hit their teen years that ending their life seems like the better option.

According to doctors and mental health experts,suicide prevention for anyone begins with acceptance and kindness, especially by one’s parents.

Love One Another. Be Tolerant. Show Compassion.

If the solution to saving lives seems so simple, then why are so many people still suffering? Simple answer? Because not everyone loves one another. Even some of the most holier than thou people don’t truly “Love Thy Neighbor.” Nor does everyone practice tolerance or show compassion. It’s much easier to ridicule the lives we don’t understand.

The caption above is a perfect example of how we judge others and put each other down.

Caitlyn Jenner may not be YOUR kind of a hero, but she’s the perfect hero to someone out there.

*The quotes came from an article in the Chicago Sun-Times. The article was used as a reference for this blog.

The picture came from Facebook. I do not own it. If it violates and copyright law I will remove it.

Note: After their failed suicide attempts, the individuals in the article received good care, despite some discrimination in healthcare. Not all medical professional are properly trained in dealing with transgender health issues. This is just another obstacle transgender people have to endure.

There’s Help Out There

I was watching a movie with friends. The movie we were watching revolved around a highly-oppressed minority group of people living amidst a society filled with extreme violence and chaos. A scene unfolded as a visibly desperate man – who had fought every adversary he met as bravely as he could, whose mind had endured as much emotional suffering as it could possibly bear, and a man whose body had experienced pain it could no longer withstand – walked down a gravel street carrying a canister of gasoline. He stopped suddenly, poured the gasoline over his body and set himself on fire.

A young woman sitting beside me asked, “Why’d he kill himself?”

“Because he’s a coward and that’s what cowards do,” her boyfriend, sitting on the other side of her, replied.

This exchange took place more than a year ago, but I haven’t forgotten it, and probably never will. The tone that young man uttered his incredibly insensitive words lacked any hint of empathy or compassion. He made the ignorant statement unaware of the plight of those around him. He wasn’t close enough friends with every single person in that room to know their struggles, their downfalls, or to witness the quandary of their weakest moment.

He exemplified none of the human values (compassion, kindness, tolerance ) necessary to be a decent loving human being. I remember being angry when that young man said what he had said, but I didn’t say anything because I believe those who boast loudly and talk boldly, do so to hide their own weaknesses. I swallowed my dissent that night, and instead of challenging his words, I looked at the young man with sympathetic pity in my heart because maybe he was struggling a battle so deep and profound that he needed to appear stronger than he felt.

Maybe the young and confident man was putting on an act.

Or, maybe he was just an insensitive jerk.

But that night I chose to give the young man the benefit of the doubt, and I hope he made no one in that room feel like a coward if they were struggling to overcome their own weighted hopelessness.

According to Veterans Today, the annual suicide rate for veterans is 29.5 per 100,000 veterans. This suicide rate is 50% higher compared to people who never served in the military. If this young man knew of this statistic, I wonder if he would still have boldly stated that people who kill themselves were cowards.

I don’t know, but I do know that men and women who serve our country and protect our freedom are not cowards – no matter how their life ends, and the same applies to everyone else who loses their life to suicide.

Be tolerant. Be compassionate. Life is uncertain. Life is unpredictable. Life is uncontrollable.

There’s help for those who need it. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

Note: I do not own this picture. If it infringes on any copyright I will take it down.

John Boy – A Shelter Dog

Everybody hurts. Everyone gets sad. At times, life can seem so hopeless you wonder if it’s even worth living anymore. And then something good happens. You find inspiration in a place you weren’t looking.

A year and a half ago I started volunteering at a dog shelter. I wasn’t prepared for the profound impact it would have on my life. I went into it believing I was the one who was going to save lives, but I was wrong. Those homeless animals saved me.

My shelter takes in dogs from all different situations – dogs from other over-crowded shelters, owner-surrenders, dogs found amid the aftermath of natural disasters or roaming the streets as strays, or taken from abusive/neglected homes, or rescued from puppy mills .

Each dog comes with its own story, its own unique path, that led them to the cages lining the walls of the kennel I work. Some stories are worse than others, leaving you clenching your fists as you witness, first-hand, what the horrendous cruelty and lack of humanity residing within a person can do.

It forces you to question who the real animals are, and they aren’t the ones with four legs, a tail, and a wet nose.

The four-legged beings that I have the privilege to spend time with each week have demonstrated a level of compassion and forgiveness, so heartfelt and ardent, that I fear I will never, in all my life, come close to attaining the emotional intensity attached to the freedom that comes with letting go of the past, and truly allow myself to forgive and forget, while being open to new happiness without the weight of old baggage holding me down or the pain of worn-out, ancient scars running through my body.

Shelter dogs know how to move on. They are eager to love despite the fact that somebody had let them down because they ended up in a shelter. They forgive the hands that have hurt them and forget the dirty shed they were chained to their entire lives because all they want is a home and someone to love them.

The shelter I volunteer at is a no-kill shelter. However long it takes for a dog to find a home, that’s how long it stays. Unfortunately, there is dog who has been there almost as long as I have. His name is John Boy and he is amazing. Despite being passed up day after day, week after week, and month after month, he has not lost an ounce of spirit. Whenever I, or any other volunteer, pass his kennel, he pops to his feet and hurries to the front of his cage, with tail wagging, and watches us with eager eyes, hoping that he is next to go out. He loves his time outside, even in the bitter cold.

When I put him on his leash, he pulls me to the yard with an overflowing excitement he can’t contain, the way I imagine I dragged my mother from one roller coaster ride to the next. But John Boy isn’t hurrying to jump on a fast-paced ride filled with sharp twists and quick turns. He’s rushing toward the same yard, with the same familiar toys, he’s been going to for fifteen minutes a shift, four times a day, for almost a year.

There is nothing “upside-down-roller-coaster” thrilling about that, but John Boy loves it. He inspires me because even though he’s not where he wants to be, he still wags his tail. He still licks my hand. He still enjoys the yard. He still has hope.

John Boy wants to live and he is looking forward.

He deserves a home, like every dog in the shelter, but he’s one I wish for the most. Every Friday night I say goodbye to him hoping I won’t see him the following week, but I always do. I will miss him so much when he’s gone because we’ve bonded during his long stay, but I anxiously anticipate the feeling of joy that will rush over me when I pass his kennel and don’t see his nose pressed against the metal or the stub of his tail wagging side to side.

I can’t wait for the day I don’t recognize the name sprawled across his cage. I’ll smile big because John Boy will finally have found his home.

Millions of dogs are euthanized every year. If you are looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. There are many loving animals in need of a second chance. Most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills that breed dogs under inhumane conditions. Please Adopt and Don’t Shop. Thank you for reading.