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Ethical

Ethical, Food, Life, Vegan

Dilemma; buying food from companies with unethical parent companies

July 19, 2017

Marmite on toast - buying from companies with unethical parent companies

I am a label reader; when I’m in the shower, in the bath, waiting for something to cook, I’ll be reading the labels on whatever I’m using at the time. A few weeks back, I was reading the label on the back of my beloved Marmite, when I noticed they are owned by Unilever.

According to their website, Unilever own 255 brands globally across the food and drink, home care, and personal care sectors. Some of these brands include: Ben & Jerry’s (who are bringing vegan ice cream to the UK ‘soon’), Marmite, Simple, Dove, Lynx, Vaseline and a whole boat load of brands you might use / eat every day. I don’t buy any hygiene or cosmetic products sold by Unilever because I disagree with animal testing, but seeing ‘Unilever’ on the back of a jar of Marmite stopped me in my tracks.

How do I feel about buying food a company whose parent company test on animals, or I consider to be unethical?

Surprisingly, animal testing is not just limited to cosmetics and cleaning products. I would never associate food products with animal testing (perhaps that is naive on my part) but while I was doing some research for this blog post I discovered that some food products are not cruelty free. In 2013, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) called out Unilever, Nestle, Yakult and Danone for testing food products on animals to allow them to promote health claims.

That absolutely baffled me. Why? Why is that even necessary?

Let’s take a look at the Ben & Jerry’s example too. I love that they have created vegan ice cream and are planning to bring it over to the UK; I want to support companies who are making being vegan easier, because hell knows I find it very hard. I also really want a vegan version of Phish food.

If I choose not to support companies who test cosmetics on animals, doesn’t that mean I should boycott food brands which are tested on animals? Doesn’t it mean it should boycott food brands which might be cruelty free themselves, but are owned by a company who test other food brands or hygiene brands on animals?

On the other hand, I could support cruelty free and vegan companies for doing good, fighting animal testing, and creating tasty vegan food. Some people choose to do this with cosmetics brands, let’s take Urban Decay as an example. Urban Decay are cruelty free but they are owned by L’Oreal who do test on animals. The argument is that it’s good to support companies like Urban Decay because they are cruelty free and maybe, eventually, in some kinda movie-like way, L’Oreal will go “wow, a lot of people support these cruelty free brands we own, so maybe we should quit being dicks to animals.” That would be amazing, but it doesn’t quite sit well with me. I hate the idea that my money might indirectly end up supporting animal testing or supporting companies with unethical practices.

To counter that again, if you try to avoid food, hygiene, or cleaning products with unethical parent companies your weekly shop is about to get a lot harder, involve ordering from goodness knows how many websites and probably more expensive.

I am between a rock and a hard place with this one and would love to hear your thoughts about buying from companies with unethical parent companies.

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Beauty, Book Reviews, Books, Ethical

There’s Lead in Your Lipstick – Gillian Deacon | REVIEW

July 13, 2017

There's Lead In Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon

While I am an avid label reader and science nerd, trying to understand the confusing words on packaging is hard. Enter There’s Lead in Your Lipstick, which serves as a perfect entrance into figuring out what is actually in the products your using and how to avoid the toxins.

Would you ever imagine that there are harmful chemicals in the products you rub on your face every day, the things you wash with, what you brush your teeth with, or fix your hair with? I think the majority of people, including myself, probably wouldn’t. You would assume that there is some kind of governing body somewhere ensuring harmful toxins are not put in things we use. Unfortunately, it isn’t really the case (while there are bodies, they’re not as protective as you would hope) and the biggest lesson you will learn from There’s Lead in Your Lipstick is that you have to be your own advocate.

Of course, there are some chemicals banned for use in cosmetics but that doesn’t mean that what’s allowed in cosmetics is perfectly safe. Far from it. Luckily for those living in the EU, we appear to have stricter regulations that those in the US and Canada, but again it still doesn’t mean we are actually being protected from things that can cause us harm. (And with the whole Brexit debacle, who knows what kind of laws products will or won’t have to comply with.)

We have no way to measure the impact of an ingredient combined with every other chemical you encounter day after dayAdditionally, the ease of internet shopping might mean that by buying from abroad you’re exposing yourself to ingredients which are banned in your own country. Coal tar is one example. The known carcinogen is banned in the EU but is still allowed in products in the US, where it might be found in anti-dandruff shampoo, hair dye, and soaps.

I have found switching to a toxin-free lifestyle quite overwhelming, but Deacon’s book is the ideal accomplice. She explains the issues with each toxin and what it might also be referred to as on the label, in a really easy to understand way. I was half expecting There’s Lead in Your Lipstick to be a bit of a dry, textbook-style, read but it was far from it; it was equal parts interesting and horrifying. Her writing style is quite conversational, and I finished it off on my flight home because I just could not put it down.

As well as explaining some of the key ingredients to avoid (and giving a handy list of 20 things you really need to avoid), Deacon explains how to avoid them by including DIY recipes and lists of companies and products which are toxin free. Knowing what to do instead definitely takes away from some of the feeling of being overwhelmed because you feel like you’re armed with solutions and starting points. (And believe me, you will feel a little overwhelmed and want to throw away a large chunk of the stuff in your bathroom.) Note that this book does not detail every single ingredient you shouldn’t avoid, though I’d kinda like that book.

The book is split up into sections dealing with different kinds of products, such as hair, face, hands and feet. Two of the best sections are definitely the ones which teach you how to understand labels and deals with the issues with companies being able to use the words “natural” or “organic” pretty liberally without very strict guidelines.

It is sad that it’s surprisingly difficult to buy toxin free products in on the high street (how did the world come to this?). I have a few recipes or products saved on Pinterest but it can be tricky to keep going back to different pages and trying to remember where I saved something, so I like knowing I can pick up this book and flick to the section I need easily.

I wish books like this didn’t need to exist, but with the plethora of chemicals we’re exposed to every day without really realising it, and no one knowing the accumulative and combined issues they can cause over time, books like this are important. If you read one non-fiction book this summer, heck even this year, let it be There’s Lead in Your Lipstick.

I would like to point out that the products in the main photograph are not all toxin free, and NARS are no longer cruelty free either.

If you’ve read this, what did you think of it? Do you have any recommendations?

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Beauty, Ethical, Ethical and sustainable living

NARS, quit pretending to be appalled by animal testing & supporting it anyway

June 29, 2017

Rabbit

Although it seems to have blown up all over social media, you may have missed the news that NARS have decided to sell in China, where the government requires cosmetics to be tested on animals.

This is a huge backstep for a company loved by many people looking for higher end cruelty free products.

While the news itself was enough to anger a lot of customers, the way they dealt with the backlash is easily one of the worst PR responses I’ve seen. I’ve embedded their full response from Instagram below, but here’s the TL;DR: we hear you’re angry about us testing on animals, but we don’t give a flying fudge because we want more dollar.

 

 

We want you to know that we hear you. The global elimination of animal testing needs to happen. We firmly believe that product and ingredient safety can be proven by non-animal methods, but we must comply with the local laws of the markets in which we operate, including in China. We have decided to make NARS available in China because we feel it is important to bring our vision of beauty and artistry to fans in the region. NARS does not test on animals or ask others to do so on our behalf, except where required by law. NARS is committed and actively working to advance alternative testing methods. We are proud to support the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS), a globally recognized organization at the forefront of advancing non-animal methods in China and around the world. NARS is hopeful that together, we can work toward a cruelty-free world. For more on the good work IIVS is doing, see: http://bit.ly/2rVjnwV

A post shared by @narsissist on

Needless to say, the comment section on this post is alive with incredibly angry, previously loyal, customers who are accusing the company of selling out, which is exactly what they are doing. This is a company trying to weasel their way out of a bad decision. Sure, it’s great that you are supporting alternatives to animal testing, but what’s the point if you’re then going to carry out animal testing? The only way to stop governments demanding animal testing is to not comply with their demands and keep your products out of their market. You’re not going to encourage them to change their mind by doing what they want.

You don’t get to be outraged by animal testing and then support it anyway; it’s like bombing for peace. 

At this point, it seems fairly clear that NARS are not listening to their customers and are going to go ahead and sell in China. That being said, if you were previously a NARS fan, it might be worth emailing the company to let them know how unhappy you are and that you’re voting with your feet and taking your business elsewhere. If you’re interested in doing that, Cruelty Free Kitty has a great guide on what to say. I’ve given it a go, so let’s see what happens.

NARS are far from the only company who have decided to expand into the Chinese market, losing their cruelty free status. They are also far from the only company who claim not to like animal testing, who “support” alternatives, but test on animals anyway. Here are a handful of examples; you will find similar statements on pretty much every cosmetics company who tests on animals.

  • Estee Lauder are “committed to the elimination of animal testing”, but test where required by law. Amazing commitment there.
  • L’Oreal’s animal testing section on their website makes for a brilliant read: “L’Oréal does not test any its products or any of its ingredients on animals. Nevertheless, because our products are sold in China, L’Oréal still figures on the PETA list. In China, the health authorities still require and carry out animal testing for certain products.”
  • MAC, who were previously cruelty free, “do not test on animals” but will do if a regulatory body demands it…
  • Revlon’s statement is very confusing, as they claim they have not tested on animals since 1989 but then say “There are, however, a limited number of countries that have not yet adopted these alternative scientific methods. While Revlon complies with the requirements for safety in all of these countries”.

The wording of some companies policies is not always very clear, so the best way to make sure you’re supporting a cruelty free company is check the Leaping Bunny website.

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