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A reminder why I always e-mail companies about animal testing (and don't just read their FAQs)

emailing companies animal testing

A question that pops up a lot regarding my cruelty-free brands list is why I insist on e-mail brands who have a really good public statement on their website. 

It's definitely a good question and I can understand why people would wonder. Today I'm going to go into why I'll always fire off a quick e-mail even if a brands FAQ page does have a good response to the question "Do you test your products on animals?". 

The short answer is, statements can be cleverly worded, might be out of date or miss something important out. I've felt for a long time that relying on statements on websites alone (or a quick tweet) isn't a strong enough reason to trust a brand. Quite recently I got reminded exactly why I always send an e-mail and why website statements alone cannot be trusted. 

In the past month I sent off a batch of e-mails to companies regarding their testing methods. Two of the companies in this batch had really good statements on their website and I was excited at the prospect of being able to buy their products. When I got their responses I had no choice however but to put one of them on my grey area list, and one of them on my testing list.

The first one is Oribe. I couldn't find a statement on their website but as some products are marked out as vegan it made me feel as though I might have been on to a winner. To get clarification, I sent off an e-mail and all questions were answered well aside from when I enquired about China. When I asked if they had no plans to sell in China until laws changed, the response was "As of now we do not have plans to sell in China". Not quite satisfied, but willing to accept that it was maybe just badly worded, I asked whether this was due to animal testing or because they just by chance weren't yet selling in China. The response was still "This is not a country we are not looking to sell into right now". I can't endorse a brand as cruelty-free if they can't confirm that they won't sell in China until laws change. They ended up on my grey-area list despite advertising some products as vegan. 

Second up on my list is OGX, a brand easily available in Superdrug. Let's compare the statement on their website with the one they sent me (emphasis mine). 

Website: No, OGX® products are NOT tested on animals. OGX® does not initiate animal tests on either finished products or ingredients whether directly or indirectly. All ingredients used are carefully monitored. All suppliers are requested to confirm that their materials have not been tested on animals. Ingredients which do not have this data supplied for them are not used in any products. OGX® is against the suffering endured by animals when ingredients and products are tested. We support suppliers and organizations that are developing alternative methods of testing without using animals.

E-mail: Thank you for contacting us! We understand and share your concern regarding the ethical treatment of animals.  We have a deep respect for animal welfare. Vogue International does not itself conduct or request others to perform animal testing in order to substantiate the safety or efficacy of any of our products or raw ingredients.  Given that there are countries that require animal testing by law, we do our best to respect governing law and regulations set by that governing body while encouraging alternative methods and helping to bring about change from within. We are pursuing opportunities to influence others on alternative methods and work towards our long term goal of the elimination of animal testing worldwide.  We understand that you may not agree with our decision and we respect your right to choose the best products for you.

There's a fancy way of saying they sell in China there. 

Both examples show that a thorough website statement isn't always what it seems. Neither company mentioned China on their website, and when asked about it in an e-mail they either admitted to it in a roundabout way or just wouldn't clarify their reasons for not selling in China right now.

I do appreciate that not everyone has the time to e-mail companies. Heck, there's other forms of ethical shopping out there where I rely on other people doing the research (fashion, mainly). This is why I try my hardest to be as stringent as possible with my research so that my list is safe enough for other people to confidently refer to when shopping. Obviously I can never be 100% sure so it is taken at your own risk however I do always e-mail companies myself and don't just rely on website statements. Hopefully this blog post has explained why that is important.  

So if you ever see a brand with a website statement on my grey-area list (or even my testing list) the reason could very possibly be similar to above. 

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Green Party policies that having nothing to do with recycling (or riding a bike)

Leafleting during the UK elections. 

The Scottish Green party are a bunch of vegan middle-class hippies whose policies are all about recycling. 

If you thought the above was true, well, you're forgiven. The Scottish Green Party does have an image problem in that it's all middle-class hippies who are all about the ethics but have no diversity within their party ranks. It's why we sometimes get called "Tories on bikes".

But with the upcoming Scottish elections, I thought it was maybe time I got the soapbox out again. The Scottish Green Party have policies covering everything from national defence, to education, to animal rights and trade unions, and I do want voters to go to the polls knowing what they're voting for. In fact, if you considered yourself to be on the left and care deeply about equality then the Scottish Green Party might be your best option at the voting booth.

To prove it, I've rounded up several policies the Scottish Green Party have which are nothing to do with recycling (or riding a bike, or eating organic food). 

1. The decriminalisation of sex work, but still taking measures to ensure safety

If you know me and know my feminist issues you'll know that where a political party stands on the issue of sex work is an important one. The stance of the Scottish Green party is that sex work -such as brothels and pornography - should be legalised and de-stigmatised, and what goes on between consenting adults is no one else's business. However, policies are still included to recognise that some individuals are coerced into sex work and preventative measures will need to be in place to ensure the safety of the profession.  

2. Free lifelong education

Some of us are lucky enough to be able to fund a Masters degree or PhD. Some of us are lucky enough that we worked out what we wanted to do while at school and never changed our mind before retirement. Many people aren't that lucky. If you want to do a Masters or a PhD the Greens believe you should be entitled to do it for free. The Greens also believe that career changes shouldn't be restricted to people who can afford to.

3. Introduce detailed national food labelling

From the Green policy document: "The SGP will legislate to ensure that all foodstuffs are clearly labelled so as to indicate the manner and place of production, estimated food miles and to any subsequent processes to which they have been subjected. We will also introduce a statutory scheme to introduce labelling for suitability for the following, and other, dietary requirements: vegetarian, vegan, Kosher, Halal, gluten and nut free. The national standard labelling system will also guarantee minimum standards of animal welfare for all sold products produced in Scotland."

Y'all know I can get behind that!

4. Support the right to join a trade union

Because it's much easier to stand up to your boss when there's a group of you, rather when it's just yourself trying not to let your bottom lip tremble. Trade unions are in place for a reason and it's to make sure employers don't take advantage of employees who are scared they will be fired if they have the audacity to leave work on time. 

5. Support the UN but also call for reforms

I'll put my hands up in the air and admit that the UN isn't my political strong-point (yes, I know my degree is in International Management so I should know more than I do, but shhh). So if the UN is a strong point for yourself you should make yourself familiar with this policy. 

6. Devolving more power to local communities

If having lived in three different cities within the same country has taught me anything, it's that one policy doesn't work across all communities. What works for people in the Central Belt and what works for people in the Scottish Islands differs immensely. And I'm sick to the death of the central belt getting loads of investment while my home city gets forgotten about. Handing over responsibility to the people who live in the local area is something this Aberdonian who lives/works in Glasgow but has a degree from a Dundee university feels strongly about.

7. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to health

The Scottish Greens strongly oppose any privatisation of the NHS. But the Scottish Greens also believe in preventative measures to improve the nation's health as a whole from free sporting facilities, to community food projects, to mental health support groups.

8. Addressing the causes of crime

Prison is essential for keeping dangerous people off the street. But there are many people who turn to crime due to poverty, mental health problems, toxic masculinity, or lack of good sex education (consent, y'all!). That is something the Scottish Greens believe needs dealt with. They also believe that CCTV surveillance has gotten out of hand, and does not fix the underlying root causes of criminal behaviour.

9. Radical democracy

Power goes to people's heads, which is why there needs to be more 'checks and balances' in the Scottish Parliament. A fairer voting system, fixed-term parliaments and regulation of party funding are three ideas that the Scottish Greens have in their policy document.

10. Scrapping Trident

Because we're peace-loving hippies.
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RECIPE: Soy & Broccoli Soup

I don't know if it's perhaps a 'getting older' thing, but I appear to like cuddling up with a bowl of soup more than I used to. For most of my life I considered it not a real meal and I can remember refusing to eat it at the dinner table (when I was like, four not last week or anything).

This particular soup is one I make often (sometimes I overdo the sesame seeds, sometimes - but rarely - I sprinkle them on just right) and was actually an accidental recipe. I was making my favourite soy sauce recipe and discovered that broccoli soaked in soy sauce is actually to die for.

Try it below and watch broccoli become your new staple vegetable.

1 chopped garlic clove
Half an onion, chopped
5-7 broccoli florets
one vegetable stock cube
300ml boiling water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mixed herbs, to taste
Sprinkle of black sesame seeds

1. In a saucepan, fry the onions and garlic in oil until soft
2. Dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water, and pour into the sauce pan
3. Add soy sauce and broccoli to pan and bring to boil. Cook until softened
4. With a hand blender, blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste
5. Once transferred to serving bowl, sprinkle* on black sesame seeds (do this right before serving as these seeds sink ever so slightly).

* Try not to do what I did and cover the soup in a blanket of sesame seeds (so much that it looks like a kiwi fruit), and be too impatient/busy to make another batch exclusively for a blog photo. This is why I'm not a cook by trade.

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Recent vegan skincare round-up

Vegan skincare

If there's a type of beauty product that I've tried almost everything of, it's skincare. I have naturally blotchy skin that requires quite a bit of TLC to keep it in its place. You'd think with as much skincare as I've tried over the years I'd purchased it all by now. Nope, there's still plenty of new finds for me to pop into my shopping basket. 

Because I buy so much skincare it's probably easier if I do little round-ups with mini-reviews and leave full reviews of one product for times where I have a lot to say. So here's four skincare purchases I made recently and my thoughts on them. 

I did like this, I really did. It was soothing on the skin, it calmed down my redness and my skin felt cleansed but soft afterwards. However, it is £30 and I'm just not okay parting with that kind of money unless absolute miracles happen. My favourite facemask of all time is Lush Cupcake with is much cheaper and is pretty much the same standard of quality. If none of the Lush facemasks do something for you and you've ran out of other high street options I'd say give this a try but if you've got a budget version that works for you stick with it. 

I know tea tree is hailed as a saviour for spotty skin, however me and tea tree have never quite got along. I found this in Tesco while visiting my parents in Aberdeenshire and thought I'd give it a try. It made my spots worse but that's maybe just my skin. 

I've said before (numerous times) that I really dislike the make-up offerings from B.Cosmetics but love the products that take off make-up. I've previously reviewed their 4-in-1 wipes and micellar water highly, so thought Id' give their cleanser a try. I do like this product and it does remove make-up (including mascara and eye-liner without stinging the eyes) but it still ranks behind the the wipes and water. 

Pacifica is a brand that gets raved about a lot in vegan circles. While I love their perfumes I've never been too keen on their make-up range and this was my first skincare purchase from the brand. I'll be honest: I didn't really like this. While the descriptions on the bottle sound lovely and it smelt gorgeous, I didn't see any changes to my skin. I'll continue to use this on days where my skin isn't looking too troublesome but I doubt I'll re-purchase once the bottle is finished. 

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A tardis selling vegan soup? Brew Box Coffee Company in Glasgow

Credit: Brew Box Coffee Company

Glasgow is a pretty amazing place. 

It's one of the most vegan friendly cities in the UK, and a place where you can spot blue tardis-style phone boxes on several streets (there's five in total). These are just two of the reasons why Glasgow can snuff out the cosmopolitan competition. Now, imagine these two things came together. 

That's what Brew Box Coffee Company is. A small vegan-friendly take-away operating out the back of a tardis

Situated on Wilson Street in Merchant City and about a 15 minute walk from my office, it was no surprise that this place shot to the top of my 'must-stop-by-for-lunch' list. I'll be honest, I thought it was a bit gimmicky when I first heard about it, and I ignorantly assumed that something sold out the back of the tardis couldn't compete with the restaurant offerings of Glasgow. 

Internet, I hang my head in shame. The first time I stopped by, the hot vegan offering of the day was Sri Lankan soup and it was the best thing I had eaten in ages. And this is coming from someone who generally wouldn't consider themselves a soup person. I'm not sure what the actual make up of the soup was but it was sprinkled on top with peanut, chillies and coriander - and #girlboss Laura asks what toppings you'd like so if you're not into hot stuff you can leave out the chillies. 

Speaking of Laura, this is a one-women show. Laura cooks everything offsite herself and brings it in for opening at 8:45am and is there until 4pm. She also has some excellent chat and gets to know her customers - I've become a bit of a regular at the tardis and enjoy a good chinwag about my day at the office (there's a few other places I regular at for lunch where I've not been asked where I work let alone what I'm currently working on). She is passionate about health and the environment, and aims to make this a zero-waste business - you'll even get a biodegradable wooden spoon with your soup.

My own photo of the Sri Lankan soup. 

The menu changes up regularly (and she only makes enough for each day), with a hot option, some sandwiches and the occasional brownie. Gluten-free consumers are also catered to as well as vegans. Keep an eye on the Instagram and Facebook to keep up to-date with the rotating menu and pre-order if like me you've got a bit of a walk between your office and the tardis. When I'm in the mood for something quick, easy and cheap it's where I head at 1pm. 

Speaking of cheap, it's very budget friendly. With less running costs than a traditional café Laura can sell her soups for £3. Good to the bank balance, vegan-friendly, tasty, centrally-situated and incorporates a much-loved pop culture icon? Despite being small in size I can imagine this tardis becoming a big player in the Glasgow foodie scene. 

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