Thursday, 24 July 2008

Good thing being vegan keeps blood pressure down

The pro-GM crop scientist on the Today programme really annoyed me. Now, I have a fairly open mind about the wider GM issue. Much of my suspicion comes from the sort of companies that are involved, rather than the science itself. I have a hard time seeing why Monsanto would want to solve a global food crisis, for example. I don't buy GM food, but that's more along the lines of a boycott and an avoidance of actively supporting it rather than some idea that my body is particularly pure. I eat soy (albeit organic), drink coffee, use deodorant with aluminium in and am not particularly fussed about ingesting the odd artificial something-or-other (except sweeteners, they make me ill), so GM can join the queue on that score. I am, however, prepared to listen to the arguments on this issue.

So why did this particular scientist piss me off? Well, it was his brief exposition of one particular health benefit of GM food - the potential for adding essential fatty acids to plant matter which can currently only be found in fish oil. And, he says, this would help to conserve fish stocks. Now, I know that it is difficult to find a vegetarian source of these acids, but I also know that they can be found in flax. That may be known as linseed where you live or buy food. You can get the seeds themselves, or a powder. (some of my friends swear by the powder as a cooking ingredient - I'm not keen but will occasionally go on a health kick and buy some). These can be bought in health food shops, including Horrid and Bastard if you don't have anything else to hand, and also in Teh Evil Teh Sco. And, guess what? Eating these instead of fish will also help to stop said fish going extinct. See, that didn't take much gene-fiddling, did it?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Increasing veganicity in the bathroom

Nah, sorry, you don't get webcam shots of me showering or worse.

Anyway, I've been kind of inspired by this post by the rather cool TP.

If you're the sort of person who regularly checks out the links in other people's blogs (I am!) you may have noticed a new-ish and rapidly growing section captioned 'shinies'. In particular, there have been rather a lot of cosmetic companies added lately. This is because, having established my ability to check the unlikliest foods for whey powder and resist the allure of a limp cheese sandwich in my work canteen - not to mention picking up the habit of carrying snack food around with me to avoid the sort of near-fainting experiences that tended to happen in the past, and realising it is probably ok to eat two bowlfulls in an evening if that's the only significant thing I eat all day - I am now turning my attention to veganising my bathroom and makeup bag.

Now, this isn't a massive issue. (That's kind of why it got left for last...) I can say with certainty that everything I have is vegetarian, because this I never stopped checking. I've been avoiding animal tested stuff the whole time - think I may have slipped up on that one two or three times in the last decade, mostly due to discrepancies between the different lists. (These will go up in the links shortly - you can decide for yourself whose standard to use, or give me advice on which is better) I've tended to avoid things that are obviously not vegan (eg Superdrug, who are normally my favourite source of bathroom stuff, make a shampoo with cashmere extract in. Fuck that shit.), and started to weed stuff out in the bathroom when I first committed to becoming vegan again.

That bit is easy. What gets slightly harder is doing the same thing in my makeup bag. I am a bit of a hoarder and collector with makeup - I don't wear it very often, and the range I have may seem a bit limited to some people, but it has been collected over a few years. I am also going to use up what I have (or wait until the yuk factor hits, as it did eventually about eating dairy and wearing my leather DMs), while seeking replacements. There are some things I would like to replace with as close a copy as possible. The big sticking point seems to be lipstick, particularly red lipstick. One of the companies listed in my sidebar - think it was Urban Decay - seem to have one on their vegan list, but I have yet to see it in a British shop. I may have to get it by mail order when my current one (contains beeswax, although apparently not carmine) runs out. I guess eventually I may just have to streamline the makeup I have (which is probably no bad thing) and quit impulse buying (also no bad thing, but I have kind of got into the habit of getting new makeup for particular events and need to get out of it). This is a bigger change of habits than the diet ever was!

A couple of tips on the bathroom front:
- Superdrug, despite the pooheaded decision to put cashmere extract in shampoo, are in general pretty good on vegan issues. They've started to reaffirm their animal testing policy (which has apparently always been there, although they did consider changing to a rolling rule a few years back) but kind of not mentioned for some reason. And they label the vegetarian and vegan products in an increasing number of their ranges. And their stuff tends to be pretty cheap, too. My favourite right now is the Vitamin E range.
- The Co-op have probably the best animal testing policy (and the longest fixed cut-off date) on the high street, and have also consistently advertised this fact in a way that certain other places (see above) have been somewhat shy about doing. They also highlight whether or not things contain animal ingredients. This is where I generally get my shampoo (see above for why I can't get that in the same place as every-sodding-thing else) and household cleaning stuff. Also toothpaste, since S'drug haven't been forthcoming about the veganicity of theirs yet.
- For going beyond the basics, of course I'm going to recommend Lush. They are slightly pricier than the above, but I find myself streamlining what I buy and making stuff last. (NOT by not washing!) So my Lush habit costs maybe ten quid every few months, give or take the odd emergency birthday purchase. One of their bath melts lasts about a dozen baths - you really only need a small piece. And I've been rotating two small bottles of their shower gel with a cheaper S'drug one for the last few months, washing once or twice a day, and it is only just coming to the time to replace them.
- If you aren't sure about hippy-type deodorants (I can see the appeal, but have never found one that worked on me) then Mitchums is a possibly surprising favourite. The ingredients are vegan, and Revlon (whatever other schiesserei you may accuse them of) quit testing on animals in the 80s or early 90s. It is the only deo I've used that doesn't commit me to having to wash twice a day and spend lunchtime ducking into the toilet with wet wipes at the ready, plus *having* to change clothes to go to the pub after work. (I quite often do this for the fun of it, but kind of like the choice that comes with not having your work clothes reduced to stinking rags by 4pm) So this, like the above comments on shower gel, is a pretty serious endorsement!