Essex Pig Save February Vigil and Media Coverage

Last week, we held our monthly Essex Pig Save vigil to bear witness to pigs arriving for slaughter at Cheale Meats in Essex, England. To say the event was a success wouldn’t be right, because we are always left with overwhelming sadness as the truck pulls in to the slaughterhouse, knowing that there is nothing more we can do for the animals inside. However, we are making great progress with this group, and sharing our story with the wider area to inform people about the work we are doing.

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Some of the 30+ activists who joined us to bear witness.

We had a great turnout, with over thirty people attending at various times on a very cold morning. At every vigil we have held so far, we have been joined by the police who we have found have had mixed reactions to the vigils. This week though, the police worked with us and the truck drivers to allow us to spend two minutes with each truck. Although this doesn’t seem like a lot of time at all, we are so grateful for the two minutes we get to spend with the animals. Their lives are going to be taken away not long after we see them, so two minutes is incredibly precious.

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We were all quite taken aback with how large the pigs were today. Cheale Meats kills around 6,000 animals a week, and they come from all different places – some are bred on factory farms, some on private farms – but they all end up here to be slaughtered. This is important to consider when seeing labels such as ‘humane’, ‘grass fed’ and ‘cage-free’ in animal agriculture. It seems that the purpose of such labels is solely to make people feel better about the products they are buying, without having any impact on animal welfare whatsoever. ‘Humane slaughter’ is an oxymoron – there is no humane way to kill somebody who doesn’t want to die. It was abundantly clear that the animals we saw today did not want to die.

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In the two minutes we had, we were able to get a glimpse of the individual personalities of each animal. Their reactions were very mixed, some were clearly frustrated having hardly any space to move and so began to fight with their companions. Others were still and looked petrified, their curious eyes meeting with ours every now and then. It is now common knowledge that pigs are highly intelligent animals – they are very aware of their surroundings. When looking into their eyes, it is obvious that they are reading the signals of those around them. This is why it’s so important that we are there for them in their final moments.

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Another thing that’s so heartbreaking when you have the opportunity to get up close to an animal that is heading for slaughter, is noticing the tags on their ears. This clearly symbolises the idea that they are viewed as ‘property’ and their individual personalities are completely ignored, as they are reduced to simply a number. Think of your pet at home – think of all the little quirks they have. One of my rescued cats called Hattie has really thrived since we took her home from Cat’s Protection just over a year ago. I first knew her as a scared, timid cat, but she has grown into an intuitive, loving and sometimes even mischievous member of the family. The animals we saw today will never have that chance to show anyone who they really are. Their tags are a reminder that animal agriculture has robbed them of this. They are viewed as simply a number.

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Hopefully we gave the pigs we met today some comfort before they entered Cheale Meats. The Save Movement is continuing to grow worldwide – I just hope that with this comes less people actively participating in such a cruel and unnecessary industry.

RIP to all the animals we met on 13th February 2017 – we’re so sorry we couldn’t save you.

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Essex Pig Save in the News!

We are spreading the message of The Save Movement across our local area of Essex! This week we have been featured on the news site Essex Live, and also in the newspapers the Essex Chronicle and the Yellow advertiser. Check out the link below to see our online coverage, talking about the love-based approach that all groups in The Save Movement adopt.

Essex Live coverage

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We look forward to welcoming more new activists at our next Essex Pig Save vigil on 13th March 2017!

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Vegan Life Live – Alexandra Palace, London

So this weekend saw the first event by hugely popular magazine ‘Vegan Life’. Like a lot of people, I’m a huge fan of Vegan Life magazine – I’ve had a few of my articles about sanctuary visits published here, plus have had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved who have attended Essex Pig Save Vigils (read about my most recent experience at Essex Pig Save here). So I knew I was going to be in safe hands attending this event. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Alexandra Palace was heaving with people eager to sample some tasty vegan food and maybe learn a thing or two. Here are a few of my highlights from Saturday 7th January.

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The Food Court

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Baking Bad

Baking Bad was my first stop earlier on in the day. I’d heard great things about their cupcakes (and also thought they had a pretty cool name). I was a little upset that my go-to cupcake favourite ‘Ms Cupcake’, based in Brixton (check out my blog about Ms Cupcake here) were not making an appearance, but this was something I thought made the event as a whole a little different to VegFest. There were a lot of new companies that VegFest regulars may not have visited before, so the awesome chance to check out a whole new range of vegan companies. The cupcakes from Baking Bad were beautifully decorated and incredibly tasty.

 Mex It Up

This was another newbie for me. With so much choice in the food court, options from all over the world, and firm favourites like ‘What the Pitta’ with a never-ending queue, I decided to try the vegan world’s answer to Mexican street food – ‘Mex It Up’. Thoroughly recommended! The loaded nachos were great, accompanied by jackfruit and some vegan nacho cheese – what’s not to love?! I also had the New York Cheesecake, a vegan version of the world renowned desert – amazing!

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Vita Coco Kitchen

There seemed to be lots of interesting stuff going on here. I watched ‘Quick and Easy Weekday Dinners’ by Chef Day Radley where she made an interesting combination of butter bean mash and tempeh. You can find the recipe for this and a whole host of other quick, healthy vegan recipes on her website here.

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Palace Suite

Another special mention has to go to Toni Shephard – Executive Director at Animal Equality – who spoke about the realities for animals living on factory farms. Animal Equality are one of my favourite organisations and I really admire the work they are doing. Essex Pig Save teamed up with Animal Equality’s iAnimal campaign – showing people virtual reality footage inside factory farms – earlier this year (read about it here).

Cruelty-Free Shopping

  1. Love Libby X Necklace – I love this brand! I already have a few of their necklaces and bracelets, each one hand-made and unique. Check out their website here.
  2. Wear Your Voice ‘Vegan Power’ Vest – As designed by vegan marathon runner and all round superhero for animals Fiona Oakes (read about when I met Fiona and the animals at Tower Hill sanctuary here). £5.00 from the sale of every vest goes directly to the Fiona Oakes Foundation. Wear Your Voice also have a whole host of different animal rights clothing – check out their website here.

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3. Create & Case ‘Kiss of a Panda’ Clutch Bag – This was another brand new vegan company for me, and I’m so glad I found them! This 100% PETA approved clutch bag is one of many unique and ultra-cool vegan bags and purses. This design was one of my favourites, you can buy one for yourself here.

Overall, I think most people will agree that the first Vegan Life Live event was a great success, and the perfect way to kick off 2017! Taking their own spin on vegan exhibitions that we have grown to love such as Vegfest, I was really impressed with how the event was organised. I’m so pleased that more events like this seem to be popping up all over the place, showing that the demand for vegan products is higher than ever!  I hope to see this event back in London next year.

If you aren’t already familiar with Vegan Life magazine, be sure to check out their website here.

Travel: Best Vegan Food Spots in Glasgow, Scotland

Happy new year everybody! I hope you all had a great Christmas break. I find the new year the perfect time to get focused and set out goals to achieve for the next twelve months. In my previous blog, I picked out some of my highlights from 2016 (view here), but unfortunately the world of animal rights still has a long way to come, so I plan to achieve much more in 2017!

I spent my New Year’s in Glasgow with one of my best friends and photographer Lottie, check out her awesome photography website here. It’s no wonder she decided to move to Scotland, it really does have spectacular views. We drove to Glen Coe and were greeted by mountains, snow, and plenty of sheep! If you’re staying in Glasgow, Glen Coe is about a two hour drive, and perfect for a day out escaping the city and appreciating the natural world.

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Now…on to the food! To be honest, Scotland really did surprise me. An area known for traditional dishes such as haggis (which you can find the vegan version of at the restaurants I’m about to talk about), I didn’t hold out much hope for vegan food. I was so, so wrong. Not only is the vegan scene thriving in Glasgow with an aray of different vegan pubs and restaurants, these just happen to be the coolest places in town too. My first stop was The Flying Duck which I had heard about prior to visiting, this was just next to the city centre, so easy to find for yummy vegan goodness.

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I absolutely loved everything about this venue; the artwork, the food, the music, the vibe. It reminded me a little of my favourite vegan pub back home in Essex called The Railway Hotel (check out my write up of Mother’s Day at The Railway here). Extra points for the amusing menu with a section named ‘Dawgs’.

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We ordered burgers and mac ‘n’ cheese, which was a little optimistic but its easy to get carried away with vegan food. Everything was delicious. It’s definitely worth checking out The Flying Duck website to see which bands are playing too.

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I also visited Stereo which was another vegan pub/restaurant/gig venue, with a similar vibe to The Flying Duck. I’d heard good things about Stereo, and it’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed. I think this photograph says it all.

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So good! A special mention goes to the battered cauliflower which was amazing. I also had a hot dog with pretty much everything, and brownie for desert. Everything on the menu looked great! After visiting both places, I was reminded of just how relaxing it is going to a restaurant that is 100% vegan. No worrying about specifically ordering soya milk, or making sure the margarine on the bread is plant-based…Glasgow has you covered with these 100% vegan food spots!

I had also planned to visit Mono which I have heard great things about, however this was closed on New Year’s Day (my last day)… so I guess I’m just going to have to make another trip to Glasgow soon! It definitely looks worth checking out, and all these restaurants are within walking distance from Glasgow city centre…bonus!

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So if you’re travelling to Glasgow for whatever reason, you’re pretty much sorted for vegan food. Are there any other hidden gems in Glasgow I haven’t mentioned? I just hope the rest of Scotland is this vegan-friendly!

2016 – Animal Activism Year in Review

In the world of animal rights, 2016 has definitely seen some positive changes worldwide. More people are vegan than ever before, and also many vegans have turned to activism to use their voices for animals. It has been my first full year of animal activism, and taking action for animals has became a huge part of my life. Here are some of my proudest achievements from 2016…

Essex Pig Save’s First Vigil

Read about it here.

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This was my first ever save vigil of any kind, and it was in my home county! I have always been a huge supporter of Toronto Pig Save, and was so happy that the Save Movement was expanding to the UK. This was the first of many vigils which went on to occur every month, with a growing team of activists. Our numbers have pretty much doubled since this very first vigil. We were able to bear witness to pigs entering Cheale Meats in Brentwood, Essex, and offer them comfort in any way we could. The next Essex Pig Save vigil will be held on 16th January 2017 – check out the Essex Pig Save Facebook page here for more information.

I Stand with Anita

Read about it here and here.

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This year I got to spend some time with Anita Krajnc and the rest of Toronto Pig Save as I attended a series of vigils in Canada. I also got to cover Anita’s court case, where she was put on trial for feeding water to a pig dying of dehydration. People around the world were horrified that Anita had been charged for simply an act of kindness. The trial talked about a lot more than this one incident, and ended up putting animal agriculture as a whole on trial. The case will be continuing in March 2017. Working with Anita has been a great honour this year, and I look forward to doing a lot more in 2017 to show the world that compassion is not a crime.

Japan – The World is Watching You

Read about it here.

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At the start of this year I took part in the London Against Taiji Dolphin Massacre March. We marched through the streets of London to the Japanese Embassy, using our voices to stand against this barbaric tradition that happens every year in Taiji. Documentaries like Blackfish and The Cove have meant a huge fall in profit for companies such as Seaworld. It’s so important that people know that every time they buy a ticket to a marine park that uses animals for entertainment, or partake in swim with dolphin programmes, they are actively paying for this yearly dolphin slaughter. The workers seek out the ‘Flipper’-like dolphins that have become so popular, while the rest are trapped in the cove to be slaughtered the following morning, and sold as dolphin meat. Many people in Japan don’t even know this is happening. Please don’t be part of it. Boycott Seaworld, marine parks and all swim with dolphin programmes.

Fearman’s ‘Pork’ Show No Mercy

Read about it here.

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Not long after returning from Canada myself, I watched this heartbreaking event live, as it happened, outside Fearman’s ‘Pork’, where I had protested earlier this year. Although the events of that day were completely incomprehensible, the stories of the pigs who died will never be forgotten. The incident gained worldwide media coverage, and people began to question whether eating meat can ever really be humane. A special thanks to all the activists who were at Fearman’s that day, and later organised a candle-lit memorial for all those who suffered such cruelty, all because of human greed.

Vegfest London 2016

Read about it here and on The Vegfest Express.

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In the build up to this year’s Vegfest London, I interviewed some of the speakers appearing at the Vegan Activists Summit – including Kate Strong, Rebecca Fox and Marta Zaraska. I’m so pleased that Vegfest is just getting bigger and better every year. I thought the speakers this year were particularly inspirational, and it was great to listen to such heroes as David Smith MBE talk about how a plant-based diet has changed their lives.

Ink Activism

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This year I also got my first ever tattoos which have been great conversation starters, and have also enabled me to visit some of the best vegan tattoo studios! My first was the animal liberation symbol, which I had done at Fifth Dimension in London. My second was the word ‘compassion’ which I had done at James Spooner’s Monocle Tattoo studio in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I do have the tattoo bug now and have heard of some other great vegan tattoo studios which I plan to check out in 2017!

Protesting with Emily from Bite Size Vegan

Read about it here.

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I attended an Essex Pig Save vigil with popular American YouTuber and blogger – Emily from Bite Size Vegan this summer. This was a very hard day as we said goodbye to truck-loads of pigs entering Cheale Meats to be slaughtered. But later on, I went to London to watch Emily’s speech, and my dedication and hope for animals was truly restored. Emily talked about the importance of bearing witness, and not turning away from what is happening to animals, but instead doing all we can to change it. I’m a huge fan of all the work Emily is doing.

Fiona Oakes – For The Animals

Read about it here.

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Also at the start of this year, I got to meet champion marathon runner and all round superhero for animals – Fiona Oakes, along with all the animals at Tower Hill Sanctuary. It was great to hear Fiona’s story and how she has managed to achieve so much for animals. Tower Hill looks after over 400 rescued animals, which is no easy task! She also uses her extreme marathon running (she has run a marathon on every continent, and the North Pole) to promote the vegan lifestyle… destroying the stereotypical view of vegans as ‘weak’.

Other mentionable animal activism achievements this year include attending the first East London Chicken Save vigil, meeting Renee and all the friendly folk at Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, Texas, and volunteering at Piebird Farm Sanctuary in Canada. Overall, I’m really pleased with what I have accomplished this year, the world is definitely beginning to wake up to the realities that so many animals are forced to endure at the hands of humans. The Save Movement has grown rapidly in 2016, there are now 24 groups in the UK alone! It seems that ignorance is no longer bliss. I am looking forward to achieving much more for animals in 2017.

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Essex Pig Save Vigil – Bearing Witness to Pigs – 7/11/16

Yesterday we had another vigil at Cheale Meats in Essex, to say goodbye to some beautiful pigs arriving for slaughter.

It’s always a surreal feeling, that the vigil is considered a success if we are able to see some trucks of pigs. Obviously we don’t want the trucks to be there at all, and in an ideal world they wouldn’t be, but while intelligent animals are still needlessly being killed for food, it is our aim to comfort as many as possible.

So yesterday we managed to see a few trucks, most of which had their shutters up so it was difficult to see the animals inside. But later on, we were able to get a closer look. The pigs were scared, cramped and almost looking to us for some kind of explanation. All we could do was comfort them in any way possible, and document their important journey.

The Save Movement now has over 20 groups in the UK that all have regular vigils, with new groups starting all the time. Slaughterhouses that have been hidden for so long are being exposed, and people are beginning to make the connection, and realise that they don’t want to be paying for these cruel practices. There is a great injustice going on every day, every hour, every minute. Most people would claim to be animal lovers, but this means loving all animals, not just those we share our homes with. I found the following words from Essex Pig Save, which I think beautifully sum up what The Save Movement is doing, so I will leave you with this.

Hide me in the shadows, kill me in the darkness,

and all will be forgotten…

But shine a light upon my death, and I will be everywhere,

and justice will be my name.

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Take Action!

Essex Pig Save

Toronto Pig Save

The Save Movement

Vegan, Cruelty-Free Hair Dye That’s GOOD for Your Hair?!

…does such a thing exist?! Well it turns out, yes it does!

Continuing my journey into the world of vegan and cruelty-free beauty, it has definitely been a learning curve so far. Almost exactly a year ago, I posted my first blog about cruelty-free cosmetics (check out ‘The World of Cruelty-Free Cosmetics’) and since then I’ve talked about some of favourite brands, including Superdrug’s B Range and Kat Von D Beauty (just arrived for sale in the UK!). But one thing I’ve never talked about before, is vegan hair-dye.

Now granted, this was mostly because I was pretty skeptical that such a thing even existed. So I put off dying my hair for so long, but when I felt like it needed a little bit of a lift, I did some research, and this was the brand I went for…

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Tints of Nature…ever heard of them? Me neither! But the good news is they are available online at a price pretty similar to all those hair dyes you would find on the high street. Check out their website here.

Now, the thing that’s extra great about Tints of Nature is not only is it completely vegan and cruelty-free, all the ingredients are completely organic. With no ammonia and a non GMO formula that promises not to damage your hair like all the harsh chemicals you would normally find in hair dye. Too good to be true? I thought it might be, so I opted for a semi-permanent colour just to be safe.

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This Medium Chestnut Brown (Semi-Permanent) colour even comes ready mixed so there’s even less to do than with the usual high street hair dyes! It also didn’t smell of…well strong chemicals really! The whole dying process was a lot less messy. I was also surprised that it covered the leftover bleach at the end of my hair from when I had ombre highlights put in ages ago. Here’s the finished result…

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Tints of Nature gets a thumbs up from me, how nice is it to know that the production of your hair dye has not harmed any beautiful animals? Next time I might go a little braver and try a dark red!

Vegfest London Countdown – Vegan Activists Summit – Rebecca Fox

Rebecca Fox is another speaker that will be appearing at VegFest London’s Vegan Activists Summit on Saturday 22nd October. Rebecca is part of the team behind the blog Reasonable Vegan (www.rvgn.org) – ‘Promoting skeptical inquiry in vegan spaces, confronting irrationality everywhere.’ I caught up with Rebecca this week, and here’s what she had to say about VegFest (and vegan cheese!).

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What are you most looking forward to about speaking at VegFest London?

I’ve been attending Vegfest for a few years now and have always thought of it as a place to try out new foods and products, (I have in the past threatened to bring my own extra-long cocktail stick to reach through the crowds to the vegan cheese tasters!) but also as a place to be exposed to new ideas and reinvigorate my commitment to veganism.

So, I am looking forward to presenting ideas that are new to many in the vegan community but will support and inspire people to be better advocates. 

When I’ve spoken to groups of vegans about critical thinking skills in the past I’ve found them to be receptive and thoughtful (which is probably why they became vegan) so I also look forward to meeting and connecting with compassionate people and discussing how we approach the world as reasonable vegans.

…and what do you hope to achieve from it?

I’m hoping that my talk at Vegfest will give me the opportunity to share my passion for veganism and give the audience the opportunity to learn some of the critical thinking skills that I find useful and important. I want to empower vegans to use reason and evidence to support their message of compassion and make our movement stronger.

I’m also hoping to try some new brands of vegan cheese!

When and why did you become vegan?

When I was ten years old I realised that meat was made from animals, well, I kind of knew that before but at age ten I think I began to understand what that really meant. And so I became a vegetarian.

I was a vegetarian until in my mid twenties I was introduced to scientific skepticism, which is basically a method for understanding the world built on the principles of reason and evidence. I realised that a lot of things that I believed about the world and myself were ‘unreasonable’ (not based on reason and evidence). So I started thinking about my beliefs one by one and changing or discarding the unreasonable ones.

Then I came to my vegetarianism… and I realised that the reason I was vegetarian was because I didn’t want to cause unnecessary harm to animals… but there was plenty of evidence that the dairy, eggs and other animal products I consumed did cause unnecessary harm.

So I had to give them up, and I became vegan.

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be even though at the time I was living in Australia and had to negotiate many a barbecue somewhat awkwardly. As a vegan I’ve travelled through many different countries and I’m finding it’s getting easier with every day as I learn more about food and as more and more people learn about veganism.

Recently I was at a vegan braai in Cape Town and couldn’t help reflecting on how far I’d come from those first awkward barbies where I often found myself drinking too much on an empty stomach!

What are your future plans for ‘Reasonable Vegan’?

RVGN started as a blog, my partner a few skeptical friends and I dreamed up as a place to host articles by and for reasonable vegans. We’ve published a lot of interesting articles and interviews over the last few years and met a lot of fellow reasonable vegans. 

We’ve been discussing what we think the vegan community needs and what we can do to spread the vegan message. We have decided that we want to focus on giving vegans the opportunity to hone their critical thinking skills in order to make them better advocates and presenting a solid evidence backed resource to help convince non-vegans to go vegan!

So our new project is building a site and maybe an app that will help vegans become more reasonable and reasonable people become vegan. It’s in the very early stages of development (in fact you are among the first to know) but you can keep up with our progress by following us on twitter.

So there you have it, a VegFest exclusive about the future plans for Reasonable Vegan! If you’d like to find out more, be sure to catch Rebecca at the Vegan Activists Summit at 3pm on Saturday 22nd October! Can’t wait till then? Be sure to check out www.rvgn.org