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Guide on cruelty-free transitioning

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So maybe you don’t want animals to die. Maybe you feel bad about the suffering some of them go through. Maybe you really wish you could live a life that’s as sustainable and caring as possible. But how? How can you even think about limiting or discontinuing your consumption of animal products? It’s such an ingrained part of society. It’s everywhere. We’re taught that it’s natural, that it’s normal, that we as human beings have superiority over non-human animals. That it’s our right to consume them. But is it our right to allow them to suffer? To be the cause of their suffering? No.

Do you think as I do? Does it sadden you when you see those horrific videos of pigs in cages too small to move? Where farmed animals may never see the sun or fell the grass under their feet, where their lives are taken advantage of purely for our purposes of consumption? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider at least limiting your impact—and here’s my little handy guide of how.

Milk:

This is probably one of the easiest things to change, because of the variety you have in what you choose to drink. There’s so many choices! You’ve got multiple types of soy milks, each creamier than the next, or almond milk, sweet rice milk, coconut milk, macadamia milk and hazelnut milk. Whether its cooking or coffee, these things work just as well. Personally, I think the cheap soy milk is great—and bonus, it contains lots of protein and nutrients to fill you up.

Cheese:

This is often the most difficult thing I hear people say. In fact, I used to be one of those people. Having been vegetarian for 7 years before becoming vegan about 10 months ago, I would always respond with yes, I’m vegetarian! But I could never go vegan. I love cheese. Dairy is my favourite food group. And it really was. But after researching what a lot of dairy cows go through—that they’re (often) artificially inseminated and kept pregnant their entire lives to produce dairy, with their babies taken away to become veal or future dairy cows—I decided no food could ever be worth their cries.

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Image via Just The Food.

Even so, replacing cheese was really difficult for me. Some vegans avoid substitutes all together, by using other ingredients—like avocado or tomato paste—for that “melty” effect. However, as a former dairy lover, I do enjoy cheese—but fear not! There is plenty of choice for cruelty-free dairy! Biocheese happens to be a favourite of mine, and for around $7-9, it’s certainly worth it. The texture is a little different to your usual cheese, but it’s super creamy and to die for when melted—even better than actual cheese, I’d argue. There’s also Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream, both of which are super creamy, tasty and useful in cooking. Any health food store will sell plenty of these kinds of things—and even Coles and Woolworths. Furthermore, I’ve recently discovered you can make your own cheese, using things like cashews, and nutritional yeast flakes, which have together create a creamy, cheesy flavour. Google is your best friend—explore, experiment and have some fun eating some tasty creations.

Meat:

Meat is probably the easiest thing to replace, give up or reduce. We really do not need it to survive—you can get all your nutrients and more from plants. But if you do long for meat, there are vegan alternatives. Firstly, you have things like grilled mushrooms, or other veggies—using the right flavouring, they can be quite similar. Tofu is also a great substitute when cooked well. A personal favourite of mine is to thinly slice tofu and coat with paprika, salt, pepper and garlic, before searing it and making a delicious dipping sauce to go with it—healthy and super easy for lazy people like me. There’s also plenty of fake meats. The frozen section of supermarkets normally have a great choice of burgers, sausages, pies, schnitzels, and so on. Textured soy protein is a new personal favourite of mine—it’s super cheap at around $3 for a big bag; just add water and heat. It can be used for the same kind of thing mince is used for.

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Image via Pura Botanica.

There’s also plenty of online shops where you can find all sorts of goodies! Lam Yong has a physical and online store, and they sell everything. I am crazy excited to try vegan prawns, soy duck and vegan drumsticks.

There’s really plenty of options. I’m not here to force you—I’m just expressing my experiences in attaining a healthy cruelty-free lifestyle. Going vegan has been the best thing I’ve ever done, and my life, as well as the lives of the animals who are slowly being saved by this movement, is better for it.

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It’s time to free the nipple.

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Model and actress Cara Delevigne posted this image on Instagram in support of #FreetheNipple. Image via Instagram.

Warning: this post contains nipples.

It all started with a simple Facebook post.

Renee Gerber is a 21-year-old Queenslander—and she’s the latest person to get on board with the #FreeTheNipple campaign—in particular, a social media campaign promoting—you guessed it—nipples.

The campaign—set to launch later today—plays a game of “Guess Who?” by editing female and male (as well as transgender) nipples onto male bodies in order to protest the irrational and unequal status of women created by the sexualisation of the female nipple and breast. The goal of the campaign is to grant women the right to legally expose their breasts, as well as to destigmatise breastfeeding in public. In order to promote inclusiveness, the 20 images (with various quotes and captions) will include nipples of all genders, sexualities, races and body types.

“It’s important to understand that they’re simply body parts, and if you constantly sexualise them, that’s your own inappropriate interpretation.” Ms Gerber said.

After viewing an Instagram post last Sunday night about Orange is the New Black star Matthew McGorry doing something similar, Ms Gerber decided to upscale it into a campaign for equality. A simple Facebook post about her frustrations brought the campaign to life—and 29-year-old Clinton Ulfhedinn-Visi into the picture, who too believes it’s an important issue, and that women shouldn’t  be shamed for their natural bodies.

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Matthew McGorry photoshopped Miley Cyrus and Chrissy Teigan’s nipples in support of the #FreetheNipple campaign. Image via Instagram.

“It’s about mother’s breastfeeding, [women] swimming in uncomfortable tops, having to constantly think about what you’re wearing, and if you’re covered up correctly,” he said.

“It’s about the fact I don’t even think about putting a shirt on when it’s hot around the house. It’s the fact that it’s just simply not fair and equal.”

The pair hope the campaign will raise awareness, encourage conversation and eventually lead to parliamentary change with enough support.

“We want it to go viral,” Ms Gerber said.

While some may believe campaigns like this are immoral and useless, they may not realise that in Australia, women can be imprisoned for showing their nipples. According to section 393 of the Crimes Act 1900 ACT, indecent exposure, which is defined as “a person who offends against decency by the exposure of his or her person in a public place”, carries a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment. The legislation is similar in all other Australian states, with varied terms of imprisonment and in some cases, hefty fines

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“Who’s nipples are those? They certainly aren’t mine, but this picture is okay because i’m a male. I even stuck my chest out for you, why should the fatty lumps on my chest be okay when others are not? If those same nipples were on a different chest, this picture would violate T&C’s, be deleted, and I might even get a ban on my account. Sounds a bit ridiculous? That’s because it is.” Image via Facbook.

But really, why do we consider it “indecent”? The primary function of the female breast is to breastfeed—it’s only become sexualised because we as a society believe it to be. And let’s not forget that it was only a few decades ago that it was illegal for men to expose their nipples in public.

In the United States, it’s illegal for women to be topless—even when breastfeeding—in 35 states, with threats of up to 3 years imprisonment, and $2500 in fines. It was only 75 years ago that it was illegal for men—in all states—to be shirtless.

This is why the Free the Nipple campaign—which originated in the US—is so important. It even has a film dedicated towards the movement, which proclaims itself to be a “mission to empower women across the world” by standing against female oppression and censorship.

Ms Gerber said it’s just another form of female oppression—and also points out that women in other countries aren’t even allowed to show their ankles. While this may seem absurd to us, to them, it is normal—it serves as proof that our expectation on what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable for a woman’s body is purely social conditioning.

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Are they female nipples? Who knows. Image supplied.

“Cultures have long controlled women’s bodies, and unfortunately ours is one of them,” Mr Ulfhedinn-Visi said.

Even Facebook and Instagram follows the same logic—a person may post a picture of a woman’s entire breast, so long as it doesn’t reveal the nipple, as that would violate its “community standards”.

Ms Gerber believes Facebook further perpetuates the sexualisation of the female nipple, and that it is important to challenge that.

“With our photos, we’re refusing to reveal if the nipples used are male or female. It’s almost impossible to visually tell the difference,” she said.

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IT’S OKAY, it’s a man. No violation to community standards here. Image supplied.

“The nipple is a way to feed children. We all start as female in the womb, that’s why men have nipples in the first place,” Mr Ulfhedinn-Visi said.

“This view we as a society have of women’s bodies is really toxic and harmful,”

“We deserve the right to our own bodies—we’re born with them. When that right is taken away, it becomes oppressive,” Ms Gerber said.

“It’s an example of pure female objectification.”

Support for the campaign—even before it’s official release—has been astounding, with many volunteering their nipples as tribute. Australian model JD Gower, as well as model and musician Barnaby Oakley, are involved as well as a few others yet to be confirmed. Ms Gerber hopes to collaborate with the Veronicas, as she’s collaborated with them on similar issues in the past. Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevigne are also strong supporters of the American Free the Nipple campaign.

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Miley Cyrus posted an image in support of the #FreetheNipple campaign, which was shortly removed for violation to community standards. Image via Instagram.

“People are waking up to the sexist and slut shaming ideologies we’ve been taught, and they’re not happy,” Ms Gerber said.

“It’s time for change.”

I’m on holidays, and i’m more depressed than I have been in a long time.

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Picture this: you’re on holidays. On the beautiful Coral Coast of Fiji, to be precise. You’re staying at a 5-star resort on its own island. The weather is absolutely beautiful, and the scenery stunning. You have delicious food. You have some of your favourite people around you. You’re doing all sorts of really cool, unique and relaxing things—things you may never experience again. And yet . . . something is missing. You feel empty.

Every day, at least six Australians will take their own lives, and at least 30 others will attempt to. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-24. We’re more likely to die from suicide than we are from skin cancer. Almost half of all Australians will experience some form of mental illness within their lives, with 65% not being able to access adequate treatment.  Despite all we know about depression, anxiety and other disorders, there’s still an incredible stigma attached.

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Nothing has to even go wrong for you to feel depressed. Please, be sensitive if a loved one has depression. Seek help. 

Depression is a truly horrible feeling. It’s not just being sad (though that is a really big part of it). It’s feeling guilty for feeling sad, it’s feeling anxious, it’s feeling desolate, it’s feeling overwhelmed, it’s feeling lonely, it’s feeling like no one understands, it’s feeling like things that once did or should bring you joy simply don’t, it’s feeling like you’re worthless. It’s hating yourself. It’s hating everyone else too, sometimes. The worst part of it is all these emotions are locked up inside of yourself. You don’t want to tell anyone, because you don’t want to bring them down, or you’re afraid they’ll judge you. You’re afraid they’ll simply say “cheer up”, like it were that simple. Or worse, that they’ll say you’re seeking attention. Things become both less and more important. You don’t want to feel like this. You know it’s illogical – but you can’t help it, and people who haven’t experienced it simply don’t understand that.

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You try to go out. You try to do normal things. You try to be okay. But you’re not–and that’s okay. Emotions are fleeting. Let yourself feel your emotions. Process them, validate them, and let them go. 

 

I’m sitting in my hotel room right now. Outside, the sun is shining. The palm trees are swaying pleasantly in the wind, and I can see little birds singing happily. There are beautiful flowers in the trees, and scattered on the grass. A carpet of frangipanis and other bright red flowers I don’t know the name of. The air is warm, whispering alluring secrets of happiness, and I can hear the sound of people laughing and children shrieking with joy. My family and friends are among them.

Nothing bad has happened. In fact, it’s been quite a wonderful holiday. I’ve explored caves, been immersed within Fijian culture, been treated to massages and manicures, snorkelled and seen beautiful fish, and been able to spend my days lounging around the beach. It sounds great, right? And I know it’s great.  I know I should feel happy. I know I should feel lucky, and privileged, and just relax. But it’s not that simple.  I’m sad, and everyone else around me is happy. They’re saying it’s the best holiday of their lives, and here I am, not exactly caring if I were to not wake up.

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Fiji is beautiful. Image via Instagram, @somethingbeginningwithz.

Maybe it’s just a spout of weakness, and maybe I’ll go outside, and all of this will be a bad dream. Maybe I’ll be able to shut it out. Focus on the small things. The good things. The sun is warm. I don’t have assignments due. The geckos are adorable. I bought a shell turtle wearing a hat and glasses. Those things are cool. Those things are good. Those are the things you have to focus on in order to not lose your mind.

Depression doesn’t go on holidays just because you do. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel sad, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for that. Talk to your loved ones—don’t bottle it up. Remember to ground yourself, take deep breaths and do small things you like and enjoy. If you think one of your loved ones is depressed, do not judge them. Do not criticise them. Do not get frustrated at their sadness, and do not tell them to “cheer up”; just be there for them. Be with them. Don’t give up on them. While they may not show it, I assure you, they’ll love you for it. Don’t become another statistic.

If you need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or dial 000 if you are in immediate danger. Call 1800 273 825 if you need to chat, or click here to chat to someone online. You can get through this. You are loved. You are strong. You will destroy those feelings with success. I believe in you.

Team Quoll: Supporting Quoll-ity Research in the Illawarra

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A crowdfunding campaign is being launched by Team Quoll’s Elira Reynolds in order to determine the situation, and ensure the survival of the endangered spotted-tailed quoll in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands region. The University of Wollongong honours student hopes to raise $4000 in order to purchase necessary equipment, and access remote areas.

Since last year, Ms Reynolds and other members of Team Quoll have set up 109 camera sites around the Illawarra. Only three quolls have been detected, which is a success rate of 2.8%.

“It’s a lot less to expect than if the quolls were doing well in the area,” Ms Reynolds said.

The spotted-tailed quoll is the largest remaining carnivorous marsupial on Australian mainland. Very little is known about the species—particularly in the Illawarra region.

“It’s been estimated their range has contracted about 50% since European settlement,” Ms Reynolds said.

Ms Reynolds intends to use odour treatments and additional camera sites to study the quolls, as well as the impact of the red fox—no quolls were found in areas where foxes were detected.

“We don’t know if the population is stable, increasing or decreasing, and we don’t know how the species needs to be managed to ensure its survival in the region,” she said.

The spotted-tailed quoll is the only quoll species found on the east coast since the extinction of the mainland eastern quoll in 1963.

Team Quoll citizen scientist Craig Murrell said more studies are needed to determine how the situation can be improved.

“If we don’t do something very quickly, very soon, then we’ll also lose the tiger quoll, along with the eastern quoll,” Mr Murrell said.

“If you care about quolls, and if you want to see quolls return . . . the way they used to be here, then giving a donation is . . . a really good way to do that,” Ms Reynolds said.

You can donate to the crowdfunding campaign here.

Team Quoll are an animal activist group concerned with the sparse population of the endangered spotted-tailed quoll in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands.

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Want more Team Quoll? Follow them Twitter.

Do the choices you make support animal abuse?

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Six million animals will be tested on each year in Australia and New Zealand alone. In many cases, these animals are subject to a degree of pain and/or stress. Of these 6 million, nearly 26,000 will die, and a further 124,000 will experience major trauma—this includes being artificially induced with cancer, made to experience major infections, isolation as well as deprivation. More than a million will also experience a degree of stress and discomfort.

And the animals used would surprise you—of course, over a million of these are mice, but a whopping 765,000 are native mammals, including koalas, wallabies, possums and wombats. Cats and dogs are also commonly used.

But the problem is that most of us don’t even know we’re supporting animal cruelty. By purchasing and using these products, we are unknowingly supporting a culture that believes animal lives are less important than human lives—it’s supporting a culture that claims to love animals, yet has no problem with subjecting them to harm and abuse.

We know this is so utterly wrong—so what can we do about it?

As with any kind of advocacy, education is key. Educate yourselves on the products you’re using—and what products test on animals. Cleaning products that test on animals include Ajax, Glen 20, Finish, Windex, Raid, Duck, Dettol, Oral B, Gillette and impulse.  Cosmetic offenders include Max Factor, Maybeline, MAC, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Cover Girl, Clinique, Mary Kay, Avon, Clearasil, Napoleon and Elizabeth Arden.

Most of these things live either under my sink or in my make-up bag. But since becoming aware of the issue, I’ve sought out cruelty-free alternatives that are AWESOME. The Choose Cruelty Free app is a great place to start, as is good old Google. Fear not about compromising on quality; I’ve made myself a Guinea pig so you don’t have to.

Here are my top cruelty-free cosmetics you should DEFINITELY try:

Lush:

Lush are an Australian company which makes hand-made cosmetics and body care products—and they are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! I’m currently using their skin care products, soaps, bath bombs and some cosmetics. Everything leaves me feeling clean, relaxed, soft and fragrant. Their facial cleanser, spot treatment and moisturiser has done amazing things for my oily, acne-prone skin; and I especially love their bottled lip colours. Surprisingly, they do have a fair bit of staying power—though beware: they tend to smudge easy!

Kat Von D:

I cannot rave about these products enough! Her studded kiss lipsticks and everlasting liquid lipsticks last all day, with oodles of awesome colours–including one rather lovely light purple. The foundation is absolutely mind-blowing. It will stay on all day, and it won’t leave those awful marks on your face when you wear sunglasses with your make up! The eye shadow colours are phenomenal, and the liquid eye liner pens come in all sorts of colours, and are delicate enough to make wings sharp enough to cut the haters.  Most of her products are vegan, too! Kat Von D products make up most of my makeup bag. You can buy them online or instore at Sephora.

Australis:

One of the cheaper brands out there, Australis may pleasantly surprise you. In fact, I think their eye shadows and pressed powders are on par with products you may end up spending hundreds on. If you can find it, try it—products are normally around $10: fantastic value for money.

Nude by Nature:

I’ve used their CC cream and liquid foundation—both of which are available in a variety of shades, and are quite nice and light on your skin (sometimes the liquid foundation can flake if it’s caked on—but lasts super well in our hot Australian weather). My favourite product is a liquid illuminator, which somehow seems to perfect your face and minimise your pores. I’ve also heard good things about their mineral powder. These products are roughly around $20-40, but I think it’s worth it.

Arbornne:

I love these products. While they are a bit pricey, I think quality is worth it. Their primer is brilliant! And it’s great they have so many different foundation colours—score for us super pale ladies! I am eager to try more of their products, though—as a poor uni student—I definitely can’t afford to any time soon. Sigh—the woes of cosmetics!

Young Blood:

These products are the most expensive on the list, but they are quite lovely. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of mineral cosmetics. I’d prefer products with a bit more coverage—but if minerals are your thing, give them a try.

Natio:

Natio’s eyeshadows are pretty great—though I wish they had a bigger range! I have tried their mineral foundation and primer, but wasn’t too pleased: there wasn’t enough coverage for me. On the plus side, Natio are pretty cheap, and have colours for us pale ladies! And aside from lip products, Natio is vegan!

Other products I’ve heard good things about are Ere Perez and Inika—but I’m yet to try them.

You make the choice dear readers. Because whether you like it or not, if you purchase products which test on animals, you’re promoting animal abuse, and prolonging the outdated idea that animals are ours to do with as we wish. Don’t be silent! Sign the RSPCA campaign against animal testing here.

Have you tried any great vegan/cruelty-free products? Let me know in the comments

New abortion laws: one small step for womankind

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Yesterday, the ACT introduced new legislation which decrees there will be 50-metre exclusion zones around abortion clinics, preventing anti-abortion protesters from congregating and harassing women outside of ACT medical clinics.

The Health (Patient Privacy) Amendment Bill was introduced by Greens member Shane Rattenbury in July, who believes women should have access to abortion services without fear of abuse.

“This is fundamentally about a woman’s right to medical privacy,” he said, inviting would-be protesters to raise their concerns to the Legislative Assembly instead.

Anti-abortion protesters have been gathering outside abortion clinics for the past 16 years, according to Angela Carnovale of the Women’s Centre for Health Matters.

“Even silent vigils convey judgement,” she said.

The amendment is one step closer towards reproductive equality, as under current legislation, women do not have control over their own bodies. The NSW Criminal Code states that any person who obtains or assists with an unlawful abortion may be sentenced up to ten years imprisonment. The 1971 case of R v Wald set the precedent that an abortion is lawful if it was deemed necessary to protect a woman from serious danger to her life, self or mental health.

Basically, if a practitioner doesn’t believe a woman meets this criteria, she cannot get an abortion. This sets the dangerous precedent that women and their opinions do not matter—they are secondary to an unborn foetus, and therefore second-class citizens.

End 12 is a Greens pro-choice campaign that has long fought for exclusion zones around clinics, as well as the decriminalisation of abortion. It believes women have the right to choose without fear of prosecution or harassment. A survey by the Greens indicated 86% of Australians believe abortion should legalised, while 76% did not know abortion is a criminal offence.

Greens senator Larissa Walters believes these laws are archaic, dangerous and regressive.

“They have no place in modern society where women should always have their own control over their bodies.”

Exclusion zones are set to come into force in six months.

Petition against Indian sister’s rape punishment exceeds 220,000 signatures

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Two Indian women face rape threats after brother’s elopement with a married woman. Source: Faisil Magray, Cover Asia Press

It’s been two days since Amnesty International launched its petition to save two young Indian women from the punishment of rape for their brother’s alleged “crimes”, and already, it has received over 220,000 signatures.

On July 30, 23-year-olrd Meenakshi Kumari and her 15-year-old sister were given the sentence by an unelected, all-male local council in Baghpat, India, which included being paraded with blackened faces through their village for their brother’s “crime”—he eloped with a married woman of a higher caste.

Since then, the Kumari sisters—of the underprivileged Dalit caste, have fled with their family to a secret location in New Delhi. They are in the process of appealing their case to India’s Supreme Court.

According to Amnesty International:

“Nothing could justify this abhorrent punishment. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s against the law.”

These women now live in constant fear for their safety.

Meenakshi–the eldest of the pair facing rape punishment. Source: Faisil Magray, Cover Asia Press

“How will we ever return home or to our village? If we ever return, they will harm us or rape us. If not today, then in the future,” one of the sister’s told reporters.

The petition has been circulated widely on social media, and is only 30,000 signatures away from its 250,000 goal.