Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Moving! +Links

Hello, Everyone!  As you have most likely already guessed, the absence of posts has been due to my crazy pre-moving schedule.  I recently finished my visa application and am going out of town for a family event before returning and packing my life up to move to London early September.  I have so much information and correspondence to discuss but simply haven’t had the time to write the posts. 

Instead today I wanted to share a few links to cruelty free/vegan articles and websites as well as current event videos.  We must nurture the whole self, right?  These are just some things I’ve been enjoying that I wanted to share with you in lieu of original content.

Vegan in London
Vegan London – This website has a plethora of information on vegan restaurants, salons, stores and more in London.
Fat Gay Vegan – I love this blog which discusses eating vegan in London and vegan social events.
Go Cruelty Free – This website has a search for Leaping Bunny approved items in different countries!

Vlog Brothers because they make the news understandable

"Why are American Health Care Costs so High?"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Manic Panic Review


          For the past few months, I have been rocking some green Manic Panic streaks in my hair.  My experience with Manic Panic products was different than I anticipated so I’ve decided to do a review of their Flash Lightning bleach kit and Classic hair dye.  Overall, I am happy with the way my hair turned out but disappointed with the Manic Panic products.  Honestly, some of my disappoint stems from my own lack of research but other issues are inexplicable.

           Manic Panic is a cruelty free company, and all of their dyes and bleaches are vegan as well as some of their cosmetics.  They label their Classic dyes as semi-permanent, and they have a rather large variety of unnatural hair colors.  Using this brand was convenient, since unlike my other hair dyes, I could pick all this up at my local Sally’s, and the bleaching kit included a bowl and brush.

          I purchased the Flash Lightning 30 bleach kit because, on top of having dark hair, Manic Panic recommends bleaching your hair first to get a vibrant color.  I followed the instruction manual exactly but had issues.  I had a friend help me apply the bleach from tips up to roots in an even coating.  However, within ten minutes the hair at my forehead and temples was almost completely bleached and the rest of my hair was still black.  I also didn’t realize how yellow my hair would be after the bleaching process without a toner.  Manic Panic’s website and the bleach kit made it sound as if the kit was all I needed to get a true color so I assumed a toner or something was in the mix.

          I colored my hair with Manic Panic’s Classic dye in Midnight Blue.  Now you may be thinking ‘Didn’t she say she had green hair not blue?’ and you would be correct.  The yellow in my bleached hair mixed with the blue dye giving me green hair.  I was happy with my hair eventually, but it is disappointing to spend money only to have issues with a product that seemed pretty popular.

         The thing that has annoyed me the most is this product’s lack of staying power.  I’ve used semi-permanent dyes in the past, and I would not categorize this dye as semi-permanent.  The vibrant color you get is gone after only two washes (I’m being generous here), and it fades revealing the bleached hair in less than six washes.  It came off on pillows and stained the floor of my shower, but couldn’t manage to stay in my hair very long.  So little of my hair was properly bleached that I kept re-dying the small sections as they quickly faded.  However, I will not be repurchasing this now that I’ve run out.

         I’m baffled as to why this is such a popular hair dye company and wish I had done more research before purchasing with them as it seems other people had the same issues.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What Does Cruelty Free Mean?

I know there are many terms that get thrown around in the cruelty free community that might be slightly ambiguous and confusing.  My mother recently went cruelty free and vegan as well, and I noticed some of the issues she was having with terms assuming one thing actually meant another.  So today I’m putting together a little Cruelty Free vocabulary lesson to go over some basic terms.

Cruelty Free
Cruelty free only refers to the testing of products on animals (anything from rats to monkeys and dogs) usually through vivisection.  Because there is no way for consumers to learn if a specific product (say your mascara or dish soap) has been tested on animals, this term usually applies to an entire brand or company.
What qualifies as cruelty free is different to many people.  For me, a company should not animal test ingredients or finished products, not contract another company to do this for them, not stipulate “unless required by law,” or sell in China or any other country which requires animal testing of all beauty products.  To some people, a product is cruelty free as long as there is no animal testing of the finished product.  Cruelty free does not mean vegan, natural, or anything else although it may also be these things.

Vegan products contain no animal products (ex. bone or sinew) or byproducts (ex. milk or other secretions) as ingredients.  There are many ingredients that can come from both animals and vegan sources so double check with a company to see which theirs is if they have not specified on the ingredient list.  Some items are considered vegan even though they contain insect ingredients.  Some people consider these vegan, and others (like myself) do not.

 There are many 100% vegan companies that are also cruelty free, and many cruelty free brands will provide you with a list of vegan products even though they aren’t completely vegan.

Parent Company & Subsidiary
A subsidiary is a company owned by another company (ex. Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox).  A parent company is the company that owns the other (Clorox).  I avoid purchasing from brands like Burt’s Bees because their profits really go straight to Clorox, the parent company, who do animal testing. 

Some people do not mind purchasing these brands and consider them cruelty free.  On the Leaping Bunny list, subsidiaries owned by an animal testing parent company are marked.  For more information, check out my previous post on the subject here.
Leaping Bunny List
TheLeaping Bunny List is a list of cruelty free brands put together by the CICC.  It is free for a company to get on the list, but there is a fee to put the Leaping Bunny symbol (not all rabbit symbols are from LP) on products.  These companies must not animal test ingredients or finished products or have a third party do so on their behalf.  These companies must also not sell in China or any other country which requires animal testing. 

Unlike many other lists, the company’s claims are verified by a third party audit.  Companies can be and are routinely taken off the list if they do not continue to meet these standards.  For more information, check out my previous post on the subject here.

PETA’s “Don’t Test” List
This list is compiled by PETA with companies which signed their “statement of assurance.”  These companies must not animal test ingredients or finished products or have a third party do so on their behalf.  These companies must also not sell in China or any other country which requires animal testing. 

PETA does not verify the company claims and has had questionable companies in the past that eventually lost their cruelty free status.  It is free for a company to get on the list, but there is a fee to put the PETA bunny symbol on products.  Although this would not be my only or first source for information, they do have a plethora of companies listed and have begun labeling vegan companies.

The Vegan Society
TheVegan Society Trademark is truly the gold standard for people looking for products where absolutely no animals were harmed whether through animal testing, harvesting for ingredients, or previous testing. 

To get on this list a product must not contain animal or insect products or byproducts, not have ingredients or finished product tested by the company or a third party, and contain no animal derived GMOs.   They do verify these claims.  This list appears to go by product rather than company.
[EDIT:  It has been pointed out to me that The Vegan Society does certify products that are sold in China.]

I hope this crash course was helpful.  These seemed to be the main terms thrown about, but there are obviously more concepts, labels, and groups out there.  Please feel free to comment if you have any questions or would like to clarify anything above. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Is MUA (Makeup Academy) Cruelty Free?

MUA or Makeup Academy is a cosmetics brand available in Superdrug stores.  From what I understand, MUA is on the low end of the quality spectrum, but I still wanted to check it out.  I was disappointed in the response I received and will not be pursuing any more clarifying information about the brand.

April 26, 2013
“I have some inquiries about MUA's animal testing policies. I understand the EU ban on animal testing recently went into effect, but I would appreciate if you would still answer these individual questions for all of MUA's products, not only those produced and/or sold in the EU. Does MUA test ingredients and/or finished products on animals or have a third party do so on its behalf? Does MUA direct sell to China or any other place which requires animal testing of products? Also, are any of MUA's products free of animal products and suitable for vegans? Thank you in advance for your help!”

April 26, 2013
“Thank you for your email.  We can confirm our products are not tested on animals and are 100% cruelty free. Our products are not Vegan or Vegetarian suited, as some of the ingredients are derived from sources not accepted by Vegans or Vegetarians. If you would like more info on the ingredients please see our ingredients page on the website.

            I will be avoiding MUA because I can’t be sure about vegan products.  Although they provided a link to ingredients it isn’t actually that helpful since many ingredients can be either plant or animal based.  They also didn’t provide information about selling to China.  However, after poking around their official website I see that they ship directly to China.  I’m assuming this is a transaction the Chinese government would step in and test the products.

I will not be purchasing from MUA.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is Sleek Makeup Tested on Animals?

            I am a Youtube person.  I honestly learned everything about makeup by watching famous makeup artists and amazing everyday gurus on Youtube.  Somehow I follow an unproportionally high number of British makeup gurus so, although I’ve never bought makeup in the UK, I know what they have.  Sleek is one of these brands I’ve noticed in numerous videos so I sent them an email.

April 26, 2013
“I have some inquiries about Sleek's animal testing policies.  I understand the EU ban on animal testing recently went into effect, but I would appreciate if you would still answer these individual questions for all of Sleek's products, not only those produced/sold in the EU.

Does Sleek test ingredients and/or finished products on animals or have a third party do so on its behalf?  Does Sleek direct sell to China or any other place which requires animal testing of products?  Also, are any of Sleek's products free of animal products and suitable for vegans?
Thank you in advance”

April 26, 2013
“Thankyou for your interest in Sleek Makeup.

We do no currently test ingredients or finished products on animals.
We do not test ingredients or products on animals through a 3rd party
Our manufacturers do not test ingredients or products on animals.
We are not owned or affiliated with any companies that test products or ingredients on animals.
We do not currently sell our products in China and have no future plans until the laws there change on animal testing.
A list of our vegan products is attached.”

            As far as this list of vegan products is concerned, you can see it is very well organized.  When I compared this list to Sleek’s website there seem to be more items online.  Some of this has to do with repackaging certain products in palettes but other than that I’m not sure.

I’m happy and satisfied with this complete and clear response I received from Sleek.  This is the kind of prepared, comprehensive, and competent response we should be receiving from forthright and professional companies.  While I wish they had a greater variety of vegan products, I’m happy to know there is a drugstore/high street brand that I feel comfortable purchasing. 

I will purchase from Sleek’s selection of vegan products.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Vegan Food in Paris, London, and Dublin

I’ve spent the past few months traveling much more than usual.  Therefore, I’ve been out eating awesome food and not emailing companies about their animal testing policies.  It only makes sense that I post a blog on vegan food and not my usual shtick.   I have six places that I will be covering split between two posts.  This post will cover vegan food in Paris, London, and Dublin while the previous post covered Los Angeles, Seattle, and Israel [link].

This was my first time in Paris as a vegan.  I thought Paris would not be the best place for vegan food, but I was wrong.  I went to Loving Hut and had a nice bowl of pho and the pictured seitan in orange sauce.  East Side Burgers has the best vegan burger I’ve had to date.  I have no photos because I ate it so quickly.  This is a vegetarian restaurant but almost all of their burgers are vegan and can be made with vegan cheese.  I also got this awesome apple tartlette with a crème brûlée-ish sugar top.

MOB is also another burger restaurant which I believe is all vegan.  I had their signature burger, and while I was eating I wasn’t too into it.  It was very plain with bun, patty, sauce, and some onions (I believe).  However, I’ve been thinking of it since and would probably try it again if I were around.  I also got this amazing chocolate cheesecake.

London has two Loving Huts. Yes, two both off the Northern Line.  I personally like the one farther from central London, but they are both good.  Maybe buffets are big in London (?) because both offered a buffet for a really reasonable price with many good options.  They were also selling these cute illustrations of vegan sources of vitamins and vegan holistic remedies that I wish I had picked up.

Ms. Cupcake was pretty good, if I do say so.  My first time there I got the Pecan Madness cupcake and enjoyed it.   However there was a lot of frosting and it was very sweet.  The second go around I got this amazing chocolate chip cookie sandwich.  Yum!

I ended up spending a lot of time around Trafalgar Square during this trip and there was a great grocery nearby (had co-op something in its name).  I could be in and out in about 3 minutes as they have a sort of express hot food station set up already.  I was particularly fond of their potato wedge fries for a warm option and a bigger package of cut up fruit.

Dublin was the last stop on my whirlwind Fall/Winter travel extravaganza.  By this point I had picked up some weird congested cold thing from an Australian girl.  I needed to take things a bit easier, so my first night in Dublin I headed out for the closest vegan restaurant called Govinda’s.  The food was so tasty, the portions so big, the prices so reasonable, and the people so nice that I ate every other meal there. 

If you go, get the small plate.  Trust me they will pile it up with all the food you ask for.  They make five new entrees a day plus rice and soup.  The vegan items are marked, but I simply walked in and asked for a bit of all the vegan food.  Again, I ate so quickly that when I remembered to take a photo I had demolished most of it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Is elf (Eyes Lips Face) Cruelty Free?

Most people have heard of elf cosmetics or Eyes Lips Face because it is one of the most inexpensive cosmetics brands on the market.  I have purchased quite a few of their products in the past even before going cruelty free.  Honestly, I was disappointed with most of their products although the few I do like, I really like.  Please leave a comment if anyone is interested in a post on the elf products I enjoy.

I’ve emailed elf at least twice before without receiving a response which, to say the least, was annoying.  I was happy to finally get a reply with my last email since I was chiefly concerned about whether their ingredients were vegan or not.  On elf’s FAQ page [link], seen in the image below, they state all their ingredients are vegan, but then only discuss beeswax and lanolin.  I wanted to confirm that all their ingredients were vegan not only their lanolin and beeswax replacers.  Of course, their animal testing statement was also very narrow so I wanted to confirm they met all of my cruelty free requirements.

April 26, 2012
“I have emailed elf about its animal testing policies multiple times, but have yet to get a response. Can you please let me know if elf animal tests ingredients and/or finished products at any stage of development or has a third party do so on its behalf? Does elf sell in China or any other country which requires animal testing? Also, many elf products contain ingredients which can possibly be plant based or animal based. Are any elf products free of animal ingredients and therefore suitable for vegans? Thank you”

April 26, 2013
“Thank you for your support and interest in e.l.f. cosmetics. At e.l.f. Cosmetics, we believe that beauty comes from within all of us. Our line of luxurious cosmetics captures great looking skin with gorgeous colors and quality ingredients. Our products are designed to let your inner beauty shine through.

We are proud to say that we do not test on animals or endorse such practices. We currently support PETA and are partners with PETA in the Caring Consumer Project. All of our brushes in our essential line are made from cut natural horse hair and have genuine wood handles. Our brushes in our studio line are vegan friendly and made of anti-bacterial, synthetic Taklon hair. You can find all e.l.f. ingredients indicated on the packaging of our products as well as on our website. All ingredients used in e.l.f. cosmetics are vegan friendly, safe and meet F.D.A requirements. Ingredients are listed on our website as well as on the packaging of our products.

Our vision is to empower and educate women to play in innovation without sacrificing their budget and feel confident in herself and the products she's using. We offer a complete line of makeup and professional tools-all at an extreme value price! To learn more please visit eyeslipsface.com.”

May 20, 2013
“Thank you for answering my original email but can you please answer these three questions clearly.  Does elf or a third party test ingredients?  Does elf or a third party test elf's finished products?  Does elf sell in China or any other country which requires animal testing of products? Thank you!”

May 21, 2013
“We manufacture our products in our own factories. We test our own ingredients and products. We do not sell our products in China, although we do manufacture them there. Please feel free to contact us with any other questions or concerns.”
I was happy to learn that all of elf’s cosmetic ingredients are vegan friendly.  However, I was a little surprised that they sell horse hair brushes.  As I discussed in my Real Techniques post [here], synthetic Taklon brushes have numerous advantages over natural hair brushes.  As always, I don’t believe PETA’s animal testing standards are up to par, so elf’s association with them is not a plus to me.

The only element of their response that strikes me as controversial is their relationship with China.  They do not sell in China and therefore their products are not subject to Chinese government animal testing.  However, they manufacture their products in China making their products extremely inexpensive and presumably bolstering the Chinese economy.  This distinction is another one of the personal comfort decisions to be made when deciding what you consider cruelty free.  At the moment, I am personally fine with this as I do not purchase much or often from elf.

I will continue purchasing elf’s products.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm Moving to London!

I will be moving to London to earn a MA degree this year!  To prepare, I’ve been doing some research and will have some upcoming posts that discuss cruelty free standards in the UK and correspondence with brands there about their cruelty free status. 

The brands I have been researching sell mainly inexpensive makeup in case I ever need/want to pick up something new.  Since I already order the majority of my hygiene and household cruelty free products online to save money, I’m not too nervous about finding alternatives for these.  I checked with Vitacost, and they do ship to the UK.  Although some products can not be shipped into the country, I’m assuming this has to do with possibly harmful ingredients which wouldn’t be in my products anyways.

I’ve gotten some requests for information on foreign (to me) cruelty free brands before, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to post this info.  As always, I recommend you email companies yourself using my guide here if there are brands specific to your area.

Stay tuned for UK-centric posts!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Does Tarte Test on Animals?

So Tarte… I’ve never actually purchased any of their products, but I was interested in picking up their vegan BB cream after swatching Too Faced’s orangey one that I had to pass on buying. While Tarte is not a 100% vegan company, they do have a section on their website for their vegan products.  Although it is not an extensive collection, it is enough to point out. So BB cream lust led to this email which I assumed would come back with a clean bill of health.  However, I became increasingly incredulous as I wrote this post.

April 11, 2013
“Could you please provide some more information about Tarte's animal testing policy.  Does Tarte animal test products or contract a third party to animal test on their behalf?  Does Tarte sell to China or any other country which requires animal testing of beauty products?  Is Tarte owned by a parent company?  Are any of Tarte's products free of animal ingredients and suitable for vegans?
Thank you for your help”

April 12, 2013
“Thank you for contacting tarte cosmetics customer service. tarte cosmetics is not owned by a parent company. We are a cruelty free brand recognized by PETA that does not support animal testing or work with companies that do. Also, our products are not sold in China. The only vegan products we offer are located on the vegan friendly cosmetics page offered on tarte.com. These products are free of beeswax, stearic acid, and carmine, this page will also be updated this summer. Please email me if you have any other questions. Thank you!”

Tarte did not respond to whether their ingredients or finished products were tested, instead simply stating that they are on PETA’s list which I find to be a bad judge of cruelty free status.  To get on this list a company must state that they do not test ingredients or finished products nor have a third party test on their behalf.  However there is no independent audit or proof of these claims as with Leaping Bunny certification.

I emailed back to get clarification:

April 25, 2013
“Thank you for responding to my original animal testing questions.  However, I find being on PETA's cruelty free list rather inadequate.  Does Tarte animal test ingredient and/or finished products or contract them out to a third party?  I would appreciate if you could clearly answer all parts of this question.  I recommend that Tarte look into getting free Leaping Bunny certification.”

April 26, 2013
“Tarte does not test any ingredients or finished products on animals nor do our suppliers or manufacturers. Please email me if you have any other questions. Thank you.”

Whenever I have encountered this type of response in the past, trouble usually follows or claims are quickly proven false.  Even in my follow up email they did not answer my question about contracting out to a third party to animal test on their behalf.  Why would a company that offers a vegan selection of items not have their animal testing policy response in order?  To me, the whole response and approach is purposely misleading.

While I obviously have no proof that Tarte is animal testing, the parallels between their incomplete responses and those of companies who have recently decided to revert to testing are too similar for me.  I very clearly asked questions, and to disregard them shows, at minimum, a lack of respect for consumers.  

I will not be purchasing anything from Tarte.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vegan Food in LA, Seattle, and Israel

Vegans sharing a (great) meal at a "Bedouin camp" in the Negev
I’ve spent the past few months traveling much more than usual.  Therefore, I’ve been out eating awesome food and not emailing companies about their animal testing policies.  It only makes sense that I post a blog on vegan food and not my usual shtick.   I have six places that I will be covering split between two posts.  This post will cover vegan food in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Israel, and the next will cover Paris, London, and Dublin.

Los Angeles

My favorite place in the city is Vegan Glory, an Asian restaurant in a small strip mall.  As I was eating a lot of regulars came in, which is the mark of a great place.  The prices were great as well.  I got a combo with coconut vegetable soup and seitan stir fry.

Another day I visited Cruzer Pizza with my travel companions.  The pizza wasn’t bad it just wasn’t great to me.  We chose our own toppings so maybe a store designed pizza would have been better.  However, my travel companions absolutely loved the food and have gone on and on about it.


The number one vegan restaurant in the country, forget just Seattle, for vegan comfort food is the Wayward Vegan Café.  The Club Sandwich tasted absolutely amazing, was large enough for two meals, and had a tiny price tag.  To help keep prices down you bus your own table, but I’m fine with that.  My travel companions also highly approved of their crunchwrap supreme, quesadilla, and fried mushrooms.

Across the street from the Wayward Café is Vegan Haven, a small charity store that sells only vegan, cruelty free products.  I picked up these Go Max Go brand candy bars (which do contain palm oil) and my mom got a beautiful wallet there.  They truly sell everything from jewelry to dog food  to tampons to food.

There is also a Loving Hut location in Seattle which is pretty good.  The building is in a weird location in China town, but their menu offered some choices that I enjoy in general.  My group ordered spring rolls, hot and sour soup, and Sesame Cha Cha (wheat gluten).

I figured I’d eat a lot of falafel in Israel even though I don’t particularly like falafel.  However, the falafel in Israel is amazing.  They fill it up with all kinds of vegan awesomeness (hummus, tahini, spicy sauce, lettuce, eggplant, cucumber, tomato, etc.) and french fries!  The pita is the best pita I’ve ever had and has ruined all American pita for me.  Don’t get me started on laffa.  I miss laffa.

However, Israel is also a country of many salads.  I eat salad. I like salad, but that is not all I want to eat for a month except for three trips to a falafel stand.  Israelis say it must be so easy to be vegan in Israel, but they are also the people who think vegans only eat salad.  The only Israeli who understood my food longings was the vegetarian.  He took me to Village Green, a vegetarian restaurant in Jerusalem with clearly marked vegan food but no clearly marked prices.

Boff-lote: these babies were amazing, and yes, that was my best attempt at transliteration.  They’re wafers with a chocolate filling.  No lie- I went through three packs of these to even out my salad consumption.  Also, Aroma, the Israeli Starbucks, had a lot of vegan options including this apple strudel.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Is Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Cruelty Free?

I’ve been interested in purchasing from OCC or Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics for a while because of their amazing lip tars.  I am a lipstick/lip color person when it comes to makeup.  OCC not only has an awe inspiring range of opaque colors but equally amazing reviews.  My communication with OCC occurred in November of 2012, but to my knowledge there have no been no changes to their animal testing policies or ownership since then.

While I usually include email correspondence in my posts while discussing a company’s cruelty free status, OCC stated that it is prohibited to copy or disseminate their emails. Instead I will say that from my correspondence with them, they meet my standards of a cruelty free company.  OCC does not animal test nor contract out animal testing on their products.  OCC does not sell in China or any other countries with mandatory animal testing policies.  In addition, this is a 100% vegan product company.
As far as I can tell, OCC is still owned by its founder, David Klasfeld [Link].  The FAQ section of their website states that they are a 100% vegan company not only to raise the bar on what is considered cruelty free, but also, because animal ingredients are the most common allergens and skin irritators.  Given the back and forth of a lot of companies recently, this practical reasoning for being vegan is reassuring [Link].

I’m looking forward to purchasing some of OCC’s amazing lip tars in the future!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Taglit Birthright for Vegans

I’ll apologize in advance since this post is probably not applicable to most of my readers.  However, I figured this platform was best for discussing my experience as a vegan on my Birthright trip to Israel.  Overall, I’m glad I participated in this experience, but it was a rough ten days for a number of reasons.

Firstly, some basics if you have no idea what I’m talking about.  Birthright is a program funded mainly through private donations and some Israeli government money that takes Jews aged 18-26 to Israel for ten days, if they have never visited before or after the age of 12.  Obviously there are some expenses the participant must cover, but these are very small considering airfare, ground transportation, and accommodation are covered.  There is one Birthright program but many groups that take people on this program.  I went with a URJ Kesher Group (Union for Reform Judaism).
Before departure, I filled out paperwork stating very exactly what I could not eat as vegan expecting that simply stating that I was vegan would be confusing.  I was told that this information would be sent to all the appropriate places to make sure my food needs would be taken care of.  I even confirmed this over the phone during one of my interviews. 

However, two days out from departure I was talking to my American staff leader for the first time to clarify what I couldn’t eat and not do because of my vegan values, and he told me he had received no information on my dietary restrictions.  I told him what I had written down assuming/hoping/expecting him to transfer this information to the appropriate people since it had obviously failed the original time.  Note to you: assume your American staff actually has no power over anything.

I show up at LAX and, for some reason I can’t remember, it came to my attention that the program probably hadn’t reserved me meals I could eat on the 13.5 hour flight.  I immediately went up to both American staff members to figure out what was going on, but they did nothing besides make excuses.  I was told El Al doesn’t have vegan meals, and it was too late to order a special meal.  Well, yes, El Al does have vegan meals [link].  If they had sent me my flight information or even told me I had to reserve this meal myself I would have gladly done it before hand.  However, I was told this would all be done for me. 

Other people in my group with special meals received theirs with no personal interventions.  One girl in my group was nice enough to give me her vegetarian meal that she ordered even though she wasn’t vegetarian, but that was only one meal near the end of the flight.  The rest of the flight I ate trail mix, the horrible little airplane salad, and water.

In Israel, there are vegan options at every meal, but these options are always salad, hummus, and olives.  If I had been able to eat out more often I could have gotten better food, but the group picks where you eat, and they like hotel buffets.  On days out, it’s always easy to find a falafel stand or an Aroma, which clearly marks their vegan items and has an English menu.  I even managed to find vegan sorbet at a mall!  If you’re unsure where to go or what to eat, just ask someone.  Don’t feel bad about passing on challah or anything else.

            Apparently the highlight of this trip for a lot of participants (I don’t know why) is riding camels at the Bedouin tents.  I avoid circuses and other industries where animals are used for profit because they are usually rampant with animal abuse on top of already being inappropriate environments for the animal (seriously look at all the continual animal abuse fines for Barnum and Bailey Circus).  The two other vegans in my group decided to ride the camels, but by that night, confided that they were feeling guilty about it.

Just by looking at the camels, I could tell a few of them and one in particular weren’t in the best shape.  People in my group asked why I wasn’t riding and seemed generally supportive of my feelings.  Later that night we walked into the desert farther away from the camp but still no more than a 15 minute walk away.  In the dark of night, my group quite literally walked into a camel carcass.  I wouldn’t bet money on this merely being a coincidence.

We also had an optional excursion on a free Shabbat to walk around a kibbutz.  The kibbutz we toured actually turned out to be in the dairy industry.  So we saw the mother cows caged and wallowing in their own feces and the veal calves chained up a few feet away.  People will make nasty, uncouth jokes as they try to rationalize that what they’re seeing is what they’ll be eating later.  The kibbutz also had a greenhouse and other interesting features so it wasn’t a complete bust for me just not the best choice.

There are cats everywhere in Israel.  Seriously, everywhere.  Cats are the Israeli squirrels.  You will be tempted by the cute especially because they look slightly different than cats here.  However, everyone will treat you like you’re crazy if you feed or play with them.  Also be careful because they are feral cats without vaccinations.  As my group medic was playing with another cat, he told me if I got scratched the program wasn’t responsible.  I always washed my hands after handling the cats just in case.

Pro Tips
·         I brought Clif bars with me and it ended up being the smartest thing I could have done vegan or not.  The days are packed with physical activities and travel and you are (possibly purposely) not given enough time for a solid night of sleep.  Add this in with only eating salad most of the time and you can see why I was exhausted.  These made great snacks while we were out and about and for my flight out of Israel.

·         In Israel, people don’t discuss food as vegetarian, paleo, vegan, etc. but rather in kosher terms.  Ask if food is parve.  Parve food doesn’t have meat or dairy ingredients although it may contain eggs.  Understanding what is vegan anyways, it was easy to avoid eggs.  People speak English to varying degrees so you can ask.  However, if I wasn’t sure about an item from past experience I avoided it.

·         If you stay in Israel after, make sure to go to a market before sundown on Friday.  Everything will close for Shabbat, and I wanted to be sure I had vegan food.  Also happycow where you will be visiting.

·         Non-Vegan tip: Everyone (man/woman, Israeli/Palestinian, Adult/teenager, Muslim/Jewish/Christian) will want to talk to you or rather talk at you when they learn you’re foreign and especially if they think you’re American.  Just listen. Don’t try to have a conversation.  I don’t think they actually want an equal conversation.  They just want you to hear what they have to say.

I hope that was somewhat helpful to any vegans considering going on birthright!  I just wanted to voice my experience because it was more difficult than others I had read about.  I will also have another post on food from my travels through Israel and Europe coming up soon!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Is Too Faced Cruelty Free?

***EDIT***  Too Faced has recently lost its Leaping Bunny Approval and therefore no longer meets my requirements to be a cruelty free brand.

           A while ago the most adorable makeup collection from Too Faced was pinned on Pinterest by Grace (cosmeticcouturier on YouTube).  While, no, I will not be digging into my bank account to purchase these products (everything is now exclusively earmarked for grad school), I’m interested in eventually trying out their BB cream (Beauty Balm) which is vegan and looks as though it might be light enough for me.  I’ve heard that Too Faced is cruelty free, but I wanted to double check especially to make sure the company met my cruelty free standards.  So I sent off an email March 6, 2013.

To whom it may concern:
I have some further questions about Too Faced's animal testing policies.  I was very happy to see that the FAQ section listed vegan products and already has PETA certification, however, I prefer to use the Leaping Bunny guide which has more stringent requirements to be considered cruelty free.  Does Too Faced test ingredients or finished products on animals or have a third party do so on their behalf?  Does Too Faced have a parent company, and, if so, is their animal testing policies the same as Too Faced's?  Does Too Faced direct sell to China or any other area which requires or reserves the right to animal test products?
Thank you!

Response from Too Faced on March 7, 2013:
Thank you for contacting us. In answer to your questions, no, we do not test ingredients or finished products on animals, nor do any of our labs do so on our behalf. We do not sell to China for this exact reason of your concern and will not do so as long as it is required to test on animals. We, like you, feel very strongly about the well-being of all of our furry friends, and will continue to reflect our beliefs in all of our behaviors beginning with the creation of our formulas all the way to the end product and where it is sold.  P.S. We are in the process of the Leaping Bunny approval, so stay tuned and stay Too Faced!
            Also, the Too Faced website’s FAQ section had the above to say about their animal testing policies.  Here, they list their vegan friendly products as well. This is great since a lot of ingredients can be plant or animal based and many labels do not differentiate the two.

           First of all, I’m excited that Too Faced is attempting to get Leaping Bunny certification for their business!  While they did not answer whether Leaping Bunny was a subsidiary or not I already assumed from earlier research that it was not.  I’m glad they answered the rest of questions clearly.
I’m excited to purchase their BB cream in the future!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

EU Ban on Animal Testing

The European Union ban on animal tested products has survived all its opponents and is now going into effect!  This is definitely a wonderful milestone for animals and a great accomplishment for our cruelty free community.  The demands to end animal testing and selective shopping does affect the marketplace.  However, let me be realistic and say this does not mean we can forget about emailing companies and looking for leaping bunny logos. 

  • As this is an EU ban, you can only count on this affecting sales in the European Union for the moment.  Hopefully, international companies will stop animal testing in an effort to make only one kind of product that can be sold internationally.  This may not wind up being the case though. 
  • Products can be sold in the EU if a company does not test its products or ingredients but sells to a country that tests on its own, such as China.  
  • In the flurry of articles on this ban, there have been many articles which include notorious animal rights abusers as suddenly going cruelty free.  I am very wary of this and beg everyone to email these companies to double check before purchasing from them (check out my guide on email companies here).  
  • Obviously, those of use looking for vegan products still need to check ingredient lists since this ban only affects animal testing.

Remember: This is a new adventure, and we are all getting acclimated and learning what to look out for.  Below are some links to articles about the EU ban from some fellow cruelty free bloggers and sources that I respect.

Je t'aime [Link]
Logical Harmony [Link]
Leaping Bunny [Link]