Question the process

August 31, 2009

UPDATE:UPDATE:UPDATE: Confirmation has been received that Bean Me Up soymilk and tofu are vegan, the filtering cloth is nylon. So it is now back in the shopping trolley. Thank you SAFE for the detective work.

Sometimes it is hard to know about the processes that many of our foods go through before reaching our cupboard or fridge, processes that you wouldn’t even think to question until something triggers you to look into it a bit further; well this happened to me.

No  milk today - 3x in a row Bean Me Up is out of stock, so all I have for you is the price label, note: when taking photos in supermarkets do not use a flash

No milk today - 3x in a row Bean Me Up is out of stock, so all I have for you is the price label, note: when taking photos in supermarkets do not use a flash

I was listening to a Radio NZ podcast on the processing of Bean Me Up Soymilk which is made locally here in Christchurch, and was finding it quite interesting until the moment the product came out of the heat tank – you see, it goes through a filter, and I thought she said ‘silk filter from Japan’ – the noise from the machine was quite loud so I may have heard incorrectly. Anyway, right then I knew I had to find out.

It took quite a few attempts at phoning before I actually managed to speak to someone for clarification. They advised me that it was silk and I replied “so it is not suitable for vegans then” and she said “oh hang on” and went and spoke to the person who operates the heat tank and he said “I’m not sure if it is silk or nylon, it could be nylon but I am not sure”. She also mentioned that “everyone does it that way” – but does she mean that the filtering is done by everyone or the use of silk is done by everyone? Do others use silk, nylon, cheesecloth or muslin?

Bean Me Up Soymilk. Got the photo!
Bean Me Up Soymilk. Got the photo!

So now I am left without a definative answer from Bean Me Up, do they use silk or nylon? Why would they say they used silk on the podcast if this may or may not be correct, wouldn’t that be false advertising? Shouldn’t they know? – anyway, until I am 100% sure that it is vegan it is off my shopping list, I can always make my own, or use something else, there are always other options (I must admit I have since got a real liking for Rice Milk).

I was buying the soymilk because of my stance on the dairy industry only to find out that I might be supporting the exploitation of silkworms – the silkworms that are exploited by being boiled alive to get the silk out, which I also find abhorrent. And what about their soy yoghurt which is advertised on the web as a vegan dairy replacement? Does it go through a filter? I am not sure – something for me to pursue at a later date perhaps.

UPDATE:UPDATE:UPDATE: Confirmation has been received that Bean Me Up soymilk and tofu are vegan, the filtering cloth is nylon.

But it just points out to ethical, compassionate vegans the importance of not assuming something is vegan just because the list of ingredients is ok, but to also question the process as well. This got me to thinking about other things, this would also apply to products in cans or glass jars that have labels – what is the glue made from? And speaking of glue, how about the glue used in non-leather shoes? And another of my peeves is the word ‘organic’ – the producers consider blood and bone to be ‘organic’, so unless you know who grows your vegetables be very wary of that word. I will not be a part of the exploitation of innocent lives and I feel that the only option is to question everything, and I will not stop questioning, and I will not find it a burden, non-human animals are too important for me, way, way too important to do anything but question – and in the answers I will have something to pass on to others, because knowing what is in our food and the process it goes through to get to our plate is important.

bron sign


Day of wonder

August 23, 2009

Everyone has something they love more than anything, and for me that would be the Honeybee. Today is the day I have been waiting all winter for … the arrival of the Honeybees.


My fruit trees have been covered in blossoms for more than a week now, but in a way they have still been dormant – until today that is, suddenly, without warning they all arrive – thousands of individuals but all as one. One minute not there, the next a deafening sound descends upon my small orchard. I have a picnic table under the huge apricot tree where I can sit and listen and look at the wonder around me, so loud there are no other sounds that can penetrate, the industrious wonder of the Honeybees who give so much to the continuum and beauty of this planet.

The Wonder

In New Zealand the day that officially takes the title of the first day of spring is the 1st September, but for me today takes that title.

Bees may be solitary or social. They feed on nectar and pollen, and play an important role in the pollination and survival of many flowering plants. New Zealand has 28 native and 13 introduced species of bee. At least three native bee species have a basic social structure, a bit like the introduced Honeybee and Bumblebee. The rest are solitary, although they may make nests close together. Native bees pollinate many native plants. They also pollinate kiwifruit and apple orchards and some vegetable crops, and are important pollinators in horticulture.

The photos I have taken today in my orchard are from the Apis mellifera species, introduced into New Zealand in the 1830’s.

There are many species of Honeybee in the world. All of them build nests with hexagonal combs for brood (their babies) raising and food storage. All of them use dance language as their primary means of recruiting nest mates to valuable resources.

Honeybees do their dance on the vertical plane of the comb and indicate direction by transposing the direction of the sun to the direction relevant to gravity using a straight upwards direction to be equivalent to flying towards the sun. In all species the vigour with which the bee dances is directly correlated with the richness of the resource indicated, while the length of the straight run, or its omission are indications of the distance to be travelled to the resource, this need not be a straight line but may involve flying around some natural obstacle such as a small mountain.

Honeybees pass on additional information to their hive mates concerning the taste and odour of the food resource by means of one bee regurgitating from its crop some of the nectar it has collected and feeds it to another bee, when this is happening it looks like they are kissing, and before long there is a string of bees all ‘kissing’ each other as the food gets passed around. Recruitment to a site is strengthened by returning foragers passing on the location to more of the colony.

Honey, Brood & Bees

The down side is that humans found yet another form of exploitation, exploiting the honey that the Honeybees make for their use in the cold months of winter. The honey is stripped from their hives and a substitute replacement (sugar syrup) is put in it’s place. The sugar syrup is not the Honeybees natural food and is a poor replacement for their own food, especially through a very cold winter. Commercial beekeeping practices are there for profit and not the welfare of the bees. Commercial beekeepers are restricted by timeframe and requires the beekeeper to grab as much honey in the shortest possible time, therefore by not being careful many deaths occur to Honeybees that are sitting on the rim of the hives and through the shock to the colony, Honeybees are seen in their commercial value with no intrinsic value of their own. It must also be noted that many colonies can perish through mis-management; hives not being checked through the winter as cold winds and rain can kill a whole colony if the top cover is not secured; for sufficient food – remembering that we have taken their precious winter honey store and the Honeybees are then totally reliant on a beekeeper making sure there is plentiful food. Honeybees do not venture outside the hive during the cold winters for long periods, only for their toilet duties – yes, that’s right, they do not go to the toilet inside.

In the wild a small part of an existing hive along with a new virgin Queen will swarm, the ritual of mating where many Drones (males) will mate with the new Queen and she will find a new site for her new colony. The sole purpose and desire of the Drone is to mate with a virgin Queen, his life role being accomplished he will then pass away, no doubt with a smile on his face, and definitely with dignity. Nowadays the favoured method is artificial insemination involving the death of the Drone in a most disgusting way, the sperm is obtained by pulling off his head causing an electrical impulse to the nervous system which causes sexual arousal, the lower part of the Drone is squeezed to make him ejaculate, and then collected in a hypodermic syringe and fertilisation of the new virgin Queen is done. No swarming, no virgin flight, no mating, no dignity in death. Nothing short of slavery really.

I leave you with one final photo – the picture of life eternal.

Life Eternal

Soaping up at work

August 11, 2009

This winter has been a particularly harsh time with germs flying around, almost everyone seems to be coughing and sneezing and we all have to be aware of the need to wash our hands.

My place of work does not have vegan soap and being vegan and constantly aware of what products I use, especially when I have to spend eight glorious hours at work everyday, it became necessary to ‘bring my own’ soap. I have always toddled off to the loo, Dr. Bronner’s soap – in soapbox – in hand, and after a while this became a major pain in the butt so now I just leave it on the hand basin.

Hand basin @ work

Only a short while after leaving the soap on the hand basin one of my work colleagues came out and said ‘I would have thought soaps would be vegan’. He had never stopped to consider what was in a bar of soap, not aware that soaps have unnecessary animal content, it could have glycerine, and/or lanolin, and/or tallow in it or all three, all of which are animal derived. Having the soap on the hand basin made my work colleague question what was in soaps – which in the scheme of things is really good to have people more aware. So now he knows about soap!!! I invited him to start using it too, there is no advantage in using animal products in soaps, possibly another ploy from the slaughterhouses to make more money from the suffering and death of the innocent. Vegan soaps are just as good and often better, especially if they are made with real essential oils. They feel nice, they smell nice, they lather well, animal-free, guilt-free. What were we thinking as humans? To have even had the original thought of plastering the remains of slaughtered animals over our bodies – to get clean? Ewwwwyuk.

A main concern when buying soaps is not to promote Companies that exploit animals to put their products on the market, i.e. Companies that use animals to try out their products on, generally when still in the trial or ‘toxic’ stage, onto the skin or into the eyes of the innocent slaves who have no choice or voice. Research for beauty is a disgusting and immoral thing to do, well actually animal research in general is immoral as they are subjected against their will to horrific experiments and a miserable and often painful life. There are other options for testing results of products which may in fact be a more productive form of research anyway as it has not really been proven that testing on animals is a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that the product is safe for human use.

Another concern of course when buying vegan soaps is the use of palm oil and where it originated, terrible to think that in avoiding soaps with animal products it may use palm oil from cleared rainforest. Please bear a thought to using palm oil – deforestation is causing Orang-Utans and other equally important insects and animals to suffer and die. Here is a quote from Palm Oil Action Group: “After logging rainforest habitat, palm oil companies often use uncontrolled burning to clear the land. In 1997-98 a devastating fire killed almost 8,000 orangutans in Borneo. Orangutans are predicted to be extinct in the wild in the next 20 years if the palm oil industry, deforestation and burning of peat forest do not change.”  The Palm Oil Action Group is concerned about oil palm plantation development and deforestation in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

The Lotus Heart in Cathedral Square, Christchurch has a gift shop that sells Dr Bronner’s soaps and it is where I bought my bar of lavender loveliness (the lemon one is nice too!) for work. The small bathroom at work has a wonderfully lovely aroma of lavender.

For soaps at home I buy from a lovely wee shop in town – Blue Earth Store in Poplar Street (runs between Lichfield & Tuam Streets, not far from Madras Street). They stock a wonderful range of soaps which are produced in Ashburton by Blue Earth, all with tremendous smells and textures including names like Fudgey Fig, Gardeners Nut soap and Angels Love Cake. I use their Lavishly Lavender at the hand basin and the Carrot & Orange Cake in the shower and also use their Shampoo Smoothie for my hair, which lathers up really well and makes my hair light and fluffy. Although they do use palm oil, they assured me that they do everything in their power to use sustainable palm oil. I am going to one day complete my mission of trying all of their soaps – if I can just get past buying my favourites, I may even find other favourites. Blue Earth products are the cheaper option as the Dr Bronner’s soap comes with a hefty price tag.

SAFE Online Store stocks a good range of cruelty-free soaps and other skin care items and while you are there definitely worth a browse through their website at their other products as well.

You can always make your own, but lets face it, with the busy lives we live and the quality of the available vegan soaps, why bother?