Lifestyle: Where do you draw the line between cruelty free products and a vegetarian/vegan diet?

You may remember from last month that I wrote a post discussing my favourite Lush products, which is a brand well known for being 100% vegetarian and cruelty free. Following that post, I’ve been pondering my stance on consuming products where animals have been harmed in some way, whether through my dietary choices or cosmetics.  Honestly, I’m not 100% sure where I stand yet, so I thought I’d write down my thoughts and hopefully get a discussion going with you, my lovely readers.

First of all, I’ve reduced my consumption of animal products over the past 18 months or so.  In May 2015 I became pescetarian, which means I cut out all animal flesh from my diet except for fish and other forms of seafood.  This was for two reasons – I didn’t think I would commit to full vegetarianism straight away so I wanted to ease myself into it, and I also really love(d) calamari and teriyaki salmon.  However, my last taste of fish was some fancy salmon mousse on New Year’s Day, and since then no animal flesh has passed my lips (except for the time my Stepdad accidentally gave me some pasta with ham in).

My current rule is that I won’t eat an animal product if the animal has had to die for me to be able to consume it. This includes all flesh, gelatine (made from animal bones) and rennet (made from calf stomach lining), and means that I still consume milk, eggs, and other dairy products.

This rule also means that I won’t purchase products made of leather (excluding the leather bag my Mum bought me for my birthday last year), suede or other animal skins, but I will by products made of wool.  When I move away from diet and consider cosmetics, this is where the line between what I can and cannot purchase becomes to blur.

For me, my reasoning for becoming vegetarian (and eventually aiming to become vegan) consists of two main factors. The first is that I am against the unnecessary cruelty involved in the farming industry. The second is that I have found that I am capable of living a healthy life and meeting all of my dietary and nutritional requirements with a vegetarian diet, plus iron supplements.  However, like meat products, soap and conditioner are not life necessities for me: even though I wouldn’t have many friends if I didn’t wear deodorant, I wouldn’t die without it.  This video ( which includes some strong language, by the way) by Australian lifestyle and beauty YouTuber Nibbles Official explains that side of the argument quite well, whilst also going into why she herself doesn’t follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Most of the toiletries I buy are already cruelty free. A number of them aren’t vegan as they contain products such as honey, but because I am only vegetarian at the moment I’m happy to still use toiletries containing animal products.  The main area where I struggle to draw the line is make-up and other cosmetics.  According to the RSPCA, it is illegal to sell products in the EU which have been tested on animals or have ingredients which have been tested on animals, which means that all of the products on the shelves at Boots are cruelty free.  This is reassuring, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean that the brands themselves are totally cruelty free, because China legally requires cosmetic companies to test their products on animals before they can be sold in the country.  That means that companies that do sell their products in China do still test some of their products on animals.

This is why I struggle to draw the line: if the make-up brands I use sell their products in China and therefore test on animals, should I stop purchasing from those brands, even though I know the products on UK shelves haven’t been tested themselves?  Am I OK with supporting a brand who does test on animals under certain conditions, even though the products I buy are cruelty free?  Again, make-up isn’t a life essential (although you might think it is if you knew how long I spent on my eyebrows in the morning), so shouldn’t I work harder to ensure that my purchases do not enable or condone animal suffering?

I’d be very interested to hear from my followers, whether you use cruelty free products, are vegetarian or vegan, or just have a strong opinion on the subject. Let me know your thoughts on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

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Lifestyle: altrocklife’s thoughts on the EU referendum

Hi altrocklifers! Today I thought I’d do something a bit different, considering that tomorrow I’ll be casting my vote in one of the most important referendums in British history. Yes, tomorrow is judgement day, and we will be deciding whether Britain is going to Remain or Brexit the European Union.

I’m not writing this post today to tell you how to vote.  I’m not claiming to be a political expert with all of the answers, and I don’t particularly want to be drawn into an online debate about which box you should draw your X in.  However, I would like to talk about my observations of both campaigns, as well as the importance of voting.

To be honest, it appears to me that both sides of the argument have engaged in fear tactics and blatant lies in order to try and scare the general public into voting their way.  At the end of the day, the average Brit won’t have any sort of extensive economic, political or immigration-related expertise, so will have to rely on materials from both campaigns to make their decision.  The main sentiment I’ve seen recently is that, whatever way people vote, they’re voting that way because of independent research they’ve conducted and despite the official campaigns.

The campaigns have also been extremely emotional, drawing on peoples’ fears, their patriotism, and igniting anti-immigrant, xenophobic attitudes.  Emotions were running high especially after the murder of MP Jo Cox last Thursday, which is believed to have been politically motivated.  Plus, endorsements to both sides of the debate by celebrities, politicians and other big names has created a “names game”.  It almost feels like both campaigns are collecting endorsements like they’re Pokémon cards. (Sorry for the slightly outdated reference)

I also think that both sides of the debate have been stating their opinions and predictions as facts, which is deplorable to me considering nothing is guaranteed regardless of the result of this election.  Whilst the Remain campaign could argue that if we stay, we’ll just continue on as normal, after all the unrest and aggression towards the EU during these campaigns who’s to say that everything will go back to how things were? Plus on the Brexit side, no country has ever left the European Union after joining, so predictions from experts aside we really have no idea what will happen when we do eventually sever ties and leave.

Plus, voters – especially young voters – have had it drummed into their heads just how important this vote is, so I don’t want to add to the condescending tone and “remind” people how important this referendum is to the future of Britain.  However, I would like to reiterate that this vote will decide the future for those of us aged under 50.  Those voters over 50 won’t have to live with the long term consequences of either remaining or leaving the EU, whereas us young’uns will be dealing with whatever happens for much, much longer.  So, if you’re under 50, make sure you cast your vote, whichever way you decide is best, so your granny doesn’t end up deciding your future for you.

altrocklife’s guide to going to gigs with grown-ups

If you’re under 18, you’ve probably attended a gig with your parent(s), a guardian, other relative or parents of friends.  Now, this post isn’t a parent-bashing rant: I’m well aware that I wouldn’t have been able to attend lots of the gigs I have without parental supervision.  In fact, I wouldn’t be going to see Foo Fighters in June if my Mum and Stepdad hadn’t paid for the tickets.  Plus, I couldn’t have gone to Of Mice & Men in Nottingham last Thursday if my Dad hadn’t been around to give us a lift.  Ah, the woes of not being able to drive and living in the middle of nowhere.

However, I’m definitely more fortunate than others, as my parents and I share a lot of the same music taste.  The vast majority of the time, if I ask a parent if they can accompany me to a gig their response is about as enthusiastic as mine.  In fact, I think my Mum is more excited about seeing Foo Fighters live than I am, and that’s saying something!

But if you’re stuck with a parent or guardian who isn’t into the same music as you are, they might end up channelling this member of security staff, below, which could make the experience a lot less fun for everyone involved.

Security staff member at an event facepalms with Black Veil Brides performing in the background
It’s OK, security person, it’ll all be over soon.

Here are my top tips for making a gig the best it can be, not only for you, but for the adults supervising you:

Try and pay for your own ticket if you can, or at least contribute to transport costs

Parents and guardians will be more likely to agree to take you to a gig if you can pay your own way.  If you’re being taken by the family of a friend, offering to pay for your own train ticket or handing over some petrol money will show that you’re responsible, and understand the costs that these grown-ups have to incur for you to attend this gig.  The more you can demonstrate this, the more likely they’ll start allowing you to go to gigs by yourself sooner.

Listen to the band’s music with them before the gig

Whether this means putting on the band’s CD in the car, or sharing headphones on the train while you listen to their latest single, giving the grown-up some of the band’s music to listen to (and listening to it with them) will make them feel included.  They’re more likely to accompany you to gigs again if you don’t act like you’re just using them as a glorified taxi.

Find stuff for the grown-ups to do while you’re at the concert

This point doesn’t apply if the accompanying grown-up has a ticket for the gig themselves, but only if they’re acting as chauffeurs.  If you’re attending a gig in an unfamiliar town or city, your grown-up may feel like their only option is to sit in the car until it’s over, which sucks for them!  Do a little research before the gig and find some nice restaurants, a cinema, some evening tourist attractions and maybe a sports bar for your grown-up(s) to visit while you’re busy enjoying the concert.

Be prepared for the grown-up to start an argument with other concert-goers

True story: my Mum started a fight with the guy sat behind me when we saw My Chemical Romance at Nottingham Capital FM Arena because he kept drunkenly hitting me in the back of the head and pouring his beer over me.  Parents and guardians will be extra protective and territorial at gigs, so beware.

And last but not least, BE THANKFUL!

Make sure at every step of the way you’re making it clear that you’re aware the grown-up of choice is giving up their evening, and possibly their money, for you.  Be appreciative, and they’ll be more likely to accompany you again, next time your favourite band is in town.

What are your experiences of attending gigs with grumpy grown-ups? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Currently listening to: GoldImagine Dragons

90s suburban mom: the fashion trend that NEEDS to die

Now, I’m not entirely sure what this trend is actually called.  I have no idea why it has come back into fashion after over a decade.  But what I’m most confused about is who looked at vintage pictures of moms from the 90s and decided “yes, this is my aesthetic”?

I’m a pretty open minded person when it comes to fashion and I find myself appreciating most trends, even if I wouldn’t wear them myself.  But honestly, where are the positives of the ’90s suburban mom’ look?

First off, there are the jeans so baggy and ill-fitting it doesn’t matter what kind of figure you have underneath.  You just know that all of these models have fantastic figures: not that you can tell in these denim disasters.

Mom jeans

Then, there are the kinds of patterns and prints even my Mum wouldn’t have touched back in the 70s.  Honestly, what is with some of these shirts?  They’re utterly hideous.

Clashing patterns

Also, what the hell is up with the concept of cropped jumpers?  I know these aren’t strictly confined to the ’90s suburban mom’ trend, but honestly, they’re a fashion contradiction: keeping warm must be difficult if your jumper ends above your belly-button.  Some of the jumpers below would actually be really nice, IF they weren’t cropped.

Cropped jumpers

So, there you have it.  I’m well aware that I may have made a few enemies by dismissing this trend, but I’ve never before disliked a trend as much as I do the ’90s suburban mom’.

What do you think?  Do you, too, think this trend needs to die?  Or are you a die-hard lover of mom jeans?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Currently listening to: NovocaineFall Out Boy

Ticket touts: how they’re killing the live music industry

For anyone who’s attended a gig, this scenario will be all too familiar: walking towards the venue, you’re mobbed by people asking “anyone need a ticket for tonight?” or “I’ve got 4 tickets spare, anyone interested?”

Occasionally these people will be genuine – maybe they bought a ticket for a friend who cancelled, or they have an important meeting the next morning that cannot be missed.  But more often than not, these people belong to that breed of human known as ticket touts.

Ticket touting, by definition, is where somebody (an individual or an organisation) buys tickets to live events, and then re-sells them later for much higher than their face value.

Now, on the face of it, sometimes people can benefit from touting.  For example, I attended a gig a while ago and my friend decided at the last minute that she wanted to come along.  Lo and behold, there was somebody outside selling a ticket.  Even though it cost her double the face value, the ticket was genuine and she had an awesome time.  In small doses, touting is probably harmless.

However, when large organisations purchase tens, or even hundreds, of tickets for gigs and then go on to re-sell at a much higher value, this is where things start to get dodgy.

As you may have seen on my Twitter earlier in the week, I picked up a ticket to see Foo Fighters on their Sonic Highways tour next year at Wembley Stadium.  Exciting times!  Thankfully we went through the venue’s pre-sale procedures on Wednesday morning, and we got the tickets at face value, £93.50 for Level 2 seating, plus booking fees and transaction fees.

As of the time of writing this blog, there are currently 791 tickets for the same date available on Get Me In!, and these are just from the presale!  Currently the lowest price available there is £103.71, which doesn’t necessarily include transaction and delivery fees, but prices go up to a whopping £412.50.

Obviously, with general sales still to open, tickets at the higher end of the spectrum won’t be selling any time soon.  However, if the venue sells out, desperate fans looking for tickets may have to consider these ridiculously inflated ticket prices.

Another example: my stepdad bought a ticket for him and my mum to see the Foo Fighters play at Wembley Stadium a few years back (our family are massive Foos fans, in case you couldn’t tell) for her birthday gift.  Because he was too late to pick up tickets from the venue directly, he went through a ticket-touting website, and paid well over face value for them.

Skip to the night before the gig, and his tickets still hadn’t arrived.  After doing a bit of online sleuthing, he found that the business he purchased the tickets from had gone into liquidation, and even if it hadn’t, the tickets were likely to have been part of a large-scale fake ticket scam.  In the end, he and my mum had to leave it to chance and turned up at the venue, hoping that someone there would be able to sell them a pair of tickets.  He paid yet another massive sum for legitimate tickets, but never got his money back for the faked ones.  Whilst they enjoyed the gig, the experience was tainted by how much they had paid.

Ticket touting doesn’t necessarily hurt the venue, as they will be happy as long as they continue to sell tickets and make a profit.  Even if their reputation is questioned for allowing touting to continue, venues are well aware that music fans will never simply stop attending gigs in protest.

However, touting does hurt bands – not economically, but imagine being told that your gig has sold out an entire arena, only to turn up on the night and see whole blocks of seats empty?  That has to be disheartening, and wherever touting is involved there will usually be a significant number of tickets that never get resold, usually because the price they ask for is simply too high for most people to consider.

Of course, ticket touting has plagued the live music industry for decades, and even legislation hasn’t prevented its growth.  Occasionally bands will take a stand and limit the amount of tickets purchased per sale to try and discourage touts, but this crime is extremely difficult to regulate and enforcing the law has not had much success.

However, I still live in hope that, some time in the not too distant future ticket touts will be shunned and prosecuted for the crimes they commit.  Let’s hope, as well, that their practices do not kill the live music industry in the process.

Currently listening to: SupersoakerKings Of Leon