Review: In Praise of Slow

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Wow. So edgy and original.

So I recently finished this amazing book. You know when you read or hear someone speak, and it puts into words all the fragmented thoughts you have about something and pieces them together, but even better than you could, ‘cause they have more information and understanding? Well this book did that to me.

Carl Honoré’s book follows him as he looks into ways that we can live more slowly, interviewing people and trying things out for himself to give his honest opinion. By slow, he doesn’t necessarily mean taking ages to do everything; he describes it more as a way of life, of making connections with people and what you’re doing. It’s about living at a pace that best serves the environment and us. I picked three sections of this movement that most stood out to me and commented on them…

 

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This is why I love market day.

FOOD:

Food plays an important role in the slow lifestyle. Looking at the current climate, it’s not difficult to see where we went wrong…

‘It is speed and convenience which have turned farming into the abusive, heartless place it is nowadays. Even plants are pumped with pesticides and synthetic fertilisers to boost and speed growth. Every scientific trick known to man has been deployed to cut costs, boost yields and make livestock and crops grow more quickly’

‘Produce is picked before it’s ripe, shipped in ice, then artificially ripened at the destination. This messes with the life-span, taste and quality of our food’

‘Two centuries ago, the average pig took five years to reach 130 pounds; today it hits 220 pounds after just six months and is slaughtered before it loses its baby teeth’

‘In 2003, researchers at Essex University calculated that British taxpayers spend up to £2.3 billion every year repairing the damage that industrial farming does to the environment and human health’

Reading this makes you realise that the rate at which food makes its way to our plates currently, is wreaking havoc on the planet, animals and our bodies. Buying and eating locally sourced food in season is part of living within nature’s speed and rejecting the constant availability of modern convenience. Investing in organic food and rejecting processed, GM food (as well as boycotting McDonalds and the like, who are known to fly in the face of efforts to responsibly produce food) are all massively important ways to vote with your money. Spending time waiting for the dishes to be prepared in the proper time it should take, enjoying the company, and not feeling rushed to leave a restaurant sounds amazing- it does require a mind shift however.

 

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Yep. Not relevant in any way. Just a picture of my cat.

WORK:

We are taught early on in life that time is money. Honoré writes that as soon as that link was made, a race was begun to maximise profit and cheat time. Ironically though, it does come with a cost. Many individuals and companies are learning that more time spent ‘working’ does not translate to better productivity. In fact, limiting working hours makes you more likely to be focused. The payoffs for working less hours include better wellbeing, more family time, freedom to commit to other interests, and time to reflect on work things so that you make better decisions when you are there. Coined downshifting, it is essentially about being ‘willing to forgo money in return for time and slowness’.

Small, local business ties in with this way of life. The larger the company, the more likely (generally) it is to become impersonal and strive for profit. With the world the way it is, it’s easy to forget or to downplay small business, but there is something to be said for being able to work at a manageable pace on a smaller scale, and still making enough to put dinner on the table.

‘Pleasure before profit, human beings before head office’

 

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That time I drew a robin.

LEISURE:

When it comes to free time, slow activities can reap a bunch of benefits. For instance, knitting is a personal hobby of mine and I’ve picked it up again recently with more determination than ever. I learned as a child to knit (thanks Mum!) but I have to say, I felt quite frustrated that my creations would never look very neat and that it took so long to see results. It’s tempting to only take up hobbies that yield instant results or that, to put it bluntly, aren’t very difficult. That way you can’t disappoint yourself and can create the illusion of being more productive. But the thing is, hobbies don’t need to be productive. What I now love about knitting is exactly what frustrated me about it as a child! I don’t stress about how long my projects are going to take, because I can enjoy the process and I know it’s going to take a while. The repetitive movement is therapeutic for me, and requires me to be absorbed in the process, allowing my subconscious to mull over anything I need to.

Reading is another gem of a practice to weave into your every day. Taking as little as 10 minutes to read a book can calm me a hundred times more than several hours of Netflix-watching could. It has made a huge difference to my wellbeing in recent months. Even reading In Praise of Slow and taking notes on it for this blog post has deepened my appreciation of the content. I was forced to stop and consider every section carefully which allowed me to reflect on the points, work out which ones resonated with me, and decide how i might make changes in my life.

That is by no means an exhaustive list of slow leisure activities- beit writing, exercising, gardening or sitting in cafes… whatever it is that makes you happy, that you can focus on, that you enjoy so much you don’t care how long it takes, sounds like a winner. You deserve to give yourself enough time to practice those hobbies, because they are just as important as your job.

 

MY CONCLUSIONS:

The main point I’ll be taking away from this book is that things take as long as they take; you just have to accept that. If it’s important enough, you will be able to ‘justify the time’ and won’t begrudge yourself those activities. As a consequence, I’m especially invigorated to spend more time in the kitchen preparing food, making and growing things myself. That way I can connect to my food, be healthier and appreciate the length of time it takes to grow things.

It’s also made me think about who I want to be, and what I’m going to have to compromise in order to achieve that life. I don’t want to be someone always thinking of buying things. I don’t want to be surrounded by stuff. I want to spend my money on food and experiences, and I want to have the option of working less hours because I would rather have more time than money. So that means I’m going to have to keep struggling with that constant itch to spend and consume.

Sorry this post was so long! This was the very edited-down version! As you can tell, I enjoyed it 😛 I would highly recommend In Praise of Slow, and would love to hear what you think about it, and what other areas struck a chord with you.

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Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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My underwear all neatly organised- HOW SATISFYING!

I know what you’re thinking, of all the interesting books out there I chose to read about tidying, but hear me out! The first time I heard mention of this book, I thought this is not for me. I, like the next person, want to be tidy but I’ve tried following rules and systems and yet I still find myself surrounded by mountains of stuff on a regular basis. But over time I heard snippets of Marie Kondo’s approach and I became so intrigued that I looked into it- and the rest is history! I read this book in less than 5 days. I am a slow reader, so that’s really saying something.

There is so much helpful detail in this book that I couldn’t possibly try and summarise it (some people have though, so give it a Google search if you want a better idea of what the method involves) but I thought I would just pick out the points that really spoke to me.

The simplified premise of the KonMari method is this: if it sparks joy, keep it. What I love about this is that it focuses on the keeping rather than the discarding side of decluttering. I found the process to be a lot more successful and less stressful than my previous decluttering attempts because I had the goal in mind of looking back over my possessions at the end and knowing I only have what I love. What sparks joy. I also think it’s great that Marie Kondo set the bar so high. She didn’t say keep it if you think it might come in handy, or because someone gave it to you and you feel guilty chucking it, or even because you like it. When you judge things on whether or not they bring joy, you are forced to be more ruthless and confront the reasons you might be holding onto things that you don’t want. The interesting thing is that having only what sparks joy might mean a large library or make-up collection for some, and the bare minimum of just about everything for others; it means different things for different people which is why it works.

When I started the book, it struck me that Marie would talk about possessions almost as if they were people. As a (sometimes) sceptical person, my initial reaction was to think she’d gone too far (part of me still thinks she is a bit too airy fairy and a few of her theories I couldn’t get on board with) but the sentiment behind it is what I love. For instance, she makes a point of thanking her clothes at the end of each day and encourages people to thank the possessions that they no longer want before discarding them. This is a really nice way of being more conscious and weaving gratitude into the every day. Also, thanking items for serving their purpose- be it for helping you realise that impulse buys are a terrible idea, or for serving you every day for years- means that you can let them go without the guilt. Kondo devotes a part of the book to folding clothes. Again, I thought how tedious when I first heard about it, but it all ties in to the gratitude thing. The practice of treating your possessions with respect and care will make them last longer and you will value them more.

Marie Kondo recommends decluttering and sorting your home all at once (or as quickly as possible). Turning your space from what it was, to the ideal environment in less than a month means that you get a more dramatic sense of how much better the end result is. This means you’re more likely to keep it that way (plus you won’t get bored or disheartened part-way through the process and give up).

The book encourages you to think about what kind of life you want before starting the decluttering. For instance, if it’s important to you to have enough space to have people stay with you, or to have as few possessions as possible because you like to travel, these goals are really good to have as a motivation when you do get round to it. One of my goals was to have a small collection of clothes and toiletries for travelling and simplicity. It makes me happy to look at what I have and know that it fits with the life I want to lead.

I really enjoyed the book, and can’t wait to go and sort through my room at home, just like I did at uni. I would highly recommend The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up as I believe it to be a very well-tested and practical method that can be adapted to suit anyone.

Review: Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (2016)

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Minimalism has slowly been creeping into my consciousness for a while now, but I just thought I’d warn you that I’m well and truly hooked and that you’re about to see a whole lot more from me on this subject!

Without further ado, I watched this documentary on Netflix and it really has inspired me. It starts off with this quote:

‘At a time when people in the West are experiencing the best standard of living in history, why is it that at the same time there is such a longing for more?’ Rick Hanson

And it’s true. I don’t think it’s just my friends and family that are sharing my enthusiasm for making a difference, it’s sweeping across the country and the world. In the aftermath of the crazy consumerism that’s exploded over the last 50 odd years, people have come to realise that it is lacking as a means of making you feel good in the long run.

In the fashion industry it’s gone from having 4 or maybe even 2 seasons a year (Autumn-Winter/Spring-Summer) to 52! That’s every week! You’re supposed to feel like you’re not ‘on trend’ so that you buy more. The abuse of garment workers means that the value of clothing is through the floor; you no longer need to wait for clothing to be unusable; it simply has to be unfashionable to deserve throwing away. And who even cares when it only cost £3, right?

Advertising has polluted every area of our lives. Bathrooms, films, taxis, doctor’s surgery… Advertising for children’s products has changed; it used to target mothers, but now it goes around the parents and straight to the kids. A large number of children have access to technology from as young as under a year old.

HOWEVER! People are beginning to realise that they might be being tricked, and that they have more options than they are lead to believe. And that’s where minimalism steps in. This documentary features The Minimalists, No Impact Man, and news reporter Dan Harris, among others, who share their personal stories of coming to the decision to live with less. I love how varied their stories are, how different their problems were, and yet they found an alternative way to live and now their motivation is essentially the same: to simplify the stuff that doesn’t matter and live more intentionally. It looks different for all of them, but it works.

I don’t want to go into a load of detail and ruin it for you! I would highly recommend seeing this documentary, even if you aren’t already thinking of being minimalist. It is a great insight into how some people live and encourages you to be more intentional in life in general. I did write down some quotes that I liked from the film though… Enjoy! Also let me know what you thought of it if you do give it a watch 🙂

‘As human beings we have strong attachment -initially in our lives- to people who are caring for us; sometimes it feels like those attachments spill over to objects, as if they were as important as people’ Gail Steketee

‘You can never get enough of what you don’t want’ Rick Hanson

‘I wish everyone could become rich and famous so they could realise it’s not the answer’ Jim Carey

‘Minimalism is not a radical lifestyle’ Non-hairy minimalists

‘We are not going to reach the environmental goals we are seeking whilst maintaining our current lifestyles. We’re going to have to give up a lot’ Unknown

‘The beauty of not being prepared for everything is that you are forced to call on others and they on you for favours/borrowing etc. You end up in community.’ Unknown

‘Because you can do anything you want you can potentially do everything you want, but to do everything you want you have to sacrifice things that really are important’ Unknown

‘You can’t force people around you to be as minimalist as you, or at all. You have to respect their choice.’ Unknown

1 year on: Ecoegg laundry egg

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It’s been a while since I reviewed a green product, and this’ll be the first non-toiletry related ‘1 year on’ I’ve done too! Ecoegg is a replacement for washing detergent, and is a hollow egg shape filled with pellets. As your machine fills with water, the pellets release a natural foam and mild fragrance to make your washing clean and fresh. I bought my Ecoegg just before I moved to France, and it was super useful not to have to worry about buying washing powder/tabs/whatever at all during my time there. Here’s what I think after over a year of using this.

Price:

I bought mine on Ebay for £18, which is more or less retail price. As is the case for many of my other reviewed products, I did have to initially spend more than I usually would in one go, but when you consider that what I bought should last me approx. 720 washes, you can imagine the saving! (Ecoegg calculates their product to cost about 3p per wash)

Durability:

So how it works is that you buy the egg along with refill pellets (I bought 10 refills which you replace every 72 washes, hence it all lasting me 720 washes). The mineral pellets should wear down by 72 washes, so then you just top it up with another refill. After all my pellets have run out I simply have to buy more to refill my egg 🙂 The egg itself will last a lifetime- that’s as reusable as I could hope to be!

Verdict:

I appreciate the simplicity of the Ecoegg; now all I need to remember is that (and the clothes obviously hah) not to mention it makes travelling a doddle.  I can’t imagine having to even think about regularly buying detergent! They both go in the drum and no need to worry about fabric softener either! The pellets are made from natural minerals and are 100% hypoallergenic- so if you have sensitive skin or babies, no problem 🙂 My only gripe is that the pellet refills came portioned out in 10 small plastic wrappers. If it wasn’t for that, they would’ve been completely waste-free! ARGH! Even so, it’s less plastic than individually wrapped tablets or bottles of fabric softener. I will however be shooting them my feedback via email after this to see if something can be done about the wrappers 😉

Review: Food Choices (2016)

 

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What did people do before Netflix, eh? (don’t answer that question, they probably were a lot more productive!) At least when it comes to documentaries, it’s really the place to go! In the theme of Veganuary, I thought I’d watch a foody documentary that’s been sitting on my watch-list for a while. Food Choices follows Michal Siewierski on his journey to discovering the most healthy diet for humans. It felt like an extension of other Netflix food documentaries, featuring interviews with Joe Cross of ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ and Dr.T. Colin Campbell of ‘Food Matters’. Here are the stand-out points for me:

Whilst it has been made complicated through all manner of fads and ‘studies’, it seems the perfect diet for humans consists of the following 4 main food groups: fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. The ideal foods are high in fibre and unprocessed.

Doctors are not trained in nutrition hence why they focus on treating health problems with medicine (what they are trained in). This only tends to control the symptoms and adds others. Especially in America, but across the West, corporations interfere and confuse the situation by trying to make money through false food information as theor primary focus is profit.

Myth= we (humans) are hunter-gatherers designed to eat meat

Reality= those closer to the equator and most of the planet relied on starchy foods (corn, potatoes etc.) to survive. Only in the far North and South in places such as the Arctic did people have to eat large quantities of meat due to the scarcity of other food options in the extreme cold.

Our bodies are designed to eat fruits and vegetables. Some animals ave sharp teeth and claws to kill and eat animals, whilst we see in colour to detect fruit and vegetables, and our hands are perfect for picking and peeling them.

Myth= you can only get protein from animal products

Reality= it is impossible to be protein deficient especially on a plant-based wholefood diet as long as you’re getting enough calories per day. Humans do not need a lot of protein, not nearly as much as we are made to believe. In fact we get health problems as a result of too much! Our kidneys, and liver are put under stress by over consumption of protein and we are at a far larger risk of cancers.

Myth= we need milk for calcium

Reality= the higher the calcium intake from dairy products, the higher the risk of osteoporosis. There is calcium in all sorts of food, such as oranges!

All of the nutrients generally lacking in the population can be found in plant-based foods, whereas all of the over-consumed ingredients come from animal products/processed foods

We are the only creatures on earth that consume the milk of another species AND that consumes milk after infancy- IT’S NOT NATURAL! It’s designed for baby cows to rapidly gain weight! High fat, high cholesterol, no fibre- it’s just like liquid red meat.

No wonder people are addicted to cheese! The casein used to bind cheese together has been proven to be as addictive as heroin! (paraphrased from Karyn Calabrese)

‘Eggs are the most concentrated source of dietary cholesterol in the average person’s diet’ Dr. Michael Greger

Cholesterol only comes from animal products, and additional cholesterol causes heart diseases.

Commercial chickens are fed antibiotics, genetically modified corn and soy.

We are the only species on earth that does not live in harmony with nature.

Anyway, those are my notes. If you haven’t seen any food documentaries, I would recommend Food Matters, Cowspiracy or Forks Over Knives. This one I enjoyed the first half of, but I’d say there are others that deliver the message a bit better. I did like the humble approach of the guy and the way he asked simple, common questions and tried to find the answer.

Review: Before the Flood (2016)

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I recently watched this documentary and I was blown away. I mean, I’m pretty open-minded, and I like to try and see the best in things anyway, but I really just loved every part of it. It follows Leonardo DiCaprio as he travels all over the world as a UN representative on Climate Change, uncovering the effects of our consumption so far, as well as the struggles and triumphs of efforts to combat global warming.

I found it really interesting to hear about China. They have serious problems with air pollution in their cities from factories and power plants, but at the same time China is leading the way in developing green energy and practices. It was sad to hear people talking about their health worries caused by the smog, but the overall message was hopeful. The people are beginning to realise how powerful they are, and hopefully companies and the government will listen. Protests by citizens directly and quite quickly forced the government in Sweden to commit to becoming the first fossil-fuel-free nation- there’s hope for all of us!

A massive lesson I got from the documentary was about palm oil. I’ve spoken to a few people about it and read a little about the harmful effects of its extraction, but to see the reality  was a different story entirely. They told us that 80% of the forests in Indonesia have been taken over for palm oil, destroying the wildlife. Leo met an organisation that was looking after orangutans, saved ‘from forests that no longer exist’. Our demand for palm oil has killed off an atrocious amount of animals, and the lucky ones have been made refugees, homeless. The reason they continue to burn down forests is because we keep purchasing products that use it. Now that I really understand importance of not buying into that industry, I now have a renewed enthusiasm to try and avoid palm oil as best I can.

‘Before the Flood’ also reiterated what I know already about how much of the world’s land is used to raise cattle or grow food for cattle. One of the experts they interviewed said that the best way to make a difference to the planet without getting involved in politics is by changing your diet. I can attest to the fact that making better food choices 3 times a day is a good start to feeling like you’re changing the world (and you are!)

The filming is amazing, and you see so many incredible images of animals, past and present, whose lives are or will be in grave danger if their habitats aren’t protected. DiCaprio is very honest about his personal failures and hypocrisy as well as that of the US in particular. He doesn’t pretend to be perfect or to have all the answers. What he does have is an eagerness to learn and an accurate sense of the urgency required if we want to protect and restore this world for the future.

Let me know what you thought of this documentary if you’ve seen it. If you haven’t it’s available to rent or buy here

 

1 year on: LUSH ‘Right Eyes’ mascara

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I got this mascara from LUSH a few weeks after my arrival in France, and initially it was a purchase I was very sceptical about. Compared to conventional mascaras, this one takes far more application to get the desired results not to mention the short brush which takes a lot of getting used to. On the plus side however, it is one of the few mascaras that comes in an even partially recyclable packaging AND it’s made of mainly natural ingredients- woo!

What I really do love about it is that it doesn’t irritate my eyes (I would often have to clean off my old mascaras in the early evening as it would get in my eyes and start stinging). When I first bought it, the consistency of the mixture was thin. It was like wetting your lashes with a black liquid. It was really easy to smudge onto your lid by accident, especially with the short brush. You had to let it dry then reapply (LUSH advises using several coats). With time the mixture becomes more like conventional mascara, and I tend to only apply 1 or 2 layers nowadays.

Price:

Again, I bought my mascara in France, but in the UK ‘eyes right‘ sells for £12. This is a pretty competitive price for a mascara. Depending on what brand you are used to using, you could be making a saving, or at least paying the same amount as before.

Durability:

You are supposed to replace mascara every 3 months, says a Google search I did just now. I may have hung on to this one 4 times too long, woops. Over time the consistency only got better, and I haven’t had any adverse effects from using it so long. I guess it’s up to you as to how long you keep yours.

Verdict:

Now that I have had a year of using this mascara, I have gotten used to the texture and short brush. If you prefer significantly bolder, thicker lashes, it’s just not gonna give you what you want; thankfully all I want is a mascara that makes my lashes a teeny bit longer and darker. In my opinion it’s a small price to pay for a product that uses significantly more natural ingredients, has a better animal rights and ethical record and comes in a more recyclable bottle than nearly all its peers. As for the future, I plan to wash out the bottle and refill it with a homemade zero-waste mascara. If that fails I will repurchase ‘eyes right’ then recycle the old glass bottle.

Review: Live and Let Live (2013)

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This documentary in a nutshell is people telling stories about how they came to veganism. What makes it really special is that it draws from a variety of different people (activists, dieticians, ethicists, athletes, farmers) but feels like an honest, laid-back conversation.

Among the interviewees was a guy who worked his way up from washing dishes to cooking in restaurants to owning his own. At that point, responsible for the most minute details of his establishment, he realised he was authorising the death of animals needlessly. The life he now leads is not only cruelty-free, but he is passionate about organic, local produce that’ll bring nourishment to his customers and honour the lives of the creatures he shares the earth with.

None of the subjects claim to be saints, nor do they preach; they simply tell their stories. They explain how they used to live, the moment they realised that consuming animals was wrong, and why they continue to live that way. Often they mention health, but the overwhelming reason is that, to paraphrase from the film, they finally opened up their circle of compassion to include animals.

The concept of carnism (eating meat) is broken down in the documentary. It requires the covering up of the inherent violence involved in bringing meat to our plates, the denial of the logic that- at least in the west- we would be horrified to learn that the meat we were eating came from a cat or dog, but completely satisfied to hear that the burger we’re eating is made from the flesh of a cow. It’s good to be reminded that there is a whole system keeping people in this destructive practice, but that it’s completely possible to become aware and break free as well.

Watching people, in some cases decades on from the point I’m at, reminded me that my level of compassion still has room to grow and that I have things yet to learn- but in a really exciting way.

I could go on, as usual, but if you’re interested I hope you’ll watch it yourself. It’s available on Netflix UK now.

1 year on: Diva Cup

So I had an idea to start a new series. I’m just about reaching a point where I have been using certain green products for a year. As I get to that point with each of them, I’ll stick up a review. That way I know I won’t be recommending anything that I haven’t thoroughly tried. It might be that I think I’m going to continue using it for years to come, or I think I’d rather try something else- we’ll see!

The first thing I’m gonna review is actually something I started using about 4 years ago now, although it doesn’t feel like it! Funnily enough I bought one completely unaware that 3 years down the line I would be actively trying to avoid waste, I think I was attracted to the ease and savings.

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The Diva Cup is a menstrual cup, meaning that rather than using tampons or sanitary towels on my period, I simply insert this cup. For average flows you only have to empty twice a day (morning and evening). It took quite a few cycles to get used to exactly how to insert it properly and I had a few mishaps, but now I’ve got it down I’ll never go back!

Price:

I think I paid around £20 for my cup, which at the time was quite an expense. However, it pretty much pays for itself in a few months. I can’t even imagine how much money I’ve saved in 4 years- I actually don’t even remember how much pads cost!

Durability:

On their website, Diva Cup advise that you inspect your cup for signs of wear and assess for yourself when to replace it. I have had mine for pretty much bang on 4 years and I know plenty of people who’ve been using theirs for years as well. I do plan on replacing mine soon though.

Verdict (keep or move on?):

I would thoroughly recommend the Diva Cup as it is a perfect solution for waste-free periods. Even aside from the eco credentials, it has transformed the time of the month from having to be careful where I go and what I do to carrying on as normal, even swimming and playing vigorous sport. I don’t suffer from major pain generally on my period, but my level of discomfort has dramatically reduced since I stopped using toxic sanitary towels.

I am firmly committed to menstrual cups, but I plan on trying out another cup for a few reasons. 1) aspects of the design make it harder to keep clean than other cups 2) I want to find out if another shape/texture would suit me better. Basically I would go back to the Diva Cup, and use it for years to come, but I want to try other things.

Review: Unlocking the Cage (2016)

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Steven and an ape (Source)

Not too long ago I thought that animals didn’t deserve to be abused, but that was about as far as it went. What constituted a good and fair life? I had no idea. What made animals inferior to us in the first place? I sort of just borrowed arguments from wherever. I am now slowly coming to realise that they are far more intelligent and emotionally complex than I ever gave them credit for, and that regardless of their qualities in comparison with humans animals are fellow inhabitants of the earth and deserve autonomy and freedom in their own right.

This documentary follows lawyer Steven Wise and his team who set out to achieve legal recognition of personhood for several apes in New York in order to rescue them from inhumane treatment. Steven started off as a ‘regular’ lawyer before discovering his passion for defending the rights of animals. I had always admired people who worked with/for animals, but I used to think it was a luxury we could only afford to spend our time and money on when we’d sorted humans first, but Wise said something that struck a chord with me; that (speaking for developed countries at least) animals are the only group of beings that are tortured, killed and abused which the law often does nothing to prevent. It made me think about all the animals slaughtered for food, the ones kept in cages in zoos far from their natural habitats, ones that are forced to perform in shows etc. You can pretty much do what you want to most types of animals and there is little or no recourse.

We hear the stories of a handful of apes- all former performers, subjects of medical/scientific/cosmetic testing, and even ‘pets’ of loving owners who couldn’t see past their own needs to the needs of these apes who thrive independently in the wild with their own kind. We see the conditions they are kept in, and their obvious unhappiness. In the course of trying to find individuals to represent, Steven and his team find out several times that apes that they have chosen have died in captivity before the team is ready to take the case to court, which really hammers home why they needed urgent intervention in the first place.

Anyway, on to the hopeful news. The team manage to achieve legal personhood for a couple of apes which allows them to demand that they are released from confinement and live life in a sanctuary which respects their need to roam free in a situation as close to the wild as possible. These cases should make it easier to achieve a proper quality of life that takes into account the rights of the animal before the desires of any human in other circumstances with other species.

Two things I really loved about this documentary: no. 1- Their default way to describe animals was ‘non-human persons’. When you change the way you word things, you are changing the way you perceive them, and if you start to consider animals as persons everything changes. No. 2- The legal team could’ve gone down the route of trying to get the animal rights laws updated, but they decided to go down the harder route for the sake of future cases. By calling these apes people, you are not saying they should have the right to vote, but demanding that they receive the importance of say a child, who does not have the responsibilities of an adult, but is protected and valued all the same. Personhood will mean different things for each species, depending on what it means for them to have a full life and be properly protected.

Before I go on for years and years, basically I recommend you watch this even if you’re a little bit curious, because I was not expecting to get so much out of it but I did. If you’re in the UK it’s currently on iPlayer!