Ethical Buisness: Ethical Life. Vol 3.

Welcome tEBEL logoo Ethical Business: Ethical Life – we aim to showcase the people behind the amazing Ethical Businesses we meet through running Ethical Pets.This third edition is about Tanya Vaughan, an interior designer from Lincolnshire. We met Tanya only a few weeks ago, when she bought one of our Eco Donut beds for her dog Wrighty – we got to chatting and well… as you can see, she is pretty inspiring!

When did you start your ethical business, what are your ethical principles and how do they guide and motivate you?

I hadn’t set out specifically to start an ethical business, or indeed a business at all! I had been decorating and designing houses for years without stopping to think about it, from digging my own drainage trenches (never again…) to shipping a huge pair of doors back from Morocco, to mount on a wall. It took a long time to twig that I should transform this passion into a business.

picture of design plans
Tracing paper plans - recyclable!

The idea was easy enough, having run my own market research business for a number of years, and the only challenge was my confidence – essentially putting myself on the line. What if no-one likes my ideas? The answer to that, in my business, is very easy – they just won’t hire you. The ones who do like it, will. A nerve-wracking realization.

For me, running my business ethically has just been a natural integration of what I do at home, and taking that into the workplace. From printing as little as possible, to choosing FSC certified paper for my letterhead or paying a little bit extra for green energy, the way I do everyday tasks translate very well from home to business. My studio is a couple of minutes walk from home, and I live in Stamford, which is a bustling and cosmopolitan market town with a wealth of independent shops, and small businesses to serve me, all within walking distance.

In re-designing a house, a room,  considering knocking an existing building down and starting again, you begin to take notice of how much can get discarded, whether it’s an old chair, a cheap sofa that was bought as a stop-gap, or the bricks & mortar of a 1950s bungalow making way for a sleek and contemporary family home. You certainly notice new things. Some of them are utterly gorgeous. Clients want them.  So in an arena where the acquisition of things seemingly plays such key role, I ask myself all the time, how can I make this sustainable?

So, how do you make designs sustainable?

Fundamentally, I support good design. Good design means a lot of things. What it doesn’t mean to me is spending money for it’s own sake, to brag, show-off, or provide fleeting excitement and interest only to be discarded when the next thing comes along. There are products designed specifically to attract these people. I am not interested, and I won’t recommend them to clients. I am also unlikely to be dealing with that kind of client! I am constantly on the lookout for vintage and antique pieces, re-using what already exists in the world, sometimes with an update, sometimes used in a different way to which it was intended. When looking at anything new, I am interested in products that are designed with a lot of thought, that are made by people who are paid a fair wage for what they do.  I look for products that are designed with longevity in mind, so that they will be kept for a very long time – even if that means being sold or given to someone else. Because if they are not, they only end up in one place – landfill.

The most important thing about the fabric of any building is how it stores and uses energy. So regardless of whether it’s made of timber, concrete, steel, or glass, how that structure retains heat, or keeps out heat, is key. This is one of the most sustainable aspects of building, and taken in it’s wider sense, can mean things like putting in large glass panels with specifications that far exceed the regulations, which not only keep the heat in, but positioned correctly, can let more sunlight in in the winter to help heat the room inside. Making it nice and toasty inside is one thing, given the right design and materials, a sustainable building is one that is going to serve it’s purpose for a very long time to come, contributing positively to the lives of the people who use it.

Describe an average day in the life of you.

I generally get up any time from 6, as I have so much to do. It’s a luxury to sit with a cup of tea in PJs answering emails or checking information on-line and watching the sun come up, particularly if I am staying in Norfolk to oversee the project that is taking up most of my time at the moment, where a blue jay and a woodpecker shout loudly on the trees outside the kitchen window.

photo of Wrighty the dog
Wrighty. Now 14, he is a bit deaf and grey round the chops...

I can be working on plans, whether its working out wall thicknesses for bespoke door frames, or drawing elevations, or I can be chasing sub-contractors, checking quotes, placing orders, or sourcing lighting or furniture. Site visits involve warm clothes, a tape measure and a sense of humor – there is always something to throw a spanner in the works! If something really hasn’t gone to plan, then a blast on the beach with the mutt usually de-stresses me and I can come back with a clear head to think through a creative solution. Having a project in such lovely countryside is a fundamental part of how I want the business to continue – being able to stay here for several days a week to project manage is such a treat. When the sun hits the sand dunes and the salt marsh, with the grasses rustling and the colors all greys and greens, I have no desire to jet away to remote shores.

wedding photo
On Tanya's Wedding... "We used local suppliers for almost everything, even the deck chairs that people sat on during the ceremony."

I regularly get out and about searching for stuff – fabric, furniture, light fittings, and often find myself at antiques fairs, or dealers’ showrooms to view something in particular that might work for a specific room. I always love getting something old into a scheme, and love being part of the decorative industry that finds value in these beautifully crafted objects with all of their history and patina of age. Sometimes this means working with a designer-maker directly, for example here in Norfolk I have found wonderful craftspeople making wall hangings, a pottery that makes ceramic pendant lights, even the builders, who might not have built a wall with that finish before, but working together we make it happen and we haven’t had to either compromise on the design, or ship in some expensive and unnecessary expertise or product from elsewhere – my first stop is always local craftsmen and tradespeople.

Any words of wisdom?

Put your flag in the ground, stand tall and be passionate about your business. In the words of Aung San Suu Kyi “If you have chosen a certain path ..walk it with satisfaction and with determination and try not to make it appear as a tremendous sacrifice…Whatever you do out of your own free will, that should be a gift that you give to life or to those whom you love”

 

Tanya’s website is having a little makeover at the moment, but check out her Facebook and Twitter to see more of her amazing designs and wonderful, ethical, life. Here is what Tanya had to say about Ethical Pets:

“I just wanted to say how impressed I am by your ethical policy statement. Most ethical policies I have read seem a bit vague.. yours is so comprehensive regarding all aspects of your business and personal lives. I will be forwarding your website address to many friends I know who will be really interested!”

The Paw Report Report – Vol.1

The new PAW Report, by PDSA and YouGov, lifts the lid on some of the most concerning pet health and welfare issues facing UK pets today. With sections focusing on Diet, Behavior, Health and Ownership, their is lots to read and talk about. This is our review of Section 1 of the report: Food in Focus.

The statistics which really jumped out at me from this part of the report are that that only 3% of dog owners can identify the ideal healthy shape of a dog when shown a range of images and that 56% of cat owners with an overweight cat believe that their cat’s shape is as it should be. Are you one of them? Despite how many people are unsure about their pets weight, people seem well informed about the consequences of chubby pets – fat related diseases and a shorted life span. Somehow, we have learned that fat is bad, but not what fat looks like: checkout our quiz below to see if you can pick out the pets with a healthy figure.

Another worrying issue is that many Rabbit owners are feeding their bunnies incorrectly: remember, rabbit muesli is just for a treat – bunnies should eat at least their own body size in hay or grass each day for their main course, and then just a little muesli and/or fresh veg for pudding.

cat and dog weight quiz

click for answers

Click to see the Paw Report and weight guides for cats and dogs.

Pet Food: Why Organic?

 

What does “organic” mean in relation to pet food?

 

 

Animal Welfare: For Yarrah as an organic pet food company, the most important aspect of organic agriculture is the very high regard for animal welfare. Poultry, cattle and fish form the basis of our premium Nature’s Finest pet food. It is therefore crucial that these animals are treated with dignity and respect. Organic agriculture guarantees that poultry and cattle have room to move and grow at a natural rate in an environment that minimizes stress. Because regulation regarding organic fish do not meet our standards of animal welfare, Yarrah has decided to switch to MSC-fish (read our statement!).
Nothing artificial: Yarrah does not add any chemical colorings, aromatic substances or flavorings. We do not use artificial preservatives: we preserve our dry food with vitamin E and rosemary extracts. For our wet food we use precise temperatures for sterilization. These steps ensure that the valuable vitamins and minerals are not broken down during production.
Our natural and organic recipes contain all the required vitamins, minerals, proteins and amino acids a dog or cat requires in the correct proportions. All of our products are made from certified organic materials in compliance with EU Regulations for Organic Products. The Dutch organic hallmark (EKO) issued by Skal is the guarantee for the organic origin and manufacture of the products.

All certified organic ingredients are completely traceable to the source. All the organic materials are constantly monitored from start to finish ensuring they meet our stringent requirements. To be sure all the ingredients are 100% organic, Yarrah buys all the ingredients themselves. To give this 100% guarantee the Quality manager of Yarrah visits the producers personally; the larger ones at least once a year, the smaller once at least every other year.

No animal testing: Yarrah deliberately rejects any and all animal testing. Any palatability tests (to gauge the pets acceptance of the product) are carried out in the pets natural home setting. Yarrah does not allow any of our foods to be tested using either captive animals or invasive testing techniques. This has some consequences for our health claims. We cannot claim that our products have beneficial influences for your pet. Luckily there are many people who are very happy with our products and are willing to tell this to others.
Alternative testing: How do we test our products? Simple: if we want to introduce a new flavour or a new product, we ask about 100 dog or cat owners to feed the new product to their pet. Of course none of the ingredients has a health risk, so it is absolutely safe for the pet to eat the new product. If they like the product, we will adopt the new product. We are proud that we can use the logo of the Dutch Society against animal testing.

Why organic pet food? Is it better for our pets?

 

 

 

Yes, organic pet food is better than conventional pet food because what it does NOT have. A dog in general is not very picky when it comes to food. If the food smells good, the dog will eat it. There is a reason that most if not all dogs will always eat (high end) conventional food, the added chemical scents or fragrances that are applied ensure this.

The second reason that organic is better is the lack of preservatives. Conventional dog food is preserved with chemical preservatives to give the food a longer sell by date. Organic pet food has a short shelf life because no chemical preservatives are applied. Natural/organic antioxidants such as rosemary extracts are used instead.Are these chemical fragrances and preservatives really healthy for dogs? Probably not. Can these chemicals cause irritations in dogs? Maybe, but why risk it when they can be avoided.
Arguing that the organic grain and meat ingredients being better than conventional can be controversial. There are many studies that prove organic agriculture produces higher quality, more nutritious products, but there are also studies that claim there are no differences. What organic pet food CAN guarantee is that there are no chemical pesticide residues, genetically modified organisms or pharmaceutical residues in the food.
Organic pet food, at least in Yarrah’s case, also guarantees that we do not use bones, feathers, hooves, blood or other cheap fillers in our products.
Does organic food improve animal welfare for farm animals and wild animals (too)?
Organic farm animals are treated much better than animals in the conventional farming industry. An organic chicken for instance lives twice as long and has over 16 times more space to live on and is able to go outside. The beef Yarrah uses, are completely  grass-fed so no tropical forest have to be cut to grow soy. Organic farmers do not use dangerous pesticides, so also small rodents and useful insects like bees are not harmed.
What changes would Yarrah like to see in the pet food industry? Where would you like pet food to be in 100 years?

 

 

The first thing other pet food producers should stop doing, is testing their food on animals in kennels. A dogs life should not be used in this way; it has a right to have a normal life among people in a family.
The next step should be informing the customer truthfully about their products and where the ingredients come from. It is a terrible idea that people do not know that they are feeding their pets with meat of animals that are kept in small cages, with no room to live.
In 100 years, but hopefully much sooner, all pet owners will get the message that harming one animal to feed another is not acceptable. They will demand to know what is in their pet food, they will realize that chemical flavors, fragrances and colors are not needed, and will pick their brand of pet food purely on quality standards and not the amount of marketing budget a brand has available.

An Interview with The Fox Project

What is The Fox Project?

The Fox Project is a wildlife hospital, information bureau and humane deterrence consultancy, all specializing in the Red Fox.

 

What does The Fox Project have planned for 2013?

Pretty much going on as we are. Last year, we moved into a new wildlife hospital, which took everything up a notch. It would be nice if we could have a quiet year – time and space to settle in.

Is that likely?

No! Last year we admitted 640 casualty foxes and THAT was a quiet year, possibly because the fox population fell slightly – a natural phenomena with self-regulating species like the fox. But we normally take in around 750 per year and I expect 2013 will be typical.

Is the new wildlife hospital making a difference to what you can do?

Yes. The Fox Project has struggled for 20 years with converted premises, spending valuable funds on annual renovations just to stand still. We’ve always prided ourselves on hygiene and efficiency but it’s so much easier when everything is new and designed for the purpose.

I suppose spring, when the cubs are born, is your busiest period?

We usually receive around 250 cubs along with all the adult foxes. Vixens are only in season for three days a year, all around the same time. Because of that concentration, half the year’s patient intake arrives in one quarter of the year! The majority are rescued by our three wildlife ambulance drivers and 40 local volunteer rescuers. Others come from RSPCA and organizations outside our area that don’t have suitable facilities.

What happens with the cubs? How do you get them back to the wild when they’ve become accustomed to humans?

Even those brought up on the bottle usually revert to wild by the time they’re twelve weeks old. Humans are useful in that they bring food and water and change the sawdust but that’s their only real purpose! But of course, we have a well-regulated program to prevent and undo bonding between cubs and humans. We must have this, or they could go back to the wild trusting people and that’s not in their best interest.

How do you feel about the adverse publicity some newspapers give to foxes?

Without wanting to sound like a conspiracy theorist, some of those papers have a pro-hunting agenda and support repeal of the Hunting Act. We always do what we can try to investigate stories about foxes attacking people and no case thus far stands up to scrutiny. There’s usually a hidden agenda, like wanting the local authority to remove foxes from someone’s property – which, as foxes are not classified as ‘vermin’, councils are not legally obliged to do. Sometimes it’s an attempt to divert attention from an attack on a child by the family’s own pet and to avoid the media shame that would inevitably follow. But the most common fears are based on simple misunderstandings.

How do you combat that misunderstanding?

Years before we opened a wildlife hospital The Fox Project was a fox information bureau. It still is, and an important aspect of that is to make knowledge of the species readily available. Like so much in life, it’s an ongoing battle of truth and reality v. myth and prejudice.

So why the fox?

It’s an admirable survivor, intelligent, resourceful, adaptable, humorous, good natured and beautiful – traits we might admire in the best of people. It has suffered too long from ignorance and superstition. We owe it.

 

 

 

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Ethical Pet of the Month – Feb 2013

Ethical Pet of the Month Logo

Bear and Flo

Ethical Pets of the Month, February 2013

A Few words from Jojo, Flo and Bears guardian.

My daughter and I re-homed Bear after he had 3 previous owners during the first 11 months of his life – he had been returned to the the original breeders and then been bought ‘on impulse’. He was there for 2 weeks before this owner put him up to be re-homed again. He was a nervous little fella, although bonded with my daughter and myself immediately. He showed signs of being afraid of men, and was fiercely protective of us, so we took him for a few sessions with an amazing dog communicator and healer called Julia Meads, who worked wonders – Bear and I both literally floated out of those sessions!

photo of Bear and Flo
“Our Pekingese x Pomeranian (left) is called Bear and our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (right) is called Little Miss Florrie Belle, shortened to Flo.”

We re-homed Flo when she was 14 weeks old from a really lovely family. They were finding having a puppy around quite stressful following a family bereavement – it was a hard decision for them to make, but at the end of the day they simply wanted her to go to a loving home who could provide her with everything she needed. She adores Bear and they are always together.

Bear will be 3 years old in April and is a big ‘toy and cuddles’ fan. They are best of friends: for example, if you throw a toy for them both, Flo will always get there first but she will always let Bear pick it up! He will return his favourite toy, a soft squeaky bagel (slightly random dog toy, I have to say!), and prod you with it to encourage you to throw it again. He is ‘fluff on a stick’ and has to be groomed constantly which he adores… he only has to spot his brush and he’s on his back! He gets a lot of attention on our walks, children have asked “is he a cat?” and “is he a lion?”!

Flo is now 14 months old and LOVES LIFE! She is full of energy, LOVES her food, she ‘sings’ when excited: she is inquisitive, clever and funny. She will happily sit and watch the television, especially if there are animals on the screen. Her party piece is her ‘commando crawl’ across the floor, always first thing in the morning. She’s a bit of a tease too and often wafts her bum around Bear’s face to get his attention – she has even been seen to do it to our cat, Blackie. She has very long legs, she’s often referred to as Tigger because she bounces up and down – especially when I’m serving up her dinner!
Flo and Bear are just so much fun, so loving… simply perfect companions. They encourage me to get out and about, as they are walked 3 time a day, and we have made some lovely friends this way. They make my day, EVERY day.

Jojo on the Ethical Pets products:
Every day they have a Vegan Mini Toothbrush on return from their morning walk, helping to keep their nashers clean, the cat usually appears at this point too! We have also tried them both on a couple of types of vegan wet food, after attending one of Anna’s inspirational talks on Vegan pets, and seeking her personal advice as they are both pretty sensitive when it comes to what I feed them. The vegan wet food wasn’t 100% successful, a few upset-tummies etc, but the Benevo Vegan Small Dog Dried Food is going okay so far! Also, we love the Wild Olive Tea-Tree Soap Bars – I have had to wash them twice this weekend due to the snow melting – I have never seen them so dirty – but now they both smell divine and their fur feels amazing! It’s much better than the shampoos and conditioners we used to get from the local pet shop 🙂

JoJo x

About JoJo
JoJo, and her daughter Amber Lily, have lived in Abingdon, Oxfordshire for 2 years. She yearned to live in a rural environment, closer to her family and somewhere for Amber Lily to grow up within a friendly, safe community. Jojo works from home as a freelance graphic designer. Once fully installed in the countryside, she seized the opportunity to get a couple of new additions to he family – and now enjoys beautiful river-side and county walks with Amber Lily, Bear and Flo. The dogs are also a big fan of Jojo’s partner John, who they see as their “big play thing!”