Our Ethical Policies (A-Z)
Air miles/Food miles
Some of our products are imported from America, via a distributor. The distributor, which we use has strong environmental policies, uses 100% renewable energy, offsets their travel and uses only reused packaging. They always try to import by boat ship rather than plane. We would prefer to sell locally made products, however, the products that come from America are simply not all available from UK suppliers at this time. If you would like to set up an Ethical Pet business manufacturing in the UK, please, get in touch!
Animal Based Imports from The Netherlands
Our meat pet food, Yarrah, is imported from the Netherlands. There is a no other alternative available up to the same standard anywhere. This situation is actually quite complicated, and it took us a while to make our choice:
As Vegans, we were uncomfortable about selling meat, and so set to work researching who had the highest welfare standards. When we did our research in 2011, it seemed as if even the most ethical British pet food companies were not interested in, for example, slaughter house policy or CCTV provision. Even Organic food producers, who will usually strive for very high welfare standards, didn’t seem very knowledgeable about the details of slaughter - unfortunately there was/is no obligation in the UK for "Organic" pet food to actually be fully Organic, therefore, unless the company actively looks into it, there is no way to tell if the added ethical benefits of the "organically certified" slaughter process (e.g. food and water/short wait in the slaughter house) are adhered to.
So we looked further afield, and Yarrah seemed to be the answer, when we asked them about the welfare during slaughter, we were informed that they even do an annual audit of all the slaughterhouses AND the farms they use! While they do not specifically look into human or animal welfare issues, they have photographic evidence of the higher quality of life assured by the organic certification - and ALL their slaughterhouses use CCTV.
To date (2017) we do not feel that any other pet food company comes close to this level of diligance.
However, their ingredients are sourced at carefully selected producers from throughout the world so there are additional food miles involved.
We would really have liked to have sold only British meat, and some day soon, when British legislation changes and companies will be legally obliged to prove their products are Organic, the British companies might move a little closer the the standards that Yarrah so carefully keep....
In the mean time, however, it seems wholly unacceptable to be called Ethical Pets while buying meat from companies who have no slaughterhouse policy and don't check and double check that the animals used to make their food are well treated in life - and in death.
Therefore, for now, the food-miles must regrettably stay.
Vegetable Based Imports from The Netherlands.
Antos treats are made in the Netherlands too: by feeding your dog meat-free treats, you can reduce your carbon paw print a lot. While shipping from abroad is not ideal, it is still arguably better for the environment than using meat unnecessarily, and the dogs love them just the same.
At Ethical Pets, we bank with The Cooperative Bank & Triados, because of their high quality Ethical Policies. We use paypal to process transactions from our website an over the phone.
We also bank with the Cooperative for our personal accounts too; for more info see investments and savings.
Big and Small Companies
At Ethical Pets, we like to work with small companies, local companies and family run enterprises. It's always nice to talk to the owner directly, plus this keeps money circulating which benefits everyone.
It's a tough call to chose between biodegradable bags (made from corn) and degradable plastic (such as Biothene).
Corn based bags take land away from food production in a world were we have starving people and you can't. Plus, if you send them to landfill they might not degrade very well and can produce methane (Biodegradation without oxygen = methane). Also, there is a high proportion of GM corn used, or so we have heard.
Degradable plastic can be made from recycled plastics and it does not produce methane in landfill if/when it decomposes; but like all plastics, it is still made from fossil fuels. Accounts of what is left after degradation vary too: some say just inert minerals and some say that there isn't even such thing as degradable plastic. The only really ethical option is recycled cardboard... but you cant scoop your poop with that! Hopefully there will be a solution to this problem soon... if anyone wants to make some postal bags/poop bags made from WASTE plant material (left over bits from food production) we would buy them by the lorry-load!
In the end, we decided to start with stocking degradable plastic poo bags because most will go into landfill - and methane is a much bigger threat than CO2. The amount of recycled content in them varies at the moment, which is frustrating, so we are looking for alternatives.
We also have some degradable postal bags which degrade, AND are made from recycled plastic. They can be reused many times too. Where possible, however, we will use card and paper to pack.
At Ethical Pets, we mostly use Free, Libre and Open Source Softwar (Floss). In addition to this, we only use file types which company with Open Standards.
Free software guarantees four fundamental freedoms for the user: the freedom to use; study; change and distribute the software for what ever reason/purpose the user wishes.
Common examples include Firefox web-browser, Libre Office/Open office and Ubuntu the Operating system - but there are literally millions of options out there. We use fedora operating system, Firefox browser, Thunderbird email client, WordPress blog, Owncloud for cloud storage and Piwik & Mautic for Analytics and marketing. We use Gimp and Incskape for design work and KDEnlive for video. The webshop software itself (Thirtybees, formerly presashop) is Open Source too!
We choose to use Free Software & Open Standards because:
- It keeps money away from unethical companies like Microsoft and Apple
- There is no "small print" regarding use in business or certain counties
- Propriety software (non-free software) is only licensed to you when you buy it, you don't own it. This means you must abide by the publishers rules, even if those rules are wrong.
- Some big software companies, such as Microsoft, have been exploiting charities, schools and government institutions for years: free copies to start with, and then you have to pay or lose everything! They have also done a lot of damage to our Tech education in the UK. Now we have Raspberry Pi to the rescue (also open source!!)
- It's MUCH more sustainable - you can keep old computers in use for a very very long time.
- Open standards allow anyone and everyone to work together, regardless of wealth, nationality or software vendor. In the physical world open standards like the voltage in our plug sockets or the width of our train tacks make the world function smoothly: the same rules should apply in the digital world.
If you would like a disk with some of this wonderful software on, please let us know and we will pop one in with your order!
Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels.
Our own supplier is Good Energy, the only 100% renewable energy supplier. We also have a gas oven, which is also supplied by Good Energy.
We make sure, to the extent of our knowledge and the extent of availability, that the products we sell are sustainable and of low environmental impact, and that the companies producing them have good policies. We would also like to encourage our customers to reduce pet food waste and to consider feeding a vegan or semi-vegan diet. We will try our best to balance growing our business and promoting our products with encouraging sustainability: we do feel that a big part of this is selling better quality long-lasting products which won't need replacing as often.
Most of our products are free from fossil fuels. The exceptions are the Zogoflex range, which is super tough and recyclable. The other toy ranges, which are less suited to chewy-dogs are either made from recycled plastic or are plastic free.
We oppose fracking!
Investments and Savings
Currently we have savings with the cooperative bank, the Marsden (local building society) and have invested money in the Phone Coop. Our Mortgage is from Nationwide. We chose all of these organizations because they are more ethical than others.
We do not invest (directly and as far as we know) in anything unethical by our own personal standards. The only time we have knowingly invested money in anything not vegan in meat is by investing in our own company, which sells some Yarrah products (see meat) and by paying our web-developer, who is is not vegan. By investing with the coop, we know no money has been given to animal testing facilities or weapons manufacture etc, but cannot guarantee that the money is all veganly spent.
Having consulted both the Cooperative Insurance, and Ecclesiastical Insurance, and found that neither could not offer a policy for our sort of company, we got a quote for a local broker at Buckland Harvester. They found us cover with International Insurance Company of Hanover via Oxygen Insurance. Hanover have extensive ethical policies regarding, governance, employees, social commitment, environment and reporting - all viewable on their website
Manufacturing standards/Supply Chain
We always ask our suppliers about where and by whom their products are made and would not sell the product had we not had a satisfactory answer.
For non food products: we favor products made directly/on site by the company selling them, as these have the most guaranteed standards of manufacture. We also prefer products made in the UK, because these are less likely to be made in sweatshops/by children and we are more familiar with what UK law offers workers. The same applies for products made in the USA. We never supply products where there is no assurance of good standards in the supply chain, or where the goods are made in an unspecified location.
For food products: we prefer vegan foods, because they do not have any slaughter houses in their supply chain. Slaughter houses have notoriously bad working conditions and rely heavily on vulnerable migrant workers: from a human rights perspective, meat food should really be avoided where possible. Because not all pets can/will eat vegan food, and not all owners are convinced of its qualities (try as we might!) we supply the most ethically produced meat food that we can, from one very trusted company - Yarrah - who audit their slaughterhouses in person. While Yarrah do not audit specifically for human rights issues, they do visit in person, which seems a better guarantee than no audit at all.
As vegans, who believe that killing animals for food is not okay, we found the decision to sell meat very difficult, even though we have fed all of our pets meat at various points. To consider actively advertising and promoting the sale of meat based products, however, was a whole new dilemma.
However, as an ethical company, we understand that it is our responsibility to help a wide range people to shop ethically, including those who cannot or do not choose a vegan diet for their pet. Within the spectrum of meat foods available there is a huge variety in the ethical standards, and even within the "Ethical" range, there seems to be a lot of complexity. We really wanted to help people who need/wish to feed their pet on meat, but care about how the food is made, to cut through the jargon and sales tactics so they can actually make a difference with the money that they spend... and we really do believe that we have found the most ethical option that there is. Therefore, in the end, the welfare of "farm" animals is improved. Its not perfect, but its better.
We do, however, encourage people to by vegan foods - even if not exclusively. We go to as many Vegan fairs as we can and do special offers on vegan foods as part of national or international vegan and vegetarian events. We are planing an ongoing vegan pet food samples offer at the moment, which we hope will attract many more people to switch over. We also rarely advertise or market our meat food specifically.
We love organic.
Organic food is better for the environment: destroying the planet is such an obvious false economy... how are we going to feed ourselves when the soil has lost all its nutrients and all the bees are dead!?
Organic is also better for people; there are human welfare standards included in organic certification - its not just about chemicals.
Organic is better for animals; not just the insects and birds, not just the ecosystem, but for the farm animals and, of course, for your pet. Slaughter is regulated more closley and nasty additives are prohibited. Essentially: its all good!
We also love conservation grade and stock free Organic / Veganic farming too, but there are not any pet products from these farming method yet: watch this space!
Postage and Packaging
We use recycled cardboard and paper to pack most of our orders. We use bubble wrap, choosing "reused" first and then using new stuff when we are out of that. We use some degradable recycled plastic bags to pack single bag food orders, please see biodegradable for more info. Please reuse all your packaging!
We try not to make profit on the postage, our prices are as low as they can be. However as a small company we do not always get the best rates. We try to spread the costs as much as we can so everyone gets the best deal.
We chose well established couriers for the majority of our items. This is usually via My Hermes and DPD Local. We take many parcels to a local drop off point to avoid further road miles.
We also use Royal Mail where we can, mostly for small lighter items, as they have established routes (and we like nationalization!).
When we are a bigger company and can get cheaper postage by bulk buying, we will think about going solely with royal mail for environment reasons, but for now, its too expensive (for you and for us!)
Personal life; Diet, Shopping, Animals and Charity Giving.
We are both Vegan, and have been since 2009. We were both vegetarian for almost all of our lives before that. We are Vegan because we don't want animals to be killed or treated badly, and we make some exceptions in our diet that some other vegans might disagree with very strongly: for example we sometimes eat eggs from (and ONLY from) hens kept by a Anna mum. The hens are wholly out of the farming system, will not be killed when they stop laying, and have a large and wonderful garden to live in, which includes both woodland and lawn.
We also try and buy Organic as much as we can, and try and buy soya which is certifiably not from the rainforest. Our coffee and tea is always Fair Frade, we usually buy fruit rather than fruit juice and we buy very little imported fresh food.
Mostly we shop in charity shops (but not those charities that fund animal testing). We buy our toiletries and cleaning products from The Coop, Superdrug or Sainsburys - so they are non-tested and BUAV approved. They new stuff we do buy is as ethical and local as we can make it.
We have a lot of pets and they are all rescue animals. We don't buy animals from breeders and try and look after the ones no-one else wants, the older and smellier the better! One day we hope to set up an animal sanctuary, particularly one that can neuter and care for unwanted roosters.
Pets v Companion Animals
Anna, being all Northern, prefers the word pet: it's a term of endearment up here and not a term of subjugation! Joe, being more radical (and less Northern) prefers companion animal as the name for the animals who live with us.
While we are aware that the term companion animal can encourage humans to see their animal friend as more like an equal, and less like object, we are also aware that the term can confuse and alienate people who are doing their best to be ethical and love their pets very much. We really want to encourage a broader uptake of ethical "pet" shopping for the benefit of all animals, and so have decided that for now, the most widely understood term will best help us achieve this.
Phone, Internet, Hosting
We use the Phone Coop for our internet and land-line, but our web-shop server is on another provider. We have one mobile with the Phone Coop and one with Giffgaff. We use Green Net for our server hosting, an amazing organization for sure!
Privacy, Marketing & Analytics
Recycling and Recycled
Household and office
We recycle basically everything in our house, even awkward stuff like plastic films and CD's. We also compost.
Most of our office equipment is second hand. We also buy almost exclusively second-hand (recycled) household goods, furniture, clothes, white goods etc. We give items to a local charity shop when needed. When we do buy new, we try to by good quality products, use them well and pass them along if we don't need them any more.
Many of our products are recyclable, and most come with recycled packaging etc. We find that ethical companies make a lot of effort with this.
Testing on Animals
Some animal foods and most animal medicines are tested on animals in an invasive and often deadly way - None of our products are tested in this way; the only way they are tested is to see if the animal likes them etc. Pet Remedy and a great example of Ethical Testing, they test their products scientifically in animal sanctuaries and the home environment.