Archive for December, 2011

I have never donated blood, but this is something that I’d like to change. According to the NHS (National Health Service in the UK), blood can only be stored in hospitals for a relatively short time- 35 days for red blood cells, and only 5 days for platelets! Hence stocks need to be replenished constantly. In England, 7000-8000 people donate blood every day. Apparently, only 4% of people in England give blood regularly; the remaining 96% certainly depend on them! Blood transfusions are needed for people with severe anaemia, people with thalassaemia & sickle cell anaemia, pregnant women suffering from complications such as haemorrhage or ectopic pregnancies, some cancer patients, patients undergoing major surgery, as well as people who experience significant blood loss from an accident. The approximate proportions are outlined in the image below.

Bone marrow is the soft jelly-like tissue found within certain bones in your body. Stem cells are created in the bone marrow and they can differentiate into white blood cells and red blood cells. It is these stem cells that are important to individuals who have problems with their bone marrow such as people suffering from leukaemia or other immune diseases. According to the British Bone Marrow Registry, in 30% of these patients, a matched donor can be found within the patient’s family. The other 70% rely on a matched donor volunteer. The reality is that many people  who need bone marrow donations die every year because there are not enough donors. A bone marrow register is a list of people who are willing to donate bone marrow if required. There are two bone marrow registers in England, the Anthony Nolan register, a charity & the British Bone Marrow Register (which is part of the NHS). To join the register, a blood sample is taken and your tissue type is identified. I have been on the register for two years, but I have not been asked to donate; it all depends on if your tissue type matches with the individual in need. I was initially a bit apprehensive about being on the register, because apparently your hips sometimes feel sore afterwards (bone marrow is often taken from the pelvis under general anaesthetic). However, saving someone’s life is a great incentive to put up with a little bit of discomfort! More commonly, bone marrow cells are taken from circulating blood, which is not done under anaesthetic and is similar to giving blood. If you are interested in joining the bone marrow register, speak to a nurse next time you donate blood.

According to the NHS, only 29% of people in the UK have joined the organ donor register. Organs that can be donated after death include the lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, pancreas and small intestine, as well as tissues such as corneas, skin, bone, tendons, cartilage and heart valves. Recently, driving license applicants must answer a compulsory question regarding whether they wish to donate their organs after death. I think that is a very good thing, because it gets the public thinking about this important issue. In the UK, 1000 people die each year (in other words, 3 people per day) because there are not enough organs available. There is an ever increasing demand for transplants, partly caused by less healthy lifestyles e.g. adult onset diabetes associated with kidney failure. I was a little apprehensive initially about being on the organ donor register, but I now feel very comfortable with it; one day, many individuals will benefit from my donation.

There is a need to boost donor register membership among black and Asian communities, which comprise less than 2% of the register but more than a quarter of those awaiting transplants. This is because people from these communities are more likely to develop diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which are major causes of kidney failure.

I feel very passionate about this issue, and I would strongly encourage others to consider blood, bone marrow and organ donation. It is a very kind and easy way to help society. I really can’t imagine the pain that patients urgently requiring transplants must be going through; it must be horrific.

Further info can be found at






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The Cattery

So far, I have been to three animal shelters. The first one I visited was in Athens, Greece, which mainly looks after stray dogs, and some stray cats. I have also been to an RSPCA shelter in North London, which had a cattery, lots of dogs, rabbits, ponies and other animals. Yesterday, I visited a cattery in North London. I always enjoy visiting animal shelters because the animals are often very loving, and it is a joy to be with them- whether it is cleaning out their pens, taking them for walks or stroking them. However, there are always sad stories at shelters too which reflect the cruelty and fickleness of human nature. I met a black cat called Samantha, whose owner had died, and the cat’s son had died a little while after moving into the shelter. She was all alone in her pen, and looked very depressed. Her chances of being adopted are very slim because she is black (people prefer to adopt more colourful cats and overlook the black ones) and because she isn’t very affectionate (understandably, as she is feeling very down).

We spent an hour cleaning out litter trays, mopping the floors of the cat pens, providing fresh water and food, as well as stroking them. Some of them wanted to play fight with you, others wanted to jump on you and liked being carried around, others were content with a few pats, whilst others wanted to watch you from afar.

There are hundreds of cat and dog shelters in England, many of which are struggling due to the fact that more and more people are abandoning their cats and dogs (due to the recession), and more people are breeding their animals for profit (or because they think that puppies/kittens are cute & want to give them away to their friends). Additionally, there are some very dodgy breeders out there; not to mention puppy/kitten mills which often supply pet shops. These are commercial breeding facilities that operate with an emphasis on profit rather than animal welfare; as such they are often associated with horrific conditions for the pregnant females and offspring.

I am a huge fan of cats and dogs, but I cannot adopt any at the moment because I am a student and I do not have the stable lifestyle that such animals need. My parents have two dogs, Lassie and Marlowe (who was adopted 2 months ago). Lassie was a stray dog who we found in our neighbourhood, and Marlowe was adopted from the dog shelter. Both are very affectionate and loving dogs.

If I could have one xmas wish… I’d wish that no one would ever buy an animal from a breeder or pet shop ever again! I’d also wish that people would stop letting their animals have babies just to give away to friends; after all, those friends could have instead rescued an animal from a shelter instead!

Or, perhaps more realistically, I wish a new law would come in which would make breeders pay half their profits to their local animal shelters for the trouble they would undoubtably be causing them later on. And another law to prevent people buying animals from pet shops- instead, pet shops should act in a responsible manner and direct people to their nearest animal shelter.

How you can help animals in shelters:

1. If you want to adopt an animal, don’t buy one from a breeder/petshop or even adopt one from a friend. Instead, visit your local animal shelter and have a chat with one of the volunteers.

2.  Don’t be breedist! All animals are beautiful, whether they are mixed or pedigree. If you are determined to have a pedigree, they often pop up at shelters. Alternatively, ask the volunteers at the shelter which animal is in most need of a home; maybe its the animal that has been there the longest, or maybe it is an animal with black fur.

3. Talk to your friends and family about this issue, especially if they are considering breeding their animal. Encourage your friends and family to adopt animals from shelters!

4. Volunteer at your local shelter- it really is fun and educational- especially great for kids to develop respect for animals and an understanding as to why they can’t have a cute puppy or kitten; there are lots of older animals that need a loving home at shelters! That said though, shelters are often inundated with puppies and kittens.

5. Donate some money to your local shelter- they really are doing a fantastic job!  I can imagine that volunteering year after year and not seeing the problem improving in the slightest (in many cases, the problem worsens, as the recession has shown us) can soul crushing. To have the strength to go on, year after year, is something admirable!

6. Don’t support pet shops that sell animals; take your business elsewhere! Even if the pet shop are supplying animals from the most credible of breeders, they are still denying the chance of a shelter animal to find a loving home.

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This blog is an attempt to document my life as I try to live cruelty free. An impossible dream? Well, maybe, but I’d like to try. The term cruelty free is often associated with a vegan lifestyle. Although I do think that being vegan does eliminate a lot of cruelty, there’s more cruelty in life than just animal cruelty.

I decided to go vegan in 2009, and it is a choice that makes me happy every day since. For those of you that have not heard of veganism before, it is a lifestyle choice that aims to reduce animal suffering as much as possible. Vegans don’t eat animals or animal products, and don’t wear animal products or use any products that were tested on animals.

Shortly after I became vegan, I decided that I wanted to switch to natural personal care products. ‘Natural’ is a word that is unregulated in the personal care product industry. In other words, no stringent criteria need to be adopted for a product (e.g. moisturizer/shampoo/soap) to be labelled as ‘natural’. To me, a product that is natural does not necessarily have to come straight from the natural environment unadulterated. Rather, it is a product which does not cause any harm to wildlife, humans and the environment (e.g. rivers, lakes, seas etc) and can safely biodegrade. The vast majority of personal care products and cleaning products that I use are homemade and end up being cheaper than conventional options.

However, there are many other ways that I try to minimise the negative impact that I have as an individual on the environment, other people, and animals. It is a continuous challenge, and I am constantly trying to outdo myself; it is also something that I enjoy greatly & which has given a lot of meaning to my life.

I hope this blog will be informative and enjoyable to read! 🙂

P.S. I drew the squirrel on a tablet.

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