Wednesday 20 February 2019

National Love Your Pet Day

This year, the unofficial occasion of ‘Love Your Pet’ day falls on a Wednesday.

Now, we don’t need to tell you to love your pet, but the day serves us all as a reminder of the personalities in those furry friends, and their needs and wants.

You can show extra appreciation in any small way today, whether it be taking a slower walk, so that your dog can enjoy the different sights and scents they encounter, or learning how to give your pet a veterinarian approved massage. Maybe you're a dab hand in the kitchen, and you want to learn how to make homemade treats for your four-legged companion.

For those of us without pets at home, you can show your gratitude by volunteering at a rescue centre or animal charity near you. This is a fantastic way to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged pets, as well as helping out the team of humans!

If you'd like some thoroughly researched information, from field experts and experienced pet owners, look no further than Hubble & Hattie publishing; promoting compassion, understanding and respect between all animals since 2009. Since then, many more books have been added to the range, all of them with the same underlying objective: to be of real benefit to the species they cover.

Our pets are under our charge for all of their life, and for all the unconditional love they offer us, we think it’s quite fitting to dedicate this day to giving a little more of our time and patience to our animal friends. So whether yours is tall or short, shaggy or smooth, big or small – we love them all!

Here's to happy pets and compassionate owners, Happy Love Your Pet Day!

Friday 15 February 2019

Fur-Free Fashion Week 2019

London Fashion Week 2019

It’s very nearly time for the fashionistas of the world to see where the world of fashion will take its inspiration for Spring/Summer 2019. 

In 2018, LFW declared that its Autumn/Winter exhibition would be entirely fur-free. A bold move by designers such as Burberry, Gucci, Armani, Versace and others, who have historically used the material liberally in their collections, to emphasise the premium quality of their brands. 

As Gucci’s CEO, Marco Bizzarri, announced “fur is no longer modern,” so other designers are working on innovating, in the anticipation of trends that are being led by consumers. The cruelty-free movement has been applying pressure to high-fashion names for decades, but it has taken bold strokes by the biggest names to turn the tide, with fashion power-house Chanel going even further in winter 2018 by banning not only fur, but all exotic skins from its product lines.

Well-known animal rights advocate Stella McCartney has always made a statement with her designer clothing brand, vowing to never use leather, skin, fur or feathers in any products, making it known to the world of fashion and animal welfare, that she will continue to make animal, and environmentally-friendly products a priority in premium fashion. 

This dedication to innovation led to the birth of Stella McCartney's ‘bio-acetate’ eyewear, and a vegan training shoe/sneaker in partnership with Adidas. This is nothing new from the ethically-conscious mogul but partnerships with other, more accessible brands, such as Adidas, are an important step in bringing the issues to the forefront of a wider audience. Online brand Asos announced its commitment to remove silk, cashmere and mohair from products featured on its website.

So, how to tell if fur is real or fake? Firstly, don’t be under the illusion that cheap, high street items cannot be real fur. Sadly, animals used for fur in some parts of the world are raised in such poor conditions that items such as coat trims, bobbles on winter hats, and even keyring pom-poms from affordable retailers have been revealed as real fur. Follow these tips to be sure that what you are purchasing is synthetic.

  1. Examine the tips of the individual hairs; the tips will come to a point like a needle if the fur is real. The ends will be blunt, where the material has been cut, if it is faux fur.
  2. The base material should clearly be either fabric, with an identifiable weave if you’re looking at fake fur, whereas real fur will be set in pelt.
  3. Maybe not a method to try in the shop; burn a fibre slowly. Real fur will singe and smell like burning human hair. Synthetic fibres will melt. If you’re still not sure at this stage, it’s probably a good idea to leave the item on the shelf – better that than unknowingly buying real fur and contributing to the quick-and-dirty fur trade.

Autumn/Winter London Fashion Week was just the beginning for ethical fashion, with plant-based materials taking an increasingly larger place on the runway. Hopefully the collections of Spring/Summer 2019 will continue to prove the importance of animal welfare in fashion.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Dying for breath

Dog breeds have always been subject to the fashions of the day. While originally selectively bred for traits that were useful for survival – hunting, retrieving, guarding, etc – few would be recognisable today, even to people from just a handful of decades ago.  Whether it’s breeding a leaner, faster racer, or a cuter, smaller, lap dog, humans have chosen the most attractive traits (to them), and fine-tuned them. 

In many cases, dogs’ visual traits have become the overriding selector in breeding, as visually appealing animals – or fashionable – sell quicker and for more money. This is causing some huge problems in the dogs themselves, particularly with brachycephalic breeds.

Brachycephalic breeds are those with flat faces; it literally means ‘shortened head.' Pugs, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and many more, are all examples of brachycephalic dogs. Biologically, brachycephalic faces are the result of an undersized upper jaw, but in dogs, both upper and lower jaws are affected, and whilst the jaw is small, the tissues are of a normal size (for the given dog). This results in constricted airways and a propensity to suffer from a range of dangerous conditions collectively termed Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS).

You might be surprised to know that every brachycephalic dog suffers from some form of BAS, as well as being vulnerable to more dangerous conditions. The obvious symptoms, and those that you’ll recognise in many flat-faced breeds, are snorting, snoring, noisy breathing, and overheating (brachycephalic dogs can’t pant effectively). The less obvious symptoms are multiple and life-threatening. Battersea vets state that what some dogs experience is “the equivalent of us breathing through a drinking straw.” Imagine how it feels to go for walk, a jog, a run, or out on a hot day whilst only breathing through a straw.

BAS not only worsens with exercise, but also over time, and older dogs will have a greater likelihood of life-threatening conditions developing. There are other complications, too, that are not so well known, from eye diseases and dental problems, to repeated skin infections and an inability to give birth naturally.

The British Veterinary Association has been warning people not to buy flat-faced breeds since 2016, but there has been a big increase in their popularity. Perceived as attractive due to their pug noses, big eyes, and compact stature, social media and celebrity ownership has also spiked the numbers.

Worryingly, a recent report from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home revealed that, in 2018, it had to operate on more flat-faced dogs to help them breathe than at any time in its history: 62 lifesaving operations, compared to just seven in 2015.

The BBC recently highlighted this issue, and Battersea’s head vet, Shaun Opperman, stated that the number of brachycephalic dogs is; “one of the biggest welfare issues that Battersea is facing right now.”

Now, we love all dogs: big and burly, lean and long, cute, pug-nosed, stumpy-legged, big-eyed – we love them all. But, as appealing as these dogs can be, any encouragement or furthering of such extreme damaging-to-health breeding – especially for cosmetic purposes – is not only irresponsible, but very cruel.

Of course, breeding these dogs wouldn’t occur if the demand wasn’t there. If you’re considering getting a brachycephalic breed, read up on brachycephalic dogs, and have a chat with your vet before coming to a decision. Think very carefully about the distress their condition causes them, particularly as they age, and future medical treatments or operations that may be required.

Saturday 9 February 2019

Chinese New Year

The twelfth animal in the Chinese Annual Calendar is, according to the Chinese, fortuitous with a beautiful personality; strong and straightforward but happy to relax! Perhaps it is these characteristics, as well as a swell in celebrity endorsements, that has lead to such a dramatic increase in pigs making the move from farmyard staple to household pet. 

As comedian and country life-liver Dom Joly writes here, pigs are just as intelligent as literary classics such as Charlotte’s Web and Babe would have us believe, though with that intelligence comes boorishness (one could say pig-headedness), and a demand for space that many well-wishing pig adopters do not account for. It’s clear from Dom’s article that pigs are to be respected as individuals with personality traits that are not always placid and awaiting a tranquil belly-rub by the fire. 

Sadly, this misunderstanding has left more and more previously domesticated pigs abandoned on the streets to fend for themselves, often leaving devastation in their confused and frustrated wake. 

Janet Devereux of the UK’s only dedicated pig rescue centre, Pigs Inn Heaven, urges prospective pig purchasers that “a micro pig is a piglet; then it grows” and that the term is in fact a complete fabrication.
Illustration by Billie Hastie
Coming exclusively to Hubble & Hattie Kids! in September 2019, Catherine James' Book for children, Indigo Warriors: The Adventure Begins approaches the subject of stewardship over not-so-micro-pigs with an emphasis on responsibility.

Whilst the Kunekune of New Zealand is much smaller than other traditional breeds of pig, they’re by no means a ‘micro pig’ and can grow to be 100kg. There are plenty of materials from responsible sources on the internet about pig stewardship, so if you’re really thinking about bringing one or more of these commanding animals into your life (and not your living room) then make sure you’re definitely ready.

As the Chinese people and horoscope followers celebrate the Year of the Pig, we remember that they should be honoured and respected for their intelligence, personalities and strength. Here’s to a 2019 of good fortune!

Tuesday 5 February 2019

A giant leap … backwards

It's fair to say that last year was an unusual year in many respects, and despite most of the world moving forward with plans to reduce our impact on the natural world, some countries took a big leap backward. One such leap stood out as particularly out of kilter with the modern worldview: Japan's return to whaling. 

Many coastal and island cultures have strong associations with whaling, and Japan's goes back over 1000 years to the seventh century. Supplementing a poor diet with whale meat is quite low-scale, and has enabled many cultures to survive war, famine, or natural disaster: it's more like 'subsistence farming,' not the big-money commercial whaling of today.

Although whales have been hunted for centuries, more modern, industrial-scale whaling really took-off after WWII. From the late 40s to mid 60s, whale meat was the biggest source of meat in Japan, helping its starving population to recover from the impact of war.

Globally, whaling was banned in 1986, led by the International Whaling Commission, and because of the decimation of the world's whale populations. Many countries had outlawed the practice before this, but the IWC's ban is considered the benchmark.

Some cultures continue to whale in some capacity, some due to culture, some due to geographical reasons. However, none continue to sail fleets across the globe to hunt whales, or maintain factory ships capable of processing hundreds of whales at sea, as Japan does.

Japan has continued whaling under what it describes as ‘scientific purposes,’ arguing that there is insufficient scientific evidence to show that whale populations are in danger from commercial whaling; therefore, it hunts and kills whales to gather data on species’ stocks and health.

Once the ‘science’ is done, however, the whale meat is sold on the open market, and that’s where many believe the issue truly lies. The practice and implementation of ‘scientific’ whaling has, and continues, to artificially generate a market for whale meat among consumers. In Japan, consumption has been falling for years. Most Japanese don’t eat whale meat, seeing this as more a throwback to post-war decades, and preferring meat such as beef: in 2015, average consumption was just 30g per person.

Unsurprisingly, this has caused much debate, discussion, and derision, both in commercial and scientific circles, with Japan now arguing that some whale stocks are large enough to support commercial whaling. Equally understandably, the IWC and the international community as a whole, see this as a ruse to continue the practice, and create a new marketplace for whale meat.

In 2014, the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Japan to cease whaling in Antarctica, and declared Japan's programme illegal. The ICJ found that Japan’s Antarctic whaling did not comply with the International Whaling Commission’s definition of scientific permit whaling, and that Japan is in contravention of the moratorium on commercial whaling. It also found it in contravention of the moratorium on factory ship whaling, of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, and ordered the country to cease all Antarctic whaling and no further permits to whale in Antarctica.

In December, Japan announced that it was resuming full commercial hunting of whales. The 2017/2018 Antarctic whaling season took 333 Antarctic minke whales, and 134 sei and 43 common minke in the North Pacific summer season. When it resumes commercial whaling in July this year, Japan has said it intends to hunt minke, Bryde’s and sei whales, but it’s unclear how many animals will be killed per season.

You don’t need us to tell you how cruel and damaging whaling is, and how vital it is not to let large-scale commercial whaling resume in any capacity. We can all do our bit, and to find out how you can help, take a look at the Whale & Dolphin Conservation website, see the incredible work they’re doing across the globe … click below