Can testing cosmetics on animals ever be a sign of sanity? Lab-life with Harvey (6′ 3.5″)

While developing the first products for my natural skincare range, Leafology, I learned that, here in the EU, we are not technically allowed to label our cosmetic products as being ‘not tested on animals’. Unofficially, it’s because we ought not imply that other products are testing on animals, since to do so is illegal; officially, we can’t cite that claim with ultimate confidence since, sadly, the reality is that most if not all of the component parts of a lip balm, cream, gel or lotion will have been tested on animals at some point in history. Therefore, to say that a product has not been tested on animals is misleading in the sense that it can’t always be entirely true, or at least, not if a product is considered the sum of its parts. However, it is at least true that the final product will not have been tested on animals and this can be claimed (thankfully) with absolute certainty; no one will have smeared my body balm behind the ears of a rabbit before it was approved for the market. Sadly, in some countries (notably China), the opposite is true; a product not only can be tested on animals before it ends up in the shops; it must be.

We can allude on our packaging that we are against animal testing (and I allude to such with the use of my hand-drawn effort, below).


The notion of testing on animals is representative of a wide beam of ludicrosity which spans the repulsively cruel (I won’t go into this here because I think it’s needless, and horrific, and obvious) to the plain daft. Daft because the effect of certain cosmetic ingredients on the skin or hair of an animal simply doesn’t enlighten us much about the possible effect on the human equivalent (since they are just so different). The acceptable levels of allergens and sensitisers can’t necessarily be assumed as equal; our human skin varies even between sex (men’s skin is thicker than women’s; the composition of products must be assessed under separate guidelines because of this), so imagine how much it can differ between species. Testing shampoo (etc.) on animals is pure nonsense both practically and poetically. Continue reading

The Others in our Heads

At a writing event the other day, someone read something out during which the main character licks their third left molar ‘and does all the other things we do when we’re uncomfortable’. As the rest of the paragraph washed over me, I automatically licked my own (having calculated at lightning speed which molar the author meant; third from left, third from right?) and observed several others around me discreetly trying the same. Yes, we all agreed in silence while not meeting each others’ eyes; this is what we do when we’re uncomfortable. We lick our third left molar.

Details make for good writing, which is all about truth, whichever brand of truth particularly on offer.

I looked up a book today after a personal recommendation (a book recommendation is a sort of gift; it should never be fobbed off lightly) and read some online reviews. The book had been shortlisted for a massive international prize. ‘Boring boring boring’ said one dissatisfied customer under a 1-star review (zero isn’t an option, as another reviewer noted) entitled ‘Stupefyingly boring’; she went on to announce that she ‘will never again buy novels about men living inside their own heads’. At this point, and after some other reviews (some adoring, some more mixed) mentioning themes of displacement and genre-defiance, I was positively salivating and I couldn’t order it fast enough. Continue reading


You are a man-animal when you sleep. Your breath rustles past airways I would leap through; want to lie beside. You are heavy. Barely awake, but an instinctive arm over and around the shape of me, nustling me in. I can do all the things I always do, forget nothing, explore every side of myself, onward, onward, and something lets me breathe more deeply than ever I have; lets me submit; lets me choose to, only because of you. You ache inside with all the things you understand, and I have seen the same things, and made light of them; I widen a single eye and you release, curling up your mouth, finally understood. Didn’t you build your empire, row by row? Didn’t you burn paper money to find something more real? I was waiting, all that time, and lighting matches, too. Continue reading

All’s well

Whenever an individual, company or organisation sends me an email which starts with ‘I hope your well’, I can’t help but have a pleasing flash of a particular image in my mind before continuing with the missive.

How kind (I think, picturing my well – a deep, narrow drop I imagine in my back garden, quietly existing on its own, darkly and damply) of them to express their concern and interest. It’s lovely to think that complete strangers have high hopes (or hopes of any kind at all) for my well. It’s sweet of them to enquire about it so urgently as to put it at the very top of the email (‘How’s your family? How’s work? Hope your well’)… But I am always left imagining what was meant to come next – what exactly is the nature/content of these hopes – since no one ever finishes the sentence. ‘I hope your well…. isn’t too cold and lonely’? ‘… isn’t too full of stones or sticks or scared of its own darkness’? ‘I hope your well is a source of nutritious, clean water that brings pride and good health to you and all who know you’?

I don’t mind that they get distracted halfway through the sentence and cut straight to a new one; I know the thought is there, of whatever type, and I appreciate it. Thanks.

wellWell’s well.


My windowsill has been quite educational recently; every autumn and winter, colonies of ladybirds gather (I would be a very niche Cinderella, and sadly they don’t chirup at me like the birds, who echo her every intonation before riffing off her suggestions) and huddle. I hadn’t realised ladybirds hibernate, but for the last few years they’ve obviously been sending each other memos – maybe in morse code via the vibrations of their tiny feet – spreading the word that the corners of the windowframe in particular are where the party is happening.  Continue reading

Inside an ear; outside a life

This morning, a doctor inspected my ear. I felt about four years old as she placed the ergonomic device into the holes either side of my head, one by one (and I almost wish I’d asked afterwards to have a look at her ears, as I’ve never looked inside an ear before; I wonder if anyone on earth has ever said that to a doctor after having their own inspected, and if so, whether their wish would have been granted; I just imagine ears look very interesting; all weird and intricate). Anyway, as a child, I used to get ear infections all the time. It got so bad during one family holiday that a doctor who spoke no English decided each of my bottom cheeks needed an injection before I could fly home, and after he’d done one injection I was so upset that I wouldn’t let him do the other – I remember there being lots of bruising as I kept jumping around and screaming. In the end, my Dad told me a long, involved story about how I simply had to be injected a second time, in the other side, otherwise I would be lop-sided and the plane home wouldn’t fly properly. I didn’t understand this at all, yet believed it entirely and bravely allowed myself to be symmetrically punctured, for the good of the other passengers (in the meantime, my older brother announced that his own possible ear infection had absolutely and miraculously gone away, so he didn’t need the doctor to look at him, thanks very much). Continue reading

Sir Fluffalot; forget me not

My darling, beautiful cat king – king of the beasts and of my heart – took his last breath this afternoon, with no warning other than his gathered heap of gorgeous years. I got home yesterday evening from a few days away and he greeted me with a lazy squawk from his bed by the radiator, then relaxed in my arms as I grabbed him, plucking him from the floor as I do hundreds of times per day, him lolling and heavy breathing (the lazy way to purr), waiting for gravity to take its toll and for his stunning lump of a body to be too much; content with the up-down ride of daily love – my ears only popped this morning after yesterday’s flight; I wonder if his ever did, being so repeatedly picked up and put down.

Some say it’s silly to feel so heartbroken over the loss of a pet, but I will never say it is. Some say love for animals is not as real as love for people, but they don’t know how many memories and thoughts and moments he had buried deep into his fur, since my teenage years; how much he has been a store for everything. Continue reading