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. Despite this, importing from such a distance was a difficult decision for us to make: much of the importing is done by plane.
Sadly, there is little we could do in the end if we wanted to be a "proper pet shop" - the products that come from America are simply not all available from UK suppliers at this time. Even more sadly, the best products over in the USA, the beautiful hemp and bamboo collars for example, are fartoo expensive for us Brits... and the dont even have a distributor over here.
However, we deeply and sincerely hope that by setting up Ethical Pets we will eventually encourage and reinvigorate Britishdesign and manufacture of Ethical Pet products. If you would like to set up an Ethical Pet business, 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. 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. At first, 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 - unfortunately there is no obligation in the UK for "organic" pet food to actually be 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 I asked them about the welfare during slaughter, I was 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.
However, their ingredients are sourced at carefully sellected 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, because of their high quality Ethical Policies. When we return our ethical policy customer preferences questionnaire to them, we always rank animal welfare as very high, along with weapons and human rights etc. We also refuse to set up direct debits (excepting for internal bank transfers such as minimum credit card payments) because we believe that this strips the power from the consumer and hands it to the companies, often compounding poverty.
We use Moneybookers (Skril) for our payment gateway, and have a Mastercard associated with that account. Both Mastercard and Moneybookers have good ethical ratings with corporate critic.
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.
When we must work with a bigger company or distributor, then that's okay - as long as the big company is making an effort to be ethical. We feel it's good to encourage ethical behaviour in all sizes of business.
The more difficult choices have been when a large company sells only one ethical product/range. Here we just have to do our best; in the end, the more ethical pet supplies get sold, the stronger the market for them will become. Mostly, it seems better to sell than to not.
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; you can't recycled them and they don't last as long as plastic, so are harder to reuse. 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 wildly 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!
Poo-bags: In the end, we decided to start with stocking degradable poo bags because most will go into landfill - and methane is a much bigger threat than CO2. These are only partially recycled at the moment, which is frustrating, but we are looking for alternatives.
Postal Bags: 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 least at first when we don't have millions of orders to wrap. 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, we would buy them by the lorry-load!
At Ethical Pets, we use Free, Libre and Open Source Software (With a preference for free over open source where possible). Sometimes these types of software are called Linux.
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 Firefox, chromium, and Midori (web browsers)
Ubuntu and linux-puppy (operating systems)
Thunderbird (Email client)
G.I.M.P (like photoshop),
Libre-office (word processing, spreadsheets etc)
Document Viewer (for PDFs, can be created in Libre-office)
Pidgin (like MSN)
And Prestashop for our web-shop.
We use mainly Free Software because:
a) It keeps money away from unethical companies and their appalling labour practices,
b) There is no "small print" regarding use for business etc
c) Propriety software (non-free software) is only licensed to you, you don't ever own it, and you must abide by the publishers rules, even if those rules are wrong (like saying you can't share with people, even poor people or citizens of Iran or Cuba. With free software you can share it with anyone you like!)
d) Using free software helps to break the monopoly of some big companies, which are being used to exploit charities, and those in poorer countries too - free copies to start with, and then you have to pay or lose everything!
e) It's MUCH more sustainable - you can share with and help anyone you like, and you can keep old computers in use for a very very long time.
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, for which we pay a small bill to British gas: we hope to replace with an electric one sometime in the future.
We also have a coal and wood burning fire; we mostly use un-reclaimeable wood to burn, but use coal (smokeless) when it gets very cold.
Our energy bills are less than average for our sort of household - even though we work from home, and we make efforts to reduce them further, by not heating the hot-water tank unless we need a full tank, switching off and not using standby and we have all energy saving bulbs.
Our parents houses, when we work from them, use other conventional suppliers but also try to reduce their usage.
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 vegetarian or semi-vegetarian 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.
Our Lupine collars are made from nylon, which is made from fossil fuels: it is the same stuff used in climbing ropes. While we would prefer to avoid the use of fossil fuels, realistically there are currently no other eco-minded collars available in the UK. The Lupine range is extremely durable and is therefore more efficient; plus the collars are made in a small American factory with excellent labour standards. As it stands, they are the most ethical product that we can offer.
If anyone would like to set up a small business manufacturing hemp or bamboo webbing collars in the UK - please let us know. We are keen to sell these products, but the American imports are about 20-25 pounds per collar!
For a discussion of fossil fuels in our packaging and poo bags, please see biodegradable.
For a discussion of Fossil fuels in our electricity and gas, please see Electricity, gas and other fuels.
In our products.
Some of our products contain organic honey. Though we are still asking around for some really good scientific proof, we assume that organic honey is helping to support the dwindling bee population (rather than making things worse). While we are aware that some bees can be killed by, for example, being squished in the hive lid, it seems generally more important to support the bee population where possible than to defend individual bees from accident or injury. We are particularly concerned with the honey issue though, so if anyone has any really good information about the affect of organic/high welfare honey production on bees please let us know.
In our personal diet.
Anna will eat honey sometimes, if it is organic (and preferably local). Joe doesn’t really like honey much and is undecided about weather vegans should eat honey. We do not buy products with honey in them, unless the honey is certified organic. We are always careful to boil jars which have contained imported honey, as they can spread disease, and we try and buy as little intensive farmed food as we can afford - to try and protect bees and wildlife from the bad things associated there. While we are aware that many vegans do not consider honey to be acceptable as part of a vegan diet, we have to follow our own rational though, and so far, honey seems to be okay in moderation.
Investments and Savings
Currently we have savings with the cooperative bank and the Post Office (Bank of Ireland) and have invested money in the Phone Coop. From December we will have investments with Ethical Consumer too. We have saved with Lloyds TSB in the past.
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 favour products made directly/on site by the company selling them, as these have the most guaranteed standards of manufacture. Next we 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.
For food products: we prefer vegetarian 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 - meat food, from a human rights perspective, should really be avoided where possible. Because not all pets can/will eat vegetarian 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, we found the decision to sell meat very difficult, even though (due to the specific needs of one cat) all four of our cats eat meat. It really was a whole new dilemma to consider actively advertising and promoting the sale of meat based products.
Even if we put the obvious welfare issues aside, there are also many human rights issues relating to slaughter houses that plagued us; partially due to the mental and emotional stress of the work and partly to the high numbers of seasonal workers and migrants employed.
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 complexities. 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 animals is improved. Its not perfect, but its better.
We will, however, really try and encourage people to by vegan foods - even if not exclusively. This is not just about animal welfare, but about many aspects of the world and environment; we eat too much meat in the west, its very wasteful and polluting and the planet and it's people are suffering because of our greediness. Dogs in particular, don't really need to eat meat exclusively - just like people! So please do consider switching to half and half or a complete Vegan diet : )
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 and nasty additives are prohibited. Essentially: its all good!
We also love conservation grade and stock free farming too,but there are not any pet products from these farming method yet: watch this space!
Postage and Packaging
We use degradable recycled plastic bags to pack most food orders, and recycled cardboard, paper and bubble wrap for the rest. Please see biodegradable for more info. We hope to invest in degradable bubble wrap soon. Please reuse all your packaging. You can even send it back to us if you want.
We try not to make profit on the postage. 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. We take 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 nationalisation!).
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 vegans, and have been so for nearly 3 years. We have both been vegetarian for almost all of our lives before that. We are vegan because we don't want animals to be killed or treated badly, so, 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 family member. 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 - but can't always afford this. Our coffee and tea is always fair trade, we usually buy fruit rather than fruit juice and we buy very little imported fresh food. We opt for dry over tinned beans where time permits.
For more info see honey.
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. One day we hope to set up an animal sanctuary, particularly one that can neuter and care for unwanted roosters.
Anna tries to give 10% of her wages to charity, all of which are non-testeing organisations. A variety of charities have been donated to, from Hillside Animal Sanctuary, to the BUAV, Bookaid and the local church. We also give to Macmillan etc, to help with cancer whilst avoiding the more unethical side of research.
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 anyway. 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.
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 (who have a reasonable corporate critic score and are cheep enough for Anna's magical motor-mouth!)
All information we receive will be dealt with in the strictest confidence. However it is necessary to pass on certain details to the delivery company. We also will automatically add you to our monthly online newsletter. If you do not wish to be receive this it is very simple to unsubscribe using the link on the bottom of the email.
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.
We are aiming to switch from sustainable-virgin printer paper to 100% recycled soon, but need to save some money for a bulk order as its expensive stuff.
Our packaging is mostly recycled, all except bubble wrap - we are also saving up for a more ethical alternative to bubble wrap. Even the degradable plastic bags are made from recycled stuff. Please reuse or return all of the packaging that comes with your purchase.
All of our office equipment was recycled. We also buy almost exclusively second-hand (recycled) household goods, furniture, clothes, white goods etc. We also give items away on free-cycle 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.
Vegetarian and Vegan
As we are both vegans, we try to encourage our customers to feed their pets on a vegan diet where appropriate. Exceptions include cats with urinary issues, and pets with specific health problems which could be affected: these animals should generally be fed on meat food of a very high quality (Low quality meat food, and food made with slaughterhouse leftovers needs added artificial supplements in the same way that vegan food does).
We believe that it is better to provide an ethically sourced non-vegan pet food (so it is easily available) than is to not provide this option (so potential customers would carry on buying unethical foods and contributing to the suffering of farm animals and pets). For more information see meat.
How You Can Help
Feedback and info
This document is work in progress, and will always be so. We feel that we can never be ethical enough, so if you have information to help us improve, please let us know.
Make a product
We are very keen to supply British made products where possible, and would love to try and support new ethical companies or diversifications - especially for products like collars and toys, which are mostly imported at the moment. Please contact us if you would like us to stock your product, or you are thinking of setting up a company, and we will gladly chat about it with you and see how we can help!