Saturday, 22 December 2018

The unexpected winter visitor - Black Throated Diver

Black Throated Diver - Gavia arctica
Arrow Valley Park - 22nd December 2018

by John Hodges

After several days of gloomy weather and a workload, I’d rather not think about, I wrapped up in warm layers, boots and waterproofs and grabbed my camera kit.

The brief but welcome winter sunshine had beckoned me outside, a quick visit to the local Arrow Valley Park and lake was called for, and if I'm lucky a chance to snatch of a photograph of a rare winter visitor from colder, foreign climes.

On Saturday afternoon I was rewarded with an early Christmas present, a Black Throated Diver - Gavia arctica in its winter plumage. It is also known as the Arctic Loon as its habitat range from the Siberian, Arctic circle and Alaska

This streamline diving bird winters in the UK with numbers reaching up to 560 pairs. Today as far as I’m aware was the first time this species had visited The Arrow Valley Lake. Not only is this a rare bird but no way did I expected to see such a beauty in the centre of England. In the winter the birds usually turn up around sheltered parts of the coastline and intertidal river, mostly the northern coastline. The breeding summer population of approx 200 pairs reside in the Highland lochs of Scotland.

On days like today, I’m made aware of why my addiction to natural history and wildlife photography is like drug and a very good drug at that. On any given day you just never can tell what will show itself. As a wildlife photographer who has been fortunate to have explored habitats around the world, research and planning always go a long way if you want a chance of encountering and photographing your species of choice. But when some unexpected species turn up, especially when it’s on your own doorstep the old heart rate goes up and all your senses become hypersensitive. In the briefest blink of an eye, catching a subtle but unusual silhouette, call or flight pattern, you’re transported back to a 10yr old boy pretending to be his idol, David Attenborough. Holding your breath in the hope you get one more glimpse, a photographic record of a bird or butterfly that you’ve only seen in the pages of well-thumbed books.

Saturday 22nd December 2018 was one of those days at Arrow Valley, well it was for me anyway and I suspect the same was felt by the several birders who shared this glorious wanderer during the Christmas week.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

VIDDA TEES - Custom Designed t-shirts and merchandise

 Click on this banner to go to our UK catalogue

or for International orders please go to our eBay page 

The Amazon links below take you directly to the t-shirt displayed. This is a small sample of our unique designs avaliable (228 and growing daily). 
If you'd like a custom designed t-shirt, hoody, cell phone case etc for a one-off gift, your company or for a party group please contact us and share your idea with us and we'll do our best to please. 
Thanks, John and Pilar

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Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Choice Is Ours: Palm Oil or The Jungles of S.E. Asia and Its Inhabitants

This picture was taken by Pilar Bueno in 2009 at a jungle research station at a secret location in Sabah, Borneo. This beautiful lady is called Jackie and was rescued with her three brothers as very young orphans from a local market. Her family had been killed by poachers as a direct result of the clearing of the surrounding jungle. Her parents and extended family would have been slaughtered and chopped up for meat and souvenirs and these infants would have been sold into the illegal pet trade.

The researchers brought these poor babies back to full health and eventually after a year released them into the surrounding jungle. Within weeks the three brothers had been killed by poachers. Jackie is now the very last of her kind in this small oasis of remaining jungle. Each night, she comes out of the forest to make her bed near the research centre (a very small building). I conclude that she is lonely and feels safe at night near her trusted human friends. It was a true honour to meet her and have her smile into my eyes.

The reason for the collapse of the jungles population of Orang-Utan can be firmly placed on the table of the Palm Oil industry. Our journey to this remote area was one of the most heartbreaking journeys in all our travels, it literally made us cry. Hour after hour the views from our transport was of a monoculture of Palm Oil plantation, spreading for thousands of square miles from horizon to horizon. Where just 10 years ago stood majestic, old stand jungle, is now an ecological disaster.

Unless this government and corporate exploitation are stopped, we will lose this irreplaceable habitat. Borneo's jungles and all its biodiversity have, at the current rate of destruction, maybe 10 years left. Once it has gone, it's gone. 

It is the very definition of double standard hypocrisy. The little people (that's us) are consistently warned and scared about the problems of man-made global warming and yet the very organisations that tax us in every way possible endorse or at least turn a blind eye to the whole destruction of the oxygen producing lungs of the world. Jungles absorb huge amounts of CO2 and produce clean air that all life requires. 

Unless you've been hiding under a rock we've all heard of Palm Oil. Rock dwellers listen up!

Palm oil, or often labelled ‘Vegetable Oil’ (sneaky huh), ‘Glycerin’ or ‘Elaeis guineensis oil’ (as labelled in cosmetics) has helped destroy over 50-65,000 Orang-Utans and over 80% of their irreplaceable jungle rain forest in the last 20 years.

Cetyl Palmitate and Octyl Palmitate
Elaeis Guineensis (Taxonomic name for palm oil)
Hexadecylic or Palmitic Acid
Hydrated Palm Glycerides
Palm Oil Kernal
Anything with Palmitate at the end
Cetearyl Alcohol
Emulsifier 422, 430-36, 470-8, 481-483, 493-5
Glyceryl Stearate
Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye
Sodium Laureth Sulphate
Sodium Lauryl Sulphates
Steareth – 2 & Steareth – 20
Stearic Acid Vegetable Oil

This industry literally has blood on its hands. It violates all kinds of human rights issues, including child slavery. It is a major contributor to climate change and environmental toxicity, something the International Community hardly ever talks about. 

Global sales from palm oil exports totalled US$33.3 billion in 2017. Year over year, international palm oil sales gained 19% from 2016 to 2017.

All of us as consumers have the power to change this before it's too late. Remember 'we can only be conscious of things we pay attention to'
We have the power if we each chose to use it. 

Your purchasing power applies huge pressure and can facilitate major changes in corporate practices.

Below is a starter list of products that use and don't use Palm Oil in their production. If you want to be part of the solution you can start by boycotting the products listed.

As a side note and an issue for a future blog entry, Palm Oil also negatively affects your health, especially when heated.
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Please SHARE this article with your friend and social media groups.


(This is a small guide list, please read your labels)
DRINKS: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, 7UP, Mountain Dew
SPREADS: Flora, Clover, Pro Activ
CRISPS: Kettle Chips, Doritos, Pringles
BREAD & CEREAL: Mighty Soft, Cheerios, Warburtons, Hovis, Kingsmill
SWEETS: Nestle, Haribo, Starburst, Milky way, Favourites, Picnic, Time Out, Cadbury, Quality
Street, Reeces, Lindt, Oreo, Belvita, Ritz, Galaxy, Kit Kat
ICE CREAM: Blue Ribbon, So Good
TOILETRIES: Rimmel, Revlon, Estee Lauder, Avon, Bobbi Brown, Clarins, Aveda, Max Factor, Covergirl, M.A.C, Essence, Chanel, Palmers, Ponds, Olay, Dove, Simple, St. Ives, Garnier, Nivea, Clinique, Biore, Liz Earl, Cutex, Pro Activ, Oral B, Macleans, Kingfisher, Dove, Pantene, Schwartzkopf, Sunsilk, Tresemme, Garnier, Head n Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Clairol, Nice n’ Easy, Palmolive, John Frieda, Aussie, LUX, Palmers, Pears, Lynx, Old Spice, Johnsons
CLEANING: Persil, Surf, Jif, Windex, Dettol, Fairy, Vanish
PETS: Aldi, Hi-Life, Eukanuba, Purina, Friskies, Optimum


(Most eco-brands are palm free)
DRINKS: Nescafe, Lucozade
SPREADS: Lurpack, Country Life
BREAD & CEREALS: Golden Crumpets, Abbot’s Village Bakery, Nesquick, Coco Pops, Nature Valley, Ryvita, Kellogs
CRISPS: French Fries, Walkers
SWEETS: Skittles, Mentos, Chuppa Chups, Jelly Belly, Wrigleys, Bounty, Crunchy, Flake, Lindt (block), Lindt Lindor, Toblerone, Whittakers, Twirl, Cadbury (plain), Guylain, Booja Booja, Ombar, Aero, Ferrero, Koko Black, Smarties, Snickers, Twix, Maltesers, M&M variety, Mars, Celebrations, Kinder, Thorntons, Dunkin’ Doughnuts, Hershey’s
ICE CREAM: Weis, Ben & Jerry’s, Booja Booja, Magnum, Nutella
TOILETRIES: Andrex, Lush, The Body Shop, Urban Decay, L’Oreal, Maybelline, Nars, Trilogy, Heavenly Organics, A’kin, Neutrogena, Aveeno, St. Tropez, Sanctuary SPA, Sukin, Sensodyne, Colgate, Dr Bronner, A’kin, Aeosop, Fudge, Charles Worthington, Radox
CLEANING: Method, Down to Earth, Clean Conscience, Ajax, Glade
PETS: Schmackos, Pal, Pedigree, Whiskas, Iams

To learn more about the effects of palm oil deforestation, please check out one of my
favourite charities doing great work on site with the orangutans - or donate on their facebook page -

Every pound counts!

Google Apps also list a FREE download for your mobile phone, click on the image below for a direct link.
 Google Shopping App
The photographs on these t-shirts linked below were taken by myself in Borneo in 2009. I will donate £5.00 in your name if you decide to order either of these shirts purchased from these links. 

Please email a screenshot of your purchase invoice and I will then make a donation in your name and email you the receipt. 
I will personally not make a penny from the purchase of this shirt.
Thank you for your support

John Hodges

The 'controversial' and banned #NoPalmOilChristmas Iceland Advert
Let's us make this a viral phenomenon over Christmas 

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Cruelty-Free and Vegan are NOT Interchangeable Terms

Understanding This Ethical Conundrum And Debunking Some Myths To Help You Make Informed Ethical Choices
by Pilar Bueno

For years, I wrongly assumed that if a product was Free of Animal Cruelty that it would, by default, not contain any animal ingredients. But more importantly so, I thought that an ethical Vegan product surely will not be causing unnecessary cruelty to animals by being tested on them.  
Well, it shames me to say that I was horribly wrong. This caused me a considerable amount of distress, being an animal lover and passionate advocate for green living.

I have recently had several conversations on this particular topic, and given that we are celebrating World Vegan Month (click here for a list of UK events), I thought I would write this blog post in an effort to explain the differences and help you make informed purchasing decisions.

It is refreshing and very encouraging to see the huge movement towards a plant-based diet (the number of vegans in the UK has risen by 350% in the last 10 years / 600%  in the US in the last 3 years!) and the growing public awareness about the animal suffering involved in trials for commercial products. The sad reality is that millions of animals around the world are suffering horrific experiments and death so that we humans can feel and look better when in reality, there is no real need to test on animals! There are currently available modern testing alternatives that are humane, faster, cheaper and more predictive for humans.

But the point is that whether your reasons for buying ethical products are for Health, Environment, Animal Welfare or all of the above, you should be clear how you're spending your money and certain that you are not, inadvertently, continue funding and supporting companies that test (or pay others to test) on animals. Let me try then to shine some light on the different terms and help clarify some areas of confusion.

According to the Oxford dictionary, cruelty-free means that is "(of cosmetics or other commercial products) manufactured or developed by methods that do not involve experimentation on animals".

What does exactly “Not Tested On Animals” means?

In its true sense, it means that the finished product is NOT tested on animals at any stage of its production.
It also means that the ingredients and raw materials supplied have also not been tested on animals.
And finally, that the company does not pay a third party to carry out tests on animals on their behalf.

Beware however that some brands claim that they don’t test on animals UNLESS the law requires them to do so, as it is the case in China. Companies that fall under this category are NOT certified by Leaping Bunny or PETA.

Is there a legal requirement for animal testing to be carried out on cosmetic and personal care products?

In 80% of countries, it is still legal to test on animals
In China, however, it is a legal requirement, i.e. it is compulsory for animal testing to be conducted before any cosmetic products can be sold in their country. 

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission do NOT require animal testing for household products or cosmetics, BUT  the practice of animal testing is still legal in this country, as it is the case also in Canada.

In Europe, a new EU law implemented on 11th March 2009, placed a ban on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients within the EU and since March 2013, it has been illegal to sell animal-tested cosmetics, even if the testing has been done outside of Europe. However, there are limitations to that ban, for instance, the ban does not apply to worker's safety tests. Cruelty Free International does not agree with the narrow interpretation of the law and is challenging it with the support of The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE).

Whilst the EU ban on animal testing is a massive step forward in the right direction, lets not forget that animals are STILL suffering intolerable cruelty as the 2006 REACH Regulation  (the world's largest chemical testing programme) requires chemical companies to report health effects and environmental hazards of almost every chemical used in Europe, demanding results from tests on animals. 
Cruelty Free International and ECEAE continue campaigning for humane and modern testing methods, more progressive legislation whilst encouraging companies to go cruelty-free.

If Animal testing is illegal in the E.U., does it mean that all cosmetic brands sold in Europe are Cruelty-Free?
This is certainly not the case. Any cosmetic company that operates in Europe but still sells its products in countries where the animal testing band does not operate could still be commissioning tests or carrying out tests themselves on animals, and therefore their brands are not certified as being cruelty-free. If in doubt, double check.

If a product has a "Bunny" on its label or claims they don't test on animals - is it Cruelty-Free?

You would think that is the case but not necessarily so. A company may claim its brands to be cruelty-free but it might only refer to the finished product and does not take into consideration that the product ingredients have been tested during the product development phase by a third party company or its ingredient supplier.

Do all "Bunnies" displayed on products denote Cruelty-Free status?

This is very misleading and unfortunately not the case always.
Companies have designed their own bunny logos and claimed to be cruelty-free by abiding by their own standards of cruelty-free, without being affiliated with an official animal protection organisation. This doesn't mean that they are not cruelty-free, but you will have to do your own research and ask the right questions.

To help with this situation, The Leaping Bunny Logo was created by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics  (CCIC) – a group of eight national animal protection groups promoting a single comprehensive standard and an internationally recognised Logo.

To buy with confidence and make shopping for animal-friendly products easier look out for the three trustworthy bunny logos: PETACruelty Free International and Choose Cruelty-Free. Any other bunny logos are NOT official and NOT accredited by a reputable cruelty-free organisation.

To complicate matters further, I am afraid you will find that not all companies certified by Leaping Bunny or PETA display their logos on their products, as they are required to pay extra to do so. Remember that you can always check their databases directly. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation is the largest animal rights organisation in the world. They focus their work in areas where most animal suffering occurs: laboratories, food industry, clothing trade and entertainment.
Check out its very large database of cruelty-free companies and see below their identifying "Beauty without Bunnies" logos.

It is the leading organisation working to end animal experimentation worldwide.
You could reasonably argue that their Leaping Bunny Logo Certification is more rigorous than that of PETA and therefore more reliable. This is so because, in addition to requesting a written agreement from the companies that they do not test on animals, they conduct independent audits to validate their claims. 

Choose Cruelty-Free 
"An independent non-profit organisation based in Australia that advocates for the rights of animals who live with us, not for us”.


Vegan product, in the generic sense of the word, is one that does not contain any animal product or animal-derived ingredients, such as beeswax, gelatin, honey, lanolin, collagen, albumen, yoghurt, etc. 

Do you think you can spot an animal-derived ingredient on a label?
I think you will be surprised. For example, did you know that Carmine (also referred to as cochineal or crimson) is an insect-derived red pigment commonly used in makeup, paints, ink, some medications, food products such as yoghurt, candy and some juices? 
It is prepared from some scale insects, such as the cochineal, by boiling dried insects in water to extract the carminic acid (an acid produced to repel predators) and then treating the solution with alum. I bet some of you ladies didn’t know you had been "eating bugs" all this time...
Cochineal bug (Dactylopius coccus)
Ground up Cochineal insect, the source of red dye

Or did you know that Ambergris is a waxy substance secreted in the intestines of sperm whales that is used in perfume manufacture as a fixative? 

If you want to know more, check out Peta’s website for a list of animal-derived ingredients.

Vegan versus Cruelty-Free: Understanding the differences

Let's consider the scenarios you can come across and what they really mean:

The product is not tested on animals but it contains some animal-derived ingredients, for instance, milk.

The product has NOT been tested on Animals and contains NO animal ingredients or derivatives.

This is the scenario that, to me, it was inconceivable and caused me a real moral dilemma becoming the main point of this article. 

The situation boils down simply to the definition or understanding of the term "Vegan". Whilst some may consider a product vegan because it does not contain animal product or any animal derivatives, others may adhere to a more strict definition, such as the Vegan Society, where the product must NOT have been tested on animals, in line with their definition of Veganism: " a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

As a result, a product may be "advertised" as Vegan or not, depending on what the company that sells it considers to be “vegan”.

Short of doing your own research on each individual company’s ethos, you can rely on the 3 main Vegan societies mentioned below and their strict certification rules which insist and demand the company products, ingredients and raw materials are NOT tested on animals at any stage during their production and that no third party conducts animal testing on their behalf.
By the way, “Accidental Vegan products” (i.e. unintentionally vegan) products” fall under this category, because whilst they contain no animal ingredients or by-products they could have been tested on animals.

Buying with Confidence

Look out for these trustworthy Vegan Trademarks to buy authentic Vegan products. 


Whilst they only certify companies in the United States, US territories, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, their Certified Vegan Logo trademark is distributed and recognized worldwide.

The V-Label is the symbol for Vegan and Vegetarian products you will most likely come across in Europe. Their registered symbol is however internationally recognised.

What You Can Do 

I know it can be confusing, misleading and at times incredibly frustrating to try to decipher what they are trying to sell us. And I haven't even touched on the subject of what other certifications mean (Bio, Organic, Eco, free of GMO, Organic Soil Association, etc) or how to read and understand the often unpronounceable product ingredients lists. More on this soon so don't forget to sign up below to our blog for further updates.

You may be thinking it is all too much effort, but the reality is that the choices you make when you spend your hard earn cash don’t just affect you; they have a wider effect on other people, animals and our whole planet. By choosing to shop ethically and in an eco-friendly way, you are taking responsibility for your own health and wellbeing and saying to the big businesses that you expect transparency and ethics over profits and demand more ethical products to become mainstream.

I hope this blog has helped to clarify things a bit. But don't forget that there are lots of things you can do if you want to help to build a brighter future for you and your family:

1# Look out for products that display the certified logos. But remember that cruelty-free certification is done on a voluntary basis so not all cruelty-free companies display a certified logo.

2# Consult ready-made lists of ethical companies that have already been compiled. Cruelty-Free Kitty has an updated list of cruelty-free brands. The helpful search system allows you to be more selective and look out for Vegan, Organic, Palm oil-free companies.  

3# Do your own research, if unsure, and share your findings if you can please. I, for once, will love to know more so please don't hesitate to get in touch.

4# Contact the company, if you are still not sure about the ethical stand and ask them:
* Are their products or ingredients tested on animals
* Do any third party companies  carry out tests on their behalf
* Do they sell their products in China? (in which case they DO test on animals)

5# Boycott the brand if they test on animals.

6# Reach out to companies that test on animals and tell them how you feel. Remember that companies are driven by profits and if enough people voice their concerns they will have no choice but to listen. And if you don’t know where to start with your email/ letter, Cruelty-Free Kitty has kindly drafted a letter that you can use here

7# Get actively involved to stop animal suffering:
For starters, you can sign PETA's action alert petition to urge the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency to uphold the ethical and moral values of the Cosmetics Regulation and NEVER allow animal testing for cosmetic ingredients.

The Cruelty-Free International campaign is also hard at work raising support for the Humane Cosmetic Act to be passed in the USA to put an end to all this unnecessary suffering, cruelty and death. If you can, please sign their petition, share the information, donate or get involved in any way you can.

8# Make your Ethical Shopping easier with the FREE Apps for Smartphones from Leaping Bunny, PETA and Choose Cruelty-Free. And download one of the many Vegan apps currently available, such as  VeGuideIs It Vegan? or Happy Cow

9# Just because it is Cruelty-Free and Vegan doesn't mean that the product is free of toxic chemicals. Make sure you read the list of ingredients and know how to spot dangerous chemicals. Consider all aspects of your life and look at ways you can improve your health and that of our planet by removing toxic chemicals out of your day to day life. 
VIDDA has published a 5-part book entitled Green Up Your Life, which is an introductory guide to help you transition to a more natural and eco-friendly way of living, covering topics such as your Home, Medicine, Beauty, Period and Baby and proving that it is Simple, Easy and Cheap to go Green. You can buy your copy below.

If you have found this article interesting and useful, please like, comment and share the information. Help to empower others to make good ethical choices. After all, it is much easier to change the world when there are more people trying to!

Thank you
Pilar Bueno

#BeSmart #BeKind #BeCrueltyFree #CompassionateShopping #BeautyWithoutCruelty #StopAnimalTesting #NaturalCosmetics #ToxicFree #GreenLiving #HealthyLiving #CrueltyFree #Vegan #GreenUpYourLife #StopAnimalSuffering #Veganism #Mindfulness

Thursday, 18 October 2018

VIDDA TEES USA & UK Halloween t-shirts

Brand new designs on both UK and USA pages, lots of Halloween tees available, a few examples below, thanks Jx 

 Click Here







Thursday, 4 October 2018


For Animal Lovers, Today Is The Most Important Day Of The Year
HAPPY WORLD ANIMAL DAY! The celebration of this special day unites the animal welfare movement, mobilising it into a global force to raise the status of animals and improve welfare standards. Government departments, city authorities, animal welfare organisations, community groups, youth and children’s clubs, businesses and individuals organise a huge variety of inspiring events that embrace all animals and the unique concerns of each, in every country. It’s something that everyone can join in with regardless of nationality, religion, faith or political ideology. World Animal Day belongs to everyone! Events draw attention to animal issues and make them front page news around the globe – a vital catalyst for change.  Through increased awareness and education, the world will become a fairer place for animals. 

With the support of over 90 Ambassadors working in more than 70 countries, World Animal Day has already brought about a significant and lasting contribution to advancing animal welfare standards, and its influence will continue to grow. 

Jill Robinson, Ambassador & CEO of Animals Asia says:
Thanks to World Animal Day and the incredible platform it gives our projects each year, we are slowly but surely raising the status of animals in Asia. Our work continues to help and protect them all and create a world where animals are no longer exploited.
Darem Tabbaa, Ambassador & Director of SPANA Syria says:
The celebration of World Animal Day has already made a big difference to the people and for animals. It’s become one of our annual celebrations nationwide and people are gradually changing the way they think about animals. They are beginning to respect their relationship with animals, the role animals play in their lives and how important it is to their livelihoods to ensure their animals are well cared for. 
Connie Chiang, Ambassador & Director of Taiwan SPCA says:
The celebration of World Animal Day creates an important media and public awareness message.  A message that powerfully shows animal protection as a global movement and that everyone has the responsibility to care and respect animals. We are delighted that, each year our government and media both love to be a part of this meaningful concept.
Morris Darbo, Ambassador & CEO of LAWCS Liberia says:
To set aside a day for celebrating animals means a lot to people here, it tells them that animals are important and have value, and as such should be treated with respect and compassion.
Khageshwaar Sharma, Ambassador & CEO of HART Nepal says:
Creating an outlook that respects all animals is a slow process and World Animal Day acts as an annual marker to measure progress.
Paul Lughembe, Ambassador & Project Coordinator of SEA Dem. Rep. of Congo, says:
World Animal Day is slowly swaying the attitudes of people towards respecting the rights of all animals wherever and in whatever circumstances.
Lana El Khalil, Ambassador & President of Animals Lebanon says:
World Animal Day has created a loving trend for animals in Lebanon. Every year people look forward eagerly to this day to show how much they care about their own animals as well as animal welfare. It has created a major change in our culture towards animals as well as having a huge impact on raising public awareness about animal issues.
Each one of us can make a difference – together we make change happen! 
Notes for Editors 
Photos are available on request or can be downloaded from the website (please credit to World Animal Day)Download logo from website
- October 4, 2018