The animal rights movement is on the rise, as demonstrated by the tens of thousands of people who marched this past week in Official Animal Rights Marches in New York and Los Angeles, in London and Toronto, in Melbourne and Tel Aviv, and in many other cities around the globe. The aims of these marches, according to the organizers, included uniting the vegan community and inspiring vegans to become active. But when the feel-good factor wears off and everyone returns to everyday life, what are the things we can all do to make a practical difference for animal rights?
This is perhaps the most obvious one, but it is worth repeating: every bite you take of vegan food is a bite you’re not taking of food produced at the expense of a chicken, a pig or a cow. But it is also more than that: by eating only vegan food and making vegan food for your friends, relatives or lunch and dinner guests, you can prove how easy it is to enjoy a meal and do something positive. And the more vegan food we all eat, the more the food industry will catch on to the growing power of the vegan consumer. Did Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs introduce their vegan ice cream ranges out of the goodness of their heart? Perhaps, but it is more likely that they saw a great commercial opportunity. The more of us that eat vegan, the more companies will diversify away from the meat and dairy industries and toward vegan-friendly foods.
Veganism is, by definition, a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is practicable, all forms of exploitation of animals for any purpose. Food is the most obvious one, but what about all those animal-derived materials in our clothes – from fur to leather to wool to silk, and even things like pearls and animal-derived dyes that most of us wouldn’t notice. Historically, filling a closet with only vegan items has been more difficult than filling one’s plate with vegan foods, but the good news is that today there is an alternative for pretty-much everything; from vegan leather handbags to organic cotton tops to footwear made from recycled bottles or tyres, it is simple these days to wear only vegan items from vegan brands.
Be beautiful with vegan
The cosmetics industry has historically been another big abuser of animals, but as with food and fashion – things are slowly improving. When purchasing beauty or skincare products, it is important to be aware of the difference between cruelty-free (meaning no animal testing), and vegan (meaning no animal ingredients whatsoever). Sadly, many cosmetics companies have sworn off animal testing but still use little-known animal-derived ingredients such as beeswax, animal hair, stearic acid (obtained from the fat of slaughtered animals), and tallow (obtained from fatty tissue of slaughtered animals, and which appears in way too many everyday products, including Britain’s new polymer £5 bill).
Support vegan businesses
Consumers can play a role in encouraging the development of vegan industry. Every time you buy vegan, you send the market a signal. Just as Beyond Meat and Memphis Meats produce plant-based burgers or lab-grown chicken because of growing opposition to animal cruelty, more money will be invested in vegan foods, clothes and cosmetics if the market demands it. When you buy from small or large vegan businesses, you help fund more innovation which leads to even more vegan products being brought into the market and so on, and so forth.
As with all things in life, if you’re passionate about something, learn about it. If you’ve listened to the likes of James Aspey and Gary Yourofsky, or read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, you’ll notice very different approaches. But what they have in common is a seriously impressive command of the facts. Combine that with a just cause and it is virtually impossible to refute them.
Image: New York's Animal Rights March on Sep 2 (Flickr)