What Is Animal Ethics?
Ethics addresses questions of morality, such as what makes our actions right or wrong. Animal ethics focuses upon the constantly evolving way in which society thinks of nonhuman animals. Through our use of animals as goods for food, clothing, entertainment and companionship, animal ethics is something that we all interact with on a daily basis.
When we begin to explore our behavior towards animals, we find that what is presented as acceptable conduct is often inconsistent. While we love and value the nonhuman members of our family, such as the cats and dogs who share our homes, we distance ourselves from the lives of billions of farmed animals, animals used in experimentation, animals used for clothing and animals used in the entertainment industry.
Our consumer choices shape our daily lives and it is through them that we have come to regard some animals not as individuals, but in terms of the financial value placed upon them. The distance we maintain between their lives and our own allows our use of their bodies to continue unchallenged. Can this inequality in how we regard other animals ever be truly justified?
Animal Ethics in Theory
Different approaches to animal ethics, such as welfarism and abolitionism, vary greatly both in their philosophical viewpoints and their practices. Their shared focus is achieving the inclusion of nonhuman animals within our moral community.
The call for ‘higher-welfare’ products, through consumer demand for 'humane treatment' and products such as organic and free-range meat, eggs and dairy, is termed welfarism. Welfarism modifies systems of abuse through changes to legislation and working practices, while allowing exploitation of nonhuman animals to continue.
By rejecting their commodification as ‘products’ and property, abolitionism affords nonhuman animals a right to life and freedom from exploitation. Abolitionism challenges the legitimacy of abusive industries and what we demand from them, working to end suffering by ending exploitation as a whole.
Animal Ethics in Practice
We can prevent nonhuman animals from being degraded into the class of things by promoting a compassionate attitude towards them. An attitude that demonstrates a lack of respect for other animals and unfair behavior towards them is known as speciesism. Like both racism and sexism, speciesism is a prejudice which builds a general disregard for the lives of others based upon an unreasonable differentiation. Only by allowing all animals equal consideration can we be unprejudiced in our actions.
When we start to value nonhuman animals as individuals, we recognize that they are not mechanical units of production and profit. Gradual changes to how animals are treated, confined and slaughtered may alter aspects of how we use other animals but they do not challenge the wrongs of their enslavement. On the surface, welfare changes may appear compassionate, however, by looking at the wider picture we can see that they leave animals within abusive environments and allow their exploitation to continue. By regulating cruelty, welfarism actively accepts the trade in nonhuman animal lives.
Killing and unacceptable harm remain an inherent part of farming animals for food and clothing, using animals in experiments, and using animals for entertainment, regardless of the practices used. The use of buzzwords such as 'humanely raised', and commercial branding of organic and free range products, wrongly reassures us as consumers. The cheery media persona designed for these 'products' enables us to put a falsely positive image to a process which commodifies animals and causes them to suffer.
By creating a change within our own consumer demand, we can create a wider reaching change for the better. When we choose not to support exploitative industries and avoid products taken from animals, we reject the commodity status placed upon them and recognize their value as individuals. Veganism (refraining from consuming all animal products) is the simple action of removing our personal demand for animal exploitation. It is the practical application of the idea that animals are not property, nor ours to use and manipulate.
Animal Ethics and You
If you believe that we should be kind to animals and treat them with respect, only one further step is needed to reach the conclusion that all animals deserve our kindness and respect. If we extend to other animals the same compassion and morality we would hope for ourselves, we can begin to alleviate the harm that we cause them. Compassionate choices made by us as individuals offer protection to those who need it most. Changing the way in which harm takes place is not enough: we need to make choices that respect life and freedom. By leading a vegan lifestyle, we end our demand for animal suffering and exploitation. All that this requires from us is the decision to make a change.
Does Killing Have a Place in ‘Compassionate’ Consumerism?
Sales of ‘higher-welfare’ animal ‘products’ are rising each year, demonstrating consumers’ ever-increasing desire for animals to be treated compassionately. The next question to ask is surely: is killing a sentient animal consistent with wanting that animal to be treated compassionately? Is killing acceptable?
Ask someone if they believe that killing is acceptable, and they will probably answer no, or perhaps only under a few specific circumstances (e.g. to alleviate suffering, or in self-defense or defense of another when life is at risk). Ask if, more specifically, they believe that killing for pleasure is acceptable, and few people would answer yes.
Despite this, many consumers continue to choose to cause the death of other sentient creatures for reasons of personal pleasure on a daily basis, each time they buy or eat animal 'products'. However; this choice is not usually the result of a conscious, rational decision in favor of killing. Most people are brought up to believe that eating or using things taken from animals is a normal choice. This conditioning is often well established before they are old enough to understand the concept of killing and death.
Many people then continue these actions largely due to habit or convenience, rather than ever having made a conscious decision to do so. We can also find it difficult to choose behavior which is outside the expected norms in our families or social groups, or which differ from the values and traditions we were brought up with. The expectation or desire to conform can be enough to deter us from considering changing our actions - even when we know that, in truth, the change will be a positive choice.
In countries where a variety of foods, clothing and other products are available and there is therefore no need to consume or use animals, it is hard to argue that choosing to cause death in this way is a necessity, rather than a choice or simply a convenient habit. Choosing to buy vegan, 100% plant-based food and products, is an easy way for consumers to be sure that the things they buy have not caused the death or suffering of an animal.
It’s Not Just About Animal Welfare
The suffering and cruelty inflicted upon animals is a major cause for concern and a strong motivation for many vegans. Many people are becoming increasingly aware of the animal welfare concerns surrounding food production, particularly in intensive farming systems. However, the welfare of farmed animals during their lifetimes is not the only reason why vegans choose not to consume or use animal products.
There is strong evidence from behavioral studies that animals, including farmed animals such as pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, cows, sheep and fish, are sentient beings with individual needs and preferences. The mass production and killing of these animals does not recognize this. Anyone who has spent time with a companion animal knows that they have complex emotions, and yet farmed animals are no different in this respect from dogs and cats.
Killing is an inherent and unavoidable part of farming animals for food. Of course animals are killed for meat, but many people are unaware that this is equally true of egg and milk production. Millions of male chicks and calves are killed each year as 'by-products' of the egg and milk industries, considered worthless since they cannot produce milk or eggs. The dairy cows and egg-laying hens themselves are killed at a fraction of their natural lifespan, when they become too worn out to produce enough milk or eggs to be profitable.
Simply buying ‘higher-welfare’ animal products cannot change these facts. If consumers want to ensure that the food they buy is ‘cruelty-free’, by far the best way to achieve this is to buy vegan food.
It is entirely possible and increasingly easy to have nutritious and tasty food and practical and stylish clothing without exploiting other animals. Therefore the question is not, “Why shouldn’t we use and kill animals?”, but, “Why would we?”
How to Save 11,000 Animals
Do you care about animals? Do you want to help stop their suffering? Then go vegan! Cutting out animal products and being vegan means voting every single day of your life with your knife and fork and by your choice of clothing, cosmetics, household products and entertainment. Your vote says no to animal cruelty.
There is now a fantastic range of vegan products on the market to make it easy for you to make the transition. Some people go vegan in a day, others take a few months to adjust. The most important thing is to make a start and use each day to work towards the goal of a compassionate vegan lifestyle.
In a lifetime a meat-eater will consume a huge number of animals. By switching to a plant based diet, not only will you stop contributing to this mass slaughter of creatures, but you will also save those animals from a lifetime of suffering. A recent study by Viva! suggests this figure could be as high as 11,000!
A vegan (pronounced Vee-g'n) is someone who tries to live without exploiting animals, for the benefit of animals, people and the planet. A vegan is someone who does not eat any meat, poultry, fish, dairy products (milk, butter, cheese, cream etc), eggs, honey or any other animal derived by-products such as gelatin and whey. They also avoid wearing leather, suede, wool and silk - as these have all been obtained from animals - and toiletries, cosmetics and cleaning products that have been tested on animals or contain animal based ingredients. Instead, vegans choose from thousands of animal-free foods and products.
Veganism is a philosophy, not a diet. This philosophy is the belief in the right of all sentient beings to be treated with respect, not as property, and to be allowed to live their lives.
Some of the Main Reasons for Choosing a Vegan Lifestyle
It’s a Healthy Choice
A balanced vegan diet (also referred to as a ‘plant-based diet’) meets many current healthy eating recommendations such as eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and consuming less cholesterol and saturated fat. Balanced vegan diets are often rich in vitamins, antioxidants and fiber and can decrease the chances of suffering from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Well-planned plant-based diets are suitable for all age groups and stages of life.
Many people become vegan through concern of the way farmed animals are treated. Some object to the unnecessary ‘use’ and killing of animals – unnecessary as we do not need animal products in order to feed or clothe ourselves.
Public awareness of the conditions of factory-farmed animals is gradually increasing and it is becoming more and more difficult to claim not to have at least some knowledge of the treatment they endure. Sentient, intelligent animals are often kept in cramped and filthy conditions where they cannot move around or perform their natural behaviors. At the same time, many suffer serious health problems and even death because they are selectively bred to grow or produce milk or eggs at a far greater rate than their bodies are capable of coping with.
Regardless of how they were raised, all animals farmed for food meet the same fate at the slaughterhouse. This includes the millions of calves and male chicks who are killed every year as ‘waste products’ of milk and egg production and the animals farmed for their milk and eggs who are killed at a fraction of their natural lifespan. Choosing a vegan diet is a daily demonstration of compassion for all these creatures.
It’s Better for the Environment
Plant-based diets only require around one third of the land and water needed to produce a typical Western diet. Farmed animals consume much more protein, water and calories than they produce, so far greater quantities of crops and water are needed to produce animal ‘products’ to feed humans than are needed to feed people direct on a plant-based diet. With water and land becoming scarcer globally, world hunger increasing and the planet’s population rising, it is much more sustainable to eat plant foods direct than use up precious resources feeding farmed animals. Farming animals and growing their feed also contributes to other environmental problems such as deforestation, water pollution and land degradation.
There are mouth-watering plant-based dishes from around the world: from India, vegetable curries and dhals; from the Far East, tofu stir fries; from Italy pastas and salads; from Turkey, hummus and babaghanoush; and from Mexico beans and tortillas… the list goes on! Many familiar foods have vegan versions - vegans can enjoy pizza, vegan sausage and mash, casseroles and even chocolate cake. The variety of vegan food available in shops and restaurants is growing all the time – eating a vegan diet has never been easier.
Choosing to live a life free from animal products means choosing a path that is kinder to people, animals and the environment. In fact, there are so many good reasons to reject meat, eggs and dairy products and so many delicious animal free alternatives that the real question is not ‘why vegan?’ but ‘why not?’.
Why Food Choices Should Be Included in a Compassionate Lifestyle
Understanding how animals are killed for food is clearly not a pleasant subject. However, all consumers have a right to be aware of how animals farmed for food production are killed, and to understand the extent of the killing involved, in order to make an informed choice as to whether or not they wish to be a part of it.
The following explains what happens before meat, eggs, dairy and other animal products end up on the supermarket shelves. Each person who rejects animal products and goes vegan makes a huge difference.
You can give this story a happy ending; go vegan and experience for yourself a lifestyle that is kinder to animals, people and the environment.
Cattle are gregarious animals who, in a more natural environment, would live in complex social groups. They would choose a leader and form close friendships, grooming and licking one other to show their affection. Cattle-farming upsets this hierarchy in many ways, because new members and divisions of the herd occur frequently and this can be very disruptive.
Cattle bred for beef may be kept in a variety of systems. Frequently they are kept in windowless fattening sheds until ready for slaughter. They have little room to move and no access to the outside, to feel fresh air and sunlight.
How They Are Killed
Cattle are stunned by a shot into their brain from a captive-bolt pistol. Frequently they struggle or move around because they are terrified by the situation, so sometimes the bolt misses the mark and the cattle are not stunned. Thus they are conscious while being killed by having their throat slit and bleeding to death.
Purchasing leather ensures the continuity of a massive industry based on animal suffering. The leather industry makes a huge profit each year, mainly from cattle and calf skins.
Most cows are now artificially inseminated. The cow is tied up and one hand of the inseminator manipulates the cervix through the rectum wall while the other discharges semen into the vagina and cervix using an inseminating gun. This is uncomfortable and stressful for the cow.
Both the mother and calf suffer greatly at the hands of the milk industry.
Dairy cows have been selectively bred to produce ten times more milk than they would naturally need to feed their calves. This can lead to mastitis, a painful udder infection, and lameness when they are forced to stand all day in the cow shed. In order to produce milk the mother must be kept continually pregnant. So three months after she has given birth, and while she is still producing milk, she will be made pregnant. This puts a huge strain on her. Moreover, the calf is taken away soon after birth so that any milk produced by the cow can be sold for humans to drink. The mother and calf form a strong bond very quickly and the cow continuously calls after her calf has been taken away from her. The separation also causes a lot of confusion and distress for the calf. The cow is put through this heart-breaking and exhausting procedure not once, but an average of five times, until she is deemed to be no ‘use’ to the farmer and killed.
The calf is usually disbudded, whereby a heated iron is applied to the horn buds to stop the horns from growing. This is painful and stressful. Male cattle are also castrated by methods that cause the animal acute pain. Female calves are often kept to produce milk. Male calves are usually sent abroad for veal or deemed ‘useless’ and killed.
On organic farms the dairy cow still has to deal with continual pregnancies, and the mother and calf are still separated very soon after birth. Castration and disbudding of calves may still be carried out, and, as on nonorganic farms, slaughter is inevitable.
Sheep are social herd animals who tend to be gentle and passive. They have been found to feel desolate when those close to them die or are sent for slaughter. When farmed for their flesh and wool, sheep are exposed to a series of stresses and abuses throughout their lives.
Lambs are castrated with a rubber ring around their testes or by having them cut off with a knife, usually without anesthetic.
During this mutilation the lamb’s tail is usually removed by means of a tight rubber ring, though a knife or hot iron may be used. Again anesthetic is rarely used. Sheep are also put through a barrage of other stressful procedures including artificial insemination, force-feeding, dipping and spraying.
Killing For Meat
Sheep are usually slaughtered by electrical stunning followed by having their throat slit. However, stunning is not always effective and sheep may regain consciousness when their throats are slit or while blood is being drained from their body, a terrifying experience.
The wool industry is a massive profit-making industry in itself. As well as all the cruelties involved in rearing for meat, the additional practices of mulesing and shearing cause even greater suffering to sheep used in wool production.
This is a practice carried out across Australia, where most wool comes from, and it was introduced to reduce the risk of fly-strike. Fully-conscious lambs have chunks of flesh sliced from their back end. The lamb may be in excruciating pain and left with a wound that takes weeks to heal.
This is also extremely stressful with the sheep being forcibly restrained as workers rush to shear them, and bloody injuries often occur. One worker reported, “I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off”. In Australia alone, an estimated one million sheep die every year from exposure after shearing.
Live Export and Transport
Current methods of transporting sheep are extremely crude and present a number of welfare concerns. During loading and unloading, frightened or tired sheep are not treated with sympathy. Instead they are pushed and hit by stockmen. This certainly causes unnecessary fear in the animals and may also cause them to slip or fall, resulting in cuts, bruises and even broken bones. While being transported, sheep are crammed in with not even enough space to turn around. On journeys that may last days or even weeks, conditions are often appalling. Sheep may suffer from starvation, dehydration, injury and disease and any that fall to the floor are usually crushed to death. Many die before reaching their destination.
POULTRY AND EGGS
Chickens can be very sociable. They enjoy sunbathing and, like turkeys, love to dust-bathe in order to keep clean. As with other birds, mother hens’ desire to build a nest for their young is very strong. They have a strong bond with their chicks which begins even before they are hatched, with the chick and hen calling to each other. In the wild ducks and geese spend much of their time swimming and flying and may travel for hundreds of miles during migration. Geese choose one partner who they stay with for life through thick and thin while ducks live and sleep in groups.
The Life of a Broiler Chicken and Other Birds ‘Grown’ for Meat
On factory farms these birds are taken from their mothers before birth, thus being denied most of their natural types of behavior. No water is provided for ducks and geese to swim in and there is no chance for hens and turkeys to dust-bathe. They are crammed into sheds where the stench of ammonia from their droppings is intense and often leads to respiratory problems. Selective breeding means that these young birds grow very fast. Their bones have no time to become strong enough to hold their weight, so many birds have broken bones and most have lost the ability to fly. An investigation by Compassion in World Farming found crippled birds in chicken farms unable to reach food and drink, carcasses trampled by live chickens and piles of decomposing bodies left to rot.
Birds are commonly hung upside down in shackles by their feet and passed through a bath of electrified water, which should stun them before their throats are slit. The birds are killed at the rate of 8-10,000 per hour and left to bleed to death.
Most laying hens are kept in battery cages with several birds to one cage. The amount of room in which each bird spends her life is roughly the same size as a sheet of paper or a microwave oven. In these conditions hens often fight. To prevent this they are de-beaked by having the tip of their beak sliced off. This is an agonizing procedure which leaves the hen in pain for days. It has been found that hens who have been de-beaked avoid using their beaks except for feeding. Privacy is very important to an egg-laying hen but is utterly denied to her. Her desire to make a nest is also very strong, but again this is simply not possible.
Other alternatives are free-range and barn systems but each creates its own welfare concerns. For example, in free-range and barn systems there is more aggression leading to greater feather-pecking and cannibalism. Just like hens in battery cages, free-range and barn hens are often de-beaked. As in the battery system, half of all chicks are gassed at a day old because they are males and hence no good for egg-laying.
Fish and Pain
Not only do fish feel pain, they are very sensitive to stimuli. Some of their senses are far more developed than ours. Fish are highly responsive to touch and have an incredible sense of smell. They have sensory hairs along their backs that allow them to detect gentle currents and vibrations and sense the motion of other animals. Like other animals, fish use the sensation of pain to help them survive. It tells them when they have entered a dangerous situation from which they should withdraw immediately. It is pain that motivates a fish to fight vigorously when hooked, in a desperate attempt to get away.
Net Losses of Life
Various types of nets are used in sea-fishing, including drift nets and bottom trawls. Drift nets may be over two miles long. Fish that swim into the net become trapped by their gills when they try to back out. Marine mammals, such as seals and porpoises, also become trapped and drown when unable to reach the surface to breathe. Bottom trawls are dragged over the seabed and, as well as fish, catch every other species living on the seabed.
The Way They Die
As the fish are dragged from the ocean, they experience decompression which often causes the eyes to pop and the swim bladder to rupture. Many are crushed to death under the weight of other dying fish and those that survive are left to suffocate when removed from the water or may be gutted alive.
Fishing has Devastated the Oceans
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that all seventeen of the world's major fishing areas have either reached or exceeded their natural limits, and nine are in serious decline. Overfishing has an impact on whole ecosystems since other fish, birds, marine mammals and smaller organisms that depend on fish to survive are affected.
The rearing of farmed fish can be compared to other types of factory farming. With very limited space the fish can barely exercise and injuries to the snout and fins are common. These are generally caused by rubbing against the net or by collision or aggression between fish. Wild salmon migrate over hundreds of miles and this is completely frustrated by keeping them in the small, static cages that fish-farming involves. The stocking density of salmon is equivalent to keeping a two foot salmon in a bath, while trout have even less space to move.
Before slaughter, fish are starved for up to three weeks. They may then be killed by electrocution, by a blow to the head with a club or by being frozen to death on ice. Alternatively, the fish’s gill arches are cut or torn and life is literally drained as they are left to bleed to death in the tank. Fish-farms may be rife with disease so large quantities of chemicals are used in an attempt to control it. Ironically, fish-farming also affects wild fish who are fed to farmed fish such as salmon, trout and cod. It takes up to three tons of wild fish to produce one ton of farmed salmon, and up to five tons to produce a ton of farmed cod or haddock.
The True Cost
Few consumers realize that the true cost of cheap salmon includes the deaths of millions of other animals who are seen as predators. Birds, seals, mink, otters and many other animals are killed by the fish-farmers.
Pigs are sociable, tactile and inquisitive animals. They like to roll in mud to keep cool and protect their sensitive skin from the sun. They are very clean and, given the chance, they will always keep their ‘latrine’ separate from their living quarters. In a more natural environment the sow would build a nest up to three feet high for her babies. In the factory farm the sow is given a concrete floor with no straw and the nesting instinct is totally frustrated. The pregnant sow will nose at straw that isn’t there to make a nest she’ll never have for another litter she’ll never raise. The sow can barely move and often ends up crushing some of her piglets. In the wild the sow constructs the nest so that crushing cannot happen, but in the factory farm the death of many piglets in this way is almost inevitable.
The sow’s piglets are taken away after three weeks, causing great distress to mother and babies. The piglets are still reliant upon their mother at this time, and in a natural environment would still be suckling. Most piglets have their teeth clipped and tails cut off to stop them from fighting and tail chewing. They are put into small pens or metal cages, and after about six weeks go to fattening pens where they have little room to move and never see fresh air. Their intelligent, enquiring minds are dulled down by boredom and total lack of stimulation.
Pigs to be killed are stunned with electric tongs or gas, hoisted up by one leg and have their throats slit. They are then put into a tank of boiling water to remove their bristles. Many pigs regain consciousness before they die from loss of blood. There are reports of pigs being boiled alive because they had not been stunned properly.
HONEY, SILK AND SHELLAC
Honey, silk and shellac are produced using bees, moths and lac insects respectively. Being such tiny creatures, their needs are often overlooked. This is very unfortunate because thousands are required to yield a small amount of honey, silk or shellac.
Bees are social insects who live in a well organized colony. They work together to keep the colony running smoothly, protecting and feeding one other and undertaking many other tasks together. In commercial honey production, bees undergo treatments similar to those used in factory farming. Whole colonies of bees may be killed to save feeding them during the winter, and the queen bee has her wings clipped and is artificially inseminated with sperm from decapitated male bees. Beekeepers take the bees’ honey, and to replace it often feed them artificial pollen substitutes and white sugar syrup. The honeybee flies about 500 miles in her working life and produces half a teaspoon of honey. Much of this is taken away.
This is produced by silkworms. A silk cocoon is spun by the silkworm caterpillar by manipulating a thin silk thread in a figure of eight movement some 300,000 times. Once the caterpillar is ready to turn into a moth, she must break down the cocoon in order to emerge. This process would destroy much of the silk, therefore the majority of the moths are killed by being immersed in boiling water or dried in an oven. It takes literally hundreds of silkworms to make just one small silk scarf or tie.
This is a secretion produced by Lac insects as a protective coating. The secretion is scraped off the trees on which they live and turned into shellac. Some of the insects are scraped off at the same time and die.
Being vegan does not stop at what you put in your body. What you put on your body needs a bit of thought too, as animal products seem to find their way into the most unlikely places. Vegans also attempt to refrain from purchasing household products made or tested on animals, and from exploiting animals by boycotting animal entertainment. With so many humane alternatives, why not choose vegan options?
Make-up and Toiletries
Many cosmetics and toiletries have been needlessly tested on animals and often contain ingredients like beeswax, lanolin (from wool), silk, animal fat or slaughterhouse by-products. Most health food stores sell vegan toiletries.
Every year, millions of animals are subjected to the most horrifically painful experiments just so people can have a new brand of shampoo or a differently scented perfume. Eye Irritancy tests - commonly called the Draize test, involve a substance applied to the eye of a rabbit to see if irritation or damage ensues. During the test, the animals are given no pain relief, they are held in stocks to prevent them from touching their eyes and the test may last for several days causing great pain and suffering. Rabbits are used because they have very poor tear ducts in their eyes so they cannot wash away the substance.
Skin irritancy test involves shaving the fur off an animal and applying the test substance to their skin. The skin is then observed for signs of irritation e.g. swelling, reddening, bleeding, cracking or ulceration.
Toxicity tests - such as the LD-50 (Lethal Dose 50%) involves substances fed to the animal and they are observed for signs of poisoning e.g. tremors, bleeding, vomiting or loss of balance. The test may last for several days causing great suffering. Those animals that do not die during the experiment are killed at the end for autopsy.
Animal testing of cosmetics is entirely unnecessary. Over 8,000 ingredients have already been established as safe and there is no reason why manufacturers need to use any new substances. Where new ingredients are used, the law requires them to be safety tested - this need not involve animal testing. Cruelty-free alternatives such as testing on reconstructed human skin, using computer modelling and enlisting human volunteers are often more reliable than using a different species, with a different biology to test products for human use.
Clothes and Shoes
Many shoes, jackets, belts and bags are made from leather, suede or silk. Happily for us - as well as for the animals - there are cruelty-free options.
Each year more than 40 million animals are senselessly tortured and killed to satisfy the dictates of fashion. Wild-caught fur is obtained by setting traps or snares to capture fur-bearing animals. Once an animal is caught it may remain in the trap or snare for several days starving or slowly strangling. Farm-raised fur comes from animals kept in tiny, filthy cages, deprived of adequate protection from the elements. As a result, animals develop stereotypical behavior, including pacing, head bobbing, and self-mutilation. The techniques used to kill animals on fur farms vary. Small animals such as mink are killed by neck snapping or "popping." Larger animals such as foxes are electrocuted by placing a metal clamp on the snout and forcing a rod into the anus, and then connecting the metal to a power source. Some animals are forced into bags or boxes and gassed with carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.
Sheep raised for wool are subjected to a lifetime of cruel treatment. Lambs' tails are chopped off and males are castrated without anesthetic. In Australia, where 80% of all wool comes from, ranchers perform an operation called "mulesing" where huge strips of skin are carved off the backs of lambs' legs. This procedure is performed to produce scarred skin that won't harbor fly larvae, so that the rancher can spend less time caring for the sheep. The shearing of sheep at most wool ranches can be a brutal procedure, as workers are encouraged to shear as quickly as possible. As a result, an estimated one million Australian sheep die every year from exposure. Sheep that are no longer useful for their wool are sent to crowded feedlots and then transported to the slaughterhouse.
By-products of the beef industry are defined by the parts of the cow that are not consumed by humans. These include hooves, some organs, bones, and skin. Skin (leather) accounts for about half of the by-product value of the beef industry. Like meat, leather is a product made from animals that experienced the horrors of factory farming, transport, and slaughter. The leather industry uses some of the most dangerous substances to prepare leather, including formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, various oils, and some cyanide-based dyes.
Animals used in the circus spend the majority of the year imprisoned in small cages or on chains, traveling from show to show. The training endured by circus animals is almost always based on intimidation; trainers must break the spirit of the animals in order to control them. It is not uncommon for an elephant to be tied down and beaten for several days while being trained to perform, and tigers are chained to their pedestals with ropes around their necks to choke them down.
Horses and cows used in rodeos are abused with electrical prods, sharp spurs, and "bucking straps" that pinch their sensitive flank area. During bucking events, horses and bulls may suffer broken legs or run into the sides of the arena causing serious injury and even death. During calf-roping events, a calf may reach a running speed of 27 miles per hour before being jerked by the neck to an abrupt stop by a lasso. This event has resulted in animals' punctured lungs, internal hemorrhaging, paralysis, and broken necks.
Once greyhounds begin their racing careers, they are kept in cages for about 22-1/2 hours a day. The cages are made of wire and are barely big enough for the dogs to turn around. Dogs that are considered too slow to race are sold to research facilities or killed (20,000-25,000 each year) -- very few are adopted. More racehorses are bred than can prove profitable on the racetrack. As a result, hundreds of racehorses are sent to slaughter every year.
While zoos and aquariums may appear to be educational and conservation-oriented, most are designed with the needs and desires of the visitors in mind, not the needs of the animals. Many animals in zoos and aquariums exhibit abnormal behavior as a result of being deprived of their natural environments and social structures. Some zoos and aquariums do rescue some animals and work to save endangered species, but most animals in zoos were either captured from the wild or bred in captivity for the purpose of public display, not species protection. The vast majority of captive-bred animals will never be returned to the wild. When the facility breeds too many animals they become "surplus" and often are sold to laboratories, traveling shows, shooting ranches, or to private individuals who may be unqualified to care for them.
What will I eat?
There are so many delicious vegan dishes to choose from that you’ll never be short of ideas. How about Indian curries, spaghetti, pizza, enchiladas, Chinese stir fry, sausage and mash, falafel, vegetable casserole and dumplings, sandwiches, wraps, samosas, quiche, soups, pasta and pesto, spring rolls, lasagne, spicy bean burgers, risotto, hot and sour soup, Thai green curry, Moroccan tagine…and don’t forget dessert! Vegans can enjoy sponge cake, ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies and more that taste as good, as or even better, than their non-vegan equivalents. Rest assured that vegan food is just as tasty and varied as any other type of food.
You don’t have to be a genius in the kitchen or have loads of time to cook – quick and easy vegan meals include stir fries, pasta and sauce, chili, potatoes and burritos. If you do enjoy cooking, you can have lots of fun trying out new recipes and discovering new favorite ingredients and dishes.
What about eating in restaurants?
Many restaurants offer vegan options and the choice is improving all the time. Some chain restaurants offer vegan options. Indian restaurants usually have a good selection for vegans, and Middle Eastern, Chinese and Thai restaurants often have vegan dishes as many of their vegetarian dishes do not contain milk or eggs. Just check with the staff to make sure there are no hidden animal ingredients, such as fish sauce in Thai food. Most restaurants can accommodate vegans even if vegan options aren’t on the menu. All you have to do is ask. You’ll often find that the cook or chef enjoys the ‘challenge’ of cooking vegan food for you!
Is vegan food expensive?
No more than any other type of food. In fact, meals based on vegan staples such as pasta, rice, beans and vegetables often work out cheaper than using animal products. Vegan meals in restaurants are often cheaper than the meat dishes. Products such as non-dairy milk, veggie burgers and vegan pesto are usually a similar price to their non-vegan counterparts and are available in most supermarkets. As with any type of food you can splash out on luxuries if you like, but that’s entirely up to you.
How can I make sure I remain healthy?
A balanced vegan diet meets many current healthy eating recommendations, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fiber and consuming less saturated fat and cholesterol. It can also decrease your chances of suffering from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Well-planned vegan diets meet nutritional requirements for all age groups and stages of life.
Will I need to take supplements?
Vegans need to obtain vitamin B12 either from supplements or from foods fortified with it. Our bodies produce vitamin D by the action of sunlight on skin, so depending on where they live, it may be advisable for vegans to consume vitamin D2 during winter through supplements or fortified foods (particularly in northern countries). Other than Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, all nutrients necessary for good health can be obtained from plant foods in adequate amounts.
I’ll miss chocolate/pizza/ice cream/cheese/cake!
No you won’t! There are vegan versions of or alternatives to many familiar foods, including all of the above. You will not have to give up that favorite food after all.
What if I eat at a friend or relative’s house? – I don’t want to be ‘difficult’.
Friends and relatives may not know how to cater for you at first but will soon get used to your new diet. To help them out:
Explain to them in advance what you do and don’t eat;
Offer to take a dish to share with everyone;
Offer to give them some recipes they could cook for you or suggest a few ideas.
You may find that friends and relatives get into the ‘challenge’ of cooking vegan food for you and will look forward to having you to show off their latest efforts!