For the majority of us we have the freedom to make our own choices, and the choices we choose to make have the power to change the world. They also define who we are. Our choices empower us to live a life in alignment to our own personal code of ethics and values. However, it may come as a surprise that there are choices we all make on a daily basis that we don’t even question. These choices that we make without any thought are the ones we have inherited from our parents and the ones society tell us are ‘the social norm’. The danger of these inherited choices are that they come with great consequences.
Eating animals, drinking milk and wearing leather is not something most of us ever consciously chose to do. But for the vast majority of people, it’s an unquestioned norm. Animal industries have taken advantage of this ‘society norm’ — so much so that the animal abuse found in animal farming, animal exportation and animal slaughterhouses have become the single greatest cause of animal cruelty today. Even worse, caring and compassionate humans are unknowingly supporting this cruel practice.
The great news is, thanks to all the animal activist organisations, more and more people are starting to question there own inherited choices.
And the great news is: it’s never too late to make a difference. You’re about to discover how to take back your power, and make more conscious and informed choices that are more compassionate towards our animal friends and are more aligned to your natural state of being .
Every second of the day, in every nook and corner of the world, animal cruelty is happening both intentionally and unintentionally. Thousands of species get their names entered in the Red list of being on the verge of extinction. Others become victims to the cruel actions of human beings. Is this what being evolved means? To exploit the less fortunate? Do we need to show compassion only to other human beings? Is this humane? Is this world getting more educated and wise but less compassionate? Isn’t this a disregard for life?
Everywhere in the world, animals are ruthlessly beaten, exploited, abandoned, or forced to fight for survival. When pets become a burden by becoming old and diseased many are left abandoned. Chickens are exploited for their yields and left in unhygienic conditions. Animals are tortured in laboratories in the name of ‘research and testing’. Others are kept in refined spaces and are only allowed out when they are entertaining humans.
I among many others call this Speciesism’. Speciesism is when one species believe they have greater moral rights than another species – in this case humans believe they are superior to all other non-humans and have the right to dictate the livelihood of all other beings.
"Speciesism…a prejudice or bias in favour of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species"
– Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, 1975
Speciesism is no more worse than racism, sexism or modern day slavery.
Many are horrified at another culture that mass slaughters and serves up cats and dogs for dinner but do not have the same reaction when it comes to cows, pigs, sheep, hens or turkeys.
Our excuses for speciesism range from “they’re not as intelligent as us therefore are not deserving of moral consideration” and “other animals eat other animals so why shouldn’t we?” to “plants are sentient too and we eat those”.
The truth is no other species exploits any other species like humans do. Sure, animals may eat another species when they are hungry – however they will never cage it and torture it for most of its life then recklessly take its life when it gets to an eatable age.
The sentience and complex emotional lives of animals has been well documented – from books such as When Elephants Weep and The Pig Who Sang to the Moon by Jeffrey Masson, Pleasurable Kingdom by Dr Jonathan Balcombe and The Cognitive Animal and The Emotional Lives of Animals by Professor Mark Bekoff.
Even if you can’t spare the time to read these books, if you have any doubts as to whether animals feel emotions, watch this video of a cow dancing for joy after being released from years of living in a small space.
Sure it is not always easy to define precisely the best interests of an animal; however it is a matter of common sense that they too prefer life over death and they have a right to live peacefully in their own habitat, at their own will.
Choose Compassionate Living
“Compassionate living” is a notion that implies, that being the highest evolved creatures on this earth, it is our moral duty to treat all other creatures with due respect and take into consideration their best interests. So it becomes important to put every animal’s life above our own selfish interests or needs. Compassionate living is our natural state of being – this is where we naturally feel good on both a spiritual and cellular level. How one chooses to treat animals directly reflects one’s character and it is established that he or she who can be cruel to animals, can never be of good nature.
Everyday Choices That Will Make A Difference
In order to be able to help make a difference to these animals’ life, it is necessary to know what animal cruelty actually is and how we are involved in it unknowingly or knowingly.
"Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way" – PETA
I gently urge you to start making your daily choices both with compassion and consciousness. This will greatly help in reducing the demand of products and hence the animal abuse and exploitation. Some of the choices that you can adopt are as follows:
Choose Consciously What You Wear
“Fashion to die for” shouldn’t mean literally. Millions of animals are tortured and killed in the most brutal way only to acquire their fur, leather or wool. Do we really have no other option of fabrics to wear, that we resort to kill animals for our fashion? Opt for natural plant fibres instead. Don’t be a fool to pay people to kill more animals. Read more about compassionate fashion choices here.
Be Conscious Of The Food You Consume
Eating animals has been proven that it is not a nutritional requirement. We only choose to do so because that is what we have grown up doing. And this is leading to a drastic destruction in our biosphere. Millions of animals are killed in factory farms for mere human consumption. These animals are forced to stay in unsanitary environments and are tortured with antibiotics, growth hormones, artificial insemination, etc. only to increase their yield in a very unethical manner, which is not only a punishment to the innocent creatures, but also to your health, for their yields are heavily adulterated. Once the animals reach a profitable size they are shipped off to slaughter – an industry which is poorly regulated and responsible for the majority of reported animal cruelty cases [generally from slaughter house workers or undercover investigators].
Adopting a total vegan lifestyle is not only kinder to the animals but has been proven time and time again to be the optimum diet for preventing modern day diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, the majority of cancers, depression, anxiety, alzheimers to name just a few.
Shopping for the weekly groceries is the most powerful opportunity to vote against animal cruelty.Opting for cruelty-free alternatives is the single best way to ensure that farm animals — who have been excluded from critical animal cruelty laws in Australia — are protected from abuse. Every time you shop, there are important decisions to make:
- Say no to meat. And if you can’t give up meat then eat less and buy direct from the farm. Factory farms still exist because unknowing consumers continue to purchase their products. If you think it is ethically wrong to keep a sentient being in a refined space so small that they can’t even turn around; or performing surgical procedures on animals without pain relief, then the choice is simple: join the growing number of people who refuse to buy factory farmed products. I get that most people probably won’t give up meat today – however if you are a meatlover please choose ethical sourced meat from a small scale producer that slaughters their own meat.
In Buddhism, sentient beings are beings with consciousness, sentience, or in some contexts life itself. Sentient beings are composed of the five aggregates, or skandhas: matter, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness.
- Think twice about eggs. Most egg-laying hens are forced to spend their short lives crammed inside battery cages where they can’t even stretch their wings or legs. Avoiding cage eggs is crucial, however I must also point out that free-range eggs sound better than they actually are. For eggs to be free-range all that is required is that the chicken gets at least 20 minutes outside each day – the rest of the time they can be caged in with thousands of other chickens with very little room to move. Ever wondered what happens when chickens stop laying eggs? All hens in all production systems are killed when their egg production wanes [usually at 2 years old] — years before their natural life expectancy. And only female chicks can produce eggs, so millions of unwanted male chicks are gassed or minced up alive each year. This is why many animal lovers are choosing to go egg-free!
- Rethink Dairy. Dairy cows need to be pregnant in order to produce milk. Therefore every year they go through the heartbreak of getting pregnant and having their baby calf taken off them within 24 hours so that their milk can be collected for human consumption. Hundreds of thousands of unwanted Australian dairy calves are slaughtered each year at only a few days old as ‘waste products’ of the dairy industry. Ever wondered what happens when female cows start producing less milk? Sadly they also get sent off to the slaughter house for low grade meat. What is even sadder is that many of these cows are injured or lame, they are whipped and prodded, forced to walk down the slaughter house line in incredible pain and suffering. If this isn’t enough to turn you off dairy then read The China Study, the longest recorded research into nutrition where it has been proven that casein found in dairy turns on cancer cells – this should be enough evidence to show that humans are not designed to be consuming dairy.
Understand Your Source Of Entertainment
Do not support zoos, circuses, rodeos, animal races and fight pits. Seriously, there are better sources of entertainment than to watch animals being forced to do what they are not supposed to, after being displaced from their natural habitat. If you want to enjoy animals, go to national parks and watch them in their natural habitat playing, sleeping, hunting, etc. Isn’t it only fair for us to be caged in a car for a few minutes while we visit the national parks and sanctuaries, rather than keeping them caged and chained for their entire lives in zoos for us to watch them?
Choose Cruelty-Free Beauty + Personal Care Products
Millions of animals are tortured by the most famous cosmetic, pharmaceutical and drug brands during the lab testing. If you do a little research, you will discern how the major brands are making money by abusing the voiceless creatures and harming them on a daily basis. It is our moral responsibility to eradicate such brands and choose brands that do not test their products on animals. Modern science has taught us that every chemical reacts differently on animals and humans, so they are not even a reliable testing source. Moreover, we now have a lot of alternative testing methods available. Use your money to support the correct brands and send the message that animal testing is outdated and unwanted. Spare a thought for the suffering lab animals and next time you purchase a personal care, medical, beauty or home cleaning product ensure that it is cruelty free. To read more about choosing cruelty free and vegan read our complete guide here. Alternatively learn the complexities and truths of animal testing for medical research [click here].
Adopt, Don’t Shop
Amongst all the animal cruelty so many animals are rejected, abandoned and displaced. So many of these animals need to be euthanised because there are not enough homes for them. Instead of buying an animal from a pet shop visit your local animal shelter and give these lonely hearts a new chance by inviting them into your home with love. Stop supporting puppy mills and profitable breeders, where in many cases animals are still inhumanely treated.
Much of our wildlife gets killed on the roads. Ensure you don’t speed and at dawn and dusk do not go over 80km an hour. If you do hit wildlife you have an obligation to stop and check on its condition. You must remove it off the road and if the animal is still alive you must call the local wildlife organisation as they will arrange to either rescue it or have it put out of its suffering. Know the phone numbers of your local wildlife rescue groups, and keep these handy in case you encounter injured wildlife. If you find a dead or injured kangaroo, wombat, possum or wallaby by the roadside, remember to check whether there is a joey in her pouch.
Eric and I are wildlife carers and often have wombats in our care because of thoughtful people who have stopped and checked the animals pouch. I have uploaded some cute photos of our last two wombats Elvis and Harriet [they are now safely released in the wild].
If you’re looking for a hands-on way to help native animals, becoming a wildlife carer could be the answer!
Educate Yourself On Charities You Support
Many charities – such as the cancer research charity spend their donations on finding medical treatments and cures rather than on prevention. There is big money to be made in pharmaceuticals and guess who they are testing all these drugs on – yes our innocent animal friends. Educate yourself on the charity and how they plan to use your hard-earned money. Donate with caution when it comes to charities that represent hospitals and diseases.
Travel With More Kindness
We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we have access to different cultures and ways of life thanks to the advancement of air travel. However, many people unknowingly support animal cruelty when they are abroad. Here are some things to look for:
- Animal watch in the wild – were they belong. Avoid going to zoos, circuses and marine parks. Animals don’t belong in refined areas and unfortunately their captivity is funded by unwitting tourists who pay to see ‘wild animals’. Be vary wary of supporting animals in the name of conservation. Many conservation parks are a sham – do your research before giving them your money. Read my article on Blood Lion to learn about the brutal practices in Africa that unknowing tourists support.
- Ride Bikes Not Elephants. There are no ethical elephant rides – no matter what the brochure may say.
- Don’t pay to have photos with wild animals. Sometimes it can be hard to say no to a photo with a cute animal. However, in most cases the animals are being exploited and chances are they have been taken off their mothers, had there teeth pulled out or are heavily disciplined with sharp tools and chains.
- Celebrate kindness over cruel culture. There are cultures who celebrate brutal killings of animals. There are also cultures who torture and abuse animals. Cock fighting, dog fighting, bull fighting and rodeos have all been defended as being ‘culturally important’ — but these forms of ‘entertainment’ can cause extreme stress, pain, and even death to animals.
- Avoid animal souvenirs. Avoid buying anything with leather, fur, ivory, bone and so forth.
Stand Up For What Is Right
Let us stop relying on big organisations and the legal system to make a change against animal cruelty and the barbaric practices undertaken all over the world. We, as individuals, have a key role to play in making this happen. What matters is not just identifying the cruelty, but what you do about it. Many people notice the brutality and are disheartened but don’t stand up for these animals. Today, make a commitment to yourself to make a little change. Here are some ways:
- When you see a pet being tortured in a house or in any other public place, immediately report it to the police and give them as much information as you can about the animal, the person responsible, the address or the vehicle number, etc. The police and the RSPCA together will not only save the animal but also punish the criminal. As per the law, causing pain to an animal is an offence with up to 6 months of jail or a heavy fine of about $2000 or more.
- If you find stray animals or abandoned pets, you can contact agencies like animal aid or RSPCA who come to rescue them immediately and help to get them adopted.
- Say a big fat no to animal testing. Get educated and learn how to no longer support animal testing in consumer products. Read here.
- Educate and spread awareness amongst everyday people – lead campaigns, have cupcake drives, hand out educational flyers, blog about it, invite others to discuss the topic or share your thoughts on social media.
- Donate or volunteer at shelter houses. A few dollars and a few hours can save somebody’s life.
- Write letters, articles, petitions, etc. to make people aware of every violent act being undertaken against animals. Raise your voice so that the law enforcement is forced to look into animal cruelty issues on a much deeper level.
- Sign petitions and help support people who are taking a stand against the violence. Animal activism works and there are many success stories. Recently, activists spotlighted the barbaric practices of the Bali dog trade industry. It got such negative coverage that it was investigated and shut down. Some of the more ethical slaughter house practices are thanks to the untiring activists who fought hard to get certain practices implemented.
Each and every animal has an equal right to live like you and me. We have to give up on the mentality that we alone cannot make a difference to the world. We have great strength as individuals, consumers and as small groups to heal the world and make it a better place to live in. We can start by how we choose to spend our money, rather than support animal exploitation choose companies and products that are animal free.
The great saying by Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” totally holds true. It is a matter of utmost importance to become a voice for these creatures, in order to be able to grow as a nation and more importantly, as an individual.