How to Consider Animals in our Everyday Choices

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A Guide in Everyday Mindfulness for Animal Lovers

Animals play such a big role in our lives, whether or not we realise it. They’re our companions in our family pets. They live in our gardens and the streets surrounding our homes. They provide us food and keep the natural ecosystems balanced so our earth stays healthier. They provide entertainment in many ways, and they’re also a part of scientific research, for better or worse. They’re a vital part of our world and our lives.
Many of us are quick to admit we ‘love animals’. Yet despite the genuine meaning behind the statement, often we’re unwittingly contributing to suffering of animals in some way through the everyday choices we make. I believe if we’re a little more aware of the impact of our choices on animals, we’ll be more conscious and bring our lifestyle more in line with our value of loving animals.

Our Food

This is one of the more obvious areas in which our choices impact animals, particularly if we’re eating them! This isn’t to say we shouldn’t eat animal products at all, but a higher awareness in this area can help us make more conscious decisions.
A major area in which our food choices impact animals is where palm oil is used. Palm oil can be found in many of the products we use every day. It’s cheap, has created an industry and jobs, and is usable in so many ways. On the flip side, the plantations required to grow the palm oil have resulted in the clearing of vast areas of rainforest and had huge impacts on wildlife, habitat and climate change. There are sustainable palm oil options and this an area of growth and focus. Consumer support of companies who use sustainable palm oil is vital in the effort to support the industry whilst protecting our earth. We can pay a little attention to the products that use palm oil, and begin altering our impact.
Dairy Cows

Did you know that in the dairy industry, baby calves are taken from their mother shortly after birth? Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash.

Another example is in the dairy industry. Did you know that in the dairy industry, baby calves are taken from their mother shortly after birth? It seems obvious when you think about it – the mother needs to be lactating to produce milk for the industry. The alarming part for people is that male calves are often considered ‘surplus’ and slaughtered within 5 days of being born (and not always offered the standard of care supported by the RSPCA). By consuming dairy products, we are increasing demand and participating in the industry. If you’re interested in having an impact in this area, how could you make a more conscious decision? You might call your favourite milk company and ask about their practices and, depending on their response, decide you’re happy to continue purchasing from them (or find another). Or perhaps you could reduce your weekly dairy consumption and seek out alternative products. You could also remove dairy from your diet, but the point of this example is not to suggest veganism is the only alternative. It’s simply to point to that we have choices and we can make conscious decisions once we’re aware of them.

Our Fashion

When we think of the impact of the fashion industry on animals the first thing that springs to mind is fur and leather. These are both made from animals. These days there are loads of innovative and, quite frankly inspiring, alternatives to leather but you may not have heard of them if you haven’t looked for them! Next time you’re tempted to buy a leather bag or wallet, do a quick search for leather alternatives and see if there’s something you like just as much, but isn’t made of an animal.
Did you know that silk comes from silkworms? Even if you did know you may not be aware of the production process. In a nutshell (or in a cocoon, in this example :P) the silkworm (a caterpillar) will create its cocoon over 3-8 days. It does this by secreting a liquid and then a bonding agent while twisting about 300,000 times and creating 1 kilometre of thread. Pretty awesome! However if the caterpillar (moth) were to hatch, it would break the thread thus destroying the silk for the industry. So to harvest the silk, the cocoon is either placed in boiling water or blasted with steam or hot air. Needless to say the silkworm dies in the process – to the tune of around 10 billion per year, according to some estimates. Thus the direct impact of the silk/fashion industry on silkworms, in this case. Next time you’re tempted to buy a silk product, just weigh up if you’re comfortable buying a product that affects these animals in this way.
Silk worm cocoon factory

Did you know that silk comes from silkworms? Up to 10 billion die per year in order to create our garments.

At this point I want to acknowledge that to live a perfectly animal-friendly life would be very challenging, particularly in today’s modern society where convenience is assumed. Yet there are many alternatives and with our unprecedented access to information and resources, a little digging can go a long way. The point is to be confident in your values, aware of the impacts of your choices, and informed about alternative options so you can live an aligned life!

Beauty

Most people are aware of the term ‘cruelty-free’ when it comes to beauty products. Many also know of the ‘leaping bunny’ and the associated certification, meaning no new animal tests were used during development of the product. In 2018, Australia is introducing a ban on animal testing of new ingredients so Australians ‘can be confident that cosmetics made in Australia will not be tested on animals in Australia.’ This does not mean existing products in Australia will be removed – they are beyond the scope of the legislation. Only new products will be assessed. Marie Claire has a good article for more.
makeup brushes and cosmetics

In 2018, Australia is introducing a ban on animal testing of new ingredients so Australians ‘can be confident that cosmetics made in Australia will not be tested on animals in Australia.’ Photo by Manu Camargo on Unsplash

When it comes to cruelty-free there are lots of great resources on the web. Logical Harmony has a list of cruelty-free brands that is regularly updated alongside industry news – and Tashina, the owner, does all the research for you!
If you’re interested in delving deeper into the world of animal testing, check out the documentary Bye Bye Guinea Pig. It explores the scientific reasoning for animal testing, and highlights the issues with results. In years to come, we will surely live in a world where animal testing is reserved for only the most necessary products.

Travel

Travelling isn’t something we often associate with having an impact on animals. Furthermore, when we’re in holiday-mode – particularly if we’re in a different country – we can sometimes forget our everyday values and practices. But animals are affected by many of the choices we make while travelling.
One of the most prevalent is wildlife attractions. Elephant rides, for example, are popular bucketlist items that many animal-lovers wish for, particularly when overseas. But many people don’t realise there is cruelty going on behind the scenes. Often the elephants are kept in sub-standard conditions, without sufficient space for proper care. In order to ‘train’ an elephant to tolerate rides, tricks and human contact, baby elephants are often separated from their mothers and beaten into submission. Elephants are highly intelligent and form strong family bonds so there’s no doubt this process is traumatic. Animal-lovers looking to see these, and other, beautiful wild creatures can investigate ethical alternatives – there are many to support.
Elephant rides

In order to ‘train’ an elephant to tolerate rides, tricks and human contact, baby elephants are often separated from their mothers and beaten into submission. Photo by Devaiah Mallangada Kalaiah on Unsplash

While travelling, we can simply be aware of the animals in tourism and have a critical eye when it comes to attractions. If an animal is being asked to perform an unnatural behaviour it’s probably been ‘trained’ to do so. If we’re visiting a zoo, it’s important to be aware of the conditions and values of the zoo.
Recently Animals Australia revealed a horrific practice in Bali whereby street dogs are rounded up to be killed for meat. The meat is then used in products sold to unsuspecting tourists. In cases such as this we can sign a petition to ask the Balinese government to crack down on such practices – but we can also be aware whilst travelling. Animals Australia has a great guide in this respect.

Home

Around the home there are also many ways we can make more conscious choices for animals. Cleaning products are one area in which we can be more mindful, by choosing cruelty-free (not tested on animals) and eco-friendly. PETA has a great list for Australians.
One of the areas we often don’t think carefully about is furniture. Where did the timber come from that comprises that table and chairs? That desk? Coffee table? Our forests are vital for wildlife habitat, but also for ecosystems and climate health, not to mention communities that rely on them. Timber can be sourced from both sustainable and unsustainable sources so it’s important for us to make conscious choices. The Forest Stewardship Council works with partners from all angles to protect both the forests and those who rely on them for their livelihood. They provide certification for timber and paper, and if your timber is certified you can be assured it’s sustainable under FSC. Other than being mindful when buying new furniture, we can also buy second-hand and provide a new lease of life to pre-loved pieces.
There are also some fabulous tips from Tree Hugger about furniture on this post.
Duck swimming and cleaning feathers

The down used in such bedding is taken from birds – it’s the soft feathers close to their body. Many suppliers of these feathers ‘harvest’ them by plucking them directly from the goose or duck – while it’s alive. Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Have you ever bought a feather doona? The down used in such bedding is taken from birds – it’s the soft feathers close to their body. Many suppliers of these feathers ‘harvest’ them by plucking them directly from the goose or duck – while it’s alive. Down is also used in jackets. There is a ‘Responsible Down Standard’ which is designed to reassure buyers that animals are not mistreated as part of the down production process, but a PETA investigation found it wasn’t always guaranteed. There are many warm alternatives to down so if you’re not comfortable supporting such an industry you can try a sustainable alternative! Brands are beginning to commit themselves to keeping down out of future collections – you can see a list here. Here’s another link to check out: http://responsibledown.org/

Animals add beautiful value to our lives in so many ways and as humans we have such a responsibility to respect and protect our earth. Living a life that’s conscious of animals doesn’t mean we have to avoid all animal products or impacts. I believe it’s about defining our individual values, and striving to align our everyday lives with those values. Understand how you value animals, grow your awareness of how your life impacts animals, then make adjustments to live in line with that. It’s an ongoing journey.
As mentioned earlier, if you’re interested in delving deeper into the world of animal testing, check out the documentary Bye Bye Guinea Pig. Below is a sneak peak of what to expect.

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