A More Cruelty-free Life
Living a life that is cruelty-free involves being more compassionate and empathetic in our everyday decisions, especially as it pertains to the wellbeing of animals. For the vast majority of us, living an objectively cruelty-free life is virtually impossible. We don’t know where most of the ingredients or components of the products we surround ourselves with came from, what environmental damage or suffering occurred in the production and utilization (think petroleum extraction and processing) of vehicles to transport goods, or how those who profit or gain employment from these goods spend their earnings. The world is a complex matrix of very difficult-to-trace variables and considerations.
That said, it’s still worthwhile to try to live a life with less cruelty; we can aim for better without getting discouraged that we’re not perfect. Every action we choose can have an impact on the prevalence and profitability of suffering. The more we support behavior that is compassionate - or at least provides financial incentives to others to act in a compassionate manner - the more prevalent and normalized compassionate behavior will be. It’s about moving the needle.
For your consideration, three ways to live a more cruelty-free life:
1. Shopping thoughtfully
There are numerous questions we need to ask to find out how cruelty-free a product is:
How was it made?
What was it made from?
How will you dispose of it?
What will happen to it after you’ve disposed of it?
The first and most obvious indicator of whether or not something is cruelty-free is to find out whether or not it’s an animal-sourced product. There are labels that make this easier: “vegan,” “cruelty-free,” etc. Another important consideration is to find out what type of natural habitat is being destroyed to produce or extract the components or ingredients of a product. Species go extinct every year from deforestation because of the need for more cropland - for palm oil for example - or the mining of nickel in Madagascar. If after considering some of these things, you feel like you’re contributing to practices that destroy animals, either directly or indirectly, then you can choose another product that resonates more strongly with your cruelty-free aims .
2. Knowing that going against the grain can be hard
Mainstream society (at least here in the United States) seems to idolize the use of animal products and the consumption of meat. Think leather bags and car interiors, who’s got the best BBQ, and goose-down jackets, pillows and blankets. Most of us have essentially been programmed since we were old enough for solid food to ignore inclinations to be compassionate and empathetic to the animals we are supposed to eat or covet. Once children learn the concepts of pain and suffering, most will not want to intentionally harm an animal, let alone take pleasure in it. In fact, deriving pleasure from torturing or killing animals can be an indicator for psychopathic and anti-social behavior in children. But because animal products are such a big part of our culture and economic system, we are socially engineered to place these types of goods on a pedestal. Most of us conceptually know that the lives of livestock are rarely happy or peaceful. And their deaths are even more rarely painless or free of fear, regardless of what industry experts say. In essence, some of us are still able to derive pleasure (in the form of a meal or a beautiful pair of shoes) from their suffering because society ignores the cruelty, or simply thinks of suffering as an externality, a necessary evil, or the opportunity cost of enjoying something we find delicious or luxurious. When we choose to live a more cruelty-free life, we’re rejecting a social norm and there are many people who will be uncomfortable with that decision because we are expressing a view that isn’t aligned with what they believe. It can be difficult to have conversations about this - with friends and family, or even strangers - but practice helps. That leads to the third consideration…
3. Interacting with others
Finally, if you are vegan, vegetarian, or just very thoughtful about your purchasing habits, try to be open and accessible when you chat about your preferences, instead of forceful and alienating. I have influenced quite a few people to eat less meat, no meat, consider veganism, or to think about the implications of what they consume. I didn’t do it by shaming or by acting like I’m superior to anyone else. Vegans have a reputation for being notoriously terrible about connecting with non-vegans about their lifestyle choices, but trying to make other people feel bad about their decisions in life never brings anyone around. In fact, it tends to convince anyone of anything other than that vegans are self-righteous and annoying. I’ve actually met people who say they would eat more meat just to spite a vegan. So when someone asks about your lifestyle choice, try providing an answer that is logical and can be sympathized with: e.g., “I got a dog and at some point realized that I would never want him to suffer or die prematurely. Then I thought, why would I only want to minimize animal suffering to my dog, so I expanded my logic to all animals, including people, and am much happier and healthier for it.” If you are able to influence someone to live even a little bit more cruelty-free of a life, then in the long run you’re probably making a pretty significant difference.
We can change the world we live in by integrating cruelty-free habits into our lives. We’re human, as humans, we tend to copy what we see others do. By living a more cruelty-free life we can set an example, proving that small shifts in everyday habits and choices can make big changes. Sign up for our email newsletter to add 5 more small habits into your shopping trips.