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Shopping without cruelty

No excuses. How to make sure that your shopping is cruelty free

April 1, 2006
5 min read

To help the bacon and eggs go down easier, many people like to believe that animals do not feel pain, live good lives and are killed humanely. Don’t kid yourself. Goats cry like babies on seeing other goats slaughtered and cows fight for their lives, just as you would if an electric prong was about to go up your arse. Cows, dogs, cats, sheep, pigs all grieve, play, suffer depression, experience joy and happiness, develop friendships and enemies.

Dogs and cats bred for animal testing are no different from your pets – beagles are specifically used because their friendly and gentle nature means they are less likely to bite the hand that hurts them. They may not have many ‘Oh my god, isn’t the universe a big place?’ moments of enlightenment, but plenty of people don’t either. Just like humans, animals anticipate, feel and remember pain, physical and mental. To paraphrase animal behavioural specialist Roger Mugford, animals are ‘very well aware of their own tomorrow’.

Behind the label

In the UK, the ‘Organic’, ‘Free Range’, ‘Red Tractor’ and ‘Lion Quality Mark’ labels are all designed to make the consumer feel better about what they eat, but it’s not so clear-cut. Free range can mean anything from a penthouse suite to inadequate shelter, drainage and grazing. And let’s face it there is no such thing as a free-range abattoir.

The Lion Quality Mark is concerned with food safety but not animal welfare; some 75 per cent of hens producing eggs for this label are battery hens.

The Red Tractor symbol doesn’t exclude intensive farming and battery eggs, and an investigation by Compassion in World Farming said this label was ‘more concerned with creating the image of welfare rather than the reality’.

It’s hard to get straightforward information on cosmetic testing. Companies say ‘We don’t test our product on animals’, but that doesn’t include ingredients. Similarly, ‘We don’t test our ingredients on animals’ doesn’t mean the parent company hasn’t done so. To be sure, only buy products that meet the Humane Cosmetic Standard (HCS), such as the BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) rabbit and stars logo.

The Humane Household Products Standard (HHPS) is the only internationally recognised scheme identifying household products not tested on animals. This is the only scheme that requires independent audit of the supply chain and that BUAV recommends.

Shoes to die for

It’s not only the fur trade where animals die for fashion. Angora rabbits object strongly to being shorn, often dying in the process. Sheep suffer pain and stress and leather is not a by-product of the meat industry but an industry all of its own. Cruelty-free shoes and trainers have come a long way from sweaty, naff plastic – see www.vegetarian-shoes.co.uk and New Balance vegan and sweatshop-free trainers at www.veganline.com/trainers.htm

Meat is murder for the environment too

Over a lifetime the average meat eater consumes some 2,400 animals. One of the most significant things you can do for the planet, your health and animals is to follow a plant-based diet.

Farm animals are responsible for some 13 billion tonnes of waste each year, polluting soils and rivers, as well as huge amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. It takes 100,000 litres of water to produce a kilo of beef and only 900 litres for a similar amount of wheat.

If you can’t go without meat, then make a commitment to buy from organic farmers – www.farmers markets.net or www.bigbarn.co.uk will help you find local producers.

Dairy cows have the cruellest life of all farm animals – a shock to veggies who believe they are doing the right thing by excluding meat but keeping dairy. Milk is pumped full of antibiotics and, more often than you want to believe, it contains puss from cows suffering mastitis. Switch to Vegetarian Society-approved goat and sheep milk, yoghurt and butter produced by Woodlands Park Farm.

Sheepless in Settle

You don’t think it’s unnatural for sheep to stand motionless in a blizzard? They would much prefer to be in nests and burrows. Sheepdrove Organic Farm must have the happiest sheep on the planet, free to nest, wander through chicory fields, with herb strips for self medication, balanced diet and foraging. Their chickens and pigs are kept in similar luxury – www.sheepdrove.com

Household products

Most leading brands of household goods, such as Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Proctor and Gamble, use animal experimentation on dogs, rabbits, pigs, guineas pigs and mice just so our clothes can smell like a ‘spring meadow’ and furniture of lavender.

Try Faithinnature ‘Clear Spring’ brand of cruelty- and phosphate-free, biodegradable products – www.faithinnature.co.uk. The Co-op own-label household products also all meet the HHP standard –

www.co-op.co.uk

Vitamins and minerals

There is no getting away from animal experimentation in medicines and it’s a similar story for most vitamin and health supplements. Viridian is one of few with strong anti-testing practices – www.viridian-nutrition.com

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