1. Eaten Meat
Pretty much ALL of us grew up chowing down on animal flesh. We were masters at disconnecting those chicken fingers from the adorable baby chick in our coloring books. In my house, eating meat wasn’t even a question—we just ate what our parents gave us. Like most little girls, I was absolutely obsessed with animals, but I happily ate them.
What I didn’t know was that every bite into a dead animal’s flesh contributes to tremendous suffering. There are no federal laws that protect chickens and turkeys from cruelty on factory farms. The meat industry only wants to produce meat as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Most cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other animals used for food are confined to cages or stalls so small, they’re often unable to turn around. They’re also force-fed drugs and genetically manipulated in order to make them grow faster and produce more flesh than they naturally would.
Eventually, these animals are jammed into severely crowded trucks that are headed for slaughterhouses. For many, this will be the first and last time they ever see sunlight.
2. Consumed Dairy Products
Many of us (me included!) went vegetarian before going vegan because we honestly believed that cows weren’t harmed in the making of dairy products. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the new film Cowspiracy points out, the horrific effects of factory farming are often ignored.
Like humans, cows must give birth in order to produce milk. To achieve this, cows are artificially inseminated on “rape racks” (yes, they’re actually called that) and continuously kept pregnant.
Baby calves are torn away from their mothers within hours or days after birth. Female calves are raised to become milk-making machines like their mothers. Male calves are often kept in tiny pens, given a nutrient-deficient diet and then killed as babies for veal.
3. Bought a Cat or Dog
My family bought our adorable little puppy from a breeder in Seattle. The breeder wouldn’t allow us to see the puppy’s mother, saying the mama dog would be stressed by company. She showed us the puppies on a separate property from where they lived with their mother. Even though this seemed strange, the dogs were so adorable and happy that we assumed everything was OK. However, nothing about buying from a breeder is acceptable.
Most people who give their money to pet stores fail to see the true cost of buying an animal. Purchasing from pet stores supports puppy mills, where dogs are treated as nothing more than products. Mother dogs are forced to give birth until their bodies are spent. Animals are kept in tiny, filthy cages and denied loving interactions with humans. And they’re often born with defects as a result of being over-bred for “cute” physical characteristics instead of good health.
Buying from pet stores or breeders also contributes to the overpopulation crisis. Three to 4 MILLION dogs and cats are killed in the United States every year because there aren’t enough good homes for them. This demonstrates the importance of spaying and neutering animals. In fact, just one female cat and her kittens can lead to the births of 370,000 cats in seven years, and one female dog and her puppies can result in the births of 67,000 dogs in six years.
Adopting from shelters saves innocent lives and helps to prevent more homeless animals. It also shows that we know selfishly breeding animals for profit is unacceptable.
4. Bought a Small Animal From a Pet Store
When I was young, my mom got me a guinea pig from Petco. I loved that little guy, but he’d only ever walk backwards. Even then, I had wondered if there was some physical or psychological trauma in his past that caused this. That was before I learned about the horrors of the exotic-“pet” industry.
Animals in pet stores suffer from the second they’re born. Seventy-two percent of exotic animals in the “pet” trade DIE before even reaching pet stores. Animals are bred in MASSIVE mills or torn away from their families and homes in the wild. They’re crammed into tiny, waste-filled cages and deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them—often including basic necessities.
Animals are shipped to pet stores in cramped containers that are breeding grounds for parasites and viral infections. They often arrive malnourished, severely ill, pregnant, or injured. Many animals are left to languish for days in agonizing pain before being unpacked from the containers they arrived in. Dead or dying animals are considered a normal part of the process – PETA investigations have documented pet stores just popping them into their freezers.
Worst of all, the “pet” trade encourages people to view animals as impulse purchases rather than complex beings who require a lifetime of care. Pet shops will sell animals to anyone who can pay, often sending them home with unprepared, incompetent, or even abusive guardians.
5. Worn Wool
Most people are shocked to learn that the wool industry is cruel. I’ve always thought that shearing sheep was the same as getting a haircut. In fact, I assumed that humans were doing sheep a favor by shearing them. What I didn’t realize was that sheep are often specifically bred to have unnatural, uncomfortable amounts of wool and that shearing is quite different from getting a haircut.
Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without any regard for the sheep’s welfare. An undercover PETA exposé of the Australian and U.S. wool industries revealed that workers violently punched sheep in the face, stomped and stood on the animals’ heads and necks, and beat and jabbed them in the face with electric clippers and a hammer.
Once sheep are no longer wanted, they’re sent to slaughter. Millions of live sheep are shipped from Australia to Africa and the Middle East every year. A 2005 report stated that about 38,000 sheep died just in transit. In most cases, their carcasses were thrown overboard.
6. Worn Leather
I had always assumed leather was produced in the United States as a byproduct of the meat industry, but that’s not the case. Most of the world’s leather comes from India, where animal-protection laws are blatantly ignored. Cows are forced to march for days to their own slaughter, and they do so without food, water, or medical attention.
Like human skin, cow skin naturally rots. Toxic chemicals are used to prevent this from happening, and those chemicals end up in nearby soil and water supplies, endangering the lives of people who work at the tanneries and others who live in the area.
7. Bought Products That Were Tested on Animals
I would always grab the prettiest-looking makeup off the shelves, easily falling prey to flashy advertisements and commercials. It never crossed my mind that my mascara could be causing tremendous suffering to bunnies, guinea pigs, and other animals.
Hundreds of thousands of rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and other animals suffer and die every year in cruel and archaic product tests. Some animals are forced to swallow or inhale massive quantities of a test substance or endure the pain of chemical burns in their eyes or on their skin.
Is all this torture WORTH having another kind of hair spray? I don’t think so.