From facing extinction to suffering cruelty, our animals need help.
There are many ways animals are exploited today and treated with unimaginable cruelty. As consumers, our product and food choices can cause enormous suffering and misery for billions of animals living everyday. We can choose to cast a blind eye and be unwilling to confront the horror our decisions have on animals. Or we can become conscious of our impact and take responsibility for our consumption habits and choose to reduce the extreme level of suffering animals incur for and because of us. The decision and power is in each of our hands—everyday we can choose to alleviate their suffering with the choices we make. We can change their lives and ours by making more humane decisions, and giving our money only to businesses that do not harm animals.
The exploitation and abuse of animals extends to many industries—from food to fur to medical research to canned hunting and more. If we look deeply at the ways animals are treated for us, we can no longer stay ignorant or insensitive to the cruelty they experience. It’s important to know about the issues and how you can make a difference through your decisions. These industries work very hard to keep the cruelty and misery invisible and behind closed doors, hidden from view, and hidden from the truth.
Factory Farming and Industrial Animal Agriculture
Over recent decades, the raising of animals for food has changed dramatically to concentrating animals into very confined, intensive areas, where they are subjected to horrible living conditions. On factory farms animals live everyday in extreme physical discomfort, filth, and stench; are pushed to maximum production levels through drugs, antibiotics, and unnatural food that forces their growth beyond the animal’s natural physical limits; they are subjected to living in extremely overcrowded and unnatural spaces; are completely deprived of sunlight and daylight and comfortable temperatures; are prevented from expressing their natural behaviors and being mobile; live significantly shorter lives than normal before being slaughtered; and incur physical injuries before and suffer profoundly during slaughter. The industrialization of animals for food in factory farms is completely unethical due to the raising, confining, mutilating and slaughtering of animals against their will and their daily inhumane treatment, all done for maximum business profits and producing cheap food that comes with significant externalities to our environment.
Fur Factories and Farms
Animals raised or trapped for their fur suffer in some of the worst ways imaginable. They are either raised on farms in extreme confinement, crowding and unnatural conditions where they are immobilized in wire cages, or they are trapped in steel-jaw traps then inhumanely killed. The most prominent method for killing animals used for fur is with anal electrocution, gassed in gas chambers, or sometimes they are skinned alive. Fur farms and factories kill millions of animals every year, including raccoon dogs, foxes, mink, chinchillas, rabbits and many other species—for their fur. There are no laws to protect them or to regulate how fur animals are raised or killed for their fur. Raccoon dog fur from China is often mislabeled or called faux fur. Mislabeling fur and false advertising in the U.S. is common and another facet of this brutal, ugly industry. Cats and dogs are also raised and killed in China and parts of Asia for the fur industry and are used for fur trim, collars, cuffs, and purses labeled faux fur.
Animal Testing on Cosmetics
Millions of rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and rats suffer and die each year in cruel, crude methods of cosmetic testing to test the safety of products. Tests conducted using animals eyes and skin, and making animals ingest or inhale a substance—painfully burn, blind and poison the animals used in the tests. The tests are archaic, were created in the mid 1900s, and have long been criticized for the cruelty and suffering they cause.
But available today are superior non-animal methods of testing that don’t require live animals. Instead donated human corneas and human skin cultures that are grown are used more effectively, and are cheaper, faster and more accurate. Today, several countries have implemented bans on animal-tested cosmetics including Israel and the European Union; and India and China are both considering similar legislation. The United States is the last of the large cosmetics markets to allow animal testing on cosmetics. Today, you can decide to purchase cruelty-free cosmetics and health/household products that are not tested on animals, and you can refuse to purchase a company’s products that do test on animals, like the large, multi-product manufacturers.
Animal Testing for Science, Education and Medical Research
Millions of animals suffer horrifically every year in the name of science. They include dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits, monkeys, chimpanzees, mice and rats, and many other species. They are subjected to painful, cruel experiments that cause physical and emotional pain and death. They are given invasive surgeries, are poisoned, blinded, gassed, shocked, drug overdosed, genetically manipulated, and burned—sometimes over and over again. They are caged, deprived of comfort, and end up dying or being euthanized after living painful, scared lives. Outside the walls of laboratories, this inhumane treatment would clearly violate animal cruelty laws. However, laws protecting animals in labs are minimal and basically make harming animals legal. Animal testing in labs is not a “necessary evil,” often producing invalid, misleading results that have been harmful to people. Animal models of disease and drug reactions are often inaccurate, are considered outmoded, and are inadequate methodologies for predicting what treatments are effective and safe for humans. Scientific evidence shows that animal experimentation is an inherently flawed methodology. Today, there are non-animal methodologies that yield more relevant results for humans. Science, medicine and education can advance and be achieved without the use of animal models for research.
According to the Humane Society, there are two kinds of animal cruelty: direct violence and neglect. Unfortunately, unless you witness something happening, it’s not always clear when something constitutes neglect. Here are some signs to look for:
- Direct violence. Signs include open wounds, multiple scars, limping, or difficulty walking. Many dogs that suffer direct violence will also display behaviors such as hiding, walking with their head down and tail between their legs, or cringing when people approach, but since those can also occur for other reasons, those behavioral signs alone shouldn’t be taken as definitive proof that a dog is being hurt.
- Neglect. Most people don’t go so far as to actually lay hands on their dog to hurt them. But what happens with far too many owners is just as bad: they neglect the needs of their dog. Signs of neglect include injuries or illnesses that linger untreated, poor living conditions (including filth and dangerous objects near the dog and being left outside in bad weather), bones being visible through the skin, and extremely poor grooming.
So what do you do if you notice an animal that appears to be suffering from one or more of these issues? Call your local animal welfare agency immediately.
In most areas, someone from the local animal control agency, humane organization, or animal shelter will be responsible for investigating and enforcing the local anti-cruelty laws, but if you don’t know who’s in charge in your city or town, you can always call the local police non-emergency number to find out who to report the cruelty to. Also, in many locales, 311 connects directly to city services, who will know where to direct you.
Of course, the best way to fight cruelty is to teach as many people as possible how their pets should be treated — and what they should never ever do. Parents and educators should teach children how to safely and humanely interact with animals at an early age, as well as how they can tell if an animal is being harmed and what to do about it.
You can help spread the word by utilizing your own community to do so. For instance, you can share messages about proper treatment of animals on your social networks or offer to teach a class at your local elementary school or even pre-school.
Beyond this, people need to stand up for what they believe in when they witness animal cruelty and take a stand by reporting the behavior. The more often that abusive individuals are punished, the less likely others are to do the same thing.