Sunday, November 27, 2011

Action IV: Why wool isn't cool

Hey there. This week I've decided to talk a bit about the wool industry. You might be thinking, "well, what's wrong with wool? It doesn't hurt them or kill them or force them to do anything." Well, it actually does all three, the extremity of which depending on the type of farm they are kept on.
Wool animals typically have to go through the cruel industry breeding system, which is merciless and does not take into account the emotions of the animals there. Some animals may be auctioned off and end up as dinner at a fancy restaurant. Furthermore, they aren't sheared by hand. Instead, there are machines that shear them, and, obviously, machines do not take into account the suble movements of the gentle creatures, so they end up with little cuts on their bodies. They are shipped around the world, and the ones who are too weak to carry on are left to die. Once in Australia or New Zealand, a kind woman took in a dying sheep and nursed her back to health. The sheep proved to be a wonderful companion!
Admittedly, sometimes the situation is different. For example, I went to an alpaca farm and the alpacas were treated better than this. However, these alpacas were raised as pets, not as an industry. Anyway, it is still irresponsible to breed animals into the world as toys for our enjoyment and when there are still so many who need homes.
Not all animals in the wool industry have hooves, however. Angora rabbits are highly prized for their wool, even today. A few months ago, I looked at the tag on my old sweater and discovered that it was made of Angora wool! I was shocked! I couldn't deal with the thought of the suffering that went into it, so I donated it right away. You see, most angora rabbits are bred in China, according to the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation's Report. From the same source, Chinese Angora rabbits are kept at temperatures around 30 degrees Celcius! That is quite hot for us humans, but rabbits with all that fur must be sweltering! I could go on, but I hope that gives you an idea.
There are definitely alternatives to end this cruel practice. You can find acrilic and cotton fibers to knit with (I like knitting; I tried it last weekend), and so many clothing options are available in stores. It may come down to curbing a shopping impulse here and there, but most wool is heavy and scratchy anyway, so why would anyone want it to begin with?
Things you can do to stop the wool industry in it's tracks:
1) Stop using wool!
2) Encourage your friends and family to stop using wool and get them to read about why.
3) Ask a store that uses a lot of wool to stop producing wool clothes, and don't shop there until they do.
4) Spread the word! Post on your blogs, websites, and social networking sites to stop using wool, or simply post a link to my blog.
I hope you found this post interesting and useful! And come back to learn how to have an animal-friendly Christmas next week! And in the meantime, answer the poll shown to the right!

For your interest, I have included this table from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation's Report to give you an idea of which animals are most used for wool.
 Table 1. World production of animal fibres (from Leeder et al 1998)
Animal Source vs. World Production (tons)
Sheep fine wool 100,000
Goat mohair 25,000
Rabbit angora 8,500
Goat cashmere 5,200
Alpaca 4,000

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Action III: Going pure vegetarian

In my opinion, the absolute best thing that you can do for animals is to stop eating them. It sounds pretty obvious, right? I know a lot of people who would like to go vegetarian or think it would be cool, but they don't commit themselves to doing it. This is because from the moment we are born, we are constantly exposed to people consuming animal products and told that it is the "normal" and "healthy" way of doing things. Have you ever, as a child in particular, questioned meat-eating? I know I did. But my (clueless at the time) parents told me that it's just the way the world works and that it "doesn't hurt the cow". I think everyone knows that this is false, but to what degree?

Cows: The meat and dairy industries go hand-in-hand. When calves are born, if they are female, they are either carted off to the dairy industry or slaughtered right away. If they are male, they are almost always turned into veal by being locked up in veal crates, deprived of iron and denied of exercise so that they have white, anemic flesh. They are not even allowed metal cages, as they may try to lick the iron off of the metal. After a few months, they are then slaughtered. The cows in the dairy industry do not have it good either. They are kept in substandard conditions, and the calves never meet their mothers or fathers. Please read my article on the Teen Ink website to hear about my trip to a small, family-run dairy farm. As you can see, even the ones that aren't specifically factory farms are inadequate. In any case, who are we to deprive calves of their mothers' milk and have them born into slavery just so we can drink something that doesn't even taste very good and decays our teeth? I have included a picture from the family-owned farm:

Pigs: I haven't done much research into the pork industry, because my family never ate it to begin with. However, I have learned that at pig farms, the animals are kept in small pens, with absolutely nothing to do, and subsequently end up chewing the bars and screaming when meal-time comes. It sounds brutal, but there would be no need for you to hear about it if it wasn't happening.

Chickens: Like dairy, humans take two things from hens: both flesh and eggs. Oh yeah, and freedom. Anyway, I went to that dairy farm and also saw the two chickens who the farmer kept.  The hens were tucked away in two little cages that were about as wide as they were themselves. When we came in, they were just standing there and staring at the wall. I felt very sorry for them. the breeding process works like this: when the chicks hatch, they are sorted into two categories, male and female. The industry almost always is only looking for females, so the males are killed and made into dog food, chicken soups and such. The females then are placed into the egg industry. So please realize that you shouldn't do eggs either!

Fish: Some people choose to be pesco-vegetarian, which means that they eat fish, but no other animals. But there is no reason for fish to be inferior to chickens and cows, is there? I think that people think it's okay to abuse fish because they are so different from us. However, there are some similarities. As marine biologist Sylvia Earle put it, “I wouldn't deliberately eat a grouper any more than I'd eat a cocker spaniel. They're so good-natured, so curious. You know, fish really are sensitive, they have personalities, they hurt when they're wounded." Please don't support fisheries, which scoop up more than just fish-- also dolphins and seals-- and avoid fish from fish farms, which pile fish up in tanks while they're still alive. You save a lot more than fish by not eating them-- you also save other marine wildlife and your health. See for more details.

Being vegan is more than a diet. Veganism can really embrace many different aspects of living, like food, clothing, shopping habits, even the way you think about animals in general. I've just listed the animals used for food here because otherwise this post would be too long!
As for actually making the switch, it's easy. Just browse around your grocery store or health food shop and look for vegan tofu burgers, veggie dogs, soy milk, So Delicious Soy Ice Cream, and, of course, staples like bread, pasta, rice, fruits, veggies, beans, etc. Just read the ingredients list to make sure you don't have anything animal in it, okay? Some people find that it is easier to go vegetarian first. However, lacto-ovo vegetarianism should only be a step in the right direction, as, like I said, the industries are working together, so by being lacto-ovo vegetarian, your diet still kills animals, while veganism does no harm.
Come back next Sunday for more ways to help animals!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Action II: Boycott animal skins!

Have you ever realized how some people are opposed to fur, but they are absolutely fine with leather and sheepskin, etc? I have got to say that this is hypocritical. The method to attain these cruel products is always the same: kill the animal. So please don't buy ANY animal skins! This includes leather couches, jackets, belts, keychains, and saddles, sheepskin gloves, hats and boots (like Uggs), and, of course, fur coats, rugs, and other things. The whole point is to reduce animal suffering. There are so many alternatives to animal skins, including faux fur, fake leather, even faux crocodile skin! I have heard a story about crocodiles being raised in little tanks with their mouths taped shut in a dark room. That is all preventable. Here is a quote that I like:

"When you dress in suede or leather,
or some fancy fur or feather,
do you stop and wonder whether,
for a fad,
you have killed some beast or other?
And you're wearing someone's brother,
or perhaps it's someone's mother
in which you're clad!"
-Dr. Doolittle

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Action I: Helping Companion Animals

Many of us have animals other than humans in our families nowadays. But many of the "pets" are so unhappy, it is hard to imagine that they consider us family! Even if you don't have companion animals, there are still ways to help them. Here are some ideas:

 1) If you have pets:
    How much time do you spend with them every day? Some days, it can be easy to ignore them completely, save for feeding them. It is important to consider your pets as you do your family. I know you wouldn't lock up the kid you're baby-sitting in a cage with metal bars! How are animals any different? Therefore, try to spend lots of time with your pets each day, even if it is just sitting and reading a book near them.
If you have a hamster or little animal who would escape and die if you didn't keep her in a cage, please make sure to give her the biggest, most luxurious cage possible! Always consider how you might feel in the animals' situation and give them the best life possible.

2) Other people's pets:
   Obviously, we aren't going to barge into our neighbours' houses and demand that they take better care of their companion animals. Instead, we can do any of the following:
  • report abuse. If you see people kicking their dog down the front steps or even just leaving their dog out in the cold with no water for a very long time, call the humane society or SPCA immediately. You could end up saving his or her life.
  • petsit. Looking for extra cash? Put up signs around the neighbourhood for a petsitting service, or tell your neighbours, friends, and family about it. By petsitting, we can make sure that the animals are treated properly (instead of letting them go off to some cheap old kennel) by walking them, playing with them, or even just reading a book while they lie on the rug at our feet. We can also make sure that they have responsible owners, so when the people come back, we can give them tips on what they could be doing differently. Honestly, it works.
  • dog walk. Many people claim to not have time to walk their dogs. But you can really spice up a doggy's life by offering to take him on a walk, for free or for cash. You can put up signs for a dog-walking service, or if you see a dog who never seems to get outside, offer to walk with him for free. I have also done things like this, and it is a great experience.
There you go! Some ideas. Please post comments and check off which box applies to how you felt about this post. I love hearing feedback!