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December 2006/January 2007
New Year’s Resolutions to Help Animals
By Monica Engebretson


Whether we like it or not, consumerism shapes our society from the food, clothing, and household products we buy, to the entertainment venues we patronize. And really, the way we spend our money communicates our beliefs, values and interests.

The new year has always been a time to make a few changes for the better. If you hope for a more compassionate world, make resolutions to use your consumer power to affect change.

Shop with Compassion: Support Retailers that Don’t Sell Fur
Of course compassionate consumers would never buy or wear any fur or fur trimmed garments, but you can make an even stronger statement by refusing to shop in stores that sell fur items, and encourage your favorite stores to join the Fur Free Retailer Program. If you see fur in a store, let the manager know you are disappointed or send them a short letter.

The Fur Free Retailer Program represents an international effort to provide consumers with accurate information about a retailer’s fur policy, allowing consumers to make informed choices while shopping.

The program hopes to end the sale of fur products throughout retail establishments by developing positive relationships with, and offering support to, those retailers who have committed to a no-fur policy. The program has been developed by the Animal Protection Institute and is supported by the Fur Free Alliance, an international coalition of more than 35 leading animal protection and environmental organizations worldwide, representing more than ten million members and supporters in the United States alone.

For more information visit www.furfreeshopping.com or www.infurmation.com.

Shop the Bunny: Only Buy Products Truly Not Tested on Animals
Just because a product label says “Not Tested on Animals” or “Cruelty Free,” does not mean the ingredients were not tested. It might only mean the final product wasn’t tested. Most animal testing occurs at the ingredient level, so unless a company has verified that level of testing, it’s hard to be sure what animal testing did or did not occur in the development of a product.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission do not require animal testing for cosmetics or household products. In addition, sufficient existing safety data, as well as validated non-animal based (in vitro) alternatives, make animal testing for cosmetics and household products unnecessary.

Alternatively, support the many great companies who have shown they care about animals by committing to end animal testing throughout their manufacturing process and are approved by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), otherwise known as the Leaping Bunny Program. This is the only international standard that ensures that both products and ingredients did not involve new animal testing.

A list of companies approved by the Leaping Bunny Program is available on line at the CCIC website. If your favorite company is not on the list, write and encourage them to make their compassionate stance on animal testing public by verifying their animal testing policy through CCIC.

For more information visit www.leapingbunny.org.

Shun Pet Shops: Only Support Stores That Do Not Sell Live Animals
You may not realize that by shopping at a store selling animals you may be supporting cruelty. Animals are living, feeling beings who should not be treated like mere merchandise. The fact is, in a retail environment animals must be treated like commodities in order for the store to realize a profit. This means that, in order to cut costs, animals are too often kept in inadequate conditions and denied veterinary care. The cost of providing veterinary care for an animal kept in a pet shop can easily exceed the animal’s commercial value—meaning that animals may be left to suffer or even die from untreated illnesses or injuries.

Moreover, many species sold by pet stores require specialized care that very few people are capable of providing—leading to a lifetime of suffering for the animals. Captive birds frequently suffer from captivity-related stress, leading to behavioral and physical problems. Reptiles sold as pets also commonly suffer physical maladies because little is known about their dietary and environmental needs. Pet shops that sell animals also contribute to the already overwhelming burden of pet overpopulation shouldered by shelters and rescue groups.

Most animals sold in pet shops are not protected by the federal Animal Welfare Act. Some states have laws addressing the care and treatment of animals kept in a retail environment, but these laws vary widely in quality and scope. Too often conditions that seem cruel and inappropriate do not actually violate any laws of the state in which the store is located. Efforts to improve pet shop laws are consistently met with resistance by the pet industry, including Petco and PETsMART.

In 2007 stop animal exploitation by refusing to shop at stores that sell live animals. Instead, only support responsible retailers who do not sell live animals.

For information visit www.api4animals.org.

Boycott the Circus: Just Say No to Big Top Cruelty
For human performers, traveling with a performing show might be considered an exciting life, but for animals in circuses life “on the road” takes a heavy toll. For thousands of hours a year, over long distances, animals are chained in vehicles lacking climate control, left to stand in their own waste. Even when animals are not in transit, they are forced to live in grim conditions, endure cruel training methods, and perform unnatural tricks all for the sake of entertainment.

Many people mistakenly assume that legal safeguards are in place to protect performing animals. But while some regulatory protections do exist, these regulations are neither sufficiently specific nor adequately enforced. State-level laws could go a long way in making life better for captive wild animals used in entertainment.

Considering non-animal circuses like Cirque du Soleil are far better than the archaic Ringling Bros. acts, choosing not to attend an animal circus may not be a very challenging resolution. Take it further in 2007: resolve to be proactive in helping circus animals.

There are many ways to help. When the circus comes to town, sponsor an anti-circus billboard or a radio, TV, or newspaper ad. You can also attend or organize a circus outreach event, educating circus-goers about the treatment of animals in the circus by holding a sign or handing out flyers. You might even resolve to pass a law at the state or local level restricting the use of wild animals in circuses and traveling shows.

For more information visit www.morebeautifulwild.com.

Go Vegan: Wade in or Dive
If you haven’t done it already, make 2007 the year you go vegan. If you are already vegan, make a commitment to help someone else take this life-saving step. In the U.S. alone, more than ten billion land animals are slaughtered annually and billions more fish are raised and killed in fish “farms” or are taken from oceans, rivers, and lakes.

Like all animals, farmed animals have the ability to experience pleasure and pain. Unfortunately, farmed animals endure a tremendous amount of pain and suffering for unnecessary human use and consumption. Eggs and dairy products are no exception. Eggs, regardless of whether they are labeled “cage-free” or “free-range” require the disposal of billions of male chicks who obviously do not lay eggs and are of the wrong breed to be raised for meat. Similarly, with dairy products, no matter the label, in order to produce milk, a cow must give birth every year. Those calves are denied the nurturing care of their mothers so humans can have dairy products. Moreover, it’s the male dairy calves who supply the cruel veal industry.

In 2007, take steps to remove yourself from this system of abuse and exploitation. Beginning a vegan diet is not complicated. Some people abruptly stop eating meat, dairy and eggs, while others begin by using a meat, egg and dairy alternative one meal or one day at a time, then expand to more days a week as they become comfortable avoiding meat, dairy and eggs. Several organizations offer free veggie starter kits and in most cities there are active vegan meet-up groups and vegetarian societies to offer additional support.

For more information visit www.tryveg.com or www.myspace.com/vivaveganbuddies.

Monica Engebretson is Project Director for the Animal Protection Institute.

 


 

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