There is no doubt that the best way to care for animals is not to use them at all – to adopt a vegan lifestyle…
…but everyone out there is on a continuum, progressing in understanding according to their own awareness and the development of their empathetic capacities. I know hunters who feel nothing when they kill animals. Some friends own ranches and are emotionally removed from the slaughtering process. Other friends eat meat, but readily admit they could not kill animals themselves or watch the animals being killed. Some friends have reasons for eating some meat (like fish) but not others (like veal). Friends and family in Tonga eat dogs, while friends from India balk at the idea of eating cows, which are sacred to them. Others will not eat meat, but will still eat cheese made with rennet (the lining of a calf’s stomach). Some still buy sugar filtered with animal bone. A few are acutely aware of where everything they buy comes from – down to the tires on their bicycles (some tires are not vegan) – and ensure that nothing they purchase was produced in any way through animal slaughter or with animal materials. I never buy cleaning or bath products that have been tested on animals. What I’ve seen in almost everyone is the struggle that occurs when one becomes aware of another being’s suffering. Everyone deals with it differently, in their own time, in all sorts of ways – from shutting their eyes to campaigning for PETA and all of the life changes in between. But the paradigm shift always begins with that first gleaning of awareness.
There are some great websites out there that help us grow our awareness, allow us to use our purchasing power to change farming and experimentation practices, and help us make the most compassionate choices wherever we currently are on the continuum.
Animal Rescue Site – The animal rescue site provides funding support for The Fund for Animals, Petfinder.com Foundation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the the North Shore Animal League America. Click for free each day, and sponsors will donate money towards food and care of rescued animals. In addition, sign petitions, send e-cards, shop for fair trade gifts (proceeds go towards fund), and read animal rescue stories.
Animal Welfare Approved “The Animal Welfare Approved program audits and certifies family farms raising their animals humanely, outdoors on pasture or range…Animals are raised outdoors on pasture or range on true family farms with the ‘most stringent’ humane animal welfare standards according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Annual audits by experts in the field cover birth to slaughter. AWA is able to offer this certification and technical and marketing services to farmers at no charge. Because AWA is not financially dependent on farmer fees, the program is unbiased and completely transparent.” Find AWA farms and products in your area, and read about the science and research behind AWA’s standards.
Better World Shopper This great, research-based website ranks products and companies according to social and environmental responsibilities, including animal welfare. The link will take you to the dairy ratings, but you can look up seafood, meat, and fast food, in addition to non-food items like cosmetics.
Cornucopia Institute publishes scorecards for companies and farms. Review the organic egg scorecard, and dairy scorecard,in addition to their organic soy scorecard.
Eat Well Guide Find sustainable, organic restaurants, caterers, bakers, gardens, co-ops, and farmers in your area, and avoid factory farming altogether.
Farm Sanctuary “works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.” Participate in rescue and adoption of farm animals, understand the issues underlying factory farming, and get involved with current bills and campaigns.
Global Animal Partnership is “a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 2008 [which] brings together farmers, scientists, ranchers, retailers, and animal advocates—a diverse group with the common goal of wanting to improve the welfare of animals in agriculture.” This group has introduced the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards.
Living Cruelty Free The blog title speaks for itself. Lots of resources here, including more in-depth details than you’ll find at some other sites. For example, Better World Shopper lists The Body Shop as one of the top 20 overall companies for ethical practices, but Living Cruelty Free actually digs a bit deeper to find that while The Body Shop does not test on animals, it is a subsidiary of L’Oreal, which does test on animals.
Local Harvest Find small local farms, farmers’ markets, and the CSA closest to you, and avoid factory farming altogether.
Maple Farms Sanctuary -Check out this amazing animal sanctuary submitted by Jake Johnston from Play With My Food. “Maple Farm Sanctuary is an animal sanctuary providing lifelong homes for abused, abandoned and unwanted farmed animals while promoting veganism and respect for all life through public information. Maple Farm Sanctuary has taken in a fraction of the billions of farmed animals that are bought, sold, tormented and slaughtered by the meat, dairy and fur industries.”
PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals provides this invaluable list of companies that do and don’t test on animals.
Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine– This non-profit organization of members of the medical community is focused on research-based preventative medicine (they offer a Vegetarian Starter Kit towards this end) as well as encouraging and campaigning for higher ethical standards in medical research. They have successfully persuaded several universities to cease the use of animals for medical school training and in experimentation.
Whole Foods 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards provide consumers with information about the animals their products come from, ranging from Step 1: No Crates, No Cages, to Step 5: Animal Centered (Entire Life on Same Farm). They are working with Global Animal Partnership in launching this effort.
World of Good This online store by eBay “brings you thousands of Animal Friendly, People Positive, and Eco Positive products and listings that Support a Cause – 100% verified by independent Trust Provider organizations and labeled with Goodprint statements that show your positive purchase impact.”
Do you know of other resources that help us make compassionate choices? I’d love to hear from you!
Photo Credits: Peter Haken