My Journey to Cruelty-Free Living
In 2018, I was spending a lot of my weekends at the local animal shelter. I would care for abused animals, get outraged and angry on their behalf, and then, I would order Chicken Caesar salad for lunch. After a few of those weekends spent nurturing sick, abused animals, I could no longer ignore my very hypocritical stand on the issue of animal abuse. My non-vegetarian diet started taking an emotional toll. The only thing holding me back from going vegetarian was my ‘concern’ about my own nutritional needs, or so I was pretending to myself.
One day, I came across this article that talked at length about the psyche of a chicken that is kept locked up in a cage outside a butcher shop. They watch their friends getting killed, and they know for a fact that their turn is coming, but there’s no hope for escape. They sit there waiting to die, imagine that! Hope sustains life; we humans maintain hope in the face of great odds so, I cannot imagine the mental state of any creature that’s shorn of hope entirely.
I couldn’t find the article I read, but here’s something similar that compels examination of our thoughtless stance on the subject-
Speciesism is the equivalent to patriarchy and racial segregation and was first used in the 1970s to describe the discrimination practiced against non-human animals…While selecting a living chicken outside a butcher shop to be cut up into a meal, our thoughts do not dwell on what the chicken may be thinking at that moment; whether the bird’s marble-like, glassy eyes are “seeing” us at all; what the cries, hysterical flapping of the wings indicate as the bird is pulled out from the cage held by the neck; and so on. We even fail to note that the chicken did not walk to her death in eagerness to become our meal – we did not note the blatant coercion in the act. Our sense to empathise with the chicken is completely shut as we have never been indoctrinated to perceive the chicken as a sentient being with unique mannerisms.
The article was the push I needed to either adopt a cruelty-free diet or accept that daily, through my actions, I passively condoned animal abuse. The mental image of myself as a party to callous animal abuse was so abhorrent that going vegetarian was the only acceptable option.
I have been a vegetarian for over 2 years now, and I have been surprised at how easy it has been for me. I think the fact that it was a conscious decision with clear intentions at the heart of it has helped a lot. The switch was not made on a whim; it was necessary for my wellbeing. The impact that over time became apparent was amazing. It was as if someone had released me from a massive weight. This new, compassionate approach made me feel like I was truly living my values. It brought me so much joy and boosted my sense of self.
At that point, I wondered if I was exaggerating things in my head because I was subconsciously afraid of going back to the animal diet. So, I decided to run a quick internet search and find out if anyone else has experienced this almost euphoria like emotion in the wake of the change. As it turns out, almost anyone who has made the change and sustained it for some time felt a similar improvement in their emotional wellbeing.
Bhumi Padnekar, a 31 year old Bollywood actress wrote-
“For many years I had the want to go vegetarian. But breaking habits are very tough. My journey with Climate Warrior taught me a lot. It made me more compassionate towards other species and made me more humble. Eating meat just didn’t feel good anymore. So I took a decision in the lockdown and did what I was contemplating to do for a while now and one day I announced to the fam that I’m giving up non-vegetarian food. Today, it’s been a few months and I feel good, guilt-free and physically strong.”
Here’s what cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, Alexander James said on the subject of being vegan -
“It all became very gross overnight, which was weird. “I always say to myself: ‘The only person that’s getting hurt is me’ and I really like that. I don’t get that slump anymore. And having a healthy body is all linked, so I agree that it does help your mental health.”
Nutrition Journal published a study researching the impact of a diet free of meat, fish, and poultry on mood in omnivores. The study found that mood scores significantly improved after two weeks in the vegetarian participants. It makes for an interesting read.
A mindbodygreen article shared that research has shown that practicing kindness actually helps people get happier, and a vegan diet is a major expression of kind living.
The sense of wellbeing has not waned at all. If anything, it’s stronger than ever, and it made me want to do more to protect animals. The next logical step was obviously to adopt a cruelty-free approach to skin and hair care. As I was considering this, I had no idea how challenging it would be for me to clean my home of all animal-tested products.
Here are some things you may not know (at least, I didn’t)-
Animal testing is unnecessary, needlessly cruel, and a fairly archaic and ineffective way of developing products. A large majority of the products that pass animal testing, fail to be as effective on humans.
The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse,” said Dr. Richard Klausner, director of the National Cancer Institute. “We have cured mice of cancer for decades–and it simply didn’t work in humans.”
According to PETA, there are more humane, modern, and effective non-animal research methods that are faster, cheaper, and more effective than animal testing.
Each year, more than 100 million animals are killed as part of animal- testing. Really, only 3% survive. The animals are badly maimed, blinded, and tortured.
I would not want anything created out of such suffering to touch my skin or be a part of my life in any way, but unfortunately, an astounding number of companies still do animal testing. Nevertheless, I am determined to cleanse my home and buying habits of all animal tested products.
Here’s what cruelty-free skin and hair care has done for me-
Obviously, I have to carefully research what I am buying and find the best and most suitable options available; this has made me more mindful of what goes into my skin and hair care regime. The fact that I have a regime (I never did before!) is surprising in itself.
Each product is researched and carefully chosen. It has led to a more meaningful and loving relationship with my skin and curls. I feel more confident, and there is such satisfaction when I change over to something cruelty-free because it’s complicated.
Several companies are still either still testing on animals themselves or paying someone to do it.
According to Cruelty-Free Kitty, here’s what it takes for a brand to be truly cruelty-free-
- They themselves do not test on animals for finished products or ingredients
- Their suppliers don’t test on animals
- No third-parties test on animals on their behalf
- They don’t test on animals where required by law
- Their products are not sold in stores in mainland China
Every time, I successfully switch over to a cruelty-free product, it feels like I’ve won over malevolent evil forces. Seriously, it really does feel like a massive personal win.
As Dominika Piasecka, the media and public relations officer of the Vegan Society said, “People are starting to question and research what they’re buying, and I think that’s empowering.”
There’s been a noticeable shift in the beauty industry. Brands are focusing not just on the beauty benefits and aesthetics of their products, they are also focused on creating products that promote emotional and mental wellbeing. As a Global Cosmetic News Article put it, ‘it will be Cruelty-free, but not just for animals’
My family has been low-key supporting me with the whole thing. It has become something else to bond over as we get worked up about animal abuse. It led to the purchase of cruelty-free cleaning products for our home. I have been riding a wave here and considering it has lasted for over two years, I don’t see this sense of wellbeing and empowerment going away. I have made myself a part of this fight, and I’m feeling great about it. I have barely scratched the surface though, and it’s a work in progress, but it’s one struggle that’s bringing me a lot of peace and no disquiet at all.