In this section are some simple personal activisms that most people can do. But we start with a bit of a difficult one; all other activities are far less effective.
Some More Self Activism for Individuals
|The Single Most Effective Thing You Can do|
for Animal Life
|Stop making babies (or at most make only one).
|Seventy thousand years ago there were 15,000 people on Earth; now we exceed seven billion. The more people, the greater the destruction to animal life and nature. Being veggie or vegan is not sufficient.
|See more about the World Human Population.
|Estimated numbers of some of the animals people kill annually.
Other activities, should you not be up to the one above, come at different levels of convenience and if there is a secret for successful personal activism it is that you should do what you feel comfortable with and are good at doing.
1. Let's Stop 'It'
People always call an animal an it
, whereas they call a human a he
. But a chimpanzee, horse, cat, cow or mouse is as much a he
as is a human. Calling an animal an it
makes him inanimate material, a depersonalised object. Once a being is depersonalised down to the level of an it, like a stick or stone, we feel we can do anything we like to it without moral thought. Kicking a stone or throwing away a stick has no moral consequence. As the philosopher Jeremy Bentham said: "animals...stand degraded into the class of things." (1) We compound the offence of calling animals it
by calling our own inanimate creations, like a car, ship or country, a she
, as though they are real beings.
Where should we draw the line? Should we call insects and other invertebrates him
? Yes, because by creating barriers we create uncertainty about where to put the barrier. Furthermore, invertebrates may be deserving of more respect than people generally give them. Science is discovering that they are not simple-minded but rely much more on learning and less on instinct as hitherto assumed. Some insects can even recognise fellow individuals - and even individual humans - by their faces.
2. Speak Plainly
Insects are not so dumb. Yellow-jackets (Vespula germanica) are social wasps who can recognise each other as individuals by their face markings (eg Tibbetts E A. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 2002). Photo: Richard Bartz.
Should we be lulled and sweetened by euphemisms when faced with decisions about what to do with animals who get in people’s way? Or should we speak openly and honestly about what is happening and not hide behind word substitutions to cover up what we are doing?
People adopt euphemisms when they want their actions to sound impartial, necessary, professional and reasonable so that consciences are saved and nobody objects to what they are doing. Do not let them lure you into euphemistic compliance when animals are getting in people's way. Stop using euphemisms that support animal wrongs.
3. Invertebrate Harmony
Table 1. Some Frequent Animal-Related Euphemisms
|Cull, Control, Harvest
||People do not kill wild animals; they 'cull' and 'control' them and 'harvest' their populations. Cull really means to select and remove some things from other things, especially because of inferior quality. But cull is almost always used as a polite word whose action is somehow necessary and officially sanctioned.
||Beaches may be 'shark infested' but never 'human infested'.
||Roads do not kill anyone. It is the motorists who kill. Motorists kill millions of animals every year.
||Strictly speaking, meat is muscle. This does not stop supermarkets selling processed products which they describe as 'meat' but which can be from any part of an animal, such as lungs and brains.
||Calves for veal are taken too young from their mothers and raised in inhumane conditions for people to eat.
Invertebrate harmony is the view that we should try to live in harmony with all creatures no matter what their moral status and treat them with respect and compassion. So let us practice animal rights at the lowest level, that of the invertebrates: like bees, ants, all sorts of bugs, spiders, worms and other animals without a backbone. Invertebrates make up 98 percent of animal species, are vital to the well-being of the biosphere, and we can learn to appreciate them and the many wonderful things they do.
People harm lots of invertebrates for very little reason and often commit the number fallacy: because there are lots of them it does not matter if we kill them. But neither number nor body size determine the value of life. On the economic front many invertebrate species benefit the human economy; it is only a few species that harm it. Moreover, without flower pollination, the churning of the soil and other key functions carried out by our boneless friends, life as we know it would largely cease. Indeed, humanity could not have evolved without the contribution made by invertebrates regulating the biosphere.
Invertebrates are tiny, but if we are aware of them and practice invertebrate harmony, even on a small scale, then we shall be more compassionate beings. And by standing and watching invertebrates we shall also have a better appreciation of the wonder of life.
4. Look Out for Animal Products
Avoid or at least cut down using animal products, such as leather, and feathers in pillows and duvets. Eschew fur items, not only fur clothing but also in cosmetic and artists’ brushes. These brushes are sometimes made from synthetic material but they are also made of animal hair. The labelling is often obscure and misleading.
Where do the ingredients of your food, cosmetics or medicine come from? Patronise alternative products if you find out that any ingredients are derived from animals. Some ingredients to look out for are:
5. Library Books
- Rennet: a protein taken from the stomachs of slaughtered calves, lambs and kid goats. Rennet in the living young converts their ingested mother’s milk into solids for digestion. For centuries rennet has been the chief means for making cheese hard and is still wildly used today. Some hard cheeses, though, are made with artificially cultured rennet and may be suitable for vegetarians.
- Collagen: another protein taken from animals. It is used in cosmetics.
- Gelatin (American English) or gelatine (British English) is derived from collagen and used in cosmetics and many foods.
- Lactose: a sugar that comes from milk. It is added to various foods, lotions and medicines.
- Cochineal: extracted from the ground up bodies of insects and used to add a red colour to foods and lipsticks.
- Musk: oil from the scent glands of certain wild animals, in particular the musk deer. The deer are killed in traps or confined all their lives to cages hardly bigger than themselves. However, quite a lot of the musk in perfumes today is synthetic.
Ask your public, school or college library to buy books on rights, welfare, veganism and other animal-friendly subjects. Look up a few specific titles, authors and other essential details your library does not but should have and hand your list to the librarian. Keep an eye on the bookshelves for sight of your books and ask the librarian to put them and other animal-friendly books on a prominent stand for display. Your long-term goal at your library could be to get animal rights accepted as a standard library shelf subject (if it is not one already).
Buy animal rights books to read and then donate them to your library.
6. Make Menus
Ask for more animal-friendly (or at least less animal-unfriendly) food at your college or work refectory. For instance, get management to ban eggs from caged hens and offer eggs from genuine free-range hens and generally to shun factory farmed animals. Persuade management to provide simple information about the food they offer so that diners know what they are eating and have a proper choice of alternatives - free-range and organic.
7. Place of Study
Ask for animal ethics to be taught at your school, college or university. Animal ethics is a bona fide scholarly pursuit that incorporates animal rights but has broader scope.
Urge your school or college, if they are into cutting up real animals, to ‘dissect’ animals virtually by computer program instead. And ask your school not to keep animals on the premises for educating pupils.
8. Stimulate Ethical Policies
As far as you can, trade with companies that have publicly published ethical policies. For example, use banks with a stated code of ethics. Pressure companies that have no ethical policies regarding animals to embrace a code of ethics incorporating animals. Become a shareholder in animal abusing companies to criticise them more effectively as a shareholder. Publicise their response or lack of one.
Get your company to make its purchases from animal-friendly companies. If your company is not animal-friendly, ask them why they are not - with the intention of putting ideas into their head. Has your company a code of animal ethics spelling out how the company should act regarding animals and animal products? Get management or colleagues to compose a code.
Consider fish in bowls: see the section Goldfish Bowls
Be vegan or veggie: see the section Vegetarianism
Go tabling: see the section Solo Information Worker
Build a specialist blog: see the section Blogger
(1) Bentham, Jeremy. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
. 1789:311, chapter xvii.
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