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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Strip Malls as Harbingers of Animal Suffering

Consider your standard strip mall. It may seem like an innocuous place at first but look closer. Yes, strip malls appear to be breeding as fast as people, encourage mindless consumerism, and continue to take up more and more valuable resources and open space, but they are also linked to animal suffering. 

Many strip malls contain at least one of the following obligatory commercial establishments: a grocery store, pastry shop, deli, pizzeria, liquor store, pharmacy, nail salon, and hair salon. And each one of these stores has at least one thing in common—it uses the bodies of tortured animals to sell a product or service.

When people think about vegans, they often think about food. As previously discussed on this blog, veganism encompasses more than just eating. Still, so many of us go through our daily lives oblivious to the impact that both our food and non-food choices have on animals.

The grocery store, pastry shop, deli, and pizzeria are obvious culprits. Meat, cow’s milk, and cheese are derived from immeasurable misery endured by the more than 45 billion land and sea animals who are killed every year in the United States for human consumption. Those “cold cuts” at the deli counter—infused with chemicals, preservatives, and body parts—once belonged to a living, breathing being who had a mother. The milk and cream used in pastries—including my once favorite cannoli—is created by raping and artificially impregnating dairy cows in order to generate 100 pounds of milk a day, 10 times more than they would naturally produce for their own calves. The veal purchased at the grocery store is derived from those said male calves who are torn away from their mothers and their milk immediately after birth because they are deemed worthless to the dairy industry. And despite its disjointed appearance, the pepperoni on pizza emanates from pigs who are confined to 2 x 7 foot gestation crates that cause them to excrete on themselves and endure painful ailments. Because of their forced confinement, their tails are cut off to prevent tail biting and their ears are notched for identification purposes—all in the name of commerce.

The liquor store is another ominous place where animal anguish is ubiquitous but where many people wrongly assume is animal-friendly. And who could blame them? It’s all grapes and grain, right? Wrong! Many alcoholic drinks not only contain animal ingredients like the cow’s milk in Baileys Irish Cream, but brewers, winemakers, and distillers often use animal parts in processing and filtrating their liquor. For example, gelatin, egg whites, casein, whey, and isinglass (fish bladders) are often used as clarifying agents to filter impurities even though there are many animal-free substitutes. Companies are not required to disclose what's in their liquor or how their products are produced so it’s imperative that consumers contact companies to learn more. Thankfully, online websites like Barnivore have made it easier by providing information on vegan beer, wine, and liquor so vegans can also enjoy their spirits even more responsibly.

While the cruelties inherent in many "foods" may be more apparent to some, less are likely to consider the animal cruelty present at other establishments like the pharmacy. Animal research is rampant in the creation of drugs and other goods sold at pharmacies. According to the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS), more than 25 million animals are used in biomedical experimentation, product and cosmetic testing, and science education every year in the U.S. They include dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, pigs, sheep, monkeys, chimpanzees, and others. However, the majority of animals in labs (over 90 percent) are rats, mice, birds, and fish, and some estimates place them in the tens to hundreds of millions.

Animals used in research spend their entire lives surrounded by concrete and steel, subjected to nonstop physical and emotional pain. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates drugs and cosmetics, has the power to require that newer, safer, more accurate and sophisticated non-animal testing technologies that are currently available be applied; however, the agency continues to capitulate to industry pressure from pharmaceutical companies who want to preserve the status quo and their subsequent profits. The good news is that a plant-based diet decreases one's chances of needing medication in the first place.

Finally, not only are many nail and hair products bad for your health and the environment, but a majority of them also contain animal ingredients and have been tested on animals. Walk into any nail and hair salon and—if you can still breathe—check out the ingredients on the labels. According to One Green Planet, slaughterhouses have established an easy and profitable way for disposing of the remains of animal carcasses by selling them to cosmetics manufacturers. Some animal ingredients include beeswax, casein, glycerin, and lecithin. Other animal ingredients are hidden within long, unpronounceable names or within the word “fragrance,” which is also used to conceal chemicals and animal products which companies are not required to disclose. Visit PETA’s website for a quiz and list of companies and ingredients

In addition to containing animal ingredients, a majority of nail, hair and cosmetic products are also tested on animals. Rabbits are often favored as victims in sadistic product experiments. They are immobilized in a device that only allows their heads to extend out while their eyes are held open with clips so that product components can be dropped into them. Tests may last as long as eighteen days and result in swollen eyelids, ulceration, bleeding, and blindness. Many rabbits have broken their necks and backs struggling to escape. Other experiments include applying chemicals directly to their skin or forcing rabbits to ingest large quantities of toxic substances. Therefore, it is crucial to support companies whose products are both sans animal ingredients AND not tested on animals.

There are countless strip malls throughout the country harboring businesses that sell goods and/or services containing animal ingredients begot from animal suffering and abuse endured at slaughterhouses and research facilities. Sadly, more and more of these eyesores continue to be built every day as our desire to buy needless and empty things intensifies. For now, the only strip mall that doesn’t perpetuate animal exploitation is the vegan mini mall in Portland, Oregon. Hopefully, it’s a sign that we are finally beginning to wake up to the animal misery shrouded in our daily lives and errands.

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