I have been vegetarian most of my life, and I usually try not to bring it up in conversation. But when out for meals with others, it invariably comes up when the food arrives. I’ve had all sorts of reactions over the years; one of the interesting ones is when people tell me they care a lot about animal welfare, but don’t feel they can go vegetarian so feel there’s nothing they can do. In addition, many people would try to “catch me out” as a hypocrite. I’d be asked things like “Do you eat cheese?”, “Are those leather shoes you’re wearing?” and “Do you still eat desserts with gelatin?”, as though admitting any of these things would render any attempt to reduce my impact on the planet as worthless.
Many of us have this kind of thinking in some area of our life or another. In mental health we called it all-or-nothing thinking, “If I’m not prepared to be a vegetarian I can’t do anything to help animals”.
In reality, most of life exists on a spectrum not at two poles. This includes animal welfare. I wish I’d known when I became vegetarian that ANY efforts are worthwhile, even if they seem imperfect. Maybe I wouldn’t be so hard on myself if I’d known that from the beginning.
So if you’re interested in the welfare of animals, here are some contributions you can make, even if you’re not planning on becoming vegetarian:
1. Tweak your existing diet.
You may consider adding Meat-free Mondays to your routine. Or perhaps smaller portions of meat and larger serves of veggies (your arteries say thank you). Going organic and free range ensures that any animal who ends up on a plate has a better existence while they are alive, and the lack of hormone and antibiotic use provides a better meal for you too. Give some thought to the way each species is treated too – the dairy industry results in bobby calves killed as babies to make veal, and the egg industry is still appalling in its use of cramped cages and destruction of male chicks at just days old. You may find that while you continue to eat meat, you may choose with discernment which ones.
2. Adopt, don’t shop.
Hundreds of thousands of animals end up in shelters in Australia every year. And yet too many people still buy their pets from breeders or worse, pet shops. Many of these animals are bred in inhumane ways, and supporting these industries not only means they are encouraged to continue, but as a result a huge proportion of shelter animals are put down. Adopting from a no-kill shelter, or fostering an animal while it waits for adoption ( a great option for animal lovers who don’t want a 15 year commitment) are truly rewarding ways to show the love. If you can’t commit to an animal, consider a donation to a shelter so they can keep up their great work.
3. Vote with your dollar
Day to day purchases may seem like arbitrary events, but in fact they’re like voting in an election – you get to help decide which company continues and which company closes down. So consider where your dollar is spent. As far as animals are concerned, there is an option to choose cosmetics and cleaning products that are not tested on animals, and clothes that are fur free (watch out for cheap dog fur clothes, ensure anything hairy is confirmed “Faux”). You may even go as far as non-leather shoes and bags. And it goes without saying that when overseas, buy souvenirs that are not made from animals.
4. Get better hobbies
Unfortunately some people still engage in hobbies that base themselves in cruelty to animals. These include hunting, horse racing, dog racing, fights, etc. If this applies to you, may I suggest you dabble in some new interests? If you love the adrenaline, watch humans play sport instead. At least that way it’s a fair game.
And now I want to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below, what’s one thing you do to support animals? And, what new action can you take to make your lifestyle more animal friendly?