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Consumerism And The Respect For Animals

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For decades now consumerism has not been a stagnant notion, many trends in the society and human lifestyle have redefined the term. Consumerism has its roots deeply embedded in the innate human behaviour that man has many desires. The industrial revolution in the past centuries and globalization at its peak since 2000s brought the “consumer and rapid consumption” part into the light and this blurred the lines between wants, needs and desires and thus came the most common assumption of consumerism that is – people wanting to buy in excess even if it is not a dire need.

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Through various studies it has been established that rigourous consumerism for the past decades has left the planet bleeding for natural resources especially animals due to animal husbandry i. e; extensive breeding for meat industry and factory- 56 billion, deforestation forcing animals out of their habitat (6000 orangutans lose their habitat every year as humans extract palm oil) and cruel animal testing for cosmetics and drugs industry. We tend to destroy the other species of animals we live with in the search for best products with best ingredients caring very little about the consequences, however as mentioned before consumerism is not a stagnant concept rather it’s something that sails the trends. So it is important to understand the impact of awareness of casualties and the changes occuring to the notion of consumerism at present.

Consumerism and Animals now: Consumers are more socially engaged and transparency is becoming the heart of marketing. Ethical branding is on the rise and companies that show no remorse to the animals are being called out. This statistics here clearly shows the drastic reduction in the use of animals for research over the years. This is important to note because US is the highest consumer economy/market and cosmetic industry is regarded as the highly consumer centric hard selling industry. Man has become conditioned to this way of living that is living amongst excess therefore there is no change in the fact that buying tendencies are only going to increase. But industries or at least some are changing in a way that what we buy is not completely ethically wrong. From a simple morning coffee to the so called shampoo with “natural ingredients” there is an impact on the animals some way or the other. It is hard to track this impact because we have dived so deep into the amount of products we use and throw that we don’t realise we are hungry predators of continuous consumption. Even if we reduce consumption to “save animals” the initiation starts from the companies that makes these products in the first place. All lives matter and we must respect the ecosystem to live and let live. Hence, following is a brief overview of three main industries that are highly consumer/consumption centric and have evolved to take an ethical stand against animal cruelty.

Fashion industry: An important and prominent example in the fashion industry is Stella McCartney who is one of the most revered persons in the industry, the brand prides about the fact that they are against animal cruelty and a complete “vegetarian brand”. This is huge benchmark influencing other profit hungry big players. Recently Gucci went fur-free. Most of the luxury fashion brands like Burberry, Versace, Michael Kors, Armani, Vivienne Westwood etc. are now fur-free, however there is still work to be done as some companies still capitalize on real leather like Louis Vuitton which dominates luxury market and luxury products define the pillars of consumerism. Cosmetics Industry: 2013 was a big game changer for cosmetic industry as the European Union banned animal testing followed by India, Switzerland, Norway. This increased high pressure on cosmetic industries in China and USA. Not only is this a good move for the animals involved but also pushed a greater technological invention of using 3D produced tissue which served as alternative tissue for testing with L’oreal being the first company to do so. However some of the major brands are still into animal testing and show no remorse to them as the demands and the notion of consumerism is also high among them like Victoria’s Secret, Benefit, Bobbi Brown, Estee Lauder, Maybelline etc. This industry needs more research and development to become completely animal friendly.

Therefore, has still not reached a transition phase. Food Industry: Going vegan has become one of the main food trends in 2018, the numbers are increasing. Various articles and studies show that it is not necessary for everyone to turn into vegan to save animals and that going vegan is not necessarily “green” as we perceive, but one can start by consuming less meat. Animal husbandry as we know breeds and industrializes animals in factories in the most cruel ways which is also unhealthy for humans in the large amounts it is demanded. It is not really about “having mercy” but rather controlling and having moderation in what we consume. In other terms humanizing the notion of consumerism. In one of the articles by NPR they refer to a book-95: Meeting america’s farmed animals in stories and photographs- points out that 95 is the number of animals that are not killed in a vegan diet and about 7000 animals are consumed as meat by a person everyday. Chipotle recently made an emotional campaign highlighting the inhuman merciless industrialization of farm animals and how they are going back to organic farming that promotes animal welfare and questions the notion of consumerism for fast food companies. Therefore, the animals are very much in the conversation of consumption and to what extent we want animal to be respected.

Conclusion: In the end of the chipotle’s ad they sum up the whole idea with the words “food with integrity” and that is the key take away. We need to look at our consumption patterns and industrialization of products that force other lives to be jeopardized and start “consuming with integrity”. Humans are naturally omnivores and we need products to survive, but consumerism is the idea of thriving in excess and the respect for animals in the excess we desire needs to be consciously consumed. Industries are changing however more innovation and development has to be made to grow from this transition to adoption.

15 April 2020

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