Saturday, November 30, 2013

Animal Cruelty Shopping Secrets

 As you're shopping this holiday season, I'm sure you're trying as much as possible to be an ethical consumer. Websites like Leaping Bunny and Cruelty Free Consumer can help. There's now even a Pinterest Board for cruelty-free products. But sometimes, animal cruelty is purposefully hidden from consumers. Let me tell you some of the secrets retailers don't want you to know.

That leather is not from a cow.

When we see boots or a jacket in the store with the label "100% leather," we sort of automatically assume it must be from a cow, despite the fact that "leather" just means "animal skin." And we don't care about cows the same way we do horses and dogs (although maybe we should). But what if I told you that the hide in your Ugg boots or Wrangler belts might be from a horse or a raccoon-dog, raised and killed with brutal methods in a foreign country? Did you know that 54% of all leather products come from China, and over 60% of shoes? And that China slaughters more horses every year than any other country? They also have no anti-animal-cruelty laws there either. Much of the rest of America's leather comes from Mexico, which is also the world's second largest horse-slaughtering country.

Make sure that the leather you're buying is from a cow, hopefully one raised in America. My go-to store for boots, belts and more is Duluth Trading Company, a Wisconsin company that carries good old Made-in-America cow-leather products.  And if you're still worried, well these days, synthetic materials are just as good.

Not convinced yet? Read the following articles. 

Fur is everywhere!

Read my blog here on why, when you eat bread or put on makeup, you could be  unknowingly supporting animal cruelty. Oh, and mecate reins? Yeah, they're totally from slaughtered horse hair.

That "fake fur" is real.
Thankfully, many people try to avoid buying clothes made with real fur, knowing that the animals it came from probably lived miserable lives. Unfortunately, people end up buying real fur anyway! Since skinning animals in China is so cheap, it's actually often more expensive to put faux fur on a garment, because of the extra sewing involved in securing the nylon (plastic) hairs. In addition, the soft feel of real fur is more appealing to customers. The result is that many brands end up using "fake fur" that is actually 100% dog, cat, raccoon-dog (a Chinese animal), rabbit or rodent.
 In the past, Burlington Coat Factory and Marc Jacobs were just two of the major chains proven to have carried products like this. Don't buy any clothing that has fur on it, even if it's "fake fur." If you absolutely can't avoid doing so, use the HSUS Field Guide to Telling Animal Fur from Fake Fur. Read more about retailers' deceptive practices here and here and here and here.

(And you know what? Just plain avoid products from China. Seriously. THEY HAVE NO ANIMAL CRUELTY LAWS.)

"Organic" and "Cage Free" Products Are Often Cruel
Also, Beware Toxic Pet Treats

Read my blog here about what you and your animals are really eating, and keep it in mind when you're shopping for stocking-stuffer treats and holiday dinner ingredients.

AQHA & Horse Slaughter

Maybe you were thinking about buying something from AQHA as a gift this year-- an AQHA Breyer horse, a membership, a registration fee, a halter, a purse... Well it may not matter to you, but just so you know, AQHA isn't exactly anti-horse-slaughter. Their official statement is that they don't support it... but also that they really don't want it banned. Their sneaky politicians' answers are meant to disguise the truth-- AQHA is definitely pro-slaughter. The organization gets most of its funding from foal registration fees, so they have no incentive to stop over-breeding, the main cause of "unwanted" horses in the USA. (Did you know that 70% of horses that go to slaughter here are Quarter horses?)

Through their PAC (Political Action Committe) AQHA also contributes money to politicians fighting for laws they say would benefit the horse industry... which according to AQHA, includes slaughter. According to the neutral website Open Secrets, in 2012 AQHA gave over $70,000 to politicians (26% to Democrats, 74% to Republicans), in large part to influence the horse slaughter debate. And that was a slower year. In 2006, contributions were double that. 

Big Box Store Fish

Beta fish are cheap, colorful, lively pets. They're a perfect "starter pet" for kids to learn the responsibilities of feeding and cleaning. You might be tempted to buy a few betas for Christmas. But guess what? There's a really ugly side to the pet fish industry.

Beta fish are shipped in tiny plastic bags, with a few tablespoons of water. Added to the water are chemicals that help keep fish alive in the deoxygenated water. The bags are then stuffed into boxes and shipped for up to a week before being taken out by employees and dumped into jars.

Whether or not you particularly care about fish welfare is rather beside the point. The fact is that Walmart and other companies certainly have enough money to do things more humanely-- but they don't bother, because it's cheaper. Let's not support that mentality. Speaking of which...

Avoid Petco and Petsmart

Thinking about buying your dog a big bone for Christmas? Or have you decided to get your kitten a comb? Well don't shop at Petco or Petsmart! You already probably know better than to buy a live animal from a big chain pet store, since they usually come from puppy mills and other inhumane breeding facilities. However, did you know that Petco and Petsmart even treat the animals in their own stores with callous disregard? It's true. They've been found guilty of putting dying animals into dumpsters, starving snakes, squashing hamsters, selling sick puppies, and not providing vet care to any of their animals. Simply Googling "Petco animal cruelty" or "Petsmart animal cruelty" will bring up hundreds of results. Video, pictures, police reports-- it's all there. Petsmart is so bad, there is even an entire website devoted to exposing their negligent practices. You can read more about Petco here. Don't support these places- or other major pet stores-- by buying so much as a bag of kibble from them!

Pets Are NOT Gifts

I really hope most of you already know this, but here it goes anyway:
Animal are not appropriate presents. Bringing an animal into your life should be a long-thought-out decision made by the entire family. It should be taken seriously as an adoption, not an act of consumerism. If you decide to make that adoption happen around the holidays, as a way of celebrating life and spreading joy, that's fine. If you decide to buy an adorable puppy/kitten/pony on impulse, that is not fine. Surprising your kid or significant other with a "furry friend" might be sheer joy on Christmas morning, but when the surprise wears off, who deals with the poop, vaccinations, food bills and exercise? Did anyone else really want to deal with those chores for years and years? Do you really have the money to do so? Did you find out if your family had allergies beforehand? What does your landlord say about pets? What will you do with your animal when you're on vacation? These are all questions that far too many people don't think about, and why, sadly, there are so many new pets put in shelters in January.

That's all I have for you for now, folks... remember, shop responsibly!


  1. That reminds me of a few Christmases ago. Two girls in my area got ponies for Christmas. Both of them had the same reaction upon receiving said pony, but the two stories ended rather differently. Both was the usual little girls that asked for a pony every Christmas and had all the pretty pony books and drew ponies and watched all the movies. Well the difference was more in their parents.

    Girl A's parents decided day "hey, we've got some money saved up, let's finally get her that pony". No real amount of research was done. Girl B's parents decided "we've got the money, let's get her a pony for Christmas. BUT first let's go talk to the local boarding barn owner so we can learn more about them." SMART SMART SMART. So the BO talked to them about how much work and money it takes. They set up a plan for the little girl to come take care of one of the old, retired school ponies. She lived next door, so she had to come over every day and take care of her until the beginning of November. If she stuck with it and carried on unwavering in her duties, she could have the pony.

    So Christmas rolls around. Both girls walk into their respective barns. Girl A is greeted by a cute gray Shetland. Girl B is greeted by a cute bay Welsh. Both of them are ecstatic.

    About 6 months later in June that little Shetland is long gone, after Girl A and her parents lost interest after finding out how much work it was. Girl B can still be seen to this day tooting around on her little pony, a giant grin on her face.

  2. ...and if you live in a country or state where declawing cats is legal, then boycott any vet who offers this procedure. Forty One countries of the world have banned this procedure. That must tell you something!