Fashion Forward Ethics
Animal Rights, also known as Animal Liberation, is the idea that non-human animals should be spared of any type of human violence, including experimentation, skinning for the use of clothing, entertainment, and consumed as food. Several scholars and animal rights advocates hold the belief that animals should be awarded basic rights, this issue dating back a few centuries to when individuals like Descartes and Locke debated the issue. “Critics of the idea argue that animals cannot make moral choices, and do not have duties, therefore do not have rights. However, defenders of the position that animals have rights have pointed out that this represents a double standard, since humans are considered to have rights regardless of their mental competence.”
PETA has remained at the forefront of the fight against animal abuse, and their mission statement says it all: “PETA believes that animals have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans. Like you, they are capable of suffering and have an interest in leading their own lives.” Circuses have remained a notorious culprit of mistreating animals behind closed doors. “Bears, elephants, tigers, and other animals do not voluntarily ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, or jump through rings of fire. They don’t perform these and other difficult tricks because they want to; they perform them because they’re afraid of what will happen if they don’t,” stated a representative of PETA.
This barbaric treatment and training carries on as a result of lack of supervision by any federal, state or city law enforcement agency. When the conduct of a circus like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is exposed, they are tried for their inhumane treatment of animals, yet somehow manage to turn the case around on the witnesses. “In 2004, a lion with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus died while traveling through the intense heat of the Mojave Desert in a poorly ventilated boxcar.” How can they remain in business despite tragedy striking one too many times? The answer is clear: there is demand for what they are providing. Unaware or careless parents still take their children to circuses in which, besides having the same cliché performances, represent a complete disregard for animals’ lives and overall nature. Circus animals suffer physical and psychological torture by being chained, locked in dark cages, in deep isolation, and without access to the outdoors.
Animals are also used as clothing, whether it be on a fur jacket or a leather purse. They are tortured and killed needlessly to satisfy superfluous demand. “There’s nothing fashionable about a dead animal that has been cruelly killed just because some people think it looks cool to wear,” said Stella McCartney, fashion designer, animal rights activist and daughter of Sir Paul McCartney. Every year, millions of animals are killed all around the world, from minks in the US to domestic pets in China. Typically, the fur one might wear comes from fur farms, a profitable business that satiates the fashion world yearly. “Fur farmers use the cheapest and cruelest killing methods available, including suffocation, electrocution, gassing, and poisoning.”
Many times, the animal is still conscious while being skinned or has not received proper anesthesia. An instance of this is when sheep are shaved for the wool; often, their skin and flesh come off as well, and they eventually die from complications or infections.
Besides the fact that animals on fur farms are going through intense physical torture, the psychological torment is unbearable, and some animals mutilate themselves. Minks often eat off their own tails, and foxes resort to cannibalism. The killing methods that are used are chilling but are justified since they do not damage the fur. The trappers and farmers use cheap methods in order to save on overhead costs. “Small animals may be put into boxes and poisoned with the hot engine exhaust from a truck. Larger animals have clamps applied to their mouths and rods inserted into their anuses and are electrocuted. Other common methods used on fur farms is gassing, neck-snapping and decompression chambers. Trappers usually strangle or beat the animals they catch in their traps to death. Not all these methods always effectively kill the animals, and some animals “wake-up” while being skinned.”
Has this information persuaded you to be fashionable and ethical by not attending a circus performance, or opting for a $60 pleather jacket instead of that $200 leather version?
Millions of animals are deprived from normal pain-free lives every year just in the US as a result of experimentation. “There are the experiments on top of the deprivation. U.S. law allows animals to be burned, shocked, poisoned, isolated, starved, drowned, addicted to drugs, and brain-damaged. No experiment, no matter how painful or trivial, is prohibited – and pain-killers are not required. Even when alternatives to the use of animals are available, the law does not require that they be used—and often they aren’t.” Dogs are seen drooling after being infected with dreaded diseases. Cats are blinded. Rabbits have their spines broken. Mice grow tumors their own size. Rats are cut open and left to die. Primates fight for their lives while being stuck in plastic tubes.
Nowadays, there are no excuses for animal testing since we have learned to grow human skin, clone human cells, and have human life-like dummies. “The stress, sterility and boredom cause some animals to develop neurotic behaviors […] incessantly spinning in circles, rocking back and forth and even pulling out their own hair and biting their own skin. They shake and cower in fear whenever someone walks past their cages and their blood pressure spikes drastically. After enduring lives of pain, loneliness and terror, almost all of them will be killed. More than 100 million animals every year suffer and die in cruel chemical, drug, food and cosmetic tests, biology lessons, medical training exercises, and curiosity-driven medical experiments.”
Those in favor of animal experimentation argue it is only acceptable if suffering is minimized and humans benefit, which could not be the case by using other methods. On the other hand, it still causes suffering to the animals, the benefits to human beings are not proven, and any advantages that animal testing provide could be produced using other methods.
The cosmetics industry has been a major field of focus for animal activists. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require animal testing for cosmetics, and alternative testing methods are widely available and lead to more reliable results.
The cosmetics industry conducts two types of animal testing: product testing and lethal dosage. “Product testing is performed on animals to measure the levels of skin irritancy, eye tissue damage, and toxicity caused by various substances used in the manufacture of cosmetics’ products, and are not the most reliable testing as if it were conducted on duplicated human skin cells.” In contrast, “Lethal Dosage (LD) tests are used to determine the amount of a substance that will kill a predetermined ratio of animals. For example, in the LD50 test, animals are forced to ingest poisonous substances (through stomach tubes, vapor spray inhalers or injection) until half of them die. The common reactions to LD tests include convulsions, vomiting, paralysis and bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth or rectum.”
Non-animal testing methods that are more reliable and less expensive have been developed. These make use of cell and skin tissue cultures, corneas from eye banks, and sophisticated computer and mathematical models.
“The level of suffering and the number of animals involved are both so high that the benefits to humanity don’t provide moral justification.” If it is wrong to inflict pain on a human being, it is as wrong to inflict pain on an animal, and any action that causes pain to another creature is simply not morally permissible.
“Farm to Fridge,” “Meet your Meat,” and “Fowl Play” are some of the viral videos urging people to become vegan in order to avoid the unnecessary slaughter of animals. Today, the reality of factory farming is alarming and disturbing. Most animals confined in farm houses can barely move, do not receive veterinary care, are mutilated without painkillers, and finally are slaughtered – often while fully conscious. “In order to reduce overhead costs and keep chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, calves, and others from exercising, so the body energy goes strictly towards the flesh, the eggs, and the milk, these animals are kept in farm houses in small cages where they can’t turn around or lie down, and are fed drugs so they can grow at a fast rate […] If you grew as fast as chicken, you would weigh 349 pounds at age 2,” states a University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture report.
“An April 10, 2001 Washington Post exposé revealed: “It takes 25 minutes to turn a live steer into steak at the modern slaughterhouse where Ramon Moreno works […] The cattle were supposed to be dead before they got to Moreno. But too often they weren’t. ‘They blink. They make noises,’ he said softly. ‘The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking around.’ Still Moreno would cut. On bad days, he says, dozens of animals reached his station clearly alive and conscious. Some would survive as far as the tail cutter, the belly ripper, and the hide puller. ‘They die,’ said Moreno, ‘piece by piece.'”. Slaughterhouses do not use anesthetics or pain relievers, so procedures such as dehorning or debeaking go untreated and could cause chronic pain since important nerves are cut off and no remedies are provided.
Stunning, beating, stomping, exsanguination, and even grinding – in the case of baby chicks – are some of the “techniques” used in slaughterhouses. Slaughtered animals are scientifically proven to have human-like emotions and instincts, and research has told us that animals have a better understanding of surroundings and are “smarter” than small children. “Slaughterhouses harm the environment, not only when it comes to unnecessary deaths of just born calves or a piglet, but small-scale animal farming is typically less damaging to the environment than the large-scale factory farms. Meat production is by its very nature resource-intensive, and also meat production requires more land and energy than plant foods. In many cases, the carbon footprint is even greater for organic animal products. A 2007 report commissioned by the British government found that organic milk actually generates 20% more CO2 than conventionally produced milk, and organic chickens generate 45% more CO2 than hens raised in battery cages and barns. In contrast, researchers at the University of Chicago calculated that eating a vegan diet prevents the equivalent of 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions every year – even more than the 1 ton of CO2 emissions prevented by switching from a large sedan to a Toyota Prius.”
Companion animals also suffer horrendous crimes but fortunately, peoples’ actions are more regulated in this instance. In certain states, animal cruelty is considered a felony, in which the offender faces the possibility of jail time or probation as well as the crime being permanently on his or her record. “Some forms of abuse and neglect of animals are illegal, but in many states, animals have no legal protection from ‘standard’ practices such as being chained to a post all day and night; having their toes, ears, or tails cut off for human convenience or preference; or being forced to wear collars that deliver painful shocks in response to perfectly normal behavior such as barking.” Unfortunately, shelters are not the ideal solution for this agonizing reality, as most will euthanize the animal after a certain amount of time. No-kill shelters sometimes turn cats or dogs away because they are at maximum capacity, and as a result, animals suffer more. “In June 2005, for example, a Pennsylvania man who tried to surrender his dog to a no-kill shelter was told that he would have to make an appointment to return two weeks later when the facility might have room. The man grabbed his dog, got in his pickup truck, and left. At the next intersection, he threw the dog out of the truck and ran over him, crushing the dog beneath his tires. Shelter workers, who wouldn’t help the dog before he died, collected the dog’s remains.”
There are ways we can be fashion forward while still evolving into ethical progressiveness. Animal rights should be enforced, and individuals should be conscious of exactly how the animal they are ingesting or wearing was treated before its death, becoming vegan and anti-fur if possible. Fashion Forward Ethics demonstrates how a healthier and conscious world can become reality if we focus more on action as opposed to merely talking about the need for action.