Every day, we get to make choices. Choices that affect others, the environment, ourselves, and all the other animals that are sharing this planet with us. Every day, we get to decide what we spend our hard-earned money on: visiting the zoo, or making a visit to a farm sanctuary; buying cruelty-free products or giving our money to giant corporations, which test on animals.

Do you take your family to visit a zoo or a marine park? Do you still like to drink cow’s milk and just can’t bring yourself to skip the cheese?


Most people feel that they are doing the best they can for animals, thinking that boycotting zoos or avoiding animal products is “extreme” or difficult. But in fact, these actions are passive and they don’t require you to become an activist, to go out and demonstrate, or release lab animals.

Showing compassion for all animals simply means avoiding, as much as possible, the industries that use and exploit animals. Learn why you should switch your cosmetics, avoid animals “entertainment,” and why is it so important to stop eating animal products with the list below which begs the question — “Can you call yourself an animal lover if you still do these five things?” We’ll leave you to be the judge.

1. Pay for animal entertainment

Imagine an elephant, so far away from home, caged, beaten, forced to “perform” in front of a loud crowd, living a lonely, unnatural, and miserable life. There’s something terribly sad about most zoos, circuses, and marine parks – if you just choose to look.

These industries are perfect examples of human ambivalence and arguably, arrogance, too: taking wild animals from their natural environment and placing them in confined areas, and forcing them to be ‘on display” in exhibits and to “do tricks,” in the case of marine parks and similar facilities.


No wonder more than 20 million people watched “Blackfish” – the new documentary that tells the shocking story behind SeaWorld. It changed the image of live animal shows, by simply exposing the truth. Same goes for any animal entertainment – no animal would gladly sit in a cage or jump through fire. From polar bears in the San Diego Zoo to bullfights in Madrid – animals do not get paid for performing, and they would like nothing better than to be left alone because really, would you want to be kept in a cage?

While some zoos and aquariums say their main aim is conservation, it is entirely possible to raise money to help animals without caging them (or keeping them in tiny pools) — true animal sanctuaries are a prime example of this. Yes, many zoos and aquariums are filled with animal lovers of all kinds and can teach some of us about the animals housed within, but ultimately there are better models now available, and these are the ones we should be supporting.

So, what can you do? Boycott the animal entertainment industries like zoos, animal circus, marine “parks,” and any animal fights such as cockfights, dogfights, etc. Remember that these industries are simply profiting from animal suffering. You can also opt to participate in true-life animal encounter experiences like many do with whale watching or hiking.

Check out more reasons to skip a zoo visit and find out how Costa Rica is breaking ground by closing down all zoos in the country.


2. Buy products that were tested on animals

Though it might sound absurd in this modern world, almost all large companies test their products on animals. We’re talking about a yearly estimate of almost 20 million animals that are strapped down violently to have chemicals shoved into their eyes, noses, and mouths. It’s a sad truth that most large companies test their products on animals. In fact, any company that is selling products in China, is obligated to test its products on animals. So even companies like MAC, who always stood against animal testing, are using animals so they can sell in China. However, China will begin a phase out of this “mandatory testing,” which is great news. Yet, more often than not in our world today: Money wins, and animals lose.

What can you do? Shop at smaller companies that are strictly against animal testing as a moral baseline. Usually their products are kinder on your skin, too. For an excellent list of cruelty-free cosmetic products, click here, and for shampoos, click here.

3. Don’t spay or neuter your companion animal(s)

Or worse – buy from a breeder or pet store.

According to the Humane Society, about 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized yearly in the U.S. alone. That is one animal every 11 seconds. We’re not talking about dying cats or rabid dogs here – these are all animals that if were given a chance, would have spent a lovely holiday season with their family. Instead, they are killed at shelters, who have no more space to board them. It’s either that – or the mean street.


Most of us heard of the rough situation in developing countries or in countries like Spain and Romania – where dogs are roaming the streets, hungry, sick, and abused. But since we don’t see stray dogs (often) in NYC or San Francisco, we might not be aware of the numbers.

So what are the numbers? Almost three million dogs and cats. Per year.

Hard to comprehend, right?

These high numbers are all due to humans not spaying and neutering their dogs and cats. This might be because they think it’s unhealthy for animals (false), have no cash for it (check out these low-cost clinics), or any number of other reasons.

What can you do? Remember that buying a dog from a breeder is supporting a cruel industry, thriving on using animals as puppy-making-machines and taking precious space from homeless animals. Instead, give a home to a stray dog or a cat, teach your family the meaning of compassion and support a local shelteradopt, don’t shop!

4. Wear wool and leather

This shopping season, large companies such as Zara, H&M, Primark, and Topshop found themselves in the headlines – and not for their Christmas sales. Worldwide media reported an online petition to boycott Zara, who was not willing to stop angora wool sales. What caused the boycott, was this video, taken by PETA, which shows the cruelty of the angora industry.

Angora is basically rabbit’s wool and apparently, 90 percent of angora wool comes from China, where workers are tying rabbits down and literally ripping their fur off while the rabbits are fully conscious. At the end of this torturous ordeal, the rabbits are thrown back into their tiny cages, so their fur will grow back and more sweaters can be produced. Not really a happy Christmas present, is it?

Like wool, leather also contributes to the suffering of animals since it is directly tied to the horrendous facilities we know as factory farms. What’s more, not all leather may come as a “by-product” of this already cruel industry, and really, there’s no way to tell the difference right now either, so it’s probably best to avoid leather all together.

As OGP’s Caroline Lennon stated in her article, “Leather is More than ‘a By-Product of the Meat Industry’“:

Despite most leather being obtained from animals slaughtered for meat or after producing milk, it would be foolish to assume it’s simply a by-product of these industries. There is an important economic interdependence between factory farming and the leather trade, and thus farmers do not sell every single part of each animal to minimize waste but instead to maximize revenue and profit. For that reason leather is an animal product much like any other: produced to meet consumer demand while lining the pockets of those within the respective businesses.

What can you do? Don’t buy angora wool – or any wool for that matter! Also, you can join the PETA campaign here. Other animal skins, fur, and wool are not any better – as in any animal industry – the practices used are there to make things cheaper for the industry, not better for the animals, so be sure to skip leather, down, and fur coats and hats as well and instead opt for more humane alternatives like these awesome down alternative winter coats, for instance.

5. Eat animal products

Last but not least, in terms of numbers, this one is the absolute winner: over 150 billion animals are slaughtered yearly, and over 27 million are slaughtered annually in the U.S. alone. These numbers apply to animals used in the meat, egg, and dairy industry – they do not include animals killed in any of the other cruel practices we mentioned above or other animal industries.

Animals in the food industry live a short and miserable life — alone and terrified in darkness and suffering from painful conditions without little to no real medical attention (instead, they’re often pumped with antibiotics to deter illnesses, but this just causes more problems).

These animals can be sold at auctions or are left to die when they are too weak to walk after the long journey where they are exposed to the elements and endure additional suffering. They are separated from their mothers only to be caged, barely able to move so their meat will remain tender.

And while many refuse to make the connection, the dairy industry is the meat industry. Cows do not get to retire – they are slaughtered for meat. Calves do not get to grow up with their mothers– they are slaughtered for meat.

Baby chicks, too, are disposed of, left to suffocate or gassed to death or ground up alive – only because their bodies will not grow large enough to use for meat. Hens are kept in tiny cages, their beaks are cut, and their feet grow into the metal cages. They suffer pain, anxiety and fear. Even at the most “humane” farm, animals are still separated from their mothers and no animal is left to die naturally, of old age.

What can you do? You can try the vegan diet out for size. You can first take simple steps like participating in Meatless Monday or doing the “vegan before six” method. These are great ways to transition into a full-fledged plant-based diet, if you desire. What’s more, you can try out some delicious veg recipes to show your friends, family, and co-workers how awesome it can be to experiment with cruelty-free flavors and ingredients.

Now, Look Inward

We hope that this post ultimately makes you think about your own choices and actions. So many of us are animal lovers yet we still might be (unknowingly) contributing to the exploitation of animals in some way.

While it might be nearly impossible to ensure that all we do in our daily lives is fully cruelty-free, we can still make conscious choices that better align with our overarching values.

With a comment below, tell us and other Green Monsters how you’ve taken steps to become a more conscious consumer and animal lover — knowledge is power!

Image Source: Eduardo Aparicio/Flickr