Human beings are an interesting species; we are moral and social beings, which manifests itself as social norms that intertwine and form the fabric of society that wraps our very existence. Social norms are not static, they are constantly shifting, and thanks to this evolution, we are gradually leaving behind evils like racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination and exploitation that divide and oppress certain sections of society based on meaningless distinctions. We still have a long way to go but we’re definitely heading in the right direction. Most of us will agree that exploitation is wrong, discrimination is wrong and inflicting unnecessary suffering on others is wrong. Anyone hoping to live in a better world could not possibly think otherwise. Most of us would also agree that the rules of equality, compassion and morality extend to other living beings on this planet — that’s why we climb trees to rescue cats or advocate for no-kill animals shelters. There may have been a time when we had no choice but rely on animals, but that time has passed. Despite centuries of progress, we have grown even more dependent on animals and the fabric of our society is now built on the exploitation and death of around 60 billion land-based animals and trillions from our rivers and oceans on an annual basis. How did this happen? How did we not wake up to this inequality? How has technology, instead of solving the problem, made the situation worse?
The answer is unfortunately simple for most of us; “We like how they taste”. That simple statement has enabled us to draw arbitrary distinctions between humans and other sentient beings and also between different species. Eat some and live with others; wear some and cuddle others; hunt some and protect others. If you think about it, it’s rather confusing. But look what our choices have done, they have not only trumped our sense of social justice but have also tricked our moral senses into believing that breeding billions of beings for our convenience is okay. It has led to the creation of a society that is dependent on materials derived from exploited and slaughtered animals for various industries all over the world.
We now use almost 100% of the bodies of farm animals, including flesh, skin, organs, bones and bodily fluids to make various products. We’re not just talking about food, leather and wool, but body parts and substances extracted from them find their way in places you would least expect. Examples of products and materials in our modern world that use animals include packaging, ink, glue, paint, wallpaper, linoleum, carpet, insulation, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, disinfectants, asphalt, steel, car tires, lubricants, deodorants, perfumes, sunscreen, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, creams, cosmetics, fabric dyes, pharmaceuticals, sports equipment, clothing, etc. The list goes on…
Imagine if we had to change this. Seems like monumental task, doesn’t it? Wrong! If all of this even bothers you slightly, the good news is that bringing about change is easier than you can imagine. We don’t NEED to let this continue. Our society is the way it is because we WANT it to be this way. Like all social change, it starts at the individual level. It starts by challenging years of conditioning by taking one simple step. In this case that one simple step is taking off the blindfold that our desire to consume has placed on our moral intuition and common sense. It’s waking up to the fact that we don’t need to eat animals or their byproducts. Once we as a species overcome that, the rest will inevitably follow.
Social norms don’t change overnight, but we can if we want to, and after all, what is society without us?