The days are hotter and the weather quite erratic; the environment is not how it used to be five or so years ago. There is no doubt that our lifestyles affect the earth, and the decisions we make either help or destroy our planet.
While it’s not impossible to pursue a lifestyle with less negative effects on the environment, it’s much easier said than done. Going environment-friendly can get a little tedious—there’s the carpooling or commuting, using renewable energy, and for some, going vegan and supporting cruelty-free products.
A number of celebrities have gone on board the vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle. Ellen DeGeneres, Ariana Grande, and Jared Leto are just some among the many who have started to adopt an animal-free, plant-based diet. But what exactly does it mean to go vegan and cruelty-free?
What is cruelty-free and veganism?
Going cruelty-free and vegan began in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the time our parents rocked bell-bottom jeans and went out in the streets advocating for peace, unity, and harmony. It began in the United States, where people started clamoring for equal rights for all people and animals alike. Those decades gave birth to socially-conscious individuals who began to realize that animals were just as important as human beings, and should have been treated the same way. Thus, the birth of a cruelty-free and vegan lifestyle
A cruelty-free lifestyle is different from a vegan lifestyle, but the two have their similarities. Being cruelty-free means consuming products that do not undergo any sort of unethical handling of animals. This means that animal byproducts used are not placed in any inhumane holding area or mistreatment. Being vegan on the other hand, means consuming food and using products that aren’t composed of any animal part or byproduct. Both cruelty-free and vegan lifestyles support animal welfare.
Who’s doing it?
The growth of the cruelty-free and vegan community has given birth to various institutions, one of which is the famed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA is a community that fights for animal rights and the proper treatment of animals, engaging in cruelty investigations, animal rescues, protests, and much more.
The Leaping Bunny, on the other hand, sets standards on what exactly makes something cruelty-free and vegan, partnering with various companies who fit those standards. Each company undergoes thorough research and background checks before the Leaping Bunny can certify that it is in fact cruelty-free.
Some bloggers have noticeably taken on the rising animal-friendly lifestyle. Blogs such as Logical Harmony and Cruelty-Free Kitty help those who wish to pursue this lifestyle by providing a list of companies and brands that are (and are not) 100% cruelty-free, vegan, or organic.
How do you do it?
Despite our generation’s technological advancements, living cruelty-free and being vegan is not exactly an easy task, especially here in the Philippines where this uncommon culture still hasn’t caught on. Take it from Nicole and Patricia, two friends and Communication Arts majors from DLSU-Dasmariñas, who have started to gradually limit themselves to consuming and purchasing cruelty-free products.
It all started with a decision. Both girls decided to commit to a cruelty-free lifestyle at the beginning of the year as a New Year’s resolution.
“I wanted to make the world a less hostile place for animals,” Patricia shares.
On the other hand, Princess (III, BS-PSM) decided to go vegan after realizing that it was unnecessary to eat animals. “I can be perfectly healthy, even healthier actually, if I have a sans-meat diet when I did my research about it.”
Her experience with growing up with a family farm exposed her to the cruel process that animals have to go through, describing it as “unsanitary [and] incredibly cruel, [where] antibiotic use [is] abused.” The environmental damage that animal agriculture brings also pushed her to become a vegan since August of last year, and she has never looked back since.
Both Nicole and Patricia wanted to go vegan, but decided that it was difficult to do here in the Philippines. “I actually wanted to go vegetarian, but it’s hard to find restaurants here. So, I decided to go cruelty-free first, then eventually go vegan, like go through phases,” Nicole shares.
Princess shares the same sentiments, but found a way around the predicament. She says most restaurants do offer vegan dishes with “a little tweaking” involved. She also resorts to bringing baon on occasions wherein no alternatives are available to her.
Princess also identifies another challenge. “Right now, the biggest challenge is socializing,” she says. “People can be very defensive and judgmental when it comes to my lifestyle. They often criticize my ‘lack of protein’ and ‘unnaturalness’ of my diet.” According to her, she deals with them by being understanding.
Then, the rigorous research comes through, with blogs and official lists being helpful references when buying cruelty-free and vegan.
Nicole shares that she e-mails companies before purchasing their products. “When going to the mall, packages don’t really say if they’re cruelty-free or not, so I have to email them.” Patricia agrees, saying, “Sometimes, companies use the term ‘cruelty-free’ as a mere marketing strategy.”
However, because most big name companies aren’t cruelty-free and vegan, the actual cruelty-free ones usually get noticed. “I get to save money because most known brands are not cruelty-free,” shares Patricia. “And those that are cruelty-free are affordable lang naman. Also, purchasing vegan products is better for our health.”
Princess attests to the benefits of going vegan on her overall health as well as her conscience. After the first month, she easily lost ten pounds and has been more confident. In fact, with her low-fat and no-cholesterol diet, she has lower risk for heart diseases and diabetes.
Princess adds, “Knowing that I do not support the industries that unnecessarily kill and harm animals, I finally felt free of that burden. I was also lessening my contribution to climate change.”
To those who are open to the idea of going vegan, Princess suggests they watch documentaries such as Earthlings, Cowspiracy, and Forks over Knives. “Furthermore, do [your] own digging on the topic, so we can all be informed consumers.”
We may be able to plant trees and segregate our waste, but choosing to go cruelty-free is a practice that becomes a daily habit. For Nicole, Patricia, and Princess, all it took was one decision to change their diet and lifestyle. It wasn’t easy, but with the will and passion, it wasn’t impossible either.
In the same way, a simple step that one decides to take can make a difference, not only within one’s self but in one’s surroundings as well.
* For a master list of cruelty-free/vegan brands or even a more extensive guidebook to living cruelty-free/vegan, head to PETA, Leaping Bunny, Logical Harmony, or Cruelty Free Kitty to get started.