There are a lot of ways in which going vegan helps the environment, animals, and even your own personal health, but for a vast variety of reasons – some absolutely valid, others perhaps less so – there are plenty of people who might want to do something for these causes, but can’t or won’t commit to a vegan lifestyle.
Whether or not we should be ‘pandering’ to non-vegans and encouraging so-called ‘complacency’ is a pretty controversial topic to many in the vegan community, but I always have and always will be an inclusive vegan who values the support and activism of non-vegans too. Although going vegan would certainly make the biggest impact and would be what everyone would do in a perfect world, we don’t actually live in that perfect world and at the end of the day, we’re all trying to achieve the same things. I’m of the opinion that each action, however small, can still make a big difference. Nadia of Not So Quiet Grrl recently wrote a fabulous post on this and the challenges of being a ‘liberal’ vegan that perfectly reflects my views and is well worth a read.
In spite of how often I discuss veganism, share vegan items and shout from the rooftops about being vegan on my blog and social media, I have never wanted nor intended to exclude or intimidate any of my followers who aren’t vegan. The Zombie Said is a safe space for anyone wanting to lead a more compassionate and ethical lifestyle, whether they exclude animal products in their entirety or not, and I hope I come across as an open and approachable source of information for my readers!
In the spirit of this, I thought that it was about time I wrote a post I’d been mulling over for a while – ways that non-vegans can help vegan causes. If you aren’t vegan but you care about our planet and the animals we share it with and want to contribute to some of the causes vegans advocate for, then these tips are for you!
BE MINDFUL OF YOUR CONSUMPTION.The amount of food we waste as a nation in the UK is astronomical, and each piece of food that we waste isn’t just a piece of food – it’s energy, resources and life, too. Particularly when we accidentally don’t use up the animal products we’ve bought, it isn’t just an item of food that we’ve let spoil, but litres and litres of water, hours of human labour, acres of land and many animal lives that have been used or exploited just so those leftovers or that tub of yogurt you forgot you had could end up tossed out. Most people don’t tend to make the connection that a forgotten chicken breast that had to be disposed of is actually an animal that was killed just to go in the bin, and a life completely wasted for no reason.
Throwing out less food is a basic but brilliant way to help reduce your impact on the environment and on animals’ lives, without having to make any drastic lifestyle changes. Simply being a bit more careful about how much food you buy each time you shop does a lot to ensure that all of the valuable things that go into the products we buy don’t end up being for nothing. Remember that humans gave their hard work and animals gave their lives for your food, and have enough respect for these things to not waste them.
BUY HIGHER WELFARE, MORE SUSTAINABLE OPTIONS.It goes without saying that the only way to guarantee no animals were mistreated in producing your meal is to just not consume animal products, but if you aren’t ready to cut those out and still want to try to make a difference, then buying from higher welfare and more sustainable sources will not only help some animals and protect the environments that they live in, but will also help to demonstrate a demand for companies to produce more of the same. If you eat fish, for example, go for line-caught, sustainable options and avoid anything trawler caught, as these dredge up the entire ocean floor and are completely indiscriminate in what they destroy. Or, try to avoid palm oil, as this is notorious for deforestation, habitat destruction and exploitation and abuse of indigenous people.
It can be tricky to navigate the world of more sustainable and ethical animal products – one of the reasons that many of us go vegan is due to the deceitful veil that animal agriculture businesses shroud their practices in. They use nice imagery, buzz words and logos like ‘happy hens’, the Red Tractor and bogus cruelty free logos designed to trick us into buying their products because we perceive them as the more ethical choice when, really, they’re utterly meaningless. If you don’t know how to decode any of this I highly recommend reading Farmageddon and checking out Compassion in World Farming. They have a great, simple guide you can download to see which labels mean the most for animal welfare standards and where the best places to shop for animal products are with welfare in mind.
SWITCH TO CRUELTY FREE BEAUTY AND HOME PRODUCTS.If your diet can’t change but you still care about animal welfare, one of the easiest and most positive changes you can make is to start using beauty and household products that aren’t tested on animals. I’m sure any of my readers will know by now that I’m a huge advocate of cruelty free cosmetics! While food can be perceived as a much more personal choice and changing our diets can be a difficult lifestyle switch for many, cosmetic products are less of a necessity and there is quite literally zero need for an animal to suffer for our vanity given the alternative testing methods available these days.
Testing makeup on animals isn’t as cutesy-sounding as sticking a bit of blush on a bunny rabbit; it’s a brutal process of repeated injections and exposure to chemical substances until the animal dies or is in pain and immediately euthanised as a result. Buying makeup products that carry the Leaping Bunny logo or that have otherwise proven themselves to be cruelty free helps prevent countless animals from needlessly suffering. Logical Harmony and Ethical Elephant are two of my favourite resources for cruelty free beauty brand lists if you’re looking for a place to start, and of course my blog has plenty of reviews and recommendations for cf items. Always feel free to hit me up on Twitter or Instagram if you’ve got a question about cf beauty!
LET YOUR MONEY TALK.Animal agriculture and the beauty industry are both businesses, and money is the language of business. These companies don’t often really care about animal welfare or protecting the environment, but they do care about their profits. You have the power to sway their decisions simply by being more critical of where you choose to spend your money.
If you aren’t vegan, buy your animal products from known higher welfare supermarkets or brands. Select the items in the super market advertised as better for the environment over the ones that aren’t. Spend your money on a cruelty free alternative to your old favourite lipstick. A lot of people like to say that going vegan or cruelty free is pointless, that we can’t really make a difference, but sales of dairy milk are plummeting while non-dairy milk consumption has sky-rocketed. Big brands like Urban Decay make decisions to pull out of selling in China because of boycotts and outcry over China’s animal testing policies.
They want your money, and if they can see you giving it to someone kinder to animals and the environment instead of them, then that will give them an incentive to change their practices in order to increase their sales.
EAT FEWER ANIMAL PRODUCTS.Not every vegan will agree with me on this, but when I speak to non-vegans about vegan causes I always advocate reduction rather than restriction. For those like me, completely omitting certain things from my diet was easy and a no-brainer, but not everyone is like me, and being told they need to totally remove loads of things they enjoy from their diets will immediately turn many people off the movement completely. For some, decreasing their animal product consumption is the best way to get them on board, may be the best or most realistic option for them personally and is still a valuable way to help animals and the environment.
At the rate that we’re going, our planet cannot support the demand for animal produce, whether that’s chicken or beef or cheese or you name it. The amount of land, energy and resources needed for animal agriculture and the damage it inflicts on the environment is simply too much, but reducing your consumption can help slow it down again. Obviously I would love it if no one ate animal products at all, but if everyone had a meat-free day per week, stopped having dairy milk in their cereals or stopped consuming animal products with every single meal, that would still have a massive impact on the demand for those products and, in turn, a massive impact on the scale in which they’re produced.
You don’t have to give everything up, but reducing the amount of animal products that you consume and learning to treat meat, dairy etc. as a treat rather than a daily necessity will also help to promote change. As long as we continue to think of animal products a necessary part of every single meal, demand for them will continue to be great enough for companies to ‘justify’ factory farming, habitat destruction and low animal welfare practices in order to meet our so-called ‘needs’.
I hope you found these tips a wee bit helpful and when in doubt, if nothing else, use your voice! You may not be vegan, but if you have educated yourself and are aware of animal welfare and environmental issues, you can still spread the word and promote awareness. It only takes one person – vegan or not – to start up a ripple effect and get others thinking more critically about where their food, beauty products etc. come from!
What are some ways that you try to be an ethical consumer?