It's November, when store shelves, so recently full of pumpkins and ghosts, are cleared and restocked with Santas and reindeer, ready for Christmas.
As November is also World Vegan Month - an observation that has steadily grown in popularity over the past decade - you're also likely to see a raft of new plant-based foods in supermarkets this month.
Chocolates, bacon, burgers, dairy, and donuts - supermarkets nowadays are brimming with cruelty-free upgrades to almost every food you can imagine.
The range and availability are fantastic, a far cry from the tinned "nutmeat" I had to hunt for in the neglected health food aisle after I first realised where meat comes from some 30 years ago, but while this hyper-focus on food has given us such highlights as the Cheesecake Shop's "Vegan Caramel Fudge Choc Delight" and Hungry Jacks' "Plant Based Whopper", it might also give the impression that "vegan" refers only to food.
Being vegan is a lifestyle that seeks to reduce - as much as one possibly can - one's contribution to animal suffering in all aspects of life. Once we come to the simple (but, thanks to the dominant bias of speciesism, somewhat societally elusive) realisation that animals are not ours to use for any purpose and go vegan, we don't just stop consuming animals' flesh and secretions but also eschew every other form of their commodification.
As wonderful as it is to see more people reaching for vegan food, it's time to expand our compassion to animals used for clothing, exploited for entertainment, and abused in experimentation.
The fashion industry is slowly evolving to reflect the fact that animals' skins are not fabrics. Luxury labels like Vivienne Westwood and Burberry have moved past using the skins of snakes, crocodiles, and lizards, while iconic Australian fashion label Zhivago (whose creations routinely grace red carpets globally), is completely animal-free. Still, there's a long way to go before animals are no longer erroneously considered "ours to wear".
As for entertainment, it's heartening that more and more people are refusing to fund attractions that keep whales, dolphins, elephants, and other wild animals in tanks or behind bars and that an increasing number of travel providers are ending ticket sales to attractions that exploit them in these ways. Close to home, the Melbourne Cup has seen countless sponsors, performers, and punters withdraw support over horse deaths in racing - seven in the past decade. But there's still work to be done. Animal-based entertainment continues, whether it be the torment of bulls at a rodeo in a small outback town or the imprisonment of bottlenose dolphins and orcas at a city marine park.
Meanwhile, when it comes to animals used in science, we have an even longer road to hoe. In 2020, Australia announced the Industrial Chemicals Bill, which, while promising, hasn't, as many consumers felt led to believe, freed animals from experimentation. Far from being a blanket ban on animal testing, the bill allows for ingredients to be tested on them, which means rats may still have been force-fed your shampoo and pregnant rabbits may have been dosed with your face cream to see whether their newborns would be deformed.
Behind other closed doors, several Australian universities still perform the cruel and scientifically flawed forced swim test, in which mice and other small animals are compelled to desperately tread water inside beakers for fear of drowning.
It's true that animals aren't ingredients. The wonderful growth of the vegan food market, which has attracted investors like Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jeff Bezos, is testament to this. But now, as the damage of the animal agriculture-accelerated climate catastrophe grows by the day, it's time we realised that animals aren't "objects", period. They are sentient individuals, each conscious of their own existence and seeking to enjoy their one precious life in freedom. The dog or cat who's perhaps curled up beside you as you read this is no different from - nor less deserving of respect than - the crocodile who languishes in a filthy Northern Territory concrete pit for Hermès or the mouse about to have smoke forced into their lungs in a Sydney research facility.
Two decades ago, when vegan options began to grace every menu, we celebrated for the animals used for food, but there's much more to do. We must now exercise the power that each of us as money-wielding consumers has to create a world where animals are not commodified for any reason. By choosing vegan fashion, cruelty-free cosmetics, and animal-free entertainment, we're saying that not only the mothers and babies languishing on factory farms but also those trapped inside shearing sheds, at rodeos, and in laboratories matter. After all, wherever there is animal use, there's animal abuse, but wherever there are compassionate consumers, there is positive change.
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