Commentary: Who's afraid of the slippery slope?

By Ingrid Newkirk, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on

Published in Op Eds

It started slowly enough — new prohibitions trickling in. First, it was no red meat or your heart would explode. Then no chicken because, they warned, salmonella, E. coli and campylobacter on carcasses can give you the stomach flu. After that, it was no fish — definitely not if you are pregnant — because the iodine, mercury and other heavy metals in it can rob you of whatever brain cells you are trying to cling on to. By the time it got to eggs — those "cholesterol bombs" from chickens crammed together in a shed like popcorn trying to burst from the bag — you knew more was coming. Yes: milk! Forget about it — unless you want acne and digestive disturbances and it doesn't bother you that calves are forcibly removed from their loving mothers. Your kitchen began to smell more like forest than a farm.

At about the same time, your wardrobe came under attack. Fur was out like a light, unless you were setting off to a Halloween party dressed as your granny. Faux fur became suspect because of petrochemicals. Angora was unpardonable because of the screaming rabbits being live-plucked in China, alpaca because of the screaming alpacas tightly tied down to tables for shearing in Peru. And your sigh of relief that crocodiles and alligators can't scream was short-lived, as you screamed when you saw the filthy factory pits that they are raised in and that man in the video ramming a metal rod down their spines. We were informed that wool is totally unacceptable: Huge flocks are destroying the grasslands in Patagonia, and amphetamine-stoked shearers in Australia take their frustrations out on the frightened sheep with their fists, boots and metal clippers.

And that's not the end of it, of course. You can no longer clean the floor or shampoo your hair unless there's a hopping bunny label on the back of the bottle, and if, God forbid, you are overcome with the desire to ride an elephant or be photographed with a parrot on your shoulder, you must remember the wildlife trade and go take a hike instead.


It's tempting to reminisce about a simpler time when we were oblivious to the effects of our buying habits, but I'm elated that we've been introduced to a world of choices that we never thought possible: organs on a chip to replace rabbits in tests; so many plant milks that you stand and stare at the supermarket refrigerator case for a good three minutes trying to decide between the oat, the hemp, the soy, the almond and the coconut; mushroom, apple and pineapple leathers as well as new fabrics made from recycled ocean plastics to replace animal skin and hair; and virtual reality entertainment that allows us to interact with jungle or ocean animals without harming a hair on their heads. It can be mindboggling to contemplate the changes that have come about in a relatively short time but exhilarating to realize that we are no longer creatures of habit but informed, compassionate consumers, in control of the power of our purse and the will of our wallet.

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