You might recall that last summer, I made the decision to go vegetarian. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t regularly share meals with me, you’ve probably heard a great deal about it. You’ve seen me preach and post photos of meat-free meals on Facebook and Instagram. Maybe you read my story on Medium about coming to my decision that I wrote a few months later. No matter how you heard about it, you know I’ve basically been broadcasting about it whenever I can. Not because I’m trying to annoy basically everyone I know, but maybe to get some of them to think instead. The fact is that when you eat meat, you’re eating another creature. Another creature that also had a mother. Another creature that also felt fear and pain. Another creature that valued its life. And not too many people like to stop and think about it. Not when their cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, and tenderloins taste so good.
And that’s okay. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to be a good person. I suffer from a bit of guilt myself — I’d love to go full-blown vegan and cut out all animal products from my diet. I still haven’t made that kind of commitment, but I’m hoping one day I’ll be able to totally give up my love of cheese. But a lot of people don’t realize that you don’t have to completely change your diet to love and help save animals from the cruel horrors of factory farming. There’s actually a lot of other adjustments you can make to your lifestyle that’ll help! Here’s just a few:
Buy Cruelty Free
This tidbit is what I like to think of as the second most obvious lifestyle choice after going vegan. Did you know that 219 animals like mice, rats, cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and monkeys die every minute in an American lab? If that makes you sad or angry, this one will really steam your bean: Since different animal species absorb, metabolize, and eliminate substances differently than humans, it also means lab testing on them is unnecessary! Usually it’s all in the name of testing beauty and household cleaning products!
Fortunately for us animal lovers, it’s pretty easy today to find products from companies that have decided not to test on animals! Two of my personal favorite brands, both of which are pretty commonly sold in grocery and department stores, are Seventh Generation and Method. I’ve also recently started using personal hygiene products from Every Man Jack, though I’ve heard those sold by Jessica Alba’s The Honest Co. are wonderful as well! All you have to do is keep a look out for these cute bunny logos (and not any different bunnies because fakes definitely exist!) on bottles and packaging:
Additionally, you can also download these PDF files of companies that DO test on animals and companies that do NOT test on animals to assist you the next time you go shopping! That way you can shop with your heart as well as your brain!
If you aren’t yet prepared to commit to a meatless diet, you can participate in Meatless Monday! Setting the precedent as far back as World War I, the U.S. Food Administration urged families to to reduce meal staples to aid in the war effort, launching campaigns called “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday.” The Meatless Monday movement was then revived in 2003 by Sid Lerner and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future as a public health awareness campaign. Why Monday? Studies show that Mondays are the best day to make small, positive changes. And though you’re still eating meat the rest of the week, there is at least one day you would be helping to impact the factory farm industry!
And it’s not just the animals that will benefit! Meatless Monday also encourages going meatless for other reasons too. Your health, for starters! By going meatless, even for one day a week, you can greatly reduce your risk for conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity! You’ll also reduce your carbon footprint and help save our planet’s precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water (1,850 gallons of which are used to produce a single pound of beef!). Improve our health and save the world at the same time? Count us in!
And don’t worry: You don’t have to incorporate things like tofu or seitan to find a delicious vegetarian meal!
Animals in need all over the world could use donations of all kinds. Even if your pockets aren’t lined with extra cash, there’s still plenty of other items you can donate to animal shelters and your local Humane Society, many of which you can probably even find in your own kitchen cabinets! They are always in need of common items such as:
- Cat scratchers
- Dog and cat beds
- Canned tuna in water
- Dish soap
- Paper towels
- Zip-lock bags
- …and much more located on this list!
If you have extra time to give, many shelters are also frequently in desperate need of volunteers! Whether that means volunteering several days a week or just once a month, they are always looking for people to help with cleaning, paperwork, walking dogs, playing with cats, give the animals baths, etc. If you have even more skills at your disposal, they could even use your help balancing their books or repairing their facilities!
And of course, you can also donate your money. Click these links to open your wallet to the Humane Society, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Mercy for Animals, and the World Wildlife Fund just to name a few.
Spread the Message
As painful as they may be to watch, sometimes sharing the horrific undercover investigations into factory farming is necessary. It’s hard to open your eyes to cruelty if you aren’t witnessing it first-hand. Don’t just encourage your friends to do their research: Show it to them. Share videos like the one below on your social media feeds. Share articles about the awful things humans are doing to other creatures. Remind them that hamburger, chicken, pork, and fish don’t just come from the supermarket!
Excellent resources to follow on social media are The Dodo and Mercy for Animals. They are constantly sharing excellent photos and video — both happy and horrific — to help spread the word. A simple click of the “share” button can do wonders. And if you feel like you’re being repetitive, just know that it’ll all feel worth it the first time one of your friends tells you that they were impacted by something important.
Go Vegetarian or Vegan
Okay, so I’m cheating a little here. I know that I said permanently altering your diet wouldn’t be one of these items. But the fact remains that completely leaving animal products off your plate and clothing racks is the absolute best way to champion for your love of animals. It’s also the easiest! It doesn’t involve going out to factory farms to protest or chaining yourself to a tree in the rainforest. But it does impact the finances and livelihoods of those who perpetuate all of the crimes of humanity we’ve committed against our animal friends.
If you don’t think it’s doing any good either, think again. The CEO of Tyson Foods recently stated on the record that he believed the future of food might be meat free! Another recent astonishing fact is that 4 out of 5 millennials have never eaten a Big Mac! Times are changing, hopefully for the better, and you can absolutely be a part of that change. You can even download a free vegetarian starter kit here! Why not start now?
Besides, all the cool kids are doing it! Oh yeah… I’m not above name-dropping! You’ve probably heard of Alicia Silverstone’s very outspoken vegan lifestyle, but did you know there are a lot of other famous faces you probably love and admire that are also into saving lives? Those include:
- Natalie Portman
- Ariana Grande
- Casey Affleck
- Joaquin Phoenix
- Tobey Maguire
- Anne Hathaway
- Kristen Bell
- Alyssa Milano
- Carrie Underwood
- Joss Stone
- Mayim Bialik
- Peter Dinklage
- Ellen DeGeneres
- Forest Whitaker
- Jared Leto
- Michelle Pfeiffer
- Jason Mraz
- Maggie Q
- Olivia Wilde
- Edie Falco
- Sarah Silverman
- Woody Harrelson
- Sir Paul McCartney
- …and more increasing basically daily!
Want to be smart like Natalie Portman and Mayim Bialik? Then start eating smart, too!
Got something to say or add to this list? Leave it in the comments below or join in the new-and-improved discussion forums!