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Kateryna Shcherban / EyeEm / Getty Images

There's just something sublimely satisfying about dyeing your hair a vibrant shade of red in the middle of a cold, gray winter or bright blonde at the height of summer.

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A Zoa T-shirt made by Modern Meadow the piece was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Modern Meadow

By Lucy Goodchild van Hilten

A warehouse filled with huge gleaming silver vats hums around the clock, as billions of yeast cells work to make a material we can wear, sit on and carry around. In an adjoining room, rows of benches hold molds of different shapes and sizes, where sheets of cellulose layer up and become recognizable. In the next room, the material is finished and packaged, destined for designers, tailors and upholsterers.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Zachary Toliver

Hey, of course we all want to look fly—and it seems like this winter, pompom accessories on handbags, shoes and hats are the way to do that. But unless these furry fad items are made with vegan fur, animals were beaten, electrocuted or even skinned alive to make them.

Many of these fuzzballs are made from the skins of animals, including minks and foxes, two of the species most commonly killed in the fur industry.

Minks are solitary, semi-aquatic animals who can occupy up to 2,500 acres of wetland habitat. Foxes live in stable, loving family groups in which the father brings the nursing mother food. Newborn fox pups are unable to see, hear or walk, so they're totally dependent on their mother and will die if she's killed.

In addition, foxes, much like dogs, love to play. Just look how delighted this one is about a ball. How on Earth could someone wear these wonderful animals?!

On fur factory farms—which is where nearly 85 percent of the industry's skins come from—minks, foxes, chinchillas and other animals are crammed into filthy wire cages, where they're separated from their families and denied everything that's natural and important to them. Severe crowding and confinement prevent them from taking more than a few steps in any direction and they often go insane, resorting to self-mutilation and cannibalism—all just so that humans can make a fur coat, collar or (you guessed it) pompom.

Lose Your Mind Over Pompoms, but Don't Let Animals Lose Their Skin

So yeah, having a carcass hanging off your purse, gloves or hat is gross and cruel. There are plenty of vegan fur pompoms out there that you can use to express your style without supporting an industry that kills animals.

Many major retailers have banned fur altogether, so it's easy to find vegan pompoms at mainstream shopping outlets and online retailers such as Etsy. Or, if you're more of a DIY person, here's a video tutorial on how to make a cruelty-free pompom:

Be Fur-Free When You Accessorize

Whether you're into furry pompoms or the next big trend, be sure to shop cruelty-free. The only one who needs an animal's skin is the animal.

By Daisy Freund

Wandering the meat and dairy aisles of most grocery stores is a bit like sitting down to read a children's storybook. Gleaming red barns jut out of green rolling hills. Cartoon cows and chickens graze in the shade of a tree or eat feed from the hand of a farmer. Add a few well-placed words like "all-natural" or "farm fresh" to this bucolic scene and the average harried grocery shopper is probably going to buy into this pleasant story of animals living the good life.

It's a story we want to believe. Ninety-four percent of Americans agree that animals raised for food deserve to be free from abuse and cruelty. But most farm animals' lives are about as far from the scenes on those packages as one can imagine.

Here's the real story: In 1955, the U.S. raised about 100 million cattle, pigs and birds for food. Through industrialization of our farming system we now raise more than nine billion. Efficient? Yes. Humane? Not even close. Most of the animals raised on modern industrial farms are either confined in cages, crates, pens or on the floors of giant warehouses. They are packed cheek to jowl, so tightly they cannot engage in basic, natural behaviors like perching, dust bathing or even stretching their limbs. They defecate where they live and sleep, filling the air with ammonia that burns and infects their skin, eyes and respiratory systems. Because these conditions are breeding grounds for the spread of diseases, industry has taken to routinely dosing animals with preventive antibiotics, putting human health at risk as antibiotic resistant diseases spread among humans.

Through investigations and educational efforts, there's a growing awareness that all is not as idyllic on the farm as it seems on the packages. More and more consumers are keeping the images they've seen of suffering farm animals in mind as they shop. A recent national survey, commissioned by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), found that 74 percent of consumers are paying more attention to the labels that indicate how farm animals were treated than they were just five years ago.

Unfortunately, these labels are often confusing and misleading and don't always provide much guidance. As a result, there are widespread misconceptions about what common labels actually mean for animal welfare. For example, 65 percent of consumers surveyed believe the term "free-range" ensures that the animal spent most of its time in a pasture. But in reality, there is no legal definition of "free-range" for pork, beef or dairy products. On poultry products, birds must have access to the outdoors, but the size, duration and quality of that outdoor experience is not defined. More than two thirds of those surveyed think that claims like "natural," "hormone-free" and "humane" guarantee better animal welfare, when they actually require minimal improvements, if any.

Nearly half of all consumers also assume that when they pick up a carton of eggs, an independent inspector verified the health and welfare of the chickens who laid them. Sadly, they couldn't be more mistaken. Most farms are never visited by anyone except employees working for companies that are primarily looking out for the bottom line, not animals' welfare. The consequences of this lack of oversight have been dire for farm animals and sparked concern in three quarters of survey respondents.

It might seem overwhelming at times, but as consumers, we have the power to demand better conditions for farm animals and I've seen for myself that better conditions are possible. I've visited farms across this country that are raising animals in ways that better respect their needs and natures. Like the pasture-based farm in upstate New York where mother pigs are raised in groups and have an environment that lets them fulfill their basic maternal instinct to build a nest of twigs and soft vegetation before they have their piglets. Or even the large-scale egg farm in Indiana where hens popped in and out of their long house to dust bathe in the shade. When I visited, they ran toward the farmer, showing curiosity and comfort, rather than the fear and stress seen in battery caged facilities. These are meaningful differences from conventional facilities.

So how can a concerned consumer tell if the eggs, meat or dairy they are about to buy came from a farm that genuinely gave animals better lives or if they are just being tricked by claims that sound great but mean nothing? Welfare certifications exist that take the guessing and hoping out of shopping and actually represent better animal welfare: specifically, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane and Global Animal Partnership (Steps 2 and above).

While these certifications represent a spectrum of ways to raise animals, from pasture-based farming to enriched indoor environments, all employ independent auditing systems to check on farms and require 100 percent compliance with standards that account for animals' physical, natural and emotional needs. Crafted by welfare specialists, these standards ban cages, crates and extreme confinement and set definitions for adequate space, indoors and outdoors. They require enrichments like hay bales and perches that allow natural behaviors and have standards guiding air and light quality to support animals' health. They also require responsible use of antibiotics and address animals' lives on farm, in transport and at slaughter.

Certified products might cost a little more, but consumers have overwhelmingly stated they are willing to pay more for better welfare. Sixty-seven percent of consumers stated that they would purchase meat, eggs and dairy products with trustworthy welfare certifications even when it means a higher price. In addition, 75 percent of consumers would like stores to carry a greater variety of welfare-certified meat, eggs and dairy. Once demand grows, supply follows along and prices will level off.

With a little knowledge of the labels to look for, consumers who purchase animal products can have a radical impact on the farming industry. That means ignoring the cartoonish marketing and looking instead for those welfare certifications—and opting for more plant-based alternatives—whenever we can. It means asking store managers and restaurants to carry more of these better products. Each purchase, each request, each inquiry adds up. Together, we can create a less cruel, less confusing and more compassionate farming system based on facts—not fiction.

Take the pledge to Shop With Your Heart. If you purchase meat, eggs or dairy, you have more power than you know. By buying welfare-certified animal products or more plant-based products, you send a strong message to food companies that you care about the treatment of farm animals.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.

By Ashley Palmer

More than ever, compassionate companies are choosing to make their products without testing on animals. And we love them for it! For people looking to cut all animal-derived items out of their life, vegan cosmetics are the way to go. But it can be a bit confusing. Don't worry, though—we're here to guide you. Cruelty-free means that the product was developed without any animal tests, while vegan means that in addition to never being tested on animals, the product does not include any animal-derived ingredients.

To make shopping for vegan products even easier, many of our favorite cruelty-free brands label which of their products are vegan on their websites.

1. Milani

Whether you're looking for eyeliner, lipstick or blush, Milani's vegan products have got you covered for a flawlessly vegan face.

2. Too Faced

From "teddy bear hair" brushes to Born This Way Foundation, a list of exclusively vegan products can be found on Too Faced's FAQ page.

3. Tarte

With a great selection of must-have products (think primer and gloss), plus a wide variety of brushes and beauty blenders, the vegan makeup from Tarte will make your vegan heart skip a beat.

4. Urban Decay

With a commitment to continuing to expand its vegan selection, Urban Decay makes shopping a breeze with its Vegan tab.

5. wet n wild

As one of the most widely available and affordable cosmetics lines, wet n wild's vegan selection is great for the newly converted beauty buff. Plus, the response to its vegan brush line was so positive, the company is planning to use even more vegan ingredients in its products. Check out its long list of vegan options on its website.

6. Lush

On the forefront of the fight against animal testing, Lush makes vegans feel right at home. All products free of animal ingredients are clearly labeled and the company's compassionate team members are always happy to help you find the perfect vegan bath bomb, balm or lotion.

7. Kat Von D Beauty

After an amazing response from fans, Kat Von D decided to make her entire line vegan! During the transition, you can find all the vegan products that she offers under #VeganAlert.

Supporting these brands helps animals. By purchasing vegan cosmetics from these cruelty-free companies, you're showing them that there is a demand for these types of products. Hopefully, they'll all join the ranks of all-vegan makeup brands like Pacifica, Arbonne and NCLA. Until then, vote with your dollars and choose vegan.

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