“REDEFINING CRUELTY-FREE” – an event intending to broaden our definition of “cruelty-free” to account for products that indirectly harm animals, as well as products that in/directly harm human communities and our Earth.
These 2 words, when put together, exist as a marketing label popularized and used nearly exclusively for mainstream vegan consumerism. It can be and has been applied to the sale of products of vegan food, vegan clothing, vegan body-care products, and vegan activities.
“Cruelty-free” is intended to represent something about the given item for sale. Essentially, it says that this product was produced and made available to you, the consumer, without causing any direct cruelty to an animal – and most specifically applied to items produced without involving testing on animals.
And yes, choosing items that do not contain animal products and did not cause the direct exploitation of an animal are often less harmful – most certainly for the individual animals that did not suffer for our consumption of that particular product in question.
But capitalist production and mass consumption of anything – vegan or not – requires incredible amounts of resources to be extracted from our Earth. Every product – vegan or not – use the same oil-dependent industrial system to package, transport and distribute for rapid consumption.
Given that the cheapest method is often the cruellest and most destructive, we will continue to see rivers polluted and forests clear-cut to produce the materials used to package and market consumer products.
And because consumerism depends on keeping consumers buying happiness, we will also continue to see the dissatisfaction that arises from debt, fatigue, alienation, boredom, burnout and general apathy of working for capitalism.
Capitalism depends on profits, and so will always prioritize capital growth over the life and well-being of its consumers, its workers and “expendable resources” we know to be animals and our Earth.
So, how can anything ever be free of cruelty when made inside the system of capitalism?
When will capitalism ever produce something without cruelty?
And we ask this question, not with the intention for it to be read as some infamous vegan rhetorical buzz-kill statement. But okay, we do wish to draw your attention to the obvious fact that we all – though in very different degrees – complicit to the violence known as capitalism: an inherently toxic system of objectifying, commodifying and exploiting ideas, labour, emotions, bodies, resources, relationships and life itself.
No, this question is intended to provoke you, the reader, to liberate your beliefs about our potential in life as being far beyond that of a simple consumer who “votes with their dollar”.
This is a question that insists for you to appreciate the layers of violence that always, inevitably, arise amongst relationships of cash profits through the existence of another, whether human, animal or our Earth mother.
This is a question to challenge you, vegan or not, to continue to do better in the ways we all slowly work to unpack our different privileges as we continue to dismantle the violent relationships within capitalism and speciesism.
Finally, this question serves as an invitation to you, to join us at ELK as we prepare to host another online web-event devoted to unpacking the words “cruelty-free” and their potential to exist within the violence known as capitalism.
This event, titled “REDEFINING CRUELTY-FREE”, intends to broaden our definition of “cruelty-free” to account for products that indirectly harm animals, as well as products that in/directly harm human communities and our Earth.
What does redefining cruelty-free look like?
The content of this event will centre around issues of
- veganism and food justice;
- mass consumerism and consumer privilege;
- white privilege and migrant justice;
- worker rights and slave labour;
- environmental racism and food insecurity;
- indigenous land rights and food sovereignty;
- food and water privatization;
- pesticides and monocrops;
- plastic and pollution;
- endangered species and habitat loss;
- intensive resource extraction, mining and ecocide.
This event will function as a platform to critically re-examine how we define “cruelty-free” consumerism. By bringing together the knowledge and lived experience of different people, we hope to learn about more opportunities to existing outside these systems of oppression and destruction.
BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!
We need volunteers to join as part of an informal event-planning committee,
to help in the networking, fundraising, promotion and facilitation of this event!