I remember the first time I encountered the term ‘cruelty-free’. It happened at the grocery store shortly after I became vegan, as I was shopping for vegan-friendly shampoo and body wash. One of the first things I discovered was that being vegan affected more than just the food I ate; it affected just about every decision-making process in my life. The thing I learned after that was how laborious shopping became when you have to read the ingredients on every single item you consider buying. Still, it was a labor of love, so it was more than worth the effort in my opinion.
And that’s when it happened. I picked up a bottle of shampoo, turned it around to see the ingredients, then saw the icon of the leaping bunny with the words ‘cruelty-free’ underneath. I fell in love instantly. Truth be told, I could feel myself tearing up as I stared at those words, and the image of a happy, bouncy bunny on top. That was what it was all about, I realized at that moment. It was about being cruelty-free so that no bunnies or other animals are harmed in any way, shape, or form. I had found my new path, and at that moment, I had found my new mantra, the words that would carry me along the vegan path each and every day that followed.
Needless to say, I know that not all things that are listed as cruelty-free are vegan. That was yet another lesson learned along the long list of mistakes made. Even so, that didn’t take away from the impact that those words had on me. And, if I’m honest, nor did it lesson the smile I have every time I see the leaping bunny. I do love that bunny! But at least it told me I was in the right neighborhood when it came to making a purchase, and it helped me narrow down my choices quickly and easily, which really helped in those early days.
As time progressed, and I started counting how many months I had been vegan rather than how many days or hours, I noticed that my new mantra was still very much a part of my new lifestyle. In fact, if I had a choice between two or more items that were vegan, I would choose the one with the leaping bunny first and foremost every time. That joyous logo, with those poignant words, gave me a sense of purpose and pride like never before. And that’s when I noticed something I had never expected. Those words had transcended their original context. Cruelty-free was no longer just a standard by which I made purchases; it had become a metric by which I was starting to measure every aspect of my life as a whole.
I found myself questioning every action I took, every word I said, and even the very thoughts I entertained, determining whether or not they were cruelty-free in essence. If the answer was ‘yes’, then I would continue with whatever it was I was doing, saying or thinking. However, if I recognized that a particular action or statement wasn’t cruelty-free, then I would end it instantly, returning it to the shelf the way I would a bottle of body wash that contained milk or honey extracts. In simple terms, my life had been completely transformed.
As I reflected on the nature of this transformation, I realized how unremarkable it actually was. After all, ethics are not the sort of thing you can compartmentalize. A person who is racist will more than likely be equally prejudiced against all races other than their own. Alternatively, someone who is against racism will be opposed to all forms of bigotry, regardless of which group it is aimed against. Therefore, ethics affect every choice we make, not just a few, and they don’t change according to the situation. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
And that’s how it was working for me. Cruelty-free had become my life’s mantra, the battle cry that carried me through any and every decision or action I had to make. My words had become more compassionate, my actions more kind, and my thoughts more benevolent. So, what does this have to do with veganism? Simply put, this is yet another way in which the impact of veganism can reach far beyond its original perceived scope. For me, what started out as a metric for shopping became a metric for life. While this may not be the case for every single person who travels down the vegan path, there is no doubt that it will be the case for most.
After all, I am not so special as to have an experience so unique that it is mine and mine alone. Especially considering the fact that this wasn’t an experience I was even looking for, let alone expecting to find. Yet it is something that has changed my life and continues to define me each and every day. And if it happened to me, then it has to have happened to countless others as well. If shopping for cruelty-free shampoo can transform someone into a cruelty-free person, then this is another way in which veganism can literally change the world as we know it.
All it takes is that first nudge to get a person to start going down a better path. The more people who choose to be cruelty-free in the things they buy are the more people who will start being cruelty-free in all areas of life. This means that as veganism gains traction such things as racism, sexism, violence, and other such actions of cruelty will become increasingly rare. The more value we place on the lives of animals is the more value we will place on life as a whole. And when we begin to see life as sacred once again we will begin to cherish it in all ways, choosing peace over war, compassion over cruelty, love over hate. In the end, only by living a cruelty-free life can we create a cruelty-free world. This is how veganism is playing a significant role in the ushering in of the New Age; an age of compassion-driven values and a cruelty-free way of life.