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The hidden impact and consequences of consumerism

Three ounces, five servings, 110 calories, certified organic, fair trade seal. These are just several of the things I quickly scan whenever picking groceries. While it’s important to see the impact the food will have on my body, I believe it is equally important, and sometimes even more important, to make sure the products I consume are sustainable, cruelty-free and environmentally friendly.

My generation is characterized by high-speed consumption and consumerism. We have fast-fashion and fast-food, and we live at a fast pace fueled by our instant connection with the world around us. Amid the asphalt streets and carefully manicured lawns, it’s easy to forget that everything we use has an impact on the environment around us. It’s easy to forget that the food on our table was produced through hard labor. I am guilty of taking many of these things for granted.

Why has consumerism turned so ethically corrupt? Capitalism. With the promise of greater profits, large companies are willing to cut corners or indulge in unethical acts to garner more revenue. The most blatant example of this lack of empathy would be animal testing. Although the European Union and South Korea have banned the use of animals, China requires animal testing for all products sold in the country. With the second-largest economy in the world, this has caused companies such as NARS and Shiseido to turn from cruelty-free to animal testing companies. Since companies are doing better than ever in terms of sales, it is easy for them to turn a blind eye to the cruel deaths that millions of animals suffer as a result of their actions. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) estimates that over 100 million animals die each year as a result of testing. The only way for us to break this chain of inhumanity is to be smart consumers and only buy from companies whose moral compasses aligns with our own.

Another issue with consumer awareness is sustainability and environmental repercussions. While someone may enjoy eating shark fin soup, killing an entire animal to just eat its fins is illogical at best and insane at worst. Regarded as one of the leading threats to shark population, this practice is just one of many examples of selfish human consumption. If this topic seems too far-fetched from your life, think about buying chicken at the supermarket. Between a cheaper poultry-farm caged chicken and a more expensive, free range chicken, many shoppers choose to purchase the caged chicken.  With only a several dollar price difference, the shopper can easily support humanely treatment of animals.

Moral obligation doesn’t stop at the food aisle. Animal cruelty is a huge controversy within the makeup industry. According to The Humane Society of the United States, the three following acts are condemned, but not illegal: dripping chemicals into the eyes of restrained rabbits, force-feeding animals to check for signs of cancer or birth defects and “lethal dose” tests, in which an animal if forced to swallow large amount of a test chemical to to determine the dose that causes death. If the animal is alive after being tested on, it is often then disposed of using asphyxiation, decapitation or neck-breaking. Because of the genetic differences between small animals and humans, the results that are acquired through this cruelty are sometimes not even accurate. However, animal testing is cheap and helps companies generate more profit. By being smarter consumers, we can end the chain of animal cruelty.

When shopping for food, I look for a fair trade seal, so that I know my food comes from sustainable backgrounds. My mom aims to only buy free-range chicken from the grocery store. My family tries to buy from farmer’s markets to support local farmers. While shopping for makeup, I look for the leaping bunny logo, or the PETA cruelty-free certified bunny. Now, I’m not asking for everyone to swear off meat or products that they enjoy, but it is our moral responsibility to treat our planet and its other inhabitants with the utmost respect. We need to better examine the history behind the products we purchase and attempt to protect the planet and our ethics to the best of our abilities.

By Nicole Chiang, News editor
Editorial cartoon by Joy Wang

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