Activists find hope in technology to stop animal cruelty in fashion, scientific research

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Activists find hope in technology to stop animal cruelty in fashion, scientific research

Holding a banner reading, “I Am Not Food,” activists from the animal rights group, CARE, protest against dog meat consumption in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, in this January 2018 file photo. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

Co-authors of ‘Animalkind’ say humans share Earth with other living beings

By Kang Hyun-kyung

Activists find hope in technology to stop animal cruelty in fashion, scientific research

“Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion” by Ingrid Newkirk and Gene Stone

Humans are superior to animals and this superiority is how the former became the master of this planet, enslaving other living beings to serve their needs. This notion of the hierarchical human-animal relationship has remained predominant since the onset of history.

The new book about animal rights, titled “Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion” (hereafter “Animalkind”), written by Ingrid Newkirk and Gene Stone, critically reviews the human-centered worldview that has propagated the indiscriminate exploitation of animals to fulfill the various needs of humans, ranging from what we eat, wear and have fun with.

Citing the results of extensive research on animals and their behavior, the authors explain to readers why the belief about humans’ superiority over animals is flawed, arguing that humans share Earth with other living beings.

“Many human societies believed in a fixed hierarchy of nature, with humans at the top (under God or gods) and beasts at the bottom. This notion was reinforced as Christianity came to thrive by the biblical teaching that animals, lacking souls, were here solely to serve mankind,” the book reads.

Pointing out our limited knowledge of animals, Newkirk and Stone introduce a wide range of research findings on animals which support the view that they are smarter than we think they are, and, like humans, they feel pain and can also communicate with one another.

What makes “Animalkind” stand out among a long list of other books about animal rights is that it overcomes the fallacy of “criticizing for the sake of criticism” by presenting a constructive solution to stop the long-standing practice of sacrificing animals to meet humans’ needs.

The authors pin hope on technological advances to stop animal cruelty, praising innovative technology for progress made in the fields of scientific and medical research and clothing without involving the mistreatment of animals.

“Forty years ago, the standard pregnancy test consisted of sending a urine sample to a laboratory, injecting it into a frog, rabbit or mouse and checking to see if the animal died. Today, you can pick up an over-the-counter test kit and know within minutes whether or not you have a family member,” the book reads.

Noting that animals have been exploited in four specific areas of human life, namely science, clothing, entertainment and food, Newkirk and Stone say there has been progress in some areas thanks to innovative technologies.

In fashion, the book goes on to say that innovative synthetic fabrics that didn’t involve cruelty to animals, such as fleece, are as effective as fur in keeping people warm.

The slaughtering of animals has been taken for granted for a long time without noteworthy resistance from humans, mainly because they are a source of meat, fur and leather. Some animals are trained and manipulated to entertain humans in zoos or circuses.

Despite its cruel nature, slaughtering animals for the sake of meeting human needs has been justified as a necessity that can ensure our survival.

In the extensively researched book, Newkirk and Stone observe that humans’ lavish greed to look stylish came at the price of the indiscriminate hunting of animals.

The presence of fashion in post-Black Death Europe has been a curse to animals, as it served as a turning point for the use of furs from being a necessity to being a fashion, according to the authors. Citing fashion historian James Laver, they say that before that pandemic, which killed almost half of Europe’s population since its outbreak in 1347, people of all social classes, from nobles to commoners, wore fur to endure the cold winter weather.

“A sudden interest in fashion meant a surge in the ways people exploited animals. Demand for fur became so great that in 1363, the English parliament passed the sumptuary law,” the book reads, “a Statute Concerning Diet and Apparel decreeing that certain nobles could wear exotic furs like ermine, lynx, sable, beaver and the Baltic squirrel, while everyone else was restricted to local furs such as lamb, rabbit, cat and fox.”

Activists find hope in technology to stop animal cruelty in fashion, scientific research

An activist from the animal rights advocacy group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, holds a protest in front of the Embassy of Thailand in Seoul on March 5, urging the Southeast Asian country to stop using monkeys to harvest coconuts. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

“Animalkind” is a work of shock therapy. The two authors, who have long worked in the fields of animal rights and the vegan movement, educate readers ignorant of, or relatively unaware of animal rights, by elaborating in great detail how fur and leather are obtained with the specific portrayals of the painful dying process of animals.

The book is also a fresh reminder of humans’ limited understanding of animals.

How many of us know that salmon swim nonstop and do not eat until their migration of hundreds of miles is complete?

As the authors put it, salmon’s heroic death is the “stuff of Hollywood blockbusters.” The adult salmon that return home after migration find it difficult to become accustomed to the freshwater where they were born and spent their youth and their bodies rapidly deteriorate after spawning. “With broken bodies and few sources of food, these exhausted salmon die in the same place they were born,” the book reads.

“Animalkind” is worthwhile exploring, especially for Koreans who live in this era of animal companions. An online survey conducted earlier this year by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs found that percentage of households with such pets has increased to 27.7 percent in 2020, from 17.4 percent in 2010.

The pet industry has been growing fast. Its market value was 1.9 trillion won in 2015 but soared to 3.4 trillion won five years later. The Korea Rural Economic Institute projected the pet industry, consisting mostly of pet food, will further grow into a 6 trillion won market by 2027.

With the fast-growing pet market, Koreans’ understanding of animal rights has improved over the past decade. However, it’s still based on a pet-owner relationship.

The publication of “Animalkind,” which has been translated into Korean and released recently, seems to be timely, as the authors will usher Korean readers toward the next level of understanding of companion animals.

Co-author Ingrid Newkirk is an animal rights activist and currently serving as the president of the Virginia-based non-profit group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as its acronym, PETA. Gene Stone is the writer of several books about animal protection and veganism.

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