As the vegan movement gains traction around the world, more people are becoming advocates for the fight against animal cruelty. And this goes beyond a simple refusal to eat animal products; people are boycotting zoos and circuses and switching to beauty products that aren’t tested on animals.
This change is largely due to the message that the vegan movement carries with it – that all animals are sentient life forms and, as such, are deserving of compassion and the right to live freely.
And this is what separates going vegan from switching to a plant-based diet – the fact that we keep the status of animals at the forefront of our minds.
Of course, good health and environmental harmony are guaranteed benefits of going vegan. But it’s imperative to remember that avoiding the exploitation of animals is a liberating choice when it’s done for the animals themselves. Without this overarching cause in our minds, it can be easy to twist the principles of veganism out of shape and start making allowances for certain products that aren’t vegan, even if they’re environmentally and physiologically harmless.
But, even keeping animals as the main focus, it’s encouraging to see the multitude of spin-off benefits experienced by certain industries, and the world at large, when we decide to abolish animal cruelty.
Animals have been a major part of the circus for generations, where they’ve been subjected to inhumane forms of treatment. In fact, harsh equipment like whips, electric prods, and tight collars are frequently used to get them to perform tricks. These animals are often transported in cages and trailers with no hope of meeting more of their own kind and, often, without any special medical care.
Circus Roncalli, founded in 1976, has been a popular traveling circus in Germany for decades. And just like every other circus in the world, Roncalli would use live animal performances as a part of their show.
But as times changed, and people’s awareness of animal exploitation began to grow, fewer people wanted to pay for circus shows that involved animals. In fact, the founder of Roncalli, Bernhard Paul himself, claimed to want to ‘keep up with the times’ and phase animals out of his show entirely. He did so in an ingenious way.
With an investment of nearly $500,000 in Optoma projectors, Circus Roncalli began to create larger-than-life versions of circus animals. These projections are made using eleven different projectors around the stage, so the entire audience can see the representation from different angles.
By eliminating animals from their show, Roncalli has prevented many creatures from becoming unwilling victims of the circus lifestyle; traveling all over the country in cramped cages, prodded and poked to perform tricks. And while it’s easy to see how these projections have helped the animals, here are a few ways in which Circus Roncalli and society itself benefitted from such a trade-off.
1. Clear Conscience
For starters, Paul Bernhard and everyone else working for Roncalli are absolved of the immense guilt that often accompanies the exploitation of animals. While they may have been doing well, it’s hard to imagine any circus manager would be completely at ease with the fact that they are responsible for the mistreatment of animals. Most would simply consider it a necessary evil and continue with the practice while bearing the guilt that comes with it.
More importantly, the audiences also acknowledge that they are paying for a show that actively works against animal exploitation in circuses. This can help reinforce their notions of animal rights and equality, benefitting the animals in the long run.
2. Variety of Performances
Currently, Roncalli projects regular animals like horses and elephants performing tricks for their audience. But, additionally, they are also able to project a massive goldfish in the center of the stage and incorporate other projections into their acts.
Unlike using real animals, the projections can display a spectrum of colors, ideas, and acts that would be impossible in a regular circus. In the future, they may be able to project animals that have long been extinct and even interweave mythical creatures into their performances. With the help of projectors, Roncalli is helping to slowly transform the way performances are experienced, and there are no limits!
The initial investment in the projectors may be a lump sum, but it’s a one-time investment, with quarterly or half-yearly expenses going into the upkeep of the projectors.
On the other hand, investing in rare animals, ensuring their continued health, transporting them around the country, and training them can be an extremely expensive affair. By phasing out animals Roncalli may have incurred a small initial cost, but the amount they manage to save will more than make up for it.
4. Wider Audience
Most people aren’t vegan yet and animal products are still being consumed in enormous numbers around the globe. However, this consumption of animal products is excessive only when it comes to the diet of people.
More and more of the population, even meat-eaters and vegetarians, are slowly beginning to accept that treating animals cruelly is wrong. And as such, many are even unwilling to support circuses and zoos where animals are routinely exploited.
By switching to projectors, Roncalli has managed to sympathize with this large target audience and offer a cruelty-free circus experience – something that most people are willing to pay for.
5. Humane Society
Circuses and zoos are two of the very few places where humans are exposed to animals and given the opportunity to observe them and their behaviors. Now, if this is the only interaction most humans have with animals, their idea of how animals should be treated can be easily misinterpreted. Regular zoos and circuses reinforce the idea that using animals for our amusement and entertainment is perfectly natural.
By removing animals from their show, Roncalli has proved to people in a way that animals are not to be used simply for our amusement. In the long run, if more circuses decide to adopt this practice, it could result in a more humane society where people are aware that animal exploitation is cruel and must be avoided.
Better in Every Way
It’s evident here that while Roncalli did the right thing by phasing out animals, this move did not in any way undermine their business or cut down their audience base.
On the contrary, it helped them grow economically and in popularity as they continued to reach out to a wider consumer base. The switch to projectors also helped them get more creative with their shows, providing more enriching experiences for audiences around the globe.
Whaling in Iceland
The International Whaling Commission (IWC), set up in 1986, was created to impose strict restrictions on whaling in international waters, to ensure that whales were not hunted to extinction. As times progressed, however, more and more people became aware of just how inhumane the practice was, and most countries completely banned whaling in their waters.
Norway, Japan, and Iceland, however, have always been on the fence regarding the regulations placed by the IWC. They continued hunting whales well into the 21st Century, making profits off of selling and exporting the flesh of these magnificent behemoths.
But in 2019, the largest whaling companies in Iceland decided to stop the practice altogether, despite their government granting them permission to do so. As of the last two years, Iceland has not engaged in whaling at all and plans to phase out the practice completely.
The motivation for banning the cruel practice differs from what motivated Bernhard Paul to stop using animals in the Roncalli Circus. Companies that profit off of selling animal meat can hardly be persuaded to stop due to moral or ethical concerns. Instead, a number of factors came into play concerning Iceland’s self-imposed ban on whaling.
Ip Uthgerd, Iceland’s second-largest whaling company claimed that whaling had become more expensive after the government extended the no-fishing coastal zones. After the new laws, the ships had to wade much farther out into sea and return carrying giant carcasses through miles of ocean. As a result, the cost incurred on equipment and the salaries of workers went up a notch, making the practice far more expensive.
Changes in no-fishing zones were just one factor that made whaling economically unsustainable. The main reason for the complete cessation of whaling was mainly due to stiff competition from Japan – another country where whaling is legal and even encouraged.
Iceland’s largest whaling company, Hvalur Hf. has been exporting whale meat to Japan for decades. But as of 2019, Japan relaxed whaling restrictions for the locals while imposing severe restrictions on imported whale meat. These new restrictions drastically cut down the profits that Hvalur used to make selling whale meat to Japan, the country that currently happens to be the largest consumer of whale meat.
As such, the cost of hunting, processing, and selling whale meat became too high and Hvalur hung up their harpoons. Hopefully, for good.
Boycotting by Citizens
Another major reason for the termination of whaling in Iceland is because the majority of the citizens of Iceland have boycotted whale meat and are against its sale. While minke whale meat is considered a traditional dish, today only 3% of Iceland’s population consumes whale meat; most have decided against it based on both ethical and ecological grounds.
As more people become aware of the cruelty whales are subjected to, and the important role they play in the environment, whale meat is becoming less popular.
Benefits of the Ban on Whaling
It is quite clear that the whaling companies in Iceland have stopped whaling mainly due to profitability and not for moral reasons. However, some citizens and consumers are still motivated, in a large part, by ethical concerns.
Whether this ban on whaling is morally grounded or not, its implementation leads to some unimaginable benefits, especially to us humans.
1. Increase in Tourism
Iceland soon figured out that whales were worth much more alive than they are dead. Tourists from all over the world travel to Iceland just to catch a glimpse of a real live whale, a sight that is a rarity in most parts of the world.
And in the frozen waters of Iceland, it’s easy to spot whales on a boating trip. In fact, minke whales are naturally curious by nature and will swim beside boats just to have a look at what’s going on.
In fact, nearly 200,000 tourists go on whale-watching expeditions in Iceland every year. And the practice is profitable enough to generate a whopping 11 million euros every year! That’s a lot more than any amount of money they can hope to make selling whale meat.
2. Ecosystem Engineers
The increase in tourism is a huge benefit to the country of Iceland; such a massive increase in their annual revenue goes a long way to the development of the country.
But something far more important is at work when we allow whales to roam freely. Their role in marine ecosystems cannot be overstated enough; without these behemoths, we risk making the entire ocean a highly inhospitable environment. And it’s only a matter of time before an unhealthy ocean has repercussions on the entire planet as a whole. Here are a few ways in which whales ensure a more balanced ecosystem.
1. Whales consume krill in enormous quantities, helping to regulate krill population. A stable krill population is essential to ensure stability throughout the entire marine food chain.
2. Whale fecal matter is an extremely important nutrient for the growth of phytoplankton. These phytoplankton help to convert carbon from the atmosphere, creating a much healthier breathing environment for all species, both on land and in the water. Latest research shows that the fecal matter from sperm whales alone is responsible for removing approximately 400,000 tonnes of carbon from the air!
3. When a whale dies, its carcass drops to the ocean floor, and this phenomenon is known as a ‘whale fall’. This massive body of nutrients helps to feed an immense number of bottom feeders for weeks. And the skeletal system can serve as a habitat to hundreds of creatures living on the ocean floor. Scientists claim that many of these bottom feeders may have died out simply due to a drop in whale populations.
4. Whales are used to travelling vast distances across the ocean; more than any other marine animal. These journeys allow them to improve the health of marine spots that they visit, by transferring nutrients throughout the ocean. Whales continuously change their breeding grounds, and an increase in marine life and productivity has been found in the areas that whales visit.
As such, a cessation in whaling is vital not just for the survival of these magnificent creatures, but also to preserve marine ecosystems and the world at large.
A Better World
These stories are just two of the many examples of how going cruelty-free can dramatically influence the lives of animals, humans, and the planet as a whole. Just one circus and one country can have such a massive impact on everyone involved. So just imagine what a cruelty-free world would look like?
It’s important to see these changes for what they really are – a purer, healthier way of relating to the world and the animals we share it with. As more people decide to go cruelty-free, we’re sure to notice a host of subsequent benefits. And whatever the reason, whether political, financial, or ecological, it’s important for citizens to take a stand and become advocates of animal freedom.
That way, when an industry considers going cruelty-free, the demands and needs of the people become the tipping point, pushing them to make the switch.
If you look at the history of animal abuse, industries making money off of cruel practices are highly unlikely to be overcome by a change of heart. The best way to foster this change is to demand cruelty-free products and boycott companies that don’t provide them. This way industries will work to meet the needs of consumers, abolishing cruel methods in order to gain popularity and make sales.
It’s always going to be a two-way street with veganism; the demand for a cruelty-free product must be high enough for a producer to switch over. This may seem disheartening, but it’s in fact empowering because now, what you and your family consumes plays an active role in the fate of animals.
And if you are able to stay strong in the face of adversity and get more people to see the sense in veganism, we’re heading towards massive positive change.