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I invited my friend to the movies, but
he says he can't go because he is strictly vegan. He
claims that the film itself contains animal products
and does not want to support it. I work in a movie theatre
and I know that the film is made of plastic. Could he
perhaps be referring to the developing process? And
would this same concern apply to photographic film?
Animal-derived substances are used in
a wide range of products and processes that most people
would never suspect. From the clarification of alcoholic
beverages to cane sugar filtration, from home insulation
materials to rubber tires, from perfumes and colognes
to soaps and shampoos, from pill capsules to frozen
desserts, animal products are used in thousands of standard
commodities, making it nearly impossible totally eradicate
them from modern life.
Photographic and movie film contain
several layers of gelatin, which is an integral part
of the film's chemistry. Gelatin is the protein derived
from the bones, cartilage, tendons, skin, and other
tissue of steer, calves, or pigs. Film is not the only
communication medium that uses animal products. For
instance, glue is manufactured from collagenous materials
made from animal hides or bones. Therefore, the vast
majority of books are not vegan. Even plastics contain
animal products, so computers, televisions, and telephones
are not vegan either.
In our present-day society, it is not
really possible to a live a one-hundred percent pure
vegan life -- one that is totally harmless and includes
no animal-derived products whatsoever -- and still participate
in the culture at large. Of course, this should not
prevent vegans from trying to create the cruelty-free
world we envision. But in the meantime, we must be realistic
and practical and use our energy, time, and money where
they will be most effective and beneficial.
If we fret about the minutia we lose
sight of the forest for the trees. We must ask ourselves:
Is being vegan about achieving personal perfection or
working to build a more compassionate and just world
for all sentient beings? Some vegans become a little
self-righteous and indignant over others who don't strive
to attain their same level of "purity." However, obsessing
over every item that contains even minuscule amounts
of animal products could literally drive a person nuts.
Animal ingredients are just too pervasive, and, beyond
that, it's pointless. Animals aren't killed for their
by-products; they are slaughtered first and foremost
for meat. The inedible parts of food animals are merely
viewed as "gravy" to an industry that doesn't want to
lose a penny of profit. Economically speaking, it's
a dollars versus sense issue.
Yes, it is sad that the use of animal
products is so rampant. But because vegans comprise
a small group with relatively limited power, we must
assess where our efforts will have the most impact.
If we work toward ending the source of materials for
the by-products market -- meat consumption -- then we
will be well on our way to abolishing our culture's
reliance on animal derived ingredients and materials.
Certainly, it is important to devise
and use alternatives to animal-based commodities whenever
possible. This said, we still need to evaluate what
is currently available and use it to our advantage,
if feasible. For example, books, photographs, and films
can be powerful documentary and educational tools that
could positively influence individuals and groups and
help redirect the course of our culture. Until there
are suitable substitutes, we have no other options.
Being vegan is not about superiority,
one-upsmanship, or flawlessness. Nor does it condemn
practitioners to a spartan life of misery. For human
beings to be whole and happy, we must have balance between
our work and play, our joys and sorrows. Entertainment
that does not involve exploitation can be valuable and
is especially important for activists who are so often
mired in the suffering of others. Going to the movies
can be a pleasurable vegan activity (minus the buttered
popcorn and Milk Duds, of course). Enjoy!
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