While looking at the different case studies this week, including Blackfish (2013), we focused explicitly on tangible animals and their presence and framing within our lives. We do this of course in a number of different ways. From viewing them as marginalized ‘monuments of their own disappearance’ in zoos, by anthropomorphize them in all types of media, and to their supposedly natural depiction in wildlife documentaries, we still fundamentally view them as beings with ‘full agency’. Beings that, in some circumstances, are fully capable of consciousness.
But then we looked at some products that were advertised in a way that desired to distance itself from the animal that it comes from. For example, most, if not all, packets of bacon won’t have an image of a pig on it because there’s the average consumer doesn’t want to be reminded that they’re eating an animal, presumably because there’s a minority of people who would then put that packet back in the refrigerator.
But what we might be less aware of, is how many food products do contain animal products in them without our knowing. PETA has an extensive list of all the types of animal products, and byproducts, that are used as ingredients. Not only are animals rendered as ‘absolutely marginal’ in captivity, but they can absolutely be rendered as margarine. Well, their oils and fats can be anyway. Beyond just foods, animal products can be present in the most unexpected of places, prompting outrage from people who morally object to using animal products.
The Bank of England confirmed that new £5, some of which are worth 20x that, not only are stronger and feature improvements to help resist dirt for longer, but also have trace amounts of animal fat to reportedly ‘help the currency slip into machines easier’. This presents an ethical issue for many people who strive to avoid using products that have animal products in them. This is considered so reprehensible that more than 135,000 people have petitioned to have the state reconsider the use of tallow in the note (which was scheduled to influence production of £10 and £20 notes too), with some effect. Production of ‘the £20 note has been halted because of the issues that have been raised’ by those who petitioned, and 9 hours from the time of publishing this piece the Bank of England is now considering using palm or coconut oil instead. This, of course, ‘proved controversial with conservation groups’ as palm oil production ‘was responsible for 8% of the world’s deforestation between 1990 and 2008’, which in turn contributed to ‘the near-extinction of the orangutan.’
Business Insider compiled a list of other products that surprisingly feature animal products in them. Among them, plastic bags stuck out to me as particularly unsuspecting. Plastic bags, for example, ‘contain chemicals often referred to as “slip agents” derived from the stearic acid in animal fat’ which prevent them sticking to metal during production, and one another afterwards. The process of refining both white and brown sugar can use bone char from animal ashes (giving white sugar in particular it’s ‘whiteness’). Condoms, nail-polish, cigarettes, crayons, and even some perfumes all represent products that I wouldn’t expect to include animal matter in them. But here we are. I’ll give sugar a pass though, being one of my key components of life.
My glamorous lifestyle that’s contingent on condoms, nail-polish and cigarettes might require some altering though.