03 July 2014

Awareness Is Important

I don't want to bum anyone out as we head into a long holiday weekend, but sometimes serious things need to be considered. As so often happens online, I was looking at something that led me to something else, which is how I became aware of a smartphone app called Cruelty Cutter. Scan a product's bar code and the app tells you whether or not the company tests on animals.

I admit this is a concern that has not been on my radar. I try to be aware of companies' ethical policies and environmental records, but I hadn't given any thought to animal testing, and as a dog owner I definitely should be. We rescued a dog that was raced, but thousands of other dogs suffer more unpleasant conditions for the benefit of corporate profits.

The app's web page has a graphic showing over 60 companies that do test on animals. Unsurprisingly, some of the largest consumer-product companies in the world are listed; chances are there's something in your house that was tested on animals. There are a couple of surprises here: I always thought of Neutrogena as a company with higher principles. And I certainly raised an eyebrow at Iams, a PET FOOD company, but then I learned it's part of Procter & Gamble, which made it less surprising.

Naturally this prompted a review of the products we buy and use. We have Arm & Hammer laundry detergent and toothpaste, and Lysol cleaning products; I use Old Spice antiperspirant and shower soap and Listerine breath strips. In some cases I buy the generic equivalent of a product (Target's mouthwash is less than half the price of Listerine), but I don't yet know if it's cruelty-free or not. Sometimes generics are manufactured in the same factories as the branded products using the same ingredients.

With most of these products, we can make or already have made a substitution. The main issue from a consumer point of view is that in most cases it ends up costing more. Target carries Seventh Generation products at much better prices than Whole Foods or anywhere else I've seen them. A few months ago we decided to try 7G's dish soap because we had a coupon. It lasts just as long and works just as well as whatever we were buying before, so we have continued to buy it. Trader Joe's now has its own-brand equivalent to Tom's toothpaste that is cheaper.

We have a large quantity of Arm & Hammer laundry detergent because it's frequently on sale; recently, by using a coupon during a sale at Stop & Shop, I was able to get two bottles of it for $1. But there will come a point when we need to buy more, and there are options: Seventh Generation and Method, though both of those are more costly. Costco's Kirkland line is much more economical, but I'll need to check it with the app.

I also need to find substitutes for my soap and antiperspirant. For a long time Tom's offered only deodorants, but now they have an antiperspirant, and it's available unscented, so I will be trying that soon. I've bought Target's shower soap many times, but again I will need to check it with the app. Zest is another possibility. Oh, and there's also the Listerine breath strips, which I find much more convenient to carry than mints. There are generic equivalents, but they taste terrible.

There are a couple of important takeaways here: marketing is both pervasive and insidious, and companies are not going to make consumers aware of information that they would rather we not know; it's up to us to find out. I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty about the products you buy and use, but I sincerely hope you will give this issue some thought.

Addendum: I should note that the Cruelty Cutter app is $2.99, but purchasing it helps fund the not-for-profit Beagle Freedom Project.

No comments: