Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Animal candy. (VeganMoFo Day 22.)

According to PETA, there is yet another reason not to buy chocolate from the big names in U.S. producers - namely Mars. It seems that they actually do animal testing... with chocolate. I've never heard of animal testing for such a ubiquitous product, and all I can say to this is... uh, what? People have been eating chocolate for hundreds if not thousands of years. Is there some question as to its safety? Do they want to try to make some sort of health claims for Snickers bars? Do they need to know just how many Mars Bars they can force feed to a rat before it simply drops dead? What's the deal here? According to the PETA letter I recently received (via email):

The experiments funded by Mars, including the following examples, are truly the stuff of Halloween nightmares:
  • Rats have been force-fed chocolate chemicals and had needles jabbed directly into their still beating hearts.
  • Rabbits have been cut apart to determine the effects of cocoa on muscle tissue.
  • Guinea pigs have had cocoa ingredients injected into arteries in their necks to measure the impact on their blood pressure.

It truly boggles the mind. PETA claims that they have been instrumental in influencing Hershey's, as well as other companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, to stop such unnecessary testing on products already proven to be safe. They of course put all of this in the context of asking for money; the validity of this request I will not pass judgment on, though I will mention that the fund is for a general Stop Animal Testing campaign and not specifically targeted at Mars.

Vivisection, while obviously not something to condone, is hardly a drop in the bucket when you compare numbers of animals affected to, say, food animals. Animal testing has never been a big focus of mine in concerns of animal rights simply because it is a much smaller problem. Obviously most of it is ridiculous and unnecessary, but I also think that unfortunately people tend to care about it because it happens to cute widdle bunny wabbits. To get all righteous about animal testing and then continue to eat meat or use other animal products is 1) quite common, 2) simply ridiculous, 3) blatantly hypocritical, and 4) a pet peeve of mine.

As far as chocolate is concerned, problems with the major chocolate companies run much deeper than animal testing. Similar to the coffee industry, farming and labor issues are enormous - all so that an already privileged population can have a completely unnecessary luxury item at a low price. It's a luxury - it shouldn't be cheap. But that's another discussion for another day.

While I'm not 100% successful in only supporting ethical companies with sustainable practices, I try to always be conscious in my purchases about how a product is being produced and what company it's coming from. In my book, this vivisection issue is just one more reason not to buy chocolate that isn't both vegan and fair trade, and moreover from a company that can be trusted.

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