information and thought about
The Earthly Origin of Commercial Materials
Origin of Commercial
Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?
Each each article of commerce that I come acress — I ask myself: is it animal, vegetable, or mineral? Or is it some combination? Was animal husbandry involved in making the material available to us? If so, how much. Why do I want to know? Because, if in order to make a material available to us, suffering was inflicted upon an animal, I will want to consider how possible it may be, to avoid purchasing or using the material. I want to avoid complicity in causing animals to suffer.
Ownership of animals by humans, and the suffering it causes, works the same way as ownership of humans by humans, and the suffering that causes. You may ask why am I focusing on the suffering of animals when there is so much suffering of humans in the world? The answer is: it's easier. I can easily do something about it. It's not so easy to tackle the problem of human suffering. Neverthelss, focusing on animal suffering helps me undestand the problem of human suffering. Humans are a kind of animal.
The Earthly Origin of Commercial Materials Educational Organization was founded in 1989, by Theodore Zuckerman, for the purpose of (1) gathering information about the Earthly Origin of Commercial Materials, especially with regard to whether the material is of animal origin, or whether animal husbandry was involved in its production, and (2) making the information readily available.
We believe that information about the Earthly Origin of Commercial Materials will be of interest to many people, and not just to vegans or vegetarians or other people who wish to avoid complicity in causing suffering to animals.
Many of us, not only do we wish to avoid harming animals, ourselves, but we also wish to set an example for others to follow, an example of living comfortably without resorting to animal husbandry, and without resorting to purchasing and using materials of animal origin — materials which are almost always obtained via hunting or animal husbandry.
Yes, it is possible to obtain a material of animal origin by coming upon the remains of an animal, whose suffering and death you did not contribute to. A few commercial products of animal origin — for example sea shells — are obtained in this manner. The remainder are obtained as a result of hunting or animal husbandry, and slaughter of animals.
Avoiding complicity in the suffering of animals does not mean that one merely stops holding animals in captivity, and beating, flogging, and killing animals, or that one merely stops avoiding complicity with those who do. Nor does it mean that one must share one's life with animals the way one shares one's life with parents, siblings, children, friends, and other humans, living under the same roof and sharing meals — one's family or tribe. It does not mean that one must regard animals as equal in value to humans, or as "family members." And it does not mean that one must regard animals as being more valuable than humans. It simply means that one does not want to cause any unnecessary harm to any sentient being, including non-human animals. For this reason, not only do we wish to avoid beating animals and killing animals, but we also wish to avoid owning animals, breeding animals, and living with animals who are not the same genus or species as us — separating baby animals from their mothers, buying, selling and trading animals — whilst pretending that they are family members. We wish to avoid participating in animal husbandry — an activity which pre-supposes that we know what is best for animals and that animals don't know what is in their own best interests.
Generally, animal husbandry involves forcing animals into situations that support the human interests of their human owner, rather than allow animals to decide for themselves what is in their own best interests. People have all sorts of rationalizations for controlling the lives of others, whether the other is an animal or another human, rationalizations that suppose this control is for the benefit of the controlled - when it really is for the benefit of the controller.
As the production of commercial materials continues to get increasingly complicated, and as single products are often the result of contributions by many people, working in separate farms, mines, and factories, spread out all over the Earth, the Earthly Origin of any commercial product, that one finds sitting on any shelf, or offered for sale from any print catalog or web site catalog, becomes increasingly less obvious. The ultimate Earthly Origin, or Origins, of any "final product" is often rather obscure — even to those people who think they "designed and manufactured" it. The people who "manufactured" a particular item may have created it from several items that they purchased, and they may not know much more about the origin of these items, than where they purchased them from. And the people from whom they purchased such items may have created the items in question, from items that they purchased — purchased from people who may have created the various items, from items they purchased — ad infinitim. In addition, many industrial processes involve secret ingredients, or what the people who supervise them call "proprietary processes."
Just as producing a single product may have involved more than one individual, learning about the ultimate Earthly Origin of all the materials from which a single product was produced, may result from the investigation of the facts, and uncovering of the facts, by more than one individual. The Earthly Origin of Commerical Materials Educational Organization is here to facilitate cooperation among such investigators. Perhaps you may enjoy gathering information. Perhaps you may enjoy editing descriptive paragraphs created by investigators. Perhaps you may enjoy planning an information-gathering project involving contributions from several people. Perhaps you may enjoy providing organizational tasks — such as obtaining legal status for the Earthly Origin of Commerical Materials Educational Organization as a not-for-profit educational organization. Perhaps you may enjoy simply contributing money to the effort. Let us know how you would like to contribute.
Underlying the wish of many to avoid using materials of animal origin is the concept of ahimsa. Putting ahimsa into action in regard to food, is shakahara — eating materials of plant origin and not eating materials of animal origin. But putting ahimsa into action isn't just about what food we choose. Many people also attempt to avoid causing unnecessary harm to animals, when we make choices regarding what materials to use, for clothing and for shelter — and, especially, for things we use that go beyond our immediate needs of food, clothing, and shelter. In the west, a contemporary term for this increasingly popular way of life, is veganism.
In short, in times and places where people do not grow all their food themselves, do not make all their tools themselves, and where supplies and the astonishingly complex devices that people use, come from far and wide, then to be shakaharis, vegans, we need to ask the question
where on earth does all that stuff that people use every day come from,
and we need to attempt to answer it.
For each commercial material, we will need to ask: what raw materials that people found in or on the earth, or cultivated in earth, were pushed, pulled, or prodded, along what paths, until the commercial material in question was arrived at? In finding out what we can about what was involved in the production of a commercial material, from materials of Earthly Origin to commercial Material at hand, we can get an idea about how much and what kind of animal husbandry was involved, if any. And, if animal husbandry was involved, then we may want to ask more questions, such as: how much animal husbandry is involved, and how much material is involved; is this animal husbandry or animal-origin material really necessary; is there some other method or material we can use; is there some other way to make the same or similar material?
The materials of the earth's biosphere go through cycles of transformation. And, of course, humans intervene and transform "raw" materials, that they find at various points along these earthly cycles of transformation, into materials that we humans use, store, or trade, for materials similarly transformed by other humans. As curious, vital human beings, we are interested in both transformations: those that happen without human intervention, and those in which human intervention is involved (whether intentional or not).
In addition to information about the Earthly Origin of Commercial Materials, our web site has descriptions and photographs of vegan gardens and vegan gardening — growing food plants without the use of animal-origin materials — using animal materials neither for plant nutrition nor soil texture improvement. No feces, no bone or blood meal, no fish meal. If we are what we eat, and if plants are what plants eat — then we are what the plants we eat, eat. We are what we feed our food. In addition to the garden photographs, we are adding recipes and photographs of vegan meals.
Sanskrit for vegetarianism, especially vegetarianism motivated by ahimsa. Shaka means vegetable or plant. Hara means consuming or eating. So: plant-eating. Reference here.
Shakahara denotes that the motivation for eating plants and not animals, is ahimsa, the desire to avoid causing harm, especially unnecessary harm, to sensitive beings, sentient beings. Veganism denotes this also. The English word vegetarianism, is relatively vague and ambiguous, and neither denotes nor connotes anything about the motivation for eating plant-based food. If you describe someone as being a shakahari, you are implying that they are motivated by moral or spiritual reasons; if you describe someone as being a vegetarian, you are simply remarking upon their diet. However, unlike the word veganism, which in addition to denoting spiritual or moral motivation, also denotes the avoidance of dairy products, shakahara does not necessarily denote the avoidance of dairy products. A shakahari may be someone who uses dairy products, or someone who does not.
Ahimsa, and its corollary, shakahara, having been taking root in the west whilst simultaneously becoming neglected in the east. Ahimsa, especially, has taken root in the west, thanks to the work of writers, communicators, such as H. Jay Dinshah. Nevertheless these ideas have been central ideas of Hinduism and, Jainism, for 1000's of years.