By Elisa Allen

IT’S easy to dwell on the uncertainties of the year ahead. But there are reasons for feeling optimistic, too. Certainly, when it comes to animal protection issues, there is plenty to be hopeful about.

Industries rarely change overnight, but make no mistake –  a vegan revolution is already under way. More people than ever are choosing plant-based foods to benefit animals, the environment, and their own health. And as more and more people ditch animal-derived ingredients and materials, companies will continue to launch new products, including food items, clothing, and cosmetics, that are animal-friendly – and consumers will be more inspired than ever to choose them. 

Our laws are also evolving. Policymakers are expected to usher in a host of progressive animal protection measures in 2022. A bill in Scotland banning the sale of glue traps – deadly devices designed to ensnare any small animals who make contact with their sticky surface – is on the horizon. So too is a ban on the importation of fur and hunting trophies into Britain, which is sure to put a nail in the coffin of these cruel industries. A long-overdue bill prohibiting the live export of animals from England and Wales is imminent, which will prevent sheep and cows from suffocating, starving, dehydrating, or drowning aboard shipping vessels. And those are just for starters.

The era of tormenting rabbits, rats, dogs, and other animals in laboratories is coming to an end, thanks to groups like PETA, which have exposed the ways in which vivisectors burn, poison, and electrocute animals for curiosity-driven research, and thanks to innovations such as organs-on-a-chip, which contain human cells that mimic the structure and function of human organ systems. This technology and many other new types, which can be used instead of sentient animals in a variety of tests, have been shown to replicate human physiology, diseases, and drug responses more accurately than crude and archaic animal experiments do.

These remarkable changes are occurring because we are waking up to the fact that animals – and not just the big ones, the “cute” ones, or those who are endangered – matter. And so does how we treat them, since they all have the capacity to feel love, pain, joy, fear, loneliness, and more. They are full of emotions and interests, and they desire to be free and to live. 

Each year, we’re learning more and more about who animals are – smart, aware, and empathetic. The recently published book Animalkind by Gene Stone and Ingrid Newkirk offers much insight. For example, most birds mate for life. Pigeons stay with their partner even at grave personal risk. Fish not only feel pain but also have impressive long-term memories and use tools. And elephants use their trunks to send subsonic signals, alerting herds to danger a mile away.

Animals are astonishing, and slowly but surely, we are concluding that we don’t have to go into outer space to find other intelligent life forms – they’re all around us, right here on Earth. The next step in our moral evolution will be to put that new understanding into action and ensure that the way we live matches our newfound understanding of who animals really are.  Luckily, that’s not hard. PETA offers a plethora of resources – from easy-to-follow vegan recipes to advice about avoiding exploitative animal-entertainment outfits to a list of the best cruelty-free personal-care products – to help people get started.

Elisa Allen is Director at PETA UK, a charity dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals.