When we think about animal welfare, the industries that typically come to mind as the greatest culprits are food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and fashion. Thankfully, due to technological developments, animal exploitation has become less frequent throughout history and has even disappeared altogether from some industries. Here are five examples:
5 Fascinating Ways Technology Has Helped to Save Animals
In these days of electric and self-driving vehicles, it’s easy to forget that the first internal combustion engine was only created in 1876, and the personal vehicle only became a reality with the first Ford Model T in 1908. Before then, horses and other animals were still the main mode of transportation, as the word “horsepower” attests. This term was coined in the late eighteenth century by Scottish engineer James Watt to compare the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses. So, when you next get in your car or jump on a train, spare a thought for the horses that in a bygone era would have done the job of getting you from A to B.
Paper was invented in China almost 2,000 years ago, but wasn’t widely introduced to Europe until around the 15th century. Before then, Europeans could use one of two things: papyrus (hence the word “paper”), which grows only in Egypt; or sheep. For the latter option, the sheep would be killed and skinned and the skin then washed in water and soaked in beer for a couple of days until the hair fell out. The skin would be dry stretched on a wooden rack for another couple of days, and the resulting paper-like material would be cut into rectangles and folded repeatedly to create pages. Sadly, leather-bound books have made a comeback due to the renewed popularity of vintage items. However, hopefully sheepskin pages will remain a thing of the past.
Ever wondered why dollars are nicknamed “bucks”? As Mark Forsyth explains in The Etymologicon, his superb book on the hidden connections of words in the English language, it comes from buckskins. When the first European colonists arrived in the Americas, they had no way of trading with the locals. Early attempts involved tobacco, but it was subject to sudden price fluctuations. The traders eventually found something with clear value for both sides: deerskins. As Forsyth points out, deerskin is thin and light, can be slapped on a horse saddle and, when not substituting for money, will keep a person warm. Deerskins soon became a standard unit of barter in North America. The word “bucks” was first used to describe money in 1748.
Recent attempts by three Spanish provinces to ban bullfighting prove that where public displays of bloodletting are involved, people these days are less willing to stomach animal cruelty. Thankfully though, technology has played a part in replacing many instances of animal cruelty in entertainment. Take circuses, for example. Cirque de Soleil, the world’s largest circus act, uses laser projections, pyrotechnics and infrared technology to create a multi-sensory experience. Whether from a moral or technological standpoint, the use of caged lions or bears looks positively prehistoric in comparison.
Lambskin condoms were used as far back as the early days of the Roman Empire, but thanks to latex they have (almost) disappeared. Latex is the ultimate plant-based solution, being a milky fluid found in many plants including the rubber tree. Whereas latex condoms are designed to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, lambskin condoms do not prevent STDs. Bizarrely, Trojan, one of the world’s biggest condom manufacturers, has a lambskin “luxury” condom that it markets as ideal for the “monogamous couple that desire heightened sensitivity.” Lambskin condoms are actually made from a thin layer of sheep cecum, a part of the intestine. They should slap that little tidbit of information on the label!
Whether ethics, quality or the almighty “buck” are one’s prime consideration, the case for exploiting animals is becoming weaker by the day.
Author: Nadav Shemer Shlezinger, co-founder of Phloem