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What does it mean to be cruelty free?

November 12, 2015

Cruelty is defined as indifference to or pleasure from causing pain and/or suffering to others.

People will say it is not possible to live a cruelty free life.  But what is cruelty?  Let’s look at some situations to help clarify what cruelty is and what it is not:

A.  My new puppy doesn’t behave the way I want him to so I take my foot and kick him hard.

B.  My new puppy ran past me just as I was kicking off my shoe and I kicked him by mistake.

A.  A man I do not like is crossing the street so I aim for him and run him over with my car.

B.  I hit a patch of black ice and am unable to stop or steer my car away from hitting a pedestrian.

Both puppies and people have received the exact same injury.  Is cruelty the root cause of all four of these scenarios? Are there differences between A and B?

The difference is choice. Cruelty is a choice.  Accidents are not a choice and something no one can avoid.  Cruelty is something that everyone can avoid.

In situation A one person chooses to knowingly harm another. In situation B the person does not choose to harm another and, in fact, would have avoided it completely if they had been given the choice.

When we live cruelty free it means that when we have a choice, we choose not to cause harm, pain, or suffering for others.

No one would say I am a cruel mother if I turn around with a plate in my hand and it accidentally hits my daughter in the face.  Should I take the plate and choose to smack her in the face with it then yes, that is cruel.  But if I accidentally hit her and I would never have done so if given the choice – that is not cruel.  That is an unfortunate accident.  An accident does not equal cruelty.  An accident is when there is no choice.  Cruelty is when there is a choice, a choice where you know someone had to or will suffer, especially a suffering or consequence that you would never accept for yourself, but you choose it anyway . . . that is cruelty.


So with respect to the definition of cruelty, it is possible to live a cruelty free life.  The same goes for a vegan life.  Someone who has a spider crawl into their mouth while they sleep is still vegan.  The person did not choose for that to happen. It is an unfortunate accident for that spider.


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