As many of you know or may have heard, I live a rather austere life on the outside. Perhaps it has to do with my genesis as an activist as I was introduced to groups that made significant changes to their lifestyle (yeah it’s a loaded word) to reduce their impact on the environment and animals. Other times, I think lowering my consumption and eschewing large amounts of material goods is my version of prefigurative politics – “I’m not going to let them tell me what I need to be happy, I’m going to live my life now as I want the world to be.”
However, in prison I have been confronted with a situation – albeit a minor one overall – that has proven irksome. Our commissary, unlike groceries or health-food stores on the outside, offers very little choices and there is no way to avoid products sold by companies that test on animals. Additionally, in order to write letters to the outside world, my only option is a pad of bone white, cheap and thus, I assume, non-recycled writing paper. Of course, I need to brush my teeth, wash my hair/body, and write to friends, family and community, but nonetheless, my lack of options troubles me.
Like in the outside world, there is more than enough discarded paper here for me to use but there is no alternative to the animal tested products. In the past, I’ve joke about particular prisoners’ requests to have people only write them on reused, discarded or tree-free paper. There is nothing like prison to give you an altered perception of things and now I find myself making a similar request and – in effect – eating crow.
My request then is pretty simple and I apologize if this request seems to you as bizarre or annoying as it did to me before I came here! If you write to me, I humbly request you to use either discarded paper (paper that was printed on one side), tree-free or 100% post consumer recycled paper, and if those options are not achievable, that you write on both sides of the page. The first option (using discarded paper) is pretty much free as any work, school, library or other recycling bin is overflowing with this sort of paper. In addition, using small margins, smaller font and lower ink levels on your print-outs will reduce the ecological impact even more.
Since I’m in a position where buying animal tested products is not optional, my other request is to educate yourself on vivisection and cosmetic testing and look for alternatives. PETA has a comprehensive list of companies that Do and Do Not test on animals, available on their website. You can easily find these products at any grocery or health food store. I realize that animal issues may not be ‘your issue’ and that is fine but all I ask is that you educate yourself on the unnecessary practice of testing consumer products on animals and cease funding this cruel and unethical practice. Compassion and advocacy for animal nations is congruent and consistent with the struggle for social justice and environmental protection.
Again, I apologize for my self-indulgent requests to you. Prison offers little opportunity for activism and advocacy and its dawned on me that my advocacy and agitation expressed to you could have a much greater impact than just my own actions.