Ok, the title certainly suggests that I recently saw the new Star Trek movie–which I did (and liked). But it wasn’t just the movie that got me to thinking about neutrality, or the lack of it, when it comes to animal rights and proper treatment of our fellow beings. A recent tweet by @VeganSmythe, someone I follow on twitter, expressed my thoughts well: “There’s no neutrality. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve taken a side: either for or against the exploitation of animals.” Nicely put.

When I was in graduate school studying evolutionary biology, one of the discussions we had was as to whether or not there are any truly neutral mutations. Many mutations are believed to be neutral, resulting in characteristics neither helpful nor detrimental to the organism. These mutations often become either helpful or hurtful as environmental conditions change, and thus are either selected for or against in the population. But what about during the time they are “neutral?” Are they truly such? One argument made is that a mutation can never be truly neutral because every characteristic takes up space and requires caloric energy to maintain, even at the molecular level. So the argument goes, if a mutation is not helping, it is in effect, hurting. No neutrality.

And so it seems to be as we consider how we individually and collectively treat our nonhuman co-inhabitants of this planet. Sure, not everyone is able to work in an occupation that directly assists animals. In fact, many individuals who help on the front lines every day are not doing it as part of their paid work, but rather as part of their mission, their life’s work. But there are, for all of us, numerous individual decisions that are made every day, every week, every month, that can have a huge impact on the well being of our fellow creatures. What we eat (the biggie). What we wear. What kind of car we drive. What brands of personal care and housecleaning products we use. What companies we purchase from. What organizations we donate our time and money to. Where we invest our money if we do so. There are so many ways we can help animals just in the course of living our daily lives that, if done consistently and by a number of us, have an effect on the lives of animals all around us.

So for people who don’t think you can really make a difference: you can. For people who think that your day to day decisions don’t matter: they do. For people who ask “how can it really help anyway since I am just one person?”: you are not. You are part of a collective and growing effort along with millions of others who care as much as you do.

No neutrality. But we can make a difference. We can make progress. We can effect change. And we must.

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