Many of us spend hours a day listening to music that unknowingly becomes the soundtrack to our lives. A great song is a great song, but sometimes the music to which we listen on repeat can become deceptive, as a catchy tune or a danceable groove often comes with lyrics that don’t align with our vegan morals. And if we make sure not to consume or wear animal products, then we shouldn’t be listening to songs that promote hatred, bigotry, and animal exploitation, right? Because of this, we’re featuring seven of our favorite cruelty-free songs to help you begin compiling a cruelty-free playlist of your own.
1. “Animal Kingdom”
Prince’s “Animal Kingdom” is a frank animal-rights song that touches on many aspects of veganism. He sings about why he doesn’t drink milk from cows, pointing out that we are the only species that nurses past maturity by drinking the breast milk of other species. Other strong lyrics include, “Who told us we should eat the swine? / You can bet your final money it damn sure wasn’t no friend of mine.”
2. “No More”
Since 1985, New York hardcore band Youth of Today has been advocating a straight-edge, meat-free lifestyle. This animal-friendly group’s track “No More” (featured on 1988’s We’re Not in This Alone) features lyrics such as, “When the price paid is the life of something else / No more/ I won’t participate.” Youth of Today also filmed a video for the song, which uses footage of slaughterhouses, as well as band members chasing after truck from a meat supplier.
3. “I’ll Stand by You”
Here’s a song you probably already know, but you might not have realized that “I’ll Stand By You” by The Pretenders was meant as an animal-rights anthem. Singer-guitarist Chrissie Hynde wrote the song with Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, and the vegan star has said in concert that the song is about animal-rights. The emotional lyrics include, “I’m a lot like you / When you’re standing at the crossroads and don’t know which path to choose / Let me come along ‘cause even if you’re wrong, I’ll stand by you / I’ll stand by you, won’t let nobody hurt you.”
4. “Cats and Dogs”
Similar to Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits are a New York hardcore band formed during the 1980s. The group’s song “Cats and Dogs” addresses the hypocrisy of people who treat cats and dogs with love and affection while supporting a meat industry that tortures equally sentient animals. Lyrics include: “Thou shalt not kill / Full is all you want to feel / We eat to stay alive, but it’s their lives we steal / I think we’d like to change, but most of us are stuck / That’s why cats and dogs have all the luck.” Fun fact: Gorilla Biscuits guitarist Walter Schreifels wrote this song and also played bass on Youth of Today’s “No More.”
5. “Silent Ruin”
“Silent Ruin” by Olivia Newton-John is a haunting song originally written for The Last Whale, a 1994 documentary that chronicled the devastation of whaling. Newton-John later reworked the lyrics she had written for “Silent Ruin” to include it on her album Gaia; she changed a few lines that specifically mentioned whales so the song would apply to all animals. Although “Silent Ruin” is serious, the track delivers a hopeful message with lyrics such as: “Oh, I dream of a time in the future when we can re-nurture the damage we’ve done / For although there’s a dark side to all human nature, our true selves are born in the sun.”
6. “Meat Is Murder”
Although it might seem a bit like preaching to the choir to include this song on the list, there is something to be said for singing along in solidarity with someone who gets the message that most of society ignores. And, as always, Morrissey’s lyrics are amazing: “The flesh you so fancifully fry is not succulent, tasty or kind / It is death for no reason, and death for no reason is murder.” The song also asks the listener if they know how animals die. Between that and the opening sounds of cows in a slaughterhouse, “Meat is Murder” can be a hard song to play repeatedly, but it is very much worth hearing.
7. “Looking for Changes”
In his 1993 song “Looking for Changes,” Paul McCartney explored the issues of vivisection with lyrics that declare: “I saw a rabbit with its eyes full of tears / The lab that owned her had been doing it for years / Why don’t we make them pay for every last eye that couldn’t cry it’s own tears?” The song goes on to make the optimistic statement that people will all one day look for changes in the way we treat our fellow creatures.
Robin Raven is a journalist and the author of Santa’s First Vegan Christmas.
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