As time moves on, business trends rise and fall. Some businesses can go through stages of huge popularity, but plunge into uncertainty when the mindset of the public changes. It is undeniable that some of the most controversial industries nowadays are industries based on perceived exploitation – for example, any industry that uses animals for entertainment.
Take the notion of zoos. Zoos were once considered one of the best forms of family entertainment, with the added benefit of conserving some of the world’s most incredible species. Yet in recent years, zoos have come under fire by animal welfare supporters as well as conservationists. According to CAPS (The Captive Animal Protection Society), it is absolutely irrefutable that wild animals should not be kept in captivity, as it causes psychological trauma to the animals. They have also argued that zoos do not aid in the conservation of species – in fact, they do the opposite. According to CAPS, taking animals from their natural environment and breeding them in cages is detrimental to natural ecosystems.
Other industries have come under fire in recent years due to advances in medical and scientific research. What was once considered healthy can be revealed to be life threatening. Others often question whether science has gone to far. For industries that provide a controversial product or service, the future can be very uncertain. Take a look at our list of the 5 Most Controversial Industries to see which companies have been hitting the headlines this year – for all the wrong reasons.
5. Tanning Beds
Tanning beds (or sunbeds) and their questionable safety has been a hot topic in recent years. Sunbeds are primarily used for tanning purposes, but they can also be used for medical reasons. Sunbeds can help those who suffer from acne, as UV light helps to reduce scarring, while the UVB rays are often used in the treatment of eczema. In general, tanning in a sunbed is considered “healthier” than tanning in direct sunlight. However, sunbeds have always been subject to controversy, due to obvious health risks.
Tanning beds first became popular in America in the 1980s. Since then, the industry has exploded, with tanning salons now found in every major city on earth. There are currently over 22,000 tanning salons in the United States alone. With the growing popularity of tanning beds, the rate of skin cancer has also grown. According to Cancer Research UK, anyone who uses a tanning bed before the age of 35 increases their risk of getting skin cancer by almost 60%. Cancer Research UK have also concluded that because of the myriad health risks associated with tanning beds (such as skin cancer, eye damage and early ageing), it is not reasonable to consider tanning beds as a safe alternative to sunlight. Since there is now definitive proof that tanning beds trigger melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, this industry has become much maligned in the mainstream. One can only hope that stricter laws will be put into place with regard to the use of tanning beds – as it stands, only 36 US states have banned minors from using tanning beds.
Cigarette manufacturing is an obvious candidate in terms of controversial industries. It is no secret that the cigarette industry is a lucrative one. The world is addicted to nicotine, and despite endless anti-smoking campaigns, the number of smokers is hardly dwindling. Every day in the United States, over 4,000 young people try a cigarette for the first time, and 15 billion cigarettes are lit worldwide every 24 hours.
Tobacco smoking has very clear risks that have been highlighted over the past 60 years, mainly that it causes various cancers and lung diseases. Hitler (yes, that Hitler) was the first person to lead a public anti-smoking campaign. Smoking has incredibly harmful effects on your health, so much so that it is the number one cause of preventable death in the world. So why are they still one sale? You can bet that there’s money involved, and lots of it. Cigarettes are taxed heavily, which means that they make a lot of money for the government. In 2013 alone, the USA collected over $25 billion in cigarette tax, but it is estimated that only 2% of this money was invested into anti-smoking campaigns and treatment programmes.
In light of the recent, highly acclaimed documentary film ‘Blackfish’, Seaworld has made the front page for the wrong reasons. The film, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, tells the story of Tilikum, an orca who has been working in entertainment for over 25 years. Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three people, most recently Dawn Brancheau – a senior trainer at Seaworld.
‘Blackfish’ argues that Tilikum should not be blamed, as life in captivity causes untold anguish to the orcas, and prolonged captivity arguably leads to a form of psychosis. Ingrid Visser, the founder of the Orca Research Trust, has highlighted the negative effects that captivity can have on orcas. “They show stereotypical behaviors that are abnormal, repetitive behaviors like head bobbing, chewing on concrete, and self mutilation by banging the side of their heads on the side of the tank, and there isn’t a single orca living in captivity where you cannot see one of these behaviors, and in many of them you see multiple examples of these behaviours.” Documents released earlier this year also revealed that Seaworld has been giving their performance animals anti-anxiety drugs. Seaworld has hit back at the documentary, claiming on their website that the film is “propaganda”. Yet despite Seaworld’s rejection of Blackfish’s claims, the company is now drowning in an ocean of bad press.
2. Adult Entertainment
Controversy surrounding adult entertainment has always existed, but it has become amplified in recent years. There is no doubt that the popularity of adult material has mushroomed in recent years, solely because of the internet. It is estimated that at any given moment, almost 30 million people worldwide are watching adult material. The legality of this industry varies worldwide. In North Korea, the punishment for viewing explicit adult material is death!
While the adult entertainment industry is lucrative and hugely popular, the negative side is evident. Abuse and exploitation are rife in this industry. Concerns have also grown due to the fact that adult material is becoming more and more violent, with taboos being broken due to the widespread diffusion of this sort of material in the digital age. As it is accessible on basically any device with an internet connection, there are many concerns for young people who have been exposed to adult material at a young age. Gail Dines is a famous campaigner against the adult entertainment industry, who has highlighted the dangers of viewing explicit material at a young age. According to Dines, “we are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent (adult material)”.
1. Euthanasia Clinics
Euthanasia clinics, specialising in assisted suicide, are currently one of the most controversial industries of the 21st century. These clinics are so controversial that they are illegal almost everywhere on earth. As of today, only Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Luxembourg and the state of Oregon have legalised euthanasia clinics. The Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland is the most well-known, as anyone can travel from abroad to this clinic and end their life there. These clinics argue that choosing whether or not you want to live should not be subject to law. They claim that they provide a much needed service. Their clientele is largely made up of those who are terminally ill. The assisted suicide is provided via lethal injection.
The controversy surrounding this industry is understandable. As Dignitas can charge up to €7,000 for an assisted suicide, many claim that the clinics are a truly shameful way of monetising the suffering of others. Many anti-euthanasia campaigners have also highlighted the fact that making voluntary euthanasia legal promotes the idea that life is not worth living if you are not fit and healthy; that ill people are not as important as others.