The smart spellcaster knows that how your reagents were raised and harvested has just as much of an effect on quality as your own skill in the arcane. You're a responsible magicker; for the safety of your family and the world, you avoid boxed charms, newt slurry, and Class IV hexes.
But for the the more wholesome sundries — eye of newt, tear of unicorn, tanuki fur — why, those you think nothing of picking up at Crowley's or Imugi*Mart on your way home. And why should you be concerned? The labels tell the story of how these animals are kept, on comfortably sunny rocks, sweeping meadows, or eerie forests, just as nature intended.
I'm here to tell you that this child's picture-book version of farming is far, far from the truth — and the reality is harming you, your family, and ultimately even the world.
THE DARK SIDE OF FACTORY FARMING
It turns out that supplying an enormous and urbanized population with all the trappings of modern life has come at a very heavy price — a price you may not even be aware you're paying.
The bulk of the damage is borne by the creatures whose parts we use so thoughtlessly. Newts, salamanders and toads crammed together in unlit and unheated wooden crates, given only a minimal dampening to keep them alive; unicorns kept in narrow stalls and tended by sexually active adults; ravens and owls with their wings clipped, never allowed to so much as see the sky, except in the rare case that they must be killed by the light of a full or new moon.
And while some animals are used in their entirety — newt slurry, while disgusting, at least makes the most of each newt's death — there are reports of creatures such as the bunyip harvested for their tusks, while the rest of the animal is simply incinerated or placed in an industrial waste dump.
The abuses are so extensive, so horrific, and so pervasive that it takes the breath away to learn of it.
Take the tear industry, for example. We were all raised on storybooks of wise sorcerers spinning tales for a magical creature in order to induce and harvest tears from a unicorn, basilisk, dragon, yeti, or the like. Modern high-efficiency practices are not so gentle nor so kind. There are tear farms across the nation that hold intelligent creatures captive and in agony, solely for the purpose of harvesting a never-ending flow of tears. Floors made of spikes, rotted food, routine daily whipping or burning — these and worse have all made their way into the factory farmer's production process.
When those tears dry up, they temporarily improve conditions to give the creature hope again — a move that sometimes induces tears yet again — only to throw the poor beast into new and worse conditions once it's persuaded that its ordeal has ended.
When an animal has become deadened to its own pain and can no longer be relied upon as a plentiful vessel of tears, sighs, or blood, only then is it slaughtered and rendered into its component parts. Is this a practice you want to be a party to?
CONTAGIOUS HEXES AND AURA POLLUTION
Even if you don't have compassion for the plight of animals raised and slaughtered in these awful conditions, perhaps a more self-interested argument will sway you.
The truth is, many intelligent magical creatures are capable of issuing a death hex when they're slaughtered under imperfect conditions. In particular, unicorns are notorious for cursing their butchers unto the seventh generation. Under today's massively industrialized slaughterhouse conditions, an estimated 9% of unicorns are able to complete their death hex. That dark energy doesn't just disappear.
Slaughterhouse workers fight a hard battle in getting employers to pay for appropriate protective measures — and not all of them do. Effective and safe neutralizing charms are expensive and must constantly be replaced. (Modern attempts to create a golem capable of taking these jobs opens an even larger worry about how easily such a workforce might be militarized.)
But slaughterhouse workers aren't the only ones who suffer the effects of a successful death hex. Did you know that the halo of even an incomplete hex lingers in every part of the unicorn's body? In one study, 45% of the unicorn hair sold in a major retail outlet still carried potentially harmful hexing residue; as much as 2% carried enough residue to instigate a potentially fatal reaction in a vulnerable individual.
Meanwhile, the less-desirable parts of the unicorn — meat and viscera not commonly required as spell components — are often ground up and fed to basilisks and other domestic animals. In turn, those creatures are rendered up for their various parts… still containing a dangerously high quantity of hex energy! Some morally flexible manufacturers have even been caught feeding fully hexed unicorn meat to their livestock. Just because it's illegal doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
This latent hex energy is already having a real and serious effect on public health. We've all heard the breathless reporting about rising aura pollution in recent years. The developed world is enduring an epidemic of darkened auras suffered by even very small children. Toddlers who have hardly learned to walk or talk have been recorded possessing souls just as tainted as a career thief's might have been some hundred years ago.
There's an increasing body of evidence that those auras are darkening from persistent exposure to hex residue. The worst hexes are caught and neutralized before they make it to store shelves, to be sure, but drip by drip their negative influence is seeping into every one of us.
The government considers this an acceptable risk — just a trade-off for being able to provide a large population with the curative properties of unicorn horn, or weave unicorn hair into judicial architecture so that evil-doers are incapable of lying on the stand.
But is a unicorn's death hex a risk you're willing to take for yourself and your family? Will you really chance that your children's souls will be devalued in the wider marketplace solely for the convenience of popping into Imugi*Mart for whatever you need?
THE DAEMONIC VEIL
Everyone learns in grade school about the Daemonic Veil — the natural phenomenon that prevents our world from being overrun by bloodthirsty daemons from other dimensions. But did you know that factory farming is one of the biggest culprits in erosion of that barrier?
The cumulative effect of global suffering was proven to be the root cause of the holes in the Daemonic Veil that began appearing at the poles in the late 1970s. And animals raised and slaughtered in inhumane conditions do indeed suffer and erode that Veil, to a degree previously unknown throughout history.
For every 3.87^38 cubic poena per square mile emitted by a given population, the Daemonic Veil is thinned by .04 metric céng each year. This may seem like a tiny amount, nothing to be concerned with. And that's exactly what Piercing deniers want you to think.
But the risk of piercing the Veil is real, and the danger grows stronger every year. Last year, gremlin infestations were up throughout the world by nearly 7% — the highest in recorded history. And while an event like the Fairbanks Apparition is a statistical anomaly by anyone's measure, the incidence of "once in a century" apparitions has reached a frequency of once a decade or more, particularly closer to the poles. In New Holland, the apparition rate has grown so high that public health officials have begun an extensive campaign encouraging everyone to wear protective charms and garments at all times.
Some daemonology experts predict that the Veil could be completely gone by 2135, and the nightmarish fusion of our world and the Other will be complete. Other experts claim that's a much too conservative number, and the Piercing could occur as soon as 2063.
Either way, the time to act is now. A typical heavily industrialized farming operation can output a whopping 150^38 cubic poena per square mile, which means only one such farm eats away nearly 20 céng per year. We owe it to our children, our ancestors, and for necromancers, our own post-death eternity, to do all we can to stave off the fruition of this looming hellscape.
TOWARD SUSTAINABLE MAGIC
Given this awful state of affairs, you may wonder if there's any way at all to ethically continue using magic at all. Nobody wants to harm animals, contribute to the onset of the Piercing, or suffer from a contagious hex. But how are you supposed to live without the benefit of modern magical conveniences like service golems, weather control, or phylacteries? The answer is: you don't.
There are a number of approaches taken by progressive magickers looking to improve their own lives, and in turn the world.
* Veganism. Vegans refuse to use any reagents using animals or their byproducts at all. Blood, bone, scales, tears — the vegan magician eschews them all, preferring herbal substitutes. But no amount of belladonna, garlic, or mandrake can ever completely replace the efficacy of something as ubiquitous and satisfying as newt's tongue or phoenix feather.
And the practices involved in farming even herbal reagents can carry its own consequences. The salting required to bring mandrake crops up to today's levels of productivity renders the land incapable of supporting life for as much as fifty years. The over-harvesting of nightshade and subsequent dwindling crops have meant skyrocketing prices. And the well-known side effects of an over-reliance on garlic have been well documented.
* Chemists. Some casters go even further, and won't use anything derived from a living creature. It may at first seem like quicksilver, saltpeter and moonlight aren't enough to get by in the modern world. The scope of what today's chemists can do with only inanimate ingredients may shock you.
Some chemists have developed intricate and astonishing recipes to replicate everything from the most basic cantrips to ore elaborate summonings and enterprise-level arcanum. In some cases, chemists have even created tremendous new spells with never-before-discovered effects. In some ways, chemists are currently advancing the art of the possible more than any other group. One chemist in Albu-qerqi has even developed an all-chemical fireball that can be cast from miles away, using a deceptively simple apparatus fashioned of crystal and metal.
* Foraging. Yet another approach is not to use an ingredient unless you've harvested it from the wild your own self. But while this is an appropriate practice for the bush witch and the hermit sage, it simply isn't scalable or practical in an urban environment. Not that that's kept it from becoming a hot trend!
Why, there are reports from Bera-qli that some neighborhoods and wilderness areas are so overharvested by so called "foraging casters" that many a family's phoenix familiar has gone missing, the occupants of local graveyards complain no shrouds are left to thieve, and the blood oaks are dying from sap loss. Not to mention that dragons have begun charging draconian fees for the scales and teeth they've shed, where once they might've gifted those to a friendly and appropriately obsequious spell caster.
* Sustainable farming practices. The solution, though, is none of these. Large-scale farming is here to stay. Our civilization and economy require it to function. But that doesn't mean that we can't clean up our act.
I'm calling in you to contact your representative to the Council of Nine to request legislation regulating farming practices, and eliminating the worst of abuses. Support the proposal put forward by Councillor Avvaiyar to place strict limits on poena emitted by farms. Let your local Adjunct know that you are in favor of a proposed Subcouncil on Ethical Harvesting. Make your voice heard. To be silent in this hour is to be complicit.
It's true that we may feel the pinch of higher costs as we browse at Crowley's. Sustainable and humane farming practices are more work-intensive, more time-consuming, lower-producing, and hence more costly. But when the Piercing comes, or when your own child discovers their soul is worth only pennies at best, would you count that as money well saved?