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Like many new vegetarians and vegans, when I started to examine my food choices in early 2008, I needed an outlet for my new-found knowledge and enthusiasm. And just like other animal advocates in Southern California at that time, I started volunteering for the successful Yes on Prop 2 campaign (a ground-breaking initiative that bans the cruel practices of intensively confining calves, pigs, and birds in tiny cages or crates). After tabling for the campaign at just one festival, I was hooked. I knew I had found something meaningful that would remain a part of my life for years to come.
Within months of joining this farmed animal ballot initiative campaign, I found myself so dedicated to these issues that I started working full-time at a local animal protection organization. Since then I’ve been a part of the animal advocacy movement in a variety of ways: as a full- and part-time staff member, a contractor, a supporter, and a volunteer—and I’ve learned a few things along the way that have had a tremendous impact on my life and my advocacy:
Farmed animal advocacy has a tremendous impact on saving lives.
- In the past five years I’ve worked on farmed animal advocacy almost exclusively. And there is something interesting about working to ease the suffering of animals raised for food: we don’t see them first-hand. Our efforts aren’t immediately realized as if, say, we rescued a dog or cat from of a dangerous situation. Rarely is there an individual farmed animal who we can pet, snuggle with, or comfort. That doesn’t mean, however, that our efforts aren’t worthwhile. In fact, I would argue, working on behalf of farmed animals can be some of the most meaningful change we can make for animals simply because of the sheer number of animals impacted—regardless of whether we can see that impact through specific stories. For example, by convincing one person to go vegetarian, that’s equivalent to saving the lives of an estimated 28 land animals and 175 aquatic animals.
Any amount of time that you can devote to advocacy matters for animals.
- In the past five years, I’ve gone through a few personal events that have prevented me from devoting my full attention to advocating for animals. And you know what? That’s okay. Organizations like Compassion Over Killing rely on volunteers who are willing to dedicate even just a few hours a week, or month, or day to continue their life-saving work. When I was busy with other things, I knew that I could still help animals simply by volunteering a few hours a week or by making a financial contribution which not only helps to fund the work I find so valuable, but donating makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger even when I’m able to be there on the front lines. And when I was ready, I increased my volunteer hours, and started helping powerhouse organizations even more.
Don’t forget to strategize.
- It’s important to focus on meaningful, effective strategies to help animals. Especially when we have limited time, we need to make sure that the time being spent helping animals is productive. A great place to start is by reading The Animal Activist’s Handbook by Bruce Friedrich and Matt Ball.
You can make a difference for animals from anywhere.
- I’ve worked and volunteered for animal protection organizations while living in major cities as well as from my house in a rural town with a population of 7,000 people. Even when it seems like I am literally the only animal advocate or vegan in town, I know there are meaningful things I can do to help animals and, especially given the networking capabilities via the internet, I’m part of a team of activists across the country dedicated to building a kinder world for animals. Whether I’m asking a local restaurant to offer a vegan burger, working with my City Council to pass a veg-friendly resolution, writing letters to the editor, or even helping groups from home with phone banking or data entry projects, it’s easy to find motivation knowing I’m a part of a larger movement.
Never give up – we’re winning!
- Remember to find joy in what you’re doing. Sometimes it can be hard watching undercover investigations, realizing how formidable of an adversary animal agribusiness can be.. Find solace in knowing that the meat industry is on the defensive, and that with every undercover investigation more and more people are leaving animals off their plates and empowering others to embrace compassion as well. Every day we can — and we are — making a difference for animals. When it comes to speaking out for those who can’t, we’re on the right side, and we’re also on the winning side. That’s something to always be proud of.
Being an animal advocate is a lifetime commitment for me, and I hope for you, too. I’m constantly amazed and inspired by progress we’re making as movement, and I’m looking forward to seeing even more positive advancements for animals that will be made within the next five years of advocacy. And if you are just starting out, welcome! There are plenty of ways to get involved, and we hope you’ll join us. Start now by signing up to volunteer, signing up to help at an event, or donating to our work.
Thank you for teaming up with us to help demonstrate the power of compassion.