In the face of stories like the calf at auction from earlier this week, it can be easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed by the enormity of animal suffering in the world. To end the week on a positive note, I thought I’d compile some ideas for getting involved to help animals. Last weekend, Serenity in the Storm reader, Helen from Belgium, commented asking for suggestions for how to get more involved with animal advocacy. She is already vegan and wanted to do more. Here are some ideas.
There are probably as many ideas for helping animals as there are people in the world. I believe that it’s especially important to choose advocacy that you can sustain and that suits your personality. To give you an example… Part of my own advocacy is witnessing animal suffering in spaces of farming and writing and talking about it in academic and nonacademic settings. I also have the opportunity to teach undergraduates and always bring those experiences into the classroom, as well as provide the opportunity for students to accompany me to spaces of animal exploitation and transformation, like auctions and sanctuaries. This path of witnessing isn’t for everyone and I think it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you can do and what you can maintain healthily. You’re not going to be any good to animals if you’re an emotional wreck all the time. For myself, I’ve figured out how to compartmentalize my own emotional response in those spaces and then turn that emotional response into something productive. If this is something you can do — great. Animals do need more witnesses. But this is not the only way to get involved. Not by a long shot. Use the skills you have to do something awesome and unique to your own talents.
Here are a few ideas that you can do right now:
- Go vegan! If you’re not already vegan, this is probably the single most effective form of advocacy you can engage in on an hourly basis. Every time you eat, you have a chance to help animals.
- Support new vegans and people who are curious about veganism. Being a community support either formally or informally can be a great way to build community and help animals at the same time.
- Cook good vegan food. Sharing good food with people is a great way to show them that they don’t have to give up the pleasure of food to go vegan.
- Volunteer at a sanctuary or shelter. Sanctuaries and shelters always need good volunteers who are going to make a commitment to coming regularly.
- Volunteer with an animal rights organization. There are organizations all around the world that take volunteers.
- Adopt or foster. If you can make a life-long commitment to an animal in need, give them a permanent home. If you can provide more short-term care, considering fostering. Get in touch with your local rescue groups to find out about these options.
- Speak out against animal exploitation. If someone is speaking or acting in a way that harms animals, say something. This may be in the form protesting, demonstrations, sit-ins, etc. or it may take the form of one-on-one conversations.
- Donate and fundraise. Organizations working to end animal exploitation always need money. If you can, donate. I tend to like to donate to smaller organizations who need money just to keep the lights on and/or the animals cared for. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Donate to organizations that you’ve checked out and are familiar with their work, so you know exactly what you’re supporting. Fundraising for an organization can help a ton. Last fall, I made peppermint patties for Pigs Peace Sanctuary as a fundraiser and raised a couple thousand dollars in a month or so.
- Get educated. Read up on the common questions people ask about animal rights and veganism so that you can give rational, informed responses.
- Educate people. This could come in many forms. For instance, my mom arranged to show movies like Forks Over Knives in her office at lunchtime. Now, there is a whole contingent of people in her office interested in vegan living. You could arrange documentary viewings at local community centers, churches, offices, etc.
- Write. If writing is something you’re good at, do it. Submit op-eds or articles to your local paper. Submit articles to national magazines and websites. Start a blog. Write a book. Get those words out there in service of animals.
- Do art. Visual representations are often some of the most effective ways to move people to change their behavior with regards to animals. Paint, take photographs, make documentaries, sculpt, organize theatrical demonstrations. Images might be graphic, but they don’t have to be to move people. Sometimes beauty can be even more effective in opening hearts and minds to the plight of animals.
- Share resources. I always have a couple of copies of Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran-Foer (and other books) to lend out to people who are just starting to think about these things. I also share documentaries, like Earthlings, The Witness, Peaceable Kingdom, etc.
- Be compassionate. People are going to come along at their own pace. Getting frustrated, angry, judgmental, etc. with people is not going help animals. Being compassionate and patient and positive make a vegan, animal rights lifestyle much more appealing.
- Think intersectionally. If you understand and can explain the intersections of human and animal oppression, this is a powerful way to make the case for human and animal movements for justice. I strongly believe that recognizing and resisting the similar underlying of structures of human and animal exploitation is an extremely effective way forward.
- Work with kids. Train a new generation of people to have compassion for animals in whatever ways you can dream up.
Here are a few ideas that may take more long-term planning:
- Pursue a career in animal advocacy with an animal rights organization, shelter, school, etc.
- Pursue a career in plant-based healthcare. You could become a nutritionist, doctor, nurse practitioner, naturopath, etc. and help people transition healthfully to a diet that reduces harm on animals.
- Become an academic activist. Being part of the academy can be tough (and somewhat removed from the “real world” at times), but being an academic gives you the opportunity to teach and to share your perspective on animals with students. And it gives you the chance to research and write about these issues in a unique context. There are more and more programs popping up that allow you to focus on issues related to animals specifically. Here’s a list. You might also find programs where you can study animal-related topics without being strictly critical animal studies focused. I found a great geography department at University of Washington where I have been able to do the project I wanted to do.
- Consider law school. Having a law degree can enable you to work to defend individual animals, it may prepare you for policy work, and it gives you the background needed to oppose repressive legislation that harms animals.
- Become a veterinarian. Sanctuaries and shelters are badly in need of good veterinarians who are sympathetic to the animal rights cause. Veterinary school is difficult both because it’s very competitive and because you may be asked to practice on animals, but if you can do it, it’s a sorely needed skill.
- Be creative in changing your own life path. If animal advocacy is what you’re passionate about, dream big — for yourself and for the animals. Redesign your future plans so that you can spend your time working for animals. The possibilities for what you could are endless. If you have an idea for a project, get it funded on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.
This list is by no means exhaustive — it’s just a jumping off point, really, so please add your own ideas in the comments!