The term “armchair activist” is sometimes said with a note of derision or disdain. The “real” activists are organizing protests and breaking into laboratories to free beagles or minks; storming puppy mills and putting their bodies in front of harpoons. But if you’re passionate about your love for animals, you can be just as effective as people on the frontlines. Not everyone has the time or temperament to be confrontational; a condition that comes up from time to time when protesters and the people to whom they are directing their aggression come together. Not everyone can be Captain Paul Watson, Ingrid Newkirk, Nanci Alexander, Wayne Pacelle or Paul Shapiro. These superstars of the animal rights movement have been working in service to animals for over thirty years. They are passionate, strong, thoughtful, smart and articulate. But you are too, right? The only difference is they are able to work their passion without having to look for precious time in which to do so.
Not everyone can find a position with an animal rights organization. Those careers require college degrees, proof of hard work, willingness to re-locate and bravely take on dangerous tasks.
However, opportunities do exist for animal lovers who are frustrated because they don’t have the power to help animals. The thing is, they do. Consider the fundamental reasons why animal rights organizations exist, and you will find a way to help them help animals. The Humane Society of the United States, Sea Shepherd, Peta and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida all started out as an idea that slipped into someone’s consciousness and wouldn’t leave. It became an obsession, and then, after years of hard work, a reality. But you don’t have to start an organization, little things you can do to become an animal rights activist right now are very effective.
Go Vegan: According to the USDA, the average American consumes approximately 200 pounds of meat every year. And that’s just one average American. It doesn’t include the guy who must have meat at every meal just because he can and is proud to be a real “meat and potatoes” kinda guy. Going vegan will save hundreds of cows, pigs, lambs chickens, turkeys, calves, lobsters, fish, ducks and geese every year.
You say you won’t go vegan because you believe that just one person giving up meat will help animals? You’re right, if just one person became vegan it won’t save the animals. But do you want animals killed in your name? Do you want animals killed for you? No? Then don’t allow it. Make a promise to yourself that not one more animal will be killed in your name. Still not convinced? Watching Meet Your Meat and checking out Farm Sanctuary will do the trick. As Gene Bauer so succinctly put it, “If you love animals but are still eating them; you are not living a life in harmony with your own values.”
Learn your legislators: Get your name on every animal-rights e-blast list so you can answer the call to activism. Action alerts will provide all the facts you need to know about an issue, the status of pending legislation and requests for co-signatories for bills brought before Congress and the Senate. This goes for your city, state and national representatives. Pay a visit to your mayor, your congressperson and senators, both state and federal. Know who they are so you can call them and ask them to vote in favor of the animals whenever they get the chance. If you see them personally, they’ll remember you and it makes the request much more personal. Keep in mind that you are a constituent, and that means you are golden in the eyes of a politician. You have power here, use it.
Organize a Fundraiser: If you’re a “people person”, consider representing your favorite animal rights organization at local green markets, adoptathons, festivals, jamborees or barn dances. The event really doesn’t matter as long as it attracts large groups of people. First, contact the organization and let them know about a tabling opportunity in your area and ask if you can represent them to raise funds and awareness for them. Most will gratefully send you posters, literature, or even giveaways. Then, educate yourself on their issues. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to answer questions, remember you can always refer them to the organization or look up the information on your smartphone. Simple.
Get a tatoo: Just kidding, just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.
Surf the Web: Sit back, get comfortable with a glass of wine or a cup of tea (beer drinkers are welcome too), and surf the web focusing on animal-rights issues, follow links embedded in animal-rights web pages, and get to know what’s behind all those fantasies perpetuated by the people in certain industries. Follow the money, and you will find most of those industries are misleading the public. A word of caution, you may become outraged. If you aren’t outraged, then you aren’t paying attention.
You’ll find it’s not enough to love animals. In fact, it’s not about love; it’s about respect.