These are the principles that guide my advocacy for animals. I hope you find them helpful and comforting.
When Nathan Runkle at Mercy for Animals releases a new cruelty investigation, Marisa Miller Wolfson premiers her new documentary Vegucated, Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the United States argues against Ag Gag bills on national television, Lee Sackett rescues abused factory farm animals at CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm, or Christine Dorchak at GREY2K USA informs the public about the cruelty of dog racing, it all benefits animals. Heroes for animals come in the form of an artist, a grassroots activist, a best-selling author, and everyday citizens. Whether you return a lost wallet, save a drowning child, or rescue an abused pig, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. If you care about making the world a more humane place, all that matters is the accomplishment of a good deed. We should celebrate it and strive to replicate it.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
Focus on doing what you can. We can’t solve all the world’s problems. Help the causes that matter to you in every way you can as often as you can. If you think of saving billions of animals or mentoring every child in need, it might cause you to throw your hands up and give up. Instead, focus on impacting as many lives as you can. Find comfort knowing there are millions of people like you engaged in the same selfless and meaningful mission.
Make a Difference
Don’t assume you’re helping animals simply because you’re doing something. Think critically about what you’re doing, read research, re-evaluate action plans, try new ideas, and seek feedback to ensure you’re maximizing your time. Constantly work on and be open to improving your advocacy. Admit mistakes, make amends, and become more effective.
Whether you’re handing out Veg Starter Kits, attending a protest, writing a blog, donating money, calling legislators, or volunteering at a farm sanctuary, make sure your impact is measurable or at least imaginable. Instead of bemoaning problems in public forums and name-calling, become a part of the solution in public arenas.
Take the High Road
The low road is very crowded. Don’t allow words to hurt you and don’t succumb to people who try to goad you, appear jealous, or hateful. If you see a fellow advocate, especially a volunteer, gaining a lot of attention for a cause (i.e. raising money to save endangered manatees), don’t be jealous because you’re not receiving the same support. Any victory for animals is a victory for every advocate. How you react to the good deeds of others is a reflection of how much you care. Emulate leaders or innovate and blaze your own trail. Maintain a sense of urgency every day. There is no time for personal agendas, egos, or getting caught up in meaningless drama that wastes valuable time. Always remember: It’s about the animals. Their suffering is real. We must put their interests ahead of our own self-interests. It’s not about us. Simply because other advocates aren’t helping your cause (for example, attending a protest to close a puppy store) doesn’t mean their work isn’t equally important. Respect advocates’ right to take a stand for the issues that matter most to them. Aim to be so inspirational and effective that others will join your cause on their own volition. Finally, don’t allow a broken culture to sidetrack you. The media profits from meaningless stories. Ignore them and focus on what you know really matters.
In summary, effective advocacy involves celebrating and contributing to the success of others, staying focused, maintaining dignity, and making an impact. Thank you for your dedication to the cause.
Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D., is a volunteer grassroots animal rights advocate and the organizer of the 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals. He writes a zero-profit blog, Kirschner’s Korner, to help raise awareness about issues affecting the global community to make the world a more humane place. To receive Dr. Kirschner’s new articles via email, enter your email in the “Follow Blog Via Email” link at the top right of the blog.