The single most powerful step you can take to promote animal rights is to go vegan. This means adopting a diet that is free from animal products, and choosing a lifestyle that avoids harming animals as much as possible.
Animal farming and slaughter are responsible for terrible suffering on a massive scale. Most farmed animals are kept in cramped, filthy and thoroughly miserable conditions. Even so-called ‘higher welfare’ systems can be very different from what you might expect. ‘Free range’ hens for instance, can be packed into sheds with only limited access to the outside.
The good news, however, is that you can do something about this. By going vegan, you can reduce demand for the products of these cruel industries, and save animals from the horrors of farming.
And no matter how they are reared, farmed animals face a brutal and terrifying death at the slaughterhouse. We have placed fly-on-the-wall cameras inside 11 randomly chosen UK slaughterhouses, and we found evidence of lawbreaking inside 10 of them. This included animals being kicked, punched and deliberately burnt with cigarettes.
The good news, however, is that you can do something about this. By going vegan, you can reduce demand for the products of these cruel industries, and save animals from the horrors of farming. It’s never been easier to go vegan, with supermarkets now stocking a huge range of animal-free products, and even restaurant chains offering vegan options. To get you started, why not order one of our free Go Vegan packs?
Another area to consider is your choice of cosmetics, toiletries and household products. Thankfully, there is now a EU-wide ban on the sale of all new cosmetics that have been tested on animals. But not all cosmetics are equally cruelty-free, since some companies sell cosmetics in parts of the world where animal tests are required.v And when it comes to household products, no such ban exists.
You may also want to look carefully at your choice of charity donations. Many major medical charities fund research on animals.
Looking for the Leaping Bunny logo is one of the easiest ways to make sure your products have not been animal-tested. Own brand products from Superdrug, Marks & Spencer and the Co-op have all been Leaping Bunny approved. And while the bunny doesn’t guarantee that a product is free from animal ingredients, many companies also label whether their products are suitable for vegans. Everything in our ethical shop is both non animal-tested and vegan.
You may also want to look carefully at your choice of charity donations. Many major medical charities fund research on animals, such as this horrific experiment carried out on furless mice and supported by Cancer Research UK. As well as being cruel, animal experiments are bad science, since the results cannot be reliably translated to humans. Fortunately, there are many charities that fund only humane research. We produce a pocket guide, online list and phone app to help you know what charities’ policies are.
Finally, you can help animals by choosing cruelty-free clothes, rather than fur, leather and silk. The animal-free alternatives are generally much cheaper, and readily available from high-street shops.
Why not get started on cruelty-free living today by ordering your free Go Vegan pack from Animal Aid?
See more information at www.animalaid.org.uk.
The number one rule of advocating for animal rights is to always, always tell the truth. Never tell a lie. Never. The truth is bad enough. If you lie or exaggerate, you will lose credibility.
The most effective thing you can do to promote animal rights by far is to set a good example. Lead a compassionate life with empathy for all animals, not just dogs and cats. This means living a cruelty-free lifestyle by incorporating a plant-based diet instead eating meat and dairy. It’s important to do this while you are still surrounded by people who are not yet there so you can show them how simple it is to make the transition from being a carnivore to becoming a vegan. Soon, you will find your friends who do not embrace your new lifestyle will begin to fade from your journey but that’s ok, because you will make new friends. Your friends who don’t want to take the voyage to veganism with you will fall away not because they no longer like you, but because you make them uncomfortable.
Well, unless you are hanging out with malevolent souls, your friends are, for the most part, good, decent people. They feel compassion in their hearts, and in their souls, and they understand that eating meat contributes to animal suffering. But they don’t like change. Your becoming a vegan makes them uncomfortable because they know you are doing the right thing, and that makes them feel guilty. When you tell them about the videos of slaughterhouses you have seen, which have turned you off of meat forever, these lovely friends will say “Oh don’t tell me, I don’t want to know….”
You’ll ask: “Why don’t you want to know?”
They’ll answer: “Because I don’t want to know about animals getting hurt!”
“Because I love animals!”
And you’ll say: “Then why are you not living in accordance with your own beliefs?”
And they will have no answer.
You’ll also find, when you tell someone you are vegan, they will usually say something like “I don’t eat much meat,” or “I gave up red meat” as if you are their confessor. Don’t let that pass. Remind them; any meat they eat creates a market for animal flesh, and that contributes to untold animal suffering; and red meat is no less harmful than white meat because genetically manipulated chickens contain ten times more fat than they did a century ago.
In the thirty years since my process to become a vegan began I have noticed a trend. When people tell me they were “once a vegetarian but didn’t keep it up” I ask if they had originally converted to vegetarianism because of nutritional or ethical reasons. 100% of them say it was due to nutritional reasons. Some will even try to convince me that a doctor told them they needed to eat more protein, which is a cover for their own lack of discipline. I find those who adopt a plant-based diet for ethical reasons stick with it while those who do it purely for nutritional reasons don’t. Once you’ve seen those videos, you can’t unsee them.
Promoting animal rights is not as hard as it once was. When the movement first started, and later, when we marched on Washington DC in 1992, the general public referred to us as “bunny huggers;” the animal answer to the “tree hugger” environmentalist. But as time went on and more people began to see we were not going away, and were making progress in legislation, communications, and education; and winning hearts and minds; people began to take notice. Now that we have their attention, we have to stay vigilant always. Our movement has become a threat to very powerful enterprises who are working persistently to take us all down.
They may be winning.
For example, we won a victory about 8 years ago after years of fighting to make the hunting of wolves and bears from helicopters using AK-47’s illegal. With the stroke of a pen, Donald Trump reversed that law, making it legal, once again, to hunt in this most barbaric way. We also fought and won a battle to require the USDA to put puppy mill violations on their website so we could use the information to take down puppy mills. Again, with the stroke of a pen, that requirement is gone and the information has been taken down. These reversals are happening with such speed we can’t keep up with them all.
A few key pieces of advice from a veteran of the movement:
The number one rule of advocating for animal rights is to always, always tell the truth. Never tell a lie. Never. Ingrid Newkirk taught me this and it’s the best advice I ever got. The truth is bad enough. If you lie or exaggerate, you will lose credibility and then everything you say from that point on will be irrelevant. Yes, they toss live baby chicks down a funnel to be shredded. This is the truth. Yes, they kill thousands of fish by using driftnets that kill everything in its path. Yes, there is evidence that fish feel pain. These are facts. Make sure you have your facts straight. Don’t exaggerate, the truth is bad enough.
If you remember just this one tenet, you will be a strong advocate. But you have to know the facts, so do your research, do your homework and learn, for example, that Japan continues to kill between 200 and 400 minke whales per year even though almost every other country on Earth has signed an agreement not to hunt whales. Don’t say they kill thousands each year, because that’s not true. Killing even one whale is bad enough, killing up to 400 is deplorable.
Also, I know it’s hard, but it’s important you watch the undercover puppy mill videos, the slaughterhouse videos, the videos depicting acts of cruelty perpetuated on factory farmed animals. It’s heartbreaking, I know. It will make you completely useless for days afterwards. But here’s why you must do this:
- You must be able to tell people who argue with you that you have seen the videos with your own eyes. You’ve watched it. You know it to be a fact because you saw it. You are not relying on hearsay or opinion. You’re a witness. Nobody can argue with that, except maybe the few people who will try to get you believe the videos are photo shopped. Whatever. You know what you saw.
- Watch the videos in solidarity with the brave activist who shot the footage. Remember, these videos are shot in secret and if the activist is found out, s/he will suffer serious consequences. Many are in jail right now. They have been beaten and/or charged with a crime. They are literally risking their lives because the people they are taping need to hide their activity from the public in order to make a living. Threaten someone’s livelihood and they will hurt you. The people who are cruel to animals will think nothing of beating up an activist who is threatening their business. Watch the videos in solidarity with an activist who had to shoot that video while standing idle and watching someone abuse an animal. Think of the activist who had to secretly shoot video while men sodomized a young pig with a pole, and then laughed when it started to bleed. How do you think that videographer felt at that moment? Yet, he had to keep a straight face, maybe even had to feign amusement. Stand in solidarity with that courageous and brokenhearted soul.
- Watch the video in solidarity with the animals being abused. Simply put, if they can endure the abuse, you can endure the pain of watching it.
I know this is a tall, tall order. But you only have to watch them once. You don’t have to torment yourself needlessly. Once you’ve seen them, you are ready to get in the fight, you won’t have to see them again.
Learn our history and get to know important figures in the movement such as Peter Singer, considered the Father of the Animal Rights Movement. Look up Mary Ellen Wilson and read her incredible story, and that of Henry Bergh, and read “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins.
When people ask, as people sometimes do, if I ever had a life-changing moment, I have an answer. The moment I picked up “Diet for a New America” my life was changed forever. I was set on a new path, and my life was never the same.
Keep the videos on your phone so you can bring them up immediately should your conversation turn to any of the issues. Download Peta’s Charlize Theron Puppy Mill video and show it to someone with whom you are discussing puppy mills. Instead of trying to describe life inside a puppy mill, just whip out your phone and show them. Keep a copy of Meet Your Meat on the phone as well. Share them on social media.
The best thing you can do to promote animal rights is to educate yourself on the issues. There is much to learn about animals in entertainment, marine mammals, fishing, hunting, (especially canned hunting), animals in labs, wild mustangs, greyhound and horse racing, environmental threats (lead bullets and fishing gear ultimately bring down the Bald Eagle population), animal cruelty, legislation, puppy mills, crush videos, cock fighting, dog fighting, feral cats, the Korean dog meat market, elephant poaching, urban wildlife and, of course, factory farming, the biggest source of animal suffering.
This list of issues, by far not complete, is daunting and it can seem impossible to make a difference with so much suffering in the world. My secret? Choose one issue that speaks to you and about which you can develop a deep passion. Choose an issue that you know you care so much about, you will dedicate every waking moment to promoting so at the end of the day you will have an answer to the question “What did I do today to alleviate the suffering of even one animal?”
I found I had to choose one issue, in my case, dogs, and give it all I have. Other activists choose all the issues and give a little of themselves to each. Whatever works for you. But choose wisely and quickly, because the animals are depending on you.
It’s the last thing I think about when I am going to sleep. I better have a good answer, or I will not sleep.
My issue is puppy mills. I have dedicated my whole life to stopping puppy mills and ending the sale of puppies in pet stores. I’ve organized and attended thousands of protests, rallies, and town halls and even sued the city of West Palm Beach for not allowing me to protest the grand opening of a pet store in a posh neighborhood. (I won, and we protested every Saturday until she eventually shut down.)
That’s not to say that I can’t talk about all the other issues as well. I keep up with all of them, but my heart is with the dogs. Greyhound racing and dog fighting are my other two passions. I found I had to choose one issue, in my case, dogs, and give it all I have. Other activists choose all the issues and give a little of themselves to each. Whatever works for you. But choose wisely and quickly, because the animals are depending on you.
Learn how a bill becomes law and then become the “go to” person for your legislators. Make an appointment and meet with your congressman and senators when they are in the districts and tell them about all the bills you care about. Offer to be the research person for animal-related bills. If they have a question about a bill to stop slaughtering horses, it would be so much better if they could call you and ask you to research that bill rather than put one of their aides on it. Be that person.
Become the “go to” person for the local media. Be the voice of the “local animal activists” when there is a story on television about animals and the reporters need to get both sides. Get to know which media people are also “animal lovers” and cultivate a relationship with them. They will be your best friends. Also, meet with the local Animal Control director, take him or her to lunch and get a feel for his or her true nature. Is he truly there for the animals or just another bureaucrat? When a woman calls a rescue from an emergency room because her husband just beat her up and threatened to kill her puppy you want to be able to call that Director and say “send an animal control officer, quick!” If you’re already on his or her radar, s/he is more likely to be accommodating.
Learn how a bill becomes law and then become the “go to” person for your legislators. Make an appointment and meet with your congressman and senators when they are in the districts and tell them about all the bills you care about.
Become the “go to” person for the local media. Be the voice of the “local animal activists” when there is a story on television about animals and the reporters need to get both sides. Get to know which media people are also “animal lovers” and cultivate a relationship with them.
Likewise, go to animal control meetings and get to know the local rescue people. No, they are not animal rights people, that’s true, but you need to find common ground as much as possible. Find a police officer who shares your love for animals and develop a relationship there too. When you see a dog in a hot car, you will know exactly who to call to get results. Likewise, learn your state animal-cruelty laws and make sure they are enforced. Did you know most states have a law mandating public schools teach humane education? Is your school district doing that? If not, make them do it. Remember that activists who came before you worked long and hard to get these laws passed. Make sure they are remembered by ensuring the laws are enforced. Meet with your State Attorney and let him or her know you are watching, and mobilizing, and they better damn well take animal abusers to court and get a conviction. Come election time, you’ll remember how seriously they took animal cruelty cases.
Become a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), and ignore all the bad press they get. Know they are doing everything in their power to promote animal rights. Sign up for their Action Alerts and do what you are asked to do. You may not always agree with their methods, but we need to stand as one. Infighting brings down a movement faster than anything.
Become a member of the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, and read all their literature and attend every conference you can. This is important because to us, it’s like a tent revival. Being in a hotel with 1,000 animal rights activists all working towards the same goals is an experience you must have at least once. It will raise your spirits and give you the strength to stay in the fight. Think of it as our Mecca.
Resist getting caught up in labels. He’s a vegan, she’s only a vegetarian, and therefore, she’s not really an animal rights person. She’s got a purebred dog so she’s not really an animal rights person. He says he’s a vegan but I saw him eat a slice of cheese pizza once so he’s not really a vegan.
Get over it. We have work to do.
Newbies to the movement also have a tendency to be judgmental to outsiders and are mad all the time because, as the saying goes, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. But you can’t live like that, you can’t live in a constant state of anger. It will bring on compassion fatigue, a true mental disorder that will stop you in your tracks and take you off the battlefield indefinitely. As the flight attendants say, take care of yourself before putting the mask on your child. So take care of yourself and don’t allow this massive task before us to consume you.
Resist getting caught up in labels - He’s a vegan, she’s only a vegetarian, and therefore, she’s not really an animal rights person. She’s got a purebred dog so she’s not really an animal rights person. He says he’s a vegan but I saw him eat a slice of cheese pizza once so he’s not really a vegan.
Get over it. We have work to do.
I always take solace in the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
This prayer serves to remind me that I can’t change the world to make everyone a vegetarian, but I can talk to my congressman and get him to vote yes on a bill outlawing crush videos. The wisdom to know the difference comes with time and experience.
One last thing. Remember that ours is the only movement where the activists don’t personally benefit. People who work to raise awareness about autism, for example, probably have a child with autism and so their activism benefits them. But nobody benefits from the animal rights movement. Only the animals are the beneficiaries of our labor. There is no selfish agenda here. We do it because we believe that animals have the right to their own lives, free from interference and exploitation from humans. Animals are here for their own purpose.
Remember that ours is the only movement where the activists don’t personally benefit.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a political rabble rouser and philosopher. He said it best: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?... The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes... "
The time will come. But only if we persevere.