When you look back through human history, activism is not new. However, animal activism has become popular in recent years.
Animal activism is attracting songwriters, authors and movie stars, politicians and academics as well as people like you and me. Lots of people are standing up for animal rights.
Animal welfare is important, especially when footage of animal cruelty continues to emerge. So, what is animal activism and how can you become an animal activist?
What is Animal Activism
Activism is the use of direct and noticeable action to achieve a result, usually a political or social one. In particular, animal activism aims to change current animal welfare standards to stop animal cruelty. Animal activism also asks for better standards in animal protection. Basically, it’s about taking action and speaking for those animals who don’t have a human voice in this world.
When you read about animal activism, you soon realize that animal rights are important. According to PETA, we need to understand that “animals are not ours to use – for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation”.
When Did Animal Activism Start?
Take the animal protection movement in England in the early 19th Century for example. This was a time when preventing animal cruelty was growing while advances were occurring in human rights, the anti-slavery movement and the right for women to vote.
Specifically, the first anti-animal cruelty bill was introduced to Parliament in England in 1800. Colonel Richard Martin, an Irish politician and campaigner against animal cruelty, helped pass an act that prevented cruelty to domestic animals. Martin was called the “Animals’ Friend”.
This act was known as The Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act and was passed into British law in 1822. Martin then organized the animal rights organization the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The name was later changed to RSPCA in 1840 after Queen Victoria requested Martin to add the word Royal.
Animal Activism Today
Fast-forward to 2020, how can you be a voice for animals? How can you help to end animal cruelty?
When you begin to learn about animal cruelty and a lack of animal welfare in this world, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed. You may even ask yourself:
- “There are so many animals who are suffering. What can I do?”
- “I’m only one person. How can one person make a difference?”
It’s important to remember that you can make a difference. The actions of one person can connect with the actions of others, creating a combined effort. You can do your bit of animal activism, no matter how big or small, and there are many ways you can be involved.
Types of Animal Activism You Can Get Involved In
Start with yourself and what you can do today. You can become vegan, change to a vegan diet and stop using products with animal ingredients or wearing animal materials. In just one month, you can save 30 animals’ lives. You can also track your progress by using a vegan calculator.
Animal Activism Clothing
Spread the word without opening your mouth. Replace items of clothing with animal activism t-shirts and sweatshirts. Getting the word about veganism couldn’t be easier.
You can even purchase some from animal rights organizations. These organizations may also sell bumper stickers. Buy some and place them on your car. You can spread the word about animal cruelty and the importance of animal rights whenever you drive your car.
Speaking Up About Animal Rights
Are you an artist, writer or creator? Re-use your skills and start an animal activism blog, or podcast. Document what happens to animals in your local community or in your country. You can then share your creations with a wider audience through social media.
Speaking of social media, why not start a local Facebook group for your local area, or like social media pages for animal rights organizations and animal rights groups? Share their news with your friends and attend their regular fundraising events. Go one step further and create events of your own so you can and raise funds for an animal rights organization or local animal rescue group. Events like dinners, picnics or movie nights are especially popular.
Similarly, you can start an online fundraiser. When you do, just make sure you find out if there are any hidden fees. Some fundraising websites take a cut of the funds you raise. If you don’t have the resources to start a fundraiser, donate your money directly to an animal welfare group or animal rights organizations. Or, perhaps start a monthly donation schedule and donate to one new group per month? This then enables you to help more than one organization.
Volunteering With Animal Rights Organizations
Volunteering is another important form of animal activism. Start by choosing a local animal welfare group or animal rights organization you can volunteer for. Contact them first and ask how you can volunteer your time.
You can also offer to help care for or foster animals in need of special attention. When you talk with each group about what they need from you, ask if you need to obtain a police check or take special training. When choosing a local group, remember that animals include wildlife as well as companion animals and farm animals.
If volunteering is not your thing, then adoption is a long-term solution. Can you offer a lifetime of care to one animal? Animals who have been rescued from appalling conditions are in need of a loving and stable forever home. Again, research animal rescue groups in your area if you are considering adopting a rescue animal.
Protesting & Outreach
If you want to be more public in your approach, then you might want to try protesting and outreach. These are the most public forms of animal activism where you can join others to create a collective voice for animals.
Outreach groups are on the rise, such as Vegan Outreach. Outreach groups spread the word about animal cruelty at street level in local communities. Some outreach groups hand out flyers, ask the public to sign petitions or show footage on laptops in order to raise awareness of animal cruelty. Contact your local outreach group about how you can get involved.
If a protest is happening in your city, it is usually announced publicly on social media. Talk to your local vegans about protests happening in your area. Again, protesting brings awareness of animal cruelty and other animal welfare issues into the public eye.
In addition to protesting, animal activism has entered the realm of the slaughterhouse and commercial farms. If you’ve watched the animal rights documentary Dominion, you’d know that some animal activists are entering slaughterhouses and commercial animal farms. Animal activists are filming footage of animals in appalling conditions and even rescuing animals from facilities.
Join a Not-for-Profit Organization
Another equally important public form of animal activism is joining an animal rights not-for-profit organization or political party. Again, research the options in your city and see how you can join. There may even be employment available within the organization. Why not make your animal activism a part of your working life?
Run for Office
You may even be motivated to run for office or government, like Andy Meddick. Mr Meddick is an Australian politician who is a member of the Animal Justice Party. He was elected into his state parliament of Victoria; the first to do so on an animal protection platform.
How to Deliver an Effective Message
In light of these options, how can you deliver an effective message through animal activism?
The best thing to do as an animal activist is to understand how to speak to others about animal cruelty and animal rights. Remember the saying: ‘Act global, think local’.
It’s equally important to read the latest news concerning animals and memorize statistics which can help you deliver your message effectively. If you’re communicating to your immediate community, look for facts and figures relating to your country. Animal protection and animal rights organizations are perfect sources for this. Look up the websites in your country that can give you the latest information you need.
Same applies if you’re traveling overseas. Local information is useful and targeted to the audience you’re speaking to. In addition, find local animal welfare groups you can speak about. They can give you a glimpse of the local animal welfare situation.
Furthermore, follow animal rights and animal cruelty experts on social media. They are a wealth of knowledge, especially if they host a podcast.
You can uncover more knowledge about animal rights from celebrities. Their quotes and popularity can be invaluable.
At the same time, messages in animal activism can be repeated, creating what is known as saturation. Make your message stand out by refreshing an old message from a different point of view or with new statistics. Or, discover new messages to talk about so you keep your animal activism messages fresh and current.
Additionally, find a mentor in your area who you can learn from and bounce ideas off. A mentor can provide guidance or an alternative point of view if you’re struggling with your message.
When you’re delivering your message, remember to answer questions or engage in conversations from a compassionate and rational point of view. Violent language, aggression and confrontation will affect how your message is received. Encourage constructive conversation and answer questions in a friendly way. Ultimately, a peaceful approach is the most effective one whether you’re talking to strangers, family members or friends.
Understand Local Laws
Before you advocate for animals, understand the local laws.
As you know, animal activism is an effective way to advocate for animal welfare and to raise awareness of animal cruelty. While it’s important you speak up for animals, it’s just as important to understand the laws relating to animals in your city, state or country.
Cognitive Dissonance and Animals
Sadly, there is a hierarchy, or organized structure, for animals in any society. Sometimes you may realize that some animals have more protective animal rights than other animals. As a result, laws can be strongly linked to public perceptions.
For example, non-vegans may show cognitive dissonance towards one category of animals. They may say they love animals (their pets for example), but choose to eat other animals. There is a lack of understanding that all animals’ lives matter.
Equally disturbing is that there are people who choose to commit acts of violence towards animals. While it may be against the law to viciously beat a pet dog, it may be a common practice to beat a cow in a slaughterhouse.
This shows that when you look at each level (wildlife, domestic/companion animals, farmed animals), you will find different laws protecting each animal. Animal ethics can be confusing and local laws may affect the way you choose to stand up for animals. It’s best to do your research about the laws in your area so you know you’re not breaking the law.
What if your animal activism affects your immediate community?
Understanding animal rights laws is important, but remember laws can change anytime. As you know, animal activism should come from a place of peace and non-violence. Conversely, governments may see animal activism as violent or disruptive behavior and even a biosecurity risk.
In Australia for example, laws were recently put in place to punish animal rights activists entering slaughterhouses and farms. PETA Australia weighed in on the changes and what they mean for animal rights activists, animals and animals rights. At the end of the day, animal activists are calling for transparency when animal welfare is concerned.
Despite this change, an animal rights protest in the Australian capital city of Melbourne successfully shut the city’s busiest intersection down. Some protesters were arrested and faced court. They avoided jail time but were ordered to pay a $100 donation to a local animal sanctuary.
For a couple of hours of inconvenience for commuters, the message attracted mass attention on T.V, radio and social media. The animal sanctuary received much-needed funds. Though, changes were again proposed to alter protest laws in Melbourne.
The makers of Dominion – Aussie Farms – faced consequences, too. Aussie Farms lost its not-for-profit status after publishing a map of Australia. The map listed all addresses of farms and slaughterhouses throughout the country.
However, things are looking up. Just recently, PETA bought shares in Facebook so they can attend Facebook’s annual meetings and ask their executives questions. Facebook has increased its warning labels on PETA’s videos, limiting PETA’s ability to expose animal cruelty in front of a big audience. By owning shares in Facebook, PETA can play more of an influential role in Facebook’s censorship decisions.
Understanding Laws While Abroad
The same ideas apply if you decide to travel overseas. If you decide to participate in animal activism overseas, understand the animal rights and laws of the country you’re traveling to. Likewise, understand that your animal activism may result in a fine or jail time.
Depending on the animal activism you choose, understand the legal risks as well as risks to your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your family, and the wider community. How will your animal activism affect those closest to you?
Take Care of Yourself
Animal activism may have an effect on your health and exposure to animal cruelty may have psychological effects. If you’re volunteering or organizing events, you may be required to travel so your personal resources may be affected. In addition, burnout is another issue facing animal activists. While you may be making a positive difference for animal welfare and animal rights, you also need to take care of yourself.
Make sure you take regular breaks and think about recovery time as part of your routine, e.g. take time-out by exercising, getting back to nature and practicing meditation. Also, consider shutting off from social media for a short time and make sure you’re eating a healthy diet.
If you do need expert advice, seek professional help. Australian vegan psychologist Clare Mann has some helpful resources for animal activists. Tools like these can help you stay on track, remain positive and productive. Remember, you are no use to animal welfare if you are struggling or unwell.
Are You An Animal Rights Activist?
Are you an animal rights activist or someone who is an everyday activist? What is the best way to advocate for animal welfare and animal rights? What have been some of your experiences? Share your stories in the comments below.
Disclaimer: The writer and Veggie Visa do not encourage criminal behavior and activities, and is not responsible for any unlawful actions taken by its readers. All advice in this article is for information purposes only.