I received the following letter from an animal rights activist. I reprinted it with her permission.
I really appreciate your insight into veganism and I was wondering if you could give me some advice, or perhaps write a blog, about a particular aspect of activism — keeping one’s sanity in the face of such horrors. Yesterday, I saw photos of two puppies being boiled alive and trying to escape and I feel completely traumatized by it. How do we remain strong in the face of such horrors?
Here is my updated Facebook status from yesterday: “I need a Facebook break after that horrible thing I saw on here today. It was actually way worse than I thought. I am so torn because people need to know this is happening and it has to stop! But, it just pulverizes me on the inside to continually see such images on a daily basis, but if I stop looking, seeing, feeling and telling then I feel like I’m letting the animals down. But, it’s such a dark place to be all the time. Where do I draw the line between protecting my sanity while helping animals? Or, is that even possible?……Any advice?”
Any advice would be welcomed. I need to build a protective armor and learn how to stay strong in the face of such unthinkable abuse.
Thank you for your heartfelt and poignant letter. Millions of animal advocates throughout the world share your feelings of despair and uncertainty. I hope my response brings you peace, guidance, and inspiration.
Let’s begin by debunking some common myths.
Myth #1: If I stop watching videos and looking at images of abused animals, I will let the animals down.
No. While it feels good to think animals in far away places know we care about them, they don’t. Whether you watch a video of their abuse or not, their pain and suffering remains the same. What you do matters, not what you see.
Myth #2: I need to keep seeing the abuse to effectively advocate for animals.
No. You don’t. You’ve already seen it. Why do you need to see more of it? To make yourself sick? That’s not in the best interest of you or the animals. Recognize animals are treated in unthinkable ways. Now select causes that matter most to you where you believe you can make a difference and make it. If you reach a point where you want to get back in touch with the pain they feel and the death they die and watch a cruelty investigation video, use what you see to fuel you to work harder and smarter for the cause. Focus on solutions.
Myth #3: There is too much pain and suffering to make a difference, ergo, do nothing.
No. Simply by not eating animals, you save dozens of animals from enduring abuse, confinement, and slaughter every year and your reduced carbon footprint leads to significant environmental preservation. Your decision not to attend the rodeo, zoos, the circus, wear animals or buy products tested on animals adds many more animals to your total saved list. By persuading others to join you, your impact multiplies exponentially. It’s conceivable for a person who only eats plant-based foods to be responsible for saving the lives of thousands of animals in his or her lifetime through personal decisions and advocacy. While we would all like to save 100 billion every year, in any social change movement, progress depends on practical approaches. Cruelty to animals didn’t happen overnight and it won’t end overnight. It’s a long and arduous haul. Calculate, embrace, and celebrate your impact. Surround yourself with positive people. Everything everyone does matters because it all adds up. If you adopt an all or nothing mentality, you will live in constant disappointment.
Myth #4: Some animal advocates can block out the pain and suffering of animals.
No. They don’t. None of us can. We care too much. We’ve seen too much and heard too much — the look of fear and sadness in their eyes and their cries for help. Every time we see the abuse, a part of us dies with each animal. We will never be the same again. This is the life we choose. Our feelings of grief pale in comparison to what the animals endure though. Ignorance is bliss; awareness is a burden. We carry it without reservation. Resign yourself to the fact that it will always be on your mind but that you are in the best company — a hero for a cause as important as any in human history. Take breaks when you need them. Keep yourself healthy. Spend time with animals to remind yourself how many experience a life of freedom and love. Ensure balance in your life.
I’m sorry you saw what you saw. The dogs remain in our thoughts. Your feelings of devastation are justified and shared. These acts of barbarism make us question the heart of humanity. To watch others idle while it happens drains our capacity for patience but we must rise above indifference and focus on creating a kinder world. There are many people who simply don’t care. Be someone who does.
We can’t identify with the abuse but we can continue to prevent and defeat it through grassroots activism and legislation. Do not expect the perpetrators to lay down their arms. In order to knock down the dominoes of cruelty, we must band together, remain strong, strategize, and always strive to make a positive impact in the lives of animals through our individual and collective actions. You are not alone Erika. Channel that sadness, anger, frustration, and despair into action. Everything you do matters and the animals need all of us doing something.
– Andrew Kirschner