Difficult Questions Every Animal Advocate Should Ask Themselves

As animal advocates, we work to inspire others to show compassion for all animals and the planet. But how much time to spend assessing our impact? We may increase our impact by reflecting on our advocacy. I hope these questions cause you to think critically about your advocacy and motivate you to continue to explore ways you can most effectively impact change.

1. How much money do I donate to support nonprofit animal rescue and advocacy organizations every year? Does it reflect the sense of urgency I feel to save animals’ lives? (If you donate $400 per year and you earn $40,000 per year, you are donating one percent of your annual salary.)

2. When I advocate on social media, am I looking for attention or am I taking steps to make a real, concrete, measurable difference in the lives of animals, and does the way I spend my time in my personal life reflect how much I care about animals?

3. Have I thought critically about my theory of change, and does research exist to support its efficacy?

4. Am I recognizing the work of others and do I help other advocates and nonprofit animal advocacy organizations achieve their goals?

5. Do I represent the cause of animal advocacy with dignity in the way I conduct myself and treat others?

6. Do I advocate to make myself feel better or to help animals?

7. How do I evaluate whether or not my advocacy is effective?

8. Am I committed to learning by attending workshops and conferences, reading articles and books, watching videos, and asking for feedback?

9. Do I have a full understanding of the decisions I still make that harm animals and am I advocating with humility and taking steps to reduce my negative impact?

10. Do I take initiative to accomplish victories for animals by leading the way or do I mainly surround myself with like-minded people and hope someone else will make the changes we need?

For the horse forced to pull people in a carriage in extreme temperatures, the dog tethered in a backyard, the whale swimming in circles of boredom in a tank, the circus elephant being jabbed with a bullhook and transported across the country in a truck, the rabbit enduring ghastly experiments in a lab, the pig wondering why she has been caged, the fox about to be skinned for her fur, the polar bear trapped in the zoo, and the turkey about to be scalded alive, everything we do matters. We owe it to them to consider these questions and adjust our advocacy accordingly. We are their only hope.


17 thoughts on “Difficult Questions Every Animal Advocate Should Ask Themselves

  1. These ten questions are essential when one is really doing some self reflection on the reasons why they consider themselves an animal lover or animal activist. I applaud you for mentioning the taboo topic of money. Animal organizations don’t get the millions of dollars donated to them like other more “accepted” organizations do; therefore, they need our financial support! This list should be one that is kept and reevaluated by each one of us as we search within ourselves on how to live a purposeful life in helping the exploited, tortured, and voiceless animals.

  2. thank you, andrew, for posting this. very well said. and something that needed to be said. stay the course, brothers and sisters. momentum is finally on our side. just keep on speaking the truth. seize every opportunity. even the small ones add up quickly.

  3. Dear Andrew,

    since reading your email this morning the questions you pose have played on my mind for the past five hours and I therefore feel a need to respond, as follows.

    1. Unless one is in the fortunate position to run an animal sanctuary I believe donating to the appropriate charities is the only alternative. We only have one small farm rescue sanctuary here in Queensland, with others in Australia achieving national recognition. For instance, Edgars Mission in Victoria run by Pam Ahern, has saved and rehomed thousands of farm animals. Since early 2012 I sponsored a rescued broiler chicken at FAR Queensland but unfortunately she died late last year. I now sponsor a rescued lamb at a cost of $100 per month. I randomly contribute to other animal charities: Animals Australia, wildlife rescuers, and I recently donated $100 to Steve and Derek (Esther the Wonder Pig’s dads) who have now committed to buying a farm and running their own farm sanctuary. I have outlined these donations in order to give perspective to my commitment, you see, I am not wealthy and live on a combination of investments and government pension.

    2. I don’t often comment much on Facebook but my posts are usually positive of people and issues that deserve support. I am comfortable that my motives are purely animal welfare driven.

    3. My darling husband of 42 years passed away recently after a long debilitating illness with Parkinson’s Disease. As his carer I was limited as to what I could become involved in, but in hindsight I am happy that I was able to participate in a Farm Animal walk in Brisbane city in 2012; attended two peaceful marches against live animal export; volunteered at a wildlife hospital caring for koalas; and through passive vocalisation in conversation and actions, hopefully influenced others to pursue a kinder way of life.

    4. Wherever and whenever I am able I sign petitions, send letters to politicians and occasionally telephone. Combined with monetary donations and other advocacy efforts, I believe this helps other advocates and animal rescue organisations. My posts on Facebook are mostly to encourage and congratulate individuals/groups for their wonderful work.

    5. I am happy that I advocate in a completely dignified manner. I abhor violence of any kind, but in saying this, I fully admire and respect the under-cover people who risk their lives to free and expose cruelty.

    6. Do I advocate to make myself feel better? Definitely not, if anything, I become so dejected and depressed at times with the extent of animal abuses that despair is an overwhelming emotion. What keeps me going is the belief that doing nothing only perpetuates the problem. One person can make a difference – one action can save one life, one voice can speak for the voiceless.

    7. The answer to this is immeasurable. One must have faith that good will triumph over evil. Mankind may be morally corrupt on all levels of guardianship of the planet, but if we don’t believe and have hope then we may as well give up.

    8. I don’t attend conferences, but I do watch videos and have read The China Study and When Elephants Weep.

    9. Through self education and awareness I am comfortable with the decisions I make to cause no harm to animals. My plant based diet is nutritious and tasty and with every mouthful I feel blessed that I am not harming animals.

    10. At 63 years of age I come from a dark background where I ignorantly and dispassionately contributed to the suffering of animals. My father hunted rabbits, possums and ducks; I grew up in a household and culture where vegetarianism was unheard of, let alone vegan. I turned vegetarian 14 years ago, and vegan only one year ago. My son is a vegan, my daughter a semi vegetarian – but the rest of my family and friends tolerate my chosen lifestyle and take pleasure in castigating me for my ethical choices. It is really difficult balancing advocacy and the status quo when it comes to your loved ones – the justification seems to be mine alone, and for fear of losing my family members, I do not lecture or try to influence them. I firmly believe that for me, advocacy is about gentle persuasion and not bullying. When I used to eat meat I had no idea or concept of the cruelty involved in producing meat and its only through self education that the truth has been revealed. My meat eating family and friends simply do not know. With subtleness I will eventually influence one or more to question their ethical lifestyle choices.

    Andrew, you are an inspiration to me. Know that your beliefs and actions are a great comfort to many people, and the animals of this world can look to a brighter future because of people like you.

    1. Hi Vickie,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Many people will be inspired by the life you’re leading. You set a wonderful example.

      Regarding social media, I have concerns. I don’t know what people do outside of Facebook. They may spend all of their time on Facebook in a strictly social manner and spend considerable time outside of Facebook leafletting, calling legislators, organizing VegFests, protesting, blogging plant-based recipes, running their own pro-animal business, etc. Some self-described animal advocates may use Facebook simply as a recreational outlet and accomplish meaningful victories for animals outside of it.

      Having said that, I am troubled by the untold amount of hours self-described committed animal advocates seem to spend on it (1) preaching to the choir, (2) simply making vitriolic remarks (i.e. “kill him” or “lock him up forever”) without any call for action (i.e. calling a district attorney to ask for a maximum sentence or a legislator to support legislation to reduce future incidents), and (3) involved in rudderless threads that do not accomplish anything concrete for animals.

      It troubles me because we have a powerful tool to affect change through social media and I would like to see us maximize it. My wish is that more people who state they stay up at night thinking about what happens to animals in the darkness of a factory farm or the behind the veil of a lab would have more of a sense of urgency to make a difference. To get there, it requires a lot of self-reflection. I hope the questions I’ve provided serve as a compass for open-minded people. Simply bemoaning the mistreatment of animals or besmirching people trying to help them will unlikely make a difference.

  4. Thanks Andrew, both for your 10 questions, which should make a lot of people, including me, think about what more they can do to help animals, and also for your reply to Vickie. You inspire as usual.

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