Americans love to pin hopes. We are a nation of dreamers. But we’ve learned from American history that waiting for our government to solve the crises of our time is analogous to leaving the runway lights on for Amelia Earhart.
With the election now decided, we can shut off the lights.
Take a tour of the U.S. Capitol and you’ll start in a theater where you will watch a short film chronicling our government’s greatest accomplishments. Spoiler Alert: You probably weren’t alive for any of them.
If we can’t trust our immoral, bickering, self-serving government to fix our crumbling bridges, myopic education system, corrupt corporations, or national debt, why should we believe they will combat animal agriculture and the problems that result from it?
If you’re worried about animal agriculture getting worse, consider the depressing reality that it would be hard for it to get much worse. It’s already a daily holocaust.
More than 56 billion land animals and two trillion fishes are killed for food every year. These figures have remained constant or increased for years. Thus, the idea that the recent election will interrupt historic progress for farmed animals by our government doesn’t exactly compute. It’s not like we’re going to be transitioning from a vegan world to a new era of factory farming.
That’s not to say the new administration can’t make conditions worse–and we should expect they will and without remorse because they are a ruthless pack–especially for marine and wildlife with their non-climate change believing, anti-health, anti-regulation, pro-Ag-Gag, anti-clean energy, pro-fossil fuel policies but there also reaches a tipping point where abuse of power and transparent attempts to conceal the truth backfire and cause people to take a stand where they would otherwise be indifferent. Look no further than the public backlash over Ag-Gag laws and Anita’s trial as evidence.
But who are the real drivers of ingenuity and progress in American history though? Did President Hayes invent the lightbulb or was it Thomas Edison? Did President Nixon create Tofurky–saving millions of animals’ lives–or was it American hero Seth Tibbott? Did President Ford revolutionize technology or was it Bill Gates and Steve Jobs? Did President Reagan start PETA or was it Alex Pacheco and Ingrid Newkirk? Did President Obama invent Just Cookie Dough or was it Josh Balk and Josh Tetrick? (Props to Thomas Jefferson for inventing the swivel chair though.)
And then there’s you. Has a president ever stopped you from passing out a leaflet, sharing a veg recipe, organizing a protest, or making a donation?
What would Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Jefferson say about this election result? They would surely be disheartened but they would expect us to exercise the constitutional freedoms they guaranteed us and preserve our democracy. And that is what we must commit ourselves to do. Relentlessly.
The real agents of progress will be companies like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek inspiring iconic competitors to enter the plant-based food market, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine putting a focus on health and compassion, the Animal Legal Defense Fund using the legal system to protect animals, organizations like Compassion Over Killing exposing the animal agriculture industry with their undercover investigations, and innovative farm sanctuaries and humane education programs like Blackberry Creek Farm Animal Sanctuary and the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, respectively.
Government doesn’t have the solution to every problem nor should we rely on them for it. The Humane League doesn’t require government approval to negotiate a deal with animal agriculture companies to create more humane conditions for animals or to end the cruel practice of culling baby chicks. Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary doesn’t need USDA approval to rescue farmed animals. And millions of advocates don’t need a president to approve their grassroots advocacy to inspire people to eat plant-based food. The greatness of America is most apparent in ordinary people’s acts of extraordinary genius and kindness. That is America.
Will more animals likely suffer and die as a result of this election? Probably. But the movement will continue to achieve historic victories too–and maybe public opinion will shift so significantly in the face of such disregard for the most defenseless among us and our planet that compassion will rise.
The path we’re on is unsustainable. People are going to get it because they’re going to have to get it. When their town is flooded, the economy is crippled, and our healthcare system can no longer support them, the move to plant-based food will become the obvious and necessary choice.
While I believe farmed animal rights advocates would be well served to keep their expectations realistic, the movement to save farmed animals, improve human health, and save our planet is unstoppable because people have the power to advance it despite our government. In the face of unprecedented challenges, it is time for us to unite, think strategically, focus on measurable outcomes that benefit animals, and work tirelessly to achieve them.
What will stop the animal rights movement? Nothing.