Monday, July 23, 2012

AAH in 400 Words


VO has been invited to contribute a 400 word essay to a new electronic resource for new activists. Here's my first attempt to distill The Animal Activist's Handbook to that size:


Those successful in making the world a better place know almost everyone cares most about those closest to them. Even those who look beyond species spend a majority of resources on cats and dogs, endangered species, or campaigns focused on high-profile animals.

However, if we want to have the biggest impact in the world, we need to focus on the bottom line: reducing as much suffering as possible. Two guiding principles maximize the amount of good we accomplish:

1. Rather than focusing on what personally moves us, strive solely to alleviate as much suffering as possible.
2. Recognize that when we choose to do one thing, we are choosing not to do another. Instead of choosing to “do something, do anything,” we must pursue what will likely lead to the greatest reduction in suffering.

Promoting ethical eating follows directly from these guiding principles. No particular philosophy or lifestyle has any value in and of itself. Rather, promoting cruelty-free eating allows us to alleviate as much suffering as possible for three reasons:

1. ~99 of every 100 animals we kill in the US are slaughtered for human consumption.
2. These animals endure horrible cruelties. Indeed, every year, hundreds of millions of animals – many times more than the number killed for fur, in shelters, and in laboratories combined – don’t even make it to slaughter. They actually suffer to death.
3. Everyone eats, making decisions daily that affect farmed animals. Informing and inspiring new people to open their hearts and minds to making compassionate choices leads to many fewer animals suffering.

Everyone we meet is a potential victory! We don’t need to form a group or change a law; we can each make a huge difference every day!

To be optimally effective, we must seek to open hearts and minds, not show how much we know. Honest advocacy focused entirely on the animals is far more effective than a laundry list of pro-veg claims. Similarly, we must focus on getting people to consider their first step toward compassion, rather than arguing for our current philosophy / diet. Most non-vegetarians tune out when told to go vegan, but may consider starting to make changes like Meatless Mondays and/or eating fewer chickens.

If we are to alleviate as much suffering as possible, we need to maximize our impact. Thoughtful individual advocacy allows us to have an immediate and profound influence every single day!