Since I’ve increasingly become an animal activist in the past few years … I often struggle with cynicism, bitterness and on some days, pure loathing, toward people who enslave, torture and kill animals. I also can’t help but feel frustrated with those who are indifferent about these issues or turn a blind eye to them because they prefer convenience to compassion.
I know that my attitude fringes on hypocrisy; here I am, an animal activist encouraging compassion for ALL living beings, which should technically include animal abusers. And yet, when you constantly read, see or hear about the cruel neglect or sadistic torture inflicted on innocent animals at the hands of humans, it’s extremely challenging to include them in the circle of compassion. Those who violate other living beings’ fundamental rights don’t deserve sympathy, empathy, acceptance or kindness.
The Dangerous Downward Spiral
Beyond all these emotions is the slippery slope toward depression. How do animal activists not get depressed after seeing, reading and hearing about animal abuse, exploitation, and the destruction of wildlife habitats?
I try to keep myself in check and not get so worked up about every animal rights violation in our everyday lives. It requires a certain degree of compartmentalizing. However, that’s a fine line because it’s our ability to tune out and compartmentalize that is a huge part of why animals continue to suffer.
To help myself, and hopefully other animal lovers and activists, I searched online for ways to cope with an overwhelmingly cruel and indifferent world.
8 Ways Animal Activists Can Maintain Morale
#1 Find a compassionate community. Surround yourself with likeminded people, and get involved with communities made up of animal activists and vegans. This way you’re reminded daily that there are people who share your passion and care about things beyond themselves.
#2 IDA (In Defense of Animals) Animal Activist Helpline. I was thrilled to stumble upon this recently because I’ve been wondering if this even exists. The great thing about this helpline is that their Helpline Counselors are also animal activists and have been trained in nonviolent communication. Their other services include:
- Contacts for local and national activist resources
- Recommendations for psychotherapists who understand animal activists’ concerns
- Animal Activist Resource List for contact information and other links to online and in-person workshops, retreats, meet-up groups as well as websites, videos, books and podcasts on effective activism (they seem to have it all!).
#3 Visit animal sanctuaries. When you visit an animal sanctuary, whether it’s for wildlife, farm animals or rescued pets, you can’t help but feel a sense of peace and positive energy from the work that is done there. Sanctuaries are reminders of the victories to be celebrated thanks to people who commit their lives to saving animals from misery and death. These places mark the ending of a horrific chapter in the animals' lives, and the start of happy beginnings. It might be a good idea to visit sanctuaries several times a year to renew your hope and inspire you to continue fighting for the animals. Before you do, check out this article on how to determine if it's a legitimate sanctuary.
#4 Balance sad stories with happy ones. If you only consume stories about animal abuse, neglect, extinction and habitat destruction, then you will very likely burn out real fast. This is something I’m trying to work on. Be sure to get a healthy dose of happy, heartwarming stories and cute animal videos and pictures. Check out the animal sections of sites like Bored Panda or cute/funny animals on The Dodo and Huffington Post. And of course, make sure to read about the victories for animals to be reminded that we are making progress, even if it's baby steps.
#5 Accept that you can’t do it all. I’ve heard this quite a few times now from other vegans and animal activists. Vegans aren’t perfect. Animal activists aren’t perfect. We just have to do our best to minimize the suffering of animals and the destruction of our planet. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you slip up or if you feel like you’re not doing enough. The important thing is that you stick to your convictions and do what you can, at any level.
#6 Take action. Channel all your anger, sadness, bitterness and frustrations and turn them into a force for good. Assess your strengths and determine how you can use your talents to be a voice for the animals. If you’re great at public speaking or have an engaging personality, you could volunteer to speak at schools or pass out pamphlets and educate the community about animal causes. If you’re a good writer, you could help animal organizations out by writing grants, petitions, or letters to state and federal representatives. Everyone has talents that can be used to promote animal welfare.
#7 Find other interests. Just as it’s important to balance sad animal stories with happy ones, it’s also important to find balance by taking up other hobbies and exploring other interests. This way you’re not completely consumed by the animal cause, and can find fulfillment in other aspects of your life.
#8 Exercise. Let out your emotions by burning off calories, whether it’s running, boxing, playing tennis or swimming. Just make time to kick up your cardio and vent frustrations through perspiration. Plus, it’s important to stay physically healthy so you can continue fighting for the animals.