Is an animal advocate someone who walks the halls of a shelter? Someone who sits on the telephone all day, talking to shelters, volunteers, arranging pulls and transports? Is an animal advocate only someone like Wayne Pacelle of The Humane Society of the US, who has dedicated his
life to animal advocacy by alerting, pushing for and testifying before
Congress to ensure animal legislation is passed and enforced?
Just what is an animal advocate and can anyone who loves animals be one?
In her book, Animal Advocacy and Englishwomen, 1780-1900, Moira Ferguson explains, “that animal-advocacy writing during this period provided a means for women to register their moral outrage over national problems extending far beyond those of animal abuse, effectively allowing them to achieve a public voice as citizens” and calling attention to the cruelty of small creatures. The ASPCA’s, Debora Bresch, reports in the paper, Animal Advocacy, that “Animal Advocacy has ranged from an “animal welfarist” or “reformist” approach emphasizing gradual improvements in animal care and a reduction of animal suffering, to an “animal rights” approach promoting wholesale change including the protection of
animals from being used or regarded as property by human beings.” Using these definitions, Animal Advocacy while having as long and varied history, is a struggle that continues to this day. (http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper352.html)
If you have compassion for animals and want to help put an end to cruelty and mistreatment that occurs on a daily basis–you don’t have to sit back. There are various ways to work toward this and make your voice heard. As Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, “It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong.”
With the advent of the Internet and other technology, can ordinary people advocate for animals and contribute to ensuring humane treatment of animals? YES, there are many ways to support
the efforts of giving voice to animals that involve varying levels of time commitment and support.
Anyone can advocate for dogs in many simple ways. The discussion posted on this website, “100 ways to help Rescue” is a great place to start. From donating various much needed items to your local shelter to volunteering to walk and spend some time with a homeless animal, not only will give you a sense of empowerment
but allow him to feel some human compassion for a time.
Want to do more? Spend some time, posting homeless animals from your local shelter and spreading their story to give them more of a chance to find a home. What does this entail? Go to the website of your local shelter and read the stories of animals posted there. Once you look into their eyes, it is hard to look away and do nothing. So, do something. Send emails to your friends and family, letting them know about the beautiful animals that can be found locally. If you are a Facebook, Twitter, My Space or other social online community user, you can post, tweet and share
these homeless animals with many others. Doing this just once or
twice a month will give voice to local homeless animals. We call
this “crossposting” and it has found rescues and homes for millions of animals around the world in the past few years.
If you are looking to adopt a dog or a cat, commit to adopting one. Every breed and mix can be found in rescues and shelters. You just have to do your homework and actively search and you will find him or her. Giving a shelter dog a chance at life by adopting one is a very important part of animal advocacy, maybe the most important thing you can do. We have a list of Breed Specific Rescue Groups in our Resources Database.
Start with rescue groups in your search by filling out their application and by becoming an approved adopter, they will call you with ideal dogs that match your wants and needs. Good rescue groups will work with you to find your new friend and be there for you after you adopt.
Some other, simple things you can do are:
Sign up for newsletters and mailings from animal welfare groups, including our own, so that you can keep up on what is going on in the animal welfare world. Some groups to check out are:
* Humane Society of the United States
* Last Chance for Animals
* Best Friends Animal Society
* In Defense of Animals
* World Society for the Protection of Animals
Keep in mind that some of these groups might not be in line with your beliefs about how animals should live and be treated, so make sure you read their goals and beliefs. Sign up for their newsletters (if they are free) and then after a few, if you like what they explain, share or endorse, then donate to the organization, if you wish
Another simple way you can advocate for animals is to go to Care2 (http://care2.org) Petition Site and sign petitions related to animal issues you care about. Once the petition goals are met, they are presented to companies, government leaders or individuals who
can influence the change you would like to see.
You can call or email your political leaders including city, council members, county supervisors, state senators and other’s to show your support of or opposition to animal-related legislation or public policy. All your representatives’ addresses and emails can be found online and lets them know the views of voters in their districts. Make sure you find out his or her commitment to change when you go to vote each year.
You can also attend hearings at your city hall or state capital when animal welfare bills are introduced or trials for those arrested for animal abuse violations. The more people who attend send a loud message for changes to laws.
If you want to be even more vocal and involved, there are demonstrations, boycotts and rallys, organized by various groups in protest or support of many animal welfare issues. For instance, join a rally or organize your own at a pet store that sells puppies, or boycott and spread the word about fast food chains that utilize inhumane factory farming or a meat company that inhumanely transports their animals for slaughter.
Procter & Gamble is a major corporation that continues to support unnecessary testing on animals. Boycott their products and tell everyone you know to do the same. Check product labels for the name “Procter & Gamble”-there are many-including Ivory Soap and even Iams and Eukanuba dog foods (which should also be boycotted because of what is in them).
Huntingdon Life Sciences, with offices in England, Japan and New Jersey, conducts testing on 75,000 animals per year, including rats, rabbits, pigs, dogs and primates-with documented evidence of repeated cruelty. For more information on HLS, including a list of their shareholders and companies that do business with them, as well as how to receive action alerts, visit the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty website, shac.net.
Educate people who may be unknowingly supporting animal abuse. For instance: the owners of a restaurant that serves veal or foie gras, people you know who buy products that are tested on animals and those who patronize rodeos, greyhound races or the Ringling Bros. Circus. There are many ways to take a stand for animals and against their abuse. (http://www.ehow.com/how_2052658_be-animal-activist.html#ixzz0uydltqUS)
Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism by Mark Hawthorne, is a book I liked a lot. In it, are many discussions and ideas on the most effective tactics for speaking out for animals.
When people ask you why you’re not helping people, explain to them that you can do both. Helping animals doesn’t prevent you from helping people and just because people need help doesn’t mean animals don’t, too. Remind them that animals can’t help themselves. Then ask them what they are doing to help people.
According to the 19th century philosopher and animal rights activist, Jeremy Bentham, “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer? The answer is a resounding “yes.”
Make sure anything you do is within the law and that your own safety is not at stake. But basically, all of us can be an Animal Advocate with the time, money and love we have to offer. If we have children, it is up to us to ensure we raise empathetic and loving people and much of what can be done, can and should involve children. If we teach them young, perhaps much change can occur within their lifetimes.
I am quite proud to call myself an Animal Advocate and I have been one for many years. I am a teacher and a mother and I use teachable moments and example, to ensure my students and my children grow up to be kind toward animals. I quietly share my experiences and odyssey with dog food and home cooking and educate on just what goes into Big Commercial Dog Food
products. I have 5 adopted rescue dogs and I have my own rescue. I started a national rescue and run my website. On the most basic level, I have not eaten veal in over 40 years. The amount of
time I can devote varies on the time of the year, what is going on in my family and other factors but always my life will involve animal advocacy in one form or another. I hope others find a way to advocate for animals in some way, in their own lives and in their own fashion, also. We are their voice.
Originally written July 28, 2010