New Year's Resolutions For Animal Advocates
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New Year's Resolutions For Animal Advocates
By Judith Marie Gansen
1. Let's Stop Putting People and Animals Into Categories
We often teach children by example or more directly, that we put everyone and everything into "categories." This is how prejudice is born. We put people of one color or religion into categories sometimes based on one bad experience--we judge them. If someone belongs to a different political party than we do we think they must be all wrong. I have a bad habit of doing this with religions sometimes. Aren't we all guilty of doing this to some extent? Yet isn't Steve Hindi, the head of SHARK which does wonderful work to help animals, a former hunter? If he evolved, than so can others. The new year is a time for self-reflection and self-examination. Let's not give up on those who we consider "unreachable."
2. Learn To Get Along With Other Animal People
Many of us who love animals and want a better world for them have different paths that we believe will get us there. Older people usually have more experience and have learned from their mistakes. Younger people tend to be more idealistic and want change quicker. Both groups can learn from each other. Don't shut out someone else's thinking because it doesn't coincide with yours. Instead, let's learn from our differences and spend more time teaching and less time condemning.
3. Cooperate With Other Animal Groups
It saddens me to hear of a humane society throwing out things like old kennel cabs (yes this happened) because they have a few dents in them. Before you throw ANYTHING out either at home, your work or with your animal organization, ask yourself if some other group could use it. This is good for our environment and the idea of REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE and will save someone else money so they can do more to help both people and animals. We waste more in America than just about any other country in the world. Unwanted Christmas gifts can be sold at garage sales to raise funds. When cleaning your house remember that domestic violence organizations need things like emergency clothes for battered families and toys for traumatized kids. Our soldiers, regardless of how you feel about the war, have many needs and appreciate any help we can give them. Post items you no longer need on different lists--that old printer that still works could be used by someone. Many papers print "wish lists." Old building materials could be used for Habitat for Humanity who build houses for people who have none.
4. Improve The Lives of Animals by Also Caring About People
We gain more respect and credibility in our communities when we also let people know we help on other causes too. I know many animal people who do help with people causes too but just never tell anyone. When you let people know that we care about many issues we will not be seen as "one dimensional" and only caring about animals.
5. When Helping Animals, Park Your Ego at the Door
How many times have you heard an animal advocate say: "I will never work with them again--they were so rude to me." I have heard people gripe about staff at humane societies, animal rights organizations, etc. etc. Ask yourself--did the person who was rude to you just get a pet returned for the 2nd time from being adopted out? Have they cut staff so bad this person is doing 10 jobs now? Is the animal rescue person trying to hold together their marriage and still rescue pets? While I don't condone rudeness, cooperation between animal groups makes us stronger and more powerful. Division makes us weaker. Learn to take it on the cheek for the animals (perhaps this is why Jesus said to "turn the other cheek")!
6. Be Careful About Passing On Information
The internet is a great tool but can cause many problems too. Sometimes we do have to act quickly (for example, when we hear about someone trying to get their hands on a lot of dogs at once). I have been guilty of this on a few occasions myself. But fact-checking a story or information before you hit "send" will save countless hours of work if it turns out is is not true.
7. PROTECT YOURSELF LEGALLY
Know the law. Ask help from an animal attorney when working on a campaign. Don't let yourself be sued for slander or libel--know the difference. Be cautious in your written and spoken words.
8. Learn About Politics
Everything that happens to you in your life is affected by politics--from health care to our environment, the water we drink, jobs, public safety, etc. Animal welfare as I have said before IS about politics. Observe and learn. Understand politics can be a dirty business and know that it is what can go on behind closed doors that matters most, not always what is said at public meetings.
9. Sort Out Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Decide where you fit best in animal advocacy. If you have a PhD and do pet rescue that is not a bad thing but it is my opinion that the more intelligence and credentials you have, the more you belong in working in animal politics or writing or education about animals. While rescue is very much needed and a worthy cause, you will likely save many more animals in the long run. People who I know who do animal rescue are always drowning in pets to care for because there is always one more to save. Eventually they have no time for anything else. We need rescues of course--I am just saying figure out where you can accomplish the most for animals.
10. Contact Your Legislators and Let Them Know You Vote!
Get on alert lists and stay on them. You can always delete the alert if you don't have time but I would rather be on a lot of them than a few since different organizations sometimes follow different issues. You can always call the legislative offices at night and most often get their voice mail. It's quick and easy.
11. Remember The Best Method To Help Animals is to Change Hearts and Minds
You can get a dog to be "obedient" by using a choke collar or get a child to "mind" by spanking. You will reach some people by browbeating them into not eating meat. Intelligent people prefer to use positive reinforcement methods instead. Clicker training for dogs, teaching children right from wrong with patience and understanding and educating citizens and legislators through example and with reason and respect will ALWAYS outlast negative methods and will have a more permanent impact.
12. Remember Patience and Being Gracious and Having a Sense of Humor Help Our Cause
Laws don't change over night. Neither do families. My family freaked when I first announced I wasn't eating meat anymore. But over the holidays a relative mentioned that he read that more tofu turkeys were sold this past year than ever before. My family is beginning to understand and even ask questions about this lifestyle I chose which at first scared them. I get teased at holidays and I tease right back but add a tidbit of knowledge every time I do. We gain little by putting down meat eaters even if they put us down first. So if someone says "Eating meat is a tradition"--you could counter with "Our founding fathers were a part of our tradition but they were also ahead of their times in many ways. Maybe that is why Benjamin Franklin was a vegetarian!" In two sentences you countered what the other person said in a respectful manner and educated the person that the brilliant Benjamin Franklin did not eat meat.
(Submitted by Animals In Print)
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