As presented at the 2009 National Animal Rights Conference
By Bruce Zeman
A) Personal Acts
- One of the primary goals of an activist is to foster and facilitate change in the way society views, perceives and treats animals. We must remember, we are their voice and are the only ones who can speak up for them. I believe we have a moral and ethical obligation to do so. One person can, and has, made a difference. The passage of “Nathan’s Law” in Wanaque is an example. After working to get support from local animal welfare groups, and veterinarians, I approached the leaders of Wanaque about enacting “guardian” language in our animal ordinances. Because of the cooperation I received from them, the ordinance passed. This is not to say it was simple. It took five years, a great deal of emotion, and an impassioned legal defense of “Nathan’s Law,” but we persevered, and never gave up.
- You can help animals by changing the way we refer to them. Always refer to them as “he or she” in conversation, never as “it.” By referring to animals as “he or she,” we convey to others these creatures are sentient beings with unique needs, feelings and wants of their own – and not disposable objects or commodities. They have an inherent value in and of themselves, and not because we, as humans, have given it to them.
- An activist can also help make a difference by speaking up for animals when the opportunity arises. When going through the newspaper, if you see a story or a situation involving animals, write a letter to the editor and be heard. Depending on the situation, you may need to do some research (accuracy is critical) – but don’t miss an opportunity to inform others about the situation. Whenever I see a story in the paper about the “so-called” sports of hunting or fishing, I write a letter pointing out neither of these activities can be considered a sport, since in sports, both sides have an equal opportunity to win. When I can go into the woods with a Smith and Wesson and shoot back on behalf of the defenseless animals, then we can consider it a sport.
- Groups which make money from the objectification, abuse, exploitation,
and outright murder of animals, are often quite powerful. Groups such the
NRA, kennel clubs, pro-hunting groups, not to mention pharmaceutical and
cosmetic companies, all have lobbyists who work on elected officials to make
sure their economic interests are not compromised by people.. How do we
combat this? By being as vocal, and passionate, in defense of the animals’
welfare as the other side is. (Example of Defense of “Nathan’s Law”). You
would be amazed at the effect a letter or phone call to your elected
representative can be. Remember, they need us to get elected, so they have a
vested interest to listening to us.
B) Shirts / Stickers
- Your clothing speaks volumes about you, and you should think about the message you want to convey before doing it. Any message worn on your body (or place anywhere else) should have the effect of making people think – you don’t want them to close their mind to you because you are “a radical.”
- People will sometimes have questions or comments about the animal rights messages we have. When they do, think before you respond. It is easy to answer a question or comment when someone agrees with the message. It is much harder to have a substantive discussion (or hold your tongue) when they don’t. The key here is, whatever your message, educate yourself and remember to never stop learning. Knowledge is power!
- Gather a wide assortment of animal rights stickers and place them on your mail. Unless the people you owe money to decide to stop sending bills, you can always use them here. (Example of Nathan stickers) I also place them on my hockey equipment.
- If teaching Humane Education or Animal Rights seminars, use posters /
stickers / flyers to reinforce the message. This works especially well with
children, who will take the materials home and expose more people to the
C) Workplace Outreach
- People are often considered an organization’s most valuable resource. You can send an unmistakable message about your concern for animals by refusing to work for companies that test on animals or use animal products. (Personal example.)
- Help establish your company as “Animal Friendly.” As Director of Purchasing for the companies I’ve worked for, I will not purchase from companies that test / experiment on animals. When companies ask me why they lost the business, I let them know.
- Check to see if your employer has donor-matching program for animal welfare charities / organizations.
- If your company has a cafeteria, ask the manager about providing vegetarian options.
- If you bring a vegan lunch, bring a little extra to share with curious co-workers. I’ve found most people will try anything if they see you enjoying it.
- Discuss with your employer about a “Bring Your Animal Companion to Work Day.” Nathan routinely joins me in the office, and it makes for a much better environment. Our records indicate sales are higher on the days he is there, and it makes a wonderful starting point for the discussion of animal issues with co-workers.