The Animal Activists’ Handbook (by Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich) holds many useful pockets of truth and pragma amidst some arguably more obvious pieces of advice. I particularly enjoyed reading it because I personally feel as if when I gain more and more earnest conviction for what I believe in, the more my passion can radiate outwards to inspire others. This delightfully quick but very powerful read strengthened my conviction for helping animals in two crucial ways – it reiterated the extent of the suffering which animals are enduring this very moment, but it focused on how this should not be as overwhelming as we initially perceive it to be, because changing hearts and minds is more doable than we might assume.
Perhaps the part of the Handbook which resonated with me the most was the statement that “our lives should be an advertisement for a purpose driven life.” I very much identify with the notion that we should live as if others would follow our example (check out the blogpost I wrote along the lines of this type of philosophy: here) and the Handbook mentions how when trying to get others to do the same with regard to animal welfare, its as basic as helping people to understand that the compassionate choices we vegans and vegetarians hold dear to us are simple extensions of the values we all already hold. It demystifies, de-radicalizes, and eliminates the foreignness associated with eradicating meat from our diet. Since a cruelty-free lifestyle does not require one to “forsake modern life or overthrow a government,” this method of helping others to see that society is designed to conceal the realities of meat, divorcing it from the actual animal, helps people to disassociate veg eating from connotations of extremism, militance, and unfeasibility.
There would be felony charges if what happens to farm animals happened to dogs and cats. Facts like this, compounded with the realization that the horrible videos we watch are just “discrete representations of continuous suffering” often take us down a dangerous path; I, for one, have often been too abrasive and confrontational with the people closest to me regarding vegetarianism/veganism. I can rationalize by saying my hostility was simply a means to a more ideal end, and I hold the people closest to me to higher standards (which is true and I don’t regret it), but nonetheless, the Animal Activist Handbook highlights the importance of adopting an attitude of empathy instead of succumbing to a combative mindset. This could not be more crucial in today’s society where stubbornness and enmity are all too pervasive and people revel in keeping up their defenses; kindness, understanding, and love are truly the only ways to win. The Handbook details an analysis of Malcom Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” theory, looking into people who turned mere fads into deeply permeating trends, and, not surprisingly, those who held friendly, optimistic demeanors were consistently responsible for said feat. It is easier said than done, but if your motivation is derived from your awe-inspiring potential to make this world a more loving place, it is your obligation to sublimate your anger and disgust – it is your obligation to remain truly positive and hopeful.
Gunita Singh is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying political science. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.