Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them
to Jo using this easy form.
She would be happy to address your individual concerns
as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy,
practical applications, and living compassionately.
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I am a new vegan. Through research I
have been learning more and more about the animal cruelty
in our world. I am so anxious to help! Please let me
know what I can do to get involved. I want to bring
awareness to people and help understanding spread throughout
our world. It is so important to me that I do something
to stop these horrific actions!
loving heart is one that senses the suffering of others
and feels compelled to alleviate their pain. This is
called "compassion," and it is what motivates people
to the vegan way of life. Once a person's eyes are open
to the anguish of others, it is difficult to close them
again. As a result, vegans often experience a heightened
sensitivity to the cruelties that pervade the world.
The atrocities perpetrated by humans
against animals are not only interminable, they exceed
all horrors that humans commit against each other both
in kind and quantity. Adding to the extensiveness of
these "crimes against nature" is the vegan's awareness
that the animals have no recourse -- no means of escape
and no way to fight back. Powerless to combat the evils
of humanity, animals -- all animals -- are vulnerable
and at the mercy of our species. For many vegans, this
defenselessness makes the plight of animals a priority
over all other forms of suffering. This doesn't imply
that vegans cannot and do not work to alleviate human
travails; they do. Rather, it means that vegans tend
to reach out to those individuals with the greatest
need and the least resources.
Your exuberance to help animals is admirable
and not uncommon among new vegans. Most of all, it is
greatly needed. The number of animal activists is few,
but the aggregate of animals in distress is incalculable.
It is for this very reason that you must carefully assess
your interests, abilities, energy level, and willingness
to commit to the long haul before taking action. So
often eagerness turns to apathy when activists discover
that progress and personal reward are disproportionate
to the efforts expended. In other words, burnout and
depression can easily set in when it becomes apparent
that attitudes and cultural conventions are slow to
change. It is also startling to realize that the abominations
so evident to vegans are virtually invisible to the
public at large.
To ward off discouraging feelings, be
selective and pace yourself. Choose only one group or
project to work for initially and plan to devote a predetermined
amount of time to it each week. There are countless
animal issues to pick from, so try to get involved with
one that sparks your passion. Some of your options include
hunting, animals used for entertainment (such as rodeos,
circuses, sea animal shows, racing, and zoos), vivisection,
companion animal abuse and overpopulation, wildlife
preservation and rehabilitation, and the various "food
animal" industries, which account for more animal brutality
and death than all other causes combined.
You can function independently, start
up or join a local group, or work for a national organization.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each, so it
really comes down a matter of personal style. Grassroots
efforts can be very powerful and offer the benefit of
knowing the area and audience you are trying to reach.
In addition, working locally allows you to directly
survey the impact of your actions. You can campaign,
write letters, coordinate educational programs, invite
national experts to speak, raise funds, hand out literature,
volunteer at an animal shelter or spay/neuter clinic,
host a vegan potluck, teach vegan cooking classes, and
so forth. Ascertaining what to do will depend on your
interests, time, and talents.
Because vegans are so keenly attuned
to the suffering in the world, it is tempting to try
to do everything all at once to stop it. Unfortunately,
this is not only ineffective, it can be enervating.
It is maddening and disheartening to be aware of flagrant
atrocities while simultaneously acknowledging our limitations
to relieve them. Nevertheless, this is necessary in
order to maintain sanity in the face of such depravity.
It is also essential to preserve balance by nourishing
your spirit in positive, joyful ways. Exposing oneself
constantly to misery can be stifling, so occasionally
take a breather away from it to refresh your perspective,
clear your mind, and simply have fun. Don't allow yourself
to get so caught up in "saving the world" that you squelch
your individuality, joie de vivre, and humor. Laughter
imparts strength to nearly all situations, especially
those that seem bleak and hopeless. Too frequently,
loving people take on the burdens of the world and lose
themselves in the process.
The animals need you. Give what you
can, as much as you can, as often as you can. But don't
forget to enjoy your own life while you are working
to save the lives of others. Whenever your arms reach
out to embrace the animals, make sure you wrap them
around yourself, too.
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