This past Thursday, I began the discussion “How Do You Go On?” Today, I will continue to talk to some of my colleagues and friends at Farm Sanctuary about how they continue fighting the good fight (with gusto, I might add), when animal oppression is so ever-present. I’ll then continue to discuss ways that you can avoid activist burnout.
When I closed yesterday, we were talking about Susie Coston, Farm Sanctuary’s national shelter director, and Leanne Cronquist, Farm Sanctuary’s California shelter director. So, in the face of a world where animal cruelty is the norm, how do they go on?
Susie explained it beautifully: “For those of us who work in the shelter, we go on because there are animals physically here – individuals who require hands-on help right now – who need us to be there for them. Many come in near death, and we can watch them bloom, come back to life and thrive. We can see terrified animals begin to trust us – and some turn out to be the friendliest and most loving of all. So in the face of all the ugliness – the live markets we take them out of, the rescue sites we go to, the factory farms we see – we are truly lucky to be able to give these amazing animals a second chance. We get to watch them graze, run, kick up their heels and enjoy their lives. We see them happy. We see people meet them and decide to never eat meat again. Just think of the numbers of individual lives that one person changing their diet will save. There’s so much in the world that’s sad, but we have to go on because each animal here is an individual; so even when one passes, there are hundreds more – right here, right now – who rely on us to keep going. And although it can break our hearts to see these animals coming from such dire situations – just imagine what it must be like to live it! We are the lucky ones; we must go on.”
Leanne Cronquist sees things similarly. She said, “It’s also important to think about what a great life the animals have at Farm Sanctuary. If they live to be 10 to 15 years old, which wouldn’t happen in other places, they have such a great life and get to experience what they should as their species – roaming pastures, sunbathing, swimming in a pond. Even for those animals who pass away shortly after they arrive here, in their last days they still get to see the sun, walk outside, have loving hands touch them. So despite the sadness and death, there is so much goodness and hope. Plus, we know that there are still so many other lives to save, people to change, work to be done, etc. So we go on.”
Savoring the happiness that comes along is another must-do for the lifelong activist. Whether that comes in the form of watching a rescued pig run across a field gleefully, noticing the thumb’s up that a passerby gives you while you’re taking part in a “No Foie Gras” demo, or sitting down to enjoy a yummy, compassionate meal with your family, taking in those little joyful moments as they arise can keep you going.
As for me, I turn my angst into activism. Actually, that’s why I’m an activist. The alternative is complacency, and that’s just plain silly. In the instance that someone makes a snide remark to me about how delicious their dead cow tastes, or if I find myself standing in front of a hot dog stand weeping, or if I see a sad animal story on the news, nothing drives me more than sitting down and spending five minutes writing a letter to the editor. Or raising money for the Walk for Farm Animals. Or thanking my local coffee shop for having vegan brownies. (That’s right, folks, activism comes in all different shapes and sizes, including the gracious variety.) If that doesn’t hit the spot, I cuddle with my dog. Or I plan a trip to Farm Sanctuary, which always reinvigorates me. Or I watch a rerun of The Nanny and forget about my woes entirely. Every single day, I spend at least one hour getting my mind off things, which means I do something entirely unrelated to animal rights. (That’s what Netflix is for.)
This is just some of the advice that we have to offer for those who feel angry or hopeless when confronted with constant reminders of animal oppression. But we also want to heed your advice. So, won’t you speak your mind in the comment-box below and tell us how you go on? Likewise, if you have questions or concerns, feel free to use the comment section below for that, too.
So, tell me… How do you go on?
For more information about avoiding activist burnout, I recommend The Lifelong Activist by Hillary Rettig, The Animal Activist’s Handbook by Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich, and Aftershock by pattrice jones.