I think most people agree that in general, we all like animals and we all want to help them. Working at animal shelters, I got to witness firsthand how amazing and kind some people can be when it comes to helping a cat or dog in need. However, I also witnessed that many people don’t know how to help or don’t think to in the first place. Unfortunately, humans have become so conditioned to believe that we matter more than our furry counterparts that we’re used to seeing animals lying in the road that were run over, we’re used to hearing about all the healthy companion animals that are “euthanized” in shelters every year, we’re used to hunting and killing animals for entertainment, and we’re used to eating animals without giving it a second thought. Kinda crazy when you stop and think about it, right? I mean, we’ve been controlling animals minds and bodies for thousands of years without ever really wondering what the true consequence of that is. We’re finally beginning to see some of those severe consequences.
What’s really going on?
Studies show that this current generation of children in America are the first that will shorter lives than their parents. That seems to sort of go against evolution… And it’s all due to the dairy, meat, gluten, and processed foods they are consuming. And it’s spreading across the world. Asia always had the lowest rates of cancer and heart disease because it’s a traditionally vegetarian area. But as soon as they began adopting Western eating styles, their rates of cancer and heart disease steadily rose.
Another scary fact is that we are running out of water, as well as farm-able land. Why? Because of factory farming. Eating cheap meat and dairy has become so popular that this world must sustain the billions of animals that produce this meat and dairy. That means water. Animals consume a lot of water. They also consume a lot of food. These animals are fed corn and grain (not what they’re supposed to be eating in the first place) and corn and grain need a place to grow. That means cutting down the rainforests and other natural habitats to grow these crops. Statistics shows that if we got rid of factory farming and instead used those resources to grow fruits and vegetables and healthy grains, we could easily feed all the starving people in the world. In fact, we would never have starving people. Oh, and animals on factory farms emit more methane gases than all the cars in the world combined.
That’s all the bad news. The good news is, we can do things in our daily lives to make a difference. And if everybody does little things that make a difference, then we can begin to reverse all the damage that’s been done and literally save the world. If we could save the world and also spare animals from the intense suffering they experience at our hands, why wouldn’t we?
Check out this awesome article about the link between meat production and world hunger. It’s full of great statistics and facts, and some very moving photography.
Here are a few small ways to make a big difference in the lives of animals:
- Adopt don’t shop – that means when you are ready to bring a companion animal into your home, go to the shelters, go to rescue groups, go to petfinder.com, go anywhere but to a breeder or a pet store. You should never buy an animal, it’s not an inanimate object or product, it’s a sentient being with a brain and a heart. The shelters are jammed packed with beautiful, loving, amazing animals ready to find their forever home. Many of them have been dumped by former owners, left for dead, abused, neglected, and worse. All they need is a little love and someone that’s willing to give them a chance. Rescue animals are the most resilient creatures on this Earth. Pet stores get their dogs from puppy mills where they are severely mistreated and the majority of them get to the pet store with irreversible illnesses. Many, if not most, die soon after. If you buy a puppy (or any kind of animal) from a pet store, you are supporting the people that abuse them. Breeders coerce their animals to mate and get pregnant continuously, without say and without a break, so they can make ridiculous amounts of money off the babies. That’s exploitation at it’s finest. No matter how nice a breeder may seem the facts are still plain and simple. They’re exploiting their animals for money. That’s like slavery or human trafficking. It’s exhausting for the momma and once she’s no longer able to produce babies, she’s often dumped or gotten rid of. So please, adopt don’t shop! When everyone begins adopting, we will no longer have to kill 9 million healthy shelter animals every year. There’s a way to make a big difference!
- Donate supplies – if you aren’t looking to adopt a companion animal, your local shelter is definitely in need of basic supplies. Most shelters are under funded and always need help. Have some old towels you want to get rid of? Donate them to a shelter. Your dog doesn’t like the new food you bought him and you have a big bag of it? Donate it. Upgrading your printer or copier or computer? Donate the old one. Have a birthday coming up but don’t need a bunch of presents? Ask people to donate to the local shelter in lieu of a gift. Most shelters have a wish list somewhere on their website, or you can call or email them directly to find out what they need. Rescue groups usually need help too. Oftentimes they are run by a small group of dedicated volunteers who already have full time jobs and busy lives. Take a few minutes to find the local animal groups near you and find out if they are in need. It’s one of the easiest ways to help out.
- Make educated food choices – if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian, consider giving it a try or at least learning more about it. It’s not a diet, it’s just a different way of eating. In fact, it’s the way our bodies have always been biologically programmed to eat. We’ve somehow become obsessed with eating meat and dairy and been convinced that those are the things our bodies need. For me personally, the more I learned about how we get meat and dairy (how it affects animals) and the health risks associated with eating them, that’s all the motivation I need to stay vegan. Eating plant based foods makes me feel really clean – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I feel good that I’m taking care of myself and body, and I’m not causing harm to any other creatures with my food lifestyle. What could be better than that? If you’re considering going vegan, do some research first so you know what foods are available to you in lieu of meat and dairy. The first time I went vegan, I went cold turkey (no pun intended!). But it only lasted about 7 months. The second time, I did it in baby steps. I’m still vegan and I know I always will be. I had a friend that went cold turkey vegan (gah!) and was very pleased with it. It worked for him. Do what’s best for you. Or start introducing new plant based foods into your diet first and then slowly edge out meats and dairy. If you don’t want to go vegan or vegetarian, at least know where your meat and dairy comes from and make a conscious effort to buy those products from the farmers themselves or from small companies that buy directly from the farmers. Like I described in the intro, the way we eat makes a big impact on this world in many ways.
- Skip the zoo and visit a sanctuary – The zoo and the circus are two groups that are notorious for abusing their animals. Unfortunately, most people are tricked into thinking that zoos are a humane and happy place for animals. Not so. Quite the opposite. Again, the word exploitation is an accurate description. Both the circus and zoo are here to make money. They are businesses, so their interests don’t lie with the animals. Also, do you think those animals really want hordes of people standing around staring at them, making loud noises? And they’re literally behind bars. It’s prison. Not fun. And again, not something you want to give your money to. However, if you really want to see animals in a nature like environment, I suggest finding an animal sanctuary that gives tours. Some sanctuaries are closed to the public period because their best interest is the well being of the animals that reside there. However, some sanctuaries allow visitors and some have periodic open houses where they allow visitors a couple times a year. Or you can look into becoming a volunteer at a sanctuary. Look on their website for information. The wonderful thing about visiting a sanctuary is knowing that these animals are safe and sound. Most of them have been rescued from bad situations and now they are lucky enough to live the rest of their lives in peace. It’s so heartwarming and inspiring to see these beautiful creatures roaming in open fields far away from the loud human chaos.
- Buy cruelty free – here’s a link to last week’s post about why and how to look for cruelty free beauty products.
- Educate – knowledge is power. Knowing about these animal issues allows people to make informed, compassionate choices in their daily lives. The best thing you can do is educate your friends, your family, your children, and your community. If you’re friend is thinking about getting a dog, encourage them to visit a shelter and explain to them why that’s a better choice than buying from a breeder. If your mom keeps complaining about all the beef recalls that have been popping up, suggest she try going beef free all together and how good it will be for her health and for the environment.
Unfortunately, in this desensitized day and age compassion is something that doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Sometimes compassion needs to be taught. The best way to teach compassion? Be a good role model.
These are just some of my suggestions. I’ll post more in the coming weeks, but please feel free to post more suggestions in the comments section. I want to hear your great ideas!
Title photo credit:
Downed cow photo credit: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/dairy/