Statistically speaking, the animals have no one. The number of people in the world who regularly advocate for animals of any kind is extremely small. And when you’re talking about animals exploited for food, those numbers dwindle even further.
Sure, there are moments of public outrage like when Cecil the lion was shot or Marius the giraffe was killed. But when it comes to the largest number of victims, the billions of animals exploited and slaughtered for food every year – literally millions killed every single day – that massive outcry is nowhere to be found.
A few months ago, I sent out a tweet that resonated with some people. It said that I will never apologize for speaking up for animals. I meant it. In fact, if there’s one thing I’m proud of in my life, it’s my decision to be vegan. Every day I make the conscious choice to boycott industries that abuse and kill innocent animals for nothing more than profit. Why would I apologize for that? To make others feel comfortable? No. Not when there are thousands of animals being slaughtered every minute. No fucking way.
Now, over the years I’ve heard a lot from fellow “activists” who’ve told me that in order to be an effective advocate I need to be likable and be careful not to offend people. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t, but I’ll tell you one thing: People know a phony. Can I speak truth to power without being an asshole? Yes, of course. Can I approach the subject of animal liberation in a way that’s thoughtful and intelligent? You bet. And when I need to pick up a protest sign and join a march, I can do that too.
Sure, we can focus-group, survey, and strategize every word we say and every message and tactic we employ until we’re blue in the face, but nothing will ever replace the clarity and honesty of speaking from the heart. Not everyone will agree, but you can be damned sure you they’ll hear you and respect you for your conviction. Some may even be inspired to change.
I had a long talk this morning with an old friend who’s an incredible animal activist. I was lamenting some of the disappointing developments of late in my little corner of our admittedly small movement. She said something to me that truly resonated, “Never ask for less than what the animals deserve.”
And what do the animals deserve? Liberation. The right to live their own lives on their own terms. Animals aren’t here for us. They weren’t made for us to exploit and abuse and to slaughter. I may never see the day when all animals are free, but I will also never stop speaking out for them. And I will never allow others to shut me up. And neither should you.
That means speaking the truth, plainly and unequivocally.
Because when you speak truth to power about how animals are mistreated in this world, you are not speaking “your” truth, you are speaking the truth. I started this piece by saying that the animals have no one, but that’s not exactly true.
They have me. And they have you.
Main image: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals