There has been a fascinating and lively conversation over at The Pitchfork which started from the issue of Starbucks having a pumpkin spice latte drink that appears to be dairy free but is in fact not vegan. As often happens, many other discussions grew out of the initial one. A reader and frequent commenter at The Pitchfork suggested that, while the current situation in Syria might be much more serious than the issue of a non-vegan drink at an expensive coffee shop, we might actually have more input on the Starbucks issue than the awful situation in Syria.

This got me to thinking about local vs. global activism on matters of animal cruelty and exploitation. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I have been rather preoccupied (obsessed, perhaps?) with the horrible and vile killings and kidnappings of bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales in Taiji, Japan. In a recent post I discussed it and listed a few things that one could do in terms of activism. But even with a list of things that we could do (boycott marine parks such as Seaworld that benefit from the capture and killing of these creatures, donating to organizations such as Sea Shepherd which have people on the ground, etc.), most of us are not there and are not in a position to do any direct action or feel like we are actually saving lives. It is easy to become depressed, disillusioned, and discouraged when faced with the reality that there is much cruelty and exploitation going on of sentient nonhuman animals and that we are not able to stop it. This often leads to much heartache and a feeling of helplessness. One of the unfortunate outcomes of having these feelings is that we may just give up and drop out of activism altogether. While that is a completely predictable and understandable result, there may be something we can do to avoid giving up on our ideals.

Somewhere in between giving up in despair and burning ourselves out by trying to do all things for all creatures all the time, is, I believe, a place where we can put our ideals and ethics into everyday action. Here are a few thoughts:

Our food choices – taking in nutrients is one of the few truly necessary activities we must engage in to survive. Most of us eat every day, multiples times per day, and it is in this simple and frequent act where we have immense power to effect change. Every time we buy groceries, patronize a restaurant, sit down to a meal, get together with friends, grab a snack, or seek out a morning coffee, we have the ability to vote with our dollars and to make the choice to consume only the products we feel are ethically appropriate. For many of us it will be vegan choices-for others it may be only locally grown food, organic food grown by small farms, or avoiding certain restaurants. In addition, every time we sit down to a meal with friends or family, there may be an opportunity to educate others about the issues of animal cruelty and environmental devastation which result from a meat-based diet. No other single choice we make in our daily lives has as much power as this one to put our ethics into action.

Non-food purchases and donations – our clothing, shampoo, shoes, choices of entertainment (as in avoiding the aforementioned Seaworld for example), and where we donate our money if we are able to do so also can have a tremendous effect, especially when combined with the efforts of others. Many non-food purchases are done quite frequently, and if we continue to purchase only cruelty free health and beauty items, this action, along with others doing the same thing, can have a large cumulative effect. Seaworld, for example, is experiencing a downturn in ticket sales, perhaps as a result of the movie Blackfish and the light being shed on the inhumane treatment of orcas in captivity.

Our time – we have options here, too. We can choose to donate our time to local organizations that help animals – whether a farmed animal sanctuary, wildlife, or companion animals, we can do direct activism and rescue work. We can also table or do fundraising for these organizations. Some of us might choose to adopt an animal from a local shelter. Some of us might become wildlife rehabilitators. Some of us might table for a local vegan group to educate people about their food options.

While participating in online petitions, tweeting, writing, blogging, or writing to people in positions of power to try and stop animal abuse and exploitation are all worthwhile activities, we can combine these globally oriented actions with local activism which may help us to feel more capable of enacting change. Hopefully, this can help us be encouraged to continue the fight for all animals.


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