|Enewsletter • July 8, 2003|
The third, and still not the worst, animal enewsletter.
Feature: Avoiding Burnout
Matt Ball, along with Anne and Ellen Green, will be speaking in Portland, OR, on Thursday, August 14. For more information, see this Portland Earthsave page. Please come by and say hi!
-Matt Ball, Vegan Outreach
On Thursday, June 26, Joe Espinosa and I went to central West Virginia, where I was the featured speaker for the day at the regional 4-H camp. I spoke, distributed literature, and showed a video to the crowd of over 300 high school students during the first hour, after which the camp broke into small groups for discussion. Joe and I visited with different groups, answering questions and receiving comments, for the next hour.
Following the smaller discussions, we reconvened for a full-group Q & A, during which time, despite some hostile questioning from a few farmers, I received two standing ovations. The conversation continued well past the scheduled ending time and into the lunch hour. Even after the moderator cut off discussion, Joe and I were surrounded by people who wanted to talk longer. All the feedback we received from both participants and organizers was overwhelmingly positive!
James Ellis Givens Grantham, an organizer of the event, offered this feedback:
As more people become aware of and concerned about the cruelty of modern animal agriculture, more shams like this will be put in place. It is important that we remain aware and ready to provide facts to people who mention Animal Care Certified and the like.
A Note About Spam
Some people – especially those using Hotmail and Yahoo accounts – report that Vegan Spam is automatically shunted to their bulk mail folder.
Non-vegan spam is a very time-consuming problem, and the cures can often cause problems (emails sent but never received). At the VO office, we use Spamnet, but know it isn't perfect (although it is better than any other option we've tried!). If you've tried to contact VO and have not received a reply, your email may have been lost. (Phone messages are sometimes cut off as well!) We apologize for the inconvenience.
More Thoughts on AR2003 / the State of the Movement
I left AR03-East smiling – exhausted, but smiling. Other than the joy of catching up with old friends and learning more about the fantastic work going on around the world on behalf of animals, I was most excited about meeting new activists. The enthusiasm for vegan advocacy is most certainly infectious.
The highlight of the conference for me came during the banquet with Bizarro's
Dan Piraro sharing his wit and humor with us. Seeing just a few of his comics
was wonderful, and knowing that readers across the country are being exposed
to animal issues in such a clever way is heartening.
AR2003 was definitely smaller than the conferences in the past. However, I feel that the smaller crowd possibly offered a more intimate atmosphere. There were lots of familiar faces, but I was able to spend more time with newer activists. The smaller crowd seemed to afford comfort for new activists to speak to more people.
These green activists seemed very interested in finding out what they could do to help animals. Either because of the current political climate or just the realization that every bit(e) makes a difference, many seemed comfortable in finding out what they could do with their limited time and resources. That is why vegan/vegetarian outreach was so critical as a discussion – it's something that can be done with just a few minutes a week and makes a big difference.
More at this conference than any other, I was reminded about the first national
animal rights conference I attended straight out of high school. These events
are inspiring for those presenting and attending; and for new people, a reminder
that they are not alone. Regardless of the faults and differences within our
movement, our common goal is stronger than any differences. We may disagree
on tactics, but we all agree that the animals need us. People were able to leave
with a sense of closeness and purpose, and, I hope, with the tools to get started!
-Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association
While talking to the eager and enthusiastic new activists at AR2003, I was struck by their evident belief that they could play significant roles in saving the animals. It seems that they believe that all activists need to do is expose America’s “animal-loving” public to concealed institutional animal abuse and the people would demand its cessation. However, activists often find considerable resistance to their message, and many become discouraged and drop out of “the movement” within a few years.
Strategically, it’s important to explore the reasons that so many otherwise kind, compassionate, thoughtful people, once informed about institutional cruelties to animals, choose to do nothing. But, I want to talk about how we might deal emotionally with this frustrating phenomenon, because it threatens to dispirit us and often make us feel like abandoning activism.
I suggest, first, that we commit ourselves to activism, even if the chance of substantially reducing animal abuse in our lifetimes seems remote. We really can’t control other people’s behavior. While our own actions significantly impact animal welfare (e.g., the average person consumes thousands of farmed animals in a lifetime), we can’t dictate what the rest of the world decides. Therefore, as we try to save as many animals as possible, we should also attend to our own need to save ourselves.
Saving ourselves is no easy task. Life invariably delivers physical and emotional hardships. Many people struggle to make ends meet, and everyone struggles to find direction and meaning in life. Our culture teaches that money, power, sex, and other narcissistic goals lead to contentment, but the momentary pleasures they provide do not address the deeper human need for direction and meaning. More and more people find that momentary pleasures don’t adequately compensate for life’s difficulties. Consequently, anxiety and depression are rampant in our society, even though most Americans have enormous personal liberty and wealth by historical standards. Many people attribute their unhappiness to unsatisfying relationships, stress at work, or money concerns, but I think aimlessness gets closer to the source.
In order to gain a sense of direction in life, we first need a sense of connection to the world around us – the ground of our being and the source of our sustenance. As Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death, 1974) noted, we are fragile, vulnerable, ultimately mortal creatures who, at a deep psychological level, are terrified of our mortality. Only by pointing our lives towards something greater than ourselves (what Becker calls an “immortality project”) can we begin to find peace of mind.
We alienate ourselves when we participate in cruelty, because we may no longer regard our victims with love and compassion. For the same reason people don’t eat the family dog, they can’t love chickens and pigs who may end up on their dinner plates. Indeed, when Genesis describes God giving Noah permission to eat animals, it comes at a huge cost: “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth…” (9:2). Whether one takes the story literally or allegorically, it speaks to a profound truth – we invariably feel alienated from those we eat. And, to the degree that we are alienated, we feel more alone in a vast, mysterious, and (because every human life ends) terrifying Universe.
I think the most important step towards saving ourselves from the despair that accompanies an alienated, directionless existence is to live with integrity. This means, for a start, avoiding contributing to suffering as much as we reasonably can. In addition, we may gain a sense of direction and purpose in life by trying to help the victims of abuse. So, I see activism as a crucial component of human fulfillment.
Human salvation, analogous to “enlightenment” in Buddhist thought, is an ongoing process rather than a constant state. When we seek to save ourselves in a broad spiritual, psychological, and emotional sense, we invariably makes the world a better place to live, perhaps even a much better place.