If every person who liked animals helped animals, we’d have a pretty decent world for them. However, the unfortunate reality is that there are a lot of people who care but do little to nothing to change the terrible conditions and abuse facing animals all over the world, every single day. It’s easy to sit behind a computer and like a picture, or comment on a sad story about an animal being abandoned or put down after a brutally short life. It’s harder to speak up and give time and money, but it works much better. Change isn’t built on intentions.
The simple fact is you either care or you don’t. If you care about animals you care enough to ensure that the products you buy are not derived from animal suffering, to speak up when you see a family member, friend, or stranger mistreating an animal, to make real changes. You can’t really care about animals when you wear fur and leather, because the process kills and harms animals for commodities we do not need to survive nor thrive. You can’t really care about animals when you purchase turkeys for Thanksgiving, who are slaughtered, drugged, and mistreated en masse to meet the increased demands of the holiday. When you do these things you’re making a choice.
Now, I’m not saying you have to care about animals. If you don’t, you don’t. It’s unfortunate because we should have empathy—at least a little bit—for other living creatures. It’s possible, very possible in fact, to care about animals and people. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, speaking up for the voiceless and oppressed creatures in this world—humans and animals—tie together quite nicely.
Like humans, animals across the globe face very different struggles. It can be overwhelming deciding where you can help and where to start. It can feel admittedly hopeless. But you have to try. Showing kindness to even one animal who hasn’t known it before is worth it. Below are a few ways you help can animals right now.
Basically, don’t eat anything that makes animals suffer. Check out these lists for more information on how easy it is to find vegan goods in places you probably already shop. Also, going vegan means more than just what you eat. It means you don’t purchase beauty products that test on animals, nor do you wear things like fur and leather. Again, all you’re really doing is matching your morals to your actions and not living in a state of perpetual zombie-ness where you ignore your actions so you don’t have to feel bad that you’re not being a considerate creature on this Earth. Stop eating eggs. Stop wearing the skin of animals. Stop eating meat. Stop eating dairy (check out The Dairy Industry In 60 Seconds). Eat with your morals (it feels great).
Donate to animal rights groups
Money helps the world go round. Money gives animal rights organizations the ability to do the work that needs to be done. Giving money requires very little time and can be done from the comfort of your home.
Unless every dollar you earn is used on necessities, there are areas you can pull from in order to donate. Skip one Starbucks coffee. Don’t eat out on the weekend. Buy the non-name brand cereal. That $5 or $10 or more can then be put towards saving lives. Believe me, you’ll feel much less guilty using your money to help.
Sign up for the newsletter(s) of local and national animal rights group(s)
Being informed is half the battle when it comes to activism. Without the proper know-how, you’re just running around with a lot of energy and passion without any clear direction. The energy, ultimately, is wasted in this way.
It takes literally no time to sign up for a newsletter and believe me these newsletters are worth the email space. If you’re overwhelmed already, unsubscribe from a few shopping newsletters or websites you don’t read anymore. Start with that last place you shopped where you only gave your email because you were put on the spot.
Foster an animal
Maybe you’re not ready, or allowed, to have a forever pet. Or maybe you have commitment issues. Whatever it is, I understand and it’s all good, but not all animals need a forever home. Some need a home for a few days, or weeks. This is where you come in.
Providing a temporary home for animals helps get them out of the shelter and into an environment where they can be loved and relaxed. People worry about getting attached… and to be honest, it’ll probably happen. But ask yourself: is the pain of letting go worth showing love to an animal that may not have known it before? Yes, yes it is.
Build shelters for outside animals
Cold, rainy, and boiling hot weather are awful times for outside animals. Dogs face a particular struggle during times of difficult weather. For too many people it’s still socially acceptable to keep dogs outside for “protection”. What this fails to recognize is that despite the fact that dogs have fur, they are NOT immune to the cold or rain, and because they have fur the summer weather is torturous. For animals, the weather isn’t just inconvenient it’s deadly.
While you can’t force people to keep their pets inside (though you can shame them relentlessly) you can provide them with resources to help their outside animal. PETA has a program specifically designed to support these animals, as seen in the video above. You can donate to them to support this program, or search for various others nationwide, or you can make your own. All you need is a solid shelter (think walls, a roof, and a door, nothing fancy) and hay (b/c it doesn’t absorb water/moisture). It also doesn’t hurt to throw in a toy for companionship for these often-lonely animals. And when it’s hot outside PLEASE MAKE SURE THESE ANIMALS HAVE WATER.
Volunteer (because duh!)
This is probably the most obvious of all, yet so few people make time for it. Animal rights organizations rarely have an abundance of staff and volunteers to help provide animals with all the love, care, and attention they need. While it can be intimidating and stressful to commit to any recurring activity, it’s important to challenge yourself to get out. Once you’re there, and helping animals, you WILL feel better. It’s the getting there part that really matters.
Some organizations don’t even ask for recurring schedules. They take volunteers whenever they can. Most will ask you to do a short orientation, just so you know what you’re doing, but that’s about it. Basically, you have no excuse except, “I’m too lazy,” or “I really don’t care,” neither of which are really a good look.
Speak up on social media
Online activism is often mocked by older generations, who don’t understand how powerful a tool the Internet is in encouraging change. In a society where people spend countless hours on social media every single day, the updates and statuses you share can have some real power.
Provide people the links to important developments and stories that show the poor state of animals in this country. Enlighten people on horrific, animal-slaughtering industries like the meat, fur, and leather ones. Post petitions that people can sign to make their voices heard. There are many places to get the above information, stories, and petitions from like PETA and The Dodo, to name only two.
Create a neuter-positive community
This is a big one! Less animals neutered means more animals, period. And more animals means more people needed to help and shelter… which is bad since there are already too many cats and dogs on the streets. The problem here begins with this idea that someone else will take care of it.
We pass off our responsibility on someone else because “we’re busy” or “too stressed out”. Then that person passes it on to someone else, and basically no one ends up taking responsibility and you end up with cat and dog populations increasing over and over again.
The solution to this problem is simple. Buy yourself a cage to trap animals in—a large one would probably be best to suit both cats and dogs—set up some food and voila, you’ve probably trapped the animal. Once you have them, take them to a local shelter and low-cost clinic to get their junk taken care of, and once that’s done you can either leave them at a shelter or release them back where you found them (OR you could keep them!). Check out this solid example of a trap-neuter-return community program.
In an ideal world, you’d keep the animal, but even if you can’t at least you’re helping to reduce the number of stray and roaming animals.