The two previous segments of this multi-post blog have touched upon adoption and donation as possible methods to help animals in need. These are both fantastic ways to aid animals directly within the community, and are extremely fulfilling options as we are able to see the results of our efforts almost immediately. In the final posts of this series, we will begin to investigate how we can make a more widespread impact on the struggle to help our furry friends. We are going to delve a little deeper into some of the issues these animals in need are facing, and turn our attention toward animal rights and how we can help through animal advocacy.
To begin this discussion, it is important to understand exactly what an animal advocate is. In it’s simplest terms, an animal advocate is someone who supports the animal rights (or animal liberation) movement. The primary focus of the animal rights movement is that animals are currently viewed by many, especially in the eyes of the law, as property rather than living, breathing creatures. Animal advocates believe that animal lives should be afforded the same considerations as human lives – mainly the right to live without suffering.
I want to preface the posts to follow with a few warnings…
First, animal advocacy can be an extremely controversial topic. There are varying degrees of commitment: some people focus on the fight for basic animal welfare, while others may be a little more extreme and aim to eliminate all animal products from society in any way, shape or form. Period. The intention of this multi-post blog is not to direct anyone in what is the “correct” way to advocate on animals’ behalf, but rather to present the idea of advocacy as a whole and allow readers to make their own decisions. If we are to join the fight for animal rights, it needs to be in a way that we are comfortable doing so. Second, animal advocacy is not always pretty or glamourous. In fact, in researching for this post, I came across articles, pictures and documentaries that brought tears to my eyes (both of admiration and of horror), and some things even made me feel sick to my stomach and I had to take a break. There are a lot of emotions involved in advocacy, and while there are many highs, there are also many lows. Be prepared. Finally, my objective in writing this series is to raise awareness of something that is very near and dear to my heart. Everything discussed is meant to be informative and presented in a way that does not force any particular views on any of our readers. That being said, let’s get back to the focus of this blog…
The key to advocacy of any kind is education. In order to advocate for animals, there needs to be a clear understanding of the issues they are currently facing. As this is a many tiered topic, there will not be a chance to discuss all animal rights issues today. That is why self-education is so important in this struggle. As was mentioned previously in regards to choosing a charitable organization if one is interested in donation, so too should one research to find a branch of animal rights that speaks to them on a personal level. There are many different areas of animal rights that can be explored. A few examples are issues surrounding the companion animals that we accept into our homes, local or international wildlife and/or endangered species, farm animals raised for human consumption, or animals used for scientific research. The list is extensive, and within each of these categories are many sub-categories. For instance, in Part I we discussed adopting companion animals and touched on the business of puppy mills – which is just one of many concerns surrounding companion animals.
Animals in industry is another hot topic these days. In the media, there has been a recent focus on the treatment of elephants in zoos. Some stories have been successful (though not without their struggles), such as the relocation of three African elephants from the Toronto Zoo to the world-renowned Performing Animal Welfare Society’s (PAWS) ARK 2000 Sanctuary in California. Sadly, others have not been as successful, such as the story of Limba, Canada’s oldest elephant. Limba was euthanized at age 50 in December of 2013. Many critics claimed that her captivity was extremely cruel and demanded her retirement at a sanctuary, such as ARK 2000, after spending her years as a performance animal. Of course, there are always many sides to a story. Zoo officials maintained that she was happy, well taken care of and deeply loved. They insist that she was euthanized not due to her age or lack of ability to perform, but for humane reasons – there were large amounts of blood in her stool caused by tumors developing in her spleen and throughout her abdominal cavity. When I first came across Limba’s story, it was through an open letter of apology written to her and posted on C4P Animal Rescue. Intrigued, I began to look into the story further and came across archives of reports from well-known sources, such as the Toronto Star. No where in the letter of apology that I had read did the author discuss any of the health concerns that some of the articles I found indicated. However, in the same turn, the majority of the news articles and interviews that I read (which were primarily centered around the zoo officials) made no mention of the cruelty and humiliation that the author of the letter asserted were Limba’s reality.
Limba’s story is one with many points of view. That is why it is such a powerful example of the controversy that can arise when discussing issues of animal rights. It is sometimes hard to know what to believe, but it is essential to do your homework and look at multiple resources, not just one. Form your own opinions. Ask questions. Always keep in mind that well-known Latin aphorism that knowledge is power. In order to achieve what you are hoping for, make sure you are well-educated on a topic before you begin to act.
Of course, choosing a cause can be difficult, even overwhelming, as there are so many facets to animal rights. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to approach this, as long as you are acting from the heart. Be sure that you understand every angle of what you are advocating for, if not for a better insight personally, than at least for a clearer understanding of the opposition that you may be facing.
On behalf of the staff at Snelgrove Veterinary Services,
Thank you for reading,