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Contributing to Our Movement

We all want to help secure the basic rights to life, bodily integrity, and freedom of movement for animals, but don’t always know how. High school graduates wonder whether to pursue college, advanced degree, and a professional career. Others are torn between seeking employment, doing things on their own, or just donating. We invite you to join us in examining these options.

To School Or Not to School

Few, if any of the pioneers who launched and shaped our movement had or credited an advanced degree in the successful performance of their spectacular achievements.

On the other hand, our movement and the animals have benefited greatly from the handful of nutritionists who illuminated their peers and the general public on the merits of an animal-free diet. Or the food scientists who developed healthful replacements for animal meat and dairy products. Or the materials engineers who came up with cruelty-free replacements for leather, fur, and wool. Or the physicians who convinced medical schools to drop cutting up homeless dogs from their curricula. Or the attorneys who argued in court that animals are sentient beings deserving basic rights.

The most important assets for any potential contributor are creativity, drive, and ability to get things done and they don’t teach any of that in school. (See Getting Things Done). On the other hand, the college experience may well open up new vistas and relationships.

The Joys of Armchair Activism

For the first couple of decades, our movement had little funding, and animal rights organizations had to rely on a few underpaid staffers and lots of local volunteers. In fact, some national organizations had local chapters and all relied heavily on leafleting, information tables, protests, and other grassroots activities by local volunteers.

All that changed drastically at the turn of this century with the intervention of more large donors and the explosive impact of the internet. Several new organizations were formed and hundreds of local volunteers became paid staffers with regular employment benefits. Those who had other employment, or other reasons for maintaining their independence became “armchair” activists.

The internet has opened vast additional opportunities for armchair activists:

  • Posting information on various social media platforms
  • Creating and sharing videos on social media
  • Writing letters to newspaper editors
  • Participating in email campaigns to food processors

The Ups and Downs of Corporate Activism

Still, organizations play a crucial role in our movement. Many advocacy campaigns and other complex projects require the type of skills and sophistication that only an organization can offer. Here are some examples:

  • Creating a full array of promotional materials, including website, leaflets, and videos
  • Massive recruitment and support of would be vegans
  • Undercover investigations of factory farms and resulting media coverage
  • Negotiations with food processors and coordination of letter writing campaigns
  • Promotion of statewide ballot initiatives

At the same time, organizations present a number of liabilities that are not getting any less onerous with the passage of time.

Formation of organizations and winning donor support require uncommon leadership skills. Typically, these leaders end up running their own organizations. But running an organization requires management skills that are a near opposite of leaderships skills. Managers tend to be more people-minded, more tolerant, and more budget-conscious than leaders. Many of our organizations could benefit from improved management. (See On Leading and Managing).

For the typical employee, being assigned to a corporate project does not evoke the same level of zeal and commitment as creation and ownership of a project. Employment requires the submission of one’s personal ideology to the ideology of the organization and limits personal freedom of expression. Recent corporate creep into deep-seated social issues and the associated high level of political correctness have led to some employee discomfort and occasional dismissal. Salary level and corporate standing have replaced the number of animals saved as an employee’s measure of self-worth.

Some of these corporate problems and their impact on employment have been thoroughly documented in a recent Faunalytics study.

How Much to Charity?

At the beginning of the 16th century, Martin Luther was provoked to launch the Protestant Reformation by the selling of indulgences from purgatory time by the Roman Catholic Church. Today, we call it “charity,” – another convenient way of buying our way out of actually doing time for our favorite organization.

Such framing suggests immediately the proper amount of our annual donation. If we feel that the animal rights movement or a specific organization deserves one hour of our time per week, then, at $15/hour, our donation in lieu of serving that hour should be $15/week, or $750/year. At one afternoon per week, the annual donation rises to $3,000, and so forth. The Bible encourages outright tithing, or donating 10 percent of one’s income to charity.

Yet, few members of animal rights organizations donate more than $25 per year, representing only a small fraction of an organization’s annual income. Most survive on donations from large donors and bequests.

The Bottom Line

  • Contributing to the animal rights movement is a lifetime proposition
  • Nearly every career choice offers an opportunity to help animals
  • Happy people are most likely to become effective contributors
  • You should pick the career most likely to make you happy and fulfilled
  • You can accomplish a whole lot for animals without leaving your personal computer
  • Get on the mailing list of your favorite organization, so you can plug into their campaigns
  • If you like an organization enough to devote an hour a month, you should be willing to donate an equivalent amount in terms of your own compensation

Indeed, we have lots of ways to help save animal lives and protect their rights.

The views expressed here are of the author and do not necessarily
represent the views of the Farm Animal Rights Movement

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17 thoughts on “Latest Post”

  1. Incredible what you experienced over your lifetime. A true survivor and someone who has dedicated a lifetime to saving lives. I’m going to subscribe to your blog.

  2. Thank you so much for this. Very wise words that must be spread and shared. Many people will not want to hear these words because they don’t want to think of themselves as bad people but the animals depend on us to share.

    1. I don’t think anyone but a survivor could openly own and say this, without being totally shamed by so many, because it sounds disrespectful, but I totally agree,I’ve used those rotten comparisons in my mind,and you sir have the ultimate right to shout that out. My respect for you sir, immense. Thank you for your compassion for the defenceless.

  3. Dr Hershaft is one of the very few who can refer to the Holocaust when referring to animal rights. To the best of my knowledge PETA previously drew comparison and it caused controversy.


      I am very happy to meet you, even if it’s on the computer. I have thought for many years that in order for there to be peace in the world, we have to stop killing and eating animals. We have to start with the animals and work our way along our paths to people. It’s horrible what we do to animals not even giving the smallest thought to the suffering we are causing them. I am not without guilt in this area as I ate animal flesh for the first forty years of my life until I met my husband to be who was a vegetarian. Now we are both vegetarians, but we do eat frozen yogurt and ice cream causing suffering to cows. I am now pledging to become a vegan and hope I will have the willpower to stay a vegan. Since I am now 83 years old, I will have to begin again doing some cooking as vegan food, I’ve found, is difficult to find. So I said to myself, this is too hard. So wish me well that I can stick to a vegan diet.

  4. Carla Sofia Salas

    THANK YOU só much for speak for animals and for show to the world the meaning of what they eat, and that a steak in your dish is more than a piece.of meat and potatoes! It’s a dead body part of a living being who had a cruelty life and a brutally dead!
    We are what we eat!

  5. Hi.
    What you quoted as similar between Holocaust and animal slaughter, stems from both been brought to us by same people. Modern “farming ” and slaughter comes from Germany and was brought to the States by Germans who went to live there. Four years after Neuremburg, all the scientists sentenced to death were freed and brought to America. They became CEOs in all the mayor companies, including pharmaceutical and agricultural industries.

    However, how can you compare what is done to animals, though wrong, to the Holocaust? By doing so you disgrace your parents’ memory, which is up to you, but also that of all the others who were murdered. It cheapens the Holocaust and is especially insulting because you mention your parents died there. I really don’t think it helps the cause either.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Nicole.
      The Holocaust and killing animals for food are two manifestations of the common capacity of otherwise normal people for committing unspeakable acts. The victims are not comparable, because we relate to them differently, but the oppressive mindsets, sanctioned by prevailing social norms, are amazingly similar.

      Please don’t presume how I should deal with my parents’ memory.

  6. Thank you Dr Hershaft for this very moving informative piece, I have read it twice so far. I agree that animals must think of us as Nazis but I think not all animals because some animals are in sanctuaries but unfortunately very few compared to the many billions of land animals murdered unnecessarily for food every year and trillions of sea life. I became a vegetarian in 1979 merging into veganism by 1999. In 1981 I went to the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on a 2 week trip to Israel with my husband & his parents, some of what I saw at that museum is still in my mind now. Some years later we visited the Holocaust Jewish Museum in Sydney & later still I became a member of the museum. Thank you again Dr Hershaft.

  7. Thank you so much, Dr. Hershaft, for your words and thoughts and for sharing them with us. You show us how similar the victims were/are tortured and killed, and you can do this, because you know what you are talking about. Though the victims are different, the methods of torment are more equal than different. We have to stop the wars against other beings, any war against any being. It is not humanlike and we can do it better. The first step is very easy: GO VEGAN (and talk about it)! Best wishes from Germany and stay healthy.

  8. Thank you, Alex, for your heartfelt expression of what I have known for at least 30 years. Your beautiful testimonial underscores why I became a vegan over 26 years ago while in college (27 as of New Year’s Day 2021). As a Reform Jew who experienced ample anti-Semitism throughout my formative years, I can’t stand to see anyone subject to bigotry of any kind. I have no tolerance for moral hypocrisy that segregates non-humans from our moral sphere simply based on their different species, as if we should only respect the dignity of humans, and all other beings are legitimately exploitable for any purpose. I believe Tikkun Olam, the Jewish principle that advocates “healing the world” by definition must include veganism as a moral imperative. The notion of intersectionality also must include non-human beings in our moral community, lest we undermine the values we claim to uphold. As an agnostic Jew, I prioritize moral consistency over superstition. I don’t celebrate Jewish holidays or attend synagogue for Shabbat as I did when I was younger, though I had a Bar-Mitzvah and Confirmation, but I cannot accept any self-described Jew who consumes non-humans, has no qualms about vivisection and other myriad abominations against non-humans so ubiquitous in our daily lives as being consistent with Jewish values. Mohandas Gandhi advised us to “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, “No one is free when others are oppressed.” I am personally offended by anyone, especially Jews, who proclaim that comparing non-human animal exploitation to the Nazi Holocaust “cheapens the memory” of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Third Reich. This is patently hypocritical and willfully ignorant, particularly when most of us know firsthand what bigotry feels like. This is exactly why I rebel against all true bigotry, regardless of who the subjects of such discrimination happen to be.

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