This has recently been an issue at the forefront of my mind. It’s easy to get fired up about a cause, and less easy to actually get involved. I can empathize – it’s much easier for me to send money every month than it is to spend several hours actually getting my hands dirty. But it’s important to do your homework before you write that check. All too often, those behind these organizations prey upon unsuspecting, well-intentioned citizens who are just trying to contribute to what they believe is a worth-while effort.
Though this abuse occurs across a wide spectrum of aid and non-profit organizations, the clearest examples to me, as an American, are the animal liberation extremists. It’s easy for most people to empathize with animals – many of us keep pets and see animals as similar to children: helpless, voiceless, and often exploited. But it is important to recognize the subtle difference between ‘animal welfare’ organizations and ‘animal liberation’ organizations.
Simply put, animal welfare is the human concern for the physical and psychological well-being of animals which may be used to somehow enrich the lives of people. This might include introducing more humane care practices when dealing with food animals, creating protocols such as the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee that regulates the use of laboratory animals, and establishing authority in situations of abuse and hoarding in communities.
Animal liberation gets a little trickier. This movement consists of groups and individuals who feel as though animals should never be used for human means – to include clothing, food, labor, research, and entertainment. You might be inclined to jump on board with this idea at first, but hear me out:
- Without the use of animals, humans would not have survived and evolved as we have today. Our earliest tools consisted of bones, meat helped us to become the intelligent creatures we are today, hides from animals allowed us to protect our skin against the elements. Not convinced we still need animals in the modern world? Pollinating bees account for a whopping 1/3 of our agricultural produce. Think you’re avoiding animal products by being vegan? Unless you’re only eating foods that don’t require pollination to produce food – think again.
- Working animals have a long history with people. Cats and dogs domesticated themselves, because each species (human + feline and human + canine) benefited the other. Agriculture relied for centuries on animals to aid in cultivation. Currently, we use dogs and rats to detect bombs and termites. Extreme health benefits have come from animal research – and I don’t see too many people refusing health care when they need it because it was developed using animal experimentation first.
Does this mean I advocate cruelty and torture practices? Absolutely not. I feel as though many of our current methods of caring for the animals we use aren’t as good as they could, and hopefully someday will, be. I believe that we should be striving for stricter ethical codes and work tirelessly to minimize pain, suffering, and discomfort in these animals. But I do feel as though we need them, and we shouldn’t give them up.
Not everyone agrees with me. These groups are the “radicals,” the “extremists,” and yes, they are terrorists. I don’t feel the need to identify these organizations, because I’m sure many of you could name a few: they typically can be found carrying signs with graphic images, demanding that organizations working with animals discontinue their work, share often exaggerated, outlandish, and unsubstantiated stories of “torture,” and sometimes even release or steal animals from facilities and threatening or endangering the lives of researchers.
These people are skilled at pulling at the heartstrings of their donors. They have awful stories, terrifying pictures (many of which are not even associated with what they’re protesting), and declare loudly that animal use and abuse needs to end. Here are some questions you can use to identify them, before you throw your hard earned money away on terrorism:
- Are they offering an alternative/solution? More often than not, these organizations have no viable answer. They have produced no research and have no solutions.
- Are they misrepresenting something? Do a little research. Check into things on your own. Don’t assume that a photo they’re using is current, associated with what they are protesting, or real. Don’t assume that they fully understand the practices which are occurring. If you have any shred of doubt or skepticism, hold off on sending that check. Just because they’re a large organization doesn’t make them credible either.
- Are they using shock and scare tactics to spread their message? This is what defines terrorism. Spreading personal information (home addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) of the accused animal abuser and creating graphic displays to show the public are destructive and can create trauma.
- Do they provide opportunities for rebuttal/explanations/criticism? I’ve recently encountered organizations which are careful to censor any opinions (and especially facts) contradicting their point. A good organization wants to be proven wrong if at all possible, and certainly can stand up to the heat if they have their ducks in a row.
This doesn’t mean that action shouldn’t be taken when needed and appropriate. But good organizations offer realistic, viable alternatives, solutions, and help; they do not engage in slander, do not resort to shock and scare tactics and their claims are backed up by reliable evidence of abuse. Don’t support blindly – be aware and informed about the organizations that get your name and funds. Skepticism is underrated.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Are you a current supporter of an organization I’ve described, or have you been in the past? Has this opened your eyes to something that you previously didn’t recognize? Do you disagree with any of my points? Share your opinion!