Closing: The Four Most Important Things

Fragment from Effective Advocacy of Animal Rights
by Bruce Friedrich

OK, I’m almost done, but I want to leave you with the four things that I consider to be most crucial.

  1. In taking your activism seriously, don’t just work harder, work smarter! Please consider how you can be most effective. Please make time for both your activism and for becoming better at it, as though these were the most important things in your life. Because for animals whose lives are worse than we can ever imagine, our activism truly is the difference between unmitigated horror and liberation!

  2. Everything that you do matters. Each person you talk to, each person who sees your button, and each person who sees your bumper sticker is a mini-victory. Please do the big and the little things.

  3. Use PETA. If you have anything that you want to talk with PETA about, anything that you want to brainstorm with us about—if you want to teach a cooking class and need help, want help with getting video onto cable-access TV, want literature, prior to doing an interview want to role-play—anything at all—we are here to help. We are absolutely at the disposal of activists across the country. Please call us at 757-622-PETA if we can help you.

  4. Realize that we are truly winning. I know that it’s easy to become discouraged when we’re watching videos or reading about a specific instance of sadistic cruelty to animals. But honestly, we are winning, and we’re winning at a rate that is lightning fast by comparison to any previous social justice movement.

When I’m reviewing the obscene studies discussed in industry trade journals or watching hours of new footage for inclusion in “Meet Your Meat,” it’s easy to become despondent and lose sight of just how far we’ve come. But really, we’ve come a long, long way in a very short time.

Recall that slavery flourished on this continent until the mid-1860s. One hundred years ago, there wasn’t a single law against child abuse in this country. Not one. Your child was your property, the same as your cow. Many readers probably have living relatives who were alive when there was a spirited debate in Congress about whether the Union would dissolve if those irrational creatures—women—were given a say in governance—that was in 1920! And the list goes on.

For an even broader bit of historical perspective, let’s recall that Socrates, the father of all philosophical thought, was teaching more than 2,500 years ago—25 times as long ago as the U.S. outlawed child abuse. Shakespeare, who remains our most performed playwright, was writing 500 years ago—more than three times as long ago as we outlawed slavery.

I mention this not as a history lesson, but rather to point out how quickly things change. Not long ago—in just the blink of an eye, historically speaking—society believed, with complete certainty, that slavery was natural, that women and children were property, and so many other things that are the opposite of what we believe today. As hard as it is to imagine, they were 100 percent certain that these things—now moral anathema—were absolutely true.

Of course, the challenge is not to say, “Hey, look what those moral throwbacks were doing to each other 100 years ago.” The challenge is to say, “What are we doing today that future societies will look back on with horror and shame?

What we are doing to other animals today is the moral equivalent of what we did to other human beings just that short time ago. I agree with Leonardo da Vinci that in the future, society will look back on what we are doing to other animals today with the same incredulity and revulsion that we presently reserve for what people did to other humans in the past.

Think for just a moment about how far we’ve come: In May 2003, Gallup conducted a poll and found that two-thirds of Americans think we should have strong laws to protect farmed animals from abuse, and 96 percent thought animals should have some protection. The industries that abuse animals will not be able to hold out against public opinion forever.

Indeed, things are changing: Until 1990, there was one ballot initiative to protect animals that had passed at state level—just one! Since 1990, we’ve passed more than 20.

Animal activism in the developed world has never been stronger or more effective. We have more and more people going into the streets showing what happens on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, taking seriously the need to be not just active, but as effective and focused as possible. The Internet is making our advocacy efforts even more effective, allowing PETA to give out our vegetarian starter kit to more than 200,000 different individuals who requested them in one year via online orders, for example. I could go on and on.

In the U.S., given the numbers of suffering animals, the extent to which they are suffering, and the frivolous and gluttonous reasons why they are intentionally made to suffer so horribly, I am convinced that animal liberation is the moral imperative of our time. I firmly believe that our focus must be on ending the suffering and the death as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The 18th century saw the beginnings of our democratic system. The 19th century abolished slavery in the developed world. The 20th century abolished child labor, criminalized child abuse, and gave women the vote and blacks wider rights. If we all do as much as we can, the 21st century WILL be the one to usher in animal liberation.

I am deeply honored to be a part of this movement with you, and I want to thank you for reading this.