How much do you really love animals?
Copy: Serena Faber Nelson
Photography: Serena Faber Nelson
Lately I haven’t been feeling good enough.
I love animals. Not just dogs. All animals really. No matter what they look like, how smart they are – I just feel that animals have just as much right to be here as we do. That includes just as much right to safety and happiness as they live their lives.
So every day when I find out a cosmetic I’ve been using has been secretly tested on animals in China, or that the free range eggs I’ve been eating aren’t actually free range after all, I beat myself up. For if I really loved animals wouldn’t I be perfect?
Yet, I’ve since discovered a secret.
Loving animals and living a cruelty free life is a daily work in progress.
Not too long ago I found myself at a city rally against live export. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a rally kind of girl. My voice rarely raises above a murmur (unless there has been copious amounts of champagne involved) and my biceps muscles are far too weak to hold a sign up for hours on end. But I felt so strongly about this issue, that along I went.
Standing in the crowd for a few short minutes I felt strong and purposeful. Maybe we really could make a difference. But minutes later that world started to fall apart. It started with the words “Unless you’re a vegan, you don’t really care about animals.” I knew as soon as those words fell across the crowd, more than half the audience had been lost. As a pescatarian, with my omnivorous husband to my right and my carnivorous Soda at home, this cause had just told us – and all of the surrounding, willing supporters – that our efforts weren’t good enough. Half of the crowd, who thought they were animal lovers, had just been told they didn’t measure up.
I’m the first to say that people who lead vegan lifestyles truly care about animals. Their diligence, dedication and passion for animal welfare inspires me daily. But standing there on that cold, blustery winter’s day, listening to these particular words, I knew that one sentence was doing more damage than good.
The reality is none of us are perfect. We all have different shades of grey when we approach animal welfare issues. In some countries, animals we call pets are considered a food source. To some, ‘fur is murder’ while leather shoes are just a fact of life. The question is, where do YOU draw the line?
I’ve been toying with this question internally for some months now. I still eat fish, still feed Soda meat, don’t even know where I can get more than a few pairs of shoes that don’t include leather, discovered one of my favourite cruelty free companies had resumed testing on animals… Seriously, it’s enough to have me start thinking “maybe I don’t care about animals.” Maybe I’m not good enough.
But today I say enough of that kind of thinking. You don’t have to be perfect to love animals. Yes, admire those who do make an effort to help animals – those who work tirelessly at pet rescues, adhere to strict began diets, or campaign to have laws changed for animals. But don’t count yourself short just because you make smaller contributions or make mistakes.
Trying to set yourself up to completely overhaul your life in any capacity needs to be done slowly and surely. There are no quick fixes. Adopting cruelty free living is the same. Don’t go too hard too soon. Start with buying cosmetics not tested on animals. Reduce the amount of animal products you eat on a weekly basis. Spend an extra half hour with your dog daily.
As you progress, continue to ask yourself on a daily basis how you can help animals. I find this is much easier by thinking of the love I have for Soda. Would I want Soda in a factory farm, or being tested on for a new shampoo? Not so much. So day in and day out I try to do my best to make choices that reflect my values. But as I said it’s a work in progress.
After all, I’m a work in progress. But I’m doing my best every day.
I have to wonder – do you ever feel the same way? That you’re not good enough? That you need to be doing more for animals? How do you lead a cruelty free life? Leave your thoughts and tips below!