I have a vision of people working peacefully alongside each other to better the plight of all animals. They mutually respect each other’s similarities in opinion, as well as their differences. Their respect of the differences can move mountains. It may sound uncannily like another very famous, iconic quote, but at the risk of being audacious; I am going to continue on this track where animal conflicts are concerned.
My thought, in paralleling animal activists with their civil rights counterparts, is to give context to my vision. I see people who place animal welfare as a primary mission in their hearts and minds, finding common ground on which to advocate for the animals that will benefit from their actions. It is a difficult balancing act. We want the things we want for the animals done right now and crusade for our idea of the ideal. Yet similarly committed people crusade for their idea of the ideal. Where our crusades diverge we get stuck. Who suffers from this stuckness not the parallel?? The animals.
It is scientifically documented; people’s lives are enhanced by the presence of animals in them. Sharing your life with a pet, either your own or one who visits to lift your spirits, supports our health. In contrast, people whose lives are enhanced by the lack of an animal, due to fear or allergies, need respect as well. People who desire a breed dog over a shelter animal should have the right to make that choice guilt free, as should someone who chooses a shelter or rescue dog over a new puppy. Each choice is valuable and comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. They may get a pet that is healthy, well socialized or a lemon. The commonality in their choice is the love of a pet in their life, or not.
All animal lovers begin with this premise. Why don’t we take a page out of the civil rights movement of the 60’s and use peace and collaborative dialogue for resolution of our differences instead of linguistic spears, hurtful accusations and litigation initiation? People will continue to prefer a certain kind of dog to another. It is human nature. You cannot legislate away the desire to own a dog with which you have history or wanted all your life. Legislating away purebred dogs is something we might not want or even need to do. What we need to work on, through education, is the immediate gratification generation. People want to fulfill their desire to have a certain kind of dog immediately, which supports the economics of puppy mills.
Education is at the crux of every change in momentum, not bickering and violence. Ask any civil rights activist, the turn in the momentum of the civil rights movement came with Dr. Martin Luther Kings ‘I Have a Dream Speech’. He spoke to the people’s goodness and hearts, white and black. He didn’t hurl accusations or absolutes. He spoke to the humanity of everyone and the step-by-step process, working side by side, to make incremental changes that would be welcomed and embraced long-term.
The same can be done in the animal activists world. The passion is the fuel firing the engine of this movement to save suffering animals. Yet, the movement’s strides for change are labor intensive, expensive and moves at glacial speed.
Are you willing to consider a different approach? One, more collaborative in nature, welcoming discussions that foster incremental changes? Can you consider baby steps to a new normal? It may not be the sweeping change you had hoped for, yet the plight of the animal you lobbied to help has changed for the better. In the meantime you saved tens of thousands of dollars in litigation fees or hours in pro bono legal time. Money better spent caring for animals and leaving legal minds busy thinking of ways to write user-friendly laws or lobby for changes collaboratively with those in opposition to your position.
As I said this is my vision. I am always open to suggestion and dialogue. The way to move forward is to listen to everyone. If you focus on the similarities in your mission it will become infinitely easier to incrementally address the differences.