Tag: politics

How to Respond When Someone Lacks Compassion?

When we’re driven by compassion, it can be disheartening to encounter apathy or lack of compassion for animals and other pressing issues in our world today. I’m often asked how to respond in such circumstances. Here is my response.

Inauguration

On Inauguration Day, not everyone is talking about the inauguration of the next U.S. president; some (like me) are talking about the animals hidden within the word itself. Listen to my radio commentary for NPR below (or on KQED’s website). Here is the transcript for your pleasure. 

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On January 20th, not everyone will be talking about the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States; some of us — well, probably only me — will be talking about the word INAUGURATION itself and the animals hidden within.

An INAUGURATION is the act of starting something new — like a business or a presidency — and its origins go all the way back to the religion of ancient Rome when priests called augurs interpreted the will of the gods by studying the omens aka the auguries to predict whether the undertaking in question was auspicious or inauspicious — a practice referred to as “taking the auspices”

They did this by reading the flight patterns, songs, and eating habits of birds, a practice called “inauguare.”

So, through the root avis meaning “bird,” our feathered friends reside in the words auspices, auspicious, inauspicious, inaugurate, inaugural, and inauguration.

And inauguration became the word we use to elect politicians into office with the hope that their inauguration foreshadows an auspicious tenure.

Today, we know we don’t have to interpret the will of the gods to predict the future; and we don’t need to read the behavior of birds to tell us whether or not an elected official will carry out their duties favorably and with success. (We never really did.)

All we need to do is look at the behavior of the candidate — their experience, reputation, and ability to lead; their honesty, empathy, and vision; their ability to communicate, their commitment to the public good, their allegiance to democracy.

That should tell us everything we need to know.

With a perspective. This is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Elections Matter: How to Help Increase Voting

Spread the Vote is an organization dedicated to helping people get IDs ahead of Election Day. IDs are necessary to participate in lots of areas of society, such as getting employment, opening a bank account, or finding housing. Additionally, voter ID laws in particular disproportionately affect communities of color, the elderly, and new voters. Spread the Vote helps people to navigate their state’s ID laws and assists with everything from application fees to driving you to the DMV to get your ID. You can join a local chapter (or start one!), and donate at their website.

VoteRiders.org In addition to people who lack acceptable ID to vote, confusion and intimidation serve to prevent millions more eligible voters from voting, even if they have a valid ID in their state. Their Voter ID Helpline (844-33-VTRID) receives as many calls from people in non-voter ID states as from those in states that require or request ID at the polls! Even poll workers are confused and sometimes ask voters for ID when none is required. In addition to providing information about voter ID requirements for every voter in every state, they also partner with local organizations to find, inform and help voters with voter ID, especially those most at risk of losing their right to vote. Get involved today.

When We All Vote is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that is on a mission to increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, harnessing grassroots energy, and through strategic partnerships to reach every American. 

VoteForward.org, an organization I actively volunteer with, empowers grassroots volunteers to help register voters from under-represented demographics and encourage them to vote. It’s so simple and proven to be effective. With just a printer and some stamps, you send a letter to registered voters encouraging them to vote — it’s one of the easiest things you can do that meaningfully increases the odds that the recipient will vote. Obviously there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the election process during Covid-19, including how people will vote this year, but one thing is certain: it’s critical that they do so. Whatever method Americans use to safely vote this year, receiving a hand-written Vote Forward letter will make them more likely to cast a ballot. Adopt your registered voters today, and start preparing letters to send

MORE RESOURCES AND ORGANIZATIONS

Reclaim the American Dream is an informational gateway aimed at helping people who are upset about America today to get engaged in fixing our democracy and making our economy fairer at the local level, where people power still has clout. 

East Bay Animal PAC — If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out our work to elect animal-friendly candidates. You can contribute from wherever you are, and as a member, you are eligible to vote in our endorsement elections. And check out other animal-related organizations to help animals during elections in particular and the political arena in general:

Voters for Animal Rights (NY), Colorado Voters for Animals (CO), Maryland Votes for Animals, Connecticut Votes for Animals (CT), Animal Protection Voters, Animal Wellness Action

An interesting article for your day: Animals Vote, Too!

A Guide to Being Politically Engaged

As advocates for the causes we care about — whether it’s racial justice, environmental sustainability, animal protection, reproductive rights, or all of the above — I know it can be difficult to decide where to spend your time, money, and energy, and I don’t believe there’s one answer. 

A good starting point is to ask: 

“What issues do I feel passionately about?” 

“How can my skills and attributes be used?”

“How can I measure my success?”

“What type of engagement will have a long and lasting impact?” 

My work, my advocacy has always focused on education, outreach, political engagement, public speaking, and writing — because they happen to be what I love, what I’m good at, and what I think will move the needle. I believe that when we know better, we do better and that awareness is key to solving problems. I believe that shifting the way we talk about, think about, and behave towards disenfranchised groups will have long-term impacts in terms of social norms. 

WHY?

But I also spend my time being politically engaged, because it’s not enough to change hearts and minds; we also have to change laws. We need laws and policies that protect people and animals from harm, from abuse, from exploitation, and from violence.

Another reason I think it’s important to be involved in the political system is because “politics” is not separate from who we are as citizens; we are all affected — everyone, all of us — by politics, whether we’re engaged or not.

The word “politics” comes from Greek politikos, meaning “of citizens, pertaining to public life.” We are public citizens, and we have little right to complain about how politics affects us — or animals — if we’re not actively engaged in making sure the laws reflect the values we care about.

To disengage means to disown your power. Because if you’re not talking to the people who represent you and the things you care about, someone else is talking to them about THEIR values and what THEY care about. Which would you prefer? 

And finally, I just can’t support taking Democracy for granted in any way. It’s a pretty amazing system that — as a human-made endeavor is also imperfect and fragile just as we are — and yet, it’s the best we’ve got. It’s the most successful, long-running experiment we’ve got as long as we, the people, participate. It’s been hard-fought and hard-won, and it means nothing if we, the people, don’t nurture it — we, the people, because the word democracy is built from the dēmos, meaning “people.”

From the moment the U.S. Civil War ended and for the century that followed, scores of men, women, and children were brutally beaten and viciously murdered to stop them from voting and having a political voice. The Southern rebel losers who never let go of their white supremacist worldview tried to silence the voices and votes of freed black men and women and their descendants because they knew that if the black population exercised their will through voting and the political system, white supremacy would have been drowned out by the call for peace, freedom, and protection under the law.

Similarly, how many men actively worked to deny women the right to vote? And how many humans make sure laws are passed to ensure animals are denied freedom, peace, and protection under the law?

People fought and died so that I and others would have the right to vote and be politically engaged. I don’t take that lightly and I don’t take it for granted.

HOW?

The way this whole democracy works is that we — as individual citizens — are represented by people WE elect to REPRESENT us. So, when we talk about our representatives, we’re talking about those at the local, state, and federal levels. Right now — at this date and time —, there’s a lot of focus on the federal government. People are calling and writing to their elected officials/their members of Congress, and that’s encouraging. So, let’s take a look at what it means to be politically engaged at the federal level. 

FEDERAL & STATE

  1. First and foremost: Know who your federal members of Congress are — both in the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate. 
  2. Add their phone numbers to your phone — for both their DC office and district office. 
  3. Add their email address and mailing address to your address book/contacts.
  4. Add their phone numbers to your phone — for both their DC office and district office.

BEST WAYS TO CONTACT REPRESENTATIVES: When it comes to contacting your members of Congress, here are tips from congressional staffers, who are the ones on the ground. In fact, if you’re interested in building relationships with members of Congress…start with the staffers. More on that in a bit, but here are the most effective ways to get your voice heard:

  • the two best ways are to call them on the phone and to write a letter or postcard. Buy a book of .34-cent stamps for postcards. They’re very effective ways to get your voice heard and have it counted, and I just find it a lot easier than writing a letter, finding an envelope, etc. Postcards are just fast and easy — and effective. 
  • leaving a comment on Twitter or Facebook is largely ineffective. 
  • write your letter or send you postcard to the district office rather than DC
  • when you call, call the district office; you can call the DC office, too, but it’s more effective to call them at their district office
  • emails are also virtually ineffective; staffers pretty much just group them using computer algorithms and send out form letters based on topic and position. 
  • but phone calls are a different story. Staffers pay attention when the office gets a number of calls about a particular issue. The district office will talk to the DC office to ask if they’re hearing about the same issue, and if so, they take notice. 

Do not underestimate the power of your call or letter. A recent article in the New York Times about politically engaged citizens ended with this little gem: “There is an adage on Capitol Hill that five letters from the district about a bill is cause for alarm, and 10 is a full-blown emergency.” 

TIP: Don’t only contact your representatives when you want something done — when you want them to vote “YES” on a bill or “NO” on a bill. Take the time to write or call when they’ve done something you appreciate. You can’t imagine how many negative comments members of Congress get. Believe me when I say your positive comment will stand out.

MEETING THEM IN PERSON: Now of course, it’s incredibly effective to meet your representative in person, and as their constituent, you have the right to request a meeting, but I won’t lie…it’s tough to get face time. You can keep trying to do so through their staffers, and you might also consider going to a town hall meeting held by many MoC when they return home from Washington to their home districts during government recesses. Go to these town hall meetings, and don’t go alone! Take a group with you of other animal advocates who have a common purpose and ASK QUESTIONS. Be heard. Make your voice heard. 

Another way to get your voice heard is if you run an advocacy group or PAC, invite local staffers to show up to your events. Let them talk to people you work with and set up meetings. Staffers love to get out of the office and meet with constituents and learn about different issues people care about. Take them out and show them what you care about. Invite them to see what you’re working on or what you’re concerned about. They take that all of that the office with them. Staffers have a lot of influence, and they’re worth spending time cultivating relationships with. Because, if the staff knows you, when they have a question about a piece of legislation or an issue, they’ll know who they can call. This is all about cultivating relationships. 

CONTRIBUTIONS: But one-on-one face time directly with your representative? It’s very difficult, BUT I will tell you this: being a donor…does help. It’s not a guarantee, but you’re more likely to get face to face time if you are a contributor, because they expect it means you’ll most likely be a contributor in the future. Like it or not, donors have more sway. And yes, the higher the contributions, the better the chances are that you and your cause will have a louder voice.

Legislators know that they could lose their job in two or four years, so they literally want you to help them keep their jobs. That’s all it’s about. But here’s where your dollars can have a real impact. Donate to campaigns when it’s clear they are animal-friendly. Talk to them about animal-unfriendly positions they may have. They might just need information you have. If they stick with animal-harmful positions, tell them that’s why you’re not supporting them. Support and vote for them when it’s clear they are animal-friendly. Tell them why you voted for them. Tell them you’d like to continue helping them make the most compassionate decisions about legislation. Give them (and their staffers) information about animal issues. Don’t assume they know the issues you do. Support them and let them know why you do. 

CREATE A RELATIONSHIP: Politics is all about relationships. Create a dialogue. Tell them what you care about. Encourage them to support animal-friendly legislation and oppose legislation that will harm animals. ASK THEM WHAT THEIR POSITION IS on a particular bill or policy. I think many individuals are intimidated to call, and if that’s the case, then write, but there’s nothing to be intimidated about, and you have every right to ask the staffer who answers what your representative’s position is on a particular issue.

BE KIND: And I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: be kind, whether you’re talking to a staffer or talking directly to your representative, whether you’re writing a postcard, leaving a message, or talking to them in person. Be kind. Imagine for just a moment being on the receiving end of an angry constituent. As justified as your anger may be, your irascibility will not get you what you want, and your anger doesn’t get you extra votes. You still get only one vote — regardless of how angry you are. Persistence, clarity, articulateness, and passion are all appropriate, as is kindness

PACS, LOBBYISTS, AND LEGISLATIVE FUNDS

Political Action Committees (or PACs, for short) exist for the purpose of raising and spending money to elect and defeat candidates. They can serve business or labor interests or ideological interests. They can be formed to support/defeat federal or local candidates. The benefit of a PAC is that money can be pooled to support (or defeat) candidates. 

While there are national PACs for animals, there are regional and local ones, as well. Here in Oakland, I, along with fellow dedicated and engaged activists, formed our own political action committee called East Bay Animal PAC, which is dedicated to electing animal-friendly legislators, passing animal-friendly legislation, opposing anti-animal legislation, and educating legislators and the public on local animal issues.

(You can join our mailing list to stay abreast of the work we’re doing, and most importantly, a contribution to our PAC would be most appreciated. $5, $10, $100 — whatever you’re able to do goes directly towards us working with local officials to enact animal-friendly policies.)

Of course you can consider starting a PAC yourself. Some people create PACs around one particular issue; some — like ours — are in it for the long-haul based on a cause, but either way, it’s an option for you if you’re interested in upping your political game for animals, especially at the local level. 

LOCAL

Now, sticking with the local, as I said about national engagement applies to local politics:

  • add representatives’ contact info to your phone
  • call them
  • make connections
  • meet them in person
  • work with staffers

And at the local level, you’re almost guaranteed to connect with your city council members (or aldermen or commissioners — whatever they’re called in your area) directly. Either by showing up at city hall meetings or setting up a meeting with them at their office or participating in neighborhood events they organize. Remember…these are YOUR representatives. They represent YOU! They work for YOU

You should absolutely know the name of the city council person who represents you in your district. Get to know them. Develop a relationship with them. Work with them on issues you care about. 

At a time when so many people are focused on the national stage, it can become a distraction from all of the opportunities and potential to work in the local arena. It doesn’t mean it has to be black and white; of course you can engage with your federal representative, but truly, where I know I feel most empowered, is when I’m working locally. I have to say it’s a pretty awesome feeling to walk into a room and have my mayor know my name, and she associates me with animal protection because of the work we’ve done with her (and other city officials).

Not only because there is real work to be done and real accomplishments to be made but also because there is a real opportunity to prime local representatives to be mindful of animal issues whose ambitions may be greater than their own backyard.

In other words, imagine you being the one to help them be mindful about all the ways animals should be considered when they’re drafting legislation — as they work their way up the political chain of ambition. They may one day be state senator, governor, federal member of congress, or president. That’s how it works. And helping them look through the lens of animal protection now while they’re accessible increases the chances that they’ll continue to look through that lens (also with your support…) as they pursue their political ambitions. 

The ripple effects can be huge, as I tell in this story.

SHARE YOUR STORIES BELOW!

I’m Not Evil, and Neither Are You: Tribalism, Ideology, and a Call for Compassion

There’s a presumption among some vegans that if you’re vegan, you’re also liberal, socialist, atheist, feminist, intersectionalist, progressive, and leftist, that you’re pro-choice, anti-vaccine, anti-GMO’s — and that if you’re not any or all of these things, you’re unwelcome — or at least you don’t belong. Or that you’re an imposter. Or that you welcome oppression. 

We are living in a time when group loyalty and identity politics are valued more than reason, critical thinking, tolerance for another point of view, and compassion. And it scares the bejesus out of me.

Today’s episode is (yet another) call for compassion. 

Why I’m Hopeful (Even Though It’s Cooler to Be Hopeless)

People ask me all the time how I stay so hopeful. The answer is two fold:

1) because there is much to be hopeful about
2) because I dwell on solutions rather than problems

Yes, there is much work to do, but: 

*I live in a Democratic country, and I exercise all of the powers and privileges that affords me. I can criticize elected officials, I can vote them out, I can help others vote, and I can start a political action committee (like I did — East Bay Animal PAC) to help elect animal-friendly officials. 

*I live at a time when, yes, technology makes it possible to mechanize animals’ lives, confine billions of individuals at a time, and systematically slaughter them. But I also live at a time when technology can help end that. 

*I live within a system where I have the choice to purchase cruelty-free products from a wide-range of companies and innovators. I have the freedom to buy what I want and reject what I don’t want. 

*I spend my time with the most compassionate, intelligent, committed people I know — dedicated to solutions for a brighter future and to experiencing a beautiful present. I’m grateful to be surrounded by the most incredible people I get to call my friends — and husband. 

*I read about what’s wrong, but I focus on the agency I have to make things right. I also read about what has improved. I believe in progress. It’s not all bad out there, though the media and cranky pessimists certainly paint that picture. 

*I see beauty all around me all the time in everything I do and in everywhere I go. In my husband, in nature, in animals, in friends, in wildlife, in perfections, in imperfections.

And because of that, I am hopeful — unapologetically and unabashedly. 

Can you be a perfect vegan?

Let’s be clear: there is no such thing as a licensed, certified vegan, and if perfection and purity are what you’re trying to attain in a world that is by its nature imperfect, then I’m afraid you’ll be gravely disappointed.

Compassion is the goal. Veganism is the way to get there. If we forget this, not only do we miss the entire point of what it means to be vegan, we will also lead a frustrating existence filled with anger and judgement.

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Laws for Animals: Effective Political Activism

I believe that shifting the way we talk about, think about, and behave towards other animals will impact them positively in the long term. But I also believe that as people who care about animals, we need to be politically engaged, because it’s not enough to change hearts and minds; we also have to change laws in order to protect animals from violence and exploitation. If you’re looking to become empowered and emboldened to be a voice for animals, this is the episode for you.

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Take Back Your Power. The Animals Need You!

When someone says that they’re disenchanted with or depressed by politics, I can only assume they’re on the sidelines rather in the trenches. Politics is not separate from who we are as citizens; we are affected—all of us, animals included—by politics, so to be cynical about politics means you’re not owning your power. 

The word “politics” comes from the Greek word politikos, meaning “of citizens, pertaining to public life.”

We are public citizens, and if we’re not actively engaged in making sure the outcome is in our favor, we have no right to complain about how politics affects us—or animals. And reading news headlines, arguing with people on Facebook, or getting depressed while you scroll through your Twitter feed does not an engaged citizen make. 

So today I’m urging you to own your power as a public citizen. I have a Political Guide for Animal Issues that can help. It’s simple, really. Know who your local, state, and federal representatives are. Engage with them. Talk to them. Thank them for passing animal-friendly legislation. Urge them to reject legislation that harms animals. Tell them they lost your vote if they continue to support legislation that harms animals. Be involved in electing animal-friendly candidates. That doesn’t mean waiting for the vegan candidate! Most animal-friendly legislation is passed by non-vegans. And finally, don’t underestimate the power of local political action! Work with city officials to pass animal-friendly legislation in your own city. These local officials may one day be state senators, federal representatives, or even president of the United States. 

Toady: Lick My Boots and Curry My Favor

A toady is a person who flatters and ingratiates himself or herself to another person in a servile way; a toady is a sycophant, a flatterer, especially someone who does distasteful or unprincipled things in order to gain favor. Celebrities and politicians are often accused of toadeating, and toadeating is exactly how we get the name of someone who kowtows. 

Pay close attention to this episode, as several animalogies are hiding within. Submit the ones you hear in the comments below!

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