While this one wasn't the #1 most popular, it might be my favorite from the year.
Each Step a Victory, Each Day a Celebration
Learning from the best teachers to help animals even more!
During my previous career as a language professor, I had a sure-fire way to deal with student frustration. When they would struggle with the latest lesson, I would tell them to flip back to the first chapter. Inevitably, the students would be amazed at how easy the once-new and difficult material was now.
Only by looking back could they realize just how far they had come. Even though getting to the next level was still a struggle, looking back showed just how much had been accomplished.
There are two important parallels with our work changing the world for animals. The first is that no matter how difficult the struggle seems to us today, we should sometimes step back to gain perspective. Only then can we see just how far we’ve come.
I stopped eating animals nearly a quarter century ago. Things are so much better today, on every level. The availability and quality of cruelty-free products is orders of magnitude greater. The number of people making compassionate choices has skyrocketed. Pop culture celebrates celebrities touting their new compassionate diet. The news is filled with coverage about cruelty and negative impacts of modern agribusiness. And most importantly, the number of animals suffering and dying in the US is far below its 2006 peak.
As Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich wrote in The Animal Activist’s Handbook, compared to previous social justice campaigns, we are advancing at the speed of light!
Celebrate Every Step
The second lesson is that we can each become better advocates for the animals by learning from good teachers. As much as I would have liked my students to become fluent in another language overnight, I knew firsthand it would take time. Lots of time.
All significant, lasting change is necessarily a long-term process.
It would have been worse than counterproductive for me to mock my first-year students’ mispronunciations, or to criticize their mistakes with the dative case. It is similarly unhelpful to mock meat-eaters’ questions about protein or criticize new vegetarians for still eating dairy.
We want to help everyone take what is the next step for them, rather than judging them against our ideal. Their step is determined, of course, by where they currently are. Realizing this, we can recognize that every compassionate step taken -- cutting back on meat, going vegetarian -- is a genuine advance, a true victory to be celebrated.
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