Making a Difference

Power of one | Charity




86. One person doesn’t make a difference.

What about these ‘one persons’: Adolf Hitler, Mother Teresa, Steve Jobs, Muhammad, Martin Luther King?

Peter Singer, one of Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’, founded Animal Liberation; his book with that title probably did more to awaken our concern for animals than any other. Henry Spira initiated campaigns that saved millions of animals annually from the agony of unnecessary formality tests. Jenifer Graham fought her school over having to dissect animals and won it for all California school biology students.

Broadcaster John Pearce used to tell non-achievers that they could achieve anything given two factors: they wanted it badly enough and worked hard enough at it. How much do we give of our money, time and labour to a cause we believe in or a goal we wish to reach? Think of how much advertisers achieve by paying thousands of dollars for a 30 second spot on a leading city radio station. We can reach 100,000 people by ringing a talk station at zero cost. Total dedication by one person to his or her chosen cause can make a huge difference.

What if you worked at educating others about animal cruelty, pacifism, drugs or whatever your concern is, and each year just one other person accepted your philosophy? What if that person did likewise? And so on. After six years 32 would have adopted your philosophy. Another six years and the number would have passed 2000, or if we halve that to allow for those who lose commitment or die, 1000, all coming from what you started a decade or so earlier. That’s quite a difference!

‘The question is not “can you make a difference?” You already do ... It's just a matter of what kind.'


87. If I stopped eating meat and drinking milk, the difference I’d make to animals would be negligible.

It would make a difference to the one cow whose body you helped eat and therefore killed, or to the cow whose calf was taken from her at birth to improve milk production.

But it’s not just one cow.If you change your dietary habits, during a lifetime you’ll save the lives of 17 cows,about the same number of pigs,90 sheep and schools of fish.More than 1000 chickens will be spared death at only eight weeks because you cared.


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88. Donations should be spent on needy people rather than given to animal organisations.

Where donors choose to send their money is their business. Whether the money they worked for is given to Red Cross, World Vision, famine relief or Animal Liberation, it’s given. They’ve decided not to spend that portion of their income on new clothes, new cars, restaurants, entertainment or poker machines, and I admire them for that. Who are we to prescribe where they donate their funds?

It’s still pertinent to consider where the money goes so that it will do the most good and whether it will be spent as the donor wishes.1 We are drawn to ‘cancer research’ appeals. If money is sought to help find a cancer cure, it’s assumed that the money is well spent. Yet few of us consider checking on how it’s used.Does it finance animal experiments, perhaps duplicates of previous ones? How much goes to experiments redesigned or renamed ‘cancer research’ to attract funding? We don’t usually ask those questions.

Are our priorities misplaced with cancer research on animals when so much of our knowledge has come from studying humans, and, worse still, when we ignore what we’ve already learned? We know how to reduce cancer by nearly a half and how to reduce it by half again: stop consuming animal products and stop smoking. With a third of the population developing cancer, donations might best be used to inform people about healthy food and motivate them to change.

Another point to consider is that a vegan diet is cheaper than a meat-based diet, so adopting the former allows more funds to be made available for needy people.

Vegans can generously support humanitarian and animal welfare groups. The two fields aren’t mutually exclusive.


89. Why don’t you spend your time helping people instead of animals?

Vegans typically give of their time to helping people. Why wouldn’t they? They’re vegans because they want to help animals, and that includes both human and non-human animals. Both groups suffer and vegans try to alleviate that suffering. Donations of time to human and animal welfare aren’t mutually exclusive, any more than donations of money are. Time can be devoted to both causes.

An example of spending time for both people and animals was William Wilberforce, a leader in abolishing slavery and an RSPCA founder. Another was Joseph Brotherton, a Member of Parliament who opposed child labour and the death penalty as well as being chairman of the first meeting of the Vegetarian Society in the UK. A modern example is Philip Wollen, Order of Australia recipient, 2007 Australian Humanitarian Award winner and 2007 Australian of the Year Victoria. He initiates, supervises or encourages worldwide projects that help sick people, poor communities and animals. A vegan Christian, Mr Wollen practices reverse tithing – he donates 90 per cent of his income to his own and other charities and retains 10 per cent.

Again, how people choose to donate their time is their business. It’s worth remembering, though, that unlike humans, animals (especially captive animals) are less able or unable to help or speak for themselves. And humans ‘aren't kept in cramped warehouses amongst their own excrement, trucked many miles, hung upside down by their feet and slaughtered, then consumed.'

The easiest way to help animals? Stop eating them. That takes no more of our time.


90. You animal trendies can’t even agree among yourselves.

It can be worse than not agreeing. Oxford University’s theology professor, Rev Andrew Linzey, stood out from his fellow preachers by drawing attention to the plight of animals although his and other denominations are largely indifferent to animals. He said of his four years with the RSPCA council: ‘I have not been to more acrimonious meetings where more hatred was shown. I saw more vilification of individuals and more back-scene manoeuvering than in any other human societal group I’ve belonged to – including the church.’*

Yes, often we can’t agree amongst ourselves. Should we, for instance, destroy experimental laboratories? Should we break into battery cage places to rescue hens? We’ll never have agreement here. Those in favour of these actions say that they gain maximum publicity and alert people who would other-wise not know, or too easily avoid discovering, what’s behind the scenes. Those against say that if we oppose violence towards animals we ourselves should be non-violent.

Vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians have had and will continue to have ‘frank exchanges of views’ regarding eggs and dairy products. Even amongst vegans, we disagree about such things as purchasing foods labelled ‘may contain traces of dairy products’ and how to use our limited funds. Should our funds be spent on preventing evil or promoting good?

We disagree, often rudely, because we are human and don’t meet the standards we should. But we are not alone. Do your football club members have disagreements? What about your workplace staff meeting? Or your local council?

Disagreement can be good. It helps us see other, better ideas and methods. One of us isn’t the repository of all wisdom.

Even so, like other groups, we ‘animal trendies’ have to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.

* Kim Bartlett, The Animals’ Agenda, April 1989, in Shore, Can a Christian Ethic Condone Animal Cruelty? p17