Very soon the new semester begins, and I will once again be teaching animal law – this year at Columbia Law School and Cardozo Law School. Every year I am astounded at the mix of students. While there are always a few students who are motivated to take the course because they know what’s happening to animals and they want to do something about it, the majority – all of them bright, well-educated young folk – are generally woefully unfamiliar with the many, many ways in which animals are exploited, killed, tortured, factory farmed, etc., etc. And these are students who have actually chosen to take animal law, so they have, at least, some interest in the subject, and some interest in animals. #PRIVATE#
It’s always a wake-up call to me. It’s so easy to forget, when you have loads of friends from the vegan/animal rights world, when you spend your time commiserating with individuals who talk the same talk and walk the same walk, that the vast majority of people still have no idea. Yes, I know, I know. Things have changed a lot over the last 10 years, what with undercover investigations, sophisticated campaigns from animal rights organizations, increasing access to vegan foods… But are we deceiving ourselves? We see the articles on Facebook and Twitter and think everyone is reading them. It’s so easy to forget that Facebook feeds us the type of information we have already expressed an interest in. It reinforces what we already know. So for those who know nothing about what’s happening to animals, Facebook is not going to provide them with that information. And they’re not going to get it anywhere else, either.
In this kind of news environment, where not only is there incredibly weak coverage from the mainstream press regarding animal issues, but everyone is just fed further information on what they already know, it’s no wonder that so many people remain completely and totally naïve about what’s happening to animals (not to mention about most everything else). It’s no wonder that many of my students – people who truly care about animals – come into my class knowing little to nothing about what happens to the nine billion land animals (and innumerable sea animals) killed every year for food in the US.
So is it hopeless? Of course not. Hopelessness is not an option. But it does mean that one-on-one activism is still an incredibly important part of this movement. The fact is, if you want people to know, you’ve got to tell them. Not just on Facebook – the only people who will see that are people who already agree with you. Not by signing a petition. Not by tweeting. No, you’ve got to tell them the old-fashioned way – to their face. You’ve got to have the discussion. You’ve got to patiently explain. You’ve got to not lose your temper. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get to teach a course, and they’ll have to listen to you. So never hesitate and never hold back. Whatever it is that you can do to get the word out, do it.