As Anatole France said, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. Which means it’s the perfect day to change the world for animals. Well, okay, I’m totally using that as an excuse, since every day is a day to change the world for animals. But the point is, why not latch onto this Hallmark holiday for the betterment of the world and all its inhabitants? That’s exactly what several activists and organizations are doing.
The Center for Great Apes, a Florida-based sanctuary that provides a “safe and enriching environment for orangutans and chimpanzees in need of lifetime care,” is taking full advantage of people’s open hearts (and hopefully wallets), and wishing people an “Ape-y Valentine’s Day.” They are educating consumers about the horrors inherent in palm oil production — a product found in many Valentine’s Day candies (and gazillions of other products). The production of palm oil is directly responsible for the destruction of orangutan habitat. According to The Center for Great Apes, “Each year, hundreds of thousands of acres of primitive rain forests are cleared to plant plantations of palm oil trees for this product. So-called ‘sustainable palm oil’ is not an easy answer.” (For more on this subject, also check out the video, “FreeAnimalVideo.org Visits OFI (Orangutan Foundation International) in Indonesia,” by Patty Shenker and Sandra Mohr.)
Meanwhile, yesterday in Vancouver, PETA protesters got naked-ish and held signs that said “Fur — Out! Love — In!” For the protest, a couple laid down in red sheets, post-sex-like, grabbing the attention of passersby. There’s even a video to prove it. Also in B.C., STOP UBC Animal Research — an organization “working to end research on animals at the University of British Columbia” — sent a Valentine’s Day bouquet of flowers to the University’s president, asking him to “have a heart” and end the school’s hideous animal research.
Here in New York City, Carly Marie Knudson, Huffington Post blogger and Executive Director of NYCLASS — an animal advocacy organization dedicated to ending NYC’s cruel horse and carriage industry — is taking the opportunity to implore people, “For Valentine’s Day, Give Carriage Horses a Break.” She is calling on New Yorkers to opt for a romantic movie this year, as opposed to a dreary rendezvous with an antiquated and cruel industry.
For more on the Valentine’s Day theme, be sure to check out our most recent podcast — Episode 109 — which you can find both on iTunes and via our blog, and which is focused on all-things-V-Day. It features an eye-opening interview with Food Empowerment Project‘s Lauren Ornelas, who talks to us all about chocolate, including the ethical issues that frequently arise regarding its production. Lauren gives us a glimpse into the oftentimes hideously cruel world of cocoa production, and shows us how to spot the truly ethically-sourced varieties (don’t miss F.E.P.’s Chocolate List), plus discusses why there is a correlation between boycotting animal products, and boycotting other unfairly-produced food products. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we also share some of your stories of love – love of animals, that is.
Perhaps most importantly, please remember the old Our Hen House adage: It is not up to top-down organizational campaigns to change the world for animals, on Valentine’s Day or any other day. We do not need to rely on petitions, fund-drives, organized protests, or anything else to get started on this path toward opening our hearts, and others’ hearts, to animal rights issues. For those of us who have a heart — and if you’re reading this, I’m going to bet my last piece of slavery-free, fair-trade, ethically-sourced, vegan dark chocolate that you do — then you already have what it takes to be a changemaker for animals. For whatever reason, people are wearing red and singing romantic songs today (or they’re wearing black and listening to my newest favorite song). Whatever aspect of love (or hate?) that people are focusing on today, let’s use the platform to bring attention to the animals. Write a letter to the editor or otherwise reach out to the media; post some animal stories on your Facebook and Twitter pages; make some vegan heart-shaped cookies and share them (along with the recipe and a “Why Vegan?” brochure); go outside and leaflet for a half an hour, asking people to “have a heart and remember animals today”; create art — any kind! — with an animal rights message, and reach out to your local gallery/library/cafe/theatre regarding displaying it; call your legislator and ask them to “have a heart” and support that animal-friendly bill in your city or state; or do one of about a million other things to open people’s eyes and hearts to the unrelenting, unimaginable suffering of animals in factory farms, zoos, circuses, labs, and various other industries that rely on the pleasure and profit of sentient beings. Tap into not only your heartstrings, but the heartstrings of others who would not abuse their dogs, yet for whatever reason turn off the light when it comes to other animals.
Finally, even though Valentine’s Day is already several hours in, making a donation to one of your favorite animal advocacy “organizations (eh-hem), perhaps in honor of someone you love — a partner, friend, family member, or yourself — can be a wonderful way to add an extra serving of compassion to this special day. As our coordinator Danielle talked about last week, Our Hen House’s Etsy Shop is also full of heart-y gifts — including knits and jewelry — and 100% of the proceeds go toward our effort to build a strong voice for animals. In addition to Our Hen House — which is a reader- and listener-supported 501(c)(3) and is always seeking donations — many other AR organizations and sanctuaries are also greatly in need of funding, so if you have the means, Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to support a cause you love. I speak first-hand when I say that any amount is greatly appreciated and deeply needed. XOXO