When one applies the “First, Do No Harm” principle to everyday life, feeling a need to extend protection to animals is a no-brainer, and should be the obligation of every human on the planet.
What is “Do No Harm”?
From Reflections on Ethics by Paul Sharkey: It is commonly believed that the principle “First, do no harm” originated with the physician’s oath and is circumscript with the practice of medicine. It did not and it is not. As a moral principle, refraining from doing harm is both much more fundamental and much more universal than that. It forms the very foundation of the moral teachings of the founders of at least two of the world’s major religions and was so central to the life and teachings of Socrates that he literally chose to die rather than transgress it. Fully understanding, appreciating and following this principle is, I believe, key to following a life which is at once, fully human, fully alive, and fully virtuous.
Unfortunately, many people in our world—including our current government—do not live by this motto, and regularly visit harm on both humans and animals without sparing it a second thought. For those who do agree with “Do No Harm” (in theory at least), the welfare of animals is not considered important enough to fall under the principle, and so they apply it solely to humans.
The result is that very few folks who are not actively involved in the animal movement outwardly agree with or support broad protective efforts on behalf of the animals. They are all too quick to brush such efforts to the side in order to advocate for the ‘important human issues’, or dismiss them out of hand.
Where does that leave animal activists and rescuers? “Chained”, and full of negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and fear.
Who Chains Animal Advocates?
Any campaign on behalf of the animals has more than its fair share of adversaries. Law enforcement and society at large actively protect animal users and abusers from every walk of life. This includes but is not limited to: dog chainers, animal food producers, animal food consumers, rodeos and circuses, and pet animal mills.
All too often any human who helps a suffering animal ends up arrested.
There are very real emotional hurdles for an animal advocate to conquer in order to take a stand for the animals. These include, but are not limited to, the following five areas:
1. Fear of Standing Up and being Physically or Mentally Attacked by Animal Abusers
When one decides to take a public stance against any form of animal use and abuse, a primal fear of death must first be mastered before an advocate can and will put him/herself on the line for others. The chances of suffering either physical or emotional abuse for taking a stand for the voiceless is at virtually 100%. People who abuse animals without a thought have no compunction about doing the same to any human who gets in their way; therefore, those who desire to advocate for animals have to first face their fears and decide to act anyway.
2. Fear of Arrest
Any activist or rescuer working on behalf of animals faces arrest if they are engaged in front line efforts. Being arrested and dragged through the court system is not only scary, but affects one’s career and life outside of animal work, one’s pocketbook, and can even end in a felony and jailtime. That’s a lot of fear to get past in order to do what anyone with a heart would consider ‘the right thing’!
3. Anger that Even though there are Cruelty Laws on the Books, these Laws Don’t Protect the Animals
Virtually every state has cruelty laws on the books that go along the lines of “every animal must have food, water, shelter.” Not only do these laws often get completely ignored, any activist or rescuer who—forced to make a life or death decision on behalf of the animal—takes it into her/his hands to provide the animal the care and nutrition they need and deserve is labeled a vigilante at best, and “worse than the worst hardened criminal” at worst. (That’s what the D.A. said about me when I rescued a dog name Doogie from deplorable conditions in PA.)
Watching the suffering of animals and feeling as though your hands are tied to do anything about it leads to 24/7 anger and stress, which takes a debilitating toll on an animal advocate’s physical and mental well-being.
4. Frustration with People who Claim to LOVE Animals, while Refusing to Lift a Finger to Help
The animal movement is hard-pressed for willing volunteers. While so many people pay lip service to loving animals, the truth is that most won’t show up for fundraisers or foster an animal, let alone stop eating them. The hypocrisy of the situation is a source of endless frustration to animal advocates; and, worse, they are forced to keep these feelings inside for fear of offending donors and potential volunteers. Pushed down inside, these negative emotions brew up a nasty cocktail of physical and mental maladies, with ailments beginning to show up more and more regularly.
5. Fear of Failure in Helping the Animals
No one likes to fail. When we do suffer a failure in helping the animals, we are hit with a double whammy showcasing our own feelings of inadequacy sandwiched with highlights of guilt and shame for letting the animals down too. Soon an advocate may give up trying because the pain of failing again is just too daunting.
From my book, Foster Doggie Insanity: Just what is Compassion Fatigue Syndrome, anyway? In a nutshell, it is caused by the pain of witnessing or bearing repeated trauma while caring for others (in our case, animals) and putting the care of others before ourselves. We see no end to the need and no way to make it stop. The resulting apathy, detachment, inability to express emotions, and substance abuse heads a long list of manifestations now associated with and labeled as Compassion Fatigue Syndrome.
Most on the front lines of animal rescue and activism are at danger of developing Compassion Fatigue and/or PTSD, depending on how much abuse they are taking and how much self-care they are practicing while they are going through it.
Animal Advocates Deserve Better
You all deserve better than this ending, and I’d like to see us ALL practicing self-care on a daily basis in order to prop us up, allow us to keep working in the movement, and making a difference for the animals.
When we become sidelined due to PTSD and/or Compassion Fatigue, that’s one less heart and soul in the fight to end their abuse.
And they truly are the voiceless without us.
Why I Like Tapping for Animal Advocates
I like tapping for those in the animal activist and rescue movements because it focuses on REMOVING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS that are held in the body.
Practiced daily, it can and will set you on a positive path, even when you’re embroiled in front-line pain on an everyday basis. Watch the video below to get you started, and visit the founder of Tapping, Gary Craig’s website to immerse yourself and help you work through childhood ‘stuff’ that gets in the way of healing.
Once the Negative’s Out, Bring in the Positive
While it’s essential to release that negative each and every day, it’s also essential to fill the remaining ‘hole’ with positivity! Find a way that works for you, but opening your heart chakra (picture it right where your heart is, so open that heart!) to receive good things for you and the animals is crucial. The more time you can spend each day with an open heart (even though it makes you feel vulnerable, do it anyway!) the better your life will be and the more positive responses you will draw into your life.
If you’re working hard for the animals, let me be the first to commend and thank you. Please work on your self-care each and every day, as you deserve so much better than to be embroiled in pain for advocating for those we all love.
Have a great week!
Tamira Thayne is the founder of Who Chains You Books and Spiritual Mentoring, and the pioneer of the anti-chaining movement in America. She spent 13 years on the front lines of chained-dog activism and rescue as founder and CEO of Dogs Deserve Better. She is the author of Foster Doggie Insanity: Tips and Tales to Keep your Kool as a Doggie Foster Parent, and Capitol in Chains: 54 Days of the Doghouse Blues. To book a one-on-one session with Ms. Thayne, visit the website at http://www.whochainsyou.com/activism.html.