Yes, I Am an Animal Activist
An Animal Rights Article from


Lisa Selvaggio on
September 2009

My point in writing this, though, is to show what people have to go through when they say they defend animals’ rights.

As it often happens when you’re at a party where you know few people, I found myself sitting next to someone who asked the obligatory “So what do you do?” And, inevitably, I disclose my desire to someday switch careers and move into the non-profit sector so that I can advocate for animals. Well, as you can imagine, a long discussion ensued – in this case, me and this 9-5er, who probably hasn’t changed since high school, discussing why I’m “for the animals.”

“Oh, so you like the animals?” Yes, isn’t that just crazy? I know, I must be nuts, right? I went vegetarian in a day and vegan (even to the point of switching pretty much everything, from clothing to cosmetics, to vegan alternatives) over the course of a few months.

“Why animals, with so many other causes out there?” Now, I have to give this guy credit, he didn’t come off as too close-minded, but is the interrogation necessary, as though my “cause” is somehow less worthy of my attention than others out there? Anyway, I replied in my usual sweet non-condescending way, “Well, I dunno, I mean, why does one person decide to be a musician, while another decides to be a teacher? It’s just something that I’ve always felt, and it’s something that hits home for me.” Fair enough. So I proceeded, “I can care just as much about people in Darfur as I can for animals; I’m just as much a humanitarian.”

As these conversations usually go, and I don’t understand why, he started telling me about a restaurant he recently went to. Between my sips of black coffee, which I only drink when there’s no soy creamer around, I was told how he recently tried frog legs for the first time, which were surprisingly delicious, and how the chef described to him her childhood exploits of catching frogs, ripping their legs off to eat them, and then using them for “two-legged frog races.” I don’t know why people have to do this - every time I get into a discussion with a non-vegan, or non-vegetarian for that matter, I have to be told about some delicious meat-containing meal they had, with a side of animal abuse. What does this guy expect my reaction to be? Does he expect me to throw my glass at the wall in outrage or break down into tears? No. Instead, I give the “Oh my god” and the look of disgust that goes along with it and hide what’s going on in my mind, which is me trying to fathom just how sick a person has to be to do things like that.

But what I love most is when PETA comes up, as it always does in these conversations, too. You mention you’re an animal rights activist and right away people assume you’re a “PETA person.” Once again, I need to clarify myself and say please don’t lump me in with PETA. In fact, most of the time, I disagree with what they do, since they give the whole movement a bad name and end up doing more harm than good. No, I’m not that loony.

But of course, it never ends here, I have to be asked what type of animal abuse bothers me most. So, for me, it happens to be the fur industry. And yet, when I claim it’s partially because it’s such an unnecessary industry in the 21st century, I feel as though he’s disagreeing with me without vocalizing it. What could be more torturous than having your skin ripped off while you’re still alive? “Yeah, what they do is really cruel,” he agrees. Indeed it is!

Thankfully the interrogation ended shortly thereafter. My point in writing this, though, is to show what people have to go through when they say they defend animals’ rights. If I had sat there talking about my goal of helping impoverished people or victims of domestic abuse, I would have been applauded and given credit for my charitable little heart. But because I said I work for those who don’t have a voice to speak up and fight back, to take us to court for the injustices we force upon them, to rise up and revolt or to ask another nation for aid in going to war, my sanity is questioned.

Why am I “wasting my time” on animals? Because humanity is the only species on this planet who has purposely severed the ties it has to Mother Earth. Because humans are the ones who have claimed unlawful dominion over this planet only to systematically imprison, torture, and kill animals for their own gain or for sick enjoyment, and because in the process of dominating this Earth, humans have destroyed the very life-giving air and water with no regard for the present nor the future.

Because by seeing the connection with the environment and with other species, humans may finally learn to love each other and live at peace. Because when I look into the luminous eyes of an animal, there is always more soul there, more passion toward living, than I ever see in a fellow human’s. Because humans only know how to wake up to an alarm clock every day and drive their fancy cars to work, where they slave away to make money that isn’t worth anything at all just so they can purchase more plastic throw-away possessions to show how “successful” they are, but animals wake up with the sun and the rhythm of the Earth’s vibrations and they use only what is available to them to survive, never wanting more.

Because I see the birds flying and singing from the trees as I sit shackled to my desk watching the day pass me by and I question which one of us is truly free. Because humans are the only species that would enslave each other, literally and figuratively, and then do the same to other creatures who deserve rights just as much. But most of all, because animals have always touched my heart since I was a child, and they have always shown me unconditional love and forgiveness, and because when I imagine the day that there’s no more fighting left to do because all the animals are free and happy again, I imagine the day that I’m no longer needed here.

So at the risk of sounding crazy, I say proudly that I am an animal rights activist, and I welcome all the questions, as long as they are coming from an open mind.

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