05 December 2011

TDIV Q&A: What can I do to help animals this holiday season?

What can I do to help animals this holiday season?

There are countless ways that we can help nonhuman animals during the holidays. Here are ten things that you can do this holiday season:

1. Don’t give animals as holiday gifts.

While few things could be as cute as a puppy, kitten or other companion animal frolicking beneath the tree (or next to the menorah, kinara or yule log), it’s a bad idea to give an animal as a gift. Of course, you wouldn’t think of giving someone a child as a holiday gift – even if they always wanted one – because a kid is a big commitment and welcoming one into the family is a very personal decision. The same is true for animals. And if you’re thinking about giving your own child an animal, wait until the holidays are behind us, then head to your local shelter and adopt one of the many dogs and cats who will go from “cute holiday gift” to an unwanted winter hassle.

2. Give cruelty-free gifts.

We’re sure to give vegan gifts to vegans. But are we also giving vegan gifts to all of our friends and family? Use your holiday gift giving as an opportunity to give cruelty-free gifts and to educate family and friends about great vegan products and a great cause. When asked for your holiday wish list, be sure to direct folks to vegan shopping guides.

3. Host a vegan holiday party.

Do your friends and family tell you it’s great that you’re a vegan but they can’t imagine what you eat or that it possible could taste good? Help them see the light by inviting carnivores to a vegan holiday party. The proof is in the vegan pudding. Let them taste for themselves how delicious and satisfying vegan fare can be!

4. Report animal abuse at live nativity scenes.

While you’re taking in the holiday decorations, take special notice of live nativity scenes. Are the animals properly sheltered? Do they have adequate food and water? Are they being driven crazy by groping kids and loud music? (Click here for more information about how to identify animal abuse.) If you see something, say something. Report animal abuse and ask your church or community NOT to use live animals in nativity scenes.

5. Volunteer to help animals.

Whether you sign up for regular shifts at your local animal shelter, open your home to foster animals awaiting adoption, or reach out to an elderly neighbor who needs help caring for her/his companion animal, you can help animals by giving up some of your time.

6. Start a companion animal food bank.

The Great Recession has taken its toll on companion animals. The swelling number of animals dropped off at shelters because their human companions just can’t afford to keep them – or because they have lost their own homes – is proof positive that animal suffering has increase during these hard times. If there isn’t a companion animal food bank in your community, start one. You may be able to team up with a human food bank or local animal shelter.

7. Raise money for companion animal health care.

The economy is killing animals when their companion humans find that they can’t afford the health care their animals need. Lots of veterinarians accept donations for needy animals. Contact a vet in your community to make a donation.

8. Help animals in your neighborhood.

Sometimes, we needn’t look any farther than our own backyards. Look for hazards to wildlife in your community and help eliminate them by cleaning up pollution (like antifreeze that’s been improperly discarded, trash like plastic bags and packaging discarded in streams and parks and even on the street). Help a neighbor who is struggling to care for a companion animal. And report animal cruelty!

9. Help stop horse-drawn carriages in metropolitan areas.

You only need to take a look at a horse pulling a carriage full of tourists in New York City to know that the animal is suffering. Take some time to help stop the abuse. Support the campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York, or start a similar campaign in your own city.

10. Make your New Year’s resolution to spread the word.

Talk with friends, family members and coworkers about how all of us can help reduce animal suffering. Don’t be a closet vegan. Don’t just settle for the salad when there’s nothing else on the menu; ask the chef to prepare a vegan entrĂ©e. Tell the manager of your local grocery store about the vegan products that you want to buy. You can help raise awareness and make changes just by speaking up. So, live vegan out loud and have a happy holiday season!

Loretta Kane
Loretta is a 20-year veteran of progressive, nonprofit campaigns – mostly focusing on economic justice and feminist issues. She's also a vegan who is adamantly opposed to speciesism.

Photo credit: cc: SXC alex27