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From Cow to Clown
A journey through the social web of animal compassion, environmentalism and vegetarianism - Chapter 2


Cow to Clown - Introduction
Chapter 1 - Where is the Grass Greener?
you are here> Chapter 2 - In the Land of Friends or Follies
Chapter 3 - Terminology
Chapter 4 - Other Side Of The Fence
Cow to Clown - Epilogue

VeggieBite ...
The amount of land needed to produce a one-year food supply for a person on a meat-eating diet is 3.25 acres. The amount of land needed to produce a one-year food supply for a pure vegetarian is just 1/6 (0.16) acre.
From: "Diet for A New America" by John Robbins

In the Lands of Friends or Follies?
... The light and shade of compassionate causes, and working for them.

The world of animal welfare runs on the fuel of human emotion.
Many people turn to animals in times of emotional turmoil, whether it be through an indifference towards mainstream society, a failed relationship or similar circumstances.
Even well organized charities have to contend with a fast turnaround of individuals whose conscience has been ignited momentarily - since it may only be for as long as their social life allows or their "emotional" turmoil lasts. For others however, animal well-being can be a lifelong crusade, a passion that drives the essence of their deepest and most compassionate of emotions.
It can be hard for the organizations, because inconsistency in volunteer attendance can make it difficult to organize programmes that would normally demand long-term continuity and therefore long-term commitment.
If you are considering exploring animal and environmental charity voluntary work, then think about the saying "a dog is for life, not just for Christmas"... Don't play at being the animal lover in a whimsical manner. In other words, whims are short-term fixes for self-satisfaction, and if that's what is driving you, you won't last more than a couple of weeks before something else takes your fancy.
If compassionate out-giving, mixed with hard work is part of your nature, then volunteering can be rewarding and inspirational. It can enhance your own quality of life, often unconventionally and in spiritually enhancing ways. You'll also be meeting and making new like-minded friends while enjoying the activities.
But make sure you take responsibility for your commitment. Remember, this kind of work is outward-giving. If you are expecting thanks for it, then it's not for you - simply because gratitude is almost non-existent - both from within the organizations and the public, who simply see you as relieving them of any responsibly of a sick or stray animal. Personal thanks is rarely on their agenda.
Don't enter into this work with too much expectation or preconception. Pace your enthusiasm so you can keep going, and build on your experience - so you are more able to ride the ups and downs.
It's hard work, and only after a long time will the energy you put in bring you rewards. You'll see the quality of the animals' lives improve or else the environment blossom - it is they and nature that will silently thank you ... and that's really what matters.
(If you want to volunteer your services you might find something suitable at our
SOS Crisis International Site or Charities Directory or Veggie / Animal / Environmental Groups Directory)

On the other side of the coin...
.... there is breed of self-styled organizations run by individuals with an axe to grind.
You can come across this kind of nonsense in any organization, but with animal / environmental charities there seems to be an extra layer of self-righteousness attached.

The Charity Sector

If you want to work for a registered charity, many of them require relevant qualifications or else run specific programs that you can help with like dog walking etc. where qualifications may not be necessary.
Qualified work means that you'll get paid. You'll have to apply through the normal channels and in some charities, employment positions can be quite drab and old-fashioned, where rather bleak terms like "officer" are used!
In some ways, major charity work may certainly not prove to be what you might hope for.
Acquiring charity status from the charity commission is a fairly long-winded process. However, those who receive it don't always provide the care and service they claim as part of their mission statement. Animal and environmental protection programs can range from extremely well balanced ports of sanctuary to self-styled glossy kingdoms - which carefully cover-up stagnation and fakery through all kinds of manipulative means. Having registered charity status doesn't mean they are obliged to give a substantial percentage to the cause they are representing. As long as the accounts show no profits at the end of the year, then they are, in effect serving their purpose. For example there are major charities that only give around 6%, or even less of their s to the actual cause. To maintain a non-profit status this means that the rest has to be spread across administration, expenses and probably extremely lucrative salaries. A registered charity is normally run like a big business in all but name. Only its "non-profit" status determines the difference between it and a corporation. This is a very grey area, whilst one charity might genuinely be struggling to find funds for its mission another can be raking it in.
A charity's primary interest should always be the specific cause it sets out to achieve success with. But as mentioned some fall far short of this. As can be the case with any organization, there are those who outrightly abuse the charity system to extremes and can get away with it for years.
Here's something to bear in mind: A small, lesser known charity might be getting just a few pounds in each week and using 90% of those s to feeding and caring for animals, environment etc... but leaving themselves with just a couple of pounds each day to live on. It may well be that these little known groups are creating a more positive effect to their cause than a well-known charity a hundred times its size.
So remember, just because an organization has charity status, it doesn't mean that they all receive similar s or administer their s in the same way. In terms of animal welfare and conservation, consider the smaller charities and even some non-registered groups to donate to and help first - before giving to the bigger, well known ones - some of which are making millions of pounds a week, simply because they can afford to monopolize on promotion and hence capture public awareness.
To repeat; some small, obscure charities and groups tucked away around the world may be doing a far more effective job on a localized cause than any of the major players could do. But with ALL charities and groups, make sure you learn as much as you can about them before helping or donating.

Animal rescue groups (generally non-charity registered) ... from to crackpots to heroes.

Although the previous section suggests that you might aim to focus on smaller more localized charities and rescue groups, this is also a potential grey area where you may find pockets of disorganization often run by crackpot individuals.
They are sometimes angry at the world, and it's not uncommon that they have turned to animals because of a dysfunctional human relationship. They may mean well, but the environment where the animals are kept may be more damaging to them than kind.
In just one example out of many, VeggieGlobal encountered a bird rescue person / group in the UK. The VeggieGlobal site's author explains in his own words:

"I telephoned a local bird rescue place I found in the Yellow Pages explaining that a baby dove had fallen from its nest and clearly still too young to fly. A soft spoken, but rather sinuous sounding character at the other end of the phone insisted without question - that there was no way the bird would survive and that the "poor blessed helpless creature" (or something like that) would perish without being brought in. I was appalled. It was clear that this person was not providing any balanced advice based on the known effects and situations fledgelings can get into. My suggestion that perhaps the bird would be better off being repositioned in a makeshift nest - because surely it's best to leave fledgelings alone whenever possible - was shot down in flames by this self-righteous weirdo at the other end of the phone. I was promptly told that my stupid belief was based on the RSPCA's advice - who apparently "tell everybody to leave fledglings alone because they can't be bothered to take care of them". (OK ... even VeggieGlobal sometimes question the ethical issues that the RSPCA are run by, but this is certainly not one of them.)
The outcome of this story is that I used my own initiative and experience with animals and made a nest out of a hanging basket frame - filled it with moss and attached it snugly into a tree. I put the baby dove in it and by the next morning all was well - in fact it was a wonderful sight to see. Over the next few days the parents busily fed the baby and tidied its rather palatial nest until it was ready to fly! The young dove is now a regular visitor to the garden, accompanied by its parents"

Humans need to help wildlife and nature whenever possible because we have destroyed so much of it. But we should not interfere with it without balanced reasoning - and certainly not because of our over-reactive compassion of the "fluffy bunny" kind - or in the above case because somebody at the other end of a help-line with an overactive ego loves to play god - regardless of what is naturally best for the animal in question.
Messing with nature for the sake of one's ego is a dangerous combination - and sometimes the outcome can be crueller when, apparently trying to be kind.
As already suggested, there are some non-charity groups who are doing a better job than any registered charity. They can be organized in a way that might put many registered charities to shame. In fact, some non-profit non-charity groups intentionally run independently of charity registration because of the lack of practical usefulness, co-operation or reciprocal help between one large organisation and another. You'll even notice how some major animal and environmental charities on the Internet don't promote links to other charities or groups websites. These charities want to retain the monopoly of their mission or services - and therefore self-importance ... and of course this retains the level of s they can inject into their organization. And again, as mentioned, in some cases it is highly controversial as to how much actually reaches the cause.
So if you find what initially appears to be a well run local animal rescue group - with charity status or not - then don't don't be afraid to ask questions and probe their intentions towards animals ... ask about their mission statement ... really get to know the people behind the cause. Do this whether you intend to volunteer for help or simply call upon them for rescue advice etc.

The Light and Shade

One thing to remember is that there is no universal policy regarding the care of injured animals amongst either major registered charities or non-status groups. Each control the fate of animals in care, and this is based on their own "heal-but-keep-captive" or "put-down" policies.
Controversy therefore becomes an issue even amongst the major organizations.
Where one organization will destroy an animal if the seriousness of injuries mean that it will never fully recover to be set free, another sanctuary will keep the animal alive regardless, but create a suitable captive habitat for it to live out its life.
VeggieGlobal / Looking-Glass have had hands on experience at one of these sanctuaries, which does all that is medically possible to help the animal to survive. Some of the animals residing there have disabilities that may invoke concern in some people but these creatures are most definitely having the time of their lives; they are happy and contented - there is no question of that.
There are other large organizations in the UK who decide which animals they will play god with. One of the major charities for example considers a wood pigeon as vermin, so if you took an injured bird there it would be destroyed rather than nursed back to health.

Control-Freaks and Egos.
Some the more questionable charities are run by people who think they know it all ... They like to believe they are blessed with that "special affinity". In fact, it's classic queen or king of their castle conduct, and this behaviour can even be detrimental to the cause.
In such environments compassionate people come and go quickly, after becoming disillusioned and angry by the whole thing. It shouldn't take too long for you to realize that there's something fundamentally wrong with such a set-up.
However, some "volunteers" stick around a while and climb up the bosses butts. (Yes, even charities can be full of sycophants!) But overall, you'll soon get the feeling if a charity truly reflects its mission statement ... that is if you are genuinely blessed with the special affinity with animals yourself of course!
If you have the misfortune to experience this you'll soon determine that those kind of places should stop trying to play god and instead root themselves into their animal / environmental kingdom ... tune into the true purpose of their surroundings, and most importantly, feel the nature rather than control it. They need to understand that better choices for the animals, etc. should always be the priority rather than designing a cause to boost their own self-importance.

Bickering and Bitching
It's not uncommon to find similar kinds of animal welfare organisations bitching between each other. Don't let this stop you getting involved though ... but just be prepared. Self-righteousness can hover just under the surface and jealousy can ensue as they question each other's agendas and methods in their respective campaigns. Bizarrely, there is a competitive edge to the way some groups and organizations run ... just like any business really, and pride is at stake to win over public support etc.
However, as long as all these groups, whether small or large are working towards the greater cause, then this trait of human nature just has to accepted as part of the course.

So, potential volunteers, the best advice given here is to not let your compassion for the cause cloud your first impression. Initial judgement and assessment on the actual people who run such groups is important. So be wary, and do some research about the organization before you jump in eager to help... then you won't be disappointed later on.
As regards to your personal well-being, caring for animals and the environment can be a very soul-enriching enhancement to your life.

How can animal rights campaigners sometimes be so short-sighted!

If you are thinking of getting involved with an animal rights group make sure you thoroughly understand the issues they represent. Besides obviously avoiding any groups who condone violence as a means to an end, also look further towards the real-world outcome and after-effects of a campaign's success. Here's an example:

"A poultry concerns campaigner was elected into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame. She must be doing something right to garner such an honour, right? Wrong. ... The campaigner in question gladly accepted her award as Animal Rights Activist of the Year and made a stirring speech, while truth reveals that more chickens now die as a result of her efforts to pass compassionate slaughter laws. People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) cite the success of their campaign to allow more room per chicken per cage as evidence that people's eating behaviours can be modified. PETA is, erm, correct. People (meat-eaters) now eat more chicken, content that chickens are being treated humanely. Animal sanctuaries harbouring rescued chickens now deceitfully use funds that were originally intended to care for animals to lobby Congress to pass additional laws that will, in the end run and promote the increased consumption of chicken and beef". Source: R. Cohen of notmilk.com

This is a classic example of how egos and self-gratifying good deeds of animal rights activists can sometimes outshine the negative effects of their so-called "successful" missions. Instead of lobbying for improved living conditions for the millions of factory farmed animals, more focus should be towards the moral and ethical reasoning of murdering and eating (and wearing) animals in the first place. This also shows that such actions allow meat-eaters some ridiculous sense of self-justification - Not only do they continue to eat (and wear) animals but now feel they can actually justify and endorse the farming and killing of even more animals than ever!

In 2004 an even more bizarre situation occurred in Greece, caused by a zealous animal rights busybody who decided that innocent Greek stray animal rescue groups were trafficking animals out of the country to be sold for fur and experiments, instead of being adopted by loving north-west European families as claimed.
The interfering actions of the woman and her entourage - who managed to convince the media and almost an entire duped public that she was right - caused thousands of would-be rescued dogs and cats to be stranded on the streets where they are either poisoned or die of starvation. Of course, the accused groups were found to be perfectly innocent, but severe damage has been caused to the entire Greek rescue system. (You'll find the full story plus updates on this at our news site: www.looking-glass.co.uk/news)

next>> Chapter 3 - Terminology
A radical reform of terms - to turn mainstream and media focus away from animal welfare stereotyping.

 

Index
Cow to Clown - Introduction
Chapter 1 - Where is the Grass Greener?
you are here> Chapter 2 - In the Land of Friends or Follies
Chapter 3 - Terminology
Chapter 4 - Other Side Of The Fence
Cow to Clown - Epilogue

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