Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
~ Margaret Mead
I recently attended a potluck gathering at a friend’s home. This particular gathering was comprised of a group of fellow animal rights advocates, and was held as a celebration of recent local victories for animal causes. The Orange County chapter of Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL-OC), of which I’m a member, is a grassroots non-profit organization, working diligently to put an end to the many ways animals are abused and exploited. Some of our campaigns include the issues of animals used for food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment, as well as “puppy mills”.
Our celebration was in honor of these noteworthy victories:
One of the things I love about these get-togethers is that you can show up fifteen minutes late, easily offering as a reason the fact that one of your cats threw up just as you were on your way out the door, and this statement won’t be met with any awkward silence or sideways glances, only heads nodding in understanding: been there, done that. You can arrive wearing black clothing speckled with decidedly not-black dog or cat hairs, without a trace of self-consciousness. No one will discreetly offer you a lint roller – “Here, would you like to tidy yourself up?”. Acceptance is the rule, and virtually everyone at the party has animals at home, or does hands-on animal rescue, and is familiar with all that that entails. Also, the resident companion animals are usually in attendance, and in this case, we were delighted to have in our company two very large German Shepherds.
It’s not easy, the work we do on behalf of animals who suffer at human hands. We push ourselves to witness atrocities few people could imagine, and then take whatever actions we can to address them. It is unpleasant, uncomfortable, and inconvenient, often taking us away from loved ones and activities we’d rather engage in. Sometimes it is literally the stuff of nightmares. But speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves – the victims of abuse – is a labor of love and devotion, to which we are dedicated, and for which we’re willing to sacrifice certain personal comforts in our effort to live a meaningful life. The emotional toll is part of the package, and if attention isn’t paid to creating balance in an activist’s life, burnout can result. So these get-togethers of fellow comrades-for-the-cause serve to help us recharge our spirits and find strength through bonding with each other. They provide much-needed moments of levity and mirth, as well as validation and reaffirmation of our purpose. And then there’s the food!
Because we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping animals in need, most animal rights advocates understand the connection we have to all animals, and that all animals have a right to their own lives, and thus we refrain from eating them. So this was a vegan potluck, where none of the dishes contained any ingredients derived from animals.
Vegan potlucks tend to have an enticing array of interesting, delicious dishes. Contrary to what many non-vegetarians believe about a vegan diet, there is great variety and robust flavors to be savored. At this particular gathering, we were treated to tasty pizza with an assortment of vegetables and cheese (“Daiya” has revolutionized the non-dairy cheese world); quinoa and black bean salad; enchiladas; chili; pasta and veggie salad with pesto dressing; seitan in barbeque sauce; stuffed grape leaves; homemade cheese made from cashews; and apple pie. Everything was delicious, and it’s especially satisfying to know that the food we’re eating comes from cruelty-free sources – no animals were harmed in order for us to enjoy this meal. I wish I’d taken pictures of these lovely dishes to display here. Next time!
For now, it’s time to get back to work. It’s a daunting job, and we recognize that we’ll not achieve all the kinds of changes for animals we’d like to see in our lifetime. So we take some comfort in the victories we can claim, such as those we celebrated at this potluck gathering. We always conclude our evening saying good-bye to our comrades with warm embraces, celebrating our own connectedness, and knowing we’ll see each other next in the trenches. And we’ll remain diligent in our endeavors, hoping for and envisioning the next victory for animals, the next joyful occasion that will bring us together.
Of further interest:
What is Compassion Fatigue? (Information and Resources)