By: Sahna Foley
I don’t remember the exact moment I began to speak up for animals. I remember being vegetarian as a small child simply because I just loved animals and my mom told me I could get my proteins from beans. I ate a lot of beans. I also remember how movies like Bambi and Fox & The Hound cut me deep under my skin.
If I had to give credit to one moment, person or thing that sparked that desire to speak out, I think it would have to be reading about poaching and endangered animals in ZooBooks. After many months of reading about whale hunting, I convinced my neighborhood friend that we needed to create a petition and go door to door for signatures so we could do our part to “Save The Whales”. She was a real trooper and went along with the plan. The problem was, she wasn’t as emotionally invested in the idea of saving exotic animals in a far off place as much as I was. My team dwindled from two to one, and I was left alone with my ZooBooks and bowl of beans to think about these things.
I wonder now how differently things might have been had my friend been affected by poaching and hunting like I was. Together, would we have been able to rally more allies and make a club? Would we have marched up and down the neighborhood with endless petitions, bombarded our school teachers with countless animal presentations, and made our parents wonder what kind of aliens they were raising? I will never know of course, but I do know this – having a friend to share the love of animals with is priceless and game changing. They are the secret ingredient to an otherwise difficult recipe. Friendships are one of the rewards for those in animal activism.
Just over three years ago, I picked back up where I left off as an eight year old and hosted Salt Lake City as part of the international Save Japan Dolphins Day. I was terrified but determined. I had already bailed on my first attempt to host a protest and I was not going to let myself, or the dolphins, down again. I could never have predicated what would blossom the day of the event. This was the day I would meet my soon to be partner in crime. My friend who would yell battle cries with me on the corner streets to all the confused city folk, who would introduce me to a world of farm animals and the truths about factory farming, and who could talk with me for hours about elephants, whales, dogs and everything in between. She was my secret ingredient that helped me transition to a plant-based diet.
Many of us know the pitfalls of animal activism. There can be compassion fatigue, depression, anger, and a sense of hopelessness. When there seems to be no end in sight to the suffering of innocent and sentient beings all around our planet, human beings included, one can go crazy with despair if left to their own devices. However, what I’ve discovered and try to focus on are the amazing, beautiful people who have blessed my life because of animals. They are now friends who share a deep connection to nature and humanity. They inspire and push me to be a better person. We share a deep human connection that is strong and loving and in awe of the world. We share the weight of our tears and the power of unity. What an incredibly special gift the world gives to those who fight for her. We all start with our own army of one, but the universe seems to know how to lead us to our tribe. What a precious experience it is to share this life with friends who strive to keep it beautiful.