Emotional Labor, Burnout, And Animal Advocacy
From All-Creatures.org Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies Articles Archive

FROM Julia Dauksza, Faunalytics.org
May 2019

Activists often downplay the significance of emotions for advocates themselves, forgetting the golden rule of saving lives that we learn on every flight we take: “before you look after anyone else, put the oxygen mask on yourself first.”

I’ve always cared for animals: Seeing them happy made me happy, witnessing them suffer caused me near physical pain, and when I saw them confined in cages, I felt like entrapped myself. Becoming an animal rights activist was a natural result of this quality: it was more an internal constraint than a conscious choice.

While investigating fur farms, I could not help but feel a bond with animals that I knew were meant to die, that were dying, or were already dead. I struggled to cope with it for a few years and succeeded in a way I instantly regretted: for some time I became completely desensitized to animal suffering.

Being overly empathetic makes life pretty hard, but losing the ability to care is even more distressing, especially when your activist identity is built on emotional connection to animals. After a lot of reading on the subject, however, my experience started to make sense, like a case study for just one of many emotional pitfalls that await animal rights advocates. Long conversations I had with my colleagues made me aware that, despite individual differences, emotional struggles are a shared-but-unspoken experience, rather than the alienating sign of weakness I considered it to be.

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