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Why Do Animal Rescue People Argue Among Themselves When We Are All on the Same Side?
All fighting for one cause - to save animals
I was prompted to write this article after reading yet another public argument between a number of animal welfare campaigners on Facebook which made me feel nothing but despair.
I have been a Facebook user for about four years now and increasingly find I am using it as a tool to try to save the lives of dogs and cats abandoned in shelters, where they face being euthanized.
Like thousands of other animal-lovers worldwide, I share and re-share hundreds of photos of abandoned animals, who are destined to die through no fault of their own, just for being homeless. Some of them are saved after an individual, a rescue or a charity pulls them to safety out of the shelter.
We all hope that one special person, in the relevant area, may see our post and think, "I can help that animal."
But too many more are killed because nobody wants them and it is continually heart-breaking to see how many innocent animals are euthanized every hour of every day.
Despite everyone who is sharing these sad stories being on the same side, however, I constantly read very public arguments and bickering between those trying to save the animals' lives, which detracts from the cause and wastes time and energy for no reason at all.
We are all fighting for the same cause - to save innocent lives - and I'm constantly frustrated after reading more mindless rhetoric from people who don't seem to stop and think for a moment about what they are doing.
Wasting time by arguing means less photos are shared. It's simple.
Discord over punishments for animal abusers
One of the main sources of arguments, I have found, is when people disagree over a suitable punishment for those human beings who have abused, or even killed, an animal.
Some of the photos of the dogs needing a saviour are truly heart-breaking. They are often painfully thin (with ribs sticking through their dull coats) and in a terrible condition due to having been starved.
Some have suffered horrific injuries (either accidentally knocked down while a stray, or injuries deliberately inflicted by a heartless human).
Some have been abandoned and have terrible injuries where a tight collar has gauged out an open wound round their throat.
Some have even had their mouth clamped shut with duct tape in a deliberate attempt to prevent them from eating so they will die.
Some have been thrown out of car windows. Some have even been stabbed or shot.
I believe the punishments meted out to animal abusers are not harsh enough. I realise to a degree (perhaps more in the UK than in America) the judges' hands are tied by the law and even the maximum sentence they can enforce seems woefully inadequate when you consider the crimes committed by abusers.
I will begin reading the thread of comments under another photo of a terribly abused animal and someone will have written that the abuser should receive the same treatment as he or she inflicted on the mistreated animal. I have to say I agree with this sentiment. They should suffer the same pain as they have meted out to an innocent creature.
I can guarantee, without exception, that another person will then respond to such a comment and say this is the wrong attitude.
Some animal-lover will come on to the thread and say anyone who wishes physical pain on an animal abuser is "as bad as the abuser". I have to say I don't understand this logic at all, as surely someone who commits an evil crime should be punished? So why people demanding tougher justice are likened to people who beat and kill animals doesn't make any sense to me.
But more often than not, an argument will then spiral out of control.
Sometimes, I feel like joining in. I see red.
But then I think, "What's the point?"
It's not going to change anything by arguing and it's a total waste of time. I just remove myself from the situation and go on to the next picture of a needy animal.
The vegetarian versus vegan debate
Another cause of arguments on rescue sites is the ongoing debate between vegetarians and vegans.
I have seen many debates - I have lost track of how many - in which those who are vegans become involved in a heated argument with non-vegans.
I have read comments which claim that unless you are a vegan, you are guilty of animal cruelty yourself and are being a hypocrite posting on animal rescue sites to try and save lives.
I always think to myself that if an innocent dog faces death in a few hours' time because he or she is abandoned in a kill shelter, I do not actually care whether it's a vegan, a vegetarian or a meat-eater who rescues the dog and saves his life. I know people who are not vegetarian who have dogs which live wonderful lives and are much-loved. I'm not bothered what this person has for their dinner as long as they get themselves down to the shelter, pull the dog and stop him from being needlessly killed.
At the end of the day, there are millions of animal-lovers across the world and it is up to the individual how much they become involved in animal causes. Anyone who does anything - even one small act - to help an animal has done their best and should be proud they have saved a life.
So it's a cause of constant frustration to me when threads trying to take positive action to save a life are taken over by people pushing their own beliefs forward and claiming all non-vegans are akin to animal abusers.
Should people take unlawful action to save a dog's life?
An argument I read recently on Facebook involved a dog that was tied in a yard 24 hours a day, which looked painfully thin and was obviously neglected.
The person who had posted the picture was asking for people to report the dog and its location to the authorities in the hope the police or animal welfare authorities would pay the owner a visit and take action.
The usual argument which occurs on this type of thread is one between people saying, "Someone go and snatch the dog," and others disagreeing and saying this is against the law and that it must be left to the police to take the appropriate action.
On this occasion, two friends - not my friends, but people who obviously knew each other - became embroiled in a heated debate over whether the dog should be removed under cover of darkness. One lady lived in the local area and was being urged by her friend, who lived elsewhere, to drive past the house in question and see if they could gain access.
The local lady was reluctant to do this, pointing out she could be arrested for dog theft if caught. She said she had a houseful of rescued dogs herself and also didn't want to take the risk of the abused animal's owner finding out where she lived and taking a drive to her house to give her some grief.
She was afraid of the consequences and said she would prefer not to become personally involved in this way.
This led to a huge, public argument between the two, with the local lady being accused of "not caring" and of shirking her duties as an animal welfare advocate.
It became quite heated and unpleasant and the two of them were obviously having a serious fall-out over this.
Again, I found myself thinking, why take up a public thread about an abused animal in this way? Send each other a personal message. Agree to differ. What ever.
But the only purpose their heated argument was serving was to make the thread extremely long and difficult to follow for anyone trying to publicise the sad story.
I thought (yet again) what was the point of all this? The two of them were obviously not going to come to an agreement on what action to take and were becoming increasingly vicious towards each other. Having a futile argument was just detracting from the matter in hand and also wasting time which could have been better employed in doing something practical to help animal welfare.
Arguments over how shelters are run
Another recent debate I have witnessed has revolved around an animal shelter which has been operating on a shoestring budget, run by one elderly lady, who has run herself ragged over the years by taking in too many animals.
Although well-intentioned, she is now finding it too hard to continue to run the shelter, but cannot let the animals down. It was a very sad tale.
If this was a local shelter, I would give practical help. Unfortunately, it is in another country and there is little I can do.
A volunteer who had helped at the shelter and tried to publicise its work in an effort to draw in more volunteers suddenly found himself under fire for speaking the truth.
He felt the animals' welfare was gradually becoming threatened because the woman who ran the shelter just couldn't cope any more. So he published some photos of the rather dilapidated state of some parts of the buildings and grounds in the hope animal-lovers in the local area would go down and offer practical help.
The buildings needed repairs and cleaning. More food was needed for the animals. More people were needed to volunteer and look after them on a regular basis to take some of the strain off the woman trying her best to carry on.
However, this well-meaning action led to a major fall-out when the volunteer who posted the appeal for help was accused of "causing trouble" for the shelter. This was due to the fact the photos prompted the wrong kind of response.
Instead of a flood of help, as he had hoped, instead complete strangers began commenting on the thread about how the animals at the shelter were "abused and neglected" and should be "reported to the authorities".
All of these people had plenty to say, but none of them offered any practical help at all. They just vented their wrath, without knowing the situation properly, then went on their way no doubt satisfied they had made their point and let their opinions be heard.
So the original volunteer who publicised the struggling shelter, with the best of intentions, found himself under fire from others who were involved with the shelter, as his actions had inadvertently brought them the wrong kind of attention and led to public abuse on Facebook for "neglecting" the animals.
He found himself removed from Facebook animal welfare groups - even those he had suported for a long time - as if he had suddenly become a "traitor".
I followed the debate because I had tried to suggest some practical ideas for assisting, such as setting up an online fundraiser through one of the many such sites on the internet, to raise money for food, vets' bills and repairs of the premises.
But I soon realised some of the people responding were just venting their misplaced wrath and had no notion at all of sitting down, thinking about it and trying to come up with ideas to help.
I just don't understand people who do this. There is no point publicly slating other animal rescuers who are doing their best unless you have something practical and useful to add to the debate.
If the boot was on the other foot and the critics found themselves suffering similar problems in future, I'm sure they would prefer offers of help rather than a torrent of abuse when their plight became public knowledge.
No-one is perfect. We all make mistakes. So why make the situation even worse by spouting a stream of abuse when you could try and help with a rescue plan?
Too many pointless comments make a thread hard to follow
The upshot of any kind of unnecessary debate on the thread under a photo of an abused animal is to actually hinder, rather than help, the animal in question.
I have called up some photos of death row dogs, checking to see if there is an update before I share it, only to find it is next to impossible to find out, as there are, literally, about 800 comments and few of them are relevant.
Sometimes "trolls" have gone on to the thread - those nasty, mean spirited individuals whose sole purpose is to wind everyone else up and disrupt the matter in hand. When I first joined Facebook, I used to get angry at this and often responded. But I learned, over time, this was pointless, as these people enjoyed annoying everyone else and coming back with an even more controversial response. They seem to get a kick out of being as unpleasant as possible just to get a reaction.
I saw many animal campaigners advising to ignore the trolls, because they were not going to go away if everyone kept responding to their meaningless drivel. I used to think, "No, I want to put them in their place."
But over time, I have realised it is best to ignore them and then they will go away when they realise their remarks aren't getting the reaction for which they had hoped.
Don't lose sight of your goals
To conclude, none of us is perfect. We all do our best. We all make mistakes.
But falling out among ourselves, when we are all fighting for the same cause - to help animals - is damaging and counter-productive.
It is pointless having public arguments with people who support animals, but whose way of dealing with the issue may slightly differ from ours. We all do what we can and anyone who does one small act of kindness for an animal is helping the common good and does not deserve to be slated by their peers.