Anger, Humor, and Advocacy


Click for larger. Thanks to B Breathed and Jody Boyman!

Some people have asked how I can make jokes when the animals are suffering so terribly, when I’m supposed to be entirely focused on animal liberation. I believe that having a sense of humor is in the animals’ best interest, because not only does it make our example more appealing, it also aids in avoiding burnout. In the cumulative 40+ years we’ve been active, Anne and I have known hundreds of activists who have given up working for the animals – some of whom have even gone back to eating meat! On the other hand, almost all of the successful long-time activists we’ve known – those who have made a real difference in the world – have a sustaining sense of humor.

As a reaction to what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses, very strong feelings are understandable and entirely justified. But I believe that our inability – individually and as a movement – to deal with our anger in a constructive manner is one of the greatest hindrances to the advancement of animal liberation.

Over time, people tend to deal with their anger in different ways. Some take to protesting, some to screaming, hatred, and sarcasm. Others disconnect from society and surround themselves with only like-minded people, seeing society as a large conspiracy against veganism.

I do not believe either of these reactions help to move society toward being more compassionate.

A different approach is to try to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of humor. This makes it easier to continue in activism, as well as avoid self-righteous fundamentalism. In turn, this makes it possible to interact positively and constructively with others, thus making it more likely they will take steps to help animals.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to gain and maintain a sense of humor. One suggestion is to always remember your ultimate goal. In my case, it is the alleviation of suffering. If I allow myself to be miserable because of the cruelty in the world, I am adding to the suffering in the world. More importantly, I am saying that unless utopia is instantaneously established, it is not even possible to be happy. Thus, my goal is inherently unachievable.

To help build any real and lasting change in the world, we need to convince others to think beyond themselves. We must be willing to do the same. Just as we want others to look beyond the short-term satisfaction of following habits and traditions, we need to move past our anger to effective advocacy – i.e., moving from yelling and chanting and arguing to positive, constructive outreach.

If I believe I can’t be happy – that I am a slave to my situation – how can I expect others to act differently?

It also helps to maintain a historical perspective. I realize I am not the first person to be upset by the state of affairs in the world. I can learn from the mistakes and successes of those who came before me.

Few people come to an enlightened view of the world overnight by themselves. It took me over a year after my first exposure to the issues to go vegetarian, and even longer after that to go vegan. If I had been treated with disgust and anger because of my close-mindedness and (in retrospect) pathetic rationalizations, I would certainly never have gone veg.

My story is not unique. Not only does my journey show the downsides of anger and the benefits of kindness and patience, it also indicates that you shouldn’t give up on friends if they don’t react to information as you would like. Shunning friends because they don’t immediately adopt your vegan views not only cuts you off from the very people we need to reach, it also perpetuates the stereotype of the joyless fanatic with no life other than complaining.

“Fighting” suffering is not the only way to make a better world; creating happiness and joy as part of a thoughtful, compassionate life filled with constructive advocacy can be a far more powerful tool for creating change.

As long as there is conscious life on Earth, there will be suffering. The question we face is what to do with the existence each of us is given. We can choose to add our own fury and misery to the rest, or we can set an example by simultaneously working constructively to alleviate suffering while leading joyous, meaningful, fulfilled lives.

In the end, being an activist doesn’t need to be about deprivation, sobriety, and misery. It’s about being fully aware so as to be fully alive.

-Matt Ball


Welcome to 2015!

After a hiatus, we’re back!

We’re in the process of rethinking and then relaunching the CCC infrastructure, including a revitalized blog, a more active Facebook page, and many new materials. We will, of course, continue to offer amazing essays and other resources.

We would love to hear from you with your suggestions, thoughts, and ideas. How can CCC help more people become more effective activists? Please email us at activist (at)

Thanks so very much. We’re looking forward to building a more compassionate world with you!
Matt Ball
Senior Manager for Engagement and Outreach

A humble welcome

By Nick Cooney

March 20, 2012 

Okay, so we’re not really breaking new ground by saying that it would be a good thing to make our communities more compassionate towards animals. And this certainly isn’t the first time that an animal protection organization has helped people who care about farm animals (that’s you!) get active. And as a matter of fact, we didn’t invent a single one of the veg advocacy or veg community building programs we’re promoting on this site.

But that really gets to the heart of what Compassionate Communities is all about. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. What we are doing, though, is creating a one-stop shop where anyone who wants to help farm animals can come to learn what to do, learn how to do it, get the support they need to get started, and continue to sharpen their advocacy skills over time. We think that’s pretty cool, and we hope that in the coming years Compassionate Communities will help grassroots animal advocates become increasingly effective in their work.

It doesn’t matter to us where you live, or how you got to this site. It doesn’t matter to us if you’re part of an animal protection group, or if you’re just an individual who wants to help end the terrible cruelty done to farm animals. We just want to help you do the absolutely most effective things you can do to help farm animals.

Why do we consider these programs to be the most effective forms of veg advocacy and veg community building? Because hour for hour, and dollar for dollar, the veg advocacy programs promoted here have been shown to be the most effective forms of outreach that any individual advocate (like you!) can easily do.

We hope that you’ll get active with one of these programs! If you just watch, read, and take action on your own, great. But we hope you’ll sign up with Compassionate Communities so that we can provide you physical resources and guidance, keep you updated with unique blog content on how to be a better advocate for animals, and share your achievements and experiences with the rest of the community.

That’s it for now. Feel free to email us at if you have any questions. You can also join us right now by clicking the “Sign Up” box above. We can’t wait to work with you to make your community a more compassionate one!

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