If you have decided to become vegan for ethical reasons—that is, because you believe in treating other-than-human animals with the same respect and compassion with which you would treat another human being—you might find that you want to put your beliefs into action in ways more public than the personal choices you make about what to eat, what to wear, the cleaning products you use, and how you spend your free time. Maybe you want to volunteer for an organization that protects animals. You might choose to spend part of your weekend handing out leaflets about how leather is produced outside a shoe store, or to devote an afternoon to picking up trash on the beach. Some of the many organizations that work to defend the rights of animals often sponsor volunteer “work parties” where like-minded people gather to stuff envelopes, prepare information packets, or make signs for an upcoming demonstration.
Maybe you’ve done all those things and find yourself wanting more. Maybe your nine-to-five no longer feels satisfying, or your co-workers seem “unenlightened” where animals are concerned, and you find yourself yearning for time with others for whom being a vegan is something you take for granted, not something that marks you as weird.
Maybe it’s time to consider making animal protection your profession.
Making that change doesn’t necessarily mean going back to school. Large animal protection organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) employ people with the same kinds of skills and training needed in other nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, and state and federal government. PETA and HSUS, along with smaller animal protection groups, need people with experience in human resources, communications, payroll and accounting, information technology, website design, litigation, office management, and maintenance.
If you want to work directly with animals, consider fields including veterinary medicine, environmental biology, inspections, and even undercover investigations. You might need special training to be a veterinary technician or to investigate cruelty complaints for a local animal control office.
If you are interested in working for a veterinary practice or animal shelter or sanctuary, make sure that the organization’s mission is in line with your values. Some veterinarians participate in cruel and unnecessary procedures such as declawing cats or tail “docking” or ear “cropping” of Dobermans and some other dog breeds. Some animal shelters confine dogs and cats in cages for months or even years on end. Never work at (or patronize) a company that exploits animals as commodities.
Even if you’re unable to find work in an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of animals, you can almost certainly find like-minded souls at a volunteer event or vegan meet-up that will help you feel less alone in a meat-centric world.