Vegan Activist Burnout: 'Witnessing The Animals' Agony Broke Me'

A lack of self-care and total engagement led one activist to take some time off, but the idealistic part of him believes the future is in our hands
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A man with a shattered face

Activism can take a toll (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

A number of months ago, I had to take a break from vegan activism.

Seeing images of animals suffering on my news feed every single day, standing outside a slaughterhouse seeing the fear in their eyes, hearing the absolutely horrifying sound of pigs screaming as they were being gassed, and seeing people around me in everyday life eating a piece of animal flesh without consideration of what it was and who it came from -it was too much, and it broke me.

What I experienced, I believe, was activism burnout. Activism became my life, I didn't stop to think about myself and this was the result. It has also made me realize how important self-care is when you're a part of a movement like this.

If you haven't experienced a vigil with The Save Movement, please, do not be deterred by mine. It was an incredibly valuable thing to experience and something everyone should do at least once

A break from activism

My news feed was cleared of any graphic material, I stopped socializing, and I stopped being active. Shortly after, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's terrifying report came out, which was very widely covered.

This news was the straw that broke the vegan's back. The end had become most definitely nigh – a visible path to the beginning of the end of humanity, within my lifetime.

The acidification of the oceans, the loss of habitats, the already extensive and further extinction of land and marine species, the collapsing of ecosystems and the eventual inability to grow food for ourselves. The sixth mass extinction has already begun.

I stuck my head in the dirt that would one day become sand due to the eventual desertification of the Earth. All hope was lost. I stopped caring entirely and decided to be selfish and, just enjoy my life while I still could.

Getting inspired again

After a month or so of intentional ignorance and avoidance of the things I recently and so vehemently opposed, I started to notice a symbol the kept appearing on social media. It looked like an hourglass within a circle – this piqued my interest. After investigation, it planted the tiniest bit of hope, kindling that would reignite the part of me that cared so much, reignite the drive to fight. This was the symbol of the Extinction Rebellion.

The Extinction Rebellion is a very young but very quickly growing global movement of non-violent civil disobedience that started in the UK. It demands that climate change needs to be treated as the environmental emergency that it is – that governments and big businesses take action now. It is organized, it is inspiring the public, and it is taking the issue very seriously.

Animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, and it needs to be stopped. There are already animal rights activists that work towards this and other issues like the destruction of the marine biodiversity – another incredibly pressing issue.

This is a fight we all need to be involved in, a fight where activists from different backgrounds can come together – animal rights, environmental, or any social justice or political movements – consolidate ideas and work together for a singular common goal, to prevent ecological collapse and protect all that life on Earth, including our own.

The importance of taking action

Admittedly, there was a part of me that had given up in the face of such overwhelming odds, the nihilist, the part that thinks humans are innately selfish and will always put their own comfort and convenience before the existential problems we face in the very near future, the part of me that thinks I should just travel the world and see it before we inevitably kill it.

Then there is the other part, the idealist, the part that cannot sit back and watch the world literally burn, the part that hopes, the part that fights, the part that compels me to tell this story. That part will never give up.

We are living in terrifying but exhilarating times. It is us, the people, that imbue the world with love, care, and compassion, not the decision makers and profiteers with their greed and hate.

They plunder and destroy our home and the home of the non-human animals we share this world with, purely for the sake of material gain. But it is in our hands, we are the arbiters of change in this fight for survival.