We all know where we want to go

I think within our movement we so often forget we’re all working for the same things. There may be minor differences in the envisaged outcome, but basically the animal rights/vegan movement wants a world where animals are not being used or killed by humans.

The differences are about how to get to that situation. Having a clear and concrete objective doesn’t imply we also know how to make it a reality. On the contrary, sometimes having a clear objective can be misleading, in the sense that it makes us think the way to get there should just be based on our aim. If we want x, we ask for x. But that’s not necessarily the best, the easiest, the fastest way to arrive somewhere.


In the movie Lincoln, there’s a discussion between Abraham Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens about how to pass the amendment for the abolition of slavery. Stevens talks about our “inner compass”, which should point North (showing where to go, what is right, etc), but in many people doesn’t. Lincoln’s reply goes like this:

“A compass, I learnt when I was surveying, it’ll… it’ll point you true North from where you’re standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps and desert and chasm that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp… What’s the use of knowing True North?”

Please check out the post Lincoln’s thoughts on a compass, the inspiration for this post. And watch Lincoln, if you havent.

23 thoughts on “We all know where we want to go

  1. Wow, what an amazing quote from Lincoln that I’ve never read before. It’s a really great analogy on how we need to not only to know where to go, but also how to navigate so that we actually get there.

    As advocates, we also have the added factor that it’s hopefully not just ourselves on this journey; we must also get others to join us if we want to succeed for the animals. We have to first not only get others to join us in wanting to go North, we then also need to help them navigate the swamps & deserts that will be encountered along the way.

    I’ve seen many advocates lost and wandering around in the swamps and deserts (myself included), while all along preaching that they know where true North is, everybody needs to go North, and you are wrong if you don’t want to go there, but then they leave it at that, somehow thinking that’s enough.

    Offering some friendly directions, along with some compasses and maps, to those who you’d like to see join you on your journey is going to be much more effective than just shouting directions from the head of trail and hoping people will follow you.

    Thanks again for sharing the wonderful Lincoln quote, Tobias. Makes me proud to be American, but also embarrassed that someone from another country knew about it, but not me, the American. 🙂

    1. p.s. It’s also a big help if you want others to make the same journey that you did, that people see you made the journey and arrived safely, and you’ve made a nice home for yourself there.

      It’s kind of the same thing with going to any place new…if the the locals are nice & friendly, especially to tourists or those just having a look around, then that place will seem much more inviting than if the locals appear angry & not welcoming. You’ll be lucky to have just tourists who’d want to brave that, let alone getting people to think of moving there.

      Even if someplace is morally and rightly true North, people are going to be put off from going there if the locals aren’t friendly and welcoming.

      1. Hi Christine, always enjoy your comments. Just clicked on your name and see that you started a blog, so would love to see you write there! In the meantime, if you feel like travelling “up north” to a Canadian blog, you’re more than welcome to be a tourist, or even become a local, on mine. 😉

        1. Thanks so much for your comment and kind words, havegonevegan. I’m very flattered!
          I don’t actually have my own blog & prefer hijacking this one intstead, as Tobias can attest to. lol 🙂
          I think it might be that a blog gets created automatically for you when you create an account (?)…I just created the account so I could “like” comments.

          But thank you again so much for the nice comments. I have actually been to the real Canada and used to live in New Hampshire. I’ll go take a look see at your blog now. 🙂

      1. Ok, I did some googling and it does appear it’s a movie attribution & I made the assumption it was an actual quote. I’m still putting it down in my inspirational quote book. 🙂

        A side note from my google search is that I stumbled upon this quote below from a post. The blog is from a Christian perspective, but what the author wrote struck me as very relevant here (I’m agnostic for what it’s worth).

        “You may head East a while to avoid a swamp. You may have to back track a little and head South for a spell to get around a canyon until you find a passable point. All the while, even though it may appear that you are headed in the wrong direction, your compass still points North and you are still working diligently to get there…Compromising your route isn’t a danger if your compass stays true.”


  2. Yes, I think abolitionist focus too much on animals while who they wanna change is … people. Focusing on your target, it’s needs, it’s possibilities for change,… is much more efficient IMO.

  3. This site seems to have become Francione-obsessed. “…think the way to get there should just be based on our aim. If we want x, we ask for x. But that’s not necessarily the best, the easiest, the fastest way to arrive somewhere.” This is obviously a counter to Francione’s “go vegan” strategy.

    Pragmatic vegans and Francione actually share a hell of a lot, and it isn’t just wanting, “a world where animals are not being used or killed by humans”. Francione wants vegan boycott now, plus vegan education now to achieve critical mass to achieve political changes (legislation). Pragmatics want vegan boycott via reductarianism, and then vegan education as the final stage to critcal mass. But all this is really conservative, bound into consumerism (the consumer is powerful) and a liberal understanding of politics.

  4. For those of us in the U.S., Thanksgiving is coming up next week and I know this can be an extra stressful time for vegans and animal advocates. I got this today in an email from In Defense of Animals and wanted to pass along for anybody who may be interested:

    This month, IDA’s Animal Activist Online Support Group falls on Thanksgiving, November 26th. Struggling with family issues surrounding the holiday? Join us for some extra support, a gratitude circle, and a reading to honor the animals!

    This free, confidential service is available to all animal activists, including everyone who advocates and cares for animals. You can participate by phone, smart phone, or computer. Discussions address burnout, self-care, compassion fatigue, anger, guilt, family issues, activist infighting, and more. IDA’s Sustainable Activism Campaign Director Lisa Levinson, an experienced group therapist, facilitates the discussions.

    What: Animal Activist Online Support Group
    When: Fourth Thursday of every month, from 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., starting October 22

    Registration Link is here:

    Login links and call details are sent by email when you register and with event reminders. You can also request to join our accompanying Facebook group, “Animal Activist Online Support Group” here:

    (I’m not sure if this link works because I’m not on Facebook and it’s asking me to log in)

    For more information, contact Lisa Levinson at lisa@idausa.org.

    The Animal Activist Online Support Group is part of IDA’s Sustainable Activism Campaign, providing emotional and spiritual resources for animal activists. We also provide private, one-on-one counseling via our Animal Activist Mentor Line at 1(800) 705-0425 or mentor@idausa.org. Links for Sustainable Activism tips, webinars, and event replays are available at http://www.idausa.org/events.

      1. Ok, sorry I’m a little slow on the uptake…Direct Action Everywhere? I’m guessing you are making a witty & funny comment, Tobias, but my brain’s not getting it. 🙂

        1. Thanks, Tobias…I didn’t know anything about the boycott. That’s an interesting idea at first glance if your family is receptive to that…but I’m also thinking that there is a big possibility for back lash from your family if they aren’t receptive…and that in turn leading to validating any negative impressions of vegans they may already hold.

          I think it’s a great idea, but Thanksgiving is also notorious for friction caused by family members getting together (just think of all the movies that lampoon that in the U.S.), so people can already tend to be on edge, and it might not be the best time to say you’re going to boycott Thanksgiving if it’s not vegan. Especially if Uncle John is drunk already and Aunt Jane overly judgmental about how you prepared the mashed potatoes and that they are too lumpy. 🙂

          I think eating your own vegan dinner, while staying calm and respectful, has much more potential for positive results than a boycott would. I think that just as important as leaving a positive impression is not leaving a negative impression.

        2. I figured you didn’t think it was a good idea, Tobias. Even though I didn’t get the joke earlier, I knew you were joking about something.when you first mentioned DXE. 🙂

          Sorry if my last reply seemed like it was directed at you, I didn’t mean for it to seem like that. I was just talking in general about how I feel about the boycott idea.

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