it’s impossible to force someone to be more empathetic. As I stated back then, this doesn’t mean we should do nothing, but rather that we should find more effective ways to let someone know about the steps they could take to treat our animal friends more fairly.
When it comes to the right way to treat animals, there are different levels of realization. Some of us are further along in our realization, while others are lagging behind. I’ve always equated one’s awakening to the suffering of animals with the Buddhist concept of enlightenment, or other similar concepts such as "moksha" in Hinduism. I like to call this specific awakening to animal suffering "animal empathy enlightenment", the attainment of which usually leads us to adopt a meat-free diet, and to want to act to improve our relationship with the rest of the animal world.
The thing to remember here is that there is a big difference between a theoretical appreciation of the concept, and a true realization thereof. I can tell you that animals should be treated more fairly, and you can agree with this, in theory, but until you begin to truly understand the scope of the unfairness, and begin to empathize with the animals experiencing it, you might still make excuses. Like many others, you might continue to live in that disconnected reality where you claim to "love animals”, but still eat them and partake in activities that make them suffer and/or die.
A true realization goes deeper. Much like true enlightenment makes it impossible to "unrealize" certain things, so the "AEE" leads to a deep-seated resolve to treat animals more fairly, to not eat meat, to help animals whenever we can.
But how does someone go about attaining this state of mind? There are three things we can do to help make this happen. First, think about the suffering that animals have to endure every day. Really think about it. If you meditate, meditate on it. Think about the fear, confusion, and suffering that millions of animals all around the world are subjected to daily. Sometimes it helps to visualize this suffering by viewing videos that depict the suffering of animals. There is a lot of injustice out there – a lot of times animals are treated in ways that range from unfair to downright barbaric. If the videos that you watch make you feel sorry for the animals, or they cause a "this is just wrong" reaction in you, you're on your way to tapping into a higher state of consciousness.
Second, help animals any way you can. Whenever you take in a stray dog or cat, buy a bag of food for an animal rescue organization, or donate your time to an animal rights related charity, you are helping animals to survive. This is a very positive thing to do. Thinking about the good that you are doing will, in many cases, make you feel better. If you get involved directly, you will most likely begin to feel some empathy and compassion for the animals that you're helping. Afterwards, the fulfillment that comes with seeing how the suffering and sadness is minimized when someone cares enough to make a difference can help grow your bond with animals as well. Think about how the things that you are doing are making the animals happy, and how even though they can’t always communicate this to you, they are grateful.
Third, adopt a plant-based diet. Eating meat (as well as dairy and eggs) pulls us into a vicious cycle which requires more and more killing. Apart from the most important benefit -- not taking the lives of sentient beings -- breaking free from the meat-machine is positive on several levels: it’s good for your health, it’s good for the environment, and we no longer have to deal with the negative consequences of partaking in a very negative action. Even if you haven't attained "animal empathy enlightenment", a plant-based diet can really help you get there.
So there you have it, three simple steps you can take today to improve how you treat animals, and to create a better world both for them and yourself. Why not take the first one today?