There is a large misconception that every day people can’t make a real change for animals. Now sure, on an individual level, as animal lovers, we all know we can help change the world for one animal say by adopting a pet or leaving out food scraps for feral cats — but at a huge, global animal welfare level, it can be easy to think that the only way to make a difference is to support a huge animal welfare or wildlife conservation charity. In this way, the real change-making is being done by organizations that are larger or more powerful than yourself.

While donating dimes and dollars to animal charities is a great deed and certainly helpful, you should also take a look at your lifestyle choices. It’s been said, many times, that your lifestyle choices are even more effective than donations. From the food we eat to the clothing we wear to the cosmetics we slather on to the entertainment we choose to indulge in, our daily lifestyle choices play a huge role in animal welfare. So, if you really want to help animals but don’t always have the spare cash to donate to various charities, here are four things you can do that will actually help more in the long run than donating money.

1. Be Conscious of Your Food Choices

Undercover investigations from organizations like PETA and Mercy for Animals have proved time and time again, through footage, that life for animals on factory farms is dire. Animals on factory farms live a short life and never get to see the sun, feel the grass beneath their feet or breathe in fresh air. They are crammed into filthy slaughterhouses, often without anything to eat or drink, until their day of slaughter.

Countless farm animals are killed for the sake of our food every day, but they are hardly the only animals that are impacted. Many people don’t know that industrial agriculture has a huge negative downstream impact on other animals. For example, in the U.S., the wild horse and wolf populations have drastically declined because the livestock industry takes precedence over public lands. Wolves are viewed as predators to cattle and consequently “managed” by the Bureau of Land Management and wild horses are frequently subjected to “roundups” and corraled into government holding facilities. And these are just a few examples of how industrial animal agriculture can impact animals other than farm animals, click here to learn more.

You don’t have to go completely plant-based to make a difference either, it’s all about being conscious that your food choices have an impact and choosing to minimize that however you feel fit.

2. Ditch the Leather and the Fur

Kim Kardashian was recently dissed by a group of animal rights activists at a book signing for wearing fur and there’s a reason to this backlash.  Animals on fur farms like rabbits, cats and dogs, live in filthy, cramped cages and the killing methods of these innocent animals are horrific. Boiled, hanged, electrocuted, and beaten, nobody could ever imagine the immense suffering animals on fur farms endure … all for the sake of fashion.

The same goes with leather. And a lot of the animals used in the leather industry, like cows, goats, sheep and even dogs, often get skinned alive, with no painkillers. Buying fur or leather contributes to this suffering, so if you agree that it’s completely inhumane and unfair, stop buying and wearing fur and leather and check out this cruelty-free clothing line for a friendlier alternative.

With all the amazing alternatives available, there is no reason for animals to suffer for our fashion.

3. Use Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

The next time you go shopping to stock up on beauty supplies, keep your eyes peeled for that Leaping Bunny logo on the back of cosmetics. Animal testing is still legal in the United States and many animals like dogs, cats, rabbits, chimpanzees, monkeys and mice suffer as a result. Confined to tiny barren cages, animals in experimentation labs get toxic chemicals rubbed into their eyes, are force fed poisonous chemicals and all sorts of other terrible tests.

More than 25 million animals are used for testing in the U.S. every year,  but many people are completely unaware of the fact that this sort of testing is completely unnecessary. In the case of cosmetics, many of the chemicals and compounds that are used have been proven to be safe for human use for years – plus, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even require that cosmetic brands perform tests on animals. The cosmetic industry is a huge place where the everyday consumer can make a difference for animals with their choices. The more people who vote with their dollar and purchase cruelty-free, the more incentive other companies will have to end the needless torture.

If you’re looking to swap to cruelty-free brands, you can find them online here or check out this awesome guide.

4. Don’t Pay for Animal Entertainment

Thousands of animals throughout the U.S. and all over the world are used as circus clowns and forced to perform silly tricks in order to seemingly “entertain” people. If they perform a trick incorrectly, they get beaten. And once the spotlight is off them, they are forced to live in cramped trailers, chained up and solitary, with no family or friends.

By going to circuses, marine parks, and other places in which animals are forced to entertain their human audience, you are directly paying into animal suffering. Elephants, whales, dolphins, and a host of other animals suffer greatly at the expense of our entertainment. All animals, like humans, deserve their freedom and the freedom to choose how they live their life. By boycotting circuses and other cruel animal attractions, you can send the message that no animal deserves to suffer for our entertainment. Remember, these are businesses driven by profit and can only run when we pay to see the animals. When the funds end, so can the abuse.

The Power of YOU

While it might be easy to think that the biggest problems facing animals should be tackled by a huge group or established organization, we can’t forget the power that we have as individuals. We all have the choice to help animals through our own everyday actions – no major donations required! Just think, if we all started to act for animals by doing one of these things, that could have an enormous collective impact. So share what you’ve learned and encourage others to make a difference with their own actions – together, we can change the world.

 Image source: Laura Bittner