Led by the heart
Despite witnessing some of the worst cruelty inflicted on animals, Lyn White has an unshakeable belief in the power of human kindness and compassion.
Lyn White is renowned for her work with Animals Australia, an animal protection organisation that represents more than two million individual supporters and members. Their vision is a world where kindness, compassion, and respect extend to all living beings. To achieve this, they investigate and expose animal cruelty, and have an unprecedented track record for conducting world-first public awareness campaigns.
During her work with Animals Australia – which has seen her awarded a much-deserved Member of the Order of Australia – Lyn has witnessed up close some of the worst brutalities inflicted on animals. From her investigations in factory farms and puppy mills to the greyhound industry and live export trade, Lyn has helped to expose the shocking realities on national television programs, including Four Corners and 60 Minutes.
Coping with cruelty
I talked to Lyn about how she maintains her emotional wellbeing in the face of such extraordinary suffering on the Conversations with Vegan Women Leaders podcast by VIVAS.
“I think dedication and determination allow you to rise above the many emotions that you may feel,” she explains. “When I’ve been in slaughterhouses, or witnessing cruelty, my greatest service to these animals is to not lose myself in grief or my ability to think with clarity. In those moments, it’s critical to focus on the gathering of evidence as it’s integral to bringing about change.”
It would be easy and even understandable to become disillusioned with the human race after witnessing terrified animals being beaten, tortured, and killed, but Lyn has a profoundly compassionate perspective.
“Even though I’ve seen acts that would be considered brutal, my question is always ‘What lies beneath our willingness to inflict animal suffering?’” she says. “I have an unfailing belief in human potential. The way we treat animals is the result of inherited belief systems that have limited who we are. If we can remove those belief systems, you’ll find a very different human being.”
Indeed, Lyn firmly believes that it is not only animals who suffer in production systems and slaughterhouses. “Scientific research is now revealing that we are biologically wired to be compassionate and kind,” she explains. “The more I’ve come to understand this, the more my own compassion for all involved has grown. Any employment that requires the best in us to be quelled is imbued with misery and suffering created by an unbearable conflict of heart.”
So many of our life choices emerge from inherited belief systems that we aren’t even aware or conscious of, according to Lyn. “I had my own awakening in my late 30s, where I realised that my choices, opinions, and attitudes were ones that I had inherited, primarily from my parents,” she says. “When you realise that, and you seek to rise above it and find out who you are, what you believe, and what choices accord with your heart and conscience, it’s incredibly liberating.”
Opening hearts to farmed animals
While it’s easy for people to support issues that don’t relate to their own personal choices, such as the greyhound industry or live export trade, Lyn believes it’s important to understand that the same belief system underpins all industries that can legally cause animals harm. This is why animals raised for food are central to Animals Australia’s campaigns. Because they suffer in the greatest numbers, lack legal protection, and have been “put in a particular ‘category’ that has denied them the wisdom and the compassion of the human heart”, says Lyn.
One of the organisation’s most memorable campaigns showing Tommy the Australian steer shaking in terror before being slaughtered in Indonesia put the cruel live export trade firmly into the national consciousness, while the ‘Somewhere’ TV ad featuring an animated pig wishing for a better life awakened consumers to their food choices. The emotive juxtaposition of this sweet pig singing the popular song from West Side Story, interspersed with factory farm footage of sad, abused, confined animals living in terrible conditions, broke open the hearts of Australians and those further afield.
Opening people’s hearts is key to transformation, says Lyn. “All the science is reiterating what I always knew – that the heart communicates with the brain. But the heart has been silenced because of the strength of conditioning of our minds, which, in effect, are a bundle of inherited beliefs. As we’ve discovered, a five-second video of Tommy was transformative for so many people who still honour that animal a decade later. That’s the power also of not horrifying people, but rather giving them an understanding of our commonalities with animals. As soon as you do that, it shifts those inherited beliefs and starts the process of thinking for yourself and making choices in line with your own heart and conscience.”
A compassionate r/evolution
Animals Australia’s latest campaign, a continuation of the ‘Somewhere’ story, is called Join the Evolution. “It’s an evolution of kindness, consciousness, and compassion that’s empowering people to make informed, conscious choices,” says Lyn. “A kinder world does start with us. We can’t rely on governments to bring about change. It comes from us checking in and choosing from the heart. As soon as we do that, the inherited systems that have caused great suffering will start to fall away.”
Heart-based leadership and action is what Lyn believes is key to a future that is kinder and more joyful for people and animals, especially post-Covid as more of us continue to rethink our lives and seek deeper connection with ourselves and nature. “There are catalysts and triggers to shifts in consciousness,” says Lyn. “We’re in a time of change and challenge. But if that serves as a kind of releasing mechanism for some of these inherited beliefs, we could change very, very quickly. I have enormous faith in the human heart, and I believe we’re going to move into an era where the heart will be at the forefront.” We may not all be able to march into hell for a heavenly cause, like Lyn, but we can play our part in making sure a kinder world is no longer an impossible dream.