Why are people so apathetic when it comes to the oppression of other animals or any other oppression, including their own? I think this apathy is largely rooted the structure of oppression. In a way, apathy is a form of learned helplessness; that is, apathy is actively produced through ideological control for the purpose of domination and exploitation. It's certainly more than simple ignorance, because even if people are knowledgeable of the existing oppressive situation they are unlikely to act if they believe the situation is unchangeable.
The Greek root for apathy means "without feeling" and comes from "apathos" meaning "without suffering." If we are taught that things aren't going to change then it's makes perfect sense for us to become numb to our feelings and the suffering of others. Basically, apathy becomes a survival technique for coping with the systemic oppression that surrounds us on a daily basis.
So we can't say that those of us who are apathetic are simply immoral or lack compassion. The very structure of oppression can lead the most moral and compassionate of us to become apathetic. After all, the Latin root of "compassion" means to "suffer with," including a desire to help. Systemic oppression turns our feelings of compassion against us. For the truly compassionate, our ability to feel the suffering of others can become unbearable once we have "learned" that things are unchangeable. That is, our compassion is turned against us by an ideology that frustrates our desire to help others by producing a belief that change is futile.
So how do we cure each other of our apathy? Well, if apathy is a symptom of systemic oppression, then the cure can be found in anti-oppression work. We can start by empowering each other to take part in real, concrete change and seeing ourselves as part of the solution. Veganism is a type of anti-oppression that can lead to learned helpfulness. That is, veganism gives us a means of using our daily lives to challenge and work against the oppression of other animals that is all around us. Through veganism we are practicing nonviolent direct action that challenges the system of oppression. Veganism as anti-oppression praxis takes the same compassion that can become poisoned under the structure of oppression and uses anti-oppression to free that compassion as an energizing forces for change. Through veganism we can cultivate a belief in the power of radical change that challenges exploitation, human supremacy, and speciesism.
Unfortunately, the non-profit-industrial complex, or NPIC, is largely "profiting" by co-opting our compassion. As described above with apathy, the NPIC use speciesism to teach us that thing are unchangeable and to bolster the structure of oppression. For instance, campaigns pushing for modified forms of exploitation are a perfect examples of this co-option. The key justification for these campaigns often rest on some form of speciesism while the campaigns themselves work to perpetuate the structure of oppression.
We are taught through these campaigns that veganism, while laudable, is a ineffective cause. We are assured by those who run these campaigns under the NPIC that since the entire world isn't going to go vegan in our lifetime that the only alternative is to support the existing structure of oppression in the form of the government bodies and capitalist industries that are responsible for the exploitation of other animals. The reasoning being that only these institutions can make things less painful.
This is part of the logic of speciesism that is used to convince us that promoting alternative exploitation is "humane" when what we really want is an end to exploitation. However, convinced by speciesism that veganism is impractical, we accept the new form of exploitation as what we assume is the only practical option. Like apathy, this is a cruel abuse of our compassion used in support of systematic oppression.
The very structure of oppression works in the interest of the non-profit-industrial complex, government, and industry. If we didn't defer our power to these institutions then the very power structure that supports the exploitation of other animals would cease to exist. This is why the practice of veganism as anti-oppression has so much potential; as it doesn't rely on the existing power structure. If we could only break free of our speciesist indoctrination that tells us veganism is impractical and learn of the power we have to make change through veganism it could spark what vegan movement co-founder Donald Watson said "would be greatest peaceful revolution ever known."