From Animal Rights Activism Articles Archive


Also see Animal Rights Activist Strategies

Also see How to Run a Good Campaign

If there is a specific type of abuse that you want to target, and you've got all your facts together, you are ready to organize a campaign—a long-term plan of action focused on one particular issue.

Set an achievable goal, plan escalating levels of action, and be prepared to stick with it until you win.

As part of a campaign, you may hold several demonstrations, a march, or a rally. You may also organize a letter-writing campaign and a sustained public-education effort that includes tabling, leafleting, and public meetings. By using a well thought-out strategy and an escalating level of activity, you may be able to achieve anything—from shutting down a pet or fur store to stopping an abusive research project.

Planning a Campaign

A campaign requires a great deal of commitment, planning, and organization. While it's possible to do this alone, the support of others is very desirable. In either case, it's important to establish an identity as a group. Once you get going, others will join you. You, however, must expect to lead the way.

Your first step is to thoroughly research your opponents. Make a list of their strengths and weaknesses. Where are they most vulnerable? What arguments will they use to defend their position? A research project may already be jeopardized as a result of inadequate funding or its inability to produce results. Exposing these problems could be enough to tip the scales.

Think about the information that you gather. What do you hope to achieve? Decide exactly what you want your target to do. Know the alternatives to the current situation and be prepared to offer solutions. What is the minimum that you'll accept? Are your goals realistic? If your case is too weak, it's better to face that fact as soon as possible.

If you've got a good target, start developing your strategy. Begin by designing a timetable for your campaign. Then establish short-range goals. For example, if your long-range goal is to close down a pet shop, first set a goal to get a letter to the editor on the subject printed in a local newspaper. Your next goal might be to get another community group, such as a local humane society, to support your cause. Short-range goals keep momentum going and bring you closer to your target.

Prepare for countercharges. What claims will your opponents make to defend their actions? How will you refute them?

Decide whose support you really need to win. Be specific—don't just say "the public." Which part of the public? Which groups or individuals in particular? Consider the best ways to reach them. Whose support can you count on from the beginning? How will you work with those people? Analyze how you will win over or neutralize supporters of the opposition.

Choosing Your Strategy

You may be able to accomplish your goals with a low-level effort, such as a letter-writing campaign or a series of leafletting and tabling activities. Not all campaigns require demonstrations or rallies. If you start out with a bang, you must be able to sustain it.

Take the time to consider what's going to make your campaign a success. The more planning time you give yourself, the better chance you have of winning your campaign.

The following general strategies will help:

Try to communicate with your opponent. Write to officials at the company or organization that you're targeting, politely state your grievance, and ask for action.

Give them time to respond, but set a deadline so that they don't keep you dangling forever. It's always possible that your opponent is unaware of the abuses, and there may be room to negotiate change. Regardless, if you don't go to the source first, your credibility will be impaired.

Document your communications. Keep copies of all letters and a written record of all telephone calls.

Before you go public, try to get some expert opinions to back you up. Such statements lend credibility to your campaign and make it easier to convince both the public and government officials. Approach scientists, veterinarians, doctors, and anyone else who has the experience and credentials to be considered an expert on the issue. Inform them of the situation and ask them to give you a written statement criticizing your target and recommending alternatives.

Produce some basic campaign literature. A fact sheet, background/history sheet, list of alternatives, page of expert opinions, and short leaflet listing your demands and telling people what they can do to help. These provide essential information for the public and the media.

Arrange a meeting with officials from the mayor's office and/or the specific regulatory office related to the issue. Clarify the facts about the issue and the changes that you are proposing and try to get their support. Write letters to local government officials, congressional representatives, and the head of the organization that you are targeting. State the problem and your demands. Specifically explain what you want them to do. Arrange to personally meet with as many elected officials as possible. Try to enlist their support.

Write to the news editors of local papers and related trade journals to try to interest them in doing a story on the issue.

Educate your community. Set up tables and hand out leaflets to publicize the issue. Write letters to the editor. Run an advertisement in the newspaper if your budget allows.

Try to get support from other national and local groups. Contact civic associations, the League of Women Voters, Rotary clubs, and political organizations working for animal issues such as the League of Humane Voters.

When you escalate to a new level, don't abandon your original activities. Public education should be a constant effort, complementing all your other tactics. Escalation means finding ways to exert more pressure, such as picketing, holding a candlelight vigil outside an official's home, or doing street theater at the company headquarters. To increase the pressure, you could organize a boycott or hold a march or rally. Obviously, it is vital to try to get media coverage for every action.

See information about Demonstrations

Return to: Animal Rights Activism
Return to: Animal Rights Activist Strategies