Establishing the Rights of Animals in Law and Human Consciousness

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Establishing the Rights of Animals in Law and Human Consciousness

Comments by David Cantor - 19 Jun 2006

Dear Frank and Mary

Re your comment: "We just need to keep it simple if we want to reach the masses."

I should add that I think seeking to explain animal rights to the masses is a failed strategy. That's why I work to address small groups, do mailings to influential people, educational institutions, governing bodies, and others. Reaching the masses, I think, is right for things within the existing paradigm -- to promote a new kind of bicycle, a major-party political candidate, and so on. It isn't effective for promoting a new paradigm, because a new paradigm is by definition difficult to understand. People who are able to understand it initially are relatively few. That's how it was with human rights / natural rights, and that's how it's proving to be with animal rights.

A quarter-century into the declared animal rights movement, and it's hard to find any human being who can state accurately what animal rights is. Countless people have heard the term and think animal rights is all kinds of things that it isn't. I believe that is because the mass media never explain new paradigms -- even the news is entertainment, relying on the existing paradigm -- and too quickly, with too little thought, the declared animal rights movement (it wasn't really such; that's why I say "declared") zeroed in on the mass media to "get the word out." Lots of words got out, but not those that explain animal rights.

Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves To Death is the best I know for explaining why TV never can educate by its very nature.

Responsible Policies for Animals has been testing some 30-second advertisements on community-access cable TV -- a different form in key ways than network or conventional cable TV. We're only seeking to get people to learn about what we do -- get a free brochure, etc. No horrifying pictures, no music, just some printed words and a brief voice-over. So far, not even one response. I don't think the community's being conservative is the only reason. I think it's that TV is a medium that relies on visual images to stir the emotions, and emotions can't tell people what animal rights is or even get people to want to know what it is. Our ads do not appeal strongly to the emotions, so there's no response. If they did, there might be some response, but it wouldn't be to animal rights -- it would be to animal suffering. The existing paradigm would then kick in, as it has to all of the more costly ads and exposes: There must be a humane way to do this.


David Cantor

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