With many greatly varying ways of advocating for non-human animals, it can sometimes be a challenge to discern which is the most effective for bringing about real and lasting change.
This is the second installment of the Effective Advocacy series, which presents a list of ideas, tactics and resources that may be utilized by those wishing to help animals and create a better tomorrow for all.
In the first installment we covered Outreach. This time around we’re going to talk about Public Demonstration.
Demonstrations, Protests and Marches
Public demonstrations are a great way of drawing attention to the issues of animal abuse. Designing demonstrations creatively, and not falling into the same patterns that have been used again and again, will make them of more interest to the general public, as well as keeping it all interesting for you and other demonstrators.
With any sort of demonstration, the more people you have involved, the greater the attention you will get. But this should not discourage you if your group is small. Even if there are only two people involved in a demonstration, it can still have an impact if done properly.
The time and location of any public demonstration is key to its effectiveness. Choose a location relevant to the business or group you are demonstrating against, and/or in a location with an audience you hope to inform.
Theatrics are one way of drawing attention and keeping things new, although it is important to make sure the theatrics do not distract from the point you are hoping to make.
Some theatrics can be a bit over the top, but at other times a visual display can be profoundly moving. Costumes will draw attention, although they may take away from the seriousness of the issue at hand. Deciding on the appropriate use of theatrics for your group, and how comfortable the participants feel with it, is important.
Demonstrations that don’t involve theatrics can sometimes lack the same luster and attention-grabbing appeal, but with well done signs, banners and slogans, you should be able to get the attention of those you wish to reach.
Organized protests usually differ only slightly from other forms of demonstrations in that they are more directed at the company or industry inflicting abuse on animals. These tend to be less about educating the general public. Protests can be effective in raising awareness about an issue, although usually as more of a side benefit, than the main goal.
Protests are often loud and usually emotionally driven events. The hope is to cause enough of a commotion (legally, of course!) in front of, or close to, an animal abusing company, that the shame or annoyance will then force the company to cease its abusive practices.
What I have found to be effective with demos and protests is for two individuals (or the whole group) to first go inside the protested business and speak with the managers. Then you can explain the reasons you have objections to their practices. Going in with a level head and being calm will make your stance much more palatable to people who already have preconceived ideas of activists. Create enough time so that you can engage in meaningful dialogue with them and not resort to shouting. Give them the opportunity to explain themselves — and listen. Then inform them why, and for how long, the protests will continue (until they stop profiting from abusing animals, etc)
Speaking with industry heads can sometimes drastically cut the need for long, drawn-out protests. By already setting up a channel of communication between you and the business, when the company has finally had enough, they will know exactly where to turn to ask for the protests to stop — once they’ve complied with the activists’ requests, of course.
Many times there will be limitations for how close protesters may stand to the company or business which they are protesting against. It is wise and strongly encouraged to check with your local law officials to be sure of your legal rights for public protest and demonstration.
It is important at demos and protests that there is someone designated to speak to news and other media if, and when, they show up.
Many times the media will find the most offensive soundbite to use in the nightly broadcast. This is why it is important that the people speaking to reporters have a solid and level grasp of the issue at hand.
Prearranged ideas of what to do if things get out of hand between protesters, business owners, police, and the public should be discussed to avoid unneeded problems.
Marches in many places will require that the organizers file for permits and/or insurance. You may be required to provide maps and detailed information about what the march is for, how many people you expect, and how long it will proceed. There may already be a march or event planned for the date you have chosen; therefore, it is important to plan well in advance and be flexible.
At all public protests, demonstrations and marches, signs, banners and leaflets will play a crucial role in providing onlookers with information on why you all have congregated together.
Having activists follow alongside a march and hand out leaflets to onlookers can reach a tremendous amount of people.
In the next installments of Effective Advocacy I’ll be covering:
- Boycotts, Letter writing
- Laws and Legislative Reform
- Personal Daily Activism