10 Animal Activist Tips

From The Vegan Dietitian, my thoughts interspersed in italics:
1. Try to understand the public’s current thinking and where it could be encouraged to go tomorrow. Above all, keep in touch with reality. Activists sometimes lose their feel for what the average person in the street might think, and this impacts their ability to know what is possible right now.

I think that's true. But I think a better suggestion is to simply ask people what they think and start from there because it can be insulting to assume someone knows nothing about the issues. If you treat everyone the same and relate to them like they all have the same ideas, it's extremely easy to be insulting or offensive.

I am constantly annoyed by activists who try to have the conversation with me - preaching to choir - without even asking what I think first.

2. Select a target on the basis of vulnerabilities to public opinion, the intensity of suffering, and the opportunities for change.

3. Set goals that are achievable. Bring about meaningful change one step at a time. Raising awareness is not enough. When Henry took on his first campaign, the anti-vivisection movement had no goal other than raising awareness in the hopes that this would bring about total abolition of animal experimentation. Henry noted “I want to abolish the use of animals as much as anybody else, but I say, let’s do what we can do today and then do more tomorrow.” He looked at successes as stepping stones toward bigger targets and more significant victories.

Realistic goals are HUGE! If you try to do too much too soon, you'll burn out.

4. Establish credible sources of information and documentation. Never assume anything.

Credible sources are great, but we all have different ideas of what that means. It's not so simple.
A better idea, IMO, is to stick to one subject at a time. Become an expert on the topic and use all kinds of sources. Be careful about your language and don't claim something as fact if you can't back it up with a source that others would perceive as credible, but don't ignore the effective sources just because some people don't think they're credible. For example, celebrity.

5. Don’t divide the world into saints and sinners. Henry said “People can change. I used to eat animals and I never considered myself a cannibal.”

You can divide between the sin and the sinner.
People are good. Their actions sometimes aren't.

Another similar concept: Be quick to forgive.

6. Seek dialogue and attempt to work together to solve problems. Position issues as problems with solutions. Present realistic alternatives.

Remember that what you see as realistic won't be the same as what they consider realistic.

7. Be ready for confrontation if your target is unresponsive. If accepted channels don’t work, prepare an escalating public awareness campaign to place your adversary on the defensive.

Said another way: Have a plan B.

8. Avoid bureaucracy.

9. Don’t assume that only legislation or legal action can solve the problem.

Laws should work in tandem with other activism.

10. Ask yourself: “Will it work?”

Then be honest. And get input from others.

Encouraging Accomplishments

PETA gets a lot of flack from vegans for handing out awards to people and organizations who haven't done much to help animals.

OK, so someone stopped wearing fur, that's great, but they're still wearing leather. Or a cosmetic company that stopped testing on animals but still contains animal ingredients. Or the restaurant that stops selling foie gras and veal but leaves chicken and steak on the menu. Or how about the fast food chain that adds one vegetarian item to the menu... big whoop!

The baby steps deserve recognition, but an award? Really?

The teeny tiny bits of progress here and there just don't seem worth acknowledging. In truth, I'm insulted whenever a nonvegan brags to me about how they only eat meat six days a week. Sure, meat-reduction is great, but don't tell me all about it, tell your friends who eat meat everyday! They're the ones who need to hear it.

In the past I've tried to ignore all of PETA's awards because of this. Even though I can rationally see these baby steps as progress, emotionally they bring me down. They remind me of how we're only moving inches at a time when we've got miles to go.

But yesterday I read something that helped me understand PETA's awards. It was Nobel Peace Prize myth-busting:
Myth: The prize is awarded to recognize efforts for peace, human rights and democracy only after they have proven successful.

More often, the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments.

So, the Nobel Peace Prize, like many of PETA's awards, are not simply for an accomplishment; they're praise to encourage more, similar accomplishments. That puts them in a whole new light, something that's a lot easier to stomach.

(Crossposted at Vegan Soapbox.)

On Being Radical

Noah Lewis explains why it's important for vegans to talk about honey:

If we think our ideas are too radical to be accepted, the solution is not to water them down to make them more appealing, but rather to present our ideas that are even more radical. [...]

Rather than retreating as society changes, social movements like veganism need to keep in front of it. [...]

Only by being "radical" animal rights activists can we actually create social change. Our movement need not to pander to what people already believe in order to succeed. By simply articulating and implementing our alternative vision its wild fullness, the radical becomes the mundane, and the world shifts by our presence.