Photo: PETA protest outside the London store earlier last week (PETA, via standard.co.uk)

 

Last Saturday, crowds of animal rights activists gathered outside a high-end clothing store in central London to protest their alleged mistreatment of coyotes and geese used to make their products. Canada Goose opened a new store in a popular shopping area in England’s capital, causing animal rights activists to go demonstrate.

The fashion brand had received global criticism, as Coyotes are caught for their fur in the wild in steel traps and then shot or bludgeoned to death, according to animal rights group PETA. The rights group also claims that the geese used for downs are mistreated in the making. Canada Goose previously responded to the allegations by stating that “’Surge, PETA and other activist groups misrepresent the facts and use sensational tactics to try to illicit a reaction and mislead consumers… They ignore the strict government regulation and standards that are in place, as well as our commitment to ethical sourcing practices and responsible use of fur and down’”, wrote the EveningStandard. During the nine-hour protest, demonstrators held up signs reading “fur is murder” or recited chants like “fur trade, torture trade”, among other things.

Earlier in September, several thousand activists protested during a march in London to end animal cruelty, as did others in various cities worldwide. Reports even claimed that some 30,000 activists had come to the streets in Tel Aviv which marked the largest animal rights march in Israel’s history. PETA reported on its President Ingrid Newkirk highlighting “the point that powerful marches like this one lead to impactful change” and that “[t]he world is waking up thanks to activism.”

However, animal rights activism has sometimes faced criticism, not only from their ‘opponents’ as in the London Canada Goose case. And neglecting the ethical and ideological dispute behind some of the criticism, the animal rights movement could reflect on some of its critique to think about improvement of their campaigns. As becomes apparent in an article about activists protesting in front of a small butcher selling “‘locally sourced, sustainably raised’ meat” in Berkeley, forcing the owners to put up an animal rights sign in the shop window, animal rights activists sometimes could (re-)consider their chosen tactics, strategies and goals.

In their actions, activists were perceived to be bullying and threatening the shop owners who claimed “’[t]heir tactics are really extremist’”, wrote the Guardian. The newspaper further stated that the Berkeley case as well as the “threat of similar protests have sparked backlash across the state.” Some have voiced their lack of understanding for why the activists had targeted such a shop instead of big ‘animal factories and meatpackers responsible for brutality on an unimaginably greater scale’, suggesting that the total abolition of meat-consumption could be unrealistic. Another article also reflected on the “Five fatal flaws of animal activism” already in 2010, though arguing from a more pro-animal rights perspective. Disregarding the points made in favor of being possibly more ‘radical’ in their claims and agenda, the author made valuable comments on the movement.

Reading the criticism of the Berkeley case and animal activism in general could then lead us to some questions to generally keep in mind when planning campaigns and movements:

  • Can our vision of tomorrow and objectives attract a wide base of support, and are they reasonably attainable?
  • Do we have a clear message and how do we communicate it?
  • Are the tactics we are using helping our overall strategy and thus, to achieve our vision of the future?
  • Are the tactics we are using attracting more people to our cause or could they possibly push away potential allies?
  • Which other groups and agendas could we cooperate with to make the movement stronger and help achieve our goals?

So no matter what your stance on the issue of animal rights is or which other cause you support, keep in mind these points when planning your actions and evaluating past operations. What else to consider, and to learn more about planning nonviolent movements, you can also consult our online publications for free.

For reading more about what the above thoughts on animal rights are based on, read the article on last week’s protest in London here, find the reflections on the case of animal rights protests in Berkeley here and read the 2010 article on flaws of animal activism here.