An animal activists' handbook
3. initiating and running a LOCAL CAMPAIGN
The most important role of local animal rights groups and contacts over the years has been to set up and run campaigns in their area. This is not nearly as daunting as it sounds. Some groups choose one local campaign and concentrate almost entirely on that alone. It makes more sense however to have two or three campaigns running at the same time as different campaigns require different approaches and the views and priorities of group members will differ.
Examples of typical campaigns:
1. Getting a local establishment closed down, such as a fur shop or zoo.
2. Getting something banned, such as dissection in local schools, angling in a park or circuses on council land.
3. Promoting cruelty free living in your area, such as persuading food retailers to sell more vegan meals and snacks or producing a guide to ethical eating and shopping locally.
4. Joining in with a national campaign, such as opposing live exports or animal experiments..
5. Protest marches.
Let's look at each type of campaign in turn. The best way to do this is to use a fictitious group, 'Anytown Animal Action', as an example.
1. GETTING A LOCAL ESTABLISHMENT CLOSED
At one of their meetings, AAA decide that they don't like the idea that the local zoo is making money from exploiting animals and they wish they could stop it from doing so. They are aware that the zoo is very small and that it has a mixture of 'domestic' and wild animals on display. They are concerned that some of the larger animals might be in enclosures which are far too small for them and they are also worried about the effect on the animals of a fairground which is right next door to the zoo.
The more they discuss it, the more they realise that they really want to do something about the welfare of the zoo animals. They decide to try to close it down by producing a leaflet which exposes the cruel conditions in Anytown Zoo and questions the existence of zoos as a whole.
They decide to hold regular demonstrations at the entrance to the zoo at which they will hand out the leaflet, display posters and banners and talk to the people going into the zoo. They hope to change enough people's minds about going into the zoo that it will make much less money from entrance fees and be forced to close. They will also publicise the issue as much as possible in the local media, make themselves available to give talks in local schools and hold a public meeting.
Now that they have decided what they are going to do, they start gathering the information they need. In order to write a leaflet which is accurate and contains enough detail to be convincing and in order to get photographs to use on their leaflet and in their displays, the group decide that one of them will have to go into the zoo with a camera and notebook. One of them does this, reluctantly paying their entrance fee because they know that it's worth giving the zoo a little bit of money now in order to stop them making lots of money in the near future.
Another member contacts Born Free Foundation, the national animal welfare organisation which concentrates on zoos, and asks them whether they have any specific information on this particular zoo which would be of help in the campaign.
The group hold a special meeting at which they read through all the notes and look at the photographs that were collected by the member who visited the zoo. They decide what they want to include in the leaflet and some of the group start work on placards with anti-zoo slogans and display boards containing information and photographs. A member with a computer offers to type up the leaflet and another member takes responsibility for getting it printed. The group choose a date for their first protest. They decide to hold it on a Sunday because this is the day the zoo gets the most visitors. A few days before the demonstration, press releases are sent out to the local papers.
After the first demonstration, the group meet up again to discuss tactics. They decide how regularly to hold their protests and set about organising a public meeting.
How to Close Down a Fur Shop
Picket outside every day (if possible!) until it shuts. Have at least two people at each door of the shop with a petition and a couple of boards showing the real truth behind the fur trade. Leaflet anyone walking past. Don't abuse people going in as this gives the law an excuse to move you. Your presence there alone is enough to deter most people from going in. You must keep it up. It will take weeks, not days, to close the place down, but it's a fantastic motivator for the group when the place shuts.
London, Manchester and Birmingham groups have had repeated successes with this tactic. Different police officers interpret the lawfulness of these tactics in different ways. If they threaten to arrest you, it's up to you whether you wish to go along with that and stand your ground.
Never call each other by surname within earshot of the shopkeeper as the owners might note your names in order to take out an injunction against you. Try not to let them take your photograph for the same reason. Don't let them intimidate you - they will try to. If possible, always have a dictaphone or recording Walkman to record whatever the staff say to you when they come out, as this may be very important if you have to later deal with the law.
If you want further advice about this tactic, contact London Animal Action, BM2248, London, WC1N 3XX.
2. GETTING SOMETHING BANNED
This is a speciality of local groups. Keep an eye out for disgusting practices taking place in your area and try to get them banned.
For example, AAA found out that foxes were being shot on a local golf course. They looked into this in order to establish who was doing the shooting, when it was happening, how many foxes were being killed and what the reasoning behind this was. Armed with this information, they produced a leaflet and petition about this subject and then organised a demo at the course, contacting the local media. They then organised a public meeting in order to raise even more awareness about this subject. They launched a letter writing campaign, flyposters etc.
3. PROMOTING CRUELTY FREE LIVING LOCALLY
You can produce an information booklet which describes the best places to get vegetarian and vegan food in your area and also provides advice and encouragement for prospective vegans. Why not produce a street map with recommended shops and cafes clearly marked. You could organise and publicise a guided tour of your town for the benefit of both veggie newcomers to your area and local people just turning veggie. You can also promote cruelty free household products, etc.
4. JOINING IN WITH A NATIONAL CAMPAIGN
Many of the national societies run campaigns such as 'Veggie Month' (March) and World Day of action against McDonalds. You can organise and run publicity stunts along these themes. Use your imagination.....
You can do a litter dump. Collect all the cartons and cups strewn around the streets near McD and take it back - this is perfectly legal and will grab the attention of all the customers and possibly make them feel rightly ashamed. Be prepared for hassle from their security guards if you do this. You can also do a sit-in where lots of you go in, sit down, take out your own food and start eating it. When the police arrive, you just leave. And of course you can use their clean, free toilets any time!
Your group will need to decide how 'radical' you want to be. There is an argument that some demos are counter-productive if they seem too confrontational.
With a licence from the Council, you can set up a free veggie burger stall in the middle of town and give them away with anti-McDonald's literature. You'll take more in donations than the cost of the food. This is a very positive kind of demonstration. Get all the literature from Veggies Catering Campaign.
These are just a few suggestions. Demos can range from two people giving out leaflets to a huge protest march. Just use your imagination and tailor your demo according to the target, expected turnout and likely response from the public and press.
Remember, the most effective stunt is the one that's never been done before!
5. PROTEST MARCHES
These can range from awe-inspiring, spectacular events where thousands of people bring a town centre to a temporary standstill and the streets echo with chanting, to badly organised, embarrassing flops where a dozen people half-heartedly walk about feeling self-conscious and attracting puzzled stares from passers by. Ensure that your march resembles the former type. This requires plenty of advance planning.
A protest march can only go ahead with the permission of the police. A confident and respectable looking person in your group should approach them in order to sort out the date and route.
Study a street map of the town before meeting them and choose two or three possible routes, aiming to get maximum visibility. Try to avoid routes that go down back streets, and be ready at the meeting for the police to be awkward and try to steer you away from the main part of town where people will see you.
Find somewhere to finish, preferably where shoppers will come and listen, such as a town square, or failing that a field or other open space where stalls can be put up. Get permission from the owners of the space to gather there at the end and to put up stalls. If it's a public place you will need a licence from the Licensing Department of the Council.
The police will demand that they have only one person to liaise with up to the march and on the day of it. They will understand that you won't be able to give them a very accurate prediction of the expected turnout, so they won't regard it as a major problem if more people come than expected.
The police will also insist on one steward for every 50 expected demonstrators, who should ensure the safety of the marchers. They must wear something that distinguishes them such as a fluorescent bib or armband. You can just buy some material and wrap it round arms, or get flashy armbands on loan from some of the national groups.
Allow plenty of time to promote your march, at least 2 months, preferably about 6! Advertise wherever possible, in animal rights magazines, local papers, local radio, local TV. Press release the march details two weeks in advance to all local media. Press release again to everyone two days before the march. You can also promote your event in any local 'What's On' listings. See if the national press will mention your event as well. (There's no harm in trying!) Contact national animal welfare and 'green' type publications as well, even low circulation ones.
If you get permission for stalls, invite other local charitable organizations to have one. Why not organise caterers as well.
Don't make the march more than 2 or 3 miles and check the route to make sure there are no road closures. Make sure that the route doesn't present problems to young children or disabled people.
Hire or scrounge public address equipment for the end of the march and arrange speakers. Make sure they keep to a short time (no more than 5 minutes per speaker) and forbid waffle.
Make it media friendly with plenty to photograph. Depending on the subject, make sure you have children or animal costumes at the front, a wooden crate for a veal demo, or cages, banners and home-made placards.
You can make a banner from a big sheet. Design it on paper, then draw it onto the sheet with a pencil, then paint it with gloss paint or any paint that won't wash off. Or you can make a really eye-catching banner by sewing on letters in bright material. If you're going to march with your banner then cut holes, for example in the O's, to let the wind through or you'll get blown all over the place.
To make placards, get some light plastic from a D.I.Y store. It can be corrugated. Cut to A3 or A2 size and stick on a poster on it. Smaller colour posters can be blown up to A3 size in a colour photocopy shop, or in two pieces to A2.
Cover the poster with sticky-backed plastic. Then nail the plastic board through the middle to a stick of light wood. You can nail one on each side. Now you have a long-lasting placard. For a big march, make about forty of these up, though a handful would be adequate for the front line which is what you want photographed for the media. The more the better though. If you are in a hurry and want to knock together a large number of placards, just use cardboard and don't bother with the sticky plastic, just make sure the words are clear and can be seen from a distance.
An Animal Activists Handbook
available for £4.99 (plus p&p) from Vegetarian Guides