Planning a winning
A campaign is a long-term plan of action focused on one particular
issue. Perhaps you discover a monkey on permanent display in a cage
at a hardware store, or find out that students at local high schools
don’t have vegan options in their school. You might learn
that a facility in your town breeds animals for use in painful research
or that your local health food store is selling factory farmed animals
or that they are trying to build a slaughterhouse or factory farm
in your town. Whatever the issue, your campaign begins when you
see a specific problem of animal abuse in your area and you decide
you want to begin a serious, sustained effort to end the cruelty.
It is important to remember that campaigns can take a long time
to win - sometimes years. A campaign must focus on an issue that
will motivate you and the people in your group enough to see the
campaign through to a successful conclusion.
There are differences
between short-term campaigns and long-term campaigns. Many short-term
campaigns can fit into a larger long-term campaign.
Example: getting vegan meals in your local restaurants or school
helps the long-term campaign on veganism; getting one animal experiment
stopped one animal experimentation lab fits into a long- term campaign
It is important when starting any campaign to decide your focus.
Spreading the word about veganism and factory farming might need
more one-on-one time with the public. Your time and energy might
be spent tabling at festivals, downtown or leafleting at colleges
and at busy bus/public transportation stops.
(Since veganism was just mentioned, it is important to note that
with this issue there are many possibilities on long-term and short-term
campaigns you can do. Getting vegan meals in your school or nearby
schools serves a short-term and long-term purpose. If you are interested
in getting more information on how to do this or if you want to
get involved in campaigns on this issue with Viva!, please contact
Unfortunately, it is easy to get so caught up in doing something
that we sometimes forget why it is being done. If you decide you
want to protest your target, ask yourself: Are we here to irritate
our target, make them uncomfortable, or are we out here to get the
public to see what these people are responsible for and get people
to call and/or write them?
You might use both tactics for each campaign, but what you do
in front of the target might be different. Chanting and using a
megaphone might work to interfere with your target’s work
day. However, doing the same action might not serve to allow you
to speak with passerby’s or others who work in the building.
Both are great tactics; you just need to decide what your focus
is before you go out.
When planning a campaign, ask yourself the following questions:
Will there be public sympathy? Is public sympathy important for
achieving our goal? Your concern over public opinion does not mean
you should not take on an unpopular issue; it just means you need
to be prepared for backlash and gear your tactics appropriately.
Think about whom you might make angry or impact the most, and come
up with ways to counter their arguments and actions.
Is the goal realistic? Some goals may not seem realistic, but
with enough research and hard work, they might be able to be achieved.
A few years ago, it may not have seemed possible to get a ban against
animal circuses in cities. Now this is something groups around the
country are working on and have had success with. Circumstances
and public opinion can change and do change.
Do you have the resources at hand to give the campaign a really
good chance of success? If not, can you acquire them? Having enough
people, energy and even money can make difference. You may not get
everything you want, but you can usually get what you need. With
a concrete idea and plan, it will be easier to obtain advice and
financial assistance from activists and national animal rights organizations.
After you have picked your campaign you need people!
To run a successful campaign, you really need to have a few dedicated
individuals; even a small group can get a lot accomplished.
Once you have an issue, you need a plan.
First, you should
identify who has the power to make the changes you want. Is it one
individual, such as the mayor or the president of a corporation?
Or does the important decision rest with an institution, such as
a government agency? Your campaign should focus on influencing the
decision maker(s) you identify. Start with something small, such
as writing a letter (for example, you might ask the State’s
Fish and Game Department to stop allowing hunting on public lands).
You may know their response, but you are creating a paper trail
and providing that you have gone through the normal channels to
create the change you desire. Try to get everything in writing and
remember to keep any communication between you and your target.
(Example: Grimaud Farms, a duck company investigated by Viva!, sent
us a letter telling us they had seen our video and that the footage
was obtain illegally from their farm. Later, Whole Foods tried to
tell us that the video probably did not come from Grimaud Farms.
Luckily we had a letter to prove Grimaud had confirmed it).
If you have a phone conversation, be sure to note the full name
of the person you are speaking to, the date and time of your call,
and any pertinent information exchanged.
Also write letters to local public officials and congressional
representatives. State your issue, your demands and alternatives.
Be clear about what you are asking your public officials to do.
You might want to meet with some of your elected officials. See
if you can enlist their support.
If your campaign requires research (from example, getting documentation
on the how large your county’s farmed animal population currently
is and how dramatically it will be increased if more farms are allowed
in, have residents complained, or when an experiment began, who
gave it approval), keep copies of everything that supports your
cause. These will be useful if you decide to print materials to
distribute to the public or the media. It is especially important
for you to keep the information organized!
Depending on what campaign you are working on, conducting field
research is a great way to get valuable information on your target.
If you are trying to get horse-drawn carriages banned from your
city, spend time videotaping the conditions of the horses. How often
do they receive water? Do they have sores? It is always a good idea
when monitoring animals, either in the circus or carriage trade,
to note the temperature. Also, note the proximity between the animals
and the public. Keep careful notes about your observations, including
the date, time, location and description of events and who is involved.
With horse-drawn carriages, be sure to note traffic problems,
carriages slowly going through red lights, slowed traffic, etc.
For all campaigns dealing with live animals, check to see if there
are any ordinances to protect the animals and who is in charge of
enforcing these laws. Although the Animal Welfare Act does not do
an adequate job of protecting animals forced to perform in circuses
and does NOT cover animals who are raised and killed for food, it
is a good idea to become familiar with this act in terms of your
campaign. If you see a violation, be sure to contact your local
Animal Control department and/or the United States Department of
Agriculture to file a complaint. (Unfortunately, this may or may
not make a big difference, but it will be recorded - say in the
circus’s file, which is public record and could help other
activists know what to look out for when the circus comes to town).
You also want to keep an eye out for anything that could be used
against your target (for example, water used to clean excrement
from cages that is subsequently washed into city drains that lead
into the river).
When you have gathered your information, write a fact sheet about
what you have discovered. This will be something you can give to
the public and the media. Try to make your video footage available
for the media to view.
Before you go public, it is a good idea to get expert opinions
to support your campaign. This will lend credibility to your cause
and help convince the general public and government officials that
action needs to be taken. Approach scientists, veterinarians or
any others who have relevant experience and inform them of the situation.
See if they will write a critique (criticizing your target) and
recommend alternatives. You might want to find someone local if
you think you will need him or her throughout the campaign. These
are a number of professional animal rights associations, such as
the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) and the
Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), that help activists on animal
Pass out leaflets and set up information tables to inform the
community and to gain public sympathy. You might circulate a petition
or letter for people to sign to send to your target’s decision
Try to have local newspaper reporters or other interested
media do a story. Issue a news release and call the editor of the
Try to get support from other groups that might be able to assist
you. For example, if you are working on trying to stop a factory
farm from entering your community, you might want to contact the
local environmental groups such as the Sierra Club; if you are working
on horse drawn carriages, you might contact people who work on horse
Keeping people motivated over the long haul is the real challenge.
One of the best ways to keep energy going for a campaign is to have
a lot of different ideas on tactics which the campaign can use.
It is extremely helpful to brainstorm on different ways to pressure
your target. For example, if you are targeting a local vivisector,
find out where he/she works and organize an office demonstration
or candlelight vigil. Perhaps you can find out where that person
will be giving a speech, attending a conference or receiving an
award, and you can be there to speak out for the animals. Brainstorming
with a group is extremely useful. People can come up with some pretty
wild ideas, but by discussing them together you can often come up
with something achievable.
If your initial polite steps to affect change fail, your organization
may need to increase the pressure. You may have already planned
for an escalation if you were sure of your target’s position
(factory farms won’t read a letter and decide to move somewhere
else). Escalation tactics include protests, candlelight vigils,
boycotts, marches, and sometimes civil disobedience.
Public support and sympathy are always helpful. However, keep
in mind that many victories for animals are accomplished without
the need for media or the public to be involved.
For those seemingly resistant targets, persistence and creativity
are a few of the keys that should be used.
Remember, even after you escalate the campaign, you need to continue
with your other activities. All of your various activities will
work together to make sure you attain your goal for the animals.
To summarize, review the following checklist when you get started
with your campaign.
Ten Essential Points for a Successful Campaign
- Identify which authority figures to target (stores, the public,
politicians, CEOs, government agencies, etc).
- Get everything in writing at all stages of the campaign and
document all interactions.
- Notify your state and congressional representatives of your
- Do any necessary background research.
- Prepare fact sheets or other relevant literature for distribution
to the public.
- Solicit expert opinions to back up your facts.
- Notify the media.
- Distribute your fact sheets and documentation to the public
(tabling and leafleting).
- Enlist support from other animal advocacy organizations.
- Continue to brainstorm and keep the campaign going strong.