Advocacy tips from Tom Regan

The following ideas represent some really helpful advocacy tips that featured in Tom Regan’s War Analogy article.

‘From my reading of Gandhi, I have come away with five principles:

1. Practice humility
The last thing other animals need is another reason not to be respected. So the first thing we need to insure is that we do not provide that reason — something we do provide if we come across as thinking of ourselves as so much better than, so superior, to the meat-eaters or the fur-coat wearers of the world, for example. Who wants to be around arrogant, self-righteous people? Who is going to listen to what they have to say? I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the company of such people, I’m looking for the exits. Non-ARAs can be counted on to behave the same way if we present ourselves as holier-than-thou. We don’t help other animals by turning-off other human beings.

2. Believe in the potential of others
In particular, believe in their capacity to change — and believe in their capacity for goodness. Think of things this way: we are trying to help people have a change of perception. Here is a person who does not know what is happening on factory farms or on puppy mills. Here is another person who knows, but doesn’t care. And here is yet another person who knows and cares, but not enough to do anything about it. Unless you’re very unusual, these people used to be you.

I know they used to be me.

For me, looking at these people is like looking in a mirror — a mirror that reflects the past. My past. And, if you’re like me, your past.

If we can have a change of perception (as we have), then there is no reason why the same thing cannot happen to other people. We need to believe in the possibility of change in their lives before we can help facilitate this change.

3. Accentuate the positive
The idea of animal rights does not live in a moral vacuum. Those of us who believe in the rights of animals are for life’s great values, not merely against animal abuse.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are for peace and tolerance, for compassion and mercy, for personal integrity and social justice, for human freedom and equality, for the preservation of the environment and the advancement of science, for special concern for those with special needs.

We are for, for, for, not only against, against, against.

So (as I mentioned earlier) because the general public has a negative view of ARAs as a result of how the media portrays us — this means . . . what?

It means that our job as educators takes on added importance. We are so many Davids. The media (fueled by advertising dollars from the animal abusing industries) are so many Goliaths.

Well, we all know how that story ended.

And, yes, we all should take inspiration from the outcome.

4. Take the path of least resistance
We cannot make people have a change of perception. All we can do is try to help this happen. The more we force the issue, without preparing the ground (so to speak), the less likely we are to succeed. So prudence counsels taking people where they are.

They care about their health or the health of their families.
They care about scientific misconduct or the ill-effects of prescription medicines.
They care about environmental degradation or the extinction of species.

Fine. Fine. They care about something.

And whatever they care about in the list I’ve given (and I could write a much longer list, and so could any other ARA), there is a way to bring nonhuman animals into the conversation. We need to help these people see the connections. Help them see why what they care about intersects with what we, as ARAs, care about — and, indeed, with what these animals themselves care about. Helping them see the connections will not convert them to animal rights advocacy on the spot, but it can provide them with an opportunity to move forward.

5. Stay on message
As ARAs, we believe that other animals should not be turned into food, turned into clothes, turned into competitors, turned into performers, turned into tools. We are categorically opposed to all practices and institutions that treat other animals in these ways. This is not something we should be hesitant to say. We owe it to others to be open about our deepest convictions. We owe others our honesty. We should not expect, of course, that vast numbers of people will agree with us just because we’re honest about what we believe. But neither should we conceal our deepest convictions because this is not going to happen.

Being the change we want to see in the world.
So, what is involved in being the change we want to see in the world? This is a very big question to which I have given a very small answer. At a minimum, though, we embody that change if:

we practice humility;
believe in the possibility of change in others;
accentuate the positive;
take the path of least resistance;
and stay on message.

Our failing to do this represents our failure to help people have a change of perception and, by doing so, guarantees that the undeclared war being waged against other animals will go on. And on. And on. And on without end.’

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