A blog-post by a member of the Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) has identified several trends in animal rights activism that they project for 2023. These trends are likely to be causes for concern for the animal agriculture industry, and the piece was written to make AAA supporters aware of them. Recognising these trends and identifying the views held on these animal advocacy tactics by proponents of animal agriculture may provide advocates with valuable insights.
In this post, I list the key trends identified by the article and bullet point tactics highlighted by the article which are of particular interest.
I’m thankful to “The Cranky Vegan” for bringing this article to my attention through their linked video.
Linking CAFOs to negative human and environmental health
- Drawing attention to the detrimental effects of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) to human and environmental health
- Using historical precedents of CAFOs being charged in court such as in North Carolina and Seattle in messaging
- Exploring cases where ethnic minorities have experienced disproportionate negative health impacts of CAFOs
This strategy may create opposition to CAFOs from individuals and organisations that may not be compelled by animal-focused driven arguments, and could be further integrated into outreach and media messaging. Referring to historical precedents of CAFOs being charged with breaching environmental regulations may help to legitimise messaging against them.
The use of undercover footage in court and media
- Using undercover footage from factory farms to motivate arguments in court that such operations engage in unfair competition, false advertising, market distortion and fraud
- Using undercover footage from factory farms pressure retailers to cut ties with such farms
- Using undercover footage from animal rescue missions from factory farms as evidence against charges of trespassing and theft
The continued and increased use of undercover footage from factory farms is clearly concerning for animal agriculture, given the extensive efforts to block this such as through so called Ag-gag laws. However, the suppression of undercover footage from factory farms may lead to increased media attention on these items and public scrutiny on the conditions of factory farms. Indeed, in a recent case, Direct Action Everywhere activists who were being prosecuted after liberating piglets from a Smithfield Foods farm and releasing footage from their mission, were acquitted by the jury, despite the judge blocking the jury from viewing the footage taken. The aforementioned ways in which undercover footage may be used to aid the acquittal of activists, challenge farms in court and pressure retailers to cut ties with farms highlight the potency of combining undercover footage with legal action.
Prioritising Youth Engagement
- Engaging young people in programmes that rival agricultural programmes like FFA and 4-H
- Fostering social disapproval of animal product consumption and normalising plant-based foods in classrooms, presenting the suffering caused by factory farming in an emotive way
Educating young people and creating a shift in culture towards empathy, through recognising the suffering caused by animal agriculture and normalising plant-based foods, may challenge the image that animal agriculture is trying to maintain. This may be an important factor in changing consumption habits of future generations.
Deconstructing legal personhood
- The use of the writ of habeas corpus, a right that protects against unlawful and indefinite imprisonment, as a way to challenge the legal personhood of animals by the Nonhuman Rights Project.
Although the case of Happy the Elephant was not successful, the amicus briefs (supporting documents) and dissenting judgements (judges disagreeing with the outcome) showed significant support for the rights of non-human animals. Further, litigation modelled on this habeas writ petition was successful in freeing a chimpanzee from an Argentine zoo, freeing of an elephant by the Islamabad High Court, with both animals now legal persons with rights. This demonstrates the potential of deconstructing legal personhood for advancing the legal rights of non-human animals.
Legal Reform and Increasing political pressure
- The outcome of Proposition 12 (Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act) in California and the legal momentum towards implementing a more humane future
- Pressuring elected officials to include animal rights in their legislative campaigns
- Animal advocates running for office themselves
- Presence of animal advocates in both the legislative and budgeting sessions of legislature
The increased use of animal law and legal arguments as well as successes in this domain appears particularly concerning for proponents of animal agriculture, which is reflected by AAA publishing reports from attending Animal Law conferences. Individual wins here can set powerful precedents and create momentum.
Remarketing plant-based foods
- Adopting the emotive, pathos-oriented marketing strategies of animal agriculture rather than the continued use of intellectual messaging that compares plant-based products to animal products.
The article refers to an account from the Animal Law Conference 2022, where vegan activists discussed the need to update their marketing strategy for plant-based foods, in order to increase their share of meat sales. It highlights the need to develop a unique way to market these products that does not depend upon a comparison to slaughter meat.
The article was written by a member of the AAA, to draw attention to key trends that they had recognised in animal activism to the animal agriculture community, including from reports produced by AAA supporters undercover at animal activist conferences. Although the article does not discuss whether and how these tactics may be particularly damaging to the animal agriculture industry, its publication suggests some concern over their use by animal activists. Therefore, this post seeks to highlight these trends to animal activists, so that they can consider the value of each strategy, and reflect upon whether any of them are currently under-valued or under-used by the animal activist community.