Effective Advocacy: Stealing from the Corporate Playbook
by Bruce Friedrich, director of Vegan Campaigns
I've been involved in social justice advocacy for more than 20 years. I spent six of those years running a homeless shelter and soup kitchen in Washington, D.C., before coming to work for PETA. If you are reading this, then you, too, must be concerned about making the world a better place.
Over the years, I've found that those of us who are concerned about the state of the world are often so overwhelmed by the enormity of suffering that we never stop working long enough to ponder our effectiveness or the bigger picture. But if we want to have the greatest impact possible, I believe that we have a moral obligation to stop, step back, and think strategically about the most effective ways to lessen suffering.
It is always good to think back to the basics of our goal. The animal rights movement strives to apply the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," to all animals. In more direct terms, we are trying to answer the question, "If you were the hen crammed into a cage, unable ever to spread one wing; if you were the mother pig in the gestation crate, cooped up in your own waste, never able to take a step in any direction; if you were one of the billions and billions of animals who are denied every desire and thoroughly abused, what would you want animal rights activists to do? How would you want them to behave?" I have been inside these factory farms, and I've been in the slaughterhouses; the level of abuse, the despondency in the animals' eyes … I can't describe it. It breaks my heart. I don't believe that any of us can truly understand their level of suffering and pain, but we owe it to them to try.
But that isn't enough. And neither is arbitrary action. We have to be aware that every time we choose to do one thing, we're choosing not to do something else. So it's crucial that we strive to use our time as effectively as possible. One of the most common reasons we go wrong is that even if we are working extremely hard, and even if we are dedicated to animals and making our activism for them a priority, few of us are working to become more effective.
We need to work as hard—and, more important, as smart—as the people on Wall Street work to sell stocks and as hard as advertisers work to sell the latest SUV. Although our goals are different, the mechanisms of reaching other people and selling the message (in our case, of animal liberation) are well established.
The point of this essay, "Effective Advocacy: Stealing from the Corporate Playbook," is to discuss ways of becoming more effective. There are two "playbooks" that nearly every successful businessperson has read—The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven Covey, and How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.
If these two books can be used to make money and sell products, then they can be used to help animals. I highly recommend that every animal rights activist take the time to read them both. We must take our animal advocacy as seriously as corporate America takes making money. In the meantime, I'll go ahead and relate the parts that I find most useful.