I recently spoke at Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for the Farm Animals in Seattle. I wanted to share with animal advocates how they could spread their message of animal protection. Below information I shared:
I first learned about Farm Sanctuary nearly 20 years ago. At that time, I remember feeling that I had actually found others who understood the importance of protecting and showing true compassion for all animals. Although I came from a heavily meat- and dairy-eating family, I choose to become vegan for 19 years ago after I learned about the treatment of dairy cows and calves. And I cherish my vegan lifestyle to this day.
Farm Sanctuary works to protect farm animals from cruelty and to inspire change in the way society treats farm animals. For the past 25 years, they have been rescuing, educating and advocating on behalf of farm animals, and they operate the largest rescue network on the US.
Incredibly, Farm Sanctuary was one of the first organizations to document cruelty at factory farms. Today, we know that billions of farm animals suffer and die under conditions so cruel, that the perpetrators would be subject to felony cruelty charges if they committed these atrocities against cats and dogs.
Few people know how their food choices support this cruelty and suffering of farm animals. Luckily, as advocates for animals, the internet and social media has made our voices louder.
However, it has troubled me at times that I am often speaking about animal issues to other people who already agree with me. So a number of years ago, I decided to learn about mass media and public relations so I could relay the message of compassion farther and wider.
I would like to share with you how you too can amply for your voice for animals.
Recently, I saw television footage of a women at a protest in Seattle who shouted into the camera, “Keep that mainstream media away from me.”
Unfortunately, this sentiment is all too common and represents a missed opportunity to advocate for animals. Though I exclusively cover stories on animal welfare issues for the media, I frequently get turned down by animal activists when I request an interview.
However, I believe we can make a broader impact for animals when we engage main stream media so that we can get our individual messages, not just to people within arm’s reach, but also to those we will never meet. To do so, we have to play the media game and meet media deadlines to reach the tens of thousands of people who listen, watch and read main stream media but who have never heard our stories of the animals. Here are a few ways to get started.
First, letters to the editor are always great, and I encourage you to express yourself in this way. Newspapers frequently print your letters. However, consider writing an op-ed or an article for a region-wide, local or neighborhood paper or news site. While region-wide papers, like the Seattle Times, have their own staff, op-eds can be submitted by anyone. Conversely, local or neighborhood papers or blogs are often short on content and would love to have submissions from a new voice. You can also submit articles to my website called LivingHumane.com
Second, learn to write a press release and follow-up with the media. Anyone can write a press release and submit it to media outlets. However it is often better received if it comes from an organization. But you can simply start an organization so that you can write a press release with the organization’s name on it. For example, if you want to start a vegan potluck group in our neighborhood and invite the public, send out a press release from “The Greenlake Neighborhood Vegans” — a new group we just formed.
Petitions are a great way to get attention for an issue and show public support, but consider sending out a press release once your petition gets going. Media outlets want to know what’s going on out there and your issue may be just the thing they are looking for if you are willing to present the issue clearly and concisely.
Meet deadlines. Many media outlets may be interested in your story, but they can’t use it if the paper is already printed, the episode is already in production, or the show is already booked. But also, don’t give up. Be prepared to submit and resubmit to get media coverage for animal issues.
Offer to be on radio shows to talk about animals. They need guests, and at certain times of the year it can be hard to get people to be on the show. More than half the guests on my radio shows are people who offered me their time and a good topic to be on the air.
Consider discussing issues that you are passionate about at your local neighborhood meetings. Many issues start at the local level – whether they be work parties for farm animal sanctuary or neighbors concerned about the transport of farm animals on our highway. Community groups love and need participation, and they want to hear about local concerns. You have power to suggest topics for these meetings.
Keep your own media list and make friends with people in the media. I have been told by many well-meaning activists that they “hate the media,” and my feelings are hurt just a little. You never know when that reporter might completely agree with your position on animals.
Finally, learn from reality television! If you are interesting, and your concern is actionable, don’t underestimate the power of enthusiasm to help amplify your voice for animals.