Animal advocates already understand the importance of raising awareness of the urgency of the animals' plight. In fact, we've been so effective with consumer awareness campaigns that we've already convinced a majority of Canadians to oppose using animals in rodeo (63 percent), killing animals for fur (81 percent), hunting animals for sport (88 percent), and killing seals in Atlantic Canada (53 percent; 23 percent were unsure, while less than a quarter voiced any degree of support).
Once we've reached a majority of opposition to any animal-use industry, it's simply undemocratic that it is allowed to continue. Our task, then, is to translate our shared values into legislative reform. Consumers boycotts are a powerful way of undermining cruel industries, but boycotts will only get us so far. Some consumers will always support cruel practices that are out of step with the rest of society (e.g. rodeo). And consumers may agree in principle with an idea, but not take steps to avoid it because it's not a priority for them.
Take fur: thanks no doubt to decades of anti-fur campaigning, when directly asked if we support or oppose fur, 81 percent of us say we oppose it. It's been embedded in our consciousness that fur is morally objectionable, and we recognize that the socially appropriate thing to say is that we are opposed to killing animals for fur. Meanwhile, jacket manufacturer Canada Goose has become nearly ubiquitous, despite trimming its parkas in wholly frivolous fur from animals who suffered and died. When people who own Canada Goose coats are asked what they think about the fur hanging down their backs, they largely say they didn't know it was real. Likely they hadn't even turned their minds to it. The reality is that most consumers aren't reading labels and scrutinizing purchases for ethics; nor should they have to, because our government should be creating and enforcing laws that reflect our shared values. When an overwhelming majority of people are opposed to using animals for fur, it should not even be an option for sale.
So what can we do? We need to take the momentum of consumer awareness and action campaigns and get political. That means getting laws and law enforcement to bring about animal liberation. This can't be left to professional activists, because law is a reflection of social values; it needs to be abundantly clear that animal rights is a pressing social issue of concern to most of us.
In the articles below, I expand on three ways all of us can incorporate legal and political activism into our advocacy: making animal issues visible through the use of traditional and social media, helping get new laws passed, and helping get laws enforced.