What do we do with extreme activists?

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As an industry, Andrew Whitelaw from Mecardo says we need to stop fighting animal rights activists and devote our energy to educating our customers and ensuring best practice welfare.

Protests in steak restaurants, monuments to fallen chicken and attacking fictional cartoon characters. These are areas which animal rights activists have campaigned in recent times. In the modern world of social media, and instant communication, it can be easy to spread a message. Should we be fighting the animal activists or embracing them?

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The intention of many of these groups is to completely abolish animal agriculture, however, to do this they need to shift public perception of meat.

But they still have a long way to go to change people’s eating habits drastically with industry figures showing that vegetarianism is still a minority dietary choice, even in India. 

Let’s highlight a few of the more obscure tactics of animal activist groups:

‘Enjoy your meal’

I, like many millions of other people around the world, recently watched with disgust the actions of animal activist group ‘Save the Cow’, as they stormed a steakhouse in Melbourne to protest the consumption of meat. The organiser of this group has said the goal is to force their message onto the public and are planning further activities. 

‘A memorial to chickens’

A relatively new marketing strategy from PETA is memorials for dead animals. Whenever an accident occurs with a truck carrying live animals, PETA will request the erection of a memorial. As this is a highly unusual and controversial request, it is typically picked up by both local and national media.

‘Changing our childhood’

Anyone my age will likely have been fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You might think, what does a fictional family of turtles trained to be ninjas by a New York sewer rat have to do with farming? The fictional turtles have a natural love for gooey cheese and pepperoni pizzas. 

PETA has now launched a campaign to have the reboot of this classic changed to include vegan turtles. Obviously, a lot of nonsense, but the press picks these stunts up and will cover them due to the sheer oddness of them. The question is, does oddness bring any new support to their cause?

What do we do about it?

It is important to understand the role of organisations like PETA, which they have summarised: PETA Australia works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, lobbying, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns to focus international attention on the exploitation and abuse of animals for their flesh, for their skins, as living test tubes in laboratories, and for “entertainment”.

We have to remember that first and foremost, organisations like PETA are primarily marketing organisations. They do not contribute to animal welfare, which is why we always have to keep the distinction between rights and welfare. These stunts make for great social media and news content and will always find their way around the world. However, the average consumer will just have a chuckle and continue with their daily activities. 

My advice to people is to allow the animal activists to continue with these outlandish stunts, the more exposure the general public have to them, the more people will want to distance themselves from these fringe groups, and extreme animal activism.

As an industry, we need to stop fighting animal rights activists and devote our energy to educating our customers and ensuring best practice welfare. Just watch their actions and have a good old laugh about them. That’s all these stunts are worth.

*Andrew Whitelaw, Mecardo

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