Animal Rights Campaign – A Research Project

Table of Contents

(Click on the hyperlinks below, or scroll down)


Proof That Animals Can Suffer

Effectiveness of Animal Campaigns

Using Radical Activist Tactics

Shock Advocacy in Campaigns

Questionnaire Results


Concluding Points



This research project will evaluate the effectiveness of previous animal rights campaigns. The questions that inspired this research project include:

  • Do animals suffer?
  • What makes for a successful campaign?
  • What causes campaign failure?

Throughout this project, a number of sources will be analysed. The sources that will be analysed also include the marketing concepts that relate to them. Marketing concepts include political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, legal, and environmental.

Rachel L. Einwohner analysed which approaches work for animal rights campaigning, and which do not. Her results will show these answers, with evidence of primary data that she conducted.

Tiffany Derville’s paper lists radical tactics that should be omnipresent in animal rights campaigns.

Joseph N. Scudder & Carol Bishop Mills list the importance of using shock advocacy in animal rights campaigns. They also explain why this is so, and questions will be present in this post what a campaigner should ask themselves in regards to shock advocacy.

A questionnaire will be conducted, and the results list which approaches people like to see in animal rights campaigns.

Towards the end of the project, a template/checklist will be present. This can be used by various stakeholders when they conduct their animal rights campaigns.

The final blog post will be the reference list in thanks to all the sources used for this research project.

Proof That Animals Can Suffer

“The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but, “Can they suffer?” – Jeremy Bentham, The Principles of Morals and Legislation.

Why should we care about animal suffering, anyway? The short answer is because animals, like us, are empathetic and experience pain. The video embedded above is a secondary research video that debunks modern theories that claim animals cannot experience pain, are not self-aware, and cannot experience empathy because they do not have a prefrontal cortex.

After watching this thirty-minute video, the following points were concluded (with evidence on behalf of certified sources):

  • Animals have a prefrontal cortex, and those who argue that animals do not have a prefrontal cortex use scientific jargon in order to confuse their opponent.
  • Animals are self-aware, which is observed by the mirror self-recognition tests demonstrated in the video.
  • Animals are empathetic. This can also be observed by numerous videos of dolphins saving humans from sharks.
  • The experience of pain does not occur only in the prefrontal cortex. Phenomena also occurs in other parts of the brain in order for a subject to experience pain.

Considering that this video shows more than enough reason to believe that animals can experience pain, why are animal suffering/rights campaigns not viewed in the mainstream media?

Possibly because of the high costs associated with mainstream media advertising. A single page spread in a magazine alone can cost upwards to $20,000 depending on the credibility and readership of a magazine. Advertising on national TV can cost up to $750,000!

The blog posts that come after this post will demonstrate numerous pros and cons to animal rights campaigns. In addition, these posts will list strategic decisions that an organisation should make before beginning a campaign. Because the following sources point out what other campaigners did wrong, stakeholders can find this research project valuable.

Effectiveness of Animal Campaigns

Rachel L. Einwohner analysed data from a study of four campaigns aimed at changing social behaviour, waged by members of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). The four social marketing campaigns that Einwohner focused on include:

  • Animal experimentation at the University of Washington.
  • Hunting in Western Washington.
  • Circus attendance in the Seattle area.
  • Fur retail business in downtown Seattle.

Einwohner said that animal experimentation was unsuccessful because activists were not able to block several targeted animal experiments at the University of Washington; they were also denied access to information on other experiments, and interview data from biomedical researchers at the University of Washington indicated that animal rights activity does not persuade researchers to stop using animals in experimentation.

Einwohner said that hunting was also unsuccessful because there were no decline in sales of hunting licenses or number of animals harvested in Washington State, and hunters said that animal rights activity does not persuade hunters to stop hunting.

Einwohner said that circus attendance was successful because there was a decline in attendance at Seattle area circus performances. Letters, survey responses, and interview data from circus patrons indicated that they will boycott circuses in the future.

Einwohner said that fur retail was successful because there was a decline in the numbers of fur salons in downtown Seattle. Interview data from Seattle furriers indicated that animal rights activity is partially responsible for decline in sales.

This blog post showed you that the outcomes of social marketing can have either positive or negative outcomes. If the negative, unsuccessful outcome turns out to be the case, changes in campaign tactics need to be addressed. This will be further discussed and applied in the template further down.

The marketing concepts that were present in this article include: political, socio-cultural & environmental.

Using Radical Activist Tactics

Tiffany Derville wrote a paper called ‘Radical activist tactics: Overturning public relations conceptualizations’. Derville says that public relations scholars often misinterpret the rationale for radical activist tactics and overlook their advantages. In the paper, Derville argues that an improved understanding of radical activist organisations’ goals, tactics and priorities should change the way public relations scholars theorize and evaluate them. She continues on to say that understanding these tactics will help practitioners evaluate campaigns.

Derville listed four different aspects that should be evaluated:

  1. The range of activist organisations: Derville says that recognising differences among activist organisations is important to theorise about them. Many organisations may share a common interest, but each organisation executes their approaches differently. The more radical an activist organisation is, the more likely it is to demand fundamental changes in the economic, political, and social systems.
  2. Communicative action: Derville suggests that websites should include a variety of journal volumes. Also, Derville says that activist organisations using militant tactics believe they are more effective when influencing their targets.
  3. Identity building: Derville believes militant acts fulfil the organisational goal of building identity. In addition, reputation building can be applied here in order to further reinforce brand equity.
  4. Disruptive image events: Derville says that highly charged protests that involve strong visuals is used here. This can spark a sense of meaning to the campaign.

Derville has listed four radical tactics that should be omnipresent throughout any activist campaigns. Animal rights campaigners must ensure that they stand out as radically different to competing campaigners, active and resourceful websites should be available, use of militant tactics, building a positive reputation, and use of strong visuals.

The marketing concepts that were present in this article include: economic, political & socio-cultural.

Shock Advocacy in Campaigns

Joseph N. Scudder and Carol Bishop Mills wrote a study that examined the impact of a graphic animal rights campaign launched by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against alleged abuses on a corporate farm.

Scudder & Mills say that not-for-profit organisations increasingly use shock advocacy to break through the clutter in a media-saturated world. These two authors suggest that organisations adopting this approach risk alienation.

The study consisted of three research questions:

  1. Will an advocacy message targeted at the factory farm meat production industry result in damage to the industry’s credibility?
  2. Will negative advocacy messages targeting the abuse of animals result in decreases in the perceived credibility of the organisation issuing these messages?
  3. Will an advocacy message producing increased perceptions of wrongdoing commensurately increase the negative perceptions of the credibility of that industry?

Scudder & Mills believe that messages effectiveness lies in the message making the viewer feel negatively about the target of the messages. These targets are the perpetrators, or ‘wrong-doers’, described in shock advocacy. In the discussion section of Scudder & Mills study, they say that rather than the targets credibility being lowered through graphic content, the targets credibility decreased, in the public’s perception, based on wrongdoing.

Using shock advocacy in a campaign can be tricky, but if it is done strategically, it can be a major success factor. If you are considering using shock advocacy, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I need to use shock advocacy?
  • Will shock advocacy be useful for my campaign?
  • How will my audience react to this message?
  • Am I doing this legally/am I defaming anyone?
  • Which approach can I take to using shock advocacy?

The marketing concepts that were present in this article include: socio-cultural & technological.

Questionnaire Results

After analysing the four sources in the previous blog posts, a questionnaire was formed to discover the impact of animal rights campaigns, and which approaches audiences look for. The questionnaire was distributed via Facebook to audiences between the ages of 18 – 24. Ten questionnaires were distributed. Below this paragraph, a sample of the questionnaire is attached.



Q1. In order to hear from both perspectives, 50% male and 50% female respondents were located.

Q2. Out of the ten respondents, the following answers were selected:

  • 0 – 1 campaign/s: 2/10 respondents selected this answer
  • 2 – 5 campaigns: 5/10 respondents selected this answer
  • 6 – 10 campaigns: 2/10 respondents selected this answer
  • 10+ campaigns: 1/10 respondents selected this answer

The results from question two shows that on average, 50% of respondents can remember 2 – 5 animal rights campaigns.

Q3.  How do you feel when you see animal rights campaigns?

The responses to this question had many mixed responses. The following key words were located across the responses: angry, frustrated, inspired, hopeful, annoyed, bombarded, sad, vengeful, and neutral.

Q4. What do you like to see in animal rights campaigns?

The majority of respondents (6/10) said that they like to see facts and figures in animal campaigns. Some of these respondents extended and said that they do not like being lied to. This is the reason why they need convincing that the organisation is telling the truth. The other 30% of respondents said that they like to see directions where they can go to support the cause. One of the respondents did not answer this question.

Q5. What do you NOT like to see in animal rights campaigns?

Half of the respondents, said that they do not like seeing images of animals suffering. Some of these respondents extended and said this is because they feel sympathetic towards the animals. Four other respondents said they don’t like it when the campaign asks for donations. One other respondent said they don’t like particular organisations approaches to the campaign; it was unclear what they meant by this.

Q6. Which suggestions can you make for animal rights campaigns to be improved?

The following suggestions were highlighted from the respondents:

  • Use more facts and figures.
  • Don’t make the campaign appear to be selling something.
  • Avoid too many images of animals suffering.
  • Use as much motivational language as possible.
  • Don’t use complex language.
  • Talk about what you plan to do about the issue.