Will A Noisy, Placard Waving Protest Further The Discussion For The Animals?

March 2013 saw two separate protests being held on Queensland’s Gold Coast about circuses. Lennon Bros Circus was the target of these two, as they were the first ones to take advantage of the Gold Coast City Council’s decision to lift a ban on the use of exotic animals on council land.

The organisers of the protests, Coast To Coast Animal Friends and Animal LIberation Queensland, claim that the intent behind them was to raise awareness of the use of exotic animals in the circus and to keep the debate alive in the area, along with educating circus goers.

As a vegan activist who wants to see an end to ALL forms of animal use, and someone who believes that ALL animals are created equal, not that some are MORE equal than others, I have been opposed to these single issue type campaigns for a number of years. I believe that these types of campaigns confuse the issue of equal consideration for all animals, and actually push that position back further and further with every campaign.

Despite being able to show any evidence where theses sorts of protests have been a) portrayed in a positive light by a corrupt media; b) create positive discussion amongst those who attended; and c) does anything to improve the plight of animals, these protests are still used as a tactic by organisations who want to be SEEN to be doing something and to further their own public profile.

Those organisations that partake in these sorts of protests are able to quickly garner support for their campaign by misleading the unquestioning activist into believing that what they are doing will achieve the desired outcome, that everyone else is doing it, and if you don’t take part you aren’t really doing anything for the animals.

As this sort of discussion is an emotional one for those involved, and no one likes being told that what they are doing is wrong, which is the perfect example as to why they are ineffective in the first place, this discussion will be about something that is very similar. The union picket line.

Union picket lines are similar because they are allegedly used to highlight the plight of an oppressed group, contain groups of passionate highly vocal individuals, involves the use of chants and placards, has a target group that has to run gauntlet of protestors, and the protestors claiming moral superiority over those who they are protesting about.

Cast your mind back to the last big union picket line protest whether it be Grocon, Qld’s Children’s Hospital, it doesn’t matter really as they are all the same.

It involves a large group trying to stop a smaller group from participating in a lawful activity, with the larger group resorting to intimidatory tactics of superior number, noise, and signs to point out to the smaller group how wrong their actions are and that they have the moral high ground. Very few of these protests are presented with a positive position by the media, with only the most die hard unionist believing that they are effective.

Think about the last time you say a news report about a picket line. Did it cause you to stop and think about what the unions were protesting about, or did you dismiss it as a bunch of union thugs trying to stop someone from earning a living and feeding their family?

How would you feel if you were one of those workers who by doing something that is perfectly legal was yelled at, abused, and called all sorts of names?

Something else to ask yourself, as it is the trade union movement as a whole that is represented by the picket line protests, how many of those who supported the circus protest are card carrying union members? Because if protests are so effective, then shouldn’t they all be union members?

In this struggle for equal consideration of ALL animals every step we take needs to be calculated to achieve the best possible outcome. We cannot afford to go off willy nilly and half cocked as it isn’t our lives that are at stake here.

Being seen as a group who is willing to bully and harass families cannot do those who we are advocating for any good, despite what our thoughts may be.

2 thoughts on “Will A Noisy, Placard Waving Protest Further The Discussion For The Animals?”

  1. I think you have made a good point here about the human psyche. When people are made to feel ‘less’ and feel they are somehow being told what to do, one of their first reactions is to fight against that. It is something that we come up against a lot in the vegan movement (remember the last time you heard ‘you can’t tell me what to eat’?). When people are put on the back foot, the only place they have to go is to push forward in spite of the resistance, and usually with a doubled effort. I feel that that may be an unwanted result of the types of protests you mention, particularly in Australian society, where a long-held view and social norm has been to fight against any sort of authority seeking to keep down individual freedom (the irony of this is for another day). Going back to basic psychological theory, better results come from rewarding positive behaviour than punishing unwanted behaviour. These types of protests may logically be seen as ‘punishment’, resulting in the above mentioned behaviour from the public, whereas other forms of positive reinforcment could result in better outcomes long term. What forms of positive reinforcement could be used? That is a good question.


What are your thoughts?