To Protest Or Not To Protest. Part II

Following on from the previous article, To Protest Or Not To Protest. That Is The Question, this piece will discuss the issue a little more.

Though before I do, I would like to draw your attention to some of the comments made here.

Once you have had a read of that, I strongly recommend listening to this 7 minute ARZone podcast with Ronnie Lee.

Ronnie Lee himself says:

I’ve had people say “that was a great demo” and I’d say why was that, and they’d say “we shouted at people and there was a lot of chanting”, I’d say but why is that a definition of a good demo? Isn’t the definition of a good demo a demo that has actually achieved something, in terms of helping animals? Not what it made you feel like, that you felt great because you were able to shout at people. And, that’s the problem, that it’s so much about how people feel themselves; the kind of buzz that it gives to those people who are on the events. That they were able to express their anger, and vent their rage. Venting rage at “animal abusers’ isn’t going to stop them from abusing animals. So when you analyse what that’s really achieved in terms of liberating animals or protecting animals, it’s little or nothing. Whereas something quiet, that some people may consider to be “boring” may achieve hugely more, and be so much, much, much more effective than doing a lot of shouting.

This is exactly what those who have come to Coast To Coast Animal Friends’ defence have done. They believe that just because there was a protest and they got to shout at people and wave placards that they were actually ‘raising awareness’ for the plight of animals.

What is sort of amusing and should have actually made people stop and think for a minute was one of the first comments in this thread by a supporter of Coast To Coast Animal Friends “Imagine how hot is is for those poor animals down there today. The lions definitely can’t seek shade in the trees like they would in the wild that’s for sure. Wonder if any circus patrons or those against our protest have given that any thought….”

As the circus protest was held seven days prior to the above comment being made, I am wondering what it (the protest) ACTUALLY did for those lions? Did the standing around waving placards, shouting at people get the lion more shade, or a bigger bowl of water to drink from? Has it made any positive difference in the day to day life of that lion? Because that was the purpose of the protest, to help those ‘exotic’ animals that are kept there. Wasn’t it?

The funny thing is, that if that one single sentence was presented to circus goers in a calm, rational manner, it would have done more to educate the community and lead to an ACTUAL change than all of the self indulgent chest thumping and back patting that has gone on since.

Yet all and sundry are claiming that the protest was a success and that, according to Coast To Coast Animal Friends, the Animal Liberation Queensland organised protest on March 24 will be “winding up a great campaign against animals in circuses ..thousands of emails have been sent to councillors, letters to LMP ‘s leaflet handouts a successful rally held at the Gold Coast city council, petitions drawn up .from C2C ,RSPCA & PETA support statements from PHILLIP WOLLEN,WSPA ,ALQ ANIMALS AUSTRALIA,PETA , to name a few…” (emphasis theirs)

That is all well and good for Coast To Coast Animal Friends, though what about mentioning how the lives of those circus animals has been improved by this campaign? Remember, that was why there was a protest in the first place.

As is typical with these types of discussions, it usually comes around to the question of, “so and so is doing this WHAT is it that YOU are doing to help the animals?”

Sadly, this has to be one of the most self indulgent questions ever asked, implying that unless someone is bragging about what they do, or is SEEN to be doing something, they can’t actually be doing anything.

While I am not going to get involved in this proverbial “peeing contest“, I will say that over the years I have offered suggestions to a number of different organisations on how things could be done differently or create a greater impact on a particular campaign, only to have them dismissed either arrogantly or ignorantly by those involved.

One such instance was with last years Cronulla Park Greyhound complex protest. At a public Animal LIberation Queensland meeting prior to the protest, I made the suggestion that if other groups were involved in the protest too, that it would be more likely that the mainstream media would pay attention to it. I suggested contacting groups like Salvation Army, community gambling groups, social welfare groups, etc getting them involved to show that the local community cannot benefit from the proposed track.

This suggestion was dismissed outright without any consideration being made on the merits of it, as it didn’t fit their agenda, which was focusing on the treatment of greyhounds.

That is a response which is becoming more and more frequent, along with “we do what we want, and we like what we do”, along with “every little bit helps”, except very little thought is actually paid to whether that little bit actually helps or hurts the animals they are supposed to be advocating for. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that people shouldn’t protest. What I am saying is that if you are, make sure it is the most effective use of your time, and that it is the best way to make a positive impact for the point you are trying to make.

Some of the problems with protests is that whilst they are a quick and easy thing to do and organise, they aren’t really as effective as the organisers claim to be without a positive portrayal in the media. And as we have seen in the past, today’s mainstream media is quick to paint the picture of any protestor as being extremists, regardless of their message. The Gold Coast protest was no different.

Whilst they may be the perfect way for those who attend to indulge in a little bit of self gratification whereby they can post pictures on Facebook of them attending this protest, shouting at those people and waving that placard. It should’t really be about the individuals who attend these protests, it should be about what actions can achieve the best result for the animals, shouldn’t it?

What will be achieved by the Animal Liberation Queensland protest on March 24?

We know that their main goal is media exposure, which I am sure they will get. Though how protesting on the last day of the circus is going to keep the debate alive when as soon as the circus leaves town, it will be forgotten about until the next time it comes to visit. Especially when the general public and Gold Coast Councillors have so many other things to worry about and focus on.

Will standing around at a protest next weekend on the last day of a circus be the most effective use of an activists limited time?

2 thoughts on “To Protest Or Not To Protest. Part II”

  1. I’m so grateful to you for asking these questions, Cam. In any social justice movement all advocates for others should feel that they’re willing to continue to learn as much as they are able to in order to help ourselves understand what is needed to work toward our goals. If we refuse to learn from each other, and refuse to contemplate the possibility of our methodologies being problematic from time to time, surely we can’t believe we’re doing our best for those we claim to advocate on behalf of.

    Social justice, by definition, is about justice – not fulfilling our own needs to shout and chant at those we mistakenly view as “the enemy” or “the exploiters”.

    Reflexivity is vital in any social movement. Please don’t allow those who are unwilling or unable to self reflect, and choose instead to silence those who understand the importance of doing so, to bully you into silence. This work is far too important for that!

What are your thoughts?

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