Why Not Single Issue Campaigns and Petitions?

Are you being bombarded on a daily basis by campaigns and petitions that feature the most heinous and unthinkable abuse of animals? Do they make you feel hopeless and powerless against the evils of the world? Please stop and think about it for a moment. There definitely are ways you can help animals right now. But signing petitions is not one of them. Supporting single issue campaigns is not one of them either.

Be a Voice for All Animals – Don’t Be Speciesist

Petition posters depict shocking scenes of innocent baby seals, terrified beaten dogs and bloodied caged mink. Examples are made of the unnecessary use of fur, the appalling stories of live export, the use of dogs in hunting, the abominable treatment at specific slaughterhouses and farms, the consumption of dolphins, or the abuse of companion animals like cats and dogs who are set on a pedestal as being special or different from other animals in our culture. The species of animals featured in the campaigns are given a higher priority than other species of animals due to being cuter, more vulnerable or more intelligent.

All of these abuses are truly horrific and must be stopped. However, by focusing on one species, these campaigns imply that the alternatives are acceptable: that wearing leather and silk is condoned; eating pigs, cows, chickens and fish is normal; slaughtering farm animals in our own country should be obligatory; and hunting wolves is forgivable when we don’t use dogs in the process. These campaigns also perpetuate the myth that purchasing your animal products from farms where only routine abuse takes place is ‘humane’.

How can we promote this message with a clear conscience? All animal abuse is appalling and that also applies to animal agriculture. All non-human animals have the same right to life. They all value their freedom. They all deserve our consideration. Any time we state that certain animals are more worthy of our respect than others, we are betraying all animals.

Yes, we do need to educate the public about these atrocities. However, when we single out individual cases and create Single Issue Campaigns from them, we do not diminish animal suffering as a whole. If people were motivated to change their ways by these campaigns, they would simply switch from one form of animal exploitation to another: they would wear leather instead of fur, eat tuna instead of dolphins, or eat cows instead of dogs.

The suffering remains the same. Only the victims change.

The Majority of Animals Killed Are Farmed Animals

While very few people have themselves ever been responsible for the horrors depicted in these campaigns, the vast majority of people do eat animals or their byproducts every day: 99% of all animals killed by humans are for human consumption. Where are the campaigns asking people to stop eating pigs, chickens, cows, sheep and tuna? Where are the campaigns boycotting supermarkets that sell the dead body parts of sentient beings? Where are the petitions urging the President to outlaw the sale of milk stolen from mothers grieving for their murdered calves?

When you look closely at our reasons for eating non-human animals, we cannot build a solid moral case that would excuse us from doing so. Despite new data continuously flooding in about how the consumption of animal products causes heart attacks, strokes, cancer and diabetes, we continue in our efforts to justify feeding on animals, stating we were raised that way, everyone else does it, they taste good and it makes it easier to dine out with friends.

Single issue campaigns are doomed to fail because people know if they admit non-human animals matter morally, then they will expose their least defensible abuse of sentient beings: their consumption of animals. Until people agree that it is morally abhorrent to eat animals for no other reason than tradition, pleasure and convenience, we will never convince them that other animal abuse should be outlawed. We need to strike at the root of the problem, which is the consumption of animals. That is where our focus needs to be: on vegan education.

Welfare Reforms Do Not Protect Animal Rights

Even when the petitions are geared towards raising awareness for farm animals, they are not asking you to save the lives of the animals concerned by outlawing slaughter. Taking an animal’s life is the greatest harm you can inflict on that animal. Neither do these campaigns demand that we cease exploiting animals altogether. They tend to focus on ‘factory‘ farming and reducing the so-called ‘unnecessary‘ suffering of farm animals. They are asking for better treatment: for a pig sty rather than a gestation crate, for one large cage in the place of hundreds of smaller cages, or for gassing rather than captive bolt stunning. They are accepting that all farmed animals will be exploited and slaughtered no matter how they are treated. By regulating the abuse they are condoning it.

When their campaigns are successful the animal organisations who promote them give farmers, slaughterhouses and retailers awards for causing suffering of a lesser nature. This actively promotes the consumption of animal products bought from facilities that do not perpetrate the worst abuses. They perpetuate the ‘humane myth‘ that animals can be raised and killed without causing them suffering. They are telling people that it is acceptable to eat animals when they choose products from these suppliers. They are actively betraying these animals and forming partnerships with their abusers.

When you promote these campaigns, you are dismissing the suffering the animals endure on these so-called ‘better’ farms or at the so-called ‘better’ slaughterhouses.

A further layer of betrayal is added when these campaigns are misrepresented as being animal ‘rights‘ campaigns. This is a flagrant misuse of the terminology, because these campaigns specifically avoid the mention of non-human animals’ right to life, freedom and bodily integrity. By doing so, they further entrench the paradigm in which animals are classified as property. These are animal ‘welfare‘ campaigns because they exclusively demand that we regulate the ways in which we abuse and slaughter animals, but they do not demand that we outlaw the exploitation of animals.

Pointing Fingers Comes Across as Racist

Why do you think so many of the petitions are directed at other countries, other nations, other races and other classes? Because it allows us to stand firmly on our own moral high ground and point fingers, making us out to be special and different and knowing this will garner support from people like us. An example of this would be the numerous campaigns and petitions that demand Asian countries stop eating dogs. Doesn’t this strike you as racist? Put yourself in their shoes for a while. In some Eastern cultures it would be sacrilege to eat a cow. Does anyone in your social circle eat beef? That person is responsible for the mutilation, forced impregnation and butchering of thousands of cows. Would you feel justified treating him like a social outcast and hurling racial slurs at him?

Petitions that focus on other countries and other races add fuel to the fire of racial hatred and intolerance. They incite discrimination based on cultural differences. Veganism is a peaceful, social justice movement that strives to end discrimination against other species, races, genders, or people with a different sexual orientation. We are striving to promote justice and compassion towards all living beings. Supporting a petition that provokes discrimination is not serving the best interests of the vegan movement.

Are You Petitioning the Right People?

Who are your petition letters addressed to? Probably the government, farmers, manufacturers, vivisectors, suppliers or legislators. Yet these people are all merely working to fulfil the demand that we, the consumers, have created. We need to re-focus all of our advocacy efforts on the public. Consumers hold all the power. We create the world we want by paying for it. If we fund cruelty, it will continue. We need to take responsibility for this. We cannot pay the stock farming industry to kill animals and then blame them for being cruel. All animal slaughter is a hideous tragedy. All of it. None of it is acceptable. And it is all financed by us.

How can we hold the farmer accountable for the suffering of a chicken who the consumer is demanding (at cheap prices) paying for, cooking and eating? The farmer is not emotionally invested: it is merely a financial transaction for him. On the other hand, the consumer most definitely is emotionally invested. He holds the chicken’s life in his hands. This is who we need to approach. This is who we need to convince that animals’ lives matter.

When there is no demand for animal exploitation, there will be no market for the resulting products. When there is no market for products resulting from animal exploitation, the suppliers will diversify into other industries.

We need to participate in grassroots vegan education, primarily through one-on-one interactions with the mainstream public. They represent the power of public opinion and they create the demand for ethical products.

Don’t Help People Abdicate Their Responsibility

Much of what people petition against are behaviours and actions they would never participate in themselves. These campaigns show us the worst incidents committed by criminals and deviants. Do the people you share the petitions with ever club baby seals, experiment on animals, bash horses’ heads in with hammers, crush dogs alive, have sex with animals, beat piglets or rape turkeys? Honestly. Think about it.

The truth is that the average person restricts their abuse of non-human animals to eating them. The vast majority of people who sign these shocking petitions are omnivores and vegetarians. This means that despite being the friends and family members whom you love, they are responsible for killing, raping, mutilating and causing immense pain and suffering for animals every single day. Yet signing the petition asks nothing more from the signatory than a few seconds of their time. It does nothing to alter their worldview or change their behaviour. It does not show them how easily they can refuse to participate in this cycle of violence.

Petitions allow them to abdicate their responsibility. Don’t give them the easy way out. By the simple act of adding their signature to a petition, they feel they have done their bit and can now consume their dairy, eggs and other animal products with impunity. It makes them feel like they have done something meaningful for animals. They think it will absolve them from the guilt of the abuse they personally perpetrate by eating animals.

Help people take responsibility for their actions and make amends. This not only saves animals, it also liberates people from the web of deceit and lies woven by the animal agricultural industry. Help them make the most joyful decision they will ever make. Don’t dilute their attention. Don’t confuse the issue. Just help them be vegan.

Fuelling the Never-Ending Fundraising Campaigns

Featuring the suffering of animals in fundraising campaigns serves to exploit the animals on yet another level. Graphic imagery and hideous descriptions of abuse are coupled with messages to SMS the donation hotline or ‘donate now’. The organisations seek out the very worst occurrences, because unfortunately, the more gruesome the imagery, the more the public will feel compelled to donate. In addition, the less the public are personally culpable for that particular form of abuse, the more they will be willing to donate. Animal suffering is good business for animal organisations. By keeping their focus on the treatment rather than the use of animals, they guarantee themselves a never-ending source of income.

Take a step back and have a look at what these campaigns really achieve. Donations that fund single issue campaigns contribute towards creating a never-ending cycle of future campaigns. These organisations are campaign-making factories. They churn out thousands of petitions and meaningless campaigns that never get us anywhere in the struggle for animal liberation. While they might motivate people to switch from one type of animal exploitation to another, it is a zero sum loss. They never physically save the lives of more animals than before.

If an animal organisation truly strives to protect the rights of animals and promotes a vegan lifestyle, people will go vegan and the lives of thousands of animals will be saved. However, this would not be as successful as a fundraising tool and they would find it difficult to meet their fundraising targets. Pay attention to where the organisations choose to invest their resources, and you will soon discover where their priorities lie: are they looking to save the lives of animals, or are they focussed on their bottom line?

Diverting Valuable Resources from Vegan Education

Petitions are time thieves. Do you really think they only take a few seconds? Think about how much time you spend every day on signing, liking, tweeting, sharing, forwarding and commenting on the hundreds of petitions and campaign photographs you receive. You will be amazed how much it adds up to. They have the sinister effect of diverting our limited time, energy, financial resources and attention away from what really saves the lives of animals: vegan education.

Animal organisations spend a fortune on campaigning for welfare reforms that almost never come to pass. If they do, they are virtually meaningless for animals, and then are soon nullified by new legislation anyway.

On the other hand, every time someone chooses to be vegan, they will save over 400 animals every year from that day forward. Imagine how fabulously effective these campaigns would be if they promoted veganism!

Every second counts. We must not be distracted from our primary goal, which is to save the lives of animals. We need to focus all of our time, energy, finances, intellectual capital and any other resources at our disposal into what will save the most lives: vegan education.

Are You Spreading the Bad News?

What petitions are very effective at achieving,
is to spread bad news, fast.

No matter what the specific petition is campaigning for, the effect is the same: people are filled with hatred, anger, unbearable heartache, disgust and racial prejudice. Then they are left drowning in a sea of hopelessness thinking that this world is an evil place. Petitions spread smut and sensationalism. In their wake, a pervasive sense of powerlessness is sown around the world. Petitions disempower people.

What You Can Do To Help Animals Now

Spread the good news: veganism is the solution!

Let’s focus on the solution: a vegan lifestyle. Veganism does not merely reduce suffering, it saves lives. Let’s spread that good news. You do have the power to make a meaningful difference for animals, right now, by being vegan. We are part of the solution. Together we can make the world a better place!

Find out more about What You Can Do

Find out more about Vegan Education

Sign the ‘I am Vegan For Life!’ Petition

Do you want to share one last petition? Then please sign and share the ‘I am Vegan For Life!‘ petition.

  • It is the only petition that is directed at the people who truly have the power to save the lives of millions of animals: the public.
  • It is the only petition that offers the solution for animal suffering: a vegan lifestyle.
Sign this Petition today and
together we can do something
truly meaningful for animals!
r-arrow i-am-vegan-for-lifeSign the petition at Change.org


What about dairy cows? As long as people feel it is acceptable to rape mothers every year, kill their babies and steal their milk, they will abuse other animals. Start with being vegan yourself, then help other people be vegan. Photo © 123RF Vachiraphan Phangphan.

Thank you for caring about animals! Your insightful and constructive comments are always welcome. We hope this post will help cross that huge divide between abolitionists and the multitude of you who are passionate animal activists and call yourselves abolitionists yet who continue to loyally take part in Single Issue Campaigns.

Please get in touch with me if you need more information, support or advice on being vegan.


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