I just finished reading Peter Singer’s biography of the animal rights activist Henry Spira, Ethics Into Action. Singer writes of Spira’s life, the methods he used for his activism, and the way his background in labor unions helped him work better for animals. Some people might think of Henry Spira as more of an animal welfarist rather than an animal rights activist, but no one can argue that he was able to reduce animal suffering. For example, he stopped the unnecessary mutilation of cats at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, helped encourage cosmetics companies to seek alternatives for the LD50 test, and stopped pound seizure in New York.
The reason I would recommend this book to anyone working toward a better future for animal rights is because it provides a blueprint you can follow for your campaigns. Singer include a section called “Ten Ways to Make a Difference” toward the end of the book, which is geared toward helping activists follow Henry’s methods to get things done. Here they are (the book contains a description for each point):
1. Try to understand the public’s current thinking and where it could be encouraged to go tomorrow. Above all, keep in touch with reality.
2. Select a target on the basis of vulnerabilities to public opinion, the intensity of suffering, and the opportunities for change.
3. Set goals that are achievable. Bring about meaningful change one step at a time. Raising awareness is not enough.
4. Establish credible sources of information and documentation. Never assume anything. Never deceive the media or the public. Maintain credibility, don’t exaggerate or hype the issue.
5. Don’t divide the world into saints and sinners.
6. Seek dialogue and attempt to work together to solve problems. Position issues as problems with solutions. This is best done by presenting realistic alternatives.
7. Be ready for confrontation if your target remains unresponsive. If accepted channels don’t work, prepare an escalating public awareness campaign to place your adversary on the defensive.
8. Avoid bureaucracy.
9. Don’t assume that only legislation or legal action can solve the problem.
10. Ask yourself: “Will it work?”
That’s a look at the sort of stuff you’ll learn if you pick up this book. It’s more a guide to activism than a biography.