How Animal Activism is Changing in 2019

[Below is published by the animal-torture advocates at the ineptly-named Americans for
Medical Progress. Judging from their own propaganda, illegal animal liberation activities continue
at roughly the same pace as they have for the last several years. Not that more would not be better! –Press Office]

As we look forward to what 2019 has in store, it’s clear that animal activism is in the midst of a major evolution. Within the past few years, new groups have formed and new strategies have launched. On the other hand, some organizations and tactics have faded away.

Here are a few ways that animal activism is changing and will likely continue to evolve in 2019:

Trend: A Decrease in Illegal Activities
Illegal and/or menacing acts conducted by animal activists appear to be on the decline. The graph below, courtesy of Information Network Associates Inc. shows that over time, direct actions in the U.S. have tapered off significantly.

During the most recent period of heightened illegal activity in the 2000s, institutions like UCLA witnessed vandalism and harassment at researchers’ homes. Another disturbing incident was a firebomb attack that destroyed a UCLA university commuter van.

Thankfully, incidents such as these are becoming increasingly rare. In fact, one of the main organizations that inspired several illegal and menacing acts in the previous decade, called SHAC, no longer exists. This is partially due to legal issues faced by the group. However, public perception also became a problem.

Nowadays, many of the most extreme voices in the movement, those who called for violence targeting health researchers, have for the most part, been quiet as of late. Others have aligned themselves with different causes or different groups that are either less extreme or less vocal about their most radical views.

Trend: An Increased Emphasis on Lobbying
In recent years, many animal research opponents have moved towards lobbying lawmakers. In fact, new organizations with legislative missions have launched to influence change on the national level.

For example, White Coat Waste Project is a relatively new animal rights organization that attempts to halt animal research by portraying it as a waste of taxpayer money. Many of their campaigns and proposed legislative efforts target public agencies, such as the EPA and the USDA, which study animals or fund extramural projects that involve animal research. One current White Coat Waste effort seeks to end all canine research at the VA. Another targets USDA research that is studying the effects of the toxoplasmosis parasite in cats.

While White Coat Waste is focused on change at the national level, other groups are involved in regional or statewide initiatives. For example, several states have enacted research animal adoption bills as a result of lobbying by various animal rights organizations. While adoption may sound like a good thing, these bills twist the fact that many institutions involved in research already have programs set in place to adopt out research animals when it is humane to do so.

In addition, in November 2018 the village of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin voted on an activist-influenced measure that if passed, would have restricted the transportation of dogs involved in research in that community.

The issue gripped Mt. Horeb residents for several weeks. Passionate opinion articles and letters to the editor filled the weekly newspaper that serves the village. In addition, campaign yard signs both for and against the measure could be seen throughout the region.

In the end, the initiative failed. However, activists said they considered the attention their efforts received a form of victory and promised similar campaigns in the future.

Trend: New Strategies to Erode Public Support for Animal Studies
For decades, opponents have claimed that animal-based research does not lead to human and animal health advancements. Those talking points continue to be promulgated. However, new arguments to influence the rejection of animal research have been developed. White Coat Waste’s previously mentioned “taxpayer waste” argument is a new message that has resonated with some audiences.

Another organization, Rescue + Freedom Project (formerly the Beagle Freedom Project), has decided to make the animals themselves the primary focus. The group claims it adopts out animals that were previously used for biomedical research. They frequently make blanket claims of abuse (often without proof) when highlighting the animals they are attempting to place in new homes.

Trend: Even More Social Media Campaigning
From its beginnings, animal rights groups have employed social media channels as part of their efforts. Members of activists group share and post their animal rights messaging on their Twitter and Facebook feeds, even over the weekend. Groups like Rescue + Freedom Project manage a significant amount of their fundraising efforts through those channels.

YouTube is another venue where some of the leading activist groups have employed significant resources.

Social media channels are a form of self-publication. They offer groups the ability to tell their story in an unfiltered way. The use of social media as an additional activism tool will likely only grow, especially when it comes to the distribution of online videos.

Trend: An Increased Emphasis on Non-Animal Alternatives by Opponents
Scientists and activists alike should be pleased that in some cases, non-animal alternatives, such as organs on a chip, can reduce our reliance on animals. Research opponents have suggested that current technologies can replace all animal tests. Of course, this is not the case as this kind of technology is still in the developmental stages. However, these statements can create public misunderstanding and communications issues.

These are just a few of the current animal rights trends that will likely increase and evolve in the months ahead. When updating communications plans, research organizations should consider whether their current strategies will be effective or whether a new approach is in order.