Date of Graduation

Winter 12-13-2013

Document Type

Project/Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Public Affairs (MoPA)

Department/Program

Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good

First Advisor

David C. Ryan

Second Advisor

Richard G. Johnson III

Third Advisor

Angela M. Fleekop

Abstract

Despite limited legal victories—particularly in the realm of companion animal protections—the animal rights movement has failed to make substantial progress in other focal areas, including the acquisition of increased rights for food animals on factory farms. The public image of the movement has taken a hit in recent years, due in part to effective campaigning by opposing lobbies and corporate entities and in part to self-inflicted damage from failed messaging and tactics. The perceived alignment of animal rights advocacy organizations with extremism and the public distrust of activists leaves the movement in need of a critical public image makeover. However, the emergence of factory farming anti-whistleblower legislation (“ag-gag” laws) in many states provides animal rights activists with a critical window of opportunity to reach new, diverse audiences that are freshly attuned to an animal welfare issue. Taking advantage of this window and making concerted efforts to improve the movement’s standing with the public is imperative, and can be facilitated by the use of certain techniques more commonly utilized in the corporate sphere: the unification of animal rights organizations under a set of common principles to engender public trust and attain greater political capital as well as the fostering of helpful corporate and political partnerships to reach wider audiences and pool resources. In addition, there are several communications strategies that would facilitate a positive public image shift that the animal rights movement—particularly the subgroup concerned with farm animal welfare—has failed to use to its advantage, including tactics that have helped companion animal advocates achieve considerable success in fundraising and volunteerism. These tactics include the use of anthropomorphic language, an increased emphasis on emotional appeals in advertising efforts, and the utilization of targeted media campaigns to negatively define opposing forces.

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