Advocacy 101

So, you’re ready to take the plunge and become an Animal Advocate? Already entrenched in animal issues but want to know how to take action?

Advocacy is an action that supports, defends, or argues for a cause on behalf of others. (See: Animal Issues before the United States Congress). It plays an important role in politics, nonprofits, and non-partisan entities. Advocacy can take many forms, some of the most common include: legislative lobbying, rallying, voter education and mobilization, and research.

Advocacy starts with figuring out goals you are trying to achieve within a particular issue. It typically involves communications with government, business, schools, or other institutions in order to correct unfair or harmful situations affecting the community. For animal advocates, it takes the form of petitioning and provoking organizations to change policies that negatively impacts animals or adopt policies that positively impacts them. Cruelty Free International is an example of an animal advocacy group that petitions, educates, and lobbies worldwide to end cosmetic testing on animals.

Direct and indirect lobbying is also a form of advocacy. Direct lobbying involves contacting legislators to encourage them to adopt a stance or raise awareness. Indirect lobbying involves getting the general public to contact the legislators to do the same. Both are highly effective forms of advocacy, with proven methods and outcomes. 

Here are two key ways to be an animal advocate for the issues you care about:

Call your Senator or Representative.  You can do this by dialing the United States Congress switchboard, which is (202) 224-3121, enter your zip code, and choose the representative you’d like to leave a message for. If you call during normal business hours, you may get an aid on the line to take your call, or you can leave a message for them. Typically aids check these messages and tally what the call is about. Then, you should encourage others to do the same!  It should be noted that representatives also have offices in their home districts and states where you may leave a message or speak to an aid. Other methods to reach your senator include faxing, by mail, or going to town hall meetings.

Get involved in organizations that support or advocate for the issues you care about. There is significant power in numbers, and communities of people can help shift the conversation or bring awareness to issues. Whether you lead this community or are an active member, organization is key to successful advocacy. Within these organizations or issues, there will be opportunities to host events, do research, and educate constituents and legislators about the importance of the concerned issue. These events can take the form of town halls, forums, and rallies. These all encompass outreach, which is the most important part of advocacy. Ever see people handing out pamphlets for an issue? That’s a form of advocacy.

Overall, Advocacy is one of the best ways to get your message across and enact real change. Remember to listen and be respectful when advocating for your cause. For further advocacy tips, check out our other articles about advocacy.

Sources: Alliance for Justice, Community Tool Box, Support Empower Advocate Promote, U.S. Senate