Posts Tagged advocacy

The emotional power of stories

Pictures of puppies and kittens are surefire sellers. But what about pigs, roosters, cows, goats? How do you make people care about what happens to these animals, and possibly change their behavior to save them?

Seen on The Animal Planet:  This ad “What if we were served the truth?” for

Note the website name. “Try veg.” Instead of “go veg” or “be veg.” Just try it, they ask. Their target audience is people who eat meat, so they offer a PDF Starter Guide to show how to try vegetarian meals. It talks about vegetarian foods that are substitutes for meat. This suggestion to substitute a veggie burger for a beef  burger, and swap meat-free chicken-flavor nuggets for the real thing, makes it easy to prepare the same meals we usually prepare, but with simple substitutes. It makes behavior change easier.

So, great to know it’s easy, but why should we care? The Guide includes education about health as well as the animal farming industry and what happens to the animals we eat. Here are more of the campaign’s TV ads.

I don’t know who funds, but I have visited The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York which has a similar education message. All animals are rescued farm animals, and I learned things new to me, like the close relationship between a mother cow and her calves, and how it’s painful for them to be separated and have that bond broken. All Sanctuary animals have names and stories. The Farm Sanctuary’s stories make you care about animals that you never thought much of before. After all, these are animals that usually live on farms, not in our homes. Not all are super cuddly. But the stories make me think twice about eating meat, like the stories about animals that ran from slaughterhouses and wound up, to their good luck, spending the rest of their lives in the rolling hills and big beautiful meadows at the Sanctuary. 

As one story, meet cute ‘lil Bob Harper, a piglet. This poor guy fell out of a truck on an Illinois freeway. If he hadn’t fallen off that truck, he would have been slaughtered for food at six months old. But now, Sanctuary staff say he is “making us laugh by crazily spinning around his hospital stall and shaking his blankets with his mouth like a puppy with a chew toy!” No matter how good bacon tastes, this guy plays like a puppy! Oh the conflict!

I didn’t meet pigs at the Sanctuary because swine flu was going around at the time, but I did meet turkeys. They’re ugly! But they must think they’re photogenic because when they see you and your camera, they are hams. One turkey saw us and came over and strutted and pranced and really put on a show for us. It was really cute. I could see his personality. I’m glad he won’t ever be on anyone‘s table for Thanksgiving.

Those of us in Illinois might remember the story earlier this year about a truck carrying cows that crashed and cows were crushed and burned and some survivors were wandering around a freeway after the crash. All surviving cows except one were loaded on another truck for slaughter. But one critically-burned cow was forgotten. Here he is, Jay the bull cow, moving into his new home where he is recovering at the Farm Sanctuary. His fellow cow neighbors touch his nose and give him kisses over the fence! His caregivers say he is thrilled to be around other cows and he loves to run.

Hearing these stories, seeing their pictures and meeting the animals, it makes a difference in what we might think about them.

A few more Sanctuary stories:

  • Two “escapegoats” Isadora & Duncan, only a few months old, saved from dangerous New York City streets. Extremely loyal to each other, they cry loudly if they are apart for even a few seconds, signifying the deep emotional bond forged by their shared adventure.
  • Faith the infertile cow with no value to the dairy industry is saved – her life does have value! Now affectionately known as the “exfoliator” for her endearing habit of excitedly approaching her caregivers and licking their hands and faces when she sees them.
  • Jade and Indigo, best friend chickens saved from a meth lab. The Sanctuary reports that opposites must attract — Jade is a spunky fiesty firecracker, very outgoing among the chickens, and Indigo is a calm, tranquil rooster whose feathers don’t get ruffled.


So what do you think about Isadora, Duncan, Faith and Indigo now?



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Killer celery=4 deaths while car crashes=~20,000

So if tainted celery is worthy of attention on CNN home page as soon as news of these deaths is released, what does it take to get that attention for 20,000 deaths within 8 months?

Why isn’t public attention about the cause of 20,000 deaths on every media outlet, all the time? Where is the demand to prevent this? (We have pretty good idea actually, will discuss in future post.)

We don’t accept 4 deaths from a food source. Nor should we. Business operations are shut down when this happens. The source of the fatalities is destroyed, pulled from shelves and eradicated, immediately, as much as possible.

In contrast, we passively accept 20,000 deaths from another source of fatalities. Not only do we not demand preventive action, effective prevention is actively thwarted by some beliefs and behaviors.

While France is currently rioting enough to disrupt a country’s operations over a 2 years’ delay to retirement benefits (not that I agree with that uproar, I’m just making a connection), I ask you to consider this contrast that boggles my mind…

We don’t accept 4 deaths from celery, but we accept 30,000+ deaths a year from car crashes in the U.S.

That’s unacceptable to accept, but U.S. society does and that’s a culture to change.

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What can be deadly, starts with a “c” and has 11 letters?

Just as we learned that each year thousands of men die from stubbornness, there’s another potential killer that might sound unusual to say. But most of us know it well. You may likely recognize it.

com·pla·cen·cy   |   [kuhm-pley-suhn-see]   –noun, plural -cies.

A feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.

An article in a recent Occupational Health & Safety discusses how complacency can lead to injury and fatalities. It shows how our minds can be excellent safety devices, but what can happen when we “check out” or we’re “just not all there”?

I’d also argue that in order to not get struck down by this potentially deadly thing, combatting complacency doesn’t just apply to our individual situations. It applies to what we’re going to do about environments, systems and policies too.

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How to reach a whole country like the conversation about cell phones & driving

I’m watching the 2nd USDOT Distracted Driving Summit online today. Reflecting on the past year.  Sharing a recipe on how to make a sweeping national difference — quickly — on a public health issue. It’s possible.

This recipe has been cookin’ to change national beliefs and behavior about using cell phones while driving:

  • The backing of a very high level government official — in this case, a member of the President’s Cabinet, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
  • Not only have the “backing” of a very high level government official — he or she should publicly “go on a rampage” about your issue, as Secretary LaHood often describes his mission. He is on a rampage to stop crashes and deaths due to distracted driving.
  • The government official should have a very public presence and excellent communication skills.
  • The government official should be in a position to influence change in federal regulation. As announced at the Distracted Driving Summit today, truck drivers must follow a USDOT regulation limiting their cell phone use.
  • Federal financial resources must be allocated to fund proven effective behavior change strategies.
  • Encourage people affected by your issue to start a national advocacy organization so the public hears their stories. They are also powerful advocates when lobbying legislators and others for change.
  • Recruit relevant nationally-recognized organizations to see their vested interest in your issue. Changing the issue should be among their core goals. Organizations that are good at getting others to listen, that are good at getting media attention, are best.
  • The relevant nationally-recognized organizations will help move change faster if they are well-connected in all sectors of politics, business, media.
  • When the above support is vocal, the media will report on what these organizations and people are talking about. And media drives more media like a snowball down a mountain. Watch it roll!
  • Reach out to public and private employers who can change their employees’ environment for the better. People working full-time spend most of their waking hours at work. The workplace has a huge influence on social norms. Team up with organizations that specialize in reaching employers. And as those working in public health know, influencing employer policies can make sweeping change.
  • Share compelling data about the impact of your issue. I work on traffic safety and there’s (unfortunately) no shortage of compelling data about the toll of crashes. Leverage the data.
  • If your issue can be addressed with state laws, develop a prioritized plan to advocate. There are 50 states. You won’t be able to work in all. If your issue is rolling, the public is talking, and it’s likely state legislators are already taking action in response to the public desire. This angle is worthy of a whole blog on its own so I won’t get in detail beyond listing it as very important for change.
  • Fully use all online communications available today — blogs, Twitter, Facebook, online webcasts. I mean, fully. What does this mean? Watch for a post later with an example. 

This may look overwhelming. But it’s possible. Those of us in public health know population-level change is not easy and this is what it takes. Think Thanksgiving Dinner cooking, not frozen food in the microwave.

I show a pizza recipe above because I think of public health change like a pizza — many ingredients are needed to bring change: education, social norms, policy, enforcement, technology, physical environment, etc.

This change has happened for many issues and it’s happening right now for cell phones and driving. I’m thankful to work in the middle of it, to see how these ingredients all work to influence massive change. It’s possible!

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