When a shocking story is published, an inhumane experience recounted, or a heartbreaking photo seen, caring people naturally want to do something about it. THIS IS A GOOD THING. How we react to it, though, can make a big difference on whether we can actually bring about the change we seek.
There are various ways you can do something to help further a cause or affect a change that’s needed. Here are some of the main ones:
Everyone seems to love the idea of signing a petition to solve the problem. You’ve gotta admit, it’s great – easy, fast, free, and you have a chance to speak on behalf of the animals affected.
Sometimes petitions are ineffective. Why?
- The subject involves a highly specific geographic location/area; petitions are shared through emails and across social media platforms – all avenues that know no geographical boundaries. The result is a high percentage of signatures from cities/states/countries having nothing to do with the locale involved. The petition is seen as worthless by the very people/authorities it seeks to affect.
- The petition is addressed to someone who cannot, or will not, do anything about the situation. Very often, those well-meaning folks who set up a petition do so without sufficient forethought on how it will play out in the long run. Petitioning the wrong parties, or worse yet, the guilty party who hasn’t a compassionate bone in their body in the first place – is a dead-end street. A petition may only be effective if it is addressed and delivered to someone who can actually do something about the subject.
- People are people and laws are laws. Often, in the heat of emotional involvement over a story or circumstance, people want a petition to change it. However, unless there is a legitimate, feasible path toward change, the petition is a waste of time. People who don’t care still won’t care if you send them a list of names that think they’re careless. Laws cannot be ignored, and can only be changed or amended given due course of time and effort by someone with the authority to see it done.
- Poorly written, ineffective or irrelevant photos included, and either stating too broad a topic or ranting over a detail – all are part of petitions that will have no effect, and may not even garner many signatures.
If you’re thinking you want to start a petition, my friend Mary Haight published an excellent guide for doing so. If you decide to start a petition – all the more power to you! Check out How to Petition: the Unexpected Activist.
If you’re thinking of signing a petition – by all means, do. But first, please READ the darn thing, check out what you’re signing your name to. And if it’s a poorly constructed, not-going-to-get-the-job-done petition…well, maybe it’s best to skip that one.
Not all petitions will lead to the change you wish to see in this world.
But… done right, you could be part of a petition like Mary’s (referenced above). The petition she created and promoted with Be the Change for Animals garnered over 150,000 signatures! (Petland USA still scoffed at us, though…Boo Hiss)
Sharing on Social Media
Sharing can have a tremendous impact, and be a great way to help a situation we want to do something about. Whether it’s an article, video, photo with description, or even some of our own words to spread the message – social media is a powerhouse.
That is, when it’s done right. Yes, there are wrong ways to go about sharing on Facebook or whatever, and it’s important to realize what works and what doesn’t do as well.
- Know your platform. Repeatedly tweeting out a message on Twitter (within reason, of course) is perfectly acceptable – and can have a great effect. Repeatedly posting the same link/photo/message on Facebook, however, tends to get you not only ignored – but sometimes “un-friended” or “un-liked”, or at least your posts get “hidden” by too many. Not the desired result, true?
- Frequency. Posting very often to Facebook, especially when it involves the same subject or links, can be construed as harassment. Try to keep in mind how the news feed of others will look with your posts in there – especially if they don’t have many friends or pages in their feed.
- Capital letters. If you type in all caps, it’s considered “screaming” at people in social media. Doing so with one or two words is ok, as a way to emphasize them. But entirely in caps?? Bad manners. And if you leave a comment in all caps in Facebook, it might very well be “hidden” by Facebook’s system (same goes for cursing). Your message won’t even be seen by others, then.
- Graphic images and abuse stories. There are two camps on this; some people believe it’s necessary to get these out there, so people are aware of it. Others want nothing to do with such horrible images and stories; they explain that they just can’t handle seeing them. Best to provide a link, with a warning that it leads to something graphic or horrendous. Let others decide if they feel up to seeing it. That’s more effective, and more considerate, than causing half your friends to “hide” your posts, block you, or just get very upset with you.
- Provide reputable links and information. There is a lot out on the internet, some of it is nothing more than “click-bait” designed to get you to go their site and some is terribly inaccurate (if not downright nonsense). Verify your source before you pass it on.
Sometimes one of the best ways you can help animals in need is by donating money. Before you write out that check, though, it’s wise to make sure who your recipient will be is in fact worthy of your hard-earned money – and will spend it wisely, and for the animals. The U.S. government offers a few guidelines for investigating an organization you wish to donate to. Suggestions are included such as checking CharityNavigator.org and GuideStar.org.
Consider creative solutions
You may have to think “outside the box” for a way that you and others can help the situation. There may not be a direct, easy, or quick solution; there may be stumbling blocks (and stubborn people) in your way of solving the terrible circumstances of the animals you care about. But maybe you can come up with a way that you and/or others can actually help make things better at least.
An example is the recent story that spread like wildfire (no pun intended!) on social media about bushfires and baby koala bears. A request went out for people to sew mittens for the burned paws of affected babies. In no time, they were inundated with mittens sewn with love for these adorable creatures.
It didn’t solve the problem of animals at risk in such fires or bring back their lost mothers. But it did provide the mittens to help in healing their paws. And the publicity was so incredible it no doubt led to a surge of monetary donations, as well as spreading awareness of the issue.
Whether it’s volunteering with your local shelter or rescue to care for homeless pets or grabbing a sign and participating in a demonstration against pet stores selling puppy mill pets or the circus that’s just come to town, watch for ways you can physically get involved in a cause. A little of your time can mean a whole lot.
You can make a difference!