This blog follows on from this one and this
Activism can be sweet
We've published a slew of activism books recently (see the bottom of this page if you don't believe me!). Comprehensive and very useful though they are, they don't encompass one aspect of activism that, while impossible to put in a book, can be the most effective. It's called: Follow the Money.
It's a good rule of thumb that, if someone can make a buck out of someone else, they're going to exploit them. If you want to stop the exploitation, and appealing to the conscience or shame or people or a people doesn't work, then the next step is to make the business (human trafficking, animal exploitation, etc.) so expensive that it no longer becomes viable.
In his admirable Bury the Chains
, Adam Hochschild shows that one of the techniques that the men and women who were trying to end the slave trade in late eighteenth-century Britain tried was to boycott sugar. Since most the slaves in the Caribbean were growing sugar, they reasoned, stopping the demand would put economic pressure on the system and bring about its collapse. So, throughout the late 1780s and most of the 1790s, a fitful but widespread boycott of sugar took place.
What's interesting is that people from all classes took part: the poor, who saw the exploitation of black slaves by the wealthy as a struggle they could relate to; the middle class and rich as a way they could get involved that wouldn't inconvenience them. The sugar boycott bit; but then the Napoleonic War came along and jingoism trumped everything. Eating sugar from British (rather than French) plantations became the patriotic thing to do.
What's this got to do with activism today you may ask? Well, according to an article in USA Today
, three U.S. government agencies have indicated that they aim to end animal testing in ten years. New human tissue technology will be used instead of "slow, expensive animal testing." Now, why is animal testing "expensive"? Because the animals have to be housed and kept alive. And why is that expensive? In part, because animal advocates have made it necessary by pushing companies to improve their dismal welfare records. The result: so-called science is unable to trump costs, and suddenly animal testing becomes moot.
Now, of course, no agency—government or otherwise—is going to admit that any advocate forced them to change policy. But you can bet your bottom dollar that advocacy played a role. Next stop: making factory farming so expensive that it cannot be sustained.