I always questioned the effectiveness of advocacy groups means to promote their agenda like PETA members throwing red paint onto fur coats or Greenpeace members tying themselves to a tree to keep foresters from harvesting for wood. In these cases, it has been hard for me to take them seriously. Even with their more pragmatic solutions, it still seemed like they didn’t get it. Now it looks like PETA finally understands how they can truly make an effective, meaningful change to advance their advocacy: embracing the new corporate stakeholder model for business organization. PETA realized that the best way to make a change was to meet eye to eye with those they advocate against. Profit is the driver of many corporations and why they do the things they do that many PETA members criticize.
So what did PETA decide to do? They decided to become major shareholders in companies such as McDonalds and Kraft. Their aim is to have some weight in future decisions of the companies. Unlike their previous attempts at trying to push their agenda on individuals to make a change, PETA finally realized that the best way implement change was a more pragmatic, top down approach. With PETA realizing that the ethical treatment of animals was an easier fight to win rather than changing peoples dietary habits, PETA may be able to make a meaningful and effective change. Coming to terms with the fact that other individuals chose to eat meat must have been a tough sell for PETA but on the upside they can now work together with food companies to help humanize our food production system – something that any compassionate person would support.
In many cases, shareholders were “horrified” when they learned of some of the production methods used by their companies’ suppliers, Byrne said.
“Many shareholders are average people who are compassionate and who don’t want to be supporting practices that are inhumane,” she said.
I hail this as a groundbreaking achievement for advocacy groups moving away from their radical paradigms and more towards the center as they meet eye to eye with the average, using the capitalist system to their advantage. Making political change is hard since the currency is votes. Cash is a much more effective means of making system wide changes for the better. And apparently, the organization is already making waves:
“It gives us a new forum in which to present the research we’ve done to company executives, their shareholders and the public,” said Ashley Byrne, a senior campaigner for PETA.
PETA tries to negotiate agreements with companies behind closed doors, but if that fails, the group submits shareholder resolutions with its proposed changes at shareholder meetings.
Companies don’t always change their policies, but Byrne said the effort has paid off. After PETA bought stock, Safeway grocery stores and restaurant companies Ruby Tuesday, Sonic and Burger King agreed to give purchasing preference to suppliers that abide by what the group says are more humane rules, such as not confining chicken and hogs in small cages, she said.
I applaud PETA for taking the first step that I hope many should do as well.