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Framing farming

In this guest blog, communications scholar and animal activist Carrie P. Freeman writes about framing veganism — and her new book. 

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In deciding which appeal to use in their campaigns to end exploitation of nonhuman animals killed for food, the animal rights movement faces a significant framing challenge.

As a long time animal activist and communication scholar, when I was writing the book Framing Farming: Communication Strategies for Animal Rights, I wondered, how could animal rights activists speak authentically to promote animal rights ideas and values when attempting to persuade meat-lovers to stop eating animals?

I argue that this isn’t fully accomplished by the movement’s common focus on the grotesque suffering caused by factory farming, which is largely an appeal to widely-held beliefs in animal welfare and the wholesomeness of ‘family farming’. This isn’t necessarily transforming society’s beliefs about the place of nonhuman animals in the world (we need to be anti-exploitation not just anti-industrial).

By contrast, some argue that “go veg” messages should take a more expedient approach of primarily appealing to people’s self-interested health concerns against cholesterol, toxins, disease, or pollution caused by agribusiness, hoping any behavioral changes toward eating more vegan foods (even for self-centered reasons) will eventually open people’s minds to seeing animals differently.

Contributing to classic framing debates faced by all social movements, Framing Farming examines the animal rights movement’s struggles over whether to construct farming campaign messages based more on utility (emphasizing animal welfare, farming reform, dietary meat reduction, and human self-interest) or ideology (emphasizing animal rights and ecological ethics and a belief in abolition of enslavement). I prioritize the latter, “ideological authenticity,” to promote a needed transformation in worldviews and human animal identity, not just behaviors (See Crompton & Kasser’s book). This would mean framing “go veg” messages not only around compassion, but also around principles of justice, liberty, and ecology, reframing these values less anthropocentrically, to convince people that “it’s not fair to farm anyone” (with nonhuman animals included as someone).

For example:

  • In problematising the unsustainability of animal agribusiness and commercial fishing, animal activists should highlight how it is unfair to wildlife (free animals), killing them, polluting their habitats, and using an excessive amount of the shared resources (like land and water) that many living beings need. This altruistic, biocentric appeal highlights sharing and is preferred to talking about environmental pollution primarily in terms of human interests, such as making appeals to “our clean water” or our risk of mercury contamination from eating fish.
  • To do the hard but necessary work of challenging speciesist discrimination and the human/animal dualism, animal activists should remind us that we too are animals (to include them in our ingroup). For example, “we animals are more than just protein.”

In the book, I not only describe what 21st Century animal rights campaigns are communicating and why leaders make these strategic choices, I also prescribe recommendations for values they should communicate to remain culturally resonant while promoting needed long-term social transformation in human identity away from the instrumental viewing of others as resources. Because ‘no cause is an island,’ this helps the animal rights movement contribute to the larger connected goals of all causes – respect for living beings.

Ireland is ready for a conversation about values

This is a guest post by Rachel Mullen, Coordinator of the Equality and Rights Alliance and a point of contact for Common Cause in Ireland.

We have come through a difficult period of austerity, the impact of which has given rise to diminished public services, a homeless crisis, a significant increase in child poverty and growing hostility to migrants, to name but a few key issues. The community and voluntary sector has taken a battering, with many organisations under increased pressure to deliver frontline services to greater numbers and with fewer resources.

Pic for Mullen blog

Adapted from image by Saxarocks, Flickr Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

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Rekindling Kindliness: Learning from Hebden Bridge

Last week, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released a report that calls for more kindness in communities, and outlines some ways that helpfulness and support can be encouraged.

It shows that kindness takes different forms,  not all of them equal in their impact, and it looks at a real British community (Hebden Bridge) to make recommendations that can be applied elsewhere.

The report reveals a perverse truth:  most people think that giving help is good, but that receiving or soliciting help is bad.

Vulnerability (exposing a need for help) is seen as the counterweight to dignity (maintaining self-reliance and independence). If we want an antidote to lonely, alienated Britain, it is this psychology we ultimately have to challenge.

Four of a Kind

When talking about kindness, its seems that people tend towards four different orientations.

4 Kinds of Helping - by Bec Sanderson

4 Kinds of Helping by Bec Sanderson, based on ‘Landscapes of Helping: Kindliness in Neighbourhoods and Communities’, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2015

Here we explore what they might mean in terms of values: Read more

VALUES: 58 IDEAS WE LIVE BY

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KICKSTARTER LAUNCHED

Values: 58 Ideas We Live By is a beautiful deck of cards for exploring who we are, designed by Genis Carreras in collaboration with PIRC.

“Love. Creativity. Enjoyment. Curiosity. Friendship. Purpose. Psychological research shows that we are all driven by the same things – but differ in how we prioritise them. Fifty-eight values guide our lives, shaping who we are, what we do, and ultimately the kind of society we live in.”

Whether you’re just mildly interested in values or a fully fledged Common Cause geek looking for workshop material, this little deck deserves a place in your life…

Support the project and get some cards.

Common Cause in 2015

What’s coming up for Common Cause this year, and how can you get involved?

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Building Bridges: How (not) to talk about Human Rights

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Each framing defines the problem in its own way, and hence constrains the solutions needed to address that problem. George Lakoff

Do you remember the last time you read about human rights in a British newspaper? What was the angle? Was it about national security? Or the power of the European courts? Or protecting universal rights?

Here are a few headlines from different newspapers over the past couple of years:

Put UK back in charge of Human Rights Laws
Human rights are a charter for criminals, say 75% of Britons
Tory Wreckers out to destroy their own human rights

Each of these headlines connects human rights with a different area of concern, implying a different problem and solution – what authority should dictate our laws (the UK or Europe); who uses or abuses the law (citizens or criminals), and who it is actually designed to protect (everyone or the few).

How we talk about human rights can and does make a huge difference to how they are perceived. While the vast majority of us are either supportive or undecided about human rights, the media tells a different story. In a review of broadsheet and tabloid newspapers, political blogs and parliamentary speeches from 2013, ‘human rights’ was rarely used in a positive context. In fact, only 30% of articles were supportive of human rights in the UK (in England it was less than 20%).

This won’t surprise anyone that has paid attention to media coverage of human rights, but it gets more interesting when you look at the different ‘frames’ used. A frame is a story, composed of ideas, memories, emotions and values attached to and associated with a given concept. Framing is a communication tool, that we use (consciously or unconsciously) to provoke a particular kind of reaction to that concept. Most ideas (like human rights) can be talked about in vastly different ways. Last year, working with Counterpoint and Equally Ours, we analysed UK media coverage of human rights; identified the main frames, and then tested how these frames affected people’s values and attitudes. Read more

Some psychological consequences of putting a price on nature

New research we’ve conducted provides further evidence that advancing the economic case for conservation is risky. It may undermine the foundations upon which deeper public concern about the environment will be built. 

We know that there are a range of problems with attempts to use estimates of the financial value of nature as a reason for conserving it. George Monbiot laid many of these out in his lecture at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute last summer.

Common Cause highlights one reason that these attempts are particularly problematic (the one, incidentally, to which Monbiot also attaches the greatest importance in his lecture). It is this: the values which motivate concern about economic performance seem to be almost perfectly opposed to the values which motivate concern about the preservation of nature.

Engaging and strengthening concern about the economy seems to risk undermining concern for the preservation of nature – even where concern about the economy draws attention to the economic benefits of conserving nature.

This is a case that Common Cause has advanced for many years – Tim Kasser and I lay it out in full, in our book Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity (see especially Section 4.2.1). There we cite Douglas McCauley, writing in Nature back in 2006:

[Conservationists] may believe that the best way to meaningfully engage policy-makers… is to translate the intrinsic value of nature into the language of economics. But this is patently untrue – akin to saying that the civil rights advocates would have been more effective if they provided economic justifications for racial integration.”(p.28)

Conservationists should take note: Martin Luther King had a dream, not a cost-benefit analysis. Read more

No Cause is an Island

A major new piece of research

Common Cause makes the case for a different approach to creating change.

Most current approaches to creating change focus on specific causes (for example, biodiversity conservation or international development; climate change or disability rights). They identify key interventions – changes in people’s behaviour, or policies for example – that will help to advance these causes. And then they promote these interventions.

Common Cause makes the case that this approach, important as it is, isn’t sufficient. We confront huge challenges. If we are to step up to addressing these, then our approaches need to add up to more than the sum of their parts.

We have built the case that we need also to look ‘across’ a wide range of causes. In this way we can identify the values that motivate people’s concern about these causes, and work to engage and strengthen them.

Common Cause has accumulated a large body of evidence for this approach. But much of this evidence comes from studies run by academics who don’t necessarily set out to address the specific challenges faced by charities. Often we hear from communicators and campaigners in charities that the material tested in these studies isn’t very ‘realistic’.

A new study

Today we’re publishing a new study, which we have been working on for many months. It combines the best of both worlds. On the one hand, we’ve worked on it with some of the world’s leading experts on values. On the other hand, we used it to test the effectiveness of material produced by staff in WWF (a conservation charity) and Scope (a disability charity). The study makes use of a large panel of nearly 14,000 people managed by the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton. Having read text describing the work of either WWF or Scope, in either intrinsic or extrinsic terms, we then asked people about their intention to help one or other of these charities – by donating money, volunteering, lobbying their MP, or joining a public meeting.

Here are some key findings, each of which I’ll be unpacking further in subsequent blogs. Read more

Education Conference 2014

Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of good education.
– Martin Luther King

What does good values-based education look like?

Last week we hosted a 2 day conference in cold and beautiful Edinburgh to discuss this question. With a hosting team from PIRC, Lifeworlds Learning, Character Scotland and Learning for Sustainability Scotland, and a room full of people working on or researching this topic, there was a lot of buzz and plenty of examples of good practice.

In a rather cruel Pecha Kucha session (which, if you’ve never done it, involves speaking for precisely 6.40 mins, following 20 slides on a strict timer of 20 seconds each), a number of brave speakers stepped up to the stage. We’re working on turning this into a short film, but to just give a couple of snippets – we heard how the Real World Network were using values and frames to guide their outdoor education, developing such frames as “This time we share, with the past and future” and “All taking requires giving back”; how the Woodcraft Folk’s focus on learning through co-operation and sharing was being integrated into Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence and how the John Muir Award scheme had been designed primarily to bring a little more AWE into the world (because awe’s great, isnt it?)

Conference panorama

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Action Learning Programme in Scotland recognised with UNESCO award

This post was written by Osbert Lancaster.

A group of us working on Common Cause in Scotland developed the Communities with a Common Cause Action Learning Programme to pilot an approach to putting Common Cause into practice that could be replicated more widely. The programme had excellent feedback from participants and was recognised with a UNESCO Outstanding Flagship Project Award. The judging panel were particularly impressed by the innovative nature of the project and its contribution to pushing forward the field of Education for Sustainable Development.

How it worked

Sixteen people participated in the programme, drawn from government agencies, NGOs and community groups engaging communities with the environment. Participants were recruited in pairs from each of the eight organisations and were selected for the influence they could bring to bear on their own organisation and their sector. The programme ran from September 2013 to February 2014 with one workshop per month introducing a range of concepts, tools and approaches that can be used to create a values-based approach.
Participants undertook activities between each workshop to put learning into practice and prepare for the next workshop, and were supported by a mentor.

The programme was evaluated using a range of methods including in depth semi-structured interviews with participants.

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Discussions at the Common Cause ALP in Scotland

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