Key Learnings 2022

Both of our initiatives represented landmark achievements for Sentience. They shaped the public discourse in 2022 and contributed to the slow inculcation of animal ethics into mainstream society. Yet, there is room for improvement. We would like to reflect on our shortcomings here.

Initiative to abolish factory farming

  • Our initiative text was legally correct, but the opposition were able to pick apart certain elements. Considering the high cost and resources required to launch an initiative, it was understandable that we wanted to include as many demands as possible. However, we now question whether a shorter, more targeted package of demands would have garnered more support. We will consider this for any future initiatives.
  • Sentience launched the Initiative against factory farming single-handedly. The opposition commanded resources which significantly exceeded our own. In order to have a realistic chance at the ballot box, any future initiative would likely require a substantially larger budget and campaign team.
  • The Responsible Business Initiative demonstrated how an initiative could mobilise resources with the support of a broad alliance. We should have prioritised alliance-building earlier. This would have enabled us to tap into the resources of more organisations.
  • In order to inspire the majority of the population for a cause, it is essential to highlight the urgency of the matter and exclude any room for doubt. We could have done this better. For future campaigns, we must ensure that the actual conditions in animal farming are made transparent sooner. Possibilities include a greater focus on highlighting scandals, publishing our own investigations, and doing more to attract media exposure.
  • Regional volunteer networks are very challenging to build. Here, we could have involved organisations that already have structures in place to manage regional leafleting, stand campaigns and billboards more effectively and at an earlier stage.
  • We built up a large network of influential personalities from society.However, we lacked credible ambassadors from agriculture who could more readily be trusted as experts in their field until a late stage in the campaignThe clearest take-home message from the follow-up surveys was that policy change in agriculture does not work without the producers. In the future, we need to involve stakeholders within agriculture in our campaigns at an earlier stage.

Primate Initiative

  • As part of the counter-campaign and in numerous media reports, it was repeatedly mentioned that the Initiative wanted to extend human rights to animals. We did not counteract this inaccurate narrative effectively. In reality, the Initiative would’ve had hardly any political consequences.
  • All non-human primates are currently kept by private institutions in the City of Basel and these would not have been affected if the initiative had been accepted. This  weakened the impact of the Initiative as a mindset-shifting campaign. We needed to better prepare and communicate the possible and realistic scenarios.
  • The discussion about the initiative was characterised by a high level of complexity and theory, especially with regard to legal issues in the area of ​​fundamental rights. Sentience had too little knowledge in this area to communicate credible expertise on our own. The team would need to be better connected to experts the next campaign, or to frame it according to the knowledge that we possess in-house.
  • After the defeat in Basel, we did not mount a follow-up to the campaign in order to purposefully continue the dialogue that we initiated with the aim of shifting mindsets. This was a missed opportunity.
  • Although the Basel Zoo would not have been directly affected by the initiative, it was able,with the support of the Basel pharmaceutical industry,to assume the position of victim. We should have exposed this approach as the strategic manoeuvre that it was.
  • We could have leveraged the Initiative better in order to professionalise our internal structures and substantially extend our long-term outreach.

Future campaigns need to incorporate these goals more effectively.

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