Sentience believes that Switzerland’s political system of direct democracy offers excellent conditions for effective activism. By collecting 100,000 signatures at national level (or just a few thousand at municipal or cantonal level), you can initiate a referendum on your proposal for constitutional amendment. The process includes the involvement of all relevant political bodies and organisations, as well as media debate on the topic. Parliamentary lobbying also offers lots of potential: Even if only a small number of MPs can be convinced by the arguments put forward, it will still open up many opportunities to initiate public discussion of important issues.
Through legislation, policymakers create incentives that encourage morally desirable patterns of behaviour. While many animal ethics arguments (e.g. ones in favour of a plant-based diet) might fall on deaf ears when raised in a personal context, the same arguments are often received much more positively when they are used to criticise political decisions (e.g. on the subsidisation of livestock farming). It is easier to convince citizens to support government subsidies for vegan products than it is to convince the same people to follow a vegan diet themselves.
This effect has been confirmed by various studies on the differences between ethical beliefs and actual consumer behaviour. For many people, what they consume is not necessarily determined by their moral principles. But even if their consumption habits don’t reflect their moral stance, their behaviour is more likely to be aligned with their beliefs when it comes to politics. It is easier to express our moral stance through a vote than to change our own individual behaviour. One positive by-product of this process is that it can change the circumstances which might hinder us from altering our behaviour, such as by increasing the availability of plant-based food options.