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THE MOSQUITO MODEL: Do petitions work?




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Emy Will

Emy Will

Greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa. Although I have a doctorate in psychotherapy, my main passion is advocating for nonhuman animal rights. I condemn all cruelty to nonhuman animals and therefore follow a vegan lifestyle. I would like to connect with other animal activists from all over the world. The fur trade is one of the most abhorrent practices on this planet. Innocent animals are subjected to prolonged suffering for a trivial fashion item. As the chairperson of Fur Free SA. we campaign towards ending the global fur industry. This might not happen in my lifetime, but even if I leave one footprint behind, that is one step closer to the goal. This blog is a forum to discuss all aspects of the fur industry. It also raises issues around animal activism in general. Johannesburg is a crazy city and I need to escape from time to time. This photo was taken next to the magnificent Zambezi river.

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FUR FACT: Around 85% of today’s fur comes from FUR FARMS, as compared to trapping. Trapping is no longer pervasive because it is too expensive. Fur farming entails the breeding of certain WILD ANIMALS  in captivity ONLY for their fur.                                                              Too small end a c

For a while after my “aha”experience (post: That Moment of Knowing) I basked in the proud feeling that I was now an animal activist. My motto was  silence is the worst crime. Then I thought, “So now what? Surely I can’t ignore the active in activism?” I knew that patting cats and washing dishes at Cat Village didn’t really count as activism. Besides, I had announced to family and friends that as an animal activist my personal grooming would be compromised, as I would never take time off while animals were suffering.

So my first step was to start a petition. After sifting through numerous sites, this is easy. Not only are on-line petitions free, but claim that the power is one grasp; the user can have a huge impact; change communities and convince people and companies to give up negative attitudes. Also appealing to someone like me, is that “no technical knowledge is needed”. What more could an activist want? Initially I used Care2petitionsite  with my title “Fury at the Fur Trade” because of the “fur” in fury, which in hindsight I realise was a bit obscure. 

The meaning of “activism” started to make sense. To get signatures I had to be active, My starting point was friends and family. Like  a mosquito I buzzed and whined until they signed. Some only signed out of a sense of loyalty and if they could, they would have swatted me (extension of the mosquito metaphor) or at least reported me for harassment.  Then I approached various anti-fur organisations to access their members list and something wonderful  happened. Like-minded people contacted me to offer support and advice.

If you are one of those people I cannot thank you enough for this encouragement. 

But it wasn’t all a feel-good experience. Many people complained that Care2 was now inundating them with e-mails, which they did not want.

I then changed to change.org, which is the petition below and still open for signatures:)


If  you have run an on-line petition, I would love to hear  your experience.

More significant though, was an anti-petition attitude where people would say things like, “petitions don’t work” or “you are wasting your time”.  I heard negative terms like “slacktivism” and “clickerism”.

“Slacktivism” is a combination of the words slacker and activism. It refers to people who support causes without engaging with the real issues. Signing a petition gives them a good feeling, as they have the impression they have contributed.  

“Clickerism” is the trend to sign many petitions, sometimes without reading them. It can turn into a kind of frenzy,  as did the Kony 2012 hysteria.

However, I still believe it takes little effort to click on an on-line petition and who knows, maybe something will come out of it. I will sign most animal rights petitions, as I believe collective action works. We all know the saying “win some and lose some”. What do you think?

For me, starting a petition made me feel less helpless. It became a way of networking with others who fight for animal rights. I felt part of a community and learnt so much from people and reading. What started as a petition turned into an anti-fur campaign, which included other actions. The UK website Animal-Rights-Action.com provides for several strategies and I agree with its statement. Through “… government lobbying, petition signing, letter writing and telephone calling, laws have been changed for the benefit of animals and cruel practices have been ended”.

For example, today I read how attitudes to Bear Bile farming are shifting. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-23633665.

Of course more activism is needed to change this mindset: Chinese Newlyweds Wondering What They’re Going To Do With All This Medicinal Bear Bile (theonion.com)  ]

But most encouraging for me was Slovenia’s ban on farming and hunting animals for their fur (2013).  This was the result of “intensive campaigning, petitioning and educating.

 fur ishistory



  1. Heather Howe says:

    Petitions seem to work when they are linked to well conceptualised and well implemented campaigns that have long term goals. I suppose in the end it is what you do with the petition that counts


  2. Emy Wilhelm says:

    So true Heather. Petitions are a means to an end; not an end in themselves. I was naive and emotional when I started my anti-fur petition. Although the goals came later I am learning so much along the way.


  3. Chris says:

    I think the clickerism criticism is valid. You should only sign a petition if you have seriously considered the issue at hand, as well as the consequences of success if the petition works, and fully support the outcome.However I thin the slacktivism criticism is too harsh. Sometimes one does care passionately about an issue and signing a petition is all one can practically do. As for the efficacy of petitions one only need have regard to the significant successes Avaaz have had to see that they can work.


    • Emy Wilhelm says:

      Again Chris, thanks for your thoughtful comment:) So many causes just vanish so it is good to get feedback on petitions. There have been some incredible success stories lately around banning wild animals in circuses and laboratory animals. I must admit I don’t always read through a petition, if it is too distressing, but will still sign.


  4. xbox2121 says:

    You have a very unique and worthy cause on this site, one which I will easily support !


    • Emy Wilhelm says:

      Thank you so much xbox2121. You have a very interesting name. Is there a story behind it?

      My cause is a journey in progress, so all input and support is most welcome 🙂


      • xbox2121 says:

        My name is actually Bob. I have used xbox2121 on the web for years. It comes from my addiction to that silly Xbox gaming console. the 2121 comes from about ten years ago when I used to deal blackjack in the casinos 🙂


      • Emy Wilhelm says:

        Of course. So there is a logic to it and not some “random” thoughts.I remember playing 21 at a casino, years ago. There is quite a skill to dealing cards:)


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