Our 4th annual workshop – working together for animal protection legislation

With efforts being made in China by legal academics to draft the country’s first animal welfare legislation, ACTAsia felt it was important to help animal groups to get involved in the legislative process, and our 4th Annual Workshop focused on this issue. It was held in Beijing from September 4-6, 2009, and again targeted potential leaders of the animal protection movement in China.

Our interactive workshop followed our forum where animal protection groups were brought together with law drafters, concerned influential academics and government officials, to discuss how legislation needs to be drafted to address animal welfare issues, and to start building relationships. Click {cms_selflink page=’legislation2′ text=’here‘} for details on the forum.

At the workshop, 24 selected participants from different animal groups focused on lobbying, research, outreach and media relationships, to help them to influence the current plans for animal protection legislation, and also help with their other work. We also had an informal forum for them to share the positive ways in which a work-life balance can be achieved, and to discuss personal issues that participants face because of their animal work. The feedback we had this year from participants was much more positive and inspiring, although most of them still face many challenges while promoting animal welfare. The participants were very articulate and involved in the workshop, and many have prioritised developing their organisations and projects beyond animal rescue, to focus on long term solutions.

The importance of research

For a campaign to convince others of the need to treat animals better, whether they are zoo animals, farmed animals, or companion animals, we first need to show the depth and extent of cruelty that exists. Thorough research is essential to make this happen, and we focused on helping the participants to understand why and how they should obtain information. This session included a field visit to Beijing Zoo, with Rob Laidlaw, an extremely experienced campaigner and wildlife expert from ZooCheck Canada, who designed and delivered the sessions on research and lobbying.

One participant said: “Under the teacher’s instruction, we saw the same thing from a different angle, and the conclusions were different. We saw a “different zoo” and were saddened at heart, but it’s illuminating for our future work.”

Building media relationships

Our session on media relationships showed them how to create materials suitable for the media, build connections, and recognise and use opportunities for media exposure effectively. Their participation and feedback both emphasise that media outreach has become important to them and the workshop helped them to build their confidence in dealing with the media, and showed them how to use the media as a tool. They felt that the presentation was very meaningful and practical – it was done by Cao Bao Yin, senior editor at Beijing News, who is actively involved in various social justice issues.

According to one participant, “It broke down the mysterious aura of the media, which made my feelings of fear and resistance to the media disappear.” Another said: “I have now learnt the basic working procedures of the media, and how to get them to publish our news. This has helped me to rebuild confidence in communicating with the media in our future work.”

The workshops are a good starting point, and we will continue to provide resources and help to the groups as everything they learn needs to be reinforced and deepened. One participant said, “The amount of information is within my understanding and acceptance. But three days a year for us is far from enough. We are thirsty for more information and resources.” Another felt that the standard was quite high and forced them to become more professional.

For more detailed information, please read our forum and workshop report.

The workshop was organised by ACTAsia for Animals and the Alliance for Animals in China. It was kindly sponsored by Care for the Wild International, Humane Society International, Animals Asia Foundation, and One Voice for Animals.