I recently wrote an article about the "wolf-problem" in Finland (see here). Calling the current situation a "problem" is meanwhile a vast understatement. There is an outright war going on between wolf-haters and animal protection people. The situation has excessively escalated and is extremely volatile - so volatile that threats are being made, even within the own ranks, e.g. there have been cases where militant animal protection activists have actually threatened more moderate animal protection people...
But how did it come to that?
To understand that, we first have to look at some basic psychology:
- Humans don't like being told that they are wrong. Even more so if that challenges a strong belief.
- Humans don't like to face their fears. Many fears may nowadays not be necessary anymore but they are still programmed into us. Fear is a strong survival instinct which is hard to face and harder to overcome.
- Humans don't tolerate attacks well. If you verbally attack a person, this person will almost automatically first go into a defensive mindset, followed by a counter-offensive.
- Humans don't like if someone challenges their way of life and wants them to change it.
For all of the above is also valid: Usually, the less educated a person is, the more the statement is true.
Now, let's look at the activists:
- Activists tell people that they are wrong. Regarding wolves, they challenge people's beliefs because most wolf-haters are honestly afraid of wolves and honestly believe that wolves might steal their children or stuff like that.
- Activists, in a way, are trying to force the people to face their fears. As I said, most wolf-haters are honestly afraid of wolves...
- Activists usually are more or less aggressive, e.g. obtrusively addressing people during a rally or using very strong language in publications and the internet.
- Activists challenge the way of life of people. Trouble is, usually not only in one way, but in many ways at the same time (see below).
Starting to see the problem? ;)
Here's a few typical mistakes, usually made by activists:
- Being too aggressive - I understand, nature/animal protection is important to you, but using strong and aggressive language simply gets you nowhere.
- Trying to command people - Phrases like "you must" or "you have to" just don't work. If a human is approached by a total stranger, telling him what to do, not to do or what to think, he's likely to think "what an idiot" and not listen.
- Telling people they are stupid - Less educated does not mean stupid! You are interested in wolves, so you read about them. The other guy isn't interested - he is afraid of wolves, so he tries to stay away from them. That includes not reading about them or looking for material that confirms his fears.
- Using killer arguments, killer phrases or just generally "flatten" people in discussions - Nobody likes being "flattened" in a discussion by an opponent who only wants to "win" the discussion. Remember, the ultimate goal is not to "win" a discussion but to convince the opponent that you are right. True convincing can only be done with real arguments and facts, not with killer phrases and semantics!
- Overwhelming people - So you have your info stand in the shopping district, your displays say something about wolf-protection. A person comes by and you talk about wolves. Then you talk about bears, and lynxs and the forest and whales, industrial keeping and processing of lifestock and finally you tell that you are a vegetarian or maybe even vegan and the visitor should consider this too. And your visitor will think "eeeehhhmmm, what?!" and will go away with nothing else but a very negative feeling about you and your stand because you totally overwhelmed him.
So, that's the reasons why activists are not being taken seriously, called names like "kukkahattujengi" (flower-hat gang) and why activism cannot work in the long run.
The only way to change things and protect wolves and other animals is to educate people. As frustrating as it may be - activism does more harm than good.