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Black and White Kitten

Achieving a Level Playing Field

Organisations campaigning for better protection for animals need to get their messages out there. Only thus can the public be informed about how animals area treated and the pressure for change created.

Unfortunately, the playing field is rarely level. It can be very difficult to get the traditional media interested and, even when it is, facts may be distorted and prominence given to the views of industry and governments. All this reflects where power lies in society: monied interests dominate and the voice of exploited animals reduced to barely a whimper. It is all too common for suffering to be played down and organisations campaigning for greater protection to be misrepresented, even ridiculed.

Judicious use of the law can, however, make a real difference. Because of the potential cost, libel proceedings should be considered as a last resort only but sometimes they may have to be contemplated, where an organisation’s reputation has been seriously traduced and loss can be shown. Often, the threat of proceedings can be used to extract a correction, which is usually all an organisation wants.

It is extremely important to avoid being on the wrong end of libel proceedings. Sadly, there are those who see animal protection organisations as a threat and would like to put them out of business. Accuracy and fact-checking are key. Clearly, too much caution will stifle messaging but there are various techniques which can be used to ensure impact while ensuring that risk is kept to a minimum. It is important to differentiate fact from opinion and, where the latter is based on facts, to make sure that they are accurate.

Complaints can where appropriate be made to ombudsmen (UK and European), press regulators, the Advertising Standards Authority, the Market Research Society (with misleading opinion polls) and various other bodies. These carry no risk of a legal costs order. It may be necessary to defend a complaint made to the ASA.

Social media has spawned its own mass of law. Bypassing traditional media can have real benefits but there are pitfalls too.

Advocates for Animals lawyers are hugely experienced in advising in all these areas. We are happy to review copy prior to publication.

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