Frames function to make ideas andevents meaningful, organize experience, and guide action (Snow et al.
, 1986),making it a useful tool for social movement organizations. More specifically,social movement organizations utilize three core framing tasks: (1) a diagnosisof some event or aspect of social life as problematic and in need ofalteration; (2) a proposed solution to the diagnosed problem that specifieswhat needs to be done; and (3) a call to arms or rationale for engaging incorrective action (Snow & Benford, 1988). According to Snow and Benford(2000), the effectiveness of these framing tasks is dependent upon two sets ofinteracting factors: credibility of the frame and its relative salience.
Credibility of the frame pertains to: (1) frameconsistency – the consistency between a social movement organization’sbeliefs, claims, and actions; (2) empiricalcredibility – the degree to which the collective action frames areverifiable and culturally believable; and (3) the credibility of the framearticulators – the perceived credibility, status, and expertise of the speakerand/or the organization they represent. Salience pertains to: (1) Centrality – how essential the beliefs,values, and ideas associated with movement frames are to the targets ofmobilization; (2) Experientialcommensurability – how congruent the frames are with the targets’ personal,everyday experiences; and (3) Narrativefidelity – the extent to which the frames resonate with the targets’cultural narrations (Snow & Benford, 2000). I will begin thisanalysis by organizing the identified framing patterns within the diagnosticand prognostic categories proposed by Snow and Benford (1988). Subsequently, Iwill use Snow and Benford’s (2000) work on resonance to evaluate theeffectiveness of framing tactics employed by three major animal advocacyorganizations: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), FarmSanctuary (FS), and Humane Society of United States (HSUS).
DiagnosticFraming Consistentwith previous research on framing of the animal rights movement (Freeman,2010), I identified four main “problem” frames among animal rightsorganizations: (1) the suffering of animals due to cruelty, (2) the commodification of animals as objects,(3) the harmfulness of animal products and farming to humans and theenvironment, and (4) the needless killing of animals for food. However, giventhe fact that the overwhelming majority of problem frames were related tocruelty and suffering, they will serve as the basis for my analysis of problemframes.Crueltyand Suffering of Farmed Animals This was undoubtedly the mostfrequently identified problem frame among all of the animal rights organizations.
“Animals rights organizations’ texts are full of visual and verbaldescriptions of land animals’ extreme mental and physical suffering inconfinement and the painful transport and slaughtering process” (Freeman,2010, p. 8). The animal rights organizations appeared to focus on exposing thevery worst cruelties within factory farming, including intensive confinement,immobility, bodily manipulations performed without anesthesia, high mortalityrates due to poor living conditions, and even the beating to death of animalsat the hands of workers (Freeman, 2010). In addition, several organizationsdescribed – and even showed in videos – the slow and painful deaths that theseanimals often experience, whether by bleeding out or being boiled alive. PrognosticFraming Themost frequently suggested solutions proposed by animal rights organizations regardeddietary alterations. PETA’s advocated for the immediate and total eliminationof animal products, whereas FS advocated for a gradual reduction in animalproduct consumption, stating that “moving toward a plant-based diet should be apleasurable and fulfilling time of discovery, so take advantage of vegresources, seek support and move at your own pace” (farmsanctuary.org, 2017).
Although FS was more likely to use the term “plant-based” and “vegetarian,”their preference for veganism was implied by their frequent condemnation of theegg and dairy industry. However, only HSUS suggested a transition to more”humane” animal-derived foods as a solution to the problem of animal suffering.For instance, in an article titled “10 Ways to Live Humanely,” they listed “Lookfor grocery labels that identify Certified Humane, pasture-raised, grass-fed,free-range, or uncaged animal products” as the first step.
Conversely, PETA andFS disparaged such labels, implying that they are little more than misleadingadvertising techniques designed to reduce cognitive dissonance and make us feelbetter about our purchases. For example, in a FAQ reply, PETA stated that theterm ‘free-range’ “doesn’t really tell you anything about the animal’squality of life… For these reasons, we believe the onlyhumane option is to refrain from eating eggs, milk, and meat.” Asecond (albeit less common) solution frame involved welfare reforms for farmedanimals. Many organizations proposed government-instigated legal reforms as asolution for reducing animal suffering. For example, on it’s webpage, FarmSanctuary identifies itself as an organization that advocates “for laws andpolicies to prevent suffering and promote compassion.” Furthermore, they defendthese efforts by making the following six evidence-based statements: (1) Welfare reforms reduce suffering and provideimmediate good for animals; (2) The animal agriculture industry spends millionsto oppose welfare reforms, because reforms are bad for the industry; (3) Welfarereforms are followed by a reduction in consumption of the affected animalproducts; (4) Media coverage of animal welfare issues causes people to eat lessmeat; and (5) Welfare reforms go hand in hand with decreased meat consumption;People who make a small change become more likely to make a large change.
However, some organizations seem to prioritize voluntary reforms over government-basedlegal reforms as a mechanism for achieving welfare reforms. As quoted in anarticle in The New York Times, “PETA, in particular, has started a series ofhigh-profile campaigns to pressure fast-food companies to change their animalwelfare practices, including a “Murder King” campaign that ended in 2001 whenBurger King agreed to improve its animal welfare standards” (Martin, 2007). Credibility and Salience As previously mentioned,the effectiveness of collective action frames is largely dependent upon thecredibility of the frame and its relative salience. Therefore, I will use thosetwo sets of interacting factors, as defined by Snow and Benford (2000), todetermine how effectively PETA, FS, and HSUS are constructing their frames inorder to inspire participant mobilization.