The Internet, as a resource for information, has exploded. Millions of people, every day, turn to online services for information, conversation, and entertainment.
Online encyclopedias are replacing the usual volumes of books. People make travel plans, buy stock, send flowers and meet other like minded people around the world. People of all types, ages, beliefs and views use the Internet.
The Internet is truly a free form of expression. It is not controlled or biased by editors. It is not dependent on ratings to determine what you see or learn about. It is not watered down, cropped, edited, or made "to fit in the available time slot". There are no "sound bites", no photo ops. Thus, it is, to date, a pure media form.
It is most important to note that the medium is particularly attractive to those groups who can't seem to get a fair, unbiased report from the commercial media. Thus, it was only natural that so many animal rights activists would become interested in the Internet.
In addition, competing servers have made access to the Internet more and more affordable and attractive. America Online, itself, has some 18 million subscribers. With the growth in information available, the amount of animal rights information has grown also. An activist in a small town in southern Iowa can learn things that she might never hear in the commercial media, may never attain at her local library, or ever know without the contacts the Internet provides. A protester can learn of protests to be held in his area. Animal rights activists all over the world can hear of events that would never be covered by the ratings powered by commercial media.
In the last five years, various formats, or "forums", have included a space for animal rights information. While these were helpful, they were unorganized. They were disrupted by many anti-animal rights fanatics such as Bobby Berosini with nothing better to do than sit at a keyboard and dispute each fact posted by animal rights activists. The topics were generalized, scattered about, and basically ..............without form.
Yet, they attracted huge amounts of interest. Animal rights "bulletin boards", a form of interaction, are among the MOST popular on the Internet. Thousands of "posts" were logged each day in these forums. People exchange information, thoughts, action alerts, vegetarian recipes, and, most importantly, support and direction in making this a better world for the animals and for humans. In addition these provide exposure to national animal rights organizations to the individual activist and small grassroots.
I, as well as other activists, enjoyed these forums, but wanted something more, something organized, something unpolluted by anti-animal rights sentiment, a one stop, one source, comprehensive wealth of information about animal rights. We longed for something that would offer a forum in ALL the basic Internet forms of communication: e-mail, newsletters, chat rooms, and bulletin boards, and an Internet website. Though I worked toward this, myself, for some three years, I found the task to be daunting. In order to effectively meet the needs of the AR community, I needed to recruit other individuals with the same ideas.
With that goal in mind, Animal Rights Online, known as ARO, was formed in June of 1997, by myself and a few dedicated and knowledgeable activists. Our initial staff was Sue Shoemarker, of Dubuque Iowa, Lori Godzik of Algonac Michigan, and myself.
Our mission at Animal Rights Online is to enhance public awareness about animal rights and vegetarianism issues and to work towards stopping the needless cruelty and suffering. We believe most people are unaware of the atrocities hidden behind such activities as fur farms, circuses, rodeos, research labs, factory farms and zoos, to name but a few.
Our first efforts were in the production of an online newsletter to be e-mailed to "subscribers" who requested the information. All of the staff contributed, each member concentrating in her own areas of expertise. The newsletter was a hit! Subscribers quickly grew to over 2000 individual members and organizations. Responses were overwhelming. Our staff was flooded with e-mail questions about animal rights and vegetarianism issues. Animal Rights Online became, overnight, THE source for up-to-date, comprehensive, animal rights information on the Internet.
Staff were assigned to the new tasks. We answer e-mails after researching questions, publish the newsletter, publicize monthly updates of upcoming protests, provide a comprehensive listing of animal rights organizations for each state, and an added feature.....chat rooms. Chat rooms are "live" forms of communication where many people can discuss an issue at once. Our chat rooms are hosted, cover specific topics, and include guest speakers on animal rights and vegetarianism issues. They are screened to eliminate people who seek to disrupt the chat. While we welcome non-AR activists' participation because this is how we teach others, we do not tolerate disruption. Our chat rooms are a safe place for activists to discuss the issues.
The interest grew steadily. E-mail questions and requests for literature and help increased. To handle the load, we recruited additional assistants, each with a specific area of expertise to assist, and give our subscribers the best information we could. Ms. Shoemarker recruited her husband, Gary, a reformed hunter, to handle questions on wildlife and hunting. Greg Lawson, a US Forest Service Ranger, was recruited to handle questions regarding the environment and its applicability to animal rights. Other recruits include Randy Atlas for marketing, advertising, and co-ordinating our website, and Richard Weavil to serve as our forum leader.
The email service has been a great help for our subscribers. Animal rights Online staff recently placed dozens of animals in safe homes when a sanctuary was closed. We have initiated letter writing campaigns from our subscribers, informed them of protests, atrocities, and court cases involving animal rights and protests against animal abuse. And, perhaps most importantly, we have provided animal rights and vegetarian information to young people to use in schools, and for speeches and reports. We acknowledge that if we are to have any long-term impact amongst the future consumers and policy-makers, we must teach and guide the young to be socially responsible and to develop a strong sense of social conscience. The impact of imparting information to young folks cannot be overemphasized.
A recently added feature is an animal rights bulletin board, a bulletin board that is organized in specific animal rights topics. Through the efforts of Ms. Shoemarker, America Online agreed to allow Animal rights Online staff to monitor these bulletin boards. This keeps the postings on topic and allows us to remove offensive posts that disrupt the forum further disseminating the relevance of our cause. Finally, activists can enjoy an exchange without disruption or harassment.
Our efforts are paying off. Animal Rights Online has attracted attention from other animal rights groups around the country. Our staff works with organizations such as the Chicago Animal rights Coalition, the Fund for Animals, In Defense of Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and numerous other groups.
The pressure on our staff is overwhelming, but our dedication keeps it alive. Our staff has grown to meet the needs of the organization. Our current staff consists of ten members and is supported by nineteen e-mail assistants, researching answers for e-mail questions in their particular areas of expertise.
Starting, and operating this much needed organization on the Internet has required extreme dedication and diligent work. Many long hours at the keyboard have been spent to provide our subscribers with the best information they can receive on animal rights. I cannot speak highly enough of our staff who have remained dedicated through many personal hardships, always remaining reliable and dedicated to the people we serve.
We, at Animal Rights Online, look forward to our goals, and the future of the AR movement. We must recognize the importance of taking full advantage of the technological resources available to us. Animal rights Online allows us to consolidate our efforts, to strengthen our resolve and to be the forefront of the information age for the 21st century. We look forward to the challenges that animal rights activism demands, and look forward to seeing you, online, with Animal Rights Online.
Animal Rights Online can be reached at: EnglandGal@AOL.com
Insert date: 2009-05-16 Last update: 2009-05-16