Petitions: To Sign Or Not To Sign


This morning I signed an online petition. This is by no means something new. On average, I probably sign at least 10 per week; sometimes as many as 30. The one thing that they have in common is that they are almost always about animal rights, animal welfare or environmental issues. Very seldom do I sign ones that involve any aspect of human suffering, although there is the odd exception ​Once you get on their mailing lists or follow them on Facebook, the likes of causes.com will send you umpteen virtual documents to put your name to, and they are very good about only sending you what you want to look at. Occasionally I don’t have time to read them, and I can get frustrated by the never ending stream of desperate causes; but generally, I'm very happy to take the few seconds to add my name and email address to a wide variety of lobbying projects in my sphere of interest. For the most part, the computer stores my name and details, and all I have to do is push a button for my name to be appended. If I feel particularly strongly about it, I might share the petition on my personal Facebook page, and this usually guarantees that at least one or two of my friends will add their names too; or if I'm really lucky, they will also share. But it’s almost always the same one or two. I can be reasonably confident that my dear old friends Verona and Jaccii will sign up, but thereafter, its pot luck. I believe that one or two people (perhaps more?) have actually stopped following me on Facebook because I post petitions. But if they have, they’ve never had the courage to tell me so. I guess not everybody likes to have their conscience pricked. Or perhaps some people just don’t care about environmental issues or consider that animal welfare matters. It does. I tend not to sign human focused petitions because I am only too aware that many of the hardships that we choose to try and eradicate that effect humans are actually designed to test those who experience them. As hideous as it sounds, they have desired to undergo whatever despicable experience the petitioners are rallying against. So those human petitions that I do sign tend to be ‘live-and-let-live’ generic rights based ones that focus on our right to exercise our freewill, such as gay rights (which I actually feel quite strongly about). I sign so many petitions about the natural world because animals cannot speak up for themselves, and neither can the environment. What we do to them is not of their choosing. Neither is it the way it is ‘meant to be’. A little while ago, a friend informed me that they had given up signing petitions. They assured me that there was little point. That what would be, would be. I had two responses to this. Firstly, if you sign a petition, the sponsor will often contact you later on and give you an update. I believe about 1 in 30 petitions I sign makes a difference, and the objective with which it is begun is satisfied. You may think that’s a poor rate of return; I consider it better than none. The second goes back to that wonderful quote from the English philosopher Edmund Burke. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Seldom were truer words spoken. If we all considered ourselves irrelevant in our impact and impotent against the wrongs that are perpetrated, we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. I see it this way: Perhaps as often as once a week, for a few minutes of effort, I’m making a difference to the lives of some voiceless and defenceless beings out there; or maybe I'm even helping the whole planet. That matters.