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How Animal Rights Groups Change Policy

How Animal Rights Groups Change Policy
Strategic planning desensitizes public and shifts public opinion.

HSUS and PETA are tag-teaming a mind game on the American public to shift consensus opinion toward previously unthinkable outcomes.

They are using a think-tank model called the Overton Window, says David Martosko, director of The Center for Consumer Freedom, a watchdog group which tracks and discredits the Humane Society of the United States with advertising and congressional lobbying. The center also tracks People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The Overton Window really is a method of planning out strategy to move public opinion in a new direction, thereby making it possible to create new, often more restrictive public policy.

The concept is named for Joseph Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a think tank in Michigan. The concept has been picked up and massaged by many people by now, so it's hard to tell just how it developed.

But Joseph G. Lehman, now the president of the Mackinac Center, says Overton first showed the concept as a continuum from "less restrictive" to "more restrictive" government policy.

Martosko says current thinking on the policy these days is a model that runs from "unthinkable" to "policy."

• Unthinkable
• Radical
• Acceptable
• Sensible
• Popular
• Policy

Initially the window of public opinion for an idea such as vegetarianism might include only the unthinkable and radical categories.

But as people are more exposed to vegetarians and anthropomorphic movies and PETA demonstrations throwing blood on fur-wearing models, perhaps they begin to see it as expected or normal and later even "acceptable."

As the government and government-funded researchers tell us repeatedly how bad meat is for us and the carbon footprint disciples tell us how bad meat production is for the environment maybe growing segments of the population begin to see the vegetarians as sensible and maybe they finally see that viewpoint as popular.

At that point the Overton Window has likely expanded down the scale and likely contracted downward to the point it seems only sensible and popular for lawmakers or regulators to make it public policy.

It's a little like de-sensitizing a horse in a round pen. Let's say he's afraid of little streams so you put a folded-over blue tarp on the ground and send him around and around the pen until he finally steps over it.

Once he demonstrates he will go over it without a thought, you open it up bigger and send him around and around the pen until he again crosses it without thought. You can continue the process until it covers as large an area as you want and the horse will continue adapting.

That's what's being done to the psyche of the American public.

It's important to understand how your enemies think and understand the games they play, Martosko says.

The good news is there are think tanks working to discredit these organizations and shift the window of public opinion back up the scale toward another reality.

Some Web sites monitoring the activities of HSUS and PETA are:

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