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Tel: 01227 639768

Claire Bass

Claire Bass

Whilst Head of Wildlife Campaigns at the World Society for the Protection of Animals


Apart from your current organisation which other organisations that campaign do you admire and why?

I admire the Environmental Investigation Agency a great deal, they punch way above their weight as a small organisation. They strike a good balance between work on long-term strategies and objectives while retaining the flexibility to act quickly in response to reactive opportunities.

Generally are organisations getting better at campaigning since you began your career? If so, what’s changed?

In the animal protection NGO movement I think yes, we are getting a lot more professional. Ten or more years ago the animal protection movement’s activities were often driven by righteous indignation, and an expectation that simply exposing problems in a report or a video on a website would stop cruelty. I think there’s a greater focus by many groups now on strategy, identifying and communicating effectively with key audiences, and on measuring impacts for animals, rather than volume of protest.

Which campaigner inspires you most?

Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group made a huge impression on me when I saw her speak at the Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s People Power event earlier this year. Her tenacity and unerring conviction that they would achieve justice, even in the face of such formidable and unyielding opposition and countless roadblocks, was truly inspiring.

What three attributes make a good campaigner?

Focus, empathy, tenacity.

What’s the most rewarding or exciting campaign you’ve worked on and why?

A few years ago we co-ordinated a very complex global public action to get people to ask their governments to vote against a proposal to partially lift the international ban on commercial whaling. Enabling multi-lingual protest, and working with more than forty other NGOs to ensure maximum public and media outreach in their respective countries, was challenging but ultimately extremely rewarding. Countries who had been considering the proposal ultimately rejected it in response to the public opposition; one Commissioner publicly cited our action as a clear indication from home that his ‘room to negotiate was not large’.

How do you feel campaigns will change over the next five years?

I would hope to see more campaigns creating market incentives for positive action – campaigns which equip consumers and investors to make ethical choices with their money. If campaigners can continue to extract greater transparency in supply chains, exposing the impacts of certain products and practices on people, animals and the environment, I think there exists an opportunity to make that information easily available to consumers.
If the way that people’s buying or investing choices are affected – either negatively or positively – is then clearly and quantitatively fed back to companies, this could help create more market imperatives for positive policy changes. It would be great to see more alliances developing between different NGO sectors to pool this sort of information, so that a consumer could have easy access to a company or product’s overall ‘ethical footprint’.

What advice would you give someone starting their career in campaigning today?

There’s a lot of good literature on theories of campaigning, behaviour change etc now, many advocating very different approaches based on whether your end goal is to change hearts, minds, or actions, or a combination of the three. I’d say read up and talk to your new colleagues about which philosophies and tactics they favour and why.

If you weren’t a campaigner, what would you be?

Maybe an investigative journalist.