Social Media And The Indonesian Animal Protection Movement
This article examines the role of social media in the contemporary animal protection movement in Indonesia. To contextualize the topic, the author outlines the history of animal protection, which started in the 19th century when many social justice movements gained momentum. The paper then turns to the development of the movement in Indonesia. Arriving at the present day, the article looks at how four animal protection organizations in Indonesia use social media to build the movement.
The author highlights the diversity of goals within the movement in general, both in its development over time and synchronously. For example, the early animal protection movement focused more on preventing blood sports, while in the 20th century, advances in medical technology have shifted attention toward the plight of animals used in science. We can also distinguish between the animal rights movement and the animal liberation movement, for instance, which are contemporaneous but separate in their goals.
In Indonesia, the animal protection movement arose in the 1970s, born out of university outdoor societies of nature lovers (“pecinta alam”) mobilizing for conservation. Nonprofits like the Borneo Orang-utan Foundation and ProFauna (founded in 1991 and 1994 respectively) began to foreground particular issues within conservation more specifically, such as endangered species. More currently, the Indonesian animal protection movement has coalesced with a common vision and a focus on welfare, concentrating on saving animals from exploitation and cruelty, and raising public awareness. In this sense, it has been characterized by less ideological debate than the broader animal protection movement.
Moving into the 21st century, social media has become increasingly present within activism, and Indonesia is no exception. Social media platforms have reduced hierarchies, facilitated global relationships, and accelerate the pace of communication of animal advocacy groups. However, the author notes that online connections may be weaker than those forged in person. For the animal protection movement, social media is thus an important tool but one not without drawbacks.
The article goes on to spotlight four organizations representative of the contemporary animal protection movement in Indonesia: ProFauna, Garda Satwa Indonesia, Animal Friend Jogja, and Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN). Discussing how these organizations use social media, the author draws on a framework of three elements involved in movement-building: organizing a network, creating a collective identity, and mobilizing the community for concrete goals.
The oldest of the four organizations, ProFauna, has a slightly different approach to social media from the others, emphasizing action over online interaction such as likes and follows. For the other three organizations, social media is much more of an entry point and a way to get involved with the movement. In all cases, social media is used to knit their groups together, creating connections, and building an identity.
A key aspect of social media is that it can lower the barriers to participating in the movement. Following an organization’s Twitter or Facebook page is an easy way to get involved, for instance. ProFauna draws a distinction between supporters, whose participation is limited to online engagement; and “activists,” who participate in ProFauna’s programs. Although support and activism look different, they can also be seen as stages in a process. This article cites the participation ladder of involvement in social movements, whose rungs move upward from shared perspectives, through collaboration, and into collective action. Like the pebble and the avalanche, social media “micro-contributions” can build into change at scale: demonstrations against dolphin circuses in Jakarta, for example, mobilized many online supporters.
With its global reach, social media can also play an important role in establishing networks and bringing in resources. Spearheaded by Animal Friends Jogja, the Dogs Are Not Food campaign first expanded through collaboration with JAAN, and then partnered with global organizations including Humane Society International, Four Paws, and Animals Asia. Support from international celebrities like English comedian Ricky Gervais further raised the campaign’s profile, and it is now hugely influential in Indonesia.
Through analyzing the contemporary animal protection movement in Indonesia, this article demonstrates the importance of social media as a way of building the movement. The case study shows that online platforms can foster connections and a common identity, which can translate into mobilization. They can also offer another revenue stream for organizations: marketing and merchandise through social media add to more traditional funding sources such as donations.
As advocates, many of us have heard the term “armchair activism,” and it’s one that holds a lot of negative weight. We know that social justice movements don’t just need our likes: they need us to be more active, in a broad range of ways. While this article doesn’t deny the importance of action, it highlights the fact that engagement exists on a spectrum. Social media can play an important role in helping build the animal protection movement in places where it still has much room to expand; to that end, brief interactions online can snowball into larger momentum. Without question, we need action offline, but let’s not denigrate social media, both as a tool for getting the ball rolling, and a way of creating a more accessible and inclusive animal protection movement on a global scale.