A petition to save Beau the dog became Change.org’s most popular animal victory and the fourth most popular victory of all time when more than 630,000 people stopped the city of Dyersburg, Tennessee from putting him down. Millions more have supported a variety of animal petitions and victories on the platform, making animal protection the most popular cause area on Change.org.
So when petitions to stop the Dog Meat Festival in Yulin - an annual summer solstice event where it is estimated that nearly 10,000 dogs are legally killed for meat - started gaining traction in early June, the Change.org team knew they would draw immense global support. However, as the two most popular Stop Yulin petitions climbed the list of the most signed petitions of all time, we realized the response was much bigger than we anticipated.
“Stop the Yulin Dog Meat Eating Festival,” a petition started by Raise UR Paw, reached almost 4.3 million signatures making it the most signed active petition on Change.org of all time.
“Please Shut Down the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in GuangXi China,” started by Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, has 1.5 million signatures and is the second most signed petition of all time.
These two petitions led a wave of global support for the cause that peaked in the days leading up to the festival. Although the festival was not stopped this year, support continues to grow as people continue spreading the word and taking action in anticipation of next year’s festival.
The map below shows the growth of signatures globally on the two petitions since the time they were created through the end of June:
The US was the most represented country among signers, likely a result of both petitions being started in North America.
The top five most represented countries among supporters of the campaign:
- United States
- United Kingdom
You may be surprised to find out that both petitions were started in June of 2014 and had a small fraction of their current supporters until recently. The larger of the two petitions had 16,000 signatures in February. The signature count grew by more than 26,000% four months later, with much of that growth happening in the two weeks prior to the festival.
How does a petition started in Canada or the US about a town in China achieve this level of global awareness? The Change.org team identified four key drivers of virality for Yulin Dog Meat Festival petitions:
1. Celebrities engaged with #StopYulin2015 on social media
On June 7th, the Raise UR Paw petition gathered almost 5,000 signatures in less than 24 hours. It was the first time the petition gained more 1,000 signatures in a day. It was also the same day that comedian Ricky Gervais - a big animal welfare advocate - tweeted the petition to his followers. He was retweeted more than 5,000 times, and in the following two days the petition gained 14,847 and 15,133 signatures, respectively.
There are many types of influencers on social media, but celebrities are among the most impactful in spreading awareness with their large followings across platforms. The wide range of international celebrities behind this cause drove a substantial number of signatures. Celebrities who helped spread the word included:
2. Global news media picked up the trend
News organizations covering the celebrity support and the petitions themselves was also a major contributing factor in increasing awareness.
The festival and the related petitions were reported in the US’s The New York Times, Argentina’s Clarín, Spain’s El País , India’s Mid Day, Indonesia’s The Jakarta Post, Thailand’s Thairath, and Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, among many other publications.
Media coverage spread awareness of the petitions further than social media could have alone. And as more media covered the petitions in the week leading up to the festival, signature levels hit their peak.
3. Time constraints created urgency
Time, or the lack of it leading up to the festival, was a major driver of signatures for these petitions. As time ticked by, the call to stop the festival became more urgent, and it was this sense of urgency that drove a large increase in signature counts.
For the two most popular petitions, the majority of signatures were generated in the week leading up to the festival. Sixty-three percent of Raise UR Paw’s total signatures were added by supporters between June 14 to June 21. The Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project’s petition attracted 73% of its total signatures during that timeframe.
These graphs below shows the number of signatures per day collected by the petitions. The sharp spike in each graph illustrates the impact of urgency in the week before the festival:
4. More people started their own petitions to #StopYulin2015
There are more than 1,500 Change.org petitions to stop the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Eighteen of those petitions were started on the site prior to 2015 and an additional 15 were started between January 1 and June 6, 2015. The remaining 98% of petitions were all started after June 7th.
Among the Yulin petitions that appeared since June 7, 27% were started on or after the festival took place, highlighting the a desire to halt next year’s festival. The surge in petition creation is further proof that the journey is not over for these supporters.
Here are some petitions that might interest you: