Why do letters on the size of sow stalls move MEPs?

Source: WikipediaWe highlighted the success of the online petition and social media activities of the Burma campaign last year and it seems that Tibet has also sparked a similar online movement. With the digital world potentially lowering the barrier to entry for those wishing to gather support around an issue, a Friday morning coffee corner conversation overlooking a cold Square de Meeus got us thinking about whether “expressed” public opinion counts more in some policy areas than others.

Why is it that a petition like oneseat doesn’t have an effect, while a regular handful of letters on animal welfare issues get UK MEPs of all political colours speaking in unison in favour of larger sow stalls? It could be of course related to the fact that the site of one of the EU institutions is an intergovernmental decision and our directly elected representatives in the EP have a say in the comfort of the humble pig. The latter are perhaps more suceptible to “public opinion”, after all they are the only elected EU institution. Or perhaps our politicians make a distinction between issues the voting public have something to say and issues that should be left to those that know? They may of course have a point.

In any case, the animal welfare example just goes to show that one doesn’t need a supporting cast of millions to sway policymakers in Brussels and thus targeted online digital grassroots could be an effective way of getting a result, depending on the issue of course. Thankfully, our clients are more likely to be interested in swaying the size of sow stalls than the locations of institutions – small things tend to have big impacts. As such, a cast of millions may grab the attention of Commissioners, but is it needed?


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[...] already argued, and continue to believe, that such contact can make a difference. In fact, I’ve even taken [...]