Thursday, June 10, 2010

Do Your Choices Make a Difference?


Occasionally, Vegan Outreach hears from someone asking if they are really making a difference by not eating animals.

It can easily feel overwhelming to be just one person amongst hundreds of millions, but in a market economy where supply is driven by demand, our choices do create a signal (not just against animal products, but for cruelty-free options). This article discusses the question in more detail.

Our choices, of course, don't exist in isolation. Our example to others can be far more powerful than our signal to the market. Almost no one chose to be vegetarian in isolation for abstract reasons – everyone who is making compassionate choices is doing so because of the example and/or advocacy of someone else.

It is vitally important that we make sure we aren't just one person amongst millions – that we our doing our utmost to set the best, most attractive example possible, and providing the animals the most effective advocacy we can. As written here:

If we believe that being vegan is important, being the most effective advocate for the animals must be seen as even more important! The impact of our individual veganism – several hundred animals over the course of a lifetime – pales in comparison to what we have the potential to accomplish with our example. For every person inspired to change their habits, the impact we have on the world multiplies!  

Conversely, for every person we convince that veganism is overly demanding by obsessing with an ever-increasing list of ingredients, we do worse than nothing: we turn someone away who could have made a real difference for animals if they hadn’t met us! Currently the vast majority of people in our society have no problem eating the actual leg of a chicken. It is not surprising that many people dismiss vegans as unreasonable and irrational when our example includes interrogating waiters, not eating veggie burgers cooked on the same grill with meat, not taking photographs or using medicines, etc.  

Instead of spending our limited time and resources worrying about the margins ... our focus should be on increasing our impact every day. Helping just one person change leads to hundreds fewer animals suffering in factory farms. By choosing to promote compassionate eating, every person we meet is a potential major victory.
(Please also see the "Countering the Stereotype" section of AML.)

In the end, our lives can have the biggest impact and make the most difference if we focus our limited time and resources less on our personal purity and the minutia of every choice we make, and more on how our example and advocacy can have the most positive influence on others.

And as you can see, it is possible to make a huge difference every day!


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