Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Night Lites, Apr. 30

Think the "mammalian lacteal secretions" industry is insecure? You're right!

Back to Boston for Friday Night Video: More Than a Feeling (audio-only version here).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Team Grows!

Thanks so much to everyone who has signed up for Team Vegan! There are already more people on the team than last year!

We are awed by your dedication and thrilled you will take an active roll in providing the animals a voice and making a better world for everyone. Together, we will continue to make a huge difference.

If you haven't yet (or if you know someone else who would like to be a part of this world-changing team) please come by the Team Vegan site and register today! As we mentioned, if you complete your profile by May 7, you'll be putting hundreds of dollars to work for the animals!

And please come by the Team Vegan blog to keep up on news, see interesting links, and provide feedback.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Money for Nothin'

Would you like to be a part of VO’s work? Would you like to change lives and lessen suffering? Please come to and sign up for the team!
If you complete your profile by Saturday, May 7, a generous donor will put $100 towards your fundraising goal – money that will be matched by John and Fany!
So please – get on board today and you’ll put hundreds of dollars to work for the animals just by signing up!

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More into the Mainstream

Paul points out that Sodexo, the leading food and facilities management services company, put out a plant-based press release for Earth Day.

Try to imagine a huge company doing that even five years ago!

DawnWatch also notes that "Last Monday's episode, April 19, of the hit primetime ABC series '10 Things I Hate About You' was titled 'Meat is Murder.'" You can watch the show online, and send feedback.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Not Change the Laws?

We previously mentioned the AFB's upset at an EPA intern pointing out some of the problems of modern agribusiness. Here is the original post, with the expected level of intelligent comment* ("all vegetarians are going to develop dementia," etc.).

Grist's post on the broo-ha-ha falls into the "It's terrible but we're powerless!" trap: "We can't be expected to eat Gimme Lean instead of pig flesh! The government has to save us!"

Of course, this is a standard cop-out; nothing requires anyone to pay others to brutalize and slaughter our fellows. Obviously, you can work to change laws and industry practices while advocating ethical eating.

For more, please see "Why Not Change the Laws?" 

*First rule of staying sane on the internet: Never read the comments.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

VO in College Culture

Eileen points out that VO was recently listed in SUNY Stony Brook's "scavenger hunt."

Full image.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Ugly Truth Behind Factory Farms

Via Digg, Time has an interview with Animal Factory author David Kirby. Excerpt:

One time I visited a pig farm, a regular farm — not a factory farm — in Illinois. Right across the street was a hog CAFO. The owner didn't live there, of course. There's no farm house on a factory farm, just business offices. At night, all the workers would leave, and all I'd hear as I was trying to fall asleep was the sound of the pigs fighting each other, biting each other, squealing, screeching all night long. It was like nothing I've ever heard before in my life, and it just didn't stop. It sounded like kids being tortured over there. I'll never forget that sound. It was very sad.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting to the Heart

A recent email exchange:

EM: I am a vegan for life. I want to know: is a veg/ local/ in-season diet as sustainable as a hunter/ gatherer way of life?

VO:  Thanks so much for writing! Vegan Outreach focuses only on what isn't debatable -- we don't try to make any / every argument that might seem pro-veg. We don't want to get into debates over ill-defined / controversial / abstract terms (like "sustainable"). If you'd like to understand our approach better, please take a few minutes to look at A Meaningful Life.

EM: Thank you -- that is what I was looking for. Focusing on what isn't debatable -- reducing suffering as much as possible for animals.

And for your Friday Night Video, here's VO member John Darnielle / The Mountain Goats.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The American Farm Bureau Is Insecure

Ezra Klein:

The quality of a lobby's argument is generally inversely proportional to their touchiness to debate. Lobbies that feel like they're on solid ground don't tend to freak out when, say, an intern somewhere writes a blog post that's skeptical of their industry. Lobbies that know they're on the wrong side of the argument but are hoping that money and intimidation can keep them afloat react with overwhelming force to even the mildest provocation -- say, an intern somewhere writing a blog post.
The American Farm Bureau is the latter type of lobby. Since it's impossible to argue that meat production isn't a major contributor to global warming, it has settled for attacking interns who dare voice this reality. Classy. And for more on meat and climate, see this article.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Understanding Psychology To Help Animals

In an earlier post, we linked to the issue of confirmation bias as a problem vegans face when determining what is effective in creating change.

Here is another good post on understanding what people believe, with clear implications on how they make decisions. It can be summarized by Simon and Garfunkel: "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest" (although the post: "Why it's hard to change people's minds" really is worth a read).

This information is useful in helping us have constructive interactions with non-vegetarians. But it is also insightful in understanding why so many vegans passionately believe every claim they've heard that seems somewhat pro-veg (health, global warming, etc.).

In the end, we can create maximum change if we seek out what is true, indisputable, and effective, and present this in an appropriate manner. As we write in A Meaningful Life:

Effective advocates understand [the] evolution of people’s views, and, furthermore, recognize they can’t change anyone’s mind. No matter how elegant an argument, ultimately, real and lasting change comes only when others are free to explore new perspectives. Of course, there is no magic mechanism to bring this about. The simplest way to encourage others to open their hearts and minds is for our hearts and minds to be open, believing in our own potential to learn and grow.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nina Gonzalez Makes a Difference

VO member Nina Gonzalez goes on ABC to tell the story how she changed her school district's lunch program. A runner, swimmer, and scholarship-level golfer, Nina is a great spokesperson for the animals!

Speaking of veg athletes, here is a piece of trivia:

Paavo Nurmi, the "Flying Finn," went vegetarian in 1909 at age 12. He won a total of nine Olympic gold medals (like fellow veg Carl Lewis) and three silver medals in the 12 events in which he competed at the Olympic Games from 1920 to 1928.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

You Want the Recipes? You Can't Handle the Recipes!

Erik puts together perhaps the densest recipe post ever.

And Brian passes along some recent feedback:

“Students at my school in Baltimore (UMBC) were handing out free booklets.  These shocking images and stories have really affected me!” (KH, 3/26/10, Baltimore, MD)

"The pamphlet about animal cruelty that someone was handing out on campus strongly impacted my life. Thank you so much.” (SB, 4/2/10, Monmouth, OR)

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Night Lites

-Erik notes: Health Insurance Companies Heavily Invested in Fast Food.

-Very long-time member Mark Foy offers pdfs of Vitalita's cookbooks.

-AAC Leafleter Laura comments:
I felt so much more comfortable leafleting after the first couple times.  By the third time I had lost the jitters.  I just told myself that this is one of the most effective ways to help the animals, and I desperately want to help them, so go for it!  Knowing you guys figured out what works gave me the drive.

-A big tent means more progress: Earlier today, VO received a donation and an order for Even If You Like Meat booklets to distribute at Iowa State. This person isn't vegan, but says:
I'm an animal lover, and I don't think we need to be eating meat as recreationally as we do. The things we let happen, I think, degrade us; especially considering our active participation in fueling it, and our sometimes willful ignorance of it.

-Finally, to kick off the weekend, this video from a one-time AAC leafleter.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sexy EN Pledge

If subscribed, you should have received the weekly Enewsletter yesterday; you can also read it (and past issues) online. As always, thanks for keeping an eye out for it every Wednesday, in case it is filtered by your ISP.

Jon passes along the new incarnation of the College VegPledge, which will be for May this year.

Finally, an update to this story:

Last year, Robert received a Why Vegan while visiting the International festival with his family. As he started to read it, his wife and daughter each purchased a chicken drum stick, and asked him if he wanted one too. He replied, "You need to read this pamphlet. I don't think you want to eat meat anymore." So, after receiving the pamphlet at last year's festival, he pretty much became a vegetarian before reaching the end of the first row of booths. His wife and daughter became vegetarian the next morning. His daughter has now convinced two of her classmates at school to go vegetarian, and she is now working on her third.
     It is now exactly one year later, and the entire family has come back to the International Festival for the purpose of leafleting the event at which they themselves received their Why Vegan. Together, this weekend we gave out almost 5,000.
-Eugene Khutoryansky, 4/20/08

Eugene reports that the family is now vegan, and Robert (shown here while leafleting) is nominated for "Sexiest Vegetarian Next Door." Robert and his wife, both personal trainers, now advocate veg to their clients. Another example of the power of one booklet (congratulations to Casey, who handed Robert the booklet).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Enemy of My Enemy is Soy

It could be argued that some of the greatest threats to modern animal agribusiness are meatless options that appeal to the masses. These are definitely improving in quality and availability, as anyone who has been veg for ten years (or, especially, longer) can tell you.

So it shouldn't be surprising that there are lots of articles floating around trying to scare people about soy. Jack has written about this, and has a page linking to his and other articles about soy -- written by actual dietitians and scientists.

Of course, "soy is dangerous" is just the kind of lie many meat-eaters want to believe, so this kind of disinformation tends to persist. It is nice to see non-vegetarian sources take it on, as in this Men's Fitness Q&A.

PS -- You'll note we've added the "ShareThis" option to the blog, so you can easily email a post, Tweet it, or add to Facebook.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oysters and Anger

Here's a good post by Erik, showing again how he doesn't fall into the dogma trap, but consistently stays focused on effective advocacy.

Also, today VO received an email asking how to deal with anger and despair, given how much cruelty there is in the world. There is a fair amount in The Animal Activist's Handbook on this, based on this essay. (Comic by longtime VO member Berke Breathed; larger version here.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Team Vegan 2010 Sneak Peak

We’re getting ready for Team Vegan 2010, which officially kicks off May 1.

This year will be much different, with more opportunities for anyone, anywhere to get involved!

That means you!

Don’t want to run? You can train for a walk-a-thon, or set a biking goal, or swim to get in shape. You can plan a leaflet-a-thon, walk dogs, cat-sit, etc.

If you do want to train and race, we will be developing various training programs for various levels and distances, and we can help you find (or plan) a race in your area.

The official Team Vegan website is now live! We've also set up the Team Vegan blog, where we are already posting training tips, schedules, and links of general interest – please join up and post your questions and insights. The Team Vegan Facebook page is also back, allowing people across the country to interact.

Again this year, our incredible members, John and Fany will double the money you raise, dollar-for-dollar!

This is a great opportunity for everyone to get involved with Vegan Outreach, work together towards a goal, and help the animals! Be sure to be a part of the Team Vegan blog and Facebook page for more updates, and feel free to contact us with questions or comments – thanks!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Run on VO's Recent Vid!

Jon notices over 1,000 people have watched VO's most recent video in the past 24 hours. It can be seen at VO's YouTube channel.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Various Friday Links

-We've changed our bumper stickers, which you can order via our catalog.

-Paul points out this interesting interview with Carl Lewis, who says his best year was as a vegan. Good info for those who think you can't be a vegan athlete. For people who don't remember Lewis, Dan recommends the greatest ultramarathoner of all time, Scott Jurek. Casey points out UFC Champion and lifelong vegan Jake Shields.

-People often don't identify with cruelty to fish in the same way as they do with land animals, in which case, this type of information might be useful.

-Down with the GVP!

-And, in honor of Friday, this song by Boston, led by longtime VO member, Tom Scholz.

    Fruits, Veggies, and the Animals

    Jack notes an NPR story: Fruits and Veggies Prevent Cancer? Not So Much, It Turns Out…

    Erik Marcus comments:

    This is yet another reason to tread carefully when discussing the health benefits of veganism—which is a point I’ve been making ever since Meat Market came out.

    We could go even further, though, since the vegan diet isn't just fruits and veggies. Even if fruits and veggies did have magical properties, this wouldn't be an argument against eating chickens and fishes. (Similarly, the connection between red or cured meats and some cancers isn't a pro-vegan argument; it is taken by the general public as another reason to eat more chickens and fishes.)

    Instead of looking at studies comparing disease rates with various intake of foods, Jack has done a review of cancer and actual vegetarians:

    Table 1 below shows that no study has found a difference in mortality between vegetarians and meat eaters for all cancers combined. ... In Table 2 below, EPIC-Oxford found that people who ate fish but no other meat had the least amount of cancer.

    All this reinforces Erik's point about the pitfalls of promoting "the health argument."

    Unfortunately, this can be a very hard lesson to learn. We naturally suffer from confirmation bias; we note studies that, at first glance, seem to be pro-veggie, but ignore actual studies of vegans and vegetarians. We focus on people who stopped eating animals for their health, but we don't note all the people who stopped eating big animals and are now consuming many, many more chickens and fishes.

    PS -- A few posts later, Erik shares this picture. It is likely we'll catch more new vegetarians with Almost Philly Cheesesteak & Midway French Fries than with broccoli!

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Personal Dogma vs. Reaching New People

    The post below was originally attributed to Phil Letten, when it is actually Kenny Torrella. We apologize for the mistake.

    Predictably, Kenny Torrella was attacked for his post, along the lines satirized by this comment:

    You seem to think that reaching new people and getting them to consider changing is what matters. You are so wrong! All that matters is passing judgment on people, to criticize them if they don't live up to my current definition of purity!

    Making a difference doesn't matter. My Glorious Veganism is all that matters!! Get with the program or be excommunicated!!

    Or, as Jonathan Safran Foer put it, in his interview with Erik Marcus: Are we going to promote the last step -- focusing on our personal diet and views -- or will we work to get more people to take the first step -- reaching out to them where they currently are?

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Kenny Torrella on Messaging for Maximum Change

    VO volunteer extraordinaire, Kenny Torrella, recently read this commentary by Bruce Friedrich. On another blog, he quoted it and added this comment:

    I read [Bruce's quote in this interview] a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with it lately, and I think it's a small tip for activists that goes a long way. For 2.5 years I had been telling people I was vegan if the subject came up. Now if people ask I say I'm vegetarian, and it makes a world of a difference. When I used to say I was vegan, people would immediately say some kind of variation of, "That's awesome, but I could never do that myself." Now when I say I'm vegetarian, people become more open and tell me about other vegetarians they know, vegetarian foods they've tried, how they've considered going vegetarian, or they had been vegetarian in the past and want to get back into it.

    Whenever I met a vegetarian while leafleting, I used to say, "Have you considered veganism?" The situation would immediately turn a bit sour. For a split second they saw me as someone they had much in common with, and after asking if they've considered veganism, they see me as someone telling them to do more -- that their vegetarianism is not enough. Out of the number of vegetarians I had met and responded to like this, not a single one responded positively -- none said, "Why yes, I have been considering veganism lately!" All of them said a variation of, "Well, veganism seems like a good thing, but it's just too much for me." No matter how much cajoling, they wouldn't budge. The funny thing about this is that when I was a vegetarian I was the same way toward vegans. This is something important to remember. I didn't go vegan because another vegan was telling me to, or even telling me about it... I did it on my own after thinking about it and researching it for several months.

    Now while leafleting, I give words of encouragement to vegetarians I meet. I tell them how awesome it is that they're vegetarian, to keep it up, I say "Aw, you're the best," I give them literature that has recipes and nutritional information. This makes a huge difference! They feel encouraged to do more, rather than being told to. They may not feel as alone in their choice if they meet another "vegetarian" that is also an activist and is thanking them.

    Although our initial reaction is to identify as a vegan or to convince vegetarians to go vegan, 9 times out of 10 it doesn't turn anyone on to veganism -- it only makes them feel like they're being judged, as if their lifestyle choice to eschew all meat products was worth nothing. I'm not saying this is a fool-proof guide to live by and of course there are instances where it's important to say you're vegan, or if a vegetarian wants more information about going vegan, then by all means, hand out vegan literature and share your experiences as a vegan.

    Although I was first skeptical of Friedrich's tip, I experimented with it and found it to be a much better approach toward turning more people on to a vegetarian lifestyle.

    As always, kudos to Kenny for being concerned less with justifying his own choices and more with opening as many new hearts and minds as possible! (See also this follow-up.)

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Weekly Bleg*

    Tomorrow (Wednesday, Apr. 7), and all subsequent Wednesdays, we'll be sending out our Enewsletter. Please check to see if you get it; if not, please check if it was filtered by your ISP and mark it as legitimate mail.

    Thanks so much!

    *Bleg = blog beg.

    "Animal Activist's Handbook" Changes Advocacy

    I love the Animal Activist's Handbook. Because of your book, I am going to promote 'transition' foods, the 'vegetarian meats and cheeses.' Your book helped me to remember that it wasn't easy switching from SAD to veg, and I used all sorts of mock meats and cheeses and ice cream to transition to a whole plant foods diet. I learned much more than this from your book, especially the part about how to have conversations about this issue rather than always sharing what I know. Oh my, your book really helps me to help animals.
    —HS, 3/31/10

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Lessons from Long Experience

    Bruce Friedrich, coauthor with Matt Ball on The Animal Activist’s Handbook and VP of PETA, has had personal interactions with literally thousands of individuals over the years (quite possibly, he has had more one-on-one conversations about animal issues than anyone else in the U.S.). He recently wrote:

    I actually think that using the word “vegan” (other than perhaps with youth) may be counterproductive to helping animals, relative to using the word “vegetarian.” As a species, we are given to seeing things as “all or nothing," and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had discussions with people who write off making any changes because they believe they can’t go vegan.

    That’s why I no longer wear my “Ask me why I’m vegan” shirts – I wear the vegetarian ones, and the conversations have gotten SO MUCH BETTER. Where people used to be all about what vegan means and how hard it is to give up dairy (which saves 1/10 of an animal/year), now we talk about fish and chickens (saving many dozens of animals/year). I used to hear stories about dour and angry vegans; now I hear stories about daughters and cousins who are vegetarian.

    This is anecdotal, of course, but it’s not theoretical – this is real-world and OVERWHELMING. I have FAR more people respond to my shirt now and approach me to ask questions. Before, I generally talked about what vegan means and the evils of dairy (still good, of course, but not nearly as valuable in helping animals). Now, I often have people tell me on the basis of one conversation that they will go vegetarian.

    My long experience shows the word vegan scares many people, but the word vegetarian interests them (we also see this overwhelmingly when leafleting – people want vegetarian information far more than vegan information). Ironically, I’ll bet we get far fewer vegans by using the word vegan, since many vegetarians do go vegan, once they see how easy it is and start down the path of compassionate eating.

    This is from this interview; more on this later in the week.

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Gardein in Tucson

    Our local store, Bashas, just started carrying a number of Gardein products. They are all very good (maybe even too tender), but they seem to have replaced the Boca Chik'n Nuggets, which were a bit better.

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Pig News from Paul, and Joe Post

    From the youngest very-long-time member of VO, Paul Shapiro, the 9th Circuit reinstated California's law banning the slaughter of downer pigs.

    Paul is one example of how animal advocacy attracts some of the very best people in the world. Another is Joe Espinosa. Just one example of Joe's dedication just came to my inbox -- yesterday, Joe leafleted at Bowling Green U (5 hours from where he lives near Chicago) from 7:40am-3:40pm, directly reaching over 1,200 students! He wrote:

    During this 8 hours of leafleting, I was thinking about a facebook conversation I had had Monday with an animal advocate here in Illinois where I suggested that less anger and more polite advocacy amongst meat eaters would best serve animals interests, he suggested that animals interests are best served by us expressing our anger at "corpse munchers," and that we advocates do not have enough anger.  At 12 noon the campus preacher showed up wearing a shirt that said "Trust Jesus," then went on to bombastically condemn students for their wickedness.  It was the perfect example of angry advocacy and a waste of good First Amendment rights.  People skills are all around us ;-)