Thursday, March 3, 2011

Question Thursday: Words and Results

Veganism is getting lots of media attention lately. Oprah just did a big Vegan Challenge and Kathy Freston's Veganist [was] #1 at Amazon. With the "v-word" finally gaining mainstream recognition, why is it that some activists and organizations are choosing this point in time to shy away from using it?

For example one advocate has said: “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.”

Thanks for this important question – it brings up a key aspect of Vegan Outreach.

I understand the personal pride that many vegans feel when “vegan” gets mentioned in the media, and when famous people endorse it. But VO doesn’t exist to promote the word “vegan,” to celebrate veganism, or to get media attention.

Rather, our goal is to reduce as much suffering as possible.

As we write here:

“[W]e must honestly evaluate the world as it currently is, and then do our very best to reduce as much suffering as possible.

“We must reach and influence the people who might be willing to go vegan; reach and influence people who might be willing to go vegetarian; reach and influence the people who won’t (now) go veg, but who might stop buying meat from factory farms…

“…and help support all of these people as they continue to evolve as consumers. Outreach efforts to all of these people are necessary if we are to help a large and diverse society evolve to a new ethical norm.”

So we don’t want to limit ourselves only to the small audience that is currently receptive to veganism.
Rather, we want to maximize the impact we have for the animals everywhere possible.

In addition to the quote from Bruce’s extensive personal experience you have above, Nick Cooney discusses the relevant research here.

And two last things.

1. I think we might be making a mistake if we make too much of rich and powerful people talking about veganism; see this for example.

So many vegans went overboard when Oprah first talked about veganism, but despite being immensely rich and powerful, she was back eating chickens soon thereafter.

2.Tangentially related: overall, “the health argument” has probably caused more animals to suffer and be slaughtered than anything since the advent of factory farming; see, for instance, Got Health? and Calculating Optimal Advocacy for All Animals.