Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Messaging for the Animals, Not Acceptance

The flip side to Nick Cooney's insights into booklet titles is the importance of choosing a message that will have the biggest actual impact for the animals, rather than be "accepted" by the most people. From AML:

Choosing the optimal message is vital. Some argue that we should appeal to self-interest by attributing great health benefits to a vegan diet. But consider, for example, how much money and time that respected health organizations have spent on the ineffectual campaign to convince people to simply add more fruits and vegetables to their diets. Furthermore, claims that veganism prevents / reverses heart disease or that meat causes colon cancer can be met not only with examples of vegans who died of those diseases, but with counterclaims that soy causes breast cancer, that the Atkins diet has been proven superior, or that people with a certain blood type can’t be vegetarian. No matter the underlying truth, the public will believe the claims that support the status quo and the path of least resistance.

Of course, if you were to ask to the average individual what is important, personal health would come before factory farming. As advocates, however, we’re not trying to reinforce people’s existing concerns and prejudices. Rather, our goal is to reveal hidden truths and have people open their hearts and minds to the idea of expanding their circle of consideration. Although few turn away from a graph of heart-attack statistics or relative water usage, and many turn away from Meet Your Meat, it isn’t because the latter is the “wrong” message. Rather, unlike abstract statistics of waste production or cancer rates, revelations of obvious cruelty cannot be debated, ignored, or forgotten; they have a personal, emotional impact and demand a real response.

Exposing what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses surely isn't going to persuade everyone at this time. But it is far better if 95% turn away revolted and 5% open their minds to change than if all politely nod in agreement as they continue on to McDonald’s for a “healthy”chicken salad.

Despite the efforts of thousands of people over the course of decades, trying to appeal to everyone hasn’t worked. It is well past time to give up the idea that there is some perfect, noncontroversial, self-centered argument that will magically inspire everyone to go vegan.