Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Who Here Thinks That's Enough?" pt. 1

Remarks, as prepared, for an April talk in California:

My name is Anne Green, and I’m Director of Operations and Development for Vegan Outreach. How many people here are familiar with Vegan Outreach?

For those who aren’t familiar with us, our purpose is, simply, to reduce the amount of suffering in the world as much as possible.

Well, thanks for coming!

Seriously, to give a little more detail about Vegan Outreach: our amazing activist network distributes our illustrated and documented booklets to new people, especially young people, through our Adopt a College program. We’re lucky to have this semester’s and last semester’s leading AAC leafleter here with us – Nikki “The Machine” Benoit, Vegan Outreach’s Southern California outreach coordinator! I can’t keep up with her statistics, but the last I checked, she was closing in on having handed a booklet to quarter million students!

I can’t begin to imagine! [Ed note: Now at 257,000+.]

Speaking of numbers obviously brings me to Stewart Solomon (right). With a full-time job and family, Stewart has handed a booklet directly to more than 285,000 individuals!

Yes, you heard right: Two hundred. Eighty-five. Thousand!

And not to go into a who’s-who of who’s here (including one of our most important donors), but I can’t skip over Armaiti May, one of Vegan Outreach’s very first supporters from way back in the 90s!

By showing people the hidden realities of modern agribusiness, Nikki, Stewart, Armaiti, and thousands of others are providing the animals a voice, allowing people to make informed, ethical choices, and creating real, fundamental, lasting change.

I’ve been fortunate to have been involved with Vegan Outreach since the beginning. I still remember when Jack Norris lived with us, just after Ellen had turned 1. We would sort, fold, and staple each booklet by hand on the floor of our living room, which was also Jack’s bedroom, Ellen’s playroom, the T.V. room, and Vegan Outreach’s office.

Since that time, Matt and I – and Jack and Jon Camp and Nikki and Stewart and Armaiti and everyone else who makes up Vegan Outreach – have gained many decades of combined experience. Activists are taking the case for cruelty-free eating to the public every day, reaching thousands and thousands of new people, gaining valuable feedback. We are also good friends with some of the leading thinkers and activists from the animal advocacy movement. And to get a better perspective and greater insight, we also study philosophy, psychology, sociology, and history.

Vegan Outreach continues to evolve in our efforts – cutting things that don’t work, refining things that do. We pursue a reasoned, logical strategy, grounded in how the world actually is, learning from what history and sociology teach us about how individuals and societies change, what psychology teaches us about human nature, and what our capabilities are at the moment.

But our bottom line remains having the greatest impact possible, reducing the amount of suffering in the world as much as we can.

It really is that simple – we are trying to reduce suffering as much as possible.

And it is working – in last year’s survey of college students, the food service company Bon Appétit found the number of collegiate vegetarians has increased by 50% since 2006.

They also found that the number of vegans has more than doubled!

Finally, since you’ve taken the time to come here tonight, I ask you to please take the time to pick up and read this booklet, A Meaningful Life. I promise you – you won’t regret it.

And if you are looking to have a greater impact in the world, I strongly encourage you to consider this book by Matt and Bruce Friedrich.

The book covers the essence of Vegan Outreach – pragmatic, effective advocacy that each one of us can do every day, so we can reduce as much suffering as possible.

Furthermore, the book documents the many, many mistakes Matt and Bruce made during their decades of activism. As the saying goes, a smart person learns from their own mistakes, but a wise person learns from the mistakes of others.

Our hope is to be both smart and wise. The animals’ need our best efforts – not simply to “do something, do anything.” Not to express our outrage, promote our values, or support the latest high-profile campaign.

Rather, our goal must be to have the maximum impact possible – to reduce as much suffering as possible. Thoreau summarized it all in one sentence: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

I hope you share this goal and choose to be a part of our efforts to hack at the root.