Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nick Cooney Q4: Lessons Learned and Best Tools

Given everything you’ve learned in your research, how has your activism changed? What tools have found most effective at persuading people to change their views and habits?

The biggest lesson that I've learned from my research is to never assume I know what type of message is going to work best in getting people to make a change (like going vegetarian or vegan). People - including all of us animal advocates - think and behave in a lot of really illogical ways. Writing Change of Heart helped me see some of the patterns, which has already come in handy in making The Humane League's outreach work more effective.

The most important thing an animal advocate can do to be as effective as possible is to find the issues and approaches where they can create the most change for animals for the smallest amount of time and money invested. Getting to that point means working through some of the internal psychological barriers we've talked about already. It also means paying attention to what a variety of groups and individual activists are doing, and considering the number of animals that each person and each group's work is helping. Overall, I think one of the most effective things we can be doing is getting both information and - very importantly - resources on how to make a change into people's hands, on their computer screens, and so forth. I think that VO's booklets; vegetarian starter kits; and videos like MFA's new Farm to Fridge are some of the most powerful tools we animal advocates have for changing individual behavior.

That being said, it's important that in these types of materials and in talking with people we use the messages that will most effectively persuade people to make a change. That's where Change of Heart comes in. The tools I talk about in the book can make us 10, 20, maybe 30% more effective in the work that we're doing (which will mean many lives spared). To give an example, social norms messages - where we essentially say "most people/lots of people are doing this, so you should too" - are extremely powerful. Research has found that in many cases they are more powerful than direct advocacy messages (such as "please recycle to protect the environment", etc.). For your summer outreach at the Warped Tour, Vegan Outreach now prints special booklets that feature popular vegetarian musicians on the front and back cover. As far as I understand, using this social norms message on the cover - as opposed to leading off with a "protect animals from cruelty message" - has resulted in a lot more Guide To Cruelty Free Eating requests and likely many more vegetarians created. THL is also in the process (and admittedly we're late to the game on this) of getting Facebook like buttons on our vegetarian resource websites, both to help spread the word and also to use the power of social norms to help spread vegetarianism on Facebook ("Oh look, Betty just ordered a vegetarian starter kit. I guess vegetarianism is becoming more popular, maybe I should get one too.")

Getting commitments from people is another very powerful tool. I saw Rory Freedman (co-author of Skinny Bitch, right) speak once and at the end she asked any non-veg members of the audience to make a "pinkie pledge" then and there to try going veg or vegan for a month. On the surface that may seem kind of silly, but in fact there's a ton of research that makes clear that getting these sort of commitments - be they verbal, written, public, or group commitments - makes people much more likely to follow through on a behavior change. So I'm trying to find ways to work that into my outreach work more. One example is that we're working with an app developer (Symbiotic Software - check out their animal advocacy apps already on the market, all free) to create a vegetarian starter kit app, and the first thing it will do is encourage the user to make some type of pledge for how often they will try eating veg.

One last example for now: HSUS and Farm Sanctuary (along with other groups) just launched their ballot initiative to ban battery cages, veal crates and gestation crates in Washington State. With previous ballot initiatives their campaign sites included a "Fact vs. Myth" page to counter industry group talking points about why a ban on these practices would be bad. However research suggests that these types of presentations often lead the public to incorrectly remember a number of the false statements as true. So with this current initiative, they've switched over to a FAQ page (http://humanewa.com/frequently-asked-questions) that simply gives the facts and chooses not to repeat the myths, even to dispel them. A switch like this certainly isn't going to make or break their ballot initiative, but this very simple switch in approach should make more Washingtonians better informed about the facts of the issue.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nick Cooney Q3: Personal Views vs Real Change

I, too, spent a number of years in the "do something, do anything" mindset. Another shortcoming of mine in previous years was my insistence in promoting a “vegan first, vegan only” message, with the rationalization being that only veganism was the full statement against all exploitation.

In retrospect, though, I was more concerned with promoting my personal views, rather than doing the most good for the animals. Or in terms of Jack Norris’ comment, “We want a vegan world, not a vegan club,” I wanted an exclusive vegan club of only those fully committed and indoctrinated.

You cover the implications of this attitude in terms of booklet titles here, as well as ways the relevant research indicates we can be more effective. Can you discuss other areas where people’s personal dogma and sense of identity / self-worth get in the way of doing the most good for the animals, as well as how we can use the available research to get past our personal beliefs and desires?

We might think that the only reason we are animal advocates is because we altruistically want to help animals, but that's not true. Our motivation is probably in part a desire to express ourselves; a desire to feel a sense of belonging (by working with or talking to like-minded people); and a desire to feel good about ourselves. All of these things are an important part of being a happy, healthy person. But there are times when they can conflict with doing the most good for animals.

Take self-expression, for example. Just expressing our opinions - be it in a letter to a congressperson, shouting at a protest, typing on a blog, or by passing out a booklet- doesn't in and of itself magically create change for animals. Some methods do create real-world change, some methods do very little. So we have to ask ourselves, is our goal to just voice our opinion in the way we find most enjoyable? Or is it to create the most real-world change?

Our desire to express ourselves can also affect the physical appearance and style of dress we choose. There is plenty of research documenting how our appearance impacts our persuasiveness. Studies have found for example that people who look attractive (by conventional standards of beauty) are paid more, more likely to be elected to political office than less-attractive candidates, get off with lighter sentences in court, are more likely to get petition signatures when petitioning, are more likely to receive help when they ask for it, etc. Studies have also found that people are more likely to help, believe, and work with those who look similar to them. Therefore if we dress and look like our target audience, and try to appear more conventionally attractive, we'll be more effective in our animal advocacy work. Here again we see a conflict: do I as an advocate for animals dress and look the way I want to because I enjoy that form of self-expression; or do I dress and look in the way that's going to help the most animals? Boil it down and you're really asking yourself, "Is being able to look the way I prefer to look worth the lives of thousands of animals?"

Let me also address the desire to feel good about ourselves. As you note, rigid adherence to vegan dogma and a desire for personal purity will interfere with our ability to create actual change for animals. There are a small number of animal advocates who are opposed to any form of advocacy that doesn't have what they consider to be a strict vegan message. These folks think, for example that using the term "vegetarian" in outreach materials is bad, that welfare laws protecting millions of animals are bad, that encouraging people to reduce meat consumption is bad, etc.

"Veganism," they argue, "has to be the moral baseline. If we advocate for anything less, the public will become complacent and they'll think it's okay to continue eating animal products as long as they eat less, or eat free-range."

This is a hollow argument on a number of levels. For one thing, it doesn't even stand up to its own internal logic. Consider the fact that 120 million animals are killed by our cars each year, 40 million by our cell phone towers, and at bare minimum 60 million die a slow death of pesticide poisoning from our non-organic food crops (these numbers are for the US). Moreover, billions of animals won't get to even be born because of our population growth and our consumerism which poisons the environment. Someone on the next rung up the purity ladder could say, "Veganism, not driving, not using a cell phone, eating only organic food, not reproducing, and buying virtually nothing has to be the moral baseline. If we advocate anything less - such as just veganism - the public will become complacent and they'll think it's okay to continue killing animals and denying their ability to live just so as long as they aren't eating animal products."

Leaving that internal contradiction aside, psychology and sociology research from the past fifty years makes clear that having flexibility in our advocacy - as opposed to taking a "vegan or nothing" approach - will make us more effective. For example, the research is very clear that if we want people to make a large change, we'll usually be more successful by first getting them to agree to a smaller change and then later encouraging them to make the larger change. This is called getting our "foot in the door," and a meta-analysis of over 900 studies found that by getting our foot in the door first with a smaller request, we'll be overall about 15% more effective at getting people to agree to our larger goal, such as going vegan.

Communication researchers have also widely studied what they call "message discrepancy," which is how different a speaker's message is from the audience's current belief. Researchers are interested in finding out which message will create the most attitude and behavior change in an audience: a message that is only slightly different than the audience's current belief, a message that is moderately different than their current belief, or a message that is extremely different than their current belief. In a nutshell, it is the moderately different messages that researchers have found create the most attitude and behavior change. Suggestions like "have a meatless meal once a week" might be too minimal, and encouragements like "you should go vegan" are too different from what the general public currently does to create a lot of behavior change. A message somewhere in the middle of these should be more effective, create more change in people's diets, and thereby help more farmed animals.

Lastly, research on minority influence has found that those holding a minority opinion are less effective in persuading the public to agree with them if they hold a completely rigid viewpoint. Having some flexibility, and occasionally agreeing with the majority, makes those with a minority opinion more successful in spreading their belief. As we vegans are greatly in the minority, this lesson certainly applies to us and our work.

So again, and in summary, we face that question: is our goal as animal advocates to express ourselves as accurately as possible, and to feel good about our purity of message? Or is our goal to change the public's behavior as much as possible, and consequently help as many animals as possible? The research record makes clear that in general we can't have both.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nick Cooney Q2: Do Anything

In your book, especially the first portion, you speak extensively (and convincingly) against the attitude of “do something, do anything!” From your knowledge of psychology and sociology, why do you think this is such a common (and often intractable) problem, especially within the animal advocacy community?

Great question. A lot of animal advocates do feel that as long as they are doing something, anything to help animals, they can feel good about themselves and can rest assured that they are doing the right thing. I certainly felt the same way for the first couple years of my time as an animal advocate: what's important was that I was standing up for animals, adding my voice to those who were condemning circuses, fur, animal testing and so forth. What's important was that I was on the right side.

But creating social change is not that easy. Really doing good is not that easy. As an analogy, think about a parent raising his or her first child. Would they be a "good parent" if they just stood by the child's crib holding a sign for an hour each week telling the child that they loved it? Of course not. To be a good parent, they need to take the time to read books on child nutrition and child psychology, and learn all the details and complexities of how to raise a happy, healthy child. Most of us, placed in the role of parent, would be willing to put that time and effort in.

We need to be just as thoughtful about our work to create change for animals. In other words, we need to be focused on results. We need to realize that the important thing is not how much we say we love the child, it's how the child turns out. The important thing with animal advocacy is not that we're on the right side, or that we're doing "something" to help animals, the important thing is what actual results we've had for animals. How many animals have been spared a lifetime of suffering as a result of our own personal work over the past few months? How many have been saved from death? And, is there a way that we could be helping numerically more animals?

The problem with slogans like "do something, do anything," "practice random acts of kindness," etc., is that they are completely focused on how we feel, and they completely ignore what's happening in the world around us. If we're living out the phrase "do something, do anything," we're letting ourselves be steered by our self-centered desires to feel good about ourselves. It's profoundly disrespectful to those who are suffering right now. To a pig confined in a filthy gestation crate, it doesn't make a difference in her life whether or not you "do something, do anything". It only makes a difference in her life if you create an actual change - by getting someone to stop eating meat, getting a company to do away with gestation crates, etc. As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, "The revolution is not a question of virtue, but of effectiveness."

Bottom line: if we we're really concerned with helping animals (and I think all of us reading this are), let's re-double our efforts to stay focused on RESULTS, and doing the work that will create the most real-world results for animals.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Interview with Nick Cooney

This week on the blog, I'll be interviewing Nick Cooney, head of The Humane League, about his book, Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change.

Nick is a long-time activist with a wide-ranging background. You can read the 2007 profile he did for VO here, and his post on psychology and booklet titles here.

It has been a pleasure to work with him over the years. I hope you find the interview useful.

-Matt



There are thousands and thousands of vegan and advocacy books out there. What made you decide it was worth your time to write Change of Heart?

You're right, there are a number of books that have been written on how to organize to create change for animals (or social change in general). And while a few of these books are very helpful, one thing that was always missing was any sort of hard science about what works and what doesn't when it comes to persuading others. Animal advocates often find themselves in disagreement with one another over what messages and approaches are most effective. For example, should we use graphic imagery of animal suffering or should we use images of cute, happy animals? Should we encourage people to make small changes and progress to larger changes, or should we encourage them to make large changes (such as veganism) from the start? And what types of messages are most convincing in getting the public to go veg?

Ask ten animal activists these questions and you'll get some very different answers, with each person having arguments and anecdotes to support their point of view. What I wanted to do with Change Of Heart is to cut through all these personal opinions and find out what the scientific record shows. Researchers in the fields of psychology, sociology, communication studies, and a few other areas have conducted tens of thousands of studies on what does and does not help in persuading others to do what we'd like them to do. By taking their results and applying them to our animal advocacy work, we can become a lot more effective and save many more lives. Change Of Heart is meant to be a psychology primer for activists, a road map of how people's minds operate and what we need to do to persuade them to live more compassionately.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tar Heels Get It Right

Via Loren, who definitely helped bring this about with his tireless leafleting at UNC:

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Video: Jonathan Safran Foer in Israel

Via Erik, Jonathan Safran Foer visits Israel.

As you may know, we're big fans of JSF, given that he isn't concerned with justifying his personal veganism, but on trying to create as much change as possible. Or, as he put it in an interview with Erik, JSF seeks to be useful, not complete -- focusing on the first step, not insisting on the last.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Q Thursday: Measuring

How does Vegan Outreach measure the effectiveness of your outreach campaigns? Is it based on X number of booklets handed out so therefore it is X number of people 'reached' regardless of whether they read it or not?

This is a complicated question. We know that giving someone a booklet in passing has a much lower chance of changing them than sitting them down, befriending them, getting them to watch Meet Your Meat, answering all their questions personally, teaching them how to shop and cook, etc.

But obviously, the latter is not an option.

As Jack Norris points out, spreading veganism is, in the end, a numbers game.

We can do what we can to tweak this – focusing on younger people, using a specific booklet for a certain crowd, etc. – but in the end, to change our society, we need to get this information to as many people as quickly as possible.

Please see this post as well.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Enewsletter Wednesday

VO's answer to Bieber Fever -- Brian "The" Grupe --
makes the animals' case at San Francisco State.
Some great feedback in today's Enewsletter.
As always, if you don't receive it, please check to see if it was filtered.

And, as noted, there will be no Enewsletter next week (March 30). We'll be running an interview with Nick Cooney on the blog for five days, starting Monday.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday Links

New leafleter shares her thoughts, after sharing a recipe for Cheesy Cauliflower Soup!


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Monday, March 21, 2011

A New World, If We Build It

One of the hardest things about being an activist is having perspective. On most days, no visible progress is made; bad things, heard over and over, seem to get worse, and can wear down even the strongest soul. Since we've been working for the animals, we've known many people who get involved, are "completely dedicated," and then burn out -- often spectacularly -- because those around them haven't shared their passion and/or were unwilling to change.

It is so easy to make the pessimists' case -- I'm sure every single vegan has felt short-term frustration. And, of course, our society has had nitpickers and nay-sayers -- about abolition, women's sufferage, etc. -- throughout history.

What is harder is to have both perspective and a realistic, systematic plan for bringing about real, if long-term, change. It took me many years to come to this realization, and we've talked about it in AML. But these two essays address it more specifically:



If you've ever felt pessimistic about the future, please read these short pieces.

Thanks so much!


-Matt


Above, Jeni Haines changes lives, and thus the future, at San Francisco State.
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

"This isn't common" / "This doesn't happen any longer"

Activist extraordinaire Kenny (right) writes:

Thank you so much for having this page of investigations.

I saw this link a few weeks ago and since then, whenever the question comes up about isolated abuse, inspecting farms, whether the videos are old, etc. I always send people to this page or I tell them over 20 investigations have been released in just the past 3 years across the country, so this shows us abuse and confinement are the norms, not the exceptions.

This is why we reference the URL (veganoutreach.org/video) on p. 7 of all our advocacy booklets.

As always, kudos to the amazing people who do those investigations.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Podcast: Jack and Daisy

Daisy Roberts talks with VO co-founder and Registered Dietitian Jack Norris.

Interview starts at about 1:06:15.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Question Thursday: Right, Wrong, and Real Results


In the first entry under “Ethics and Religion” in the FAQ’s to Vegan Outreach’s “Starter Guide” it says this:
Why is it wrong to eat meat? It’s not a question of being ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ If one wants fewer animals to suffer and die, then one can stop supporting such practices by not eating animal products.” 
Why wouldn’t Vegan Outreach state what one can only hope they think is obvious??  It IS wrong to eat other animals.


I sympathize with this demand. On the other hand (and, again, this is something that took me many years to realize), what I think or claim or “know” is irrelevant.

The only people in a position to save animals in the future are people currently eating meat. So the question isn’t if we vegans think something is “right” or “wrong.”

The only question is: What can we do / say that will lead as many meat eaters as possible to start making positive changes for the animals?

(Indeed, it is rather … forlorn … for vegans to sit around and debate words and philosophy amongst themselves. There is so much actual, constructive work that absolutely needs to be done! We don't have time to type away on the internet to demand satisfaction from other vegans. We need to get real results in the real world for the animals.)


As experience shows (and Nick Cooney lays out the actual research behind this in his book Change of Heart), telling people that what they are doing is “wrong” isn’t the best way to open their hearts and minds.

Erik Marcus has pointed out that agribusiness has hidden behind elaborate illusions; their entire industry is based on lying to consumers. People are basing their decisions after having been deceived their entire lives.

So instead of telling meat eaters that what they are doing is “wrong,” it is both honest and more constructive to point out that they have been lied to their entire lives.

People don’t like being lied to!


A similar line of reasoning applies to philosophy. Obviously, the vast majority of people believe humans are “superior” to / distinct from (other) animals.

But they don’t immediately need to accept the idea that other animals have rights, or fully internalize a utilitarian worldview, to start taking steps that help animals.

Joe Espinosa has clearly articulated this when dealing with people, telling them they can believe whatever they want about animals and still find factory farms repulsive and not something they want to support.


Not to harp on all my mistakes, but my prior attitude of “Just tell everyone the whole truth! They need to know!” was very harmful to the animals. It was psychologically at odds with creating change.

But moreso, it was just downright stupid, as this attitude ignored how my own views and choices had evolved over time!


-Matt
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Aye Carumba!


As mentioned in today's Enewsletter, Adopt a College activists have already reached more than 300,000 students for the semester -- even before the first day of Spring!

Wow!

And Nikki, who just celebrated her one year Cali-VO-versary, has handed a booklet to more than 41,000 individuals already this term!

Nikki passes along another new vegetarian at Citrus College.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Binghamton (and Santa Monica)

Rory Freedman opens eyes at Santa Monica College.


I didn't want to leaflet this morning, but ended up having an epic day at Binghamton University. Nicole came back in the middle of a class change, and she ended up reaching 600 students -- pretty great. She had fun and wants to leaflet again; she's only a freshman, excellent. 
     More people came back and said they were affected by the lit today than I can remember in a long time. I also watched students reading the booklet cover to cover. I can't remember all the conversations -- just so glad the day came together after slow start.
—Vic Sjodin, 3/14/11

I work at Binghamton University, and was handed your Compassionate Choices booklet today. Thank you for changing my life. I have never felt more sickened or saddened to think that by eating meat, I have been contributing to the misery of these amazing creatures. 
     Thank you for the amazing work you do to protect those without a human voice.
—KW, 3/14/11
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Upcoming Events: TX, OK, CA

Jon Camp will be discussing the work of Vegan Outreach and the importance of effective advocacy in: Dallas (March 22), Houston (March 26), and Tulsa (April 12).

On March 29, Matt Ball, Anne Green, and Ellen Green will be in Glendale, CA (LA area).

We hope to see you at one of these events!
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chicken & Citrus



From Jack: The Foundations of Empathy Found in the Chicken

Another new vegetarian after receiving a booklet; at Citrus College
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Survey Saturday

A member wants your story!

My name is Jenny, and I am a graduate student at DePaul University obtaining my masters degree in nursing. I am doing a study on the motivational factors for becoming vegan and quality of life among vegan adults. If you are an adult vegan, between the ages of 18 and 65 years old, I would appreciate you taking the time to complete my survey. It should only take a few minutes of your time. Thanks!
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Video: Man and Goose

Via Lauren: Man, goose form odd-couple friendship

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Question Thursday: Suffering

Vegan Outreach advocates for “less suffering”. Could you please explain what is meant by less suffering? And if it were possible to commodify other animals for our purposes without causing too much suffering, would Vegan Outreach approve of this?   

These are either really easy or really difficult questions.  

We could spend the rest of the day debating the neurology and philosophy of suffering, but that really wouldn’t be a good use of our limited time – relative to what else we could do, it just wouldn’t accomplish anything useful.  

So let me just say that most people know suffering when they see it. They don’t need a PhD to call what happens in Meet Your Meat “suffering.” They don’t need to be a neurologist to be repulsed by the footage in Farm to Fridge.

If we want to make as much progress as we can for the animals, we should start our conversations with people there, rather than with philosophy or semantics.

And obviously, we don’t approve of unnecessary suffering, even if someone says it isn’t “too much.”
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Government, Health, and Chickens

Tapped has a good post about the trend in the consumption of different animals over time, and some of the different influences.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Feedback


Shannon, Marc, Kevin, and I reached 2,942 students at USC today. This private school houses a lot -- a lot -- of herbivorous humans....holy wow they were everywhere! Chatted with a campus chef who advised that an ALL VEGAN eatery is being planned for this campus!
Can I just say how AMAZING AND INSPIRING IT IS to work among some of THE most dedicated animal heroes EVER!!! Add on all you amazing leafleters across the globe, roughing some fierce conditions to get the word out. I bow to you all .... some of the Earth's most amazing unsung heroes, you are. <3
—Nikki Benoit, 1/17/11

Today at Ohlone College ranks among one of the best leafleting experiences I've ever had -- reached nearly 1,000 students. It was one of those days when you walk away a little bit exhausted but totally high on life. The campus was filled with wonderfully open minded students. I cannot even count how many inspiring conversations I had. One guy told me that he received a leaflet a semester or year ago, and when I asked him what he thought about it, he said, "Oh, it's horrible what they do to the animals. I don't eat meat anymore." Another guy, a self-professed staunch meat eater, thanked me for being out there, as did many other people.
I'm filled with so much love and appreciation for Vegan Outreach, all the people who support it, all the recipients of leaflets, and the evolution of vegan consciousness.
—Jeni Haines, 2/3/11 

Above, another student who went vegetarian after getting a booklet.
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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Progress / Shout-Out!

Long-time high school teacher Stewart passes along this story:

My school offers no vegetarian options and never has.  Vegetarian kids just don't eat lunch, as being from very low socioeconomic families most can't bring their own food.  Some get the pizza, drooling with grease, and peel off the circles of pig meat before eating it.  (One girl a few years back got the burger every day, pealed off the patty and went around to everyone in my open classroom asking each kid, "want some flesh?  want some flesh?" until someone would finally accept it -- every single school day of that year.)  

But earlier this year, our vegetarian valedictorian bought a packaged burrito from the student store.  "Mr. Solomon, I read the ingredients and there isn't any meat, but I'd swear there's meat in here."  Looking at the ingredients with him I found TVP and explained what that was.  It wasn't sold as a veggie burrito, they just used TVP instead of meat because it was readily available.  And just yesterday, they served veggie chick'n stips in the cafeteria.  Again, it wasn't served as a vegetarian choice, but rather because it was readily available.  I'm not sure if it was vegan, but my students insisted I taste it, and it was pretty darn good.  

Because there are more and more vegetarians and vegans, these products are being mass produced in greater and greater numbers.  They are making their way into the mainstream food supply and pushing us ever closer to that all important tipping point.  



And finally, a special shout-out to Lauren, VO's unbelievable designer / researcher!
(An explanation of this image is in the 1998 entry of the VO History.)
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Links: Soy, Antibiotics, Collie

* Jack: Good News: Soy and Breast Cancer Recurrence

* Ginny: Soyfoods in Asia: How Much Do People Really Eat?

As we've pointed out before, as veg meats get more popular, expect more and more attacks on soy from animal agriculture.


Animals, Antibiotics, and Resistant Bugs

(Dr. Greger clarifies: 80% of antimicrobials, not antibiotics--common mistake.)


And finally -- although we know the question is not how smart other animals are, this is still pretty amazing.
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Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Videos: Trader Joe's

Vegan Break highlights vegan options at Trader Joe's in the first five videos here.

Great job, Michelle!
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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.

-Matt
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Key EN Links

Great links and stories in today's Enewsletter!

Three I want to make sure everyone sees:

Heart Attacks Not Enough to Break Fast Food Habit

Healthy Vegan Diets Can Include Meat Analogues

Getting from A to Z: Why Animal Activists Should Support Incremental Reforms to Help Animals (with great links)

Thanks!

At right, another new vegan after receiving a booklet.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Girls Gone Green



The Girls Gone Green (not the Green girls, right) interview for No Meat March.


-Matt (here with Ellen Green and Anne Green)
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