Saturday, April 30, 2011


Grist on arsenic, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and other contamination.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in almost half of US meat.

Also: Study ranks food pathogens by cost to society
Excerpt: "Of the food pathogens that cost society the most money — in terms of medical care, lost days of work, long-term chronic health problems or deaths — half are found in poultry, pork, beef and other meat products"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Long Q Short A Thursday: Words vs Actions

In this talk, you say when you were 21, you were self-righteous, angry, and obsessive. Since then, you say, you have learnt that “what matters is suffering,” something your younger self was supposedly ignorant about having not personally suffered. You say you were worried about “abstractions and words and principles” and “argued about exploitation, oppression, liberation, etc.” You suggest this means you “didn’t take suffering seriously.” You said: “Now, knowing what suffering really is, and knowing how much there is in the world, all my previous concerns seem – well, to put it kindly, ridiculous.”
Why is talking about exploitation, oppression and liberation (putting it kindly) “ridiculous,” and is it not the case that such concerns are ALL about suffering?

I agree! All the words are, ultimately, about suffering. So no more debates about words, and more actual work reducing actual suffering!

No time wasting here!
Danielle Williams helps reduce suffering at Vanderbilt.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Do More for the Animals: Team Vegan 2011!

Do you want to accomplish more to help the animals?

Sign up, complete a profile, and get a donation (of $10 or more) by Friday the 13th (!), and a generous donor will contribute $125 towards your fundraising goal – money that will then be doubled!

More details at!

 Riley Law & Blythe Lopez  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Excerpt of the Day: The Vegan Stereotype

From AML:

Countering the Stereotype

Society’s stereotype of animal advocates and vegans is a significant roadblock to widespread change. “Vegan” no longer needs to be explained when referenced. But unfortunately, the word is often used as shorthand for someone young, fanatical, and antisocial. This caricature guarantees that veganism won’t be considered – let alone adopted – on a wide scale.

Regrettably, the “angry vegan” image has some basis in reality. Not only have I known many obsessive, misanthropic vegans, I was one myself. My anger and self-righteousness gave many people a lifetime excuse to ignore the realities hidden behind their food choices.

As a reaction to what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses, very strong feelings, such as revulsion and outrage, are understandable and entirely justified. The question, though, isn’t what is warranted, but rather, what helps animals. I have known hundreds of outraged activists who insisted, “Animal liberation by any means necessary! I’m willing to do anything!” Yet few of these people are still active, and animal liberation remains in the future.

If we truly want to have a fundamental, lasting impact on the world, we must deal with our emotions in a constructive way. We need to ask ourselves:
  • Are we willing to direct our passion, rather than have it rule us?
  • Are we willing to put the animals’ interests before our personal desires?
  • Are we willing to focus seriously and systematically on effective advocacy?
It is not enough to be a vegan, or even a dedicated vegan advocate. We must remember the bottom line – reducing suffering – and actively be the opposite of the vegan stereotype. Just as we need everyone to look beyond the short-term satisfaction of following habits and traditions, we need to move past our sorrow and anger to optimal advocacy. We must learn “how to win friends and influence people,” so that we leave everyone we meet with the impression of a joyful individual leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bill of Rights, Cont.

With Nikki addressing the First Amendment, Jon Camp (left) and Robert Cheeke address the second:
The right to bare guns.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Question Thursday: Availability Bias

In my experience, the typical response to the horrors of factory farming is to pursue reform (happy meat) rather than elimination (veganism). Companies are capitalizing on this and the "humane" sector is rapidly growing. Does VO have plans to modify its booklets to more aggressively address so-called "humane" animal products?

This is a great question.

The first aspect of this is “happy meat.” Obviously, there are people who do stop supporting factory farms and eat “sustainable” meat.

But many vegans read too much into this. We suffer from availability bias*. The reality, though, is that “happy meat” is an absolutely miniscule market for rich, over-educated Americans.

Sadly, rich, over-educated people are vastly, vastly overrepresented in the media! And people who excuse eating animals, at any level, are given even more endless media coverage by their fellow elites.

Of course, I understand the extreme frustration of seeing all this glorification of eating animals. In general, though, we vegans vastly overreact to it, spending an extremely disproportionate amount of our limited time and our limited emotional resources arguing with and being angry at people eating / promoting “happy meat.”

There are better uses of our limited time and resources.

Of course it is disappointing when people don't go vegan when they hear our message, or when someone stops being vegetarian and eats animals again. But let me tell you from long experience – this isn’t because of the presence of “happy meat.”

Obviously, it has always been the case that the vast majority of people don't change when they learn the case for vegetarianism. And there have been failed vegetarians ever since there have been vegetarians. One survey showed more former vegetarians in the UK than actual vegetarians.

Similarly, when he spent two years leafleting across the country nearly 20 years ago, Jack felt he met more former vegetarians than current vegetarians. It wasn’t because of Pollan or Bittman or Polyface or Whole Foods.

It was because they didn’t feel healthy as a vegetarian.

This trend continues today – just Google “failed vegetarian” or “failed vegan.” The internet gives these people a loud megaphone, and meat-eaters give them endless attention.

So we vegans suffer from availability bias regarding the prevalence of failed vegetarians. We hear from every single "happy meat" eater, and extrapolate this to the general population. (Please see this article for a fuller discussion.)

But as Jack found, there is a real problem here: that many buy into the vegan propaganda and don’t learn honest and thorough nutrition. This leads to many people going vegetarian with unrealistic expectations (of how easy it will be, of the health benefits they will immediately experience, etc.).

That’s why Jack went back to school to be an RD, and why he created www.veganhealth.orgwe can do better.

The other aspect of your question is the nature of change, in both an individual and in society (again, discussed further here). 

We would, of course, love to design a booklet that persuaded everyone to change, and only change right to being vegan. But real change is rarely quick or linear. We owe it to the animals to give up our fantasy of the perfect, and do the best possible work in the real world.

Or, to paraphrase MLK, the arc of history is long and jagged, but ultimately bends towards justice. We should spend more time bending, rather than despairing over the hiccups.

(*Availability bias also has applicability in the vegan community, too, where the loudest, most outspoken – or obnoxious – person seems to represent all vegans.

And, of course, the meat-eating media love to promote the angriest, most extreme, obsessive, fanatical vegan as the community’s voice.

We should be aware of this, and try to counter it as best we can.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

After reaching over 74,000 students last term, and over 61,000 already this term, the All Powerful Nikki Benoit was looking for a new challenge.

In consultation with a free-speech lawyer, Nikki decided to challenge the idea of "free speech" zones that certain colleges use to restrict leafleters.

At Orange Coast College last Thursday, Nikki refused to move to the "free speech" zone, and furthermore, refused to leave when so ordered.

Her subsequent detention made the front page of the paper, and, more importantly, gives her pro-bono attorney the opportunity to sue on behalf of Nikki's -- and other leafleters' -- constitutional rights.

Congratulations to Nikki for standing up for her right to stand up for the animals!

14.2 Million – Be a Part of It! Team Vegan 2011!

That's right, VO has sent out 14.2 million booklets!

You can be a part of this amazing, powerful work. The latest opportunity is Team Vegan 2011. Details can be found in today's Enewsletter, or at

Please be a part of this next evolution of humanity!

Thanks so much!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cooney on One Page

Several of you have asked for Nick Cooney's interview to be put on one page.

Your wish is our command!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thought of the Day: Fortune and Responsibility

I, like many of the readers of this blog, am incredibly fortunate – so overwhelmingly lucky that it is hard to recognize its amazing and unlikely extent. I don’t have to worry about my personal freedom or fret about the well-being of my loved ones, let alone my next meal or having a roof over my head.

This is, of course, in stark contrast to animals raised for food, whose lives, from their first moment, are agony – a horrible, painful struggle merely to stay alive … until slaughter.

To slightly modify the saying, with overwhelmingly good fortune comes great responsibility.

Every day, I know that I am one of the relative handful of people who will provide these animals a voice – again, along with the readers of this blog. We, as thoughtful advocates, recognize that we have very limited time and resources. It would be easy, of course, to use our limited time to defend and protect our personal beliefs, to make sure that what we want is respected, that we are treated purely and fairly.

But everything we say and do can, and I believe, should, be judged by how much it actually helps the animals – how well our actions continue to further expose and end the horrible hidden brutality experienced by farmed animals. Relative to the amazing good fortune into which we were born, it costs us so very little to ignore the petty and small, and instead focus on making a real difference for the animals.

From time to time, various things can, of course, seem vitally important (or insulting) to us and our personal beliefs. But if we can put ourselves in the position of a broiler chicken with a broken leg, unable to reach  water, it really isn’t that difficult to gain perspective such that we focus not on intra-vegan squabbles, but rather on constructive, life-changing and life-saving outreach.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Activism and Veganism Reconsidered

Looking for a blast from the past?
We recently received an email about this essay, originally written in 1999.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Q Thursday: No More Booklets?

Our impact on the environment is at the forefront of all our minds in the age of climate change. V. Outreach say that they give away millions of pamphlets. These are full color, 20 pages, have to be transported around the country -- isn’t there a better way now using the internet and thereby reducing V. Outreach’s carbon footprint?

You’re right, -- the internet is becoming a hugely important advocacy tool for us to use! And it is amazing -- when I met Jack and Anne, email was a complete novelty, and the web didn’t even exist yet.

But if we want to prevent as much suffering as possible, we need to change society as quickly as possible.

To do so, we can’t limit ourselves to those who will happen to be online, come across a link, click on the link, and spend the time on the site.

We must go beyond this and reach out directly to millions of people -- people who wouldn’t ever otherwise learn of the animals’ urgent plight.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Latest News

As I was starting to think about today's blog post, Nikki sent this picture of two students at Cal State Santa Barbara engrossed in learning the truth about modern agribusiness.

We then received this feedback from the Phoenix area:

I just wanted to commend the great work that you are doing. I also wanted to let you know that after receiving a pamphlet of yours in Tempe, AZ, my husband and I have been meat-free for four months. We plan on continuing this more compassionate lifestyle and are encouraging others to do the same. Your efforts are appreciated & are working!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jack on Soy

Years ago, I mentioned that I expected more attacks on the "safety" of soy. If I were the meat industry, or a meat-eater trying to distract from factory farms, I would go after soy.

This has definitely been the case in the time since.

Luckily, Jack is on the case, with his comprehensive article, Soy: What's the Harm? and his summary blog post.

Jack comments: "I approached each subject regarding soy without a foregone conclusion, trying to get to the truth rather than putting a positive spin on the results." This is because Jack isn't interested in promoting or defending any particular food. Rather, Jack is working on behalf of the animals, and recognizes that, ultimately, the truth is our most important tool.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jack and Jon and UNM

Vegans, Cataracts, and the Media

Upcoming Jon: Tulsa, April 12  |  Nashville, April 19

Students at the University of New Mexico are engrossed in booklets handed to them by Amanda Graham (right).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Video: BFF!

Orangutan And Dog Become Instant Best Friends Forever!

Jon writes of his recent day at the University of New Mexico:
The highlight of the day came at the very end when Jasmine, the thoughtful and cheerful young woman seen in the picture at right, let me know that it was getting a booklet on campus a year ago (kudos to Casey for his work that day), that made her go veg. She said that the booklet was "fair," that it made a compelling case without resorting to outrageous claims or self-righteousness. She has since shown the booklet to multiple friends and they have said the same thing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Q Thursday: Graphic Photos

Can you explain why Vegan Outreach uses graphic photos in its booklets?

The short answer is that, based on the experience we’ve had in the past two decades, using images that show cruelty to animals (as opposed to preaching philosophy, or showing only "happy" pictures) is the most effective means of reducing as much suffering as possible.

There are many factors playing into this. Perhaps the most important is that, while most people are speciesist and think it is OK to kill animals, the vast, vast majority of people oppose cruelty to animals.

Showing people the hidden cruelty that goes on in factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses starts where people are -- repulsed by cruelty to animals -- rather than where we want them to be.

Or, as Jonathan Safran Foer said: We focus on the first step, not the last.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Can't Take a Week Off!

Tomorrow's Enewsletter (April 6) is just crammed with links! Here are two for those with a vegan sweet tooth:

Nikki passes along this picture of a Palomar student who, after receiving a booklet, stopped dead in his tracks to learn the truth.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nick Cooney Q5: The Future

Imagine a relatively perfect world, where all animal advocates and vegans have read your book and adopted your views. Under this best-case scenario, how do you see society evolving over time? IOW, what is your optimistic view of the future?

It's really hard to say. I do think that if all animal advocates and vegans put the research discussed in Change Of Heart into action, we as a movement would gain ground much more quickly. I think we'd all be focusing on the issues where we can do the most good (primarily farm animal issues), and methodically making small but important improvements in our tactics, messaging, and general approach. I do think that the percentage of vegans, vegetarians and semi-vegetarians is going to continue rising for awhile; I do think that we will see bans on the worst factory farming practices; and I do think we'll see strengthening of all types of welfare laws and increased general social concern for protecting animals. I also think some fringe uses of animals will be banned or phased out over time (like animals in circuses), and that eventually technological advances will lead to a sharp reduction in animal testing and (when in vitro meat works out) meat consumption. I think the research in Change of Heart can help speed up some of these processes and save more animals more quickly.

That being said, I'm not particularly optimistic that human beings are going to voluntarily change their lifestyles enough to prevent serious environmental breakdown and the harm that will cause and is already causing, at least in the short term, for animals (particularly wild ones). Ultimately it's not just our diet but our whole consumption-heavy way of living and our industrialized society that hurts animals. Billions of animals suffer and die in factory farms each year, but many also die from other human activities and billions more will not be able to be born because we've taken over and decimated so much of the land. So I'm optimistic that change will happen for the animals in terms of our use of them for food, clothing and so forth, but not very optimistic about the situation for animals from the wider perspective of industrial civilization as a whole.

But that's a somewhat separate issue. None of us can predict the future, and even if some catastrophic climate change happens down the line, that doesn't mean we should ignore the suffering going on right now, suffering that we can prevent. So that being said, let's get leafleting!