Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Worth a Repeat: Kenny Torrella on Messaging for Maxium Change

Activist extraordinaire Kenny Torrella, recently read this commentary by Bruce Friedrich. On another blog, he quoted it and added this comment:

I read [Bruce's quote in this interview] a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with it lately, and I think it's a small tip for activists that goes a long way. For 2.5 years I had been telling people I was vegan if the subject came up. Now if people ask I say I'm vegetarian, and it makes a world of a difference. When I used to say I was vegan, people would immediately say some kind of variation of, "That's awesome, but I could never do that myself." Now when I say I'm vegetarian, people become more open and tell me about other vegetarians they know, vegetarian foods they've tried, how they've considered going vegetarian, or they had been vegetarian in the past and want to get back into it.

Whenever I met a vegetarian while leafleting, I used to say, "Have you considered veganism?" The situation would immediately turn a bit sour. For a split second they saw me as someone they had much in common with, and after asking if they've considered veganism, they see me as someone telling them to do more -- that their vegetarianism is not enough. Out of the number of vegetarians I had met and responded to like this, not a single one responded positively -- none said, "Why yes, I have been considering veganism lately!" All of them said a variation of, "Well, veganism seems like a good thing, but it's just too much for me." No matter how much cajoling, they wouldn't budge. The funny thing about this is that when I was a vegetarian I was the same way toward vegans. This is something important to remember. I didn't go vegan because another vegan was telling me to, or even telling me about it... I did it on my own after thinking about it and researching it for several months.

Now while leafleting, I give words of encouragement to vegetarians I meet. I tell them how awesome it is that they're vegetarian, to keep it up, I say "Aw, you're the best," I give them literature that has recipes and nutritional information. This makes a huge difference! They feel encouraged to do more, rather than being told to. They may not feel as alone in their choice if they meet another "vegetarian" that is also an activist and is thanking them.

Although our initial reaction is to identify as a vegan or to convince vegetarians to go vegan, 9 times out of 10 it doesn't turn anyone on to veganism -- it only makes them feel like they're being judged, as if their lifestyle choice to eschew all meat products was worth nothing. I'm not saying this is a fool-proof guide to live by and of course there are instances where it's important to say you're vegan, or if a vegetarian wants more information about going vegan, then by all means, hand out vegan literature and share your experiences as a vegan.

Although I was first skeptical of Friedrich's tip, I experimented with it and found it to be a much better approach toward turning more people on to a vegetarian lifestyle.

As always, kudos to Kenny for being concerned less with justifying his own choices and more with opening as many new hearts and minds as possible! (See also this follow-up.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

More Soy

As we've written previously (1, 2), an important strategy for the reactionary meat industry is to try to scare the public about soy. Jack obviously has been on top of this, but he doesn't have a huge media platform.

That's why it is nice to see this blast from the Guardian (via Erik).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Links

Nikki Benoit (left) recruited her niece
to help spread the word at WorldFest.

From Jack: Vegan Research Subjects Needed

Poll on killing animals to eat them

Erik: Dan Murphy, Abolitionist

Speaking of Erik, the Kindle edition of his Ultimate Vegan Guide is now only $0.99!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Farm Investigations Map

Our great friend Mark, of AnimalVisuals, has created a great new tool for tracking investigations and proposed laws. We've added it to our video page.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Birthday Friday Video: Hold On

I tried to find a good video of Neko's "I'm an Animal," but couldn't. Here is "Hold On." If you can't play it in your email, click on the blog post title and view it in a browser.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Question Thursday: Hard?

Taking a break from this series, I received these two interview questions:

5.Is it hard not eating meat?
6.If vegetarians were given a so called “holiday” to eat meat, would you?

I answered:

Ask most people this: Is it hard not to eat your dog?

Many people are vegans because we know that the animals slaughtered to be "meat" were just as alive, just as much as individual as the animals we love.

As Tom Regan said:

“I think everybody has the capacity to stop and think and say, ‘If I knew you, I wouldn’t eat you.’ And in some ways, it really is that simple.”

Or, from the New York Times:

“There’s a schizoid quality to our relationship with animals, in which sentiment and brutality exist side by side. Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us pause to consider the miserable life of the pig – an animal easily as intelligent as a dog – that becomes the Christmas ham.”

We can be better than this.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Holy Chicken! New All-Time Record!

Adopt a College leafleters have set an all-time record for the most students reached in a semester!!

Jack posted this to the AAC list:

I know we sound a like broken record, but you have broken another record!

The Spring 2011 total is now 661,200 booklets at 774 colleges.
The previous record was Fall of 2008 with 659,221.
Thank you for all your very hard work!

And we have, technically, 5 weeks to go until the semester changes, so we could possibly get to 700,000. Just think, it only took us 6 months to hand out as many as Jon Camp (above) has in 8 years. Hopefully that will serve as a wake-up call and motivate him for next semester.

I was just at the Vegans in Vegas conference where a number of people asked me "What is new with VO?" I told them we were doing the same thing but more of it. Until people no longer need this information, we need to keep giving it to them. And while there isn't much new in what we do, it's terribly important if we are to make gains for animals on any front. The less society bases its food choices on killing animals, the more open it will become to getting rid of any sort of animal cruelty. So while it seems as though we only work on spreading veganism, we are creating grassroots support for all animal issues.

I followed up:


Congrats to everyone who has been a part of the amazing AAC record!

I'd like to amplify what Jack said, in that we are all a part of this work, not because it is the "sexiest" (except you, Joe (right)) or the most immediately rewarding, but because it has the greatest long-term payoff for the animals. We are always looking to have the absolute biggest impact per hour spent and dollar donated.

The latter is an important point worth keeping in mind. AAC distribution has, in many ways, tracked the economy. Distribution grew and grew until reaching a peak in the Fall of 2008; with the collapse of the economy, donations to VO fell off and we were no longer able to print and distribute as many booklets.

This new record is, of course, a testament to the incredible efforts of everyone on this list, but also to all the donors who made 2010's end-of-year fundraising our best ever. Your contributions are what printed and shipped the 661,200 booklets that have made their way into the hands of students all across the country.

Thanks so much to everyone who has been a part of this amazing accomplishment. It isn't something "Vegan Outreach" has done -- it is literally the work of all of us, leafleters and donors. And thanks to everyone who has joined and/or given to Team Vegan (http://www.teamvegan.biz/)! Your dollars today *absolutely* will reach more students tomorrow, creating the *fundamental* change we all want!

I am thrilled and honored to work with you all!


Monday, May 23, 2011

"Who Here Thinks That's Enough?" pt. 2

When Anne and I were in speaking in Colorado last summer, people were focused on the Gulf oil spill. Now, people are focused on the tragedies in Japan. Sometime soon – six months, a year – there will be another highly visible horror that will grab people’s attention.

These calamities are, of course, horrible and worthy of our concern. But nearly every catastrophe receiving blanket coverage has one thing in common, something that can be summarized in three words: “Not my fault.” People don’t feel there are any personal implications from outrage at British Petroleum, and few here have any personal connection to an earthquake and tsunami.

Compare this to the leading cause of suffering on the planet: raising and butchering animals for “food.” Despite our masterful penchant for rationalization, there is a direct connection between the suffering of these animals and our choices, the meals we eat. If we were to consider these animals’ plight, it would have personal implications. The hidden realities behind our food choices call into question if we really are a good person.

Furthermore, animals being raised for food aren’t living wild and free, suffering from only at the end of their lives. “Food” animals – especially pigs and chickens – suffer during their entire lives.

We all know about the horrors, that we could watch hours and hours of gruesome, sickening video from factory farms and slaughterhouses. I assume we can take that as a given, OK?

But of course, these videos won’t be played on TV 24/7.

Given the corporate media’s relative unwillingness to expose modern agribusiness thoroughly, and people’s amazing capacity for rationalization, you might think I’m pessimistic.

But the flipside to all this is the opportunity, the power we have.

Every day, our food choices can send a clear signal – against animal suffering, and for cruelty-free foods. Those of us here recognize there are more important things in life than accepting the status quo, following the norms of society, and taking the easiest path. We have the character – the guts – to stand up to peer pressure, to live true to our values, to write our life’s narrative.

But get this: we can do so much more!

Look at it this way: By being a vegetarian, you will spare many hundreds of animals from the malicious maws of modern agribusiness.

This is a tremendous accomplishment. But who thinks that is enough?

Who wants to do even more?

By leafleting or donating such that just one person stops eating animals, we can accomplish as much as we will with every single food choice we will make during the rest of our lives! Close your eyes and think about every meal you will carefully plan for the coming decades – you can double the impact of all that effort by just writing a check or leafleting for an hour or two!

In other words, if we agree that being a vegetarian is important, that standing up and speaking out for the animals is crucial, then we must also recognize that being an effective advocate for the animals is many times more important. Efficient outreach has truly enormous potential; if you think compound interest is a good deal, effective vegetarian advocacy allows for exponential returns!

In all our decades of activism, this is quite possibly the most important lesson we’ve learned, so let me ask it another way:

Who here simply wants to survive in a non-vegan world?

Who wants to be an active part of changing the world?

Whenever we talk about “changing the world,” at least a few people scoff. But this isn’t a fantasy – really, it isn’t! Thinking the world doesn’t and can’t change is the fantasy – just look at recent history.

In all of human history, it took until late in the nineteenth century for slavery to be officially abolished in the developed world. Despite thousands of years of human civilization, only in the last hundred years was child labor abolished in the developed world, child abuse criminalized, women given the vote, and minorities given even basic rights.

Many thoughtful, admirable people worked to bring about those ethical advances for humanity.

Now is our turn.

Because of the number of individuals suffering and the reason for this hidden brutality, animal liberation is the moral imperative of our time. We can be the generation that brings about this next great ethical advance. We have an amazing opportunity to be part of something fundamentally good, something incredibly profound.

In the end, in our hearts, we know that, regardless of what we think of ourselves, our actions reveal the kind of person we really are. We each determine our life’s narrative.

We can, like most, simply allow the narrative to be imposed on us, mindlessly accept the current default, follow the crowd, and take whatever we can.

Or we can actively author our lives, determining for ourselves what is important. We can live with a larger purpose, dedicated to a better world for all.

We have no excuse for waiting – we have the knowledge, the tools, and the truth. Being an effective advocate for the animals requires only our choice. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr.:

The arc of history is long
And ragged
And often unclear
But ultimately
It bends towards justice.

Please be a part of bending the arc. Thank you.

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 App├ętit 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.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meaty Thursdaily

NPR does an interview:

Science writer Michael Specter recently traveled to laboratories in the Netherlands and North Carolina to examine the progress scientists have made in developing in vitro meat. He writes about his trip, and the arguments in favor of lab-made steaks, in the May 23 issue of The New Yorker.

Edit: Just came across this podcast, which references this SciAm article.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jon!

Yes, May 19 is Jon Camp's birthday!

As Jon has dedicated his life to helping the animals, I'm sure he would most appreciate if you supported his work. If you contribute via Jon's Team Vegan page, your contribution will be doubled!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Worth a Thousand Words

Team Vegan member and hat model Brian sends along this pic from Santa Rosa JC:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More Nostalgia

Since we're revisiting the past, Paul Shapiro sends along this picture from ... more than a few years ago:

Matt, Paul, and Jack

Friday, May 13, 2011

NSFW Friday Video

Not embedded, because it isn't work-safe, and definitely not for everyone. But in honor of our amazing researcher and designer and resident head-banger, Vegan Black Metal Chef makes Pad Thai.

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.

In Big Trouble Now!

Oh NOES! I missed our tenth anniversary ... with the Enewsletter!

From the very first issue, we've been focused on the bottom line -- reducing the number of animals suffering:

Will It Be a World of Herbivores? (Wired News)
It might be tempting to feel smug about Mad Cow (sheep) and Foot-and-Mouth disease, but none of the animals – especially the chickens – are too terribly happy. While a relatively few people might go veg, if most people simply move to eating poultry instead of beef, the number of animals killed will continue to increase.
The news stories do offer an excellent opportunity to provide people with information about the treatment of all animals raised and slaughtered for food, as well as describe the health benefits of a well-planned vegetarian diet. What is important is to go beyond the specifics of a particular news story, and use the occasion to offer literature and/or tell a story about your transition to a veg diet.

Thanks to all our loyal readers over the years! Today's issue is going out right now; you can offer feedback here!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring Record, Team Vegan, and You!

Students at Allan Hancock College learn the truth,
courtesy of Peggy Koteen and Johanna Andris ...
and YOU! 
Already this semester, Adopt-a-College activists have handed a VO booklet directly to 620,574 students at campuses across the country, utterly destroying the previous Spring term record of 547,220!

VO was able to print and distribute all the booklets that reached all these individuals because of the donors who stepped up and contributed to the end-of-year matching campaign.

Even as activists are still reaching new people, we are looking ahead to Fall semester. How many new students we reach depends on how many booklets we can print and ship.

And that depends on you!

Do you want more people to learn the truth and start taking action for the animals? Do you want there to be more and more vegetarians standing up for what's right and providing the animals a voice?

Then please, be a part of Team Vegan 2011!

You can still register to be an official member of the team -- details at the Team Vegan site.

Or, you can donate today, and your contribution will be matched, dollar for dollar!

You can contribute to the Team's general fund, one of our amazing leafleters (like Fred Tyler, our man up North), the "Help Stop Violence" guy, Sherlock the Doggie, and Team Vegan Cat.

So what are you waiting for? Be a part of it today!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Vegan Outreach in India

Longtime VO friend and VegNews publisher Joe Connelly shows how to get extra "attention" in Bharatpur (city), Rajasthan (state), India -- wear a Vegan Outreach shirt (very old version!).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cats vs Dogs!

Oh baby, it's on!

Sherlock the Doggie is already over $1,000!

But now: Team Vegan Cat!

It's up to you. Donate to Sherlock if you are a dog (person); cat (people) support Team Vegan Cat!

Attention all companions!
If you get your paws or claws on your human's credit card and want to support your team, just put your name in the comments. Then we'll be sure to put the right name on the right Team Vegan page.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just TRY to Imagine!

OK, so imagine going onto a college campus and offering students booklets until 700 accept.

Got it? Now, picture handing booklets to 7,000 people.

Harder to imagine, isn't it? If you're feeling feisty, try 70,000.

For anyone whose mind hasn't melted, here is the punchline:


This is more than any Adopt a College semester ever. This is more booklets than VO sent out, total, in all of 2004.

It is also the number of individuals Jon Camp has reached, personally handing them a VO booklet.

Think of it this way -- it would be like handing a booklet directly to every single person who lives in Baltimore!

If you'd like to congratulate him, please consider supporting Jon's Team Vegan effort -- it would mean a lot to him!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Awesome Video (can comment)

Via DawnWatch.com, this Mother Jones video perfectly captures the recent legal moves of Big Ag.

Send around to everyone; you can comment below the video, too.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Excerpt of the Day: We don't waste time....

From A New World, Piece by Piece:

...Instead of wishing for a different world, we 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. This is why Vegan Outreach produces a range of literature to make everyone and anyone, in any situation, the most effective advocate for animals possible. While we are each able do this outreach in our areas, we support – and certainly don’t waste our limited time opposing – the efforts of large organizations to bring about the abolition of the worst abuses on factory farms. Each step brings the animals’ interests to light, making people consider the otherwise hidden reality behind the meat they eat. There is no other way to go from a carnivorous society, where farmed animals have virtually no protection, to a vegan society where they have near-total protection....

Monday, May 2, 2011

Results, Not Words

Another new veg "On the spot!"
at Victor Valley College
An excellent day to remember that big talk and big plans don't matter.

All that matters is results.

Thanks so much to everyone who has signed up for Team Vegan and started raising money to get even more results.

You, too, can be a part of this work -- signing up for Team Vegan is easy!

A few comments from the most recent batch of Guide requests:

I heard about Vegan Outreach at Earth Day in San Diego, CA! I can't believe what I saw...I'm disgusted and totally angry and sad! I can't believe what we are doing to animals for our own benefit! I will not support these institutions any longer!

I got a Compassionate Choices at my community college. Reading about the atrocities that innocent animals must endure in order for humans to consume them is repulsive. In high school I was a vegetarian for two years, however I didn't make health-conscious choices. Now I am more informed and ready to make a life-long commitment to a meat/dairy-free diet.

I heard about Vegan Outreach several years ago and receive your newsletter online, however until just recently I am ashamed to say that I just ignored it. But that is all about to change. I am outraged at the treatment of animals. Thank you for making this information available.

A friend showed me a Compassionate Choices. I read it and was shocked at what I had been contributing to. But no more! Once you know the truth, it shall set you free.

I am in college and I was walking to one of my classes where I saw someone handing out the booklets. I love animals, but always thought it was impossible not to eat meat. I never knew there were so many options such as bacon, veggie burgers, and even sausage that they make for vegans. I really want to start eating those foods because it is horrible and heartbreaking what they are doing to animals.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Stories

Veg life in the Mile High City: An interview with Kayla Knopp
Excerpt: "I am someone's Vegan Outreach success story! I was walking on campus at UCD, and someone from VO handed me a pamphlet. One look at those pictures, and I was done with meat. I talked to my boyfriend about it, and we decided to give being vegetarian a try -- we haven't looked back since!"

Jon: "A woman I met at Vanderbilt let me know that at parties she hosts, she puts out VO lit. She had them in her bathroom for one such party. One of her friends went in, did what needed to be done, read a booklet, and came out a vegetarian."

Two more "On the Spot!" new vegans, this time at the College of the Desert!