Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Great Interview with Jack and Ginny!

Paul Appleby, with UK's Vegan Views, did a great interview with Ginny and Jack: Vegan Dietitians for Life. Too many important points -- please be sure to read the whole thing.

Perhaps the most important highlight:

Many vegans place great faith in the China Study, and the book of the same name by Professor T Colin Campbell. However, you do not cite results from the study in Vegan for Life, saying that it “doesn’t provide information … on the health of vegans”. Would you care to explain to readers why the findings of the China Study are largely irrelevant to vegans?

Jack Norris: The China Study is an ecological study, which means that it pools information from different populations, in this case different regions of China, and compares the averages among the groups, rather than from individual subjects. There is certainly nothing wrong with doing this - it gives researchers an idea of what about those regions might be useful for further research, looking at individuals rather than regions. We now have a great deal of data on many of the disease markers of actual vegans, and some data on their disease rates, through the Oxford Vegetarian study, EPIC-Oxford, studies of Seventh-day Adventists, and a few other studies. That data, which is highly relevant to vegans at large, is what we focused on in the book.

Ginny Messina: I would add that the findings from the China Study aren’t exactly irrelevant to vegans. Any well-designed study like the China Study that looks at health impacts of animal versus plant foods has relevance to vegans. However, because it didn’t include vegan subjects, the China Study doesn’t speak specifically to the health of vegans. We can’t look at that data and conclude that vegans are healthier than lacto-ovo-vegetarians or pesco-vegetarians, for example. Something that is also a little bit unique to our book is that we wanted to help readers understand that some types of studies carry more weight than others - or that they have different purposes. As Jack pointed out, ecological studies, which include the China Study, generate findings that stimulate further research. But they aren’t the type of studies that allow us to make statements about causal relationships between diet and health.

In fact, there are instances where ecological studies have led us completely astray. For example, the belief that vegans have lower calcium needs than omnivores comes, in part, from an ecological study that compared rates of hip fracture to protein intake around the world. It showed that hip fracture rates were highest in countries with the highest per capita protein intake. The obvious conclusion is that eating protein causes weak bones. But it’s turning out that this conclusion may in fact be wrong. There are other explanations for the differences in hip fracture rates in these countries, all of which are missed in ecological studies.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

John Oberg In the Snowy North

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will stop John from making the animals' case! More examples of your donations at work!

"Had a great conversation with Grayson, who is cutting meat out of his diet: 'I f**kin' hate factory farming.' I like his bluntness. He told me that if everyone had to see where their meat came from before they ate it, everybody would be vegetarian."

Fred Tyler and John at the University of Wisconsin, Stout.

Fred and Sen Holiday

So engrossed at UW Stout, this student forgets about the snow.
Sen, Fred, and I met a ton of vegetarians and vegans at UW, Stout, which was pretty sweet. One six-year vegan was extremely excited to see our presence and said that we just made her day. On our way out we found Meatless Monday posters in one of the buildings!

John Corrigan at UW Eau Claire. 

Sen provides a bit of sunshine. 

I think we reached every reachable person at UW Eau Claire -- 2,319 received an Even If, and 27 asked for a Guide. I met John at my CAA talk, and he picked me up at 5:45 am; his determination is impressive! And Sen was constantly smiling, as always!

Grace Van Susteren (above) and Dani Reese (below) at the University of St. Thomas. 

Mike Chutich, Fred, and John at U. St. Thomas.

Fred: Have a heart for animals! At UW River Falls.

Between class changes at UW River Falls, Fred and I had an ongoing snowball fight. We each also got a big hug from a student named Brittany that said she's so happy when we're out here doing this. She's vegetarian for the animals and working towards vegan and happily accepted a Guide.

Amber Smith at Marquette U.

Josh Kissel (above) and Ben Collins (below) at UW, Madison.

Friday, March 29, 2013

VO and NPR: Want To Help Animals? No Vegan Extremism Required

Ron Chapple/
The NPR report referenced in the previous blog post has been published; thanks to Barbara King for the fair and well-done piece. She chose the best quotes from The Animal Activist's Book and our discussion. Here are the full answers:

Do vegans who insist that such medicines or medical products should be refused by other vegans undermine what VO tries to accomplish, and if so, in what specific ways?

Every time we put the focus on the undeniable suffering of animals on factory farms -- rather than making the issue about our personal choices / definitions / labels / philosophy -- the world is a better place. Again, this is something that took me years to discover; initially, my veganism was all about how "dedicated" and "consistent" I was. Everything centered around how committed I was / how amazing my veganism was, not the animals nor helping them as possible.

Being an effective advocate for the animals -- including being a positive, selfless example -- is much more difficult than memorizing a list of animal ingredients. But if we really oppose cruelty to animals, we need to do everything we can to end factory farms, even if that is more difficult than personally being ever-more "vegan."

The good thing, though, is that today, the "vegan police" / ingredient- and "consistency"-obsessed types are an incredibly tiny minority, compared to all the pragmatic activists who are focused on the animals. They may be loud in some circles (and featured in news reports trying to ridicule those concerned for animals), but they aren't impeding the progress we're making changing people's minds about eating animals, nor are they preventing the abolition of modern agribusiness' worst abuses.

Photo c/o Linda Bower
Is a person a better, more committed vegan when s/he refuses medicines or medical products that include animal products?

A few decades ago, I thought a person's dedication was measured by how much they "gave up" -- how hard their life seemed relative to mine. It took me a while to realize the question isn't how "vegan" anyone is; rather, the only issue is the animals' suffering. 

All that matters is the impact we have for the animals in the real world. What we personally consume (especially at the margins) is almost irrelevant compared to what we can accomplish with thoughtful, honest advocacy for the animals. For example, influencing just one person to stop eating chickens and eggs -- or even simply cutting back! -- has an almost infinitely larger impact than if I avoid yet another obscure, minuscule animal product.

Specific to medicine -- I'm alive and functioning today because of "non-vegan" medicines. This is also true for many of the people who are doing the most good today. The point isn't to suffer or die to be "vegan" -- the point is to lead a meaningful life that reduces as much suffering as possible, making the world a better place than if we hadn't existed.

NPR and VO: More On Being Vegan

Earlier this week, a reporter with NPR contacted Vegan Outreach about a recent "vegan police" story in the news. Our first reply was to send her the essays On Living with Compassion (originally published as On Being Vegan), Defining Vegan (led by the view of Jack (right)), and How Vegan. We also included this previously unpublished essay, with the working title of More On Being Vegan:

When we discover how animals are really treated on factory farms (as we document in Why Vegan), it is entirely human to react with revulsion and disgust, wanting to cut all connection to these horrors. This can easily become an endless quest, because, if you look long enough, everything we do in society has some connection to animal exploitation.

Seeking new connections to animal exploitation is relatively easy; it is much more difficult to put aside our visceral repulsion and, instead of striving to avoid personal contamination, work to change society as much as possible. Doing our best to expose and end modern agribusiness' brutality requires that we use our very limited time and resources in a manner entirely different than trying to be ever more "vegan." Rather than removing ourselves as far as possible from a world filled with animal cruelty, we must be fully engaged in the world, so we can to save as many animals as possible from the horrors of factory farms. We must engage with people where they are -- not where we are or where we want them to be -- in order to open their hearts and minds to the animals' plight.

In his interview with's Erik Marcus, author Jonathan Safran Foer (above) explained the two motivations for his book, Eating Animals: To be useful, not thorough; and to get people to focus on the first step, not the last. 

This is it exactly.

Every time we focus on our current personal choices -- rather than the animals' obvious suffering -- we lose the opportunity to open more hearts and minds and remove support for factory farming. Every time we make the issue about our current personal definition of "vegan" -- for example, a real "vegan" shouldn't take medicine because it has been tested on animals and/or contains an "animal product" -- we reinforce the stereotype of vegans as fanatics and veganism as dogma. This actively hurts animals.

We may sincerely believe our current personal level of purity to be the only honorable and coherent position. But the animals suffering today don't need consistent principles or unadulterated products. They don't need us to avoid every minor ingredient or promote a "perfect" philosophy. 

Desperately and immediately, the animals need us to be pragmatic, optimally effective advocates in our imperfect, inconsistent world. To reach the most new people, our example must be thoughtful, selfless, and joyful. This is the way we can actually help animals the most. The rest is just jargon.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jon at 900. Now It's Really On!

Jon Camp has now handed a Vegan Outreach booklet to over 900,000 individuals.

Yes, you read that right: 900,000!!

Just to put that in perspective, VO's total annual distribution didn't exceed 900,000 until 2006!

Now the countdown to a million starts in earnest!

I think it might be that Jon is the most prolific leafleter in the history of the Universe!
And yes, I'm using some of my old pictures. Ah, memories!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pics from Vics and Rachel

Becky now wants to go vegan!

Angelo's now going veg.

Drastically reduced meat consumption after receiving an Even If You Like Meat booklet previously.

"This is exactly what I needed!" Friend also took one.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jack and Ginny's Latest

Ah, the establishment remains afraid of the future! The latest to use scare tactics to defend the cruel status quo is Dr. Oz; Jack takes him apart here.

Jack also has the latest last word on calcium and Vitamin D, and was also interviewed by our friends at Our Hen House.

And Ginny has a great post: Being Fearlessly Vegan. Too much good stuff to quote -- please take a minute to read the whole thing!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Future: Bill Gates Hops on the Bandwagon

Six years ago, we published One Possible Future: A Roadmap to Animal Liberation, which concluded:

"Our challenge now is to expand the vegetarian market by explaining to more meat eaters the reasons for choosing vegetarian meals, while exposing them to new – though similar – products. 

"The more rapidly we do this, the sooner cruelty-free eating will be widespread.... Cousin Jeb's second wife – a vegetarian since getting an Even If You Like Meat booklet from Jon Camp in 2003 – will use that as an excuse to only cook vegetarian meals  and Jeb will hardly notice the difference! Their daughter Barbara will grow up as a vegan activist, and will oversee McDonald’s shift to non-animal chicken in their sandwiches.

"Despite all the current horror and continued suffering, if we take the long view and are willing to commit to the work that needs to be done, we should be deeply optimistic. Animal liberation can be the future.... Change will not come by revolution, but through person-by-person outreach progressing hand-in-hand with advances in technology, leading slowly but inexorably to a new norm that, to most people, hardly seems different. But an unfathomable amount of suffering will be prevented.

"It is up to us to make this happen."

Since then, we've documented how more millionaires (Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Peter Thiel, etc.) have adopted the same vision of advancing technology bringing about the new world we want.

Now, the Gates Foundation is getting on bandwagon, with their new report: The Future of Food: How food scientists are reinventing meat – and how it can benefit everyone.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Feedback and Illinois Pics

Thanks to everyone who sent feedback to last week's Enewsletter, A Meaningful Life. Want to just share one, which accompanied a donation and order for booklets:

"I'm glad I stayed up to read this newsletter -- thank you, I learned something this evening.

"I have been an active voice on Facebook and in conversations with people I know. I often get very upset and want to lash out. Although it felt good to get things off my chest, I felt like I was the enemy. And I'm not. I have always sought to be peaceful and loving, even before I was a vegetarian (and now vegan). Who would want to listen to me if I could not listen to them?

"So I have been toning it down, trying not to slam anyone. Thank you for opening my eyes and mind."

Leslie Patterson (here at the University of Chicago) sends these pictures.

Mark Turner, opening eyes at Northwestern.

Joe Espinosa makes the animals' case at DePaul. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

SXSW Report from Ethan

Ethan Dussault, author of the report below.

Three vegans

Wow! What a blistering week in Austin, TX. SxSW keeps attracting more and more people every year for its Music Festival/Conference. This week, Jack, Joey, Christie, Erick, Ernest, Micah, Amber, Brian, Lauren, Jeni, Rachel and myself managed to get a booklet to 14,850 attendees over four days under a bright sun.

One gentleman, appearing to be a professor at UT Austin, tried to bait me with questions regarding abortion and euthanasia, to which I replied, "While I have opinions on those subjects, my focus here is to raise awareness about the unnecessary suffering of animals on factory farms. It is inappropriate to talk about abortion and euthanasia at this time." He smiled, acknowledging that he was caught trying to change the subject. I wasn't about to get into a debate about his speciesist correlations. After all, I was leafleting.

Overall, this was an overwhelmingly receptive crowd. Got lots of, "I want you to know I read the booklet and I am appalled." "I'm with you." "Thanks for being out here." Comments like this were bountiful in the sea of spring breakers, artist types, and beyond.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Catching Up with Jon

Jon Camp sends pictures from around the country:

Outreach Jon (above) and Dawn Ratcliffe (below) provide the animals'
a voice at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Natasha Kotey at the University of Oklahoma

Cara Frye (above) and Stewart Jester (below)
don't let rain stop them from making the animals' case
at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Lisa Drapkin at Lehman College

Leslie Parker-Rollins at Maryland Institute College of Art
Dave Doctor at University of Mary Washington
Tatiana Mendez at Gaithersburg High School

Susan Earnest at Shippensburg University

Via Mikael Nielsen, Brian Pietrzcki at Chicago's
University Center

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"I had no clue it was so bad for the chickens" (and bonus map)

John Oberg reports:

Wow! Epic day setting a new record (2,790+ students reached) at the University of Iowa with my wonder of a volunteer, Patti (top). Animals are lucky to have her in Iowa.

We each met tons of vegetarians, vegans; I met a dude named Carl who wants to get involved. One vegan I spoke with knew the exact date she went veg -- January 7th. Another student informed Patti that she didn't need a booklet because she went vegetarian two days ago because of slaughterhouses!

I handed a booklet to one guy, Malcolm (above), who walked a few yards then came back my way and said "Man, I don't need this because I'm VEGAN." Turns out he's been vegan for a month because of the cruelty done to animals! I think it's definitely encouraging for new veg people to see us out there, promoting a message that they've just recently began to embrace themselves.

I leafleted one guy who walked up to a friend and they began talking. The other guy says, "Man, I got one of those earlier. I could give up red meat, but...", so I chimed in and Guided them each. I mentioned how giving up red meat is actually something that can cause a lot more harm to animals. "Yeah, wow, before you gave me that I had no clue it was so bad for the chickens; I only thought it was bad for the pigs and cows." Victory!

Also, check out this map of Google searches for "vegan" over time; more explanation from Compassion Over Killing.
Oh, Wyoming.....