A friend sent me a link to this podcast from PETA’s vice president, Bruce Fredrick, about being not just an advocate for animals, but an effective one. You can find a similar article by Fredrick is a chapter in the second edition of In Defense of Animals, and my advice is to pick up a copy and read it in addition to listening to this recording. His advice is ‘stolen’ from strategies used in the corporate world, which I love.
Whatever your feelings on PETA, Fredrick brings up several good points. When we think about what we’re actually trying to accomplish, many of us rarely stop to think that our actions may be hurting our cause instead of helping it. As he says, we work very very hard, but we don’t seem to get much done. There’s a lot of debate about why that is, but I think that perhaps our general attitude does have something to do with it. Here are a just couple points he makes that I think at least bear consideration…
1. Always be respectful
Being nasty pisses people off. Bottom line. I’m guilty of this one on a very regular basis, but Fredrick brings up a good point – being nasty to other people may make us feel good, but it doesn’t help animals. To use, these issues are deep and incredibly painful, but others don’t view them that way. We have to work to change that, and we won’t be able to do that if we’ve alienated them.
No rants, no monologues. We may be able to bludgeon some people, but many of them have heard the same spiel again and again, or they think they know everything already. Instead of treating them to yet another ‘crazy animal lover’ rant, Fredrick suggests we prepare facts for an honest conversation, no matter how facetious their questions and objections may seem. Grant people the opportunity to be heard, and you come away looking like a hero.
Fredrick says we should be optimistic, upbeat, and good natured. If we’re happy, and we’re supporting this, it’s an indication that this is the right way to be.
4. Say bye-bye to personal purity
I have some disagreements with this one, but I think it bears thinking about. If we can convince people it’s not about us being more pure, if we can admit that we too are guilty of causing some suffering, but that we’re doing our best, we become much more human and likable. By using our actions to show that being vegan is easy, we promote it much better.
5. Dress for success
This one’s in the book, but it’s also one of the most important. By dressing well and being well groomed, you’re showing people that vegans aren’t just a stereotypical caricature of a tree-hugging hippy or tattooed punk. More than that, you prove that going vegan won’t destroy your lifestyle – you can still wear make-up, nice clothes, and bathe. We’re more approachable and less dismissible, we make veganism more attractive to people who enjoy embracing the norms of society.