Advocates of animal rights, like myself, need to convince a certain number of people that animals deserve rights before any other type of change will have positive lasting consequences. But we don’t need to convince everyone. We just need to convince enough of the right people. Once we do that, there’s a “tipping point” when larger social change will take place organically.
The most efficient use of our advocacy time is to focus on the people who are already a little sympathetic to the animals’ plight. We can nudge them a bit closer to veganism with minimum effort and risk. It often just takes a bit of education to encourage a caring person to act more responsibly.
Who are these people who are already sympathetic to the animal movement? They are people who like animals and don’t want to make animals suffer, but they don’t know how to cook vegan food or how to find vegan food at restaurants. They like the taste of meat but they don’t like the idea of killing animals… they just need to learn where they can buy tasty faux meats and how to eat a balanced vegan diet.
We can help those people. It’s pretty easy, actually. We just give them a few resource like tryveg.com or chooseveg.com. And we can show them recipes like the ones you can find here at the Vegan Soapbox recipe search >>
Take a look at how people think about farmed animals:
About 70% of people do not want farmed animals to suffer as they currently do. These are the people to focus on. These are the people who may be persuaded to adopt a diet that’s less cruel. These are the ones we want to nudge towards veganism.
But if someone lacks empathy to animals, no amount of vegan education will foster a compassionate diet. It won’t matter if we show them the horrific abuses that farmed animals endure. It probably won’t matter if we teach them about quinoa, seitan, tofu, or beans. It won’t matter if we provide long lists of vegan options. Info about nutrition may not help.
Maybe we can appeal to their self-interest and promote the health argument for veganism. Perhaps we should we talk about environmental consequences of factory farming. We chould discuss “the health argument for veganism” and the environmental issues when asked or when the evidence is compelling. The health and environmental reasons for veganism can help convince some nonvegans to finally make the leap:
“research suggests that vegetarians may follow a trajectory in which initial motivations are augmented over time by other concerns, thereby reinforcing the vegetarian dietary choice and complicating its motivations.” – University of Sheffield
I’ve seen it for myself a number of times. Someone goes veg for health reasons – to lower their cholesterol, lose weight, prevent diabetes, prevent cancer, or reverse heart disease – but after they’ve been veg for a while and they’ve seen their health improve they become more interested in animal rights and environmentalism. There’s no reason to exaggerate the health and environmental benefits of veganism, but they are certainly worth mentioning.
I know the health argument helped me to finally ditch dairy. I’d been lacto-ovo vegetarian for decades, all the while knowing the relationship between dairy and veal. That wasn’t enough to keep me vegan. However, after reading The China Study I felt 100% confident that a vegan diet was nutritionally superior to my former nonvegan diet.
But should we rely on health and environmental issues when doing vegan education? Should we use those issues to attempt to awaken the compassion in cold-hearted people?
No. We should begin and end discussions about vegnism with the ethical reasons, using the health and environmental issues merely as strengthening reasons for a plant-based diet. And we should focus on the people who are already leaning towards a compassionate lifestyle. I believe the most efficient use of our advocacy time is to ignore the people who don’t care about animals. They’re in the minority anyway. If we simply expand the compassion for animals that already exists in caring people’s hearts, we can create the critical mass of ethical eaters that will be necessary to make real, lasting, significant change for animals.
At this point you may be wondering, what are some examples effective, efficient animal activism?
For starters, leafleting is an extraodinarily effective and efficient form of animal advocacy. It’s simple: you hand out free printed materials that provide solid reasons and resources for adopting a compassionate lifestyle. Just choose a busy place, plant your feet, and start handing out leaflets. The information reaches the people who want it and they’re inspired to make a change. Likewise, there’s very little effort wasted at trying to reach the people who are not interested. Those people just don’t take a leaflet or if they do they pass it on to someone else. Want to learn more? Vegan Outreach is one organization that focuses on leafleting.
Another example is virtual leafleting. That’s where you leave links to vegan videos on forums, comments section of blogs, facebook and twitter, etc. It’s super easy to do. Similarly, you can do the Take 5 to Save 5 program online.
Can you think of any other forms of animal advocacy that are both effective and efficient? Please share in the comments!
Note: This article was first published in September of 2010. It has been republished with minor edits in order to reach a new audience.