A short while ago, Mark Hawthorne posted a list of simple ways that anyone can advocate for animals. Here’s one of the ideas:
1. Wear pro-veg buttons, a t-shirt or hat. Bruce Friedrich has a great technique for engaging strangers in conversation about animals. He wears a shirt reading “Ask Me Why I’m a Vegetarian.” When someone asks, rather than launching into an angry diatribe about animal abuse, Bruce asks the other person, “Do you eat meat?” The person generally says, “Yes,” to which Bruce responds, “Why?” The person will answer with something like, “Well, I like the taste.” Bruce will then ask, “Well, what do you know about factory farming?” And so a dialog begins. I wear a button reading “Ask Me Why I’m Vegan” (which I coincidentally bought from Bruce at a PETA event years ago). I’ve learned to keep my responses simple, and I always keep some pro-veg literature with me, in case someone is interested in learning more.
Let me be honest about this one. I don’t wear pro-veg buttons, t-shirts, or hats very often. I think it’s a good idea to wear those things. And I do wear buttons and t-shirts sometimes. But…
Years ago I remember reading a PETA magazine that suggested wearing t-shirts or buttons that promoted animal rights. A similar idea was promoted: wear the item so it can spark a conversation and change a mind. Trouble is, I never wanted to spark that conversation! It wasn’t that I didn’t want to speak up for animals, it was that I didn’t want to have to do it all the time. I didn’t want to have to defend my vegetarianism whenever it was convenient for someone else to “debate” or provoke me. Because let’s be honest, who is more likely to respond to t-shirts or buttons? The nice, curious person who is truly respectful or the angry, rodeo-loving cowboy?
Now I’m a little bit older, a little bit braver, but I still don’t often wear clothes that indicate I’m vegan. And I’ll never wear a shirt that says, “Ask Me Why I’m a Vegan.” I have limited patience. I can only handle so many questions, so many “debates,” and quite simply, so many strangers. So I wear small buttons that simply say “vegan.” They don’t encourage the meanies to provoke me, they simply state a fact. Sometimes I’ll wear t-shirts or sweaters. Those too will simply say “vegan” or “veg” or something similar. They are labels, not commands or requests.
I don’t think I’ll ever wear the question, “Ask Me Why I’m Vegan” …It’s just not my style. But a t-shirt that says “cow-hugger“? Sign me up!