|Enewsletter • December 20, 2001|
Until next year....
Those of us at Vegan Outreach wish all our members
The Vegan Outreach office will be staffed sporadically today through January 6th, so we thought we would pass along a bit of news, and a few notes and requests.
Why Vegan? Distribution
With the last few orders of the year, 2001 is set to be the record for distributing copies of Why Vegan? and Vegetarian Living – over 330,000! Thanks to everyone who has contributed to Vegan Outreach to allow us to print this many booklets, as well as the thousands of dedicated, compassionate people who have helped to reach so many new people.
We hope that, with your continued support and efforts [see below], we can continue to increase the number of people whose lives are changed by Why Vegan? and Vegetarian Living.
Right now, we have a good supply of booklets on hand. So if your New Year's resolution is to do more to create a better world, please order booklets to distribute in your area. It is significantly less expensive to have boxes of 300 sent right from the printer, so if you believe you will be able to distribute more than 100 copies in the next few months (displays in libraries, stores, office doors, etc.; see below), please request a box (sent via UPS; no PO Boxes, thanks).
(There are two caveats to this. The first is that, to avoid anti-vegetarians fraudulently ordering booklets, we require some level of contribution for new orders (people who have contributed in the past are free to order without additional contributions). Second, we have, unfortunately, met people who have told us, "Oh yeah, I have a box of Why Vegan? somewhere in my apartment." We can't afford to send booklets to people who aren't going to be able to distribute them. And finally, please remember that we are dependent on your donations to be able to print more copies in the future.)
The Coming Year
In addition to increased distribution of Why Vegan? and Vegetarian Living, the Peta-sponsored printing of the Spanish-language Why Vegan?, and our first advertisements in more "mainstream" magazines (see p. 19 of the Jan/Feb 2002 issue of E! Magazine), we are exploring several possible joint projects with other groups to push the boundaries of positive educational outreach. With your support, we hope to be able to make Vegan Outreach even better in the coming year!
"Just like meat!"
A friend who has been vegetarian for about seven years now recently ordered a veggie burger at a restaurant while traveling. He called the waiter over to send it back, assuming they had made a mistake and served him a cow-burger. They hadn't, and Tom admitted it had been so long since he had tasted "real" meat that he couldn't be sure how close it actually was.
Given some recent reviews of "fake meat," I would guess that many non-vegetarians would think the options are all that "realistic." This article was the lead story at Slate.com earlier this week (also see the great "Related on the Web" links); this is an older one just on "burgers."
I clearly admit that I, too, wouldn't be able to tell how close a "fake" is (although I do know there are no good vegan "cheeses" out there), but I wish that the reviewers had tried Gimme Lean (I make tacos with the "beef" style, a seasoning pack, and V-8 Hot and Spicy) and Tofurky Smoked Deli Slices (which are, IMO, unbelievable; also, watch this clip from The X-Files; requires Real Player).
I bring this up because vegetarians sometimes offer something to friends and family, saying, "It is just like meat!" When people have negative reactions ('texture: "gristle," "rubbery and wrong," and the taste: "not even close" and "had to spit out"'), they can often end up thinking, "I could never give up meat if this is what passes for good food!"
Some people ask why vegetarians would want to have "fake" meat. Personally, I have nothing against "meat" per sé. What I work against is suffering. Anything that leads people to eat fewer animals, including "familiar" but cruelty-free foods, is something I support. For example, my non-vegetarian family has allowed us to serve a vegan meal (home-made seitan, etc.) for Christmas on several occasions, saving several turkeys (or even more Cornish hens).
from the Vegan Advocacy booklet:
Playing to Strength
Living ones life as a vegan is a clear first step for many, but then what? There are countless ways in which motivated individuals can use their gifts to reduce animal suffering each day. The possibilities are limited only by our creativity.
There is no one-size-fits-all method of activism. What are your strengths/weaknesses? What do you enjoy doing? How can you live a happy, purposeful life and help the animals to the greatest degree possible? The answers, of course, are different for each of us, and sometimes our answers change over time.
While creative thinking and playing to ones strengths can open up new avenues for promoting veganism, rigid adherence to doctrine can obstruct advocacy. Isnt ones time better spent distributing vegan literature than tracing the origins of obscure ingredients? In order to be effective advocates, the decisions we makeboth on a daily basis and long-termmust offer a net benefit to the animals.
Vegans can remain true to their ideals regardless of whether or not they engage in traditional methods of activism. Although striving to acquire great wealth is seen by many as the antithesis of activism, those who earn large amounts of money through business can have an enormous impact on animal liberation when they contribute funds to organizations/activities aimed at reducing animal suffering.
Diverse and committed people have lent their talents to all aspects of Vegan Outreach. However, if not for those who pursue other fields and financially support the printing of Why Vegan and Vegetarian Living, we would be unable to reach anyone with our information. It is because of our members hard work in fields not directly related to animal rights that we have the funds needed to print and distribute literature around the world.
In order to spread vegetarianism and veganism effectively, our focus should be on educating people with credible, persuasive, and focused literature; providing well-documented and thorough answers for specific questions; supplying educational materials to schools; working to get vegan options in various settings; working with food manufacturers, grocery stores, and restaurants for more options; and supplying people with lists of local restaurants and shopping opportunities where vegan options exist.
Our experience has shown that the most effective way to accomplish the above is through understanding and constructive outreach. Positive outreach takes patience and can be frustrating, but it is worth the effort. We dont have to force people to notice us; simply being confident, articulate vegans in public is enough.
Some specific activities that can lead to people learning about veganism are:
(See also advocacy resources.)
Suggestions for Tabling
The initial impression is crucial in establishing a dialogue. Displays, needed to attract visitors, should clearly and simply convey the area of concern. Large-screen TVs are always magnets for attracting people, to whom you can then offer literature. Consider your audience and location when you choose which pictures to display or videos to show. Graphic images of animal torture upset children, while teenagers and younger adults are most likely to be moved by these photographs.
Be clean, well-groomed, and conservatively dressed. Counter-culture attire, except where this is the norm, sends the message that your world radically differs from that of your audience. This creates a barrier between you and prospective visitors who may react with a feeling of distrust, even hostility. Remember, you are there as a spokesperson for the animals, and should not let anything come between your audience and your message.
Your credibility will increase if you actively listen: repeat a visitors main points using different words, showing that you understand. Then, ask thought-provoking but courteous questions. Seek common ground with your visitors by emphasizing shared goals or concerns. Acknowledge your table visitors valid points or observations. Dont turn the encounter into a debate or personal attack; keep it a mutual exploration of the issues.
If the main barrier seems to be the visitors desire to continue habits that they find pleasantsuch as sport fishing or wearing furmention any of your own relevant changes in lifestyle. In response to a declaration such as "I could never give up meat," you might relate something of your own eating habits: e.g., "I used to feel the same way, and at first I just cut back on meat. Now that Im vegetarian, Ive found that I really dont miss meat. In fact, I feel good about my diet, being more at peace with the world around me." Such an honest admission of your own feelings can build rapport. When people say something a little obnoxious, smile and wish them a good day. If they say something really mean, you might say, "That was a mean thing to say." If said as an observation, without a tone of bitterness, it will possibly get them thinking.
Suggestions for Leafleting
The great thing about leafleting is the lack of preparation time required. At the right time and place, just one person can hand out hundreds of brochures in less than an hour. You will inevitably interest many new people in making their way toward veganism, sowing seeds of change where they do not currently exist.
Students tend to be more interested in veganism than the rest of society, making college campuses good places to leaflet; weekdays before 3 p.m. are the busiest times. At large universities, there is normally a steady flow of pedestrian traffic somewhere on campus at all times throughout the day. Smaller colleges and universities usually have a steady flow of traffic between classes.
You can find a spot where many pedestrians are passing, or you can walk around offering the brochure to people you come across (which makes you less conspicuous). Some schools have an open policy on allowing leafleting, while others do not. Even if someone eventually tells you that you are not permitted to hand out literature on campus, it will likely be after youve given out a great number of brochures.
People who take part in walkathons in order to raise money for causes
tend to be willing to accept literature. (We target these people
because we think they are likely to take a brochure, read it, and
thoughtfully consider moving towards veganism, not because Why
Vegan? has anything to do with the cause for which they are walking.)
Animal-related events, such as humane society benefits or animal
rights presentations, are also a good place to reach interested and
committed individuals who may not have considered the implications
of their own diet, or the idea of promoting veganism.
While leafleting, keep in mind:
Few people have any interest in engaging a religious zealot bent on converting them. Similarly, when animal rights advocates give the impression that they are trying to convert people, people resist the message. One activist reports what has worked for him:
Our conversations used to go somewhat like this:
Now our answer goes:
Sometimes a potential vegan will say, "I could just never give up ice cream (or cheese, etc.)." Some vegans now reply, "Then give up everything but ice cream." These types of reactions will often surprise the potential vegan and make them realize that veganism is not about making yourself pure, but about doing what you can to stop suffering.
People often try to sidestep the issue by talking about everything from Eskimos eating fish to being stranded on a desert island. To be effective, we have to bring conversations back to the fact that eating animal products causes suffering, and each of us can work to avoid creating this suffering.
We should not simply try to feel that we have won an argument with a meat eater. Rather, we need people to consider the issues in depth and want to change. If we are to reach peoples hearts and minds, and help them utilize the power of their choices, we must make people aware that we are sincere individuals who have made informed decisions. We must show everyone that we have decided to use our choices to make a positive statement about how the world shouldand canbe. Only then will others be inclined to join us in creating a new world.