|Enewsletter • March 20, 2002|
Clarification and Apology
An enterprising member looked into Vegan Outreach's credit card
program, mentioned in a previous Spam. Unbeknownst to us, with the
change of banks, the percentage coming to Vegan Outreach was cut
by four-fifths! This member pointed out that it would be more lucrative
if everyone were to apply for a Discover
card and donate the annual cash back.
Vegan Outreach Talk in San Francisco
On Saturday, March 30, there will be a vegan potluck and Vegan Outreach
talk at the house of Alka Chandna. The dinner will begin at 7 pm.
At 8 pm, Jack Norris and Matt Ball, along with lauren Ornelas of
Viva!USA, will talk and lead a wide-ranging discussion. For the address
and directions, please send along an email.
Deadline Date Moved Up!
We hope that everyone has had a successful MeatOut event. If you have pictures of activists using our literature, please send copies to us! (211 Indian Dr.; Pittsburgh, PA 15238)
Remember to get your literature orders in for the April 5th National Day of Leafleting High Schools about Veganism. The deadline for ordering literature for the event is Friday, March 22! Please read the alert about what pamphlets are available and, when you write us, be very specific about which ones you want and how many. Please do not give us PO Boxes, as we are shipping some of them UPS.
Thanks to all those who have already registered, and all those who have donated in support of this great outreach event!!
New Meet Your Meat CD-ROM
From a member:
"I have converted the "Meet your Meat" video into
a higher-quality CD-ROM & will send a copy of it for free to
anyone with a CD burner & a pledge to make at least 4 copies
to give to their meat eating friends.
It seems to me that perhaps the most common question I get is "What do you / can I eat?" I was thinking about this question as I drove down to get a sample of Burger King's new Veggie Burger. For example, just last week I got a call from a 43-year-old social worker in Chicago who had found Why Vegan and started crying 1/3 of the way through reading it. But he truly had no idea what he could possibly eat. I'm afraid that many vegans would say:
Of course, many vegans would like there to be a chain of vegan fast food places run by vegans and supplied by vegans. But are the animals going to have to wait for this before our outreach can move beyond the tiny minority willing to live on the outskirts of society? (See review below.)
There are, of course, reasons to consider anything not vegan if you look hard enough. It is also ironic that some vegans insist on subjecting everything to endless scrutiny, regardless of how unique and powerful this product may be in alleviating suffering. Any minuscule trace of an officially recognized animal product will render a product taboo, potentially undermining a new introduction whose failure would greatly harm the advance of vegetarianism.
For me, "vegan" is not a binary label of "good" or "evil." A friend of mine (and long-time vegan) once wrote: "I grow weary of the term 'vegan.' It seems to become just a label for moral superiority." Nor is "vegan" something to be pursued in and of itself. As I've written elsewhere:
In the end, "vegan" is simply meaningless if it does not translate into thoughtful, effective action to reduce suffering.
by Michael Greger, M.D.
Ten years in the making, Living Among Meat Eaters is a truly monumental
work. It's really three books in one. On one level it offers practical
advice on living abundantly in a meat-eating culture, rich with stories
and graceful guidance. At the same time, Living Among Meat Eaters
provides a unique exploration into the psychology of the meat eater.
Either of these contributions alone would make for a valuable read,
but Adams then takes it a step further and constructs a model based
on her psychological insights for how we can best become vehicles
to spread veganism, making it a veritable field guide for vegan advocacy.
Her practical tips on living true to oneself in a dominant meat-eating
culture include suggestions on everything from handling holidays
at home to sharing a kitchen with flesh-eating roommates. Living
Among Meat Eaters explores the interpersonal dynamics of dealing
with friends, family, co-workers. There's even a special section
on with meat-eating parents, with an open letter to parents beseeching
their support for their vegetarian teens. The book just overflows
with anecdotes and wit and snappy one-liner retorts to all the annoying
questions vegans get asked over and over. All this wrapped up with
the obligatory recipe section for favorite comfort foods that Adams
collected and personalized over the years.
Adams' foray into the mind of the meat eater begins with the thesis
that meat eaters are just blocked vegetarians. Whether or not this
is actually true, she argues that this is a useful way to explain
much of the defensiveness and hostility they exhibit towards vegetarians.
On some level, she argues, meat eaters know that a plant-based diet
really is better. This requires that they must repress a considerable
amount of information to continue to ignore this "hole in their
conscience." By recognizing meat eaters in this way, her hope
is that we can relate to them as potential vegetarians who are just
conflicted and struggling with reconciling their dietary habits with
their self-image of being a decent person. Not only may this allow
us to become more patient and empathic, but may help us to be better
provide meat eaters with the tools and space to discover veganism
on their own.
Drawing on detailed journaling and hundreds of surveys of vegetarians' experiences living among meat eaters, Adams explores the blocks meat eaters have to [becoming] vegetarian. What are they so afraid of? And most importantly, what can we do to help them move through those blocks and put those fears to rest?
Adams asserts that not only does anger put meat eaters on the defensive,
it is the reaction they are seeking. Meat eaters want us to reinforce
their negative stereotypes of vegetarians leading wretched bitter
lives. She argues that we must not let ourselves be manipulated into
being the angry ones. They may feel miserable eating meat, but they
need to see us as even more miserable to justify their continued
consumption of dead animals. But what if we didn't fall into their
trap? What if instead we were inviting, welcoming, loving, nonjudgmental?
Another fear that we may inadvertently reinforce is their fear of scarcity. When we don't plan ahead for meat-eating family gatherings and end up martyring ourselves by glumly eating the parsley garnish, we reinforce this fear that veganism is about sacrificial deprivation – a diminishment of freedom. We can combat this misconception by exemplifying instead a life of joyful abundance. We can bring a fabulous vegan dish, for example, to eat and share. We can act as role-models, living our vegetarian lives with ease and grace.
Carol Adams is also a big fan of inviting meat eaters over for a
meal. Show, not just tell, how much excitement and variety we enjoy.
Show how much we love food. Adams recently spoke at the Liberation
Now conference in Washington D.C. An audience member asked what one
should do if one didn't know how to cook. So convinced that this
is one of our most powerful tools, Adams simply replied, "Learn
We also fall into other traps. Too often our first instinct as vegan
activists, for example, is to want to recite facts. Living Among
Meat Eaters cautions, however, against reeling off statistics. It
tends to make people suspicious and to feel like they're being lectured
at, manipulated. It makes us look as if we're trying to be experts.
Certainly, it's not very conversational. Adams [thinks] people do
not respond positively to having facts thrown at them. We're seen
as biased, as someone who's trying to convert them, to change their
minds. The walls go up.
How, then, can we communicate the urgency of the situation? Hand them a Why Vegan? or Vegetarian Living pamphlet. She argues that when a person comes across the same statistic themselves (for example reading it in a pamphlet), then the discovery is theirs, the voice is theirs, and they are more likely to consider it. We need to give people space and allow time for these new ideas to incubate. Sometimes less is more.
Meat eaters are too often not interested in genuine discussion,
but in one-upmanship, in thinking of their next question instead
of listening. This is where the "What if you were on a desert
island" questions tend to surface. Living Among Meat Eaters
shows how we can turn those questions around. For example, instead
of answering why you became a vegetarian, how about asking "Why
do you continue to choose to eat meat?" We don't have to have
to have an answer to every question. We can say things like "That's
a complex issue, but I think you'd have to agree that being vegetarian
does help reduce animal suffering..." We can bring it back in
focus. We can make it real; make it about feelings, not just about
Carol Adams is a master at this sort of verbal Jujitsu, using the
aggression of the attacker against themselves. She reviews the various
communication tools we can use to enable us to sidestep meat eaters'
defenses. She discusses the use of irony and humor.
Some readers may be surprised by some of the suggestions in the
book. For example, she discourages vegetarians from bringing up vegetarianism
at meals in which people are eating meat. To some this may feel like
that's being too nonconfrontational, too passive. But Adams questions
the effectiveness of bringing the topic up at the dinner table. "Discussing
the animal's death," she writes, "may actually sacrifice
the animal again." Adams fears that bringing it up while people
are actively consuming such products may make them dig their heels
even deeper and become more rigid in their position. In the end,
she's afraid, more animals will be lost. Incorporating her theories
of meat-eater psychology, Adams makes powerful arguments to back
up her claims. Living Among Meat Eaters argues for a more inviting
approach that connects to the part of them that desires change, not
the part that blocks change. She asks us to try to find commonalties,
to listen to their stories, and to reflect on the time in our lives
when we may have been meat eaters ourselves.
Our movement sadly lacks theorists. Carol Adams is one of our brilliant exceptions. Her frameworks have provided pivotal understanding into the role of meat eating in our culture. Those familiar with her more densely academic works like the Sexual Politics of Meat may find Living Among Meat Eaters much more readable and accessible. Living Among Meat Eaters is frankly entertaining – in some parts literally laugh-out-loud funny. This is the book we've been waiting for to finally make sense of all the hostility, of all the same stale questions. Finally, not only a coherent picture of what we're up against, but an array of tools we can use to free ourselves and others from contributing to this death culture of meat consumption. Living Among Meat Eaters is a must read for anyone serious about vegan outreach.