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Vegan Outreach Enewsletter  •  April 29, 2004

 

Like politics, effective activism is the art of the possible.

 

Feature: Effective Advocacy

 

THANKS!

To everyone who donated to our Winter Fundraiser. Without your support, we would not have reached hundreds of thousands of new people this past year. We are closing in on 3,000,000 total pamphlets distributed!

Jack leaflets at Slippery Rock U.

The new version of Why Vegan will print soon.

 

Back

We are back in the office, getting caught up as fast as we can. We apologize for the delays in sending out Vegan Starter Packs and other orders. In the past week, Jack and Matt leafleted at 9 schools in 4 states and took part in a conference. Jack also spoke to ~100 people at Youngstown State University.

 

Excerpts from
Effective Advocacy: Stealing From the Corporate Playbook

-Bruce Friedrich

The point of this talk, "Stealing from the Corporate Playbook," is to discuss ways of becoming more effective. There are two "playbooks" that nearly every successful businessperson has read.

What I thought was most valuable in Steven Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a concept that he calls "the tyranny of the urgent." Basically, Covey suggests that most of us are so busy with the endless deluge of whatever comes up next--e-mail on your screen, the phone ringing with this or that emergency, and so on--that we don't have time to focus on actually accomplishing something. How often have you thought, "I accomplished nothing!" at the end of the day? Covey gives us the tools to focus on making sure that those days are as few and infrequent as possible by helping us to focus on prioritizing what is necessary, effective, and goal-oriented, rather than whatever happens to be immediately in front of us.

One thing I now do is end each day with a list of things I will accomplish the next day. I will sometimes turn off my e-mail and not answer my phone so that I can finish a book edit or a project analysis or review new undercover videos or prepare a memo for long-term strategy. These sorts of things are not urgent, they could wait, but they are very important. I turn off the onslaught of "urgent" stuff that really doesn't need my immediate attention, and I accomplish something.

Another book that offers some very useful tips for effective advocacy is Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, which could easily be retitled, The Basics of Human Nature. Some of the anecdotes are amusingly outdated, but mostly, it's a book about being mindful and understanding in our interactions with others.

The first principle from Carnegie that I want to cover is that we should look presentable so that our appearance does not distract from our message: the suffering of animals.

Ask yourself, if you were the chicken on the factory farm, drugged and bred so that you couldn't even stand up, or the pig in the slaughterhouse, drowning in boiling water, how would you want your advocates to look? I don't believe our personal desire to reject society's norms is nearly so important as advocating effectively for animals. If our goal is to be as effective as we possibly can be in behalf of animals, it is absolutely essential that we put our personal desires second to animals' singular desire to have us be effective advocates.

This argument applies to health as well. I am consistently amazed by advocates who ignore their own health. The fact is that if you look sickly or seem lethargic, you'll be less effective as an advocate. If you are frequently sick, drop dead from a heart attack, or end up in the chemotherapy ward, you're making veganism look bad and you're no longer helping animals! Also, if your diet consists of junk food, other potential vegans will think that's all that vegans can eat, and they'll be less likely to want to be a part of it.

The second principle is to always be respectful, even if the other person seems not to warrant it. Being discourteous or saying something nasty is never effective. I say something like, "Have a nice day, sir," or if it's a slow leafleting session, I might say, "Would you like to talk about that?" Not only am I taking the moral high ground in the eyes of others, I'm consistently surprised by how often I'm able to have excellent conversations with seemingly obnoxious people!

No matter how right you are, the question we must ask ourselves in every situation is "What's in the best interests of animals?" Please allow me to repeat: It is never in animals' interests for you to say something disrespectful to someone in a discussion of animal rights or veganism.

The third vital Carnegie principle is the art of convincing people through dialogue. Try not to make your vegan advocacy a monologue--and especially not a ranting one.

This is the one that I had the most problems with when I first became a vegan. The weight of all the animals' suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses enraged me. Consequently, I wanted to beat everyone into becoming a vegetarian or a vegan, to force them to share my horror and outrage. I am now convinced that this is not the most effective way to convince people to change their behavior.

I know that there are situations--far too common--where you don't even open your mouth and people are on the defensive; they feel judged simply because you are a vegan. Don't let their anger make you angry. Practice staying calm and good-natured. If they bring it up first, try to laugh and say, "Hey, you brought it up. I'm happy to talk about it, but you seem kind of angry right now. Let me offer you this vegetarian starter kit and maybe we can talk about it later."

Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone thinks of themselves as a decent person. If we grant people the opportunity to be heard--even if they don't seem to deserve it--we can be far more effective in our interactions. Certainly, everyone witnessing the conversation will come away with a good impression of us and, thus, of animal rights activists in general.

 

Learning From Our Mistakes: Five Things We Do Wrong

The number one thing that we do wrong--and I am speaking from many years of doing this myself--is that we place personal purity ahead of being as effective as possible for animals. We lose sight of the fact that veganism is not an end in and of itself but rather a means of ending cruelty to animals. Being vegan is not about being perfect and causing no cruelty at all--it's about decreasing suffering as effectively as possible.

Animals don't need your purity, or else it would make sense to go live in a cabin in the woods, causing as little harm as possible. What the animals need is your advocacy--and they need for it to be as effective and influential as possible. Ultimately, veganism can't just be about us, or it will become just one more narcissistic cultural fad. Veganism must be about helping animals.

So the issue of personal purity becomes one of basic math: Adopting a vegan diet means you're not supporting the torment and slaughter of dozens of animals every single year. Helping just one more person to go vegan will save twice as many animals. But the reverse is also true: If you do something that prevents another person from adopting a vegan diet, if your example puts up a barrier where you might have built a bridge, that hurts animals--so then it becomes anti-vegan, if vegan means helping animals.

We all know that the number one reason why people don't go vegan is that they don't think it's convenient enough, and we all know people whose reason for not going vegan is that they "can't" give up cheese or ice cream. But instead of making it easier for them to help animals, we often make it more difficult. Instead of encouraging them to stop eating all other animal products besides cheese or ice cream, we preach to them about the oppression of dairy cows. Then we go on about how we don't eat sugar or a veggie burger because of the bun, even though a tiny bit of butter flavor in a bun supports significantly less suffering than eating any non-organic fruit or vegetable, or using a plastic bottle, or about 100 other things that most of us do. Our fanatical obsession with ingredients not only obscures the animals' suffering--which was virtually non-existent for that tiny modicum of ingredient--but nearly guarantees that those around us are not going to make any change at all. So, we've preserved our personal purity, but we've hurt animals--and that's anti-vegan.

Always, always, always remember: Veganism isn't a dogma. Veganism is about stopping suffering. Let me say that again, as a 17-year vegan: Veganism is not a list of ingredients or a set of rules. Being vegan is about doing our best to help animals. So it requires thought, not a checklist.

In the same vein, I went years refusing to eat with meat-eaters. Please be aware that many meat-eaters read your non-attendance as either deprivation, self-righteousness, or both, and that's the sort of club nobody wants to join. "You can't even go to parties, can't go out to eat, whatever. Who wants to live like that?"

If you agree with me that the animal rights movement is the moral imperative of our time, then I hope that you will also agree that animal rights must be our focus. So we must accept people where they are and not argue with them about other issues, even if they try to distract us. Often, people will feel more comfortable discussing an issue that they've thought a lot about, so in response to your vegetarianism, they'll ask you about abortion, God, or politics.

If we make veganism and animal rights a package deal that includes other issues, it will be easier for others to dismiss us. Someone who might have otherwise considered veganism might write you off because of your position on the death penalty or abortion. And really, there's also the "Why bother?" factor since, for example, you are far more likely to awaken a conservative to the animal issues they may not have considered than to sway them to reject their political philosophies. In fact, some of the best advocates for animals are not progressives, including George W. Bush's vegan senior speechwriter, Matthew Scully, as well as former Congressional members Bob Smith and Bob Dornan. Bob Dole was much better on animal issues than Bill Clinton, and right-wing ideologues like G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North are quite sympathetic to animal issues, while political liberals like Bill Press and Michael Moore are dismissive at best.

Also, if we're advocating a certain type of vegan diet, such as macrobiotic or raw foods, that could harm animals because it's far harder to follow these diets than a vegan one. And remember, most meat-eaters are already worried about what they're going to eat if they give up meat. Our message must be the animals' suffering, not our personal dietary preferences where those preferences don't actually help animals.

Finally, please try to use the Carnegie principles in every interaction you have: Dress nicely, be respectful, have a conversation not a dictation, never lose your cool, and never be rude. When you fail to be as positive and constructive as possible, you fail to help animals. It is always good to listen and affirm people, to ask questions, and then to really listen to the answers, bringing the discussion back to the things that they already believe and how the case for compassion connects with those things.

Animal activism in the developed world has never been stronger or more effective. We have more and more people going into the streets showing what happens on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, taking seriously the need to be not just active, but as effective and focused as possible.

In the U.S., given the quantity of animals' suffering, the extent to which they are suffering, and the stupid and gluttonous reasons why they are intentionally made to suffer so horribly, I am convinced that animal liberation is the moral imperative of our time. I firmly believe that our focus must be on ending the suffering and the death as quickly and efficiently as possible.

 

Every Donation Prevents Suffering

Vegan Outreach is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the suffering of farmed animals by promoting informed, ethical eating.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Vegan Outreach

POB 30865, Tucson, AZ 85751-0865