News from Vegan Outreach
on the Word "Vegan"
Three items came to Vegan Outreach
this week that we thought we would share with
our members, in hopes of allowing us to be better
advocates for the animals.
As part of her honors thesis at
Bates College, Alexis Morgen Curry surveyed
student perceptions of the animal rights movement:
"Each student was initially
asked to write down whatever they thought
of first when they heard these five terms:
vegetarian, vegan, animal welfare, animal
rights, and animal liberation. Most of the
comments directed at vegetarianism were positive.
On the other hand many participants saw veganism
as unhealthy, extreme, and difficult. One
nutrition major wrote down, 'vitamin
B12 deficiency' when she heard
the term vegan, while another vegetarian woman
said it was 'unhealthy and pretentious.'"
From the raw data, some of the
other reactions from college students to the
term "vegan" included: difficult,
really hard, admire them, skinny, malnutrition,
it is going too far, very picky, insanity, impossible,
You will note the similarity with
the vegan stereotype discussed in A
A day before we saw the above
report, we received this email:
"Saw 'Amish in the City'
on TV a couple of days ago, in which they
had a participant who is a vegan. Are all
vegans obnoxious and boorish? You need some
better representatives for your cause. I thought
she was amusing, and reaffirmed why I'm glad
I'm not a vegan, or anything close."
[To which we replied that they
should watch The
As we conclude in A
Just like one failed vegetarian
counters the efforts of many honest advocates,
this caricature guarantees that veganism won’t
be considered – let alone adopted –
on a wide scale.... It is not enough to be
a vegan, or even a dedicated vegan advocate.
If we want to maximize the amount of suffering
we can prevent, we must actively be the opposite
of the vegan stereotype. The animals can’t
wait until we get over our despair. We must
learn how to "win
friends and influence people."
We must -- regardless of the sorrow and outrage
we rightly feel -- leave everyone we meet
with the impression of a joyful person leading
a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Jon Camp shares the following
recent experience and thoughts:
"Tonight, I passed out
approximately 65 Why Vegans after
Bomb show [check the link for
possible dates in your area]. The low number
is because of some good conversations; I felt
this subject really clicked with some people
"A very sincere kid came up to me, and
asked about avoiding
all these ingredients and such.
I told him to only worry about the main products
that cause suffering, that veganism is about
reducing suffering and is not
a religion, etc. A young couple
circled around and was listening. The woman
said, 'You are the first person I have heard
who talks intelligently about this issue!'
Both of those two then asked for a brochure.
The kid who started off the conversation said
he is very serious about exploring this. He
asked, 'If I reduce the amount of animal products
I eat, will that do any good?' I said that
it would do a lot of good.
"Another girl said that she was
vegan for 7 months but now eats
"I think there is a major problem in
that people see this as a definite black or
white issue. They don't see that a reduction
in animal products does good. You're either
a vegan or a meat eater. It would be great
if we could get as many people to realize
that acting with compassion isn't an all-or-nothing
proposition, and that every step they make
"My two humble opinions based on recent
"1) A Vegan Outreach booklet saying
'Why Vegetarian?' on the cover might do animals
good. (I know that there is Try Vegetarian,
although in my opinion, the Why Vegan
is way more effective for the young audience
I am trying to reach.) It might make the subject
seem more approachable to say 'vegetarian'
or 'cruelty-free eating.' Saying 'vegan' on
the cover might close doors from the outset.
"2) A section in the booklet explicitly
stressing that each step towards a cruelty-free
diet is substantial. Not just a sentence or
On the other hand, Jack Norris notes his experience:
"I find it harder to leaflet to college
students with Try Vegetarian than
with Why Vegan. I'm not sure why,
but my guess is that it's because people already
know what vegetarianism is and know they don't
want to 'try' it. They are less aware of what
vegan is, and thus more likely to take Why
Amongst the 18,000 readers of this e-newsletter,
there are certainly many different motivations
and reasons why people support Vegan Outreach
(or choose not to). Some people prefer Why
Vegan, because it justifies their personal
veganism, while others who aren't vegan
(and even some who are) don't feel comfortable
being associated with or supporting anything
As discussed elsewhere, Vegan
Outreach promotes veganism to reduce suffering:
[W]e choose to promote veganism to have the
maximum impact on the amount of suffering
in the world. Let me repeat -- our emphasis
on veganism is derived from our principles
of advocacy, not vice versa. Veganism does
not have any value in and of itself.
But obviously, there is no guarantee that the
message of "veganism" will always
be the best for the animals in all situations.
Just using the word "vegan," for example,
without a detailed (and anti-fanatical) explanation
like Why Vegan, might not be the best
way to open someone's mind to new ideas. There
are many steps to achieving real change -- from
getting someone to accept information (e.g.,
a booklet) to getting them to read it, to getting
them to consider changing, to getting them to
actually change and maintain that change.
Just because we are vegan and consider "vegan"
to be the best one-word explanation of our philosophy
doesn't necessarily mean it is always the best
message to help end cruelty.
Notes from All Over
Meals a Healthy, Tasty Alternative: Going vegetarian doesn't mean
losing the foods you love; it just means some
"Turkey or tofu? Bacon or Boca burger?
Meatloaf or meat alternative? If these are dietary
dilemmas you've faced on occasion, consider
yourself normal. Moving to meatless is an option
more and more Americans are seriously considering."
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture has
shifted from being a people’s agency to
an agency for corporate agriculture, a new report
by a coalition of agriculture leaders charges."
Outline of a talk at AR2004, by Danielle Marino,
From Our Members
This message is in response to the piece “A
Meaningful Life: Animal Advocacy, Human Nature,
and a Better World.”
Matt's writing could not have arrived at a
better time in my life. I have recently found
myself feeling angry, hopeless and overwhelmed
by the tremendous machine that keeps "business
as usual" just that. I have decided that
I am going to need a thicker skin and a more
open heart if I am going to be happy, as well
as promote change effectively. Matt's words
affirmed my thoughts as well as served to counsel
me in this state of despair. Thank you for your
wise, constructive, and inspiring words.
-SB, Concord, NY, 7/28/04
I wanted to tell the author of “A
Meaningful Life” that I was
absolutely inspired by it. I brought it back
to my aunt's house, and she also was moved and
said that I should definitely follow your advice
for advocating based on the suffering of the
animals -- that this is our most effective route.
-MR, Houston, TX, 7/28/04
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