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

Donations to VO are fully tax-deductible.
VO’s tax identification no. is #86-0736818.

Vegan Outreach
POB 1916, Davis, CA 95617-1916



Vegan Outreach Enewsletter  •  August 4, 2004


News from Vegan Outreach

Thoughts 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, crazy commitment.

You will note the similarity with the vegan stereotype discussed in A Meaningful Life.

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 American Candidate.]

As we conclude in A Meaningful Life:

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 a Tsunami 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 tonight.

"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 meat.

"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 helps animals.

"My two humble opinions based on recent outreach experience:

"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 two."

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 Vegan."


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 "vegan."

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

Meatless Meals a Healthy, Tasty Alternative: Going vegetarian doesn't mean losing the foods you love; it just means some different ingredients.

"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."


Report: USDA “Highjacked” by Corporate Interests

"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."


Humans Are Sentient, Too


Vegan Pen Pal Board


Running a Local Group

Outline of a talk at AR2004, by Danielle Marino, PAUSA


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


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

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