Book review by Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern
From authors Matt Ball, co-founder of Vegan Outreach, and Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary, comes The Animal Activist’s Handbook: Maximizing Our Positive Impact in Today’s World. In this handy, 117-page book, the authors share their tested techniques as vegan advocates.
The goal, as they argue, is to eliminate as much suffering on the planet as possible. The best way to do this is by choosing a vegan diet, thereby boycotting the brutality that is inflicted on billions of animals raised for food. Yet the authors argue that advocates shouldn’t stop there. It is just as important to influence others to accept this diet since two vegans save twice as many animals as one.
Ball and Friedrich use their combined, longtime experience as animal activists to explain how to communicate the message most effectively. When people ask questions about veganism, they advise using the Socratic Method and sincerely listening:
“We want to avoid lecturing others, since that turns them into passive recipients of information they can easily ignore. Instead, we want to focus on having a conversation where our companion’s thought process leads them to their own conclusion. By asking questions, we can help people to understand that making compassionate choices is a simple extension of the values they already hold.” (pg 46).
For example, most people do care for animals and believe that they are capable of suffering. Therefore, if through conversation, an advocate can get the other person to realize this on his/her own, the impact will be more lasting and profound. The authors’ advice, coupled with some practice, enables readers to become more adept at gently guiding people to discover for themselves whether or not eating animals is truly in line with their personal values.
The book also addresses how to deal with impending burnout, suggesting that advocates should keep a sense of humor as best they can, and also be involved in many, varied groups.
In the chapter, “Our Favorite Ideas for Rocking the World,” Ball and Friedrich encourage leafleting “because it is so easy and so effective” (p 75), along with putting the cause out there for others to see. For example, advocates can wear t-shirts that promote the cause or put bumper stickers on their cars or laptops.
The Animal Activist’s Handbook is brimming with resources and information perfectly honed to vegan activists, so we encourage you to pick up a copy here. The book ends with an upbeat and convincing argument that the tipping point toward veganism is not so far away.