The Animal Activist’s Handbook: Maximizing Our Positive Impact in Today’s World

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.

Veganomics: The Surprising Science on What Motivates Vegetarians

Book review by Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

Veganomics, by Nick Cooney, is the market research needed to sell a meat-free diet. Who is the most likely to go vegetarian and therefore our target audience? What angle of the benefits of vegetarianism has brought the most people over so far? What holds people back from changing their diets? Who eats the most meat? How many animals do vegetarians save and which animals are suffering the most?

The answers to these, and many other, questions are answered by author Cooney’s analysis of numerous research studies on the topic.

The vegan advocacy movement can rightly use this information to do its work to the best of its ability. Sure there is an agenda here. And that is to end the suffering of animals raised for food.

In one of my favorite parts of the book, Cooney writes:

“The main reasons people keep eating meat — or keep doing anything — are those they aren’t really conscious of. Eating meat is a habit, and habits are hard to break. Most people don’t want to put in the effort of learning how to eat a different way.” (pg. 85).

I find this hopeful, as it seems to say that people aren’t against eating a meat-free diet. Instead, they’ve been conditioned and it’s only a matter of time before society acknowledges that the world is, in fact, round. (And that eating copious amounts of industrially-raised animals is horrendous for their health, their spirit, the earth and their fellow beings.)

After reading the entire book, I will say that if you don’t have the time or inclination to really dig in, the author gets to the especially good stuff at the very end. Chapter 15, “Inspiring Change,” lists recommendations on how to motivate people to move toward a meat-free diet. Under the categories of “Animals Impacted,” “Audience,” “Barriers,” “The Minds of Animals,” “Motivations,” “The Switch” and “Testing and Research,” key points are revealed. This is followed by a list of additional tips from a psychological viewpoint, which stem from Cooney’s 2011 publication, Change of Heart.

A must-read for serious vegan advocates, Veganomics will surely stand out as an important work in the movement.