Tips for Running a Successful Pay Per View Event

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

Rachel PPVHave you ever heard of Pay Per View (PPV)? No? Let me explain. Essentially, you offer to pay people one dollar to watch a four-minute video on factory farming, such as Mercy For Animals’ Farm to Fridge or FARM’s 10 Billion Lives. These events are extremely successful on college campuses, but there are plenty of other places you can do them as well.

PPV is great for anyone looking to have meaningful conversations surrounding veganism and animal rights. If at the end of the day you want to feel like you’re making a real difference, try running a PPV event at your local college campus.

VegFund has a short informational video on how to host a successful PPV event, and Mercy For Animals has some great tips for getting started with PPVs, but after interning with Mercy For Animals and running a lot of PPV events myself, I’ve picked up some tips of my own along the way. Hopefully these help you have your own fun and successful PPV event.

Find out ahead of time where you need to go to check in.

A simple phone call will suffice. It’s easier than wandering around campus trying to figure out what to do. Be sure to ask the name of the building that you need to go to. It will save a lot of time and energy. While you’re at it, you might want to ask where you’re allowed to park and how much a parking pass is. Consider printing out a map beforehand.

Rachel College PPVHave multiple volunteers. Three to four is a great number.

It’s hard to do a PPV all by yourself. You’ll need at the very least two people, but three or four is better. Having a few volunteers to answer questions and get people set up with the video and at least one person to draw people in is ideal and will help your event run more smoothly.

Be honest about the video.

When people ask what the video is about, I like to say, “It’s about how animals are treated on factory farms.” Though this may sound like it will turn people away, in my experience, it doesn’t. For me, it feels more honest than saying “It’s about where our food comes from” or “It’s about farming.”

Ask viewers questions that keep the conversation going.

In my experience, asking “Do you have any questions?” is a conversation killer. After watching the video, we want people to open with their own thoughts and questions. Sometimes, though, people don’t even realize they have questions because they are still processing what they saw. This means YOU should be asking the questions.

Some of my favorite conversation starters are “How did that make you feel?” or “Did you know this is going on?” Something along those lines is perfect. Another great question you can ask once the conversation is going along are “Do you think you could ever go vegan?” If they say no, gently ask what’s stopping them and then give suggestions on how to overcome that obstacle. “Do you have any other questions?” is perfect for ending the conversation. That way, you’ve already got them thinking and some questions might be popping up.

Share your story!

People respond to personal stories. If they say they could never give up cheese, tell them about your experiences ditching dairy. Knowing that we are not alone in our journeys and that others have been in our shoes is comforting. Do you remember when you went vegan? Learning from vegans who had been there and done that probably helped you avoid making the same mistakes they did. We all learn from each other, so share your knowledge and make someone else’s transition a little easier.

Have information available on the many impacts of eating meat.

You and I know the devastating environmental impact of animal agriculture, but many people do not. Most people don’t realize how eating meat can negatively impact their health. And many still don’t realize how many resources go into producing meat and that there would be more food to go around if we cut down on our consumption. Share this information with your viewers. Sometimes animal issues aren’t enough, but when people learn that we could feed the hungry with the grains that we feed farmed animals, that has an impact. Everyone is affected by different information, and having that information handy might just be what inspires someone to go vegan! You could even have pro-vegan literature on hand that touches on these other subjects, whether it’s on water usage (PDF), health and nutrition, or even religion! Check out VegFund’s list of brochures you can use!

Know when to let go.

Once in a while, someone won’t act affected at all and you can’t stress over it. Instead, hand them the free information and let them go on their way. They may not go vegan today, but you planted a seed and that’s all you can do. Another thing to keep in mind is if they don’t show much of a reaction, they may not feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of a stranger and that’s okay. However, that doesn’t mean they weren’t affected.

Use VegFund’s resources.

You might be thinking, but I don’t have 100 dollars to give to people. That’s where VegFund steps in to help! You can apply for mini-grants and if you’re approved, VegFund will reimburse you for the money you hand out. Check out this page for more information on how it works.

So what do you think? Would you ever run a PPV event? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this form of outreach!

 

Cooking Demos: Educating People Through Delicious, Vegan Food

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

“If it tastes good, they will eat it” are words that vegan author and speaker Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has repeated time and time again. Whether it’s a decadent chocolate cupcake or a salad with an out-of-this world dressing, it doesn’t matter if it’s vegan as long as it’s delicious. And the key is to show people that vegan food can be even more delicious than non-vegan food!

Which leads us to a specific type of activism you may not have considered yet: cooking demos. Whether you choose to host your demo in a church or at a supermarket, whether you feature brunch or dessert, and whether it’s your first time or 100th, you will undoubtedly show people how delicious and creative vegan food can be.

We’ve talked with four amazing activists who have done this type of activism and they had some great ideas to share that we hope will inspire you!

Terri Nelson-Bunge, DTR (TNB): Terri is a long-time vegan and animal activist and has participated in a variety of events. One group she was involved with held monthly events at her local library, including cooking demos. Soon Terri will be launching a plant-based nutrition program called Happy, Healthy, & Whole.

Dr. Matthew Halteman (MH): Matt is a philosophy professor at a liberal arts college. Each year he teaches a course on animal ethics and advocacy. In 2007, Matt started Wake Up Weekend, an animal rights festival that features cooking demos among other things. On several occasions, Wake Up Weekend has hosted vegan chef and cookbook author Bryant Terry.

Leila Vaughan (LV): Leila is a founder and director of Peace Advocacy Network (PAN), and devotes significant time to organizing the PAN Vegan Pledge in the DC Metro Area and around the country. Cooking demos are central to the PAN Vegan Pledge program as well as other vegan advocacy that PAN does.

Gwendolyn Mathers (GM): Gwendolyn is a professional vegan chef and owns a vegan baking company in Los Angeles called Miss Kitchen Witch. She started doing cooking demos because she could see that there were many who were trying to transition to vegetarian or vegan, but who didn’t know what to cook or where to start.

Miss Kitchen Witch Cooking Demo

VF: What is the first step in hosting a successful vegan cooking demo?

TNB: The first step is to find a good location (hopefully free), and someone who is comfortable doing the demo. This may be an activist in the group, or in our case, a professional chef who is well-versed in vegan cooking.

MH: The first step to achieving a great cooking demo is to recruit a great presenter who has ample experience cooking in public. It’s tempting to think that anyone who is a “good cook” would make a good presenter, but in practice that’s not always the way it goes. Cooking for live audiences requires, among other things, foresight into which recipes are both accessible to wide audiences and executable on portable equipment, knowledge about how to prep and transport perishable ingredients without compromising the recipe, the ability to cook and talk simultaneously, and the poise to troubleshoot mistakes or unanticipated equipment malfunctions. That’s not to say that non-professionals can’t pull off a great demo; it’s just to say that those who haven’t done a public demo before should think ahead about these potentially challenging aspects of the process, practice the demo several times for friends and family, and perhaps even consider recruiting a partner to split up the responsibilities, with one person doing the chef-work and one doing the talking.

VF: Where are the best places to hold cooking demos?

TNB: The best places are locations that are:

  • Free or inexpensive
  • Veg events
  • Easy to access (parking)
  • Community events that draw a large audience

GM: Churches, spiritual centers, community centers, schools, libraries, and even supermarkets are great places to do demos. They often have kitchens, large community rooms—not to mention an existing audience base. Find those that feel like they ofter the low hanging fruit and lean toward what you want to teach.

VF: What are your top three tips for first timers?

TNB: 1. Be organized! You want people to come back, not feel frustrated with your event. 2. Hand out recipe cards for each dish you prepare. 3. Promote the event as much as you can. Promotion can be done through a website, Facebook page, word of mouth, flyers, and if held at a public venue (e.g., a library) through that location.

MH: 1. Retain a compelling presenter. For a lot of people, this presentation will be the first time they’ve seen a vegan recipe prepared, so it’s best to have an approachable, gracious, experienced person at the helm to create the best possible impression. 2. Book a sensible venue. Even the world’s best presenter will face difficulty in a poorly chosen venue. A fold-out table with 30 yards of extension cords between you and the nearest outlet in a park on an 85 degree summer day is no place to try to make appetizing food with perishable plant-based ingredients. 3. Keep the demo simple with delicious recipes that showcase the ability of plant-based foods to replace familiar comfort-food favorites with healthier alternatives. When people see that eating a plant-based diet can be easily done without giving up their favorite tastes and textures, the prospect of going vegan becomes much more inviting.

VF: What do you do to attract non-vegan attendees to the event?

LV: Promote the class as a free cooking demo for non-vegans and new vegans and ask vegans to please invite their non-vegan friends. As much as we love being around fellow vegans, everyone will understand that the purpose of this demo is to introduce non-vegans to vegan food. That way vegans will know that the class is more basic, and will also leave valuable class space open for the non-vegans and new vegans who really need the exposure to vegan cooking.

GM: Aside from making your demos free and open to the public, you’ve got to figure out what is the best way to get the word out for your particular event. Putting it on in a church or community center? Put up posters or go to other free classes and events to pass out leaflets. Post your event to local calendars, online community listings, bulletin boards, or ask local bloggers to share your event. Social media really takes the vegan cake when getting the word out. Create a Facebook event page. You can invite those in your area and ‘tweet’ your event page link to community event users in your town and newspaper accounts on Twitter. Though, it’s not all just about getting the word out and putting up posters. You’ve got to start with a demo that entices the average person. Sometimes you’ve got to start with cupcakes before you pull out the kale salad!

VF: Anything else you’d like to add?

LV: If the circumstances permit, give attendees a chance to get involved (after they wash their hands or put on gloves). Give them something to do, like chopping, mixing, etc. The more involved people are, the more fun they seem to have.

TNB: Yes. Don’t forget, a cooking demo (or any other event), is also a great way to promote animal rights. Have a literature table full of information about animal issues and especially at a cooking demo, veg starter kits that contain recipes.

We’d like to thank Terri, Matt, Leila, and Gwendolyn for taking the time to share these great tips!  If you have your own techniques or cooking demo experiences to share, please leave a comment. We love hearing from you!

And, don’t forget that VegFund provides funding to help support vegan cooking demos through our Merit Awards program!

May/June 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Rachel Curit

VegFund intern, Rachel Curit, talks about her life as a vegan advocate and her many unique volunteer experiences.

Rachel CuritI have been an animal lover for as long as I can remember. It’s a quality my mother instilled in me. Have respect and kindness for animals. I know I wouldn’t be vegan today if it hadn’t been for her. She was the person who would yell (not too mean, though) at the local kids for harassing the ducks at the lake. We went to a circus once, and I remember her eyes filling with tears when the tiger or lion jumped through the ring of fire. And we always had companion animals living with us.

She was vegetarian in the 90s and fed me with a lot of vegetarian food. In fact, there was only a four or five year period in my life when I ate meat. As a toddler I was vegetarian and then I went vegetarian on my own when I was I was 8.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I started reading vegan cookbooks and trying vegan recipes. I went vegan for a short period then, but finally made the official, permanent switch at the age of 19. After that, I scoured the internet for as much information as I could get my hands on. I listened to podcasts, read blogs and articles, and watched YouTube videos.

The defining moment for me was in February of 2012. I was sitting in my college dorm room, listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcast Food for Thought. She was talking about the horrors chickens face in the animal agriculture system. That’s it, I thought to myself. I can’t do this anymore. About a month later, I made my veganism official and I haven’t looked back.

Since going vegan, I’ve started my own blog The Vegan Mishmash, interned with Eco-Vegan Gal and Mercy For Animals, started writing for One Green Planet, and, of course, I am interning with VegFund. From MFA I learned how to do grassroots outreach. That experience vastly improved my ability to confidently communicate with people about veganism and animal rights. Through the other opportunities, I’ve learned and continue to learn the ins and outs of writing and social media. I’ve written blog posts for VegFund, including a review of Carol Adams’ Defiant Daughters and an interview with Vic Sjodin on his experience leafleting. As for the future, I can’t wait to see where my activism takes me.

Tips from a Leafleting Pro: An Interview with Vic Sjodin

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

Vic in actionJust about everyone has been handed a leaflet, whether on their college campus or outside of their local Whole Foods. But, have you ever thought about what it takes to be the person leafleting? Have you ever wanted to leaflet but were too nervous to get started? Or, have you leafleted before and are wondering what you can do to improve your take rate? Whether you’re new to vegan outreach or are a leafleting veteran, today we’re excited to share some tips from Vic Sjodin, who has been called the “best of the best” and the “leafleting king!”

Having worked for Vegan Outreach (VO) since 2008, Vic has a lot of experience in grassroots outreach. Though he started out as a volunteer, Vic was soon hired and began touring around the country leafleting at colleges and meeting other activists. So far, he has handed out over 720,000 leaflets!

Today, we’ve asked him to join us and share a little about his experiences in hopes that it might inspire you to get out there and share the animal rights message too.

VF: How did you get involved with leafleting?

VS: I got a “Why Vegan” leaflet in college, and later on my friends and activists in Philadelphia were leafleting and I joined them. After seeing Earthlings, I felt I had to do more than just not eat animals. I had to educate others. People will not hear of the animals’ plight on corporate television, so in the greatest spirit of democracy we take the message to the streets and directly into the hands of the people.  

VF: What are your top leafleting tips?

Vic in action 2VS:
  1. Smile
  2. Lock your arm straight
  3. Approach people with a statement, not a question. For example, “Help stop suffering” or “Info on helping animals” are great things to say, whereas, “Would you like some information?” will instantly drop the take rate.
  4. Have fun and remember the big impact that you’re making. Leafleting can be intimidating, but it’s really not asking too much of someone to consider taking some information.

VF:  What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with leafleting?

VS: Just do it, and bring a friend if you can. Get out there and any nervousness will fade in 15 minutes or so. I was extremely shy and socially awkward growing up, so if I can leaflet, anyone can leaflet.

Also, remember that we are privileged to be human and free. If we are connected to all, if we appreciate our freedom, if we are thankful we are not in a gestation crate or a battery cage, then we have a responsibility to help others, and there is no greater use of our freedom than to free others from a level of suffering that we cannot even imagine. Our discomfort is nothing compared to what animals endure.

VF: What do you do when someone says something rude to you?

VS: Kill them with kindness. Aggression only attracts anger and validates their behavior. Often people who were rude will feel bad and come back to apologize or take a leaflet later in the day.

I do want to note that rude interactions are extremely rare; like, extremely. If it happens, it’s usually, “I love eating meat” or “I’m a meatatarian.” I try not to be too sensitive. If I can get 20 people to go veg and only have to listen to one person say something snide, who cares? That’s a reflection of them, and I choose to let it pass and move on.  

VF: What’s the most interesting leafleting experience you’ve had?

VS: There are usually a few every day. But, I remember early in the game, I was in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and I gave a booklet to this beefy guy with greased hair and a tank top. I remember thinking as I handed it to him, this is a waste of a leaflet.  After class he came back to me teary-eyed, asking how he could get his protein because he liked to lift, and how disturbed he was by how they treat, “dem chickens.”

So, I’ve learned we can never give up on another human being. Many friends who were initially anti-vegan are now vegan and have joined on leafleting tours. Don’t only see things as they are, but also how they can be. I take a lot from Gandhi’s quote, “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not the attainment. Full effort is full victory.”

VF: Anything else you’d like to let readers know?

VS: I love them for caring about others and hope they get involved in moving the vegan revolution forward. While not a panacea, veganism is an antidote to greed, selfishness and environmental destruction and is a direct step to making our world more compassionate, connected and healthier. We are united in the struggle. Whenever I leaflet alone, I always think of all the people who support this movement, and I imagine them rooting me on. Anytime you step out of your comfort zone and leaflet, know that I will be rooting you on and so will the countless animals who rely on you as their voice.  

Thank you, Vic, for sharing your knowledge with us and for your tireless effort to raise society’s consciousness about the plight of other beings.

If you want more tips from the leafleting king, be sure to check out Vic’s YouTube video on leafleting techniques! And, if you have your own techniques or leafleting experiences to share, please leave a comment. We love hearing from you!

 

Meat and Masculinity

By Amanda Riley, VegFund Operations Assistant

Community Outreach EventMentions of factory farming in the media are increasingly negative, and the number of vegetarians and meat-reducers is increasing slowly but surely. However, women are more likely than men both to follow a fully vegetarian diet and to eat at least one vegetarian meal a week (Vegetarian Resource Group, 2012). In this blog, we’ll explore why this is and what we can do to bring more men into the vegan lifestyle.

Many animal activists are familiar with the frustrating notion that “real men eat meat.” There has been plenty of theoretical work on masculinity, feminism, and vegetarianism, but empirical studies were lacking until a recent study by Hank Rothgerber at Bellarmine University in Kentucky (Rothgerber, 2013). Rothgerber surveyed men and women on their beliefs and thoughts about meat eating to see what mental justification strategies they used in a world where the negative effects of animal agriculture are so well known.

Women were much more likely to use indirect strategies. They avoided thinking about where their food came from or chose to think of animals as separate from the meat on their plates. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to justify meat directly with reasons like religious sanction, human superiority, nutrition, and the inability of animals to feel pain. People who used the direct, male strategies ate meat more frequently and ate fewer vegetarian meals than people who used the indirect strategies (Rothgerber, 2013).

Do these direct justification strategies sound familiar? Asserting dominance and refusing to be swayed by compassion are two facets of our cultural ideals of masculinity. In advertisements, eating meat is often directly linked to masculinity. For example, in one Hummer commercial, the gas-guzzling SUV is presented as a way to “Restore Your Manhood” for men who may have lost it by eating tofu and other vegetarian foods (Rogers, 2008). And indeed, when Rothgerber measured masculine attitudes along with the meat justification strategies, those who valued masculinity more highly were more likely to use the direct strategies and thus to eat more meat. This suggest that men’s pro-meat attitudes and higher meat consumption may largely be due to a desire to represent the masculine ideal (Rothgerber, 2013).

Rothgerber offers some strategies that activists can employ to temper the effects of masculinity on meat eating:

  • Educate people about the role that these messages may be playing on their identities and behaviors so that they can make more informed choices.
  • Continue to influence women, who will in turn influence the men in their lives. Not only are women having increasingly more say in household decision making (Belch & Willis, 2006), but they have also been shown to have a direct influence on important behaviors in men such as seeking healthcare (Norcross, Ramirez, and Palinkas, 1996). However, Rothgerber notes that this doesn’t mean that men can’t change themselves or each other, or that women should be responsible for men.
  • Normalize veganism by organizing discussion groups for men or by raising awareness about more “masculine” male vegetarians such as athletes or musicians.
  • Use masculine ideals to promote veganism. For example, we could emphasize that veganism is a bold and rational choice, or that “real men” choose to protect vulnerable groups such as animals rather than harm them. PETA is already notorious for associating traditional masculine attributes like sexual stamina with a vegan diet.

REFERENCES

Belch, M.A. & Willis, L.A. (2006). Family decision at the turn of the century: Has the changing structure of households impacted the family decision-making process? Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 2(2), 111-124.

Norcross, W.A., Ramirez, C., & Palinkas, L.A. (1996). The influence of women on the health-care seeking behavior of men. The Journal of Family Practice, 43(5), 475-480.

Rogers, R.A. (2008). Beasts, burgers, and hummers: Meat and the crisis of masculinity in contemporary television advertisements. Environmental Communication, 2(3), 281-301.

Rothgerber, H. (2013). Real men don’t eat (vegetable) quiche: Masculinity and the Justification of meat consumption. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 14(4), 363-375.

Stahler, C. (2012). How often do Americans eat vegetarian meals? And how many adults in the U.S. are vegetarian? Retrieved on June 13, 2014, from http://www.vrg.org/blog/2012/05/18/how-often-do-americans-eat-vegetarian-meals-and-how-many-adults-in-the-u-s-are-vegetarian/

VegFund Sees Green as the New Black for Microfinance

Moving clients to plant-based diets to enhance institutional profitability and leading a more comprehensive practice of responsible finance

By Leslie Barcus, VegFund Executive Director

Microfinance conference

The Microfinance Centre of Poland (MFC) invited VegFund to serve on two panels, one on Pushing the Boundaries of Responsible Finance: Lean, Green and Mean(ingful) and another on The Impact of Animal Agriculture Microfinance on Customers’ Health and Well-being as a part of the MFC 2014 Annual Microfinance Conference held recently in Istanbul.

Sponsored by VegFund, Dr. Richard Oppenlander, Founder of Inspiring Awareness Now and a noted author on promoting plant-based foods, addressed the ills and negative externalities resulting worldwide from animal agriculture. He spoke about the attribution of animal agriculture to global soil depletion, water overuse, land scarcity, pollution and the devastation to human communities of climate change.

Microfinance clients represent some of those people most deprived of clean and adequate water and access to land and are at risk of the loss of their homes and assets resulting from natural emergencies driven by climate change. They equally represent the estimated 800 million people who go hungry each and every day.

Jakub Sobiecki, a nutritionist and dietician from Poland and a second panelist sponsored by VegFund, noted the link between the increased consumption of animal fats in the developing world and the rise of chronic disease and related deaths from diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The global microfinance community is dedicated to closing the financial inclusion gap across the developing world where the increase in the current global demand for meat and dairy is anticipated to rise by 80 percent in the coming years. The irony is that the developing world may effectively eat its financial and economic advances into yet greater problems of climate change, pollution, flooding, fresh water shortages, greater food insecurity and income vulnerability owing to poor diets.

Grappling with these challenges will bring greater financial and personal vulnerability to microfinance households. That, in turn, spells problems for risk management and financial performance for microfinance institutions. The potential for these scenarios suggests that the notion of responsible finance should include the care of the microfinance community for the well-being of clients and the environment as microfinance institutions reach for financial sustainability.

Aspiring to serve millions of low-income households around the world, those professionals working for financial inclusion have a unique opportunity to lead in the development of responsible and ethical finance through the redirection of feeding the planet with plant-based foods.

A healthier client base will translate into a lower rate incidence of illness, less vulnerability to household loss of income and less risk of loss for microfinance institutions.

The microfinance community can boost clients’ assets by helping people feed themselves more food with the input of fewer already scarce resources. Plant-based foods produce tens of pounds more food using less water and less land compared to non-vegan foods, and plants are significantly less polluting.

Promoting health, abundance and environmental sustainability for the world’s vulnerable poor is the essence of true sustainability and responsible finance.