The Health Argument vs. Ethical Argument: Which Is More Powerful?

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

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Cease Animal Torture hosts a table at their university in California, including some vegan health information and an environmental argument for going vegan.

“I’m vegan because I’m really concerned about animal welfare.” “I chose to become a vegetarian because I wanted to lose weight.” “The environment really suffers from animal agriculture, and that’s why I chose not to eat meat.”

All of these are common reasons for choosing and maintaining a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, but is there one reason that’s more common among non-meat eaters? Are health arguments more convincing than ethical arguments? Activists could benefit from knowing these answers because they are frequently questioned about the reason(s) behind their lifestyle choice. By knowing which argument is most effective, activists could be more fruitful in encouraging their audience to choose vegetarianism or veganism.

Published research studies on vegetarianism reveal that there are two primary motivations for a meat-free diet: health concerns and ethical considerations (Fox & Ward, 2008). A recent online study conducted by Winthrop University showed that a majority of vegetarians (including vegans) chose to be and stayed vegetarian for ethical reasons. A little over 80 percent of the subjects that were surveyed online stated that their original reason for becoming vegetarian was of an ethical nature. Almost 83 percent of those subjects also stated ethical reasons for why they have remained vegetarian (Hoffman et al., 2013).

So now that we have this information, how can we as activists use it to our advantage?

Because a majority of people choose to be vegetarian and remain vegetarian due to ethical concerns, an ethical argument is what we can best use to persuade our audience to choose a compassionate lifestyle. Here are some tips on how to be as effective as possible during activism:

  • Make your words powerful. This is especially important. Try to use strong, vivid language as you share with your audience the facts and atrocities behind factory farming and why you believe it isn’t ethical.
  • Create powerful imagery. Ask them if they can picture their cat or dog in the same place as a factory farmed pig, cow, or chicken. That’s something that is sure to stay with them.
  • Prepare. This is something so crucial for activists. If you want to appeal to people with an ethical argument, it is important to know your facts. Maybe you can learn the statistics on the numbers of animals killed or harmed, specific types of abuses, and answers to some common objections you will hear.
  • Be positive. In addition to sharing negative statistics, you may also want to spread awareness of how many animals’ lives are saved each year just by maintaining a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
  • Be confident. This may be easier said than done, but showing confidence really makes a difference during activism. If you believe in yourself and what you are saying, your audience will have an easier time believing you!

Do you have any great activist tips? Please share them with us in the comments!

References:

Fox, N. & Ward, K. (2008). Health, ethics and environment: A qualitative study of vegetarian motivations. Appetite, 50(2-3), 422-429.

Hoffman, S.R. et al. (2013). Differences between health and ethical vegetarians. Strength of conviction, nutrition knowledge, dietary restriction, and duration of adherence. Appetite, 65, 139-144.

Why We’re Winning (Talk in Phoenix)

Matt Ball in PhoenixAll the best public speakers know it is key to start with a joke, so here goes:

This past June, I nearly died.

What? Not funny?

As with many people who almost die, I found myself thinking a lot about what is most important. In doing so, I realized much of what seems to be important really isn’t.

But another thought occurred to me: How would the world have been different if I had died? Beyond my immediate circle of friends and family, what really would have changed?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized this is a good question to ask, especially in regard to our activism. How many people here are vegan? So many of us see veganism as the pinnacle, as the end point. I know I certainly did. But if that’s the extent of it — if all we do is not eat animals or animal products — then what would it matter if we died tomorrow?

Luckily, everyone here tonight is dedicated to having a constructive, positive impact on the world. We’ve all gone beyond the passive philosophy of “Do no harm” to the active goal of “Do good.” If any of us died tomorrow, the world really would be a worse place in the long run.

There have been many people dedicated to the concept of “Do good.” But history shows good intentions aren’t enough.

In her introduction, Anne noted the great successes we are having [legal protections; better and more widespread vegan options; Presidents, Vice Presidents, athletes and celebrities going vegan; the number of animals slaughtered down by hundreds of millions each year], and that we are winning on every front. But we aren’t winning simply because we want to win. Rather, we are winning because more and more people are dedicated to doing the most good, to having the biggest possible impact.

This wasn’t always the case when it came to the animals. Even though almost 99% of the animals killed every year die to be eaten, 25 years ago, we focused most of our efforts on fur and vivisection. This was true for me as well.

Now obviously, this isn’t to say the animals killed for fur or vivisection don’t deserve our consideration. Of course they do. But if we give all animals equal consideration, it would be hard to argue that we should spend our extremely limited time and resources on something other than the 99% who die to be eaten.

One of the many, many, many mistakes I made over the past quarter century was failing to realize that when we choose to do one thing, we are choosing not to do another.

Think about it this way: We could spend our entire life trying to free a bear from a Siberian zoo. The bear is obviously worthy of consideration, and winning his freedom would be a victory. But the opportunity costs are significant. If we instead spend that time and money advocating for farmed animals and promoting cruelty-free eating, we would have a much, much greater impact in the world.

So here’s the punch line: Because there is so much suffering in the world, and our resources are so very limited, we are morally obligated – morally obligated – to pursue the course of action that will have the greatest impact. We must base our choices on what will reduce suffering as much as possible.

In other words, we owe it to the animals to give them the biggest bang for the buck.

If we want a vegan world, we have to convince more and more people to stop eating animals. It really is that simple. And this is what we strive to do at VegFund, where I work. VegFund is driving the actions that are building the vegan world as effectively and efficiently as possible. We fund online ads, pay-per-view videos, food sampling, and movie screenings. We leverage the passion and opportunities of activists around the world to give the animals the biggest bang for the buck.

25 years ago, most of us — myself included — adopted the “do something, do anything” approach to activism. We protested whatever was right in front of us, or what was in the news, or whatever personally upset us.

Now, however, more and more of us are dedicated to optimal advocacy, to working for the 99%. We use the latest psychological research and most modern tools available, and we strive to make sure our limited time and resources have the greatest possible impact.

This is why we are now winning. This is why we will win.

And each of our lives will matter, and each of our lives will be memorable. Thank you for being a part of this vital work.

-Matt Ball
Senior Advisor

You can be a part of this work today by just clicking here!

Rotate the Universe: Stewart Solomon

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Originally written in 2006; taken from The Accidental Activist.

Matt Ball’s “How Vegan Is Enough?” lecture at the 2006 Animal Rights Conference was refreshing. I almost didn’t go because I was afraid the answer would be that there was no limit to how vegan one should be, that it might be some fire-and-brimstone speech with someone reciting the entire encyclopedia of animal products. Many people hear about all of these trace animal products and think veganism is beyond impossible.

I remember when one person asked Matt how to convince his brother to go vegan. He’d been at it for years and years to no avail and basically felt like a failure. If he couldn’t convert his own brother, he thought, how could he affect anyone else? Matt told him to forget about his brother, that his brother wouldn’t turn vegan to spite him, if for no other reason. Matt told him to go to a college campus, a concert, a record store, and hand out literature: “Some of them will read it, become vegetarian or vegan, and you will have saved thousands of lives.” I took great comfort in that remark. It was as if a huge burden was suddenly lifted from my shoulders.

I remembered that talk earlier today. I was very tired and my back hurt, but I was able to distribute 750 booklets at Pasadena City College. On the drive home I started thinking about an old riddle: How many physicists does it take to change a light bulb?

Two. One to hold the bulb and one to rotate the universe.

I think that holding the light bulb is easy, and rotating the universe is sometimes difficult. However, that light bulb must be changed.

-Stewart Solomon

 

Video Nation: Evolving Our Advocacy

Here at VegFund, we’re sometimes asked why we put such a high percentage of our limited resources into video outreach.

It is important to remember what was cutting-edge in we could do for the animals 20 years ago is no longer the best we can do today. It is important that we evolve with the times, to give the animals the biggest bang for the buck.

This New York Times article – Video Nation – explains a bit of how things have changed:

“We are roused to action by cruel realism, but only if it looks and sounds authentic. Reasoned calls to our better angels are no longer enough.”

 

Common Vegan Myths Debunked

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

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While vegan diets mainly consist of health-supporting, whole plant foods, the common misconception that we can’t indulge is also false, as shown by this beautiful dessert spread from French vegan activist group L214.

Whether you are vegan or non-vegan, it is likely that you have heard some negative notions regarding veganism. Vegan myths can relate to many different things, such as nutrition, budget, ethics, and identity, and can be heard from various sources. Whether they are acting defensively or simply uninformed, people may approach you during activism and express their misunderstandings about veganism. Sometimes friends and family might use vegan myths to justify why they are not vegan themselves.

Regardless of where vegan myths come from and why, it is important for omnivores to know the facts behind these misconceptions. This also makes it imperative for activists to have a good understanding of the facts so they are able to answer the misconceptions of others. There are countless vegan myths, but here are some of the most common:

Myth: Vegan diets are unhealthy.

Fact: According to the American Dietetic Association, when properly planned, vegetarian or vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” A vegan diet typically consists of mostly whole, plant-based foods and is low in cholesterol and fat. Being vegan does not mean compromising your health, as long as your daily diet contains all necessary nutrients for healthy living. A poorly planned diet, vegan or non-vegan, is always unhealthy, so make sure your vegan diet is full of fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats, protein, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of water.

Myth: Vegans cause harm to plants.

Fact: Plants do not have pain receptors or central nervous systems, so it is not likely that they feel pain as humans and animals feel it. At any rate, more plants’ lives are saved by not eating meat because of the large quantity of vegetation required to feed farmed animals. For example, a pound of beef can use up to 20 pounds of feed grain. So regardless of whether you’re concerned about plants or animals, if you want to preserve the most lives possible, a vegan diet is preferable.

Myth: Eating vegan is expensive.

Fact: Eating a vegan diet doesn’t mean that you have to buy all specialty products. Beans, lentils, nuts, grains, and tofu (all great sources of protein) are typically cheaper than meat, especially when bought in bulk. The money saved by leaving meat off your grocery list can go toward buying fresh fruits and vegetables or even non-dairy milk. A vegan diet is manageable with any budget!

Myth: All vegans are hippies.

Fact: This seems to be the vegan stigma, regardless of the fact that vegans come in all shapes and sizes and from different backgrounds. Vegan isn’t synonymous with hippy; there are vegan NFL players, politicians, actors/actresses, singers, and the list goes on and on. Vegans can’t be labeled with just one word, but what can be said about all vegans is that they have many good reasons (moral, environmental, and health-related) for keeping animal products out of their diet.

Myth: Vegans don’t get enough protein or calcium.

Fact: “Where do you get your protein and calcium?” This is a question that vegans are often asked, but if you are vegan, it is usually an easy one to answer. Tempeh, lentils, soymilk, tofu, quinoa, cashews, beans, peanut butter, and rice are all amazing sources of protein for vegans. Protein sources for vegans are abundant, as are sources of calcium. Just because your diet doesn’t include dairy doesn’t mean it is without calcium. Some of the best calcium sources for vegans are kale, collard greens, almond butter, broccoli, blackberries, oranges, and sesame seeds.

Can you think of some other vegan myths and how you can refute them? Let us know in the comments!

Meat Logic: Why Do We Eat Animals?

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

meatlogic_cover_400“Humans are omnivores.” “Humans need to eat animals to live.” “It’s natural; animals eat other animals.” “We’ve been eating meat since the beginning of time.”

Have you ever heard any of these rationalizations for eating meat? Maybe you’ve actually said something like this in the past. But how accurate are these arguments? What would happen if many of these rationalizations were refuted all in the same place, one by one? Emmy-nominated writer and producer Charles Horn wanted to find out.

He reveals in his book, Meat Logic, that many of the rationalizations used for eating animal productsappear to be based not on emotion but on reason and logic. What he tests, and what his book is truly about, is the logical soundness of each rationalization.

There is a rationalization for everyone if you want it bad enough.” (p. 130)

Horn begins the book with a little background on philosophy, animals, and the basis for animal rights in order to give readers a general understanding of the dispute over eating animals. In the core part of the book, 31 different rationalizations for eating animals are individually put to the test. He provides scientific and philosophical evidence into language that makes it easy for readers to understand and really profit from the knowledge he provides. He is able to contest each of the aforementioned rationalizations in just a couple pages.

Horn states in the book that he didn’t expect every reader to change their mind about eating animals, but he is still “quite hopeful about the future.” He recognizes that more people will change their eating habits once they gain more knowledge about the subject.

If you are an animal activist and are looking for more effective ways to address those opposed to veganism, then this book is a must-read. It can also act as a great reference tool! If you are interested in the rationale of why humans eat animals, then read this book and allow it to challenge you and inform you and maybe even inspire you.

Have you already read Meat Logic? We would love to know what you thought of this book. Let us know in the comments below.

Vegucated: Three People. Six Weeks. One Challenge.

Film Review By: Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

cover_vegucatedFor those of you who haven’t seen the successful and praised documentary Vegucated, written and directed by Marisa Miller Wolfson, it shows the journey of three meat-eating New Yorkers who pledge to implement a vegan diet for six weeks. All three participants agree to take on this challenge with the hopes of living a healthier lifestyle.

Watching this documentary is what inspired me to become vegan in the first place, and it completely changed my outlook on what it really means to be vegan. Vegucated is full of useful information and I firmly believe that anyone, vegan or non-vegan, can benefit from the knowledge gained through this documentary.

The documentary kicks off with Marisa introducing the courageous partakers who all have very different backgrounds. Tesla is a college student living in Queens, Brian is a bachelor from California, and Ellen is a psychiatrist and single mom. All three reveal to Marisa their meat- and dairy-filled refrigerators and admit that they are a bit anxious about the six weeks ahead of them.

Marisa starts off by getting them “vegucated.” She takes them to a local health food store, and she shows them the vast amount of meat- and dairy-free options that vegans have. They also get a few medical tests done so that they can see their health progress at the end of the six weeks.

Marisa not only educates them about the supermarket, but she shows them the truth behind animal agriculture as well. All three of them are shocked to see footage of the cruelty that lies within slaughterhouses and factory farms. Brian is especially surprised by how emotional he feels after seeing such horrific images. After watching the footage he says, “You can really see that these animals are experiencing pain.”

Along their journey, Tesla, Brian, and Ellen also get to meet with some professionals and longtime vegans that share their knowledge and wisdom. It’s extraordinary to see their minds and tastes change so much over the course of six weeks just by learning and experiencing new things. (Plus, it’s fun to see everyone enjoying vegan s’mores around a campfire!)

Is it possible that three tremendously different people can all change their views, lifestyle, and health in six short weeks? Find out by watching the enthralling Vegucated documentary. You might end up being inspired by the educational tactics used by the filmmakers and maybe learn to use them in your own activist work.

If you have watched it, don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments!