Provoke, Inspire, Educate: Five Vegan-Related Documentary Films to Consider for Film Screenings

So you want to host a documentary film screening but you’re not sure where to start or what to screen? You’ve come to the right place. We’d like to point you to five noteworthy documentaries that have proved popular and thought-provoking among audiences on topics related to vegan living.

Documentaries as tools for social change

Documentaries can be powerful tools for social change. Great documentaries engage the viewer emotionally through compelling stories of real lives and events while conveying information or perspectives that are often obscured from the public eye. The viewer becomes a participant, an insider privy to these truths. Documentaries have the potential to involve the audience emotionally and shift their awareness or change their assumptions about an issue. And, importantly, documentaries (most often) offer the possibility of change.

As vegan activists, we’re working to connect people emotionally with the hard realities of lives of animals raised for food and convey the profound impact that vegan living has on animals, the environment, world hunger, health, and nutrition.

Recommended vegan-related films

Lucky for us, we have a number of fascinating vegan-related documentaries to choose from. Our feedback* from VegFund grantees points to a few films that have been particularly successful with general audiences. Many of you are already familiar with these films, but for those of you who aren’t:

  • Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret  – A feature-length documentary that follows filmmaker Kip Andersen as he explores the devastating effects of animal agriculture on deforestation, water consumption, pollution, greenhouse gases, rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean dead zones, and more. Anderson investigates the world’s leading environmental organizations and uncovers what appears to be an intentional refusal to discuss the issues of animal agriculture. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  •  VegucatedThis entertaining documentary profiles the personal journeys of three New York meat-lovers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. The film follows their evolution as they explore the world of vegan living and its effects on personal health — and as they take their first glimpse into the world of animal agriculture. The film doesn’t shy away from presenting the challenges as well as benefits of vegan living. This film offers an often-humorous take on transitioning to a vegan diet. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  •  Forks Over KnivesForks Over Knives investigates the potential role of a “whole foods, plant-based” diet in avoiding, controlling, or reversing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, obesity, and cancer. The film advocates removing animal-based foods, including dairy, as well as highly processed foods from our diets. The film follows the journeys of pioneering researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, nutritional scientist at Cornell, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the Cleveland Clinic, whose experiences led them to take a close look at the role of animal-based foods in degenerative diseases. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  •  Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home – An engaging story of personal transformation , Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home portrays the stories of seven people who grew up in traditional farming culture as they re-examine their relationship with animals. The film follows, among others, a humane police officer whose conscience is in conflict with the laws she upholds and farmers who begin to question their way of life in light of their connections with the animals they care for. This heart-warming film enlightens us about the factors that open people’s hearts to animals and depicts the rich lives and personalities of farm animals. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  • Speciesism: The Movie – The term “speciesism” refers to a “prejudice in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species over members of another species.” This concept manifests as the idea of human superiority over non-human animals and, at its extreme, that animals exist for our use. Director Mark Devries examines the questions around speciesism through conversations with a variety of people including anti-factory farming activists, a member of the American Nazi Party, a vivisectionist, and known personalities such as Peter Singer, Temple Grandin, and Richard Dawkins. The film is a provocative foray into the moral questions regarding species. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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Customize your vegan film-screening event

Documentary screenings are ripe for your creative vision. Screenings can be held publically in theaters, libraries, schools, churches — or privately as a house party. Combine screenings with vegan potlucks or food sampling. Consider including a Q&A session or inviting subject experts to speak or lead the discussion. Use the event to encourage an action such as try veg, sign up, donate.

On the websites of most documentaries, you’ll find a section on hosting a screening. Requirements vary, but a reasonably-priced film purchase (with license) is usually needed. On many sites, you’ll find supplementary material, such as designs for promotional materials and topics for discussion. The Screenings section of the VegFund website guides you through planning your screening event and submitting a request for funding assistance.

We recommend that you view the documentary in advance to ensure its suitability for your audience. Some films, for example, have graphic images that may not be suitable for children. Some films have the option for subtitles, which may be important for some audiences.

Check out our new film-screening partnership program

More extensive lists of animal rights/vegan films can be found through a quick Internet search. Look for new films too. As the pace of awareness grows, more and more inspiring documentaries emerge.

We are particularly excited about two newly released documentaries The Last Pig and Eating You Alive. VegFund is experimenting with a new partnership model to help our activists screen these new and important films. We are inviting you to partner with VegFund to use the power of these films to reach your communities and build networks of activists to energize local connections for vegan outreach.

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How to apply for a partnership screening grant:

  •  Apply to VegFund for a grant through our Screenings program and indicate your interest in screening The Last Pig and Eating you Alive  in your community and the date(s) you hope to screen the film(s). Both films will be available to screen beginning in June 2017. Within your application, you can provide ideas of how you might incorporate food sampling, literature, or speakers from your community into the event to make it all the more interesting and informative for the audience.
  •  VegFund will locate and book a screening venue in your city, pay for the venue directly, and then pay the film license fee directly to the distributor.
  • Once VegFund has selected and booked the venue, we will turn the event back over to you, the applicant activist, to complete the event organization and host the film. That means 1) recruiting your friends, family, and community to attend the film, 2) organizing food sampling, local area speakers, etc., as approved by VegFund, 3) attending the film to introduce it to the audience and tell them why you are hosting the film, and 4) raising awareness of VegFund’s grant opportunities.

If this new partnership model shows promise, VegFund will develop a screening toolkit in the near future to make the process as effortless as possible!

Choose a film. Take action!

You can still apply for traditional screening grants through our standard process for any film that may be of interest to your community, including The Last Pig or Eating You Alive. But, if you’re interested in hosting a larger public screening at an independent theater of one of these new documentary films and need support finding a venue and working with the distributor (and having those items paid for by VegFund in advance), we are here to help!

As a vegan activist, you are at the core of VegFund’s vision to create a compassionate vegan world. So, what are you waiting for? Educate and entertain the public. Change the world. Apply to host a screening in your area!

Stay in touch — tell us about your next screening event!

*relative to popularity, most effective, and recommended.

Make a Resolution to Be a Voice For Animals In 2017!

Happy New Year from VegFund!

Last chance to make your resolutions for 2017.

How about…

Resolve to organize or participate in a vegan outreach event!

VegFund is here to help.

If you’re new to vegan advocacy, find local vegan groups in your area. A few good places to look:

  • Meetup groups
  • Search social media (Facebook and Twitter, especially) for groups near you
  • Ask at your local veg restaurant
  • Join the planning team of a local VegFest

Find out what events they have on the calendar for 2017 — and volunteer! If they don’t have outreach events planned, suggest a food-sampling event, a documentary screening, leafleting, or video pay-per-view — and make sure they know that VegFund can help with grant-based support.

Or, start your own group! If there aren’t vegan groups in your area, get one going. Expanding vegan living into new areas is a fabulous goal for the new year.

If you’re a veteran activist, start the new year with some creative outreach planning. We have a few suggestions for you based on our 2016 survey of our grantees. Here’s what worked for them:

Host a Documentary Film Screening

Educate and entertain the public with a screening of one of the many excellent documentaries relating to animal agriculture. With an ever-growing choice of documentaries in this area, you’re sure to find something suitable whether you want to engage people on topics of animal rights, the environment, or health and nutrition.

FMVeg Minnesota - Cowspiracy Screening 2016

“The reception was fantastic, with one of the viewers wanting to host his own viewing, with my (and your) help!” – FMVeg, Minnesota – Cowspiracy Screening 2015

VegFund grantees use a variety of venues for film screenings. The three most common are:

  • local church facilities
  • town halls
  • college campuses

The documentaries most commonly screened by our grantees are:

  • Cowspiracy
  • Vegucated
  • Peaceable Kingdom
  • Forks Over Knives

Find out more about hosting a screening here.

Before the event:

  • Set up a Facebook event for the screening and invite your connections! About one month before the event should suffice. List the event venue, date and time, and any other important details. Include a blurb about the documentary film — and note if you’re including a Q&A session.
  • Post the event page within veg groups and other relevant groups on a regular basis in the weeks before the event.
  • Put up posters at the venue and other strategic locations in run-up to the event. Local print shops are usually happy to offer help or guidelines in setting up and printing your materials.

The day of the event:

  • Find out in advance what time you can gain access to the venue to start your preparations.
  • Plan to be at the venue 1–2 hours before the event to give you time to arrange the room, put out chairs, set up the projector, and lay out additional materials such as educational literature and food samples.
  • Leave the venue as you found it. Settle up any outstanding fees with the venue.

Host a Food Sampling Table at a Local Fair

Food sampling is a simple but effective form of outreach. Just book a stall at a suitable event, plan and prepare your food items, and turn up on the day with some volunteer support.

“AWESOME! Thanksliving went so much better than I could have ever hoped!! I had so many wonderful helpers and we gave out all the samples two hours sooner than I had expected! We got nothing but positive responses. We literally ran out of vegan fliers to hand out. Everyone LOVED the food.” – Students for Animal Rights Thanksliving event

Kindred Spirits Care Farm - Food Day LA 2016

Kindred Spirits Care Farm – Food Day LA 2016

Our grantees typically set up food sampling tables at:

  • local community fairs and markets
  • green festivals
  • health fairs
  • college campuses

The most popular types of vegan food samples handed out are:

  • mock meat products, such as Tofurky and Gardein products
  • plant milks – offer a variety such as soy, almond, and coconut
  • homemade cookies and cupcakes

The day of the event!

  • Set up before the event starts and be sure to keep your table tidy and sample trays full.
  • Dress smart-casual and have a smile on your face. Presentation is key to enticing people to stop for a taste.
  • Rotate your staff if you have volunteers. Prepare a schedule in advance to ensure everyone gets a break during the day.
  • Check out our blog on effective communication for tips on engaging with people about vegan living.
  • If you’re part of a vegan group, have a clipboard for sign-ups.

VegFund’s suggested sources for literature to hand out:

Learn more about food sampling events here.

What other outreach ideas does VegFund consider?

We provide grant support for a whole variety of vegan outreach activities, and we’re always interested in new and creative ideas — online campaigns, vegan fashion shows, speakers, vegfests, and more. See the Merit Awards section of the VegFund website for guidelines on funding innovative projects that promote veganism. Some examples from the past year:

Slovensko vegansko društvo (Slovenian Vegan Society) hosted Vegafest 2016. More than 10,000 people were reached by the event, with an estimate of 7,000 non-veg people visiting the festival itself.

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Dzīvnieku brīvība in Latvia held a Vegan Summer Solstice celebration where they served vegan cheese samples to attendees and distributed educational literature. Activists engaged in some really positive discussions, with many people showing an interest in making steps towards vegan living.

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This type of outreach is funded through VegFund’s Merit Awards program.

Learn more about our program guidelines and apply for a grant today!

Wishing you the very best of luck with your outreach in 2017.

- The VegFund Team

A Summary of VegFund’s Findings from a Dialogue with Our Grantees

(Part 6 of 6)

In our final blog of 2016, we summarize the findings we’ve reported over the past five months based on feedback from VegFund’s dedicated grantees. This summary consolidates information we gathered from an online survey and from focus groups we held during 2016. These findings will guide VegFund in 2017 as we enhance and diversify the resources we offer to our grantees.

From our survey, we gathered a general profile of VegFund grantees, including:

  • their occupations
  • the types of outreach they’re involved in
  • audiences they reach
  • their current levels of activist skills
  • resources they’d like to see from VegFund

The areas that we investigated relating to our grantee’s outreach work included:

  • aspects of vegan outreach that are of particular interest to VegFund grantees
  • barriers they face in their outreach activities
  • areas where they could use more support
  • level of comfort with event planning and preparation
  • how they evaluate the effectiveness of their outreach

You can read full details here.

So what did we learn?

Selecting the ideal venue for your outreach event

  • Campus activists have easy access to free venues, but other activists find it more challenging to locate low-cost venues.
  • Having some level of personal involvement with groups and institutions is a significant advantage when it comes to accessing certain types of venues (such as churches and cinemas).
  • Leafleting is free and permitted in most public places, but the impact of this form of outreach is difficult to measure.
  • Weather conditions, volume of pedestrian traffic, and volunteer availability are all important factors to consider when selecting an event venue.
Compassionate Action for Animals - 2015 Vegfest

Compassionate Action for Animals – 2015 Vegfest

Evaluating the impact of your outreach activity

In response to the question “Do you currently conduct any type of evaluation with your audiences to determine your success?,” our findings suggested that less than 50% of VegFund grantees use event evaluation to gauge the effectiveness of their outreach. Activists who are not currently evaluating their activities do have an interest in beginning to. The following information that we gathered may be a helpful start in assessing the impact of your outreach:

Many of our grantees who do evaluate their outreach take a two-step approach to evaluating their efforts:

  • quantifying outreach
  • gathering anecdotal information on quality

Grantees typically use the following information for assessment:

  • consumption of materials: numbers of leaflets distributed, numbers of food samples handed out, types of short videos and documentaries watched, discussion attendance
  • direct feedback: response on social media, attendee comments, signups (email/pledges)
Californian Activists - Campus Food Sampling Event

Californian Activists
– Campus Food Sampling Event in 2016

What are the barriers in your outreach efforts?

When we asked “What would encourage you to reach out to new audiences in your activism?”, a majority of activists reported:

  • more time
  • more financial support
  • more volunteer support

Activists also reported a need to enhance their activism skills — from expanding their presentation abilities to learning how to produce effective outreach content and materials on a budget.

Our grantees note an “above average” confidence in event organization, food preparation, and one-on-one conversations, but a large percentage of grantees felt a lack of skill (below average) in using technology in their outreach and producing materials and content (for example, writing, marketing, videography, graphic design).

What resources do you need to support your outreach efforts?

We asked our grantees what specific skills they feel would be most useful to them in interacting with the public, organizing events, and production/preparation of materials. They noted the following areas

where they feel they could use more training or knowledge:

  • assistance with tailoring messages and approaching the general public
  • coordination and leadership support
  • training in media use/production
  • training in food preparation
  • tips on burnout

We also investigated what mechanisms are of interest to activists to receive this support. The top suggestions were:

  • opportunities for collaboration and exchange information and ideas, such as an online forum
  • an online portal or library: templates of documents such as publicity  flyers, informational brochures, ads; organizational resources; lessons learned and best practices
  • training/workshops on effective activism

Thanks to all our grantees who took part in the online survey and focus groups. Your information is helping us shape the future of VegFund! We look forward to bolstering our support in 2017 based on the information you so generously provided. Keep an eye out for more to come!

You can also help support our vegan activists by making a year-end tax-deductible donation to VegFund.

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VegFund Stretches Its Reach

shutterstock_255413671Human consumption of meat and animal products is forecast to increase exponentially in the developing world and to remain at current levels in the developed economies for years to come. What this means is that we’ll see an increase in the already staggering estimated 156 billion land and sea animals consumed every year worldwide.

In our aspirations to reverse these trends, VegFund is joining efforts with a broad global community of experts in climate change, social justice, natural resource use, technology, and food systems whose cooperation is instrumental in working toward sustainable and compassionate societies.

VegFund is collaborating with these groups in several conference partnerships in 2016. Our new initiatives, launched this April, include our support for and participation in three key conferences that cover diverse global food issues.

At the 2016 Food + Enterprise Summit (April 8–9, attended by 600 people) in New York City, VegFund supported a panel called Funding an Ethical Food Economy: Plant-based Ventures. A panel of experts — David Benzaquen of PlantBased Solutions, Bruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute, Jody Rasch of VegInvest, and Leslie Barcus of VegFund — addressed the topics of why animal well-being and promoting a healthy environment are fundamental to ethical food systems and how the promise of lab-cultured meats and growth in animal product replacements are fueling private investment to push new vegan businesses and products into the consumer mainstream.

Photograph Courtesy of Clay Williams (© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com)

Photograph Courtesy of Clay Williams
(© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com)

From April 15–17, VegFund staff met many new vegans at the New York Green Festival. The Green Festival Expo is held in several cities throughout the United States and focuses on sustainability and green living. The New York event drew more than 250 exhibitors, partners, and sponsors including the team from the documentary, Cowspiracy. VegFund will participate in five Green Festival Events in 2016 as a means to recruit new activists.

Photograph Courtesy of New York Green Festival Expo 2016

Photograph Courtesy of
New York Green Festival Expo 2016

The third conference, the Food Tank Summit, took place in Washington, DC, April 20–21. VegFund partnered with Food Tank to serve 300 attendees excellent vegan lunches during the event, and VegFund Executive Director Leslie Barcus participated on a panel called Protein for the Planet. An estimated 30,000 people around the world listened in via live-stream to fascinating discussions about the dire need for changes in the global food system to feed a growing planet under stress.

Photograph Courtesy of Food Tank

Photograph Courtesy of Food Tank

VegFund continues its conversations at this time toward partnering with 10–12 more conferences in 2016 as a part of our new initiatives. We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people at the upcoming Animal Rights Conference in July 2016.

5 Top Tips for A Successful Film Screening Event: Findings from VegFund’s Five-Year Retrospective Study (Part 3)

Next in our continuing series on tips for effective vegan activism, we bring you tips for holding successful film screenings. Our past grantees have offered excellent feedback from their experiences on how best to: encourage people to attend film-screening events, make your event enticing, and engage viewers on the topic of animal agriculture and veganism.

FMVeg, Minnesota 2015

FMVeg, Minnesota 2015

“It definitely challenged people’s understandings and perceptions of animal industries. I’ve even spoken to a few people who went vegan as a result of the film and subsequent discussion.”

- Compassionate and Sustainable Consuming, 2015: Cowspiracy Screening.

“Many picked up multiple literature booklets and several cried during the scenes of slaughter. … We had a couple approach us after saying they were going vegan, that this is what they needed to see to push them.”

- Vegan Society of P.E.A.C.E : Peaceable Kingdom Screening, 2012.

In the past five years, VegFund-supported activists reached approximately 10,600 people through film screenings. At these events, they also distributed 27,964 pieces of literature, and 20,211 vegan food samples.

5 Top Tips!

1. Films that are particularly effective at engaging their audiences are:

  • easy to grasp
  • include reliable data
  • moving, yet have minimal graphic footage.

2. Q&As after film screenings are popular, particularly those featuring film directors.

3. Events with a smaller number of viewers were reported to be more personal and engaging, with grantees having more conversations with attendees at these events. But, it’s always important to weigh the value of reaching more people versus having more one-on-one contact, and this will vary depending on the sort of event being held

4. Introductions to film screenings were well received and helpful for those who were unsure of what they would be viewing.

5. Attendees enjoy offers of vegan food samples, veg starter kits, and information on vegan living at these events. Veg starter kits appear to have been particularly popular among attendees.

Lean and Green Kinds 2015 – Ethical Eating Mini Film Festival

Lean and Green Kinds 2015
Ethical Eating Mini Film Festival

In the past five years of VegFund screening grants, documentaries that contain highly graphic content relating to animals are sometimes shown, but grantees have tended to steer away from these types of documentaries due to more negative responses from viewers.

Documentaries with content substantiated by facts and statistics were appreciated by grantees and attendees, as were films that appeal to both younger and older people. Of course, the films available and suitable for screenings have changed over the years, but some of the most popular films from 2011 to 2015 were:

“The film was very well-received and the students and others participating in the discussion said they learned a lot and were excited to make changes to their diets and contact national environmental groups to ask why they aren’t mentioning animal agriculture as a huge contributing cause to climate change.” – VegBoone’s screening of Cowspiracy in 2015.

“Audience commented that they enjoyed the film more so than other animal rights films they had seen, because it presented the issues in an easier-to-grasp light.” – Moncavage’s screening of Vegucated in 2012

“We had many people with questions afterward and even a guy looking for support because he just went vegetarian two weeks ago after his son showed him Forks Over Knives.” – Daytona Beach Vegetarian Society’s screening of Forks Over Knives in 2011.

Peaceable Kingdom, Speciesism, and Ghosts In Our Machine have also been popular choices. Many activists reported that viewers consider these films to be accessible to all ages and have fewer graphic scenes than they would have expected from animal-rights-themed documentaries.

“The Forks Over Knives screening was a HUGE success. We had 266 people RSVP on Facebook and another 25+ respond to us via email. The response was phenomenal. We gave out many VSR applications and all the literature was gone!” – Vegetarian Society of Richmond’s screening of Forks Over Knives, 2013.

As you can see here, activists are organizing film screenings as a tool to engage people on the topics of animal agriculture and the link between their dietary habits, and they’re receiving emotional and proactive responses! VegFund provides a film screening checklist on their website, along with various other resources to help your event be a hit!

Coming next: The final part of this series (part 4) offers tips for getting the most out of your Pay-Per-View video events. Don’t miss it!

8 Tips for Effective Animal Advocacy: Findings from VegFund’s Five-Year Retrospective Study (Part 1)

Our mission is to support YOUR fabulous work as vegan advocates.

We recently carried out a five-year retrospective study of our three main grant programs — Food Sampling, Film Screenings, and Pay-Per-View video events. In doing so, we consolidated valuable information supplied by our grantees in their feedback that could bolster the effectiveness of future outreach efforts of all vegan activists.

This installment is the first in our series of tips for effective animal advocacy. These tips will offer helpful pointers to maximize your effectiveness in communicating your message to as many non-vegan people as possible.

In this blog post, we’ve highlighted techniques commonly practiced by advocates that have received particularly positive responses.

Kindred Spirits Care Farm, Food Day LA 2015

Kindred Spirits Care Farm, Food Day LA 2015

Food Sampling

  • Food is always a brilliant conversation starter!
  • Food sampling events that coincide with another event, such as a vegan- or animal-welfare-themed film screening, festival, or conference have more impact and reach a higher number of people.
  • Offering literature to people who are sampling food gives them a handy takeaway. Recipe brochures are very popular.

Check out our blog Selecting Effective Outreach Materials —a helpful reference when selecting the literature to distribute at your event.

Film Screenings

  • Q&A formats are popular, particularly when they include film directors, activists, or people involved in the subject matter of the film.
  • Events advertised in advance via social media, in local cafes or community centers, on campuses, and through leafleting busy streets, have a higher turnout.

Pay-Per-View (PPV) Video Events

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Mercy For Animals, US
Atlanta Pride Fest 2015

  • PPV, where viewers are offered a small cash or food incentive to watch a video, is a fantastic discussion-raising form of outreach. Use it as an inroad to conversing with people in greater depth.
  • PPV incentives of 1) cake-per-view, 2) more than $1, or 3) $1 plus free food were far more popular than those offering only $1 incentives.
  • When PPVs are combined with food sampling and information booths, they attract larger crowds because not everyone wishes to watch the video footage.

Feedback from grantees on the success of their events using some of these tactics included comments such as:

“Many of them never before ate vegan food, and all of them loved it!”

“It definitely challenged people’s understandings and perceptions of animal industries …”

Comments from people who attended events held by VegFund-empowered activists included:

“I don’t think I’ll be able to eat meat for the rest of the day or ever. Something definitely needs to be done about this.”

“I’m definitely going to eat less meat now.”

Depending on your audience and venue, there are some especially effective ways to engage people with the animal rights and vegan message. Following this introductory blog, we will present in-depth information on proven techniques for each of VegFund’s grant programs based on feedback from activists around the globe, so stay tuned for lots of great information on food sampling, film screenings and pay-per-view outreach!

And lastly, thank you to all VegFund grantee activists who shared their event feedback with us. You have made this blog series possible.

Coming next: Part 2 of this series offers some great tips on making the most of your food sampling events.

Angels and Activists

VegFund is a solid choice for sustaining your donor contribution and maximizing your impact in increasing vegan outreach around the world. Learn more by following the “12 Days of VegFund” on Facebook. Please “Like” us, and join the effort! The VegFund staff and our global activist base are grateful for donations made through our website. Each contribution, large and small, helps us grow beyond the thousands of activists we are already reaching in some 30 countries.

Speaking of sustainability and impact, VegFund recently sponsored a panel titled “Exponential Sustainability: The Payoff of Vegan Living” at Sustainatopia 2015. Sustainatopia is a bi-annual event for knowledge-sharing by more than 500 impact investors, social ventures, nonprofit organizations, corporations, media outlets, and others working to create a more sustainable, healthier, and compassionate world.

The VegFund panel addressed how vegan diets and lifestyle choices yield a great return on investment to maximize the well-being of people, biodiversity, and the earth’s environment. The VegFund panel included Caroline Wimberly of Brighter Green, David Benzaquen of PlantBased Solutions, and Leslie Barcus of VegFund.

The VERY FIRST person we encountered at the conference by VegFund was a young man, who works for a small corporation promoting green energy solutions. He was passionate about protecting the environment and lowering his carbon footprint, but he only recently had realized the difference he can make by adopting a vegan diet. The documentary Cowspiracy motivated him to make the dietary switch. We hope this newly inspired environmentalist and vegan will soon join the VegFund activist network and help us expand our reach to new audiences working on social finance, climate change, sustainable development models, organic and local farming, and all of the fascinating practice areas in play making the world a better place.

David Benzaquen of PlantBased Solutions proved that potential activists such as this young man could land in the good company of renowned global business leaders who are funding vegan products. PlantBased Solutions now works with six vegan venture funds and some 480 angel investors. Angels are not found only during the holiday season! In the investment world, “angels” are investors who offer funds to start-up and young companies at gentler investment terms than those offered by more established venture capital funds.

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Vegan investors and angel investors are walking among the international business gods! David also made note of a number of billionaires who are taking a financial position in vegan products, including:

  • Bill Gates … no introduction needed? OK, he is the founder of Microsoft, and his wealth now stands at an estimated $80 billion dollars, according to public wealth rankings.
  • Li Ka-shing … yes, you can think “cha-ching”! Mr. Li was ranked in 2014 by Bloomberg as probably the wealthiest entrepreneur in Asia.
  • Marc Benioff … founder of Salesforce and, thus, a godfather of cloud computing.

David reminds us that regardless of our place and stage in life today or readiness to invest, each and every one of us can vote with our forks and speak up to educate others. You just never know who is listening!

VegFund is here and ready to assist with your vegan outreach through our grant programs, from video event to food sampling, documentary screening — or whatever novel outreach idea you may have that would merit a financial grant.

We look forward to receiving your contribution in 2015 and expanding our outreach in 2016.

ALL support large and small has a big impact for spreading the beauty of vegan living.

Happy Holidays! Leslie Barcus Executive Director

The Impact of Social Media Presence in Our Advocacy Efforts

Faunalytics’s recent research examining the impact of The Save Movement’s social media presence gives us insight into the value of social media for advocacy.

One of the key findings from this research was that The Save Movement has been able to successfully foster awareness on social media about the individuality and plight of animals raised for food.

Pig SAVElogo

Photograph courtesy of The SAVE Movement

Positive aspects of The Save Movement’s social media presence include:

  • The peaceful, non-violent approach to their online outreach
  • The welcoming attitude when engaging with followers online

The biggest barrier that online followers stated for not finding out more or getting involved was the fear that it would be too emotionally upsetting, which is characteristic of some of The Save Movement’s social media content.

The report on this research also provides a comparison of how vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores receive this movement’s social media messages. This helped to identify differences among the groups of recipients and offer suggestions about how message content can be modified to more effectively engage omnivores.

Although this research examines the influence of only one organization’s impact using social media and the response of just a small proportion of its social media following, it provides interesting insight into the effectiveness of social media in our outreach efforts.

To deepen our understanding of the value of social media as an outreach tool, further studies on a variety of organizations’ and individuals’ outreach efforts should be carried out.

We need to measure our levels and types of engagement frequently and consider the outcomes of our efforts whenever possible if we are to change the world for animals.

Read the full report on this latest research.

Additional research related to this topic is available on Faunalytics’s website. The article on Facebook as an outreach tool is particularly interesting.

VegFund in San Diego

Thanks so much to everyone who came to the San Diego VegFest!

VegFund was a sponsor; here is the speakers’ table:

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I gave a version of this talk: Embrace and Encourage: Lessons from Three Decades.

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And met with lots of people at the VegFund table!

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Hope to meet with more of you in the future!

-Matt

 

Raw Data: Attitudes Relevant to Our Efforts for Animals

Last year, my friend Peg, who owns / runs the local vegan restaurant, was reading The Accidental Activist. It inspired her to contact different departments at the University of Arizona here in Tucson, with the question if anyone would be interested in doing research into vegetarianism. Professor Merrie Brucks got back to her — she teaches a marketing class in the MBA program there. Every semester, the new class takes on a “client” for whom the class does marketing research. So I’m the client this year (on behalf of VegFund and, ultimately, of course, farmed animals).

I gave a presentation the first week of classes, and answered questions (the class is 1:15 long, and Professor Brucks had to stop the conversation after we had gone way over). The class was subsequently divided into four groups, and the different groups have been meeting with me to discuss their ideas, research, etc.

VegFund has pledged some money to allow the class to do larger, national surveys with their final questions. This way, we can maximally leverage the efforts of the class, to get the most useful data to allow us to help animals better. Here is my report from being with the class again last Wednesday:

The four groups are doing their exploratory research — more in-depth interviews and surveys of individuals that are intended to both utilize the research techniques they are learning in class, as well as to inform the design of their larger final survey. Professor Brucks, the class, and I asked questions and gave feedback.

There were several universal findings:

1. Everyone views veganism as much much harder than vegetarianism, and views vegans negatively (angry, fanatics, judgmental).
2. Everyone views chicken as healthy. Everyone who talked about health ate a lot of chicken.

I have pages of notes. As you might guess, some groups were further along. It was interesting to learn about the different research methods intended to get at people’s true motivations / opinions, rather than their rationalizations or desired view of themselves. Here are just a few items in addition to the above:

Group 1: Food Choice Motivations (general, not veg-specific)

When we met a few weeks ago, two of the people in this group had very different views on what they should be doing.
Looking to separate out what people think they should do vs what they actually do.
Motivations run into so far (in order of prevalence): health (chicken), religion, animal issues, environment

Group 2: Social Norms and Stigmas

One aspect is looking at people’s perceptions of the ladder, meat lover à omnivore à meat-reducer à vegetarian à vegan (a general theme of the class).

Most interesting here was their word association. Words like “meat” and “steak” and “chicken” all had positive associations, but “Tyson chicken” and “factory farming” had negative. “Tofu” was neutral, “faux meat” bad (“disgusting”).

They asked what a person would choose as their last meal (steak, surf-and-turf), and asked what one food they would eat for the rest of their life (chicken, because it is healthy). One of the team members was interviewing another team member’s roommate, and asked when the last time the roommate had had a meatless meal. “Oh, I can’t remember. Has been ages.” But they had just had vegetarian pad thai the night before.

Group 3: Vegetarian Products and Restaurants

People don’t see vegetarian products as healthier than eating chicken; think eating healthier means replacing red meat with chicken.

People can imagine eating veg for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner. Need to have meat to be satisfied. (Discussion of Bittman’s “Vegan Before Six” idea.)

Group 4: Animal Suffering

Very hard to discuss; people immediately defensive.

Cognitive dissonance.

People think cows, pigs, and chickens are all treated the same.

Rationalizations (in order of prevalence): Top of food chain, religion, just how it is, healthy to eat meat.

People say it is worse in other countries (China).

That’s all for now,
-Matt (cross-posted at my blog)