Cruelty-free takes the fashion world by storm

The future is fur-free

A recent surge in public and governmental awareness about the cruelty involved in factory fur farming is thanks to the tireless efforts of animal advocates across the world.

Animal rights activists — from grassroots to our largest AR organizations — are persuading governments and communities to change policies and legislation for the benefit of animals who suffer in this cruel industry.

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Image: Mink on a fur farm. Quebec, Canada, 2016. Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals.

 Top fashion brands embrace fur-free

The growing trend in fur-free fashion is being spearheaded by some of the world’s leading fashion designers, who are helping pave the way to a fur-free future in fashion.

Over the past year, we’ve seen top fashion brands including Gucci, Michael Kors, Versace, and Maison Margiela commit to going fur-free. Read more in Vogue’s recent article on this topic.

John Galliano, Creative Director of Maison Margiela told Vogue that he changed his perspective on fur after a conversation with an animal rights activist. His beloved dog, Gipsy, also played a part!

“Galliano has been thinking on the idea of a “new glamour” and about what the modern woman really wants — and more and more, that doesn’t include fur.”

In an interview with The Guardian, Donatella Versace said:

“I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.”

City and country-wide fur bans on the rise

In January, the Norwegian government became the first Nordic country to ban fur farming by announcing its plans to phase out all fox and mink farms by 2025. Shortly after, in a remarkable move, city supervisors in San Francisco voted to ban the sale of new fur products. This ordinance, set to go into effect on January 1, 2019, will make San Franciso the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of new fur products. Two other California cities, Berkeley and West Hollywood, outlawed fur sales in 2013.

Momentum is building, but there’s still much work to be done. In many countries where fur farming is banned, the import and export of fur is still prevalent. The ongoing efforts of anti-fur campaigners around the globe are as relevant as ever.

ACTAsia showcasing fur-free fashion in China

VegFund grantee, ACTAsia is taking the fur issue in China head-on through an innovative campaign to educate consumers about China’s central role in the global fur trade and showcase compassionate alternatives. In a country where very little attention is given to the cruelty inherent in factory fur farming, ACTAsia’s focus on this issue is breaking new ground.

Ms Pei F. Su, founder & CEO of ACTAsia told Newswire:

“China has become the biggest fur manufacturer and fur consumer country because of a lack of animal protection laws and caring for life education. In addition to abusing animals, this industry is damaging the environment and toxic chemicals dangerous to human health have been repeatedly found in fur clothing”.

In 2016, ACTAsia, in collaboration with Green & Gorgeous, hosted their third successful Fur Free Fashion Show, which attracted more than 300 attendees and reached tens of millions more through media coverage. In May 2018, they will host their  fourth Fur Free Fashion Show with a VegFund-supported “Compassionate Choice Gala Banquet,” in Shanghai — the largest and most influential city in China, and its fashion capital.

“It is a major and ground-breaking accomplishment to present the fashion show and gala plant-based dinner in the economic and cultural center of China” ~ ACTAsia

The goal of ACTAsia’s Fur Free Fashion Show is to showcase a vegan lifestyle on an international stage as a “compassionate, environmentally-friendly and trend-setting way of life.” Activists plan to use the event to reach a diverse audience, including fashion designers, clothing manufacturers, celebrities, singers, models, and event attendees.

There are five key outcomes they strive to achieve from this event:

  • to raise awareness of the issues relating to animal exploitation in the fur industry
  • to present a plant-based diet as trendy, high-status, and compassionate to influential attendees and to millions through media outreach
  • to demonstrate that a plant-based gala dinner can be tasty, satisfying, and high-style, and in sync with an image of the Chinese as economic and cultural leaders
  • to provide consumers with humane shopping options and encourage fashion designers and manufacturers to produce products that are sourced humanely
  • to promote the Fur Free Retailer campaign in China and encourage more Chinese fashion retailers, brands, and celebrities to join and support the campaign.
Image: Catwalk from 2014 Fur Free Fashion Show. ACTAsia, 2014.

Image: Catwalk from 2014 Fur Free Fashion Show. ACTAsia, 2014.

“Each year the show has increased in size, duration, attendees, and media attention. Last year’s show had a media reach estimated at more than 100 million. Importantly, the show has become a networking opportunity for animal advocates across China. In a country that plays an oversized role in determining the fate of our civilization and myriad other species, this is a place where personal connections can ripple through a nascent movement at a critical time.” ~ ACTAsia

Founded in 2006, with the purpose of “helping Asian countries evolve into compassionate societies respectful of all forms of life,” ACTAsia applies a strategic and innovative approach in its advocacy efforts to maximize its impact. Follow the latest from ACTAsia, including their upcoming Fur Free Fashion Show, by following them on Facebook and Twitter today!

Interested in hosting an event like this one in your community? Check out VegFund’s Merit Award program guidelines for more information and to apply.

 

Real Food for Kids: Changing the way we eat, one school at a time

On March 17, 2018,  Real Food for Kids  (RFFK) hosted its 6th Annual Culinary Competition & Wellness Expo at a secondary school in Alexandria, Virginia with excellent support from the community. This innovative educational outreach event had one singular objective – to engage students in the issue of school food.

“With our youth as leaders, we seek to gain insight into potential school nutrition solutions as our students share their creativity and enthusiasm in a competitive format.”

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Real Food for Kids began as a voice for improving school food and is now a trusted partner within the school system and surrounding communities across the United States. RFFK has earned a deserved reputation for providing valuable programs for students and their families through a positive and collaborative approach.

The RFFK mission:

“To collaborate with school communities to elevate the quality and character of school food, develop and deliver programs that advance literacy in nutrition and health, and engage students, parents, and schools in building a culture of health that spreads to their home and communities.”

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Attracting 275 parents, educators, and community members, this Culinary Competition, open to all middle and high school student teams, taught students about healthy eating, encouraged teamwork, and highlighted student culinary talents. Teams competed to create a lunch that met USDA guidelines for school meals and participated in a showcase of dishes that could be adapted for school use.

This event aimed to achieve the following objectives:

  • Engage students in the process of school food so that they learn about the nutritional guidelines and cost implications of creating a lunch entree.
  • Provide opportunities for students to meet professional chefs and learn about career pathways in the culinary field.
  • Secure a commitment to have the winning entree put on the school food menu in Fairfax County in the 2018–2019 school year.
  • Highlight the growth in demand for vegetarian/vegan options in school food and why this is important for good health.
  • Educate culinary students and attendees on health topics in a plenary format that provides information and resources in a friendly way.

How it worked

  1. Students entered a team in the Lunch Competition (“Viva Vegetarian”) or the Showcase (“Back 2 Basics Breakfast” or “Snack”).
  2. Teams in both categories were challenged to create a delicious and appealing school food item with an emphasis on nutritional balance.
  3. Real Food for Kids selected up to 10 teams (2–4 students) for the Competition and up to 10 teams (2–4 students) for the Showcase category.
  4. The Expo plenary focused on creating links between the cafeteria, the classroom, and the home to build healthful eating habits.

The event received plenty of enthusiastic feedback, and the teams enjoyed the experience.

“The challenge to develop a vegetarian dish was really fun. We eat a lot of vegetarian dishes at home. My dad’s black bean burger was the inspiration for our dish, but we switched it up with our own spices and added the guacamole. We got second place so the judges must have really liked it.” – Henry, from Sandburg Middle School

The Results!

  • Excellent community support. Real Food For Kids received an incredible amount of feedback from community leaders about the event itself and the work that they’ve been doing to increase the amount of healthy food in schools and engaging students in the process.
  • The demand for additional information by participants regarding vegan and vegetarian options was notably higher this year than in prior years, and organizers believe people came specifically to obtain this information.
  • Five school districts and D.C. Central Kitchen (who has a contract with 15 schools in the District of Columbia) will be putting one of the winning entries on their school menu, which will reach nearly 350,000 students in the region! Discussions are also underway with other school districts to do the same, which would impact an additional 81,000 students.

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“Each year this event delights and surprises us. We see so much creativity from the students and so much enthusiasm to participate. It’s very clear to us that engaging students in the process of developing dishes for the school food menu is a win-win. They are the consumers – where better to get recipes that will be successful than from the kids eating them? When you hear from a team member things like ‘I would so eat this’ about their own dish, you know you’re headed in the right direction.” – Mary Porter, Director of Programs

Consider hosting an event like this Culinary Challenge in your area. VegFund may be able to support you. Check out our program guidelines for more information and apply for a VegFund grant today!

The Synagogue Vegan Challenge: Jewish Communities Embrace Vegan Living

VegFund is pleased to announce its partnership with the vegan–Jewish organization, The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, in launching The Synagogue Vegan Challenge an initiative that will help put veganism on the Jewish agenda.

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Hosted by The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, an animal welfare organization that educates leaders, trains advocates, and campaigns for animals’ rights within and on behalf of the Jewish community, The Synagogue Vegan Challenge is the first of its kind!

The main goal of the challenge is to encourage Jewish communities to experiment with vegan living for one year, with the overall mission of challenging these communities to:

“think more deeply about animal welfare, kashrut (kosher law), and compassion for all, through gentle, non-judgmental discussion and by showing how nutritious and tasty plant-based foods can be.” – The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute

Rabbi Yanklowitz, who is leading this initiative, said the following in an interview with VegNews:

“There’s not one vegan synagogue in America. It’s very hard to make changes, and we have to make it easier for people. If people see that vegan food can be healthy and tasty, they are more likely to consider a dietary change. The synagogue should be a place of education, where people can learn about the health benefits of going vegan.” 

So, how does The Synagogue Vegan Challenge work?

Five synagogues in the United States and Canada will be chosen for the program every year, and each will receive a $5,000 grant upon successful completion of the one-year vegan challenge. The synagogues selected for the 2017 pilot program are:

During the year, these synagogues will serve plant-based meals to their communities, whether kiddush, b’nai mitzvot, Shabbat, or any life-cycle event. Alongside the meals, they will also provide their communities with creative education on compassion for all, including:

  • Hosting a vegan-catered Shabbat (or have community members bring their own plant-based creations – potluck style!)
  • Screening a documentary film promoting animal welfare followed by Q&A and discussion
  • Holding a workshop featuring discussion sources from the Shamayim V’Aretz website

Who can get involved?

The Synagogue Vegan Challenge encourages everyone to get involved, whether you’re running an existing synagogue, keen to set up a new one, vegan already, or simply interested in reducing the amount of animal products in your diet (and your community’s diet).

Please note that 2017 applications are now closed. Rabbi Yanklowitz plans to continue the program in 2018 if the pilot program goes well.

We look forward to hearing how this year’s participants progress in The Synagogue Vegan Challenge!

The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute was launched by Rabbi Yanklowitz, musician Matisyahu, and actress Mayim Bialik in 2012, and its name means “heaven on earth.” You can find out more about The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute and their campaign work here.

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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

VegFund Stretches Its Reach

Human 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.

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

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

 

Chanted Morals or Deep-Fried Tofu?

I received this question regarding Paul Shapiro’s Introduction to The Accidental Activist:

I found a particular passage here and would like your thoughts:

“In many ways, it boils down to this question: Do we want a social club, or do we want a social movement? If we want a social movement, we need to open our arms and have a big tent.”

This is interesting. I agree with you on inclusivity, certainly. But I’m not sure why we should be a movement “that welcomes people where they are, applauds them for taking the steps they’ve taken.” While I agree gains come from compromise, I can’t think of a single successful social movement that has taken this incremental, consumer-based approach. Can you? If not, why do you believe its the best way to effect change rather than following the successful movements of the past that focused their efforts on strong messages and systematic, moral change?

There are a number of things we can learn from earlier social justice movements, as discussed in Welfare and Liberation. But it is important to understand the significant differences between our work and previous campaigns.

In the end, we all want a world where animals are not exploited, but rather respected as individuals. Animal liberation, for short. The vast, vast majority of cruelty to animals comes from animal agriculture.

From Animal Charity Evaluators.

To a first approximation, animal liberation would be achieved when everyone stops eating animals. This won’t happen through societal-level changes: no law or amendment will abolish killing animals for food as long as the majority of those in power eat animals. Therefore, animal liberation will necessarily happen individual by individual; laws will follow behavior change, rather than create it.

The question then is: What is the fastest way to get people to stop eating animals?

Lessons from the Relevant Data

Since the determining factor is individuals making different choices, the relevant information comes from psychology and sociology, rather than politics or war. Why people do or don’t make cruelty-free choices is the central question, not how slavery was ended or how women won the vote. (And the animals are in deep trouble if it is going to take a civil war for animal liberation to occur.)

If we want to bring about animal liberation, we need to look at how and why people who currently aren’t eating animals got to that place, as well as understanding why other people don’t currently make compassionate choices.

Over the past quarter century, I’ve personally interacted with thousands of vegetarians, and heard from tens of thousands of others. Very, very few went right from a standard American diet to vegan upon being told, “Go vegan!” I know a handful who went vegan overnight and maintained that change. But I know many more who instantly went vegan and are no longer even vegetarian.

This isn’t a negligible problem. Some of the failed vegans I know were close friends. One was a founding Board member of a major vegan group; he now isn’t even close to vegetarian. He was driven away because of the self-righteousness of many vegans: “I grow weary of the term ‘vegan.’ It seems to become just a label for moral superiority.”

(Unfortunately, that is not an uncommon reaction. Obviously not all vegans are self-righteous, but veganism often attracts the self-righteous. And they tend to be loud.)

On the other hand, the people who have made the biggest difference for the animals  with their choices, their example, and their advocacy  are almost all individuals who have evolved over time. If we want people to get to being vegan, and stay vegan, the lesson is clear: instead of insisting on the last step, we should celebrate every step anyone takes that helps animals.

We’re Already on the Same Page

One unique aspect of our work for animal liberation is that we actually don’t need to change people’s ethics, unlike the abolitionist or suffrage movements. The vast majority of people already oppose cruelty to animals. But we know, from everyday experience and through decades of research, that the vast majority of people simply don’t make decisions based on ethics. They make decisions based on habit, convenience, social norms. To quote Cleveland Amory, we have an infinite capacity to rationalize, especially when it comes to something we want to eat.

Luckily, there is a great deal of psychological and sociological research into people’s choices. Specifically: how and why they change habits when they do, as well as why they don’t, even when they say they want to. This research, as it applies to helping animals, is discussed in The Animal Activist’s HandbookChange of Heart, and in some of the essays in The Accidental Activist.

In short, we have four facts regarding the majority of the population (the people we need to reach):

  1. People already share our moral revulsion at cruelty to animals.
  2. People rarely act based on their ethics if it conflicts with habit and the norms of their friends and family.
  3. People who make real change and maintain that change do so incrementally.
  4. Animal liberation must necessarily be achieved from the ground up, person by person.

Given these facts, the movement for animal liberation is inherently an incremental, consumer-based campaign. And if we truly want to do our best for the animals, we must understand and work with the psychology of consumer choices.

For this reason, everyone is a potential ally. With allies, we work constructively. Together, we will continue to shift the consumer landscape such that it is easy for everyone to act on their ethics.

We know how to do this: through our person-to-person outreach, advocates drive increasing demand for cruelty-free options. This in turn improves the quality and availability of supply, which allows more people to get on board. Thus, we create the virtuous feedback loop that will bring about animal liberation.

As I’ve pointed out before, the vegan future is here, it is just unevenly distributed. Almost every vegan has heard, “If all vegan food was this good, I’d eat vegan all the time!” Or, as “a carnivore all the way” said about a vegan restaurant:

Wish they were in my neighborhood, ‘cause I’d be one happy fat vegan cat eating some deep fried tofu with their crazy good tartar sauce. Not kidding.

We will do this. Not kidding.