It’s all about the plants!

The rise in “stock-free” farming

Even as plant-based diets become more common, and the word “vegan” crops up in everyday conversation, the global consumption of animal products continues to rise. Factory farming practices are taking root in developing countries, adopting western agricultural models, and with this comes the urgent need to address the effects — past, present, and future — of a now-global unsustainable farming system.

“Animal farming is one of the leading contributors to climate change and environmental degradation. At least 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal farming. What’s more, the agricultural sector is the number one culprit for water pollution, and is projected to make the smallest contribution towards meeting the UK’s 2050 carbon emission target.” ~ The Vegan Society

But, as Newton’s Third Law says: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction…” Millennials are increasingly turning their attention to sustainable living and the development of businesses and brands that align with their values. Within the sector of “stock-free” organic food production, these organizations include ALBA, Veganic Agriculture Network, and Vegan Organic Network, which provide aspiring young farmers with the tools needed to be successful in this up-and-coming industry.

What IS stock-free farming?

Stock-free organic farming, also referred to as veganic farming, originated in the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe during the 1990s, with the world’s first Stock-free Organic Standards being published by Vegan Organic Network in the UK. And now, veganic growers can be found across the globe.

 “Vegan-organics is any system of cultivation that avoids artificial chemicals and sprays, livestock manures and animal remains from slaughter houses. Alternatively, fertility is maintained by vegetable compost, green manure, crop rotation, mulches, and any other method that is sustainable, ecologically viable and not dependent upon animal exploitation. This will ensure long term fertility, and wholesome food for this and future generations.” ~ Vegan Organic Network

Ploughed crop field

Image credit: Jo Prendergast

But what role does stock-free farming play in the future of our food system?

Towards a sustainable farming future

Along with the general public’s rising interest in plant-based food products, influential environmental and public health institutions are also recognizing the environmental and human health benefits of plant-based diets. Embracing the production of plant foods through stock-free organic farming methods would boost us on the way to a cleaner, healthier planet and society.

The environmental and human health benefits realized by working with nature through stock-free farming promise to be significant and include:

  • decreased environmental degradation and pollution
  • minimized resource depletion
  • many fewer food-borne illnesses

The Vegan Society is leading the way towards this more sustainable approach to farming through its Grow Green campaign. This campaign showcases the human and environmental benefits of growing protein crops through stock-free farming practices; takes a holistic approach to food production; and works closely to support the work of farmers, policymakers, and campaigners.

In California, a group of scientists are laying the foundations for veganics research in the United States through conducting in-depth interviews of some 15–20 stock-free organic farmers. Their research will help us better understand the motivations and experiences of farmers across the U.S. who are transitioning to veganic farming systems. These researchers will explore their farming practices, the support needed by farmers, and the challenges they face to be successful in their shift towards a farming system that has the potential to revolutionize our food system.  The group will share results at conferences, in peer-reviewed literature, and in a veganic farming manual describing farmer-identified best practices and the supporting science.

The transition to a more sustainable farming system is not easy, however. Reshaping the current model means long-term efforts on the local to the international level. Tailored approaches are needed to accommodate the socio-political systems of different countries. We need to use smart and strategic approaches to influence government legislation, to work with those who currently provide us with the food on our plates, and to support the individuals who will form the future of our farming communities. Collaboration, flexibility, persistence, and patience are key.

“What we were doing worked in the past, but it’s no longer fit for purpose really. It consumes too many resources; it’s morally indefensible if you think animals are anything more than meat.” ~ Jay Wilde

This short video from BBC Stories introduces Jay Wilde, a beef farmer who went vegan and transitioned to arable, stock-free farming:

Be inspired. Read more about Jay Wilde and his transition to veganic farming.

Are you interested in supporting the shift towards a more sustainable farming future? Let VegFund support you!

Here at VegFund, we’re always looking for fresh and innovative outreach approaches that contribute to a more sustainable and compassionate world. Apply for a VegFund grant today and join us in achieving that vision. From research projects to innovative outreach proposals, these programs can provide you with financial support to help you get your project off the ground! We look forward to hearing from you.

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!

Be Plant Strong: Why more athletes are harnessing the power of plants

February has been a busy month in the world of sports with the U.S. Super Bowl LII kicking things off to an energetic start, followed closely by the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. With these events on the radar and the word  “vegan” being paired with “athlete” more than ever before, we thought we’d take a look at the role plant-based living is playing in the world of sports and fitness and, in particular,  competitive sports.

You’ll find vegan athletes, from amateur to elite, in just about any sport you can name — tennis, running, soccer, boxing, bodybuilding, snowboarding, surfing, cycling, martial arts, skating — each athlete with their own story about how a vegan diet is raising their game on the playing field.

In the run-up to this year’s Super Bowl, we heard about the growing number of NFL players adopting vegan diets, inspired by former lineman David Carter who went vegan in 2014 and has been advocating for plant-based diets ever since. And, in the very recent 2018 Winter Olympics, we saw World Champion pairs figure skater and vegan of ten years, Meagan Duhamel take Gold, showcasing the benefits of a vegan lifestyle to a worldwide audience.

To mark this month of major sporting events, VegFund spoke with four plant-based influencers who are harnessing the power of plants to fuel their sports and fitness goals.

Meagan Duhamel, pairs figure skater

2018 Winter Olympics Gold Medallist pairs figure skater, Meagan Duhamel not only showed the world just what the power of plants can achieve, but she also set a wonderful example during her time in South Korea by rescuing a dog destined for the meat trade and urging fellow athletes to do the same.

2011台北ISU四大洲花式滑冰錦標賽-雙人花式滑冰短曲-CAN_Meagan DUHAMEL+Eric RADFORD by YU CHIH-WEI Reproduced Under Creative Commons Copyright License

Image Source: 2011台北ISU四大洲花式滑冰錦標賽-雙人花式滑冰短曲-CAN_Meagan DUHAMEL+Eric RADFORD by YU CHIH-WEI
(Reproduced Under Creative Commons
Copyright License)

  •  What role do you envision plant-based diets playing in the future of professional sports?

“I hope that more and more athletes will focus on plant-based diets. Dairy is causing so much inflammation that prevents athletes from properly recovering, and I truly hope all people, not just athletes, realize that there is no need for animals in their diet, just nutritiously dense whole foods.”

  • What was the main challenge you faced in your sporting career when switching to a plant-based diet?

“The main challenge I faced was travel. When I am at home, it’s easy because I know all the health food stores and restaurants in my area. It was difficult at first to travel, but then I discovered the HappyCow App, and since then I have the opportunity to find some of the greatest veggie places in the world!”

Find out how this elite vegan athlete prepared to win Gold!

Anthony Mullally, rugby player

Ireland international rugby player Anthony Mullally (aka Vegan Warrior) has been vegan for more than a year now, motivated by his concern about the environmental impact of factory farming and after having already cut out meat from his diet for health reasons. Mullally initially worried that going vegan might affect his performance on the field; however, he is already reporting the positive benefits of this lifestyle after experiencing his most consistent playing season ever.

Image Source: Anthony Mullally

Image Source: Anthony Mullally

  • What was the first positive benefit you noticed, physically or mentally, in your training and performance once you switched to a plant-based diet?

“Mentally I started to a feel a lot clearer — it’s hard to describe, but less busy. Physically I felt less tired, especially in the mornings when all the lads at training are relying on coffee to get them through, I feel I don’t need it. I also started to recover more quickly between workouts, and I’ve hit new personal best scores in the gym.”

  • What role do you envision plant-based diets playing in the future of professional sports?

“One of my goals is to make veganism more acceptable in professional sports. There has already been a massive shift in consciousness, with more and more people being open to it, and I think it will continue to become more common.”

Anastasia Zinchenko, powerlifter and bodybuilder

International-level vegan powerlifter, bodybuilder, and biochemist, Anastasia Zinchenko applies the power of science and plants to fuel her sport and to support others in their fitness goals.

Image Source: Anastasia Zinchenko

Image Source: Anastasia Zinchenko

  • What was the main challenge you faced in your sporting career when you switched to a plant-based diet?

“There are so many different opinions and influences on the internet. All of the sources state something different, which can be really confusing. For this reason, all the information I share online is based on scientific research and accounts for individuals’ differences and preferences. I share this information with the community to make it easier for people to decide what to eat and shed some light on that confusion and the uncertainties that are currently present online.”

  • What role do you envision plant-based diets will play in the future of professional sports?

“I hope that in the future more athletes will become vegan to show that top performance is possible following a vegan diet, which causes the least harm possible to the animals, the environment, and to oneself. I think that vegan athletes are great role models and advocates for a healthier lifestyle that causes less harm.”

Vlad Ixel, endurance runner

Champion vegan ultramarathon runner Vlad Ixel started running in 2012 and turned vegan shortly after. He has had tremendous success in the sport over a short period of time competing and thriving on a plant-based diet.       

Image Source: Vlad Ixel

Image Source: Vlad Ixel

  • What was the main challenge you faced in your sporting career when switching to a plant-based diet?

“I think the main challenge was finding time to eat all the calories that I needed — most days I eat between 4000–5000 calories and, if you want to keep your diet clean, that’s a lot of time spent eating — so I try to find the right mix of raw foods for breakfast and lunch, and heavier cooked foods for dinner.”

  • What was the first positive benefit you noticed, physically or mentally, in your training and performance once you switched to a plant-based diet?

“I would have to say it was the improved recovery — I have been training seven days a week for the past five and a half years and I don’t know too many non-vegans who can do that. I have also competed in over 150 running races, of which I have won 50%. Since going vegan I have been sleeping better and have more energy, plus I’m a happier person — looking back to when I used to eat meat, I used to get angry really quickly but since switching to plant-based foods, I am a lot more relaxed and not so easily aggravated.

After being vegan for a few months, I also got to see that there is a lot more to it than just my own personal increased recovery. That there are millions of animals that die and suffer every single day. I know that I will never have any animal products even if I stop running.”

Are you a vegan health and fitness advocate?

Check out these recently released, dynamic documentaries on plant-based eating and sports. James Cameron’s The Game Changers and Santino Panico’s From the Ground Up are already exciting the public about the health and fitness benefits of plant-based eating. And, keep your eyes open for the release of Running For Good, which follows world-record marathon runner Fiona Oakes in her attempt to compete in the “toughest foot race on earth.”

Consider screening one of these groundbreaking vegan sports documentaries in your community. VegFund is eager to support vegan advocates in sharing these powerful films. Apply for grant funding to cover the film’s license as well as certain event-related costs.

VegFund would like to thank Meagan Duhamel, Anthony Mullaly, Anastasia Zinchenko, and Vlad Ixel for taking time out from their busy training schedules to speak with us and share their valuable insights on how the power of plants have helped them fuel their sporting achievements.

Celebrate World Vegan Day – Screen The Last Pig in your Community!

Looking for outreach ideas to mark World Vegan Day? Why not host a screening of The Last Pig? World Vegan Day, November 1st is an ideal time to raise AR awareness in your community (or any time in November). VegFund is eager to support animal rights activists like you in sharing this powerful film in communities across the globe! The film has just finished screening at independent theaters and on the festival circuit and is now available for community screenings. Read on to find out more about the film and how you can host a screening.

“THE LAST PIG is a lyrical meditation on what it means to be a sentient creature with the power to kill. Deeply immersive, the film follows a pig farmer through his final year of slaughtering pigs. Through sparse, intimate musings, the farmer reveals the growing conflict of a life spent ‘peddling in death.’ ”

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About The Last Pig

This intimate and deeply moving film asks its audience to understand the sanctity of life, with the goal of expanding our capacity for compassion. The Last Pig documents the journey of farmer Bob Comis’ final year farming pigs, with a soul-bearing and honest narrative about the ghosts that will haunt him forever and the struggles he faces to reinvent his life. Comis has been chronicling his life as a pig farmer via HuffPost and his personal blog for the past ten years.

The pace of the film is unhurried and meditative, enabling the viewers to absorb life on the farm and in the slaughterhouse. With stunning cinematography and a beautiful backdrop, Argo documents the life of this small-scale livestock farmer in meticulous detail. Her work illuminates the reality of this industry on a most humane level — from the always entertaining and unique nature of pigs, to the unsettling sounds of the slaughterhouse where their lives draw to a close.

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This feature-length documentary will move your audience and inspire them to question the role of farm animals in our lives. Interested in hosting a screening? Read on for some recommended steps to get started!

Host A Screening

  • Review Screening Guidelines:

Review our screenings guidelines and consider whether you’d like to plan a screening event on your own or in partnership with a local vegan or animal rights group. Also consider what kind of venue you’d choose to screen the film. VegFund is able to cover some of the costs associated with renting a space as well as vegan food samples for audience members.

  • Apply for a grant!

Once you decide you are ready to host a screening, please visit VegFund’s grant application portal to apply for grant funding to cover the film’s license as well as certain event-related costs.

We’ve already heard from activists across the globe expressing their interest in hosting a screening of this film. Join them and play a part in changing hearts and minds. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us via conferences@vegfund.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

For the pigs.

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About The Filmmakers

The Last Pig Director/Producer, Allison Argo of Argo Films:

Allison Argo is a six-time Emmy-winning filmmaker and noted animal advocate. Her inspiring films, all broadcast by PBS and National Geographic, have won more than 80 awards internationally and have reached audiences worldwide. Argo has worked on the frontline for over 20 years, fighting for the just treatment of nonhuman beings. She is known for her emotionally-charged and meaningful films, particularly her intimate portraits of endangered and abused animals.

The Last Pig Producer/Cinematographer, Joseph Brunette:

Producer and Director of Photography, Joseph Brunette, is an award-winning cinematographer whose work has appeared on National Geographic, CNN, PBS, NOVA, Nature, Discovery, and History. Brunette has an ability to capture the essence of even the most poignant moments, and his sensitive work behind the camera enables a level of intimacy and honesty that reveals the vulnerable heart of any story. The Last Pig holds special meaning for Brunette, who has long been an advocate for animal welfare and the environment.

The Impact of Online Campaigns in Vegan Outreach: An Interview with Claudio Pomo of Essere Animali

Essere Animali, an animal rights and vegan organization based in Italy that is dedicated to information-sharing to overcome exploitation of animals, is changing the world for farm animals with their campaigns, which include undercover investigations into animal welfare issues as well as support and guidance on vegan living. Claudio Pomo, online campaign manager for Essere Animali, shared with VegFund how online campaigns can effectively challenge consumer attitudes.

Using Facebook Ads Manager, Essere Animali gained more than 3.3 million impressions in June from Italian men (ages 16–54/16–35), women (ages 16–54/16–35), and both genders together using the two same age groups, measuring a cost-per-click (CPC) of €0.05 ($0.06 U.S) and €0.02 ($0.02 U.S.) for all campaigns — which is incredibly cost-effective! Essere Animali’s continued goal is to maintain a similar CPC with the objective of reaching more than 4 million impressions.

We will take a more detailed look at how Facebook Ads Manager works after comments from an interview with Claudio Pomo, Essere Animali‘s Campaigns Manager.

Insights from Claudio Pomo, Essere Animali’s Online Campaigns Manager

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VegFund: What are the reasons for the demographic, age, and gender you targeted? Did you arrive at any interesting findings through targeting these?

CP: The age demographic was chosen based on what seemed to be the most promising. International research shows that young people are the individuals most likely to change their diet for ethical reasons, which is the objective we are pursuing with our ads. Polls among Italians proved it: per capita consumption of meat in Italy has lowered by 10% in the last six years, and this trend has been led mostly by millennials. So the choice for our ads was quite easy.

As for gender, we started with test groups of male-only and female-only of the same age and also tested the same ad for both male and female genders together. After a few months, we saw slightly better results with the female-only group, but more testing is needed before we can draw clear conclusions from this.

This result supports other research showing that females are more eager to adopt a vegan or a vegetarian lifestyle and are more interested in animal rights in general.

Regardless of this supporting research, even if one gender group achieves better results and lower CPC, we think that there is still importance in targeting the other gender group, investing less, and testing the content to see what works best.

VegFund: Could you provide us with examples of the Facebook ad campaigns that you ran throughout June? What were some of your reasons for creating these particular ads?

CP: We advertised some of the best-performing videos tested in previous months. These are both sad videos from our investigations and happy animal videos showing the emotions and capabilities of farmed animals that people often ignore. One short video of our footage from Italian farms — very sad and highly emotional, but not graphic — has been the best-performing video to date and was designed to work well with people not informed about these issues. So far, it is our most successful video content.

During June, we also tested images and links. With the right picture and good copy, a link can grab lots of attention. In one ad, we linked to an article on our website. The reason for this choice was to try to bring people towards a better platform for communication. The website is a space with much less distraction compared with social media, enabling people to delve deeper into the issue, finding more information and useful links or downloadable material. This type of content may reach fewer people than video content, but I think it can achieve better results overall.

VegFund: Can you offer some tips and best practices for other activists working on online campaigns to achieve low CPCs?

CP: Videos are surely the best content and a must! This is nothing new, but we see it when we try to use other content (links, images, etc.). Videos always win.

Short videos work much better than longer ones, especially when we look at the number of viewers who watch the whole video or most of it (most of the views in Facebook are just a few seconds in length). The perfect video is less than one minute long and should be minimal in terms of graphic content. This kind of graphic content can gain a lot of views, but most videos are too short to have a real impact because people tend to stop them after just a few seconds. The attention span on social media is getting lower every year, so it is vital that we adjust our communication tactics to get the most out of these channels.

Happy videos of farmed animals doing unexpected things work very well too and are important. Other videos get people to understand what happens in farms and slaughterhouses, but happy videos help them empathize with animals and relate to them as individuals who have feelings.

If there is some content that we find relevant, we always test it.

VegFund: Can you provide any further insight into the best-performing groups during your first months of tests?

CP: The best-performing group we created is female-only, ages 16–35, with interests in companion animals, cooking, and food, health, wellness, yoga, and the environment. People in this demographic, we think, can be more interested in the suffering of animals in factory farms or the impact of eating habits on our health and the planet. This target audience, we hope, also consists of people who are more eager to challenge their eating habits — the ultimate result we want to achieve.

Facebook Ads Manager requires a little research before you’ll feel confident using it, but it’s becoming more user-friendly by the day as it gains popularity. It’s worthwhile spending time learning about it for your online campaign efforts. Read on for an overview of how it works.

Facebook Ads Manager and Cost-per-Click

Facebook Ads Manager lets activists set up online campaigns that:

  • measure results
  • test different audiences, and
  • identify which advertisements perform better in terms of cost-per-click (CPC) and impression acquired.

“Impressions” refers to the number of times a web page or element on a web page (such as an ad) has been viewed or appears on a page of search results. “Cost-per-click” measures the revenue a “publisher” (anyone who creates and places an ad) receives each time someone clicks on the publisher’s ad.

An online campaign using Facebook Ads Manager involves creating one or more advertisement. A campaign manager chooses one advertising objective for each campaign and defines a target audience(s) (for example, demographic, genders, age ranges, lookalike audiences), budget, schedule, bidding (which can focus on impressions, conversions, views, or engagement), and placement (where you want your ad to appear).

You can learn more about the Facebook Ads Manager here.

 

Thanks again to Claudio at Essere Animali for taking time to speak with us. We look forward to seeing what else Essere Animali has planned in the coming months. Stay up-to-date with their latest activity on Facebook and Twitter.

Find out more about how VegFund can support you with online campaigns today! We’ll delve further into some more of our grantees’ online campaign successes in the coming months, so watch this space.

Activist Spotlight: Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach held a Food Sampling stall at their local Earth Day festival in April, reaching 50 environmentally-concerned people with lots of wonderful vegan food and educational literature! Activists served Daiya and Field Roast products as well as choc chip cookies, and they distributed Compassion Over Killing’s ‘Eating Sustainably’ and Vegan Outreach’s ‘Compassionate Choices’ literature.

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach -  Earth Day Festival 2016

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach
Earth Day Festival 2016

VegFund spoke with group founder, Lauren to find out more…

VegFund: What inspired you to get involved in vegan outreach?

Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach: Going vegan itself inspired me to be involved in spreading the message. Once educated on the issues, I felt compelled to share the information, to advance the movement. I credit the Sonoma County vegan community for initially engaging that desire. From there, I felt empowered to strike out on my own and keep it up.

VF: What other activism and/or vegan events have you been involved in?

LVCO: I have enjoyed tabling and leafleting on a semi-regular basis. When I last moved to an area with no vegan groups, I decided to start one, Lowcountry Vegan Community Outreach.

VF: What were some of the common responses and/or discussions you had during this event?

LVCO: On the occasion of Earth Day, I often opened up discussions referencing the environmental impacts of food choices. Since all attendees had just participated in a river and neighborhood clean-up, I figured (correctly) that they were more open to vegan food than the overall local population. Many women presented a casual interest, but it was men especially who exclaimed with pleasant surprise upon tasting the samples.

VF: What was the highlight of this event for you?

LVCO: The highlight was being swarmed by a group of middle-schoolers, all of whom loved the samples and readily took the informational brochures and one of whom explained that when she’s done “growing up” and allowed (by her parents or of an independent age), she plans on becoming vegan. She spoke eloquently about dairy milk being for the calves, so I have faith in her, but she was running off when I wanted to explain away any nutritional concerns; so my husband yelled out, “keep influencing your friends!”

VF: What barriers did you face during the hosting of this event?

LVCO: The only limiting factor was the attendance, but it was expected for a town of its population, but capitalizing on a community event that attracted eco-conscious people was a great opportunity nonetheless.

VF: Do you have any quotes/paraphrases from attendees at your event or anecdotes that may be of interest to other activists?

LVCO: My advice is to work with your situation. As I currently live in a relatively sparse and sprawling area, I still can make a difference in the local communities. One can plant seeds, reach out, and create change anywhere.

There are many ways to inspire people with your outreach efforts, and VegFund would love to help you! Please read our Grant Programs Overview for information on the types of grants available and how to apply.

 

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.

Activist Spotlight: Rutgers Veg Society Inspires with Farm to Fridge PPV

In 2016, members of the Rutgers Veg Society held an engaging “pay-per-view (PPV)” video event on their college campus to inform students about the plight of animals in the industrial farming system.

Rutgers Veg Society

For those of you who may not be familiar with “PPV,” it’s a form of outreach where advocates ask the public to view short, informative videos in exchange for a small incentive, such as $1 or $2 or a vegan treat. Vegan activists use PPV as a way to introduce the public to the hard realities of factory farming and related issues in bearable doses (if there is such a thing) that can have a major impact with a minimal investment of their time.

Farm to Fridge

The Rutgers group showed the video, “Farm to Fridge” and enlightened students with information and guidance on becoming vegan — and they were delighted with the response to the event. Rutgers Veg Society was founded in 1970 to provide university students — vegan or vegetarian or those interested in learning more — with a supportive meeting place on campus. The society celebrates the many reasons for vegan living, from animal rights, personal health, environmental impact, and other issues, through regular meetings and community outreach activities. Activities include leafleting, lectures, movie screenings, potlucks, and visits to animal sanctuaries. VegFund interviewed activists, Ngoc Kim and Quadri Lasisi to find out more about this pay-per-view event and Rutgers Veg Society’s other campus outreach activities.

Rutgers Veg Society PPV Event on Campus - 2016

Rutgers Veg Society PPV Event on Campus – 2016

VF: What inspired you to get involved in vegan outreach?

Ngoc: The internet works wonders when you’re looking for individuals who have similar interests. I went vegan after watching a 4-minute video via Facebook titled “Farm to Fridge.” From this point on I started connecting with animal activists and became inspired by a few particular strong women — Kimberly Spiegel from PETA, Amy Horowitz from NJ Farm Animal Save, and Rachel Atcheson from The Humane League. I remember seeing photos of their activism on Facebook and admired how they put their passion into action. I asked, “How do I get started?” Rachel was kind enough to meet me by The Humane League’s office. I lived close by, and she simply asked, “How many leaflets would you like?” She was so generous and handed me leaflets by the boxes so I could get started during my first semester at Rutgers. Over time, I began making the connections of how veganism is not just about animal rights, but also environmental impact and health. I started joining Earth Day marches, climate marches, and joint events with other organizations. Rutgers Veg Society members, events, and alliances continue to grow bigger and stronger!

VF: What other activism or vegan events have you been involved in?

Ngoc: Most of my activism is involved with Rutgers Veg Society. We’ve been involved with numerous organizations on campus and outside the university working with 10 Billion Lives, PETA, Jewish Veg, The Humane League, Meatless Monday, HSUS, NJ Farm Animal Save, Hampton Creek, Gardein. We’ve also gained a relationship with the dining services at Rutgers to help promote Meatless Monday and add more vegan options on campus. To me, veganism is the core — and when I began seeing how it relates to the treatment of animals, environmental issues, and health … it got me thinking about how I should apply my new skill of activism to other causes. I got interested in other forms of activism such as Fossil Fuel Divestment protests and climate change marches, and I’m also looking forward to getting active with Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops and the LGBTQ community.

VF: What were some of the responses or discussions you had during this event?

Ngoc: During the Rutgers Day event, a common response I heard was, “I didn’t know this happened. I’m shocked.” Usually, people are speechless because the short video footage disturbs them. Sometimes I don’t know what to say to them but can only sympathize as if I was them watching the video for the first time. I guide them through the photos in Vegan Starter Kits about where to get plant-based foods, how delicious they are, and how much more nutritious, too.

VF: What was the highlight of this event for you?

Ngoc: There were many highlights of this event. One — the many members and my officers in my organization who came to help set up the event and talk to the many participants about veganism. We had lines throughout the day, and if I didn’t have volunteers, I would’ve been so exhausted, and we wouldn’t have been able to reach out to many individuals in such a highly active event. Two — not only did we reach out to a high number of viewers but we were able to have one-to-one conversations about veganism. We had quantity and quality.

Quadri: In particular, when we paid people to watch Farm to Fridge, many commented on my physique because they were simply astonished that a vegan could build a sizable amount of muscle. I used this as an opportunity to discuss the health benefits of a vegan diet and lifestyle. Many pledged to either consume less meat or stop consuming meat entirely.

VF: What barriers did you face during the hosting of this event?

Ngoc: Because there are strict rules about tabling at Rutgers, we are not able to have vegan meat on display, which would have been a great way for viewers to get a taste that when you’re vegan, you’re not missing a thing.

VF: Do you have any quotes from attendees at your event or anecdotes that may be of interest to other activists?

Ngoc: A quote that was passed to me that I now use when attendees can’t seem to grasp the concept of veganism is “You wouldn’t hurt an animal unnecessarily, would you?” Another suggestion is to sympathize and understand how the attendee feels. If they’re sad, understand that and talk to them as if you were sad and watching the gruesome videos for the first time.

Quadri: Yes! A person I met during an event the Rutgers Veg Society and PETA held here at Rutgers went vegan after reading the leaflet that we handed to him. I took down his contact info, and he has since informed me that since he went vegan he has gotten stronger, leaner, and has much more energy throughout the day, definitely a reassuring anecdote. We’d like to thank both Ngoc and Quadri for taking the time to be interviewed! You can follow Rutger’s Veg Society on Facebook to stay up-to-date on their latest news.

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There are many ways to inspire people with your outreach efforts, and VegFund would love to help you. If you want to host an event similar to this one within your local community or on your college campus, we may be able to offer you some funding. Please read our Programs Overview for information on the types of grants we offer and how to apply.

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