What We Learned About You: VegFund’s Survey of Animal Activists

Just who is your average animal rights activist? VegFund wanted to find out — and what we found out is that there is no “average” animal rights activist — you are a diverse and highly active bunch!

In August 2017, VegFund surveyed vegan activists to learn more about your backgrounds and experiences in vegan advocacy. The results will help guide us in refining and expanding our grant programming, resources, and systems to support your excellent work. We hope you will find them interesting too.

VegFund distributed the survey at the Animal Rights National Conference in Washington, D.C., and the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg. We also emailed the survey to more than 3,600 individuals on our email list and posted it on our website and through our social media channels (Facebook and Twitter). The following is a summary of the survey results as of September 11, 2017, at which time we had received 429 responses.

What We Learned

The Basics

Locations: VegFund supports vegan advocates worldwide with grant funding and online resources. As a U.S.-based organization, the majority of our grantees are located in the United States, but we have an ever-growing international base of grantees.

This map indicates where our grantees are located, followed by a “top three” overview (country, city, U.S. state).

Q3 Location

Top three countries:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada

Top three cities:

  • Toronto, Canada
  • New York, United States
  • Cape Town, South Africa

Top three U.S .states:

  • California
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania/Florida

Age: Activism is not just for the young crowd. Eighty-eight percent of our respondents are between the ages of 26 and 55-plus.

Q4_age

Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents were millennials (age range 26–40), but we were pleasantly surprised to see a broad range of ages represented, with 60% of respondents being over the age of 40.

Gender: Females appear to be the more active gender in vegan outreach (72% of respondents), which is consistent with other findings in the AR/vegan movement — either that or they are more active in completing surveys (“self-selection” bias). Twenty-six percent of respondents were male. Let’s boost that number!

Vegan and Advocate Identity

Now, let’s dive into some of the interesting stuff. What aspects of vegan advocacy inspire and motivate vegan activists?

The insights that follow are an overview of some of the key questions from this survey, but they are not inclusive of all data gathered.

Path to becoming vegan

A large majority of respondents were motivated by animal welfare concerns (88%) on their path to becoming vegan, and most transitioned from being vegetarian to vegan (74%). A significant number of people (32%) were also motivated by health and environmental concerns. We anticipate that health and environmental concerns will become a greater motivating factor as the significant effects of animal agriculture and meat consumption in both areas continue to gain publicity.

Q12_journey

What you like best about being vegan

Using a word cloud, we generated a display of 1100 open-ended responses to the question “What are three words or phrases that capture what you like best about being vegan.” While the word cloud is hardly analytical, it’s certainly powerful in conveying the values around your vegan lifestyle and activism.

Q14 Word Cloud - What liked best about being vegan

The words “compassion,” “health,” and “animal” appeared more than 100 times. Many statements expressed emotions such as happiness, love, empathy, and anger, while others noted data or facts. Environmental and personal health and the concept of living one’s values also appeared a number of times.

Vegan values

We asked activists to rate how well they identify with each of the following three statements (most strongly, somewhat strongly, least strongly).

Eating vegan food makes me feel healthy and has improved my daily life. This aspect of my lifestyle makes me feel healthier and good about myself Most strongly 12%
Somewhat strongly 22%
Least strongly 66%
Adopting a vegan lifestyle lets me be a conscious consumer. My daily purchases reflect my values regarding climate change and animals. I’m proud of this aspect of my life and know that I’m living my values with my dollars and behaviors. Most strongly 45%
Somewhat strongly 48%
Least strongly 7%
Being a vegan means I’m part of a community that cares about health, the earth, and animals. My veganism is part of my identity; I love spending time fighting for animal rights and environmental protection. Most strongly 54%
Somewhat strongly 28%
Least strongly 17%

Fifty-four percent of our grantees emphasized the importance of being part of a compassionate community and highlighted their passion for spending time speaking up for animals and the environment.

These responses point to the importance of community and sharing as primary motivators for our grantees’ veganism and advocacy efforts.

Grantee Advocacy Interests

The survey asked a number of questions relating specifically to the outreach activities and interests of current and potential VegFund grantees.

What kinds of activism are you engaged in?

Activists surveyed are involved in diverse types of outreach activities — from event organizing, leafleting and food sampling to online campaigns, screenings and video outreach, and everything else in-between!

Q9_what-kinds_3

We learned that vegfests are the most popular form of community outreach used by respondents, which is a supporting factor in VegFund’s project to launch a vegfest community of practice — the Vegfest Organizers’ Network.

If you are involved in vegfests and would like more information on the Vegfest Organizers’ Network, please join our mailing list. The vision of this community is to mine and share the extensive practical knowledge of vegfest organizers. Lessons learned will serve as the basis for trainings, technical assistance, and resource development funded by VegFund with the goal of increasing the quality and quantity of vegfests everywhere.

Other popular forms of outreach fall within the core VegFund grant program areas, which we were pleased to see.

How many animal-right-related events do you participate in annually as an activist?

Forty-five percent of respondents participate in 10 or more outreach events each year. That’s impressive stuff!

Q10_how_many

How would you describe your feelings about activism/advocacy?

We asked activists to select the statements below that most apply to them regarding how they feel about their activist work. The need for more time to devote to activism (50%) and adequate funding (55%) rated high (help us spread the word that VegFund is dedicated to supporting vegan activists through grant funding!) Forty-four percent of respondents indicated that engaging in online communities for connection and growth is important to them. Twenty-nine percent prefer to volunteer as their form of activism, and some individuals (12%) prefer not to engage in one-on-one activism or find activism daunting.

Q11_types_of_activism_2

Inspiring the Future Generations of Vegans and Advocates

We asked respondents what they think are the best ways to inspire others to get involved in vegan activism. The responses were thoughtful and detailed, and — because it was an open-ended question — not simple to summarize. Some of the themes that emerge are empowering others; providing skills, mentorship, and training; making it fun, inclusive, and simple to take action; focusing on the impact of activism; sharing success stories; meeting farm animals; creating volunteer opportunities; avoiding evangelizing; and meeting people where they are/finding what resonates with them.

In your opinion, who are the three audiences most amenable to adopting a vegan lifestyle?

When asked to consider what audiences are most easy to persuade in terms of adopting a vegan lifestyle, respondents highlighted the following:

  • people motivated by animal suffering – 81%
  • people motivated by health or environment – 61%
  • people who are already vegetarian – 60%
  • anyone who will listen – 26%
  • people of a specific age group (please specify) – 22%
  • people in urban areas – 21%
  • those who know nothing about veganism – 8%
  • other (please specify) – 36%

The “other” responses were varied, but these responses suggested that people under 25 years of age are considered the most amenable to adopting a vegan lifestyle, which is consistent with other research in this area.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to complete this survey. Your thoughtful feedback will help guide VegFund’s program development in support of our current and new grantees.

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All percentages given are in relation to the number of respondents to the survey and number of responses allowed per question.

 

 

Persistence, Positivity, and Patience: The Influencing Factors of Behavior Change

The first, annual Reducetarian Summit

VegFund sponsored and attended the first-ever Reducetarian Summit last month, held in New York City, May 20 and 21. The Summit was organized by The Reducetarian Foundation and complemented the recently released book, The Reducetarian Solution, by Brian Kateman. The event brought together a global network of perspectives and technologies with the goal of exploring how to create a more equitable, compassionate, and sustainable food system.

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Some 400 practitioners, students, and the interested public convened at the event. The central theme of the Summit was a call to collaborate to reduce global meat consumption on a significant scale as a fundamental step needed to effect positive and lasting changes in the areas of:

  • animal rights and welfare
  • food systems and food services
  • world hunger
  • the environment and resource use
  • climate change
  • human economic development and policy

A daunting task

Reducing meat consumption globally is a daunting and sobering task, to say the least. A reminder of the magnitude of the problems relating to meat consumption is worth restating. In the United States, we consume an estimated 275 pounds of meat per person per year, largely because meat is readily available and affordable due to the massive use of antibiotics, highly tuned genetics, factory farming, and feedlots. China consumes 25 percent of all meat produced today — double that of the United States. Export of the factory farming model to other countries is driving up meat production and consumption across the industrializing world. Animals consume an estimated 36 percent of all food crops grown as we face the possibility for simultaneous famines in the world at this time.

Those of us who promote a vegan lifestyle hope for zero percent animal consumption TODAY, but we operate within an environment in which much of the West has created a dietary and economic dependency on animals and on the marketing and subsidies that make animal products the easiest foods to access.

How do we tackle the problem systematically?

Unwinding this model will take long-term efforts to change not only consumer behavior but also agricultural and food policy, farming for food production, and dietary standards — to name just a few of the challenges we face.

Factory farming is pushing the world’s some 500 million small farmers off the land where their daily survival is tied to animal agriculture. This phenomenon and other harsh realities force us to examine simplistic approaches to behavior change in meat consumption and the use of animal products.

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

The key question of the two-day event was: “How do we as individuals, organizations, communities, and societies work to systematically decrease meat consumption?” Discussions covered a variety of important topics, including our broken food system, the politics of meat, the rise of conscious capitalism, innovations in food manufacturing, and more.

Persistence, positivity, and patience

Reducetarian panelists spoke about how we must not use ineffective tactics that demonize people for eating meat, but rather, as vegan activists, we should focus on the good a person is adding to his or her life and community when choosing to not consume an animal product. We need smart approaches to working with chefs, religious institutions, and community leaders as influencers and change-makers. We, as activists, need to act broadly across policy, legislation, and local and national politics. And, we need to work within the mind-boggling web of the supply and value chains that eventually lead to the products on our food plate. Above all, we must be persistent, positive, and patient — and take a deep breath for the long-haul!

Panelists repeatedly stressed the importance of collaboration. Whether vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or reducetarian, if we as activists are to make a dent in the mass scale of factory farming, we must work together; listen to the points of view of others, build relationships, and use the wealth of skills, passions and technology available to us.

Learn more

You can now view the full video recordings of the Summit presentations and panels, which we highly recommend. After the success of the 2017 event, the Summit returns in 2018 for another inspiring gathering of creative minds and timely topics! Register your interest now to receive further details and updates.