An Environmental Argument to Help Animals

Many, if not most, environmental arguments tend to focus on the serious impacts of beef. Although we  see a vegan diet as optimal, most people instead see chicken as being vastly superior to beef (and increasingly cheaper than beef). Any time someone replaces beef with chicken, many many more animals suffer.

Here is a great argument that actually helps chicken, from New Scientist (March 21, 2015, p. 44):

Such a switch [from chickens to plant-based substitutes] could make a difference to the environment: if we all swapped chicken for beans, for example, greenhouse gas emissions would be much lower. Chicken is responsible for 6.9 kg of greenhouse gases per kg of meat, compared with 2 kg for bean protein.

girl-hugging-chicken

 

 

The Brutality of the Modern Chicken Industry

Of all the animals raised to be slaughtered for food, birds are quite probably treated the worst.

Why is this the case? It is easy to just think that once living creatures are viewed as commodities, whose flesh is to be sold for profit, the brutality is inevitable.

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The news organization Fusion did a deeper investigation. If you know anyone who doubts that birds suffer in today’s system, please share this with them. If you want to give these animals a voice, please consider a contribution to our work together.

 

Meat Logic: Why Do We Eat Animals?

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vegucated: Three People. Six Weeks. One Challenge.

Film Review By: Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chain

Book Review By: Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

the chainWith the suspense novel The Chain comes the incredible story of Jude Brannock, an animal welfare investigator trying to uncover the animal abuse that takes place in the small town of Bragg Falls. Author Robin Lamont, an animal advocate currently living in New York, uses her professional experience as an actress, a private investigator, and a prosecutor as inspiration for her novels, including this page-turner.

The story begins as Jude Brannock arrives in Bragg Falls, a town that survives only with the local meat packing plant, D&M Processing. Jude, an employee of the animal rights group The Kinship, comes from Washington, D.C. with plans to meet Frank Marino, a D&M worker who has an exposing undercover tape of animal abuse at the plant. Upon her arrival, Jude discovers that Frank was found dead in his car just days earlier. Without Frank or the tape, Jude has no concrete evidence of the supposed animal abuse.

Jude’s passion for her work is what keeps her in Bragg Falls even after the knowledge of Frank’s death. She suspects that extreme measures were taken to destroy any evidence of animal abuse at the plant, so she sticks around to do more investigating.

It becomes clear to Jude early on that her presence is unwelcome in Bragg Falls because people see her as a threat to the town’s livelihood, regardless of any knowledge of conditions at D&M Processing. The knowledge she does gain from a few concerned citizens reveals the horrific, yet very real, treatment of slaughterhouse pigs.

Jude’s entire stay in Bragg Falls is shaped by misfortune and harassment from the town, and what stands out most from her journey is her unwavering conviction. She is brought down time and time again, but continues to fight for what she knows is right. What is also striking is how relatable Jude reveals herself to be. She isn’t just a hardened shell of a woman; she recognizes how difficult her line of work is and the emotional toll that comes with her job. Any animal advocate would easily relate to her character, and she makes this story seem so real.

This informative and inspiring novel is a must-read for anyone wishing to learn more about slaughterhouse animal abuse and the importance of advocacy for animals. Prepare to be on the edge of your seat!

What do you think about The Chain? Let us know in the comments below!

Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate

Book review by Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

GrowlKim Stallwood, a long-time animal rights activist, recently published his first book entitled Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate. Stallwood went vegetarian back in 1974 and then vegan two years later. He began his animal rights career at Compassion in World Farming and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, and he then moved on to be PETA’s Executive Director and the Editor-in-Chief of Animals Agenda. Drawing on lessons learned during his nearly 40 year career in animal advocacy, Growl is a must-read for those who are looking to up their advocacy game in an effective way.

Born in England in 1955, Stallwood began his life like most of us do, eating a variety of animal-based foods. The first seed of compassion for animals was planted as a child when he saw a well-known woman known as Camberley Kate walking her many rescued dogs around town. She’d take them in and find suitable homes for them. Though her presence ignited his compassion for animals, it wasn’t until he worked in a chicken slaughterhouse and processing plant that he awakened to the truth of what happens to animals who are used for food. Not long after that, he found himself going vegetarian and then vegan, and it was then that his career in animal rights took off.

In the book, Stallwood reflects on his own journey of animal activism. In many ways, his experience is like all of ours, with twists and regrets, and in others, it’s entirely unique. How many people are awakened to animal exploitation by working in a slaughterhouse? How many of us have the opportunity to work for several well-known animal rights organizations? He notes where he made mistakes, and he explores what he could’ve done differently to be more effective. He does so by sharing the four key values he believes must make up our animal activism: truth, compassion, nonviolence, and justice.

For example, Stallwood outlines compassion as a value that “encourages selflessness, dissolves prejudice, prevents violence, and promotes peace, through an altruistic love that opens our eyes, hearts, and minds to the suffering of others and forces us to make positive differences in their lives. Compassion is justice in action,” (Stallwood, p. 58).

He makes his point about compassion being a necessity to the animal advocacy movement by painting a picture of what an interaction between Kim the Chef (the man who worked in the slaughterhouse) and Kim the Vegelical (the man in his early days of activism) might look like. Kim the Vegelical has staged a protest with fellow activists outside the slaughterhouse in which Kim the Chef works. His intent is to make Kim the Chef feel guilty for working in the slaughterhouse. Kim the Chef walks by the protest quickly, making an effort not to make contact. Inside, he might feel guilt, because indeed working there has already brought up some of those feelings, but he brushes off the feeling and laughs about the protesters with his coworkers, avoiding expressing his feelings with them.

Personally, I can relate to Kim the Vegelical. While I’ve never protested or yelled at anyone, looking back on conversations I’ve had, I have to question what my motives were. Unfortunately, compassion and understanding for all beings, including humans, were not at the forefront of my mind, despite the fact that I was trying to do right by the animals.

Both Kims would eventually change their attitudes, but “a connection had to be made in which opinions were respected and a genuine reciprocity was experienced before something could shift and progress be made,” (Stallwood, p. 68). Again, I’ve noticed in my own conversations that when both sides act and speak respectfully, much more progress is made for the animals.

Through this scenario, Stallwood shows not only how compassion makes for effective advocacy, but also how ineffective a lack of compassion is.

Throughout Growl, Stallwood highlights his experiences and the lessons he’s learned, and how they relate to the four principles. Any activist, new or seasoned, can learn from Stallwood’s experiences and apply them to his or her own advocacy.

Have you read Growl yet? We’d love to hear what you got out of the book. Post your comments below!

Tips for Running a Successful Pay Per View Event

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

Rachel PPVHave you ever heard of Pay Per View (PPV)? No? Let me explain. Essentially, you offer to pay people one dollar to watch a four-minute video on factory farming, such as Mercy For Animals’ Farm to Fridge or FARM’s 10 Billion Lives. These events are extremely successful on college campuses, but there are plenty of other places you can do them as well.

PPV is great for anyone looking to have meaningful conversations surrounding veganism and animal rights. If at the end of the day you want to feel like you’re making a real difference, try running a PPV event at your local college campus.

VegFund has a short informational video on how to host a successful PPV event, and Mercy For Animals has some great tips for getting started with PPVs, but after interning with Mercy For Animals and running a lot of PPV events myself, I’ve picked up some tips of my own along the way. Hopefully these help you have your own fun and successful PPV event.

Find out ahead of time where you need to go to check in.

A simple phone call will suffice. It’s easier than wandering around campus trying to figure out what to do. Be sure to ask the name of the building that you need to go to. It will save a lot of time and energy. While you’re at it, you might want to ask where you’re allowed to park and how much a parking pass is. Consider printing out a map beforehand.

Rachel College PPVHave multiple volunteers. Three to four is a great number.

It’s hard to do a PPV all by yourself. You’ll need at the very least two people, but three or four is better. Having a few volunteers to answer questions and get people set up with the video and at least one person to draw people in is ideal and will help your event run more smoothly.

Be honest about the video.

When people ask what the video is about, I like to say, “It’s about how animals are treated on factory farms.” Though this may sound like it will turn people away, in my experience, it doesn’t. For me, it feels more honest than saying “It’s about where our food comes from” or “It’s about farming.”

Ask viewers questions that keep the conversation going.

In my experience, asking “Do you have any questions?” is a conversation killer. After watching the video, we want people to open with their own thoughts and questions. Sometimes, though, people don’t even realize they have questions because they are still processing what they saw. This means YOU should be asking the questions.

Some of my favorite conversation starters are “How did that make you feel?” or “Did you know this is going on?” Something along those lines is perfect. Another great question you can ask once the conversation is going along are “Do you think you could ever go vegan?” If they say no, gently ask what’s stopping them and then give suggestions on how to overcome that obstacle. “Do you have any other questions?” is perfect for ending the conversation. That way, you’ve already got them thinking and some questions might be popping up.

Share your story!

People respond to personal stories. If they say they could never give up cheese, tell them about your experiences ditching dairy. Knowing that we are not alone in our journeys and that others have been in our shoes is comforting. Do you remember when you went vegan? Learning from vegans who had been there and done that probably helped you avoid making the same mistakes they did. We all learn from each other, so share your knowledge and make someone else’s transition a little easier.

Have information available on the many impacts of eating meat.

You and I know the devastating environmental impact of animal agriculture, but many people do not. Most people don’t realize how eating meat can negatively impact their health. And many still don’t realize how many resources go into producing meat and that there would be more food to go around if we cut down on our consumption. Share this information with your viewers. Sometimes animal issues aren’t enough, but when people learn that we could feed the hungry with the grains that we feed farmed animals, that has an impact. Everyone is affected by different information, and having that information handy might just be what inspires someone to go vegan! You could even have pro-vegan literature on hand that touches on these other subjects, whether it’s on water usage (PDF), health and nutrition, or even religion! Check out VegFund’s list of brochures you can use!

Know when to let go.

Once in a while, someone won’t act affected at all and you can’t stress over it. Instead, hand them the free information and let them go on their way. They may not go vegan today, but you planted a seed and that’s all you can do. Another thing to keep in mind is if they don’t show much of a reaction, they may not feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of a stranger and that’s okay. However, that doesn’t mean they weren’t affected.

Use VegFund’s resources.

You might be thinking, but I don’t have 100 dollars to give to people. That’s where VegFund steps in to help! You can apply for mini-grants and if you’re approved, VegFund will reimburse you for the money you hand out. Check out this page for more information on how it works.

So what do you think? Would you ever run a PPV event? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this form of outreach!

 

VegFund Sees Green as the New Black for Microfinance

Moving clients to plant-based diets to enhance institutional profitability and leading a more comprehensive practice of responsible finance

By Leslie Barcus, VegFund Executive Director

Microfinance conference

The Microfinance Centre of Poland (MFC) invited VegFund to serve on two panels, one on Pushing the Boundaries of Responsible Finance: Lean, Green and Mean(ingful) and another on The Impact of Animal Agriculture Microfinance on Customers’ Health and Well-being as a part of the MFC 2014 Annual Microfinance Conference held recently in Istanbul.

Sponsored by VegFund, Dr. Richard Oppenlander, Founder of Inspiring Awareness Now and a noted author on promoting plant-based foods, addressed the ills and negative externalities resulting worldwide from animal agriculture. He spoke about the attribution of animal agriculture to global soil depletion, water overuse, land scarcity, pollution and the devastation to human communities of climate change.

Microfinance clients represent some of those people most deprived of clean and adequate water and access to land and are at risk of the loss of their homes and assets resulting from natural emergencies driven by climate change. They equally represent the estimated 800 million people who go hungry each and every day.

Jakub Sobiecki, a nutritionist and dietician from Poland and a second panelist sponsored by VegFund, noted the link between the increased consumption of animal fats in the developing world and the rise of chronic disease and related deaths from diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The global microfinance community is dedicated to closing the financial inclusion gap across the developing world where the increase in the current global demand for meat and dairy is anticipated to rise by 80 percent in the coming years. The irony is that the developing world may effectively eat its financial and economic advances into yet greater problems of climate change, pollution, flooding, fresh water shortages, greater food insecurity and income vulnerability owing to poor diets.

Grappling with these challenges will bring greater financial and personal vulnerability to microfinance households. That, in turn, spells problems for risk management and financial performance for microfinance institutions. The potential for these scenarios suggests that the notion of responsible finance should include the care of the microfinance community for the well-being of clients and the environment as microfinance institutions reach for financial sustainability.

Aspiring to serve millions of low-income households around the world, those professionals working for financial inclusion have a unique opportunity to lead in the development of responsible and ethical finance through the redirection of feeding the planet with plant-based foods.

A healthier client base will translate into a lower rate incidence of illness, less vulnerability to household loss of income and less risk of loss for microfinance institutions.

The microfinance community can boost clients’ assets by helping people feed themselves more food with the input of fewer already scarce resources. Plant-based foods produce tens of pounds more food using less water and less land compared to non-vegan foods, and plants are significantly less polluting.

Promoting health, abundance and environmental sustainability for the world’s vulnerable poor is the essence of true sustainability and responsible finance.

Part 1: Creating Engaging Social Media Posts

As animal advocates, our goal is to educate as many people as possible about the realities of animal agriculture and encourage them to make choices that are kind to animals and the planet. As such, social media is one of our most powerful tools because it enables us to reach large numbers of people very quickly. By creating Facebook and other social media posts that are engaging (i.e., generate a lot of comments, likes, and shares), our reach will expand even further. And, it doesn’t take much extra effort.

In addition to reaching people with our message, we also need to build relationships with those who follow us on social media networks. By doing so, we establish trust, which can go a long way in influencing positive lifestyle changes.

What Types of Facebook Posts are Most Engaging?

According to Smith (2013), posts that include photos and status updates have the greatest reach. Educational posts and posts with videos tend to get a lot of likes and shares, and posts that ask questions often get many comments (Greenstein, n.d.). However, engagement will vary from page to page, so you may want to experiment and see how people respond to different types of posts. If you manage a Facebook page, you can find out what works best by going to the “See Insights” tab and then clicking on the “Posts” tab. Once there, click on the “Post Types” tab. You will then find the average reach and engagement by type of post.

In our experience, posts that reveal the shocking truth about the way animals are treated are extremely engaging and reach quite far. If you do post any disquieting information, photos, or videos, be sure to suggest actions that help solve the problem; research has demonstrated that this is one of the best ways to help people change (Barach, 1984). There are many actions you can encourage people to take, but just make sure that they are practical. If the action seems too difficult, it may not have any effect on the audience. You also always want to make sure that you’re complying with the social media platform’s guidelines, as certain types of content are sometimes prohibited.

How to Get More Comments, Likes, and Shares

  • It may seem too good to be true, but if you politely ask for comments, likes, and shares, users will often comply (Greenstein, 2012; Smith, 2013). However, don’t overdo it or you may drive people away (A. Malhotra, C. K. Malhotra, See, & Business, 2013). Asking once or twice a week should be fine, but experiment to see what works best on your page. It’s recommended that you ask for only one thing (i.e., comment, like, or share) per post (Smith, 2013). For example, you can say something like: “If you like this recipe, ‘Share’ with your friends!” or “Tell us what you think in the comments.”

  • Keep users interested by posting regularly (Williams & Page, 2011). Try posting once or twice a week at first to see how your fans react. Drell (2012) stated that some brands have been successful with one post per day. However, many have found that making two or more posts per day can reduce engagement. If you only post a few times a week you can still keep your fans engaged by “liking”  and responding to their comments (Drell, 2012). Most importantly, be sure to emphasize quality over quantity when posting.

  • In your posts, try to convey messages in as few words as possible; research has shown that shorter posts generally get more likes (Malhotra, et al., 2013). Aim for 100 characters or less to get the most engagement, and whenever possible include compelling photos, which will make your posts even more effective (Pierce, 2012).

  • People love to associate themselves with winners, so share milestones, achievements, and success stories (Malhotra., et al., 2013). You can post about the growth of your page or awards you have received for your activism. You can also share heartwarming stories about rescued farm animals.

  • Posts with questions placed at the end receive 15% more engagement compared to questions asked in the beginning (Pierce, 2012). Ask your fans what they would like to see on your page or what their favorite meat alternatives are.

  • Make sure to keep up with current events, holidays, and other important dates; these types of posts are seen as more personable (Malhotra, et al., 2013). Try posting vegan versions of traditional recipes around holidays. You can also share information about breaking undercover investigations.

  • Humanize your messages by showing emotion; humorous posts are particularly effective (Malhotra, et al., 2013). Post funny photos and videos of farm animals.

  • Try to see through the eyes of your audience and create posts that will appeal to them. People who use Facebook typically like posts that educate them, keep them informed and entertained, and help them interact and connect with others (Lachance, 2013).

  • To gain their trust and loyalty, always make sure to respond to any messages users send within a 24 hour period (Williams & Page, 2011).

  • Encourage discussion, but don’t try to control everything that is said. There will probably be negative comments, but your page will be seen as genuine (Savitt, 2011). Of course, your page should be a place where people feel safe and comfortable. It is alright for users to have opposing points of view, but you may want to consider banning or blocking anyone who becomes hostile or threatening. You can even post your ground rules on the About section of the page.

  • Make your page fun! You can try hosting events, running contests, and featuring your fans (Smith, 2013). Post photos of your fans and a short story about their path towards veganism. Of course, you’ll always want to be sure that you know, and are complying with, the rules of the social media platform.

Don’t miss the next blog in this series! We’ll cover how to identify your target audience, find out what appeals to them, and tailor the messaging accordingly.

References

Barach, J. A. (1984). Applying marketing principles to social causes. Business Horizons, 27(4), 65-69.

Drell, L. (2012, June 7). 10 Facebook marketing mistakes to avoid. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/06/07/facebook-marketing-mistakes/

Greenstein, H. (n.d.). A marketer’s guide to the new Facebook. Retrieved from http://images.prsoftware.vocus.com/Web/Vocus/%7Bca91784d-8997-494c-8237-8e77fad39d39%7D_Vocus_-_New_Facebook_Guide.pdf

Lachance, G. (2013, May 11). Top 10 must read tips to run a successful Facebook business page. Retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com/genevieve-lachance/1454711/successful-facebook-business-page-top-10-must-read-tips

Malhotra, A., Malhotra, C. K., See, A., & Business, S. (2013). How to create brand engagement on Facebook. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(2), 18-20.

Pierce, S. (2012, October 10). 5 ways to improve your Facebook engagement. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/improve-facebook-engagement/

Savitt, K. (2011, April 8). Three ways companies can reach Generation Z. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/04/08/marketing-generation-z/

Smith, M. (2013, June 2). 10 proven ways to improve your Facebook reach. Retrieved from http://www.marismith.com/proven-ways-improve-your-facebook-reach/

Williams, K. C., & Page, R. A. (2011). Marketing to the Generations. Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, 3(1), 37-53.