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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

 

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 Synagogue Vegan Challenge: Jewish Communities Embrace Vegan Living

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how does The Synagogue Vegan Challenge work?

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

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

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

Who can get involved?

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

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

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

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

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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.