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.

A typical Facebook campaign structure looks something like this:

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Source: thenextad.com

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.

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.

California College Students Share Vegan Food Samples for Meatout 2015

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Volunteers from Vikings for Animals in CA discussing veganism with their fellow students.

Every first day of spring, thousands of vegan activists take part in Meatout, and VegFund is thrilled to be a source of funding for some of these activists through our Food Sampling program. These events vary widely in size and layout, but what they all have in common is vegans banding together to show others how wonderful vegan food can be and to encourage them to move toward a more compassionate diet.

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It’s always best to have multiple volunteers to ensure you’re able to greet each person and keep everything going smoothly!

One of the best recaps we have gotten so far from Meatout 2015 that just passed was from Vikings for Animals, a local college student group in California. They reached an estimated 350 students at their school with vegan food samples and literature. They even gave out information on how to eat vegan in their local community and how to get involved with their group. It is always a good idea to give potential new vegans information like this that they can use to follow up on their good intentions once your food sampling table is gone!

At their table, Vikings for Animals gave out vegan cookies, milks, and deli slices, all of which passersby found interesting and tasty. The food and information led to some great conversations, including with former vegans, someone who was dating a vegan, someone whose mother was an activist, and more! All of this shows how important and helpful it can be just to get the vegan message out there and be available to answer questions and clear up misconceptions.

Missed Meatout this year? No problem! As our many past and current grantees know, VegFund gives out Food Sampling grants year round and it is a piece of (vegan) cake for any eligible vegan activist to get started. Check out our guidelines today!

Embrace and Encourage: Lessons from Three Decades

Speech, as prepared, for the 2015 San Diego VegFest
Matt Ball, Senior Advisor

Before we open it up for discussion, I want to share a bit of my story with you, as a way to frame some of the lessons I’ve learned about being vegetarian since I first stopped eating animals nearly 30 years ago.

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Loved meat, and groovy pants!

Growing up, and then when I went off to college in 1986, I was not even close to being a vegetarian. I loved going out to eat (in my funky pants!). I loved steak and pizza. I didn’t like any vegetables except corn on the cob.

But then, my roommate in college was an older transfer student, two inches taller than me and probably 70 pounds heavier. Fred was an imposing guy. He was also a vegetarian. And of our circle of friends, he decided I was the most likely to change, so he regularly told me about the cruelty of factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses.

Believe me: I did my best to tune him out.

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I didn’t want to know anything about what went on. But before the end of the year, I had stopped eating animals. I lived on the cafeteria’s Captain Crunch, and cheese sandwiches on white bread. And french fries — lots of french fries. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t particularly happy. My Mom was sure I was doing permanent harm to my health. I couldn’t really argue.

So I went back to eating meat.

But I was never able to put what was being done to animals completely out of my mind. I had lost the bliss of ignorance.

ideas1The next year, I lived in an apartment, responsible for my own food purchases. One day, I was looking in the mirror and the thought just came to me: “How can I consider myself a good person if I continue to eat animals?”

I had no answer.

I have never eaten meat since.

After that, I joined the local animal rights group. I learned about the reality behind eggs and dairy. But again, I didn’t immediately jump to veganism. I bought free range and amish products — “happy” eggs and dairy, if you will.

Again, I evolved over time. The more vegans I met, the closer I came to being vegan myself. Eventually, I stopped eating all animal products and entered the next stage:

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The angry vegan.

As I discuss in the essay, “Letter to a Young Matt” (in TAA):

I had finally, finally come to recognize the brutality that went on behind the scenes. But it seemed almost no one around me cared. Even worse than that, they mocked and attacked me for being vegan! I mean, not only did they support cruelty, but they ridiculed me for not eating animals!

Of course, I had to show them: how ethical I was, how much cruelty I could purge from my life, how far I would go for the animals. Being vegan became my defining characteristic, and I became obsessed with justifying and glorifying veganism (and, thus, of course, myself).

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Debates about language, philosophy, and hypotheticals all took on vital importance. I had to take part in any protest that came along: driving long distances, being out in sub-zero weather, getting arrested. I couldn’t “turn my back” on the animals. I was just that dedicated!

Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t blame Young Matt. In the face of what is being done to animals, being angry is entirely justified. Feeling desperate to “do something, do anything” is understandable. And coming up with new arguments, new claims, new chants and slogans and protests … well, it all seemed logical at the time.

I had one more lesson to learn, which I had to learn the hard way.

I finally realized that the irreducible heart of what matters is suffering. Back then, even though I was absolutely sure I knew everything, I really didn’t know anything about suffering. Since then, though, I’ve developed a chronic disease and have experienced times when I thought I was going to die, times when I wished I would die. Back then, I worried about abstractions and words and principles; I argued about exploitation and oppression and liberation. I didn’t take suffering seriously. Now, knowing what suffering really is, and knowing how much there is in the world, all my previous concerns seem, well . . . to put it kindly . . . ridiculous.

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I first ended up in the emergency room almost exactly 20 years ago. I then spent months and months bouncing from doctor to doctor. It was only then, once I had first-hand experience with real suffering, that I knew my life’s true calling. Veganism, animal rights, anti-speciesism, definitions, abstractions, arguments — all these are relevant only inasmuch as we use them to actually reduce suffering.

And that’s what I’ve dedicated my life to ever since.

So what are the lessons we can take from my journey?

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First, my experience is in keeping with one key fact: the vast majority of people who stop eating animals eventually go back to eating meat. The Humane Research Council’s survey found this to be the case for about 80% of people who go vegetarian (see also Ginny Messina RD’s take).

80%!

As advocates, we haven’t had a lot of success since Peter Singer published Animal Liberation in the 1970s. Given this absurd rate of recidivism — 4 out of 5 quitting! — it isn’t surprising that the percentage of vegetarians in this country hasn’t grown in proportion to our efforts.

Clearly, we have a lot to learn if we are to make significant progress. There are two important insights from the HRC study.

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First: The data clearly shows the biggest difference between those who are currently vegetarian, compared to those who stopped being vegetarian, is that current vegetarians are motivated by “Animal Protection” — 68% of people who are still veg, vs only 27% of those who went back to eating animals. The people who were motivated primarily for health were the ones who went back to eating animals. So obviously, if we want to help animals, we should give up trying to “trick” people into going veg for health or other forms of self-interest. Rather, we will help animals the most by actively advocating for animals.

Second, the people who go veg the quickest are also more likely to go back to eating animals. I’ve seen this over and over. For example, two close friends of mine went vegan overnight. Now, neither of them are even vegetarian.  On the other hand, people who, like me, slowly evolve to an ethical diet are more likely to keep making compassionate choices.

The take away from this is to embrace and encourage everyone who has ever taken steps to help animals. I was a failed vegetarian. I bought “happy” animal products. I can tell you — if people had screamed at me, attacked me for my failings, the issue in my mind would have changed. I wouldn’t have still been thinking about animals; I would have been focused on the angry, fanatical vegans who were attacking me.

Veganomics

This is backed up by the data on two levels. The first, as referenced in Nick Cooney’s book Veganomics, is that people who buy “humane” meat eat less meat than the average person, and are more likely to go vegetarian.

Related to this is the most important point: the number of animals killed in this country is going down.

Given that reducing the number of animals suffering and dying is the bottom line, it is worth unpacking this good news a bit.

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For decades, the number of animals killed in this country skyrocketed. Prompted to “eat healthy,” people replaced red meat with chickens. Since it takes over 200 chickens to provide the same amount of flesh as one cow, the move to “healthy eating” led directly to billions more individuals suffering. Given that chickens are much more intensively raised, the amount of suffering went through the roof!

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But since 2006, the number of animals killed in the US has fallen, even as the human population has gone up. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been because of a significant rise in the percentage of vegetarians and vegans. Rather, fewer animals are suffering and dying because of the number of people who are eating fewer animals — meat reducers.

Knowing this reinforces a point made previously: We shouldn’t attack or obsess over people who don’t immediately go veg — those who cut back on meat, who talk about “happy meat.”

Instead, we should embrace — and encourage — every evolutionary step anyone takes to help animals.

My example shows that the path to a compassionate life is often an uneven journey. There are many similar stories. A friend of mine went veg as a teenager, and his brother mocked him relentlessly. That brother?

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Paul Shapiro, who later went on to found Compassion Over Killing. He is a member of the Animal Rights Hall of Fame, and one of the most important voices for animals in the country.

In addition to not giving up on anyone, we should also look into what specifically causes people to change their diet in a way that helps animals. In addition to HRC’s survey, the best source of this information is a large study by The Humane League.

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Here are two graphs of the motivations for people who are veg or semi-veg. I know you can’t see these clearly, but they show that of the activist tools available to us, video is very important — documentaries and online videos. This is why my group, VegFund, focuses on the most modern tools available to us, rather than what is easiest, most popular, or what was cutting edge 20 years ago.

These graphs also show the importance of conversation, which gets to another important lesson: The power of example. I would actually put this in an even broader context:

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The impact of what we personally eat absolutely pales in comparison to the impact we can have with our example, our advocacy, and our donations. Imagine if you have a conversation with someone, or convince someone to watch an online ad, or fund the screening of a documentary, and as a result, just one person stops eating animals. With just that relatively minor effort, you will have done as much good as will be accomplished by every compassionate choice you will make the rest of your life.

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Now there’s tons more we can discuss, which is why I wrote two books and tried to keep my prepared remarks short. But before we open it up, this last point bears repeating: each one of us can have a profound impact in the world.  We don’t do this by being the angry vegan. The key to changing the world is to set aside our ego, to refuse to be driven by dogma, to refuse to give into anger and hatred.

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Instead, we can focus on positive, pragmatic, practical outreach that is entirely dedicated to helping as many animals as possible.

As I hope I’ve made clear, it was extremely difficult for me to stop trying to glorify my veganism. I was the worst offender in terms of worrying about words and definitions and winning arguments. But now, I think back to times when I was in so much pain that I wanted to die. Wanted to die. And I know there are animals out there who are going through that right now.

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You know that, too. You know that what is being done to animals right now is so brutal, so terrible, it hurts just to watch the footage. It hurts to even think about it.

Embrace your empathy! Let your fundamental compassion drive you. Your basic goodness can keep the focus on the bottom line — helping animals as much as possible — while preventing distractions like dogma and definitions.

We should do this because a truly different world is possible! When I stopped eating animals nearly 30 years ago, I didn’t believe the world could change.

Now I know it can.

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The future is in our hands. The world can change if enough of us embrace radical pragmatism and set a realistic, reasonable example. If enough of us let our advocacy and our contributions be guided by having the greatest possible impact. If enough of us recognize the unstoppable power of compassion matched with reason.

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It is an incredible time to be vegetarian. Billionaires investing in vegan companies. Brilliant, bottom-line dedicated individuals building companies to reach the mainstream, not just vegans. Food technology advancing like crazy.

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Restaurants like Veggie Grill and Native Foods spreading like wildfire and reaching an ever-increasing audience. The number of animals slaughtered going down.

We are at the start of a fundamental transformation of our society. You can play a pivotal part. Please do — and you can start by visiting VegFund.org today. As an activist and/or a donor, you can truly change the world!

Thank you so much!

matt@vegfund.org

 

Raw Data: Attitudes Relevant to Our Efforts for Animals

Last year, my friend Peg, who owns / runs the local vegan restaurant, was reading The Accidental Activist. It inspired her to contact different departments at the University of Arizona here in Tucson, with the question if anyone would be interested in doing research into vegetarianism. Professor Merrie Brucks got back to her — she teaches a marketing class in the MBA program there. Every semester, the new class takes on a “client” for whom the class does marketing research. So I’m the client this year (on behalf of VegFund and, ultimately, of course, farmed animals).

I gave a presentation the first week of classes, and answered questions (the class is 1:15 long, and Professor Brucks had to stop the conversation after we had gone way over). The class was subsequently divided into four groups, and the different groups have been meeting with me to discuss their ideas, research, etc.

VegFund has pledged some money to allow the class to do larger, national surveys with their final questions. This way, we can maximally leverage the efforts of the class, to get the most useful data to allow us to help animals better. Here is my report from being with the class again last Wednesday:

The four groups are doing their exploratory research — more in-depth interviews and surveys of individuals that are intended to both utilize the research techniques they are learning in class, as well as to inform the design of their larger final survey. Professor Brucks, the class, and I asked questions and gave feedback.

There were several universal findings:

1. Everyone views veganism as much much harder than vegetarianism, and views vegans negatively (angry, fanatics, judgmental).
2. Everyone views chicken as healthy. Everyone who talked about health ate a lot of chicken.

I have pages of notes. As you might guess, some groups were further along. It was interesting to learn about the different research methods intended to get at people’s true motivations / opinions, rather than their rationalizations or desired view of themselves. Here are just a few items in addition to the above:

Group 1: Food Choice Motivations (general, not veg-specific)

When we met a few weeks ago, two of the people in this group had very different views on what they should be doing.
Looking to separate out what people think they should do vs what they actually do.
Motivations run into so far (in order of prevalence): health (chicken), religion, animal issues, environment

Group 2: Social Norms and Stigmas

One aspect is looking at people’s perceptions of the ladder, meat lover à omnivore à meat-reducer à vegetarian à vegan (a general theme of the class).

Most interesting here was their word association. Words like “meat” and “steak” and “chicken” all had positive associations, but “Tyson chicken” and “factory farming” had negative. “Tofu” was neutral, “faux meat” bad (“disgusting”).

They asked what a person would choose as their last meal (steak, surf-and-turf), and asked what one food they would eat for the rest of their life (chicken, because it is healthy). One of the team members was interviewing another team member’s roommate, and asked when the last time the roommate had had a meatless meal. “Oh, I can’t remember. Has been ages.” But they had just had vegetarian pad thai the night before.

Group 3: Vegetarian Products and Restaurants

People don’t see vegetarian products as healthier than eating chicken; think eating healthier means replacing red meat with chicken.

People can imagine eating veg for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner. Need to have meat to be satisfied. (Discussion of Bittman’s “Vegan Before Six” idea.)

Group 4: Animal Suffering

Very hard to discuss; people immediately defensive.

Cognitive dissonance.

People think cows, pigs, and chickens are all treated the same.

Rationalizations (in order of prevalence): Top of food chain, religion, just how it is, healthy to eat meat.

People say it is worse in other countries (China).

That’s all for now,
-Matt (cross-posted at my blog)

Pay Per View Spotlight: L214 – Vegan Place in Lyon, France

l214viewerYou may not know this, but VegFund offers pay per view grants to activists all over the world, not just in the US. The only difference is that viewers in the US receive $1 cash reimbursements, whereas viewers outside the US must receive non-cash reimbursements (usually a delicious vegan treat) costing $1 or less.

One group that has done some great pay per view events is French organization L214, which does events called Vegan Place, sometimes assisted by other vegan or animal rights organizations, where they set up tables in the middle of a busy location. In addition to passing out brochures and selling some vegan food to help fund their work, they offer viewers a free vegan dessert (such as a chocolate chip cookie) for watching a video about animal cruelty in France.

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An activist holds up a sign that offers viewers a free piece of cake in exchange for watching a video.

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One pay per view event, for example, was in the city of Lyon. In this case, they were joined by the Association Végétarienne de France (Vegetarian Association of France) and a student group called Sentience. They estimate that they reached 600 people with their work that day. Of those, about 400 tasted vegan food samples and 120 watched the video. L214 activists feel that many people at these events have their thoughts and behavior influenced both by the videos and by the food samples.

If you’re interested in doing a pay per view event wherever you are in the world, please review our guidelines and then fill out an application!

Chanted Morals or Deep-Fried Tofu?

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Animal Charity Evaluators.

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

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

Lessons from the Relevant Data

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re Already on the Same Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will do this. Not kidding.

 

Do You Know VegFund’s Secret?

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     This (video) made me cry.
     I’m never eating meat again!
     -Ameyah

You know the animals need our best efforts, every day.

This is why we’re working around the clock to provide the animals a voice and get more people to make compassionate choices.

Here’s the secret:

You can expand these cutting-edge outreach efforts, and change even more lives!

Today, a generous donor will double your donation, dollar-for-dollar!

All overhead is covered, so 100% of your contribution will go directly to reaching new people!

We are thankful you are a part of this work. Your dedication really is making the world a better place.

Please click here and give what you can — every dollar makes a difference. Thank you!

Matt Ball Joins VegFund!

Matt Ball in PhoenixWe are very excited to announce that Matt Ball has joined the VegFund team as Senior Advisor!

Matt is the author of The Accidental Activist and co-author of The Animal Activist’s Handbook. He has been a leader in the animal advocacy movement for over 20 years, and was inducted into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame in 2005.

Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at HSUS, has observed Matt’s work: “Over the past two decades, Matt Ball has had a singularly profound influence on the animal protection movement in the United States. Matt’s reasoned, eloquent focus on having the biggest possible impact with the greatest possible efficiency has resonated with tens of thousands of individuals, and created fundamental, pragmatic change on every level of the movement.”

Similarly, Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary’s Senior Policy Director, notes: “Matt Ball is in the very small group of people who have had the most significant influence on animal advocacy. Matt has been an essential, logical, relentless force for changing our movement’s focus, stating over and over in every possible forum that since something close to 99% of animals killed in the U.S. each year die to be eaten, our priorities as a movement should shift to reflect that. As much as anyone I know, Matt has bent the arc of history toward justice.”

Matt explains: “It is vitally important that we all learn and evolve. My approach to advocacy 20 years ago is no longer the best way to help animals today. VegFund is driving new and innovative advocacy, learning from the experience and research of activists and groups across the country and around the world.

“VegFund isn’t driven by inertia or tradition. Rather, they have been at the leading edge of inventive, effective veg advocacy. This is why VegFund is such an important group, and why I am honored to be a part of this dynamic, vital work.

“Thanks to all the donors and activists who have made VegFund such a powerful force for good. I look forward to working with you!”

If you’d like to support Matt and the work of VegFund activists around the world, please click here!

The Health Argument vs. Ethical Argument: Which Is More Powerful?

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

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Cease Animal Torture hosts a table at their university in California, including some vegan health information and an environmental argument for going vegan.

“I’m vegan because I’m really concerned about animal welfare.” “I chose to become a vegetarian because I wanted to lose weight.” “The environment really suffers from animal agriculture, and that’s why I chose not to eat meat.”

All of these are common reasons for choosing and maintaining a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, but is there one reason that’s more common among non-meat eaters? Are health arguments more convincing than ethical arguments? Activists could benefit from knowing these answers because they are frequently questioned about the reason(s) behind their lifestyle choice. By knowing which argument is most effective, activists could be more fruitful in encouraging their audience to choose vegetarianism or veganism.

Published research studies on vegetarianism reveal that there are two primary motivations for a meat-free diet: health concerns and ethical considerations (Fox & Ward, 2008). A recent online study conducted by Winthrop University showed that a majority of vegetarians (including vegans) chose to be and stayed vegetarian for ethical reasons. A little over 80 percent of the subjects that were surveyed online stated that their original reason for becoming vegetarian was of an ethical nature. Almost 83 percent of those subjects also stated ethical reasons for why they have remained vegetarian (Hoffman et al., 2013).

So now that we have this information, how can we as activists use it to our advantage?

Because a majority of people choose to be vegetarian and remain vegetarian due to ethical concerns, an ethical argument is what we can best use to persuade our audience to choose a compassionate lifestyle. Here are some tips on how to be as effective as possible during activism:

  • Make your words powerful. This is especially important. Try to use strong, vivid language as you share with your audience the facts and atrocities behind factory farming and why you believe it isn’t ethical.
  • Create powerful imagery. Ask them if they can picture their cat or dog in the same place as a factory farmed pig, cow, or chicken. That’s something that is sure to stay with them.
  • Prepare. This is something so crucial for activists. If you want to appeal to people with an ethical argument, it is important to know your facts. Maybe you can learn the statistics on the numbers of animals killed or harmed, specific types of abuses, and answers to some common objections you will hear.
  • Be positive. In addition to sharing negative statistics, you may also want to spread awareness of how many animals’ lives are saved each year just by maintaining a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
  • Be confident. This may be easier said than done, but showing confidence really makes a difference during activism. If you believe in yourself and what you are saying, your audience will have an easier time believing you!

Do you have any great activist tips? Please share them with us in the comments!

References:

Fox, N. & Ward, K. (2008). Health, ethics and environment: A qualitative study of vegetarian motivations. Appetite, 50(2-3), 422-429.

Hoffman, S.R. et al. (2013). Differences between health and ethical vegetarians. Strength of conviction, nutrition knowledge, dietary restriction, and duration of adherence. Appetite, 65, 139-144.