The We Animals Archive — changing the world for animals, one photograph at a time

Last month, photojournalist, author, and educator Jo-Anne McArthur launched the We Animals Archive,* a free archive of photography depicting our relationships with animals around the globe.

z.Jo-Anne McArthur headshot_HR_LesleyMarino-003-2

Creator of the We Animals project, author of two books (We Animals and Captive, due for release this summer), and subject of the critically acclaimed documentary Ghosts in Our Machine, McArthur has been documenting the plight of animals for more than a decade, telling their individual stories with her thought-provoking and moving imagery.

McArthur’s photography evokes a spectrum of emotion —  from heart-wrenching and haunting to joyful and beautiful.

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

The We Animals Archive is a collection of hundreds of images and videos of animals in the human environment, many of which have never been seen before — animals we use for food, clothing, research, experimentation, work, entertainment, and companionship.

Some words from the photographer:

“I’m thrilled to be releasing the We Animals Archive into the world. My work has shown me that, so often, the animals languishing in cages on fur farms, suffering at the end of a rope, or even resting peacefully in the arms of their rescuers, are invisible to so many of us. I want these images to be used in the hope that people truly see the way animals currently exist in our society.” – Jo-Anne

The archive is a free resource for individuals, organizations, and media outlets around the world who are working to help animals. To date, the We Animals images have been used widely on social media, for banners and posters, in slide shows, newsletters, and even on book covers and for billboard campaigns. Browse the We Animals images and start planning how you might use them to educate and enlighten!

Find out more about this wonderful archive and the simple steps required to request photos in  this short video by McArthur herself:

VegFund highly recommends that you take advantage of this great resource in your outreach efforts. And please share widely with your activist buddies!

Support this project: weanimals.org/support

*The We Animals Archive is free to use for animal rights groups, not-for-profit and charity organizations, and educational organizations. The archive is also available on a commercial basis to commercial and media organizations. View Terms of Use.

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 3: Lessons from 10 Successful Facebook Campaigns

This final blog in our social media series explores several extremely popular Facebook pages. Each of these pages have attracted anywhere between one hundred thousand to eighty million fans. We do not endorse any of the following companies or their products, but we can learn from them. Our hope is that the techniques that they use will spark creative ideas for your own online vegan advocacy campaigns.

American Red Cross

Likes: 592,178
Talking about this: 9,943
Cool feature: Two-way conversations to build relationships

The American Red Cross is a great example of a non-profit that successfully uses social media. They use Facebook and Twitter to have two-way conversations with community members, volunteers, and the media; in doing so, they build strong relationships, get feedback on what they do well and how they can improve, and help spread awareness about their programs (Briones, Kuch, Liu, & Jin, 2011). The Red Cross’ southern region chapter uses social media to share volunteer opportunities and events with their fans, while other chapters use it to recruit new volunteers and relay information during crisis situations (Briones, et al., 2011). They also use social media to build relationships with local TV stations and newspapers, which has helped them respond to disasters more quickly. In turn, the media follows the Red Cross and contacts them to generate news stories (Briones, et al., 2011). You can follow the Red Cross’ example and use Facebook and other forms of social media to build relationships and establish trust. You can also follow other animal rights groups to find out the latest developments and spread the word on your own page.

Burt’s Bees

Likes: 2,273,163
Talking about this: 95,361
Cool feature: Inside look at their company and products

Burt’s Bees provides a look at the inner workings of their company and products through the use of videos and photos, which makes fans feel welcome and establishes trust (Porterfield, 2010). If you feel comfortable enough, you can do the same for your page by sharing your own story and experiences with vegan living and animal rights. In addition to posting “inside look” status updates on your page, you can also create a special tab with videos and photos of you and the people who volunteer for your page.

Coca-Cola

Likes: 80,101, 225
Talking about this: 665,948
Cool feature: Fun competitions

Coca-Cola gets their fans involved with their page by running fun competitions, such as the Share a Coke® Valentine’s Day Competition. They asked fans to submit photos of themselves with their loved one while sharing a Coke. The fans who submitted the most creative photos won personalized sets of Coke bottles. You can try asking your fans to post photos of themselves at vegan restaurants and farm sanctuaries, which will help spread the word about these places, and get your fans more involved with your page. If you decide to run competitions on your page, remember to make it easy to join (i.e., have only a few steps to join), easy to share so more people will find out about it, and most important of all, make it fun (Porterfield, 2010)!

Jones Soda

Likes: 1,013,021
Talking about this: 1,515
Cool features: Tabs for different types of social media; weekly polls

Jones Soda knows that fans have different preferences for the way that they communicate and so they provide multiple options on their page (Porterfield, 2010). They have tabs for Instagram and YouTube, as well as tabs for their videos and events, and a tab called Caps for Gear! where fans can trade in Jones Soda caps for t-shirts, hats, watches, and more. They also run weekly polls, which is a great way to interact with fans, learn about the audience, and find out what they want to see on the page (Porterfield, 2010). If you use more than one type of social media, make sure that your fans are aware of it and know how to find you on the other sites. It might be fun to borrow the “Caps for Gear” idea and create something like “Go Veg for Gear!” in which fans can turn in vegan food product labels in exchange for vegan buttons, t-shirts, books, and other such rewards. This will give fans an added incentive to try out vegan foods!

Livescribe

Likes: 132,023
Talking about this: 371
Cool feature: Customer support tab

Livescribe’s page has a customer support tab, in which fans can ask questions, share ideas, report problems, and give praise. Other people can see these posts and get answers to their questions, as well as reviews of Livescribe products. You might consider adding a Frequently Asked Questions tab to your page with information about veganism and links to restaurant guides, veg starter kits, and other helpful resources.

Oreo

Likes: 35,758,226
Talking about this: 92,242
Cool Feature: Oreo Creme Canvas tab

Oreo has a fun tab called Oreo Creme Canvas, where you can create a unique image on the creme of an Oreo and share with your friends. The team behind Oreo’s Facebook page came up with a clever way to use this tab to help build up their fan base; you have to “Like” their page before you can create a canvas. Then you can choose to upload a photo, or fill in the canvas with text and icons. You can create a farm-animal related tab where fans put their faces where the animals’ faces should be, or type messages into word bubbles. If you choose to do this, you may want to include a message that states that inappropriate photos and messages that fans create will not be posted on your Facebook page.

Red Bull

Likes: 43,052,387
Talking about this: 348,533
Cool features: Games; welcome tab

The crew behind Red Bull’s page understands their target audience and they know what gets the best response on their page (Porterfield, 2010). One of their unique features is a tab with several sports-themed games for their fans. They also created a welcome tab with an eye-catching image and a clear call to action to “Like” their page. Creative design can have a BIG impact on people who visit your page; it may be worth it to spend a little bit of money on your page design (Porterfield, 2010). You can also organize your page by making tabs for different areas, such as videos, contests, polls, and events.

Skittles

Likes: 25,887,257
Talking about this: 38,009
Cool feature: Well-developed brand voice

Skittles’ Facebook page is entertaining, colorful, and funny. They have done a great job of developing a brand voice for their page. They tell fans that they might become The Rainbow’s BFF if they post Skittles-themed photos on their page. Then they add funny statements to go with the photos. Try to develop a brand voice for your page. Know your audience so that you can create a voice that they will connect with, and make sure to keep your tone and language consistent (Schwab, 2011).

Starbucks

Likes: 36,329,214
Talking about this: 480,828
Cool feature: International tab; locations tab; open jobs tab

Starbucks created a special International tab for people to join their country’s Starbuck’s community Facebook page. They also have tabs for their locations and for open jobs. You can borrow their idea and add a tab with links to the Facebook pages of vegan organizations, vegan meetup groups, and farm sanctuaries worldwide. You might also consider adding a tab for volunteer and internship opportunities.

Uno Chicago Grill

Likes: 132,202
Talking about this: 279
Cool features: Great visual appeal through photos; Happy Mutt’s Day album for fans

Uno Chicago Grill’s page uses appealing photos of food to entice their fans (Porterfield, 2010). They know how much people love their dogs so they created an album titled “Happy Mutt’s Day” where fans can post photos of their dogs, which is a great way to connect fans to their page. When you create posts, try to use the most appealing images. Look for bright colors, appetizing photos of vegan food, and the cutest animals. And find ways to make your fans part of your page!

We hope this blog series helps you with your activism, gives you some new ideas, and inspires you to use social media as a way to help animals. We would love to hear about your experiences with social media campaigns and we wish you the best of luck!

References

Briones, R. L., Kuch, B., Liu, B. F., & Jin, Y. (2011). Keeping up with the digital age: How the American Red Cross uses social media to build relationships. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 37-43.

Porterfield, A. (2010, August 31). Top 10 Facebook pages and why they’re successful. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/top-10-facebook-pages/

Schwab, S. (2011, March 31). Finding your brand voice. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/finding-your-brand-voice/

 

Part 2: Understanding Your Target Audience

When using social media as an activist tool, it’s important to tailor your message to your target audience. In order to do that, you first need to determine who your target group is. If you already manage a Facebook page, you can easily find details about the people who “Like” your page by going to the “See Insights” tab and then clicking on the “People” tab. From there you will see a breakdown of your fans by gender, age, country, city, language, etc.

Once you’ve identified your target audience, you then need to do some research to find out what appeals to them. Google Scholar is one great resource. In addition, Google has several search operators that help to narrow down search results, as well as an advanced search page. You might try using search terms such as:

  • “marketing to [insert your target audience name]” (Placing quotation marks around search terms is one type of search operator; this will bring up results that have the exact word or phrase that you typed)

  • tips OR strategies for marketing to [insert your target audience name] (If you place OR in all caps between search terms, you will pull up pages that contain either term)

  • marketing social causes AND [insert your target audience name] (By placing AND in all caps between search terms, you will find pages with both terms)

  • how to market to teens -cigarette (Place a dash [-] before a word to exclude results that include that word; this is especially helpful if your search is bringing up a lot of irrelevant pages on a particular topic)

After you’ve identified your target audience and have an understanding of what appeals to them, you can begin to customize the messaging. For example, if you’re reaching out to older adults, you may want include information about the health benefits of plant-based foods, which often leads to a better quality of life, as well as a longer lifespan and more time to spend with their children and grandchildren. For health conscious audiences, you might focus on the health-promoting benefits of vegan food and the many common, yet avoidable diseases and conditions that arise from eating animal products. For eco-conscious consumers, you could give information about the negative effects that animal agriculture has on the environment and the Earth’s resources. For religious communities, focus on how veganism is in line with their spiritual values. Given the wide array of ethical, health, and environmental benefits of veganism, the message can easily be tailored to various demographics.

Case Study: Generation Z

When it comes to veganism, teens and college students tend to be one of the most receptive demographics and most likely to switch to a vegan lifestyle (Ball & Friedrich, 2009). So, focusing on this group may be the best use of limited resources. Additionally, those living at home with their parents influence upwards of 70% of the family food purchases, and 80-90% of the food that their parents buy for them (Williams & Page, 2011).

Who exactly is Generation Z? According to Williams and Page (2011), Generation Z is anyone who was born in or after 1995. They are smart and should not be underestimated, and according to Cross-Bystrom (2010), they “take fewer risks, but take the right risks.” They are technologically competent, do not know what life was like before the internet existed, and are not overwhelmed by messages and information assaulting them from every angle. More than 80% of teens use social networks and 96% use the web at least once a month (Savitt, 2011). They prefer social media over blogs, have an above average number of friends on social networks, and they love to share on these networks, all of which are fantastic reasons to use social media campaigns for this demographic (Ehret, 2011). While they may be good at multi-tasking, technology decreases their attention span (Richtel, 2010), so we need to create unique content that quickly catches their attention and gets the message across (Cross-Bystrom, 2010). A market research article that is helpful for understanding Generation Z can be found here.

One admirable thing about this generation is that they tend to be aware of, and concerned about, environmental and social issues, and they are likely to mobilize around causes that are important to them (Cross-Bystrom, 2010). If we show them how animal rights is connected to many other issues, they’ll be more motivated to take action.

In conclusion, to be effective we need to identify our target audience, find out what appeals to them, and tailor our message accordingly. While it would be ideal to reach and influence every demographic, it isn’t always possible. So it may be best to focus on people who are most likely to make changes, such as Generation Z.

Keep a lookout for our final blog in this series. We’ll share lessons learned from successful Facebook pages and provide lots of helpful examples.

References

Ball, M., & Friedrich, B. (2009). The animal activist’s handbook: Maximizing our positive impact in today’s world. Brooklyn, NY: Lantern Books.

Cross-Bystom, A. (2010, August 20). What you need to know about Generation Z. Retrieved from http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/27425.asp#multiview

Ehret, J. (2011, July 6). Marketing to Gen Z – Teens. Retrieved from http://themarketingspot.com/2011/07/marketing-to-gen-zteens.html

Richtel, M. (2010, November 21). Growing up digital, wired for distraction. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.html?ref=your_brain_on_computers

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

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

 

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.

 

March/April 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Bruno Azambuja

Bruno, an activist in Brazil, describes how he became vegan and his work as an animal advocate.

BrunoMy first contact with vegetarianism was through a vegetarian friend who questioned my eating habits for the animals’ sake. I ignored his arguments for about three months until one day a bell finally rang after reading a few articles and watching a few videos. I realized that I was being selfish and inconsistent in my concerns for the environment and the lives of animals. I became a vegan on that same day. It didn’t make sense to continue using animals for any purpose whatsoever.

I went on to further study the subject and started disseminating all the information I could. A few months later, I learned about VEDDAS, a non-profit organization aimed at bringing awareness and educating the public about animal rights and veganism.  In 2010, I started actively participating in the group’s activities on a weekly basis. I am currently head of the VEDDAS-MÓVEL Pelo Brasil project which shows videos in the streets of several cities in Brazil, and I also take part in the volunteer training workshops. VEDDAS is currently present with regular weekly activities in five Brazilian cities and also holds monthly activities in 10 other cities. The activities range from protests to movie screenings to showing footage of animal exploitation in public spaces. By participating with VEDDAS on its multimedia projects, I have had the opportunity to reach hundreds of people–calling on their empathy and being able to provoke a deep reflection in many of them.

Since November 2012, I have also volunteered for VegFund, helping to manage a Portuguese language online social media campaign. In this capacity, I share information on the topic of animal rights and veganism. I also answer the questions brought by thousands of visitors every month, and help people transition to a vegan lifestyle.

For me, being vegan isn’t enough. We must educate others about veganism and share our experiences so that people can rethink their relationship with animals and, as a consequence of that, come to adopt a vegan lifestyle. It is a privilege to be able to take part in actions that favor this change.

July/August 2013 Volunteer Spotlight: Sally Thompson

Sally tells us about how she became vegan, her outreach efforts, and her experience as a VegFund volunteer.

Before I was vegan, I thought I understood the realities of animal agriculture and believed that being vegetarian was enough. But over time, people around me, not all necessarily vegan themselves, got me thinking. The questions they raised piqued my curiosity and I began researching the issue of animal exploitation more deeply. Then, one week whilst I was doing volunteer work, I happened upon a vegan cookbook called Another Dinner Is Possible. We were using recipes from the book for our communal meals. The information in the book, along with conversations I had with the other volunteers, gave me the confidence and inspiration I needed to take those final steps and go vegan. That was five years ago, and I have never looked back.

Since then, I have surrounded myself with people who share the same values and strive to make a difference for non-human animals. I volunteer with various local groups within West Midlands, UK doing vegan outreach in the form of stalls, fairs, workshops, and social events. Recently, a fellow-activist and I have been focusing our time on developing a not-for-profit organisation called Equality In Action. Equality In Action educates people on the connections between social justice issues and spreads a vegan message to help achieve equality for all. Our outreach involves attending various social justice events and holding street stalls and film screenings, and we are currently developing a vegan mentor programme. In all of my activism, I aim to connect the dots between issues of injustice and focus on engaging people with honest yet positive and empowering conversation. I believe this is key to encouraging more interest in veganism and strengthening the movement.

I am pleased to say that in June I started volunteering with VegFund. So far this has provided me with the opportunity to improve upon my writing skills, gain experience with online campaigning techniques, and contribute to the VegFund blog and VegVids. I am looking forward to all that’s to come during my time helping VegFund and I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with such inspiring people for an important cause.

Exploring Vegan Outreach Around the World (Part 3)

By: Sally Thompson, VegFund Volunteer

Welcome to the third and final part of this series. Today we’ll be learning about the work of UK-based Midlands Vegan Campaigns and Animal Equality, originally founded in Spain but now active across the globe.

Midlands Vegan Campaigns:

We interviewed founder Kevin White to find out more about Midlands Vegan Campaigns’ wonderful vegan festivals and their collaboration with other local outreach groups.

VF: What does your outreach contribute to the vegan movement?

KW: The West Midlands Vegan Festival, coming up on Saturday 26th October, is now in its 6th year. With over 100 stalls, 20 talks, cookery demos, live entertainment throughout the day and so on, and 2,000 visitors last year, it has become the biggest annual grassroots vegan festival in the UK! Feedback forms consistently tell us that half of those attending are non-vegans, which demonstrates the huge curiosity in the vegan lifestyle, and we know of many who have since become vegan.

When not staging vegan fairs and festivals, I run an online and mobile confectionery ‘shop’ known as Lakeside Ethical Treats. I often hold stalls at events, everything from local green fairs and sanctuary open days to national animal rights rallies and vegan fairs across the UK. The idea is threefold: to fundraise for our events; promote our events via posters and leaflets; and to promote veganism itself by showcasing the vast array of ethical chocolate, sweets and snacks now available. I believe Lakeside Ethical Treats is the biggest mobile vegan confectionery shop in the world!

VF: Is there an event or person that has particularly inspired you?

KW: A good friend of mine, Neil Lea, who is sadly no longer around, was a prolific animal rights/vegan campaigner (regarded by many as a ‘vegan visionary’). He once suggested I should get more involved in vegan event organising, and he also expressed a desire to see a Midlands group formed specifically to organise vegan fairs and more. Sadly, Neil passed away in July 2007. Within weeks of his death, I founded Midlands Vegan Campaigns in his memory and we staged our first events later that year.

VF: What are the biggest challenges you face with organizing a vegan festival?

KW: Once upon a time, the biggest challenge in organising a vegan fair may have been how to attract people through the door. Not so anymore. Now the main challenge is finding central venues big enough to hold all the stallholders and visitors who wish to attend!

Good venues in town and city centres may be pricey, but this alone shouldn’t put you off. If you’ve never organised a fair before, I would suggest hiring a smaller venue initially. But work towards hiring the biggest central venue available, and recoup the money by booking as many stallholders as possible, run a tombola/raffle, sell cakes, put donation tins around the venue and so on.

VF: Does Midlands Vegan Campaigns have any plans to expand?

KW: This year, Midlands Vegan Campaigns has collaborated with various other groups, including Worcestershire Vegans & Veggies, Coventry Vegans, and Birmingham Animal Action. For each event, members of the local group have coordinated the free food sample table and publicised the fair locally, leaving Midlands Vegan Campaigns to deal with other tasks, such as booking stallholders, designing and printing leaflets, updating the event website and wider publicity. This has proved to be extremely effective, enabling us to organise more events than ever before. This strategy is certainly something we intend to repeat and hope it will lead to even more vegan events across the West Midlands.

VF: Do you have any advice for activists who wish to do something similar as part of their vegan outreach?

KW: Go for it! The general public is increasingly curious about vegan lifestyles, so we need to take full advantage of this by organising more and more vegan outreach events. I believe we should aim to stage annual vegan festivals in every single city, and every town should host free vegan food fairs. Don’t say it can’t be done in your town, because it can. All it takes is a bit of hard work and determination and people will flock.

If you’re interested in staging a festival or food fair of any size in your area, then a great way to gain some experience is to volunteer your time at other events, i.e. serving food samples; offer advice about nutrition; cooking; setting up/packing away; washing up. For all our events volunteers are crucial, particularly the West Midlands Vegan Festival, where we need a team of over 50 volunteers throughout the day.

There is a direct correlation between the amount of positive vegan activism and the number of people going vegan so let’s get more active and speed up progress to a vegan world. Step outside your comfort zone, learn new skills and give 110% – the animals deserve no less!

VF: How do activists get in touch with you if they wish to get involved?

KW: We would love to hear from anyone wishing to volunteer at Midlands Vegan Campaigns events. Please email volunteers[at]veganmidlands[dot]org[dot]uk. Volunteer at the West Midlands Vegan Festival and your lunch will be provided.

Animal Equality                                                                                                                                

We got in touch with campaigns director Laura Gough who shared with us some inspirational stories and provided useful information that can be applied to our activism.

VF: What does your outreach contribute to the vegan movement?

LG: We believe that doing outreach is a positive way to bring people closer to the animal rights movement, as they are able to see and interact with activists first-hand. The general public can talk and ask any doubts they have, which helps to break down myths and prejudices about a vegan lifestyle. In many cases we are able to make people empathise with the suffering of other animals by showing them images, or providing them with literature or vegan food samples, all enabling positive conversation about veganism.

VF: Could you provide us with one example of an event that particularly inspired you?

LG: I remember some years ago, while I was at an info-stall, a woman approached us thinking we were a shelter. She explained that she was helping and volunteering for some dog shelters, and that she felt emotionally very close to these animals. She had rescued more than 10 animals, and had found safe homes for them all. While she explained her story you could see how she also understood how animals could feel, and experienced the world in a similar way humans do. This led the conversation towards me explaining how I felt the same way, after I had seen hens being rescued from farms, and how they experienced their freedom for the first time. A few months after, I saw this woman at a march, she told me she had gone vegan a few days after the conversation, and that she wanted to do more for animals.

VF: What are your biggest challenges faced with this form of outreach?

LG: It’s important and necessary to learn how to optimise our resources and time. We need to analyse which is our target audience, and focus on it to be able to measure our impact. As an example, studies prove that people in universities are more open to changes, and are more willing to go vegan when handed literature, than other audiences. Social psychology studies provide us with objective information about how we can tailor our message and become more effective, and we should always be willing to try new formulas, or ways to approach people. Activism is a constant learning process.

VF: Do you have any plans to expand on this activism?

LG: We are always developing our ways of communicating with the public. It is very important that activists always keep in mind that by doing vegan outreach, we are planting a “seed” in society, and full results might not be seen immediately. This may demoralise at first, but we need to be aware that long-term work and results will start to show as people start to support the cause and become more involved in the movement.

VF: Do you have any advice for activists who wish to do something similar as part of their vegan outreach?

LG: When we communicate in a positive way this is what we project to the public. As activists we must become aware that we are the first impression a lot of people will receive from the animal rights movement, and it is our responsibility to try to engage and motivate people and not to cause rejection.

VF: How do activists get in touch with you if they wish to get involved?

LG: Anyone who wants to support or collaborate with Animal Equality can send an email to info[at]animalequality[dot]net.

We would like to thank Midlands Vegan Campaigns and Animal Equality for taking the time to share their outreach experiences with us and for providing us with some very encouraging and inspiring information.

This blog series, consisting of five interviews from activists across the globe, has shown how diverse vegan outreach can be. No matter what your strengths and weaknesses are, there is always something you can do to bring about positive change. We all have a place within this movement and have the ability to develop fresh and unique outreach ideas that will inspire and reach the hearts of the public, engaging them with our message. Get creative and get out there! Each step will be a learning experience and will provide you with the opportunity to improve upon your advocacy skills. There are many other grassroots activists willing to offer support and guidance, so make the most of this and work towards building an even stronger vegan movement.

And remember, VegFund has three different programs that you can apply to for support. Whether you need funding for a food sampling event; video outreach such as a film screening, Pay Per View or online campaign; or if you are looking to develop a program such as a vegan mentor scheme, you are welcome to apply. Check out the Programs Section of the VegFund website for more information.

Exploring Vegan Outreach Around the World (Part 2)

By: Sally Thompson, VegFund Volunteer

Welcome back! Today we’ll explore some of the activism that’s happening in England and Colorado with interviews from Equality In Action’s co-founder Amy Dougherty and Joanna Lucas of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary.

Equality In Action

Equality In Action is based in the UK and focuses on helping people understand the interconnectedness of different forms of oppression by advocating for veganism within social justice movements. We got in touch with co-founder Amy Dougherty to find out more about their recent outreach efforts.

VF: What does your outreach contribute to the vegan movement?

AD: Equality In Action’s approach addresses various social justice issues and promotes veganism as the way to achieve equality for all. We aim to highlight the connections between prejudices, showing people that if we oppose one form of oppression, we should oppose them all. We attend a variety of events such as eco fairs and queer and feminist events sharing veganism with a whole new audience! An audience of minds which are already aware of many of the injustices within society and open to bringing about positive change. This makes these events an excellent opportunity for getting people to see just how important veganism is to the bigger picture of social change.

VF: Could you provide us with one example of an event that particularly inspired you?

AD: Equality In Action recently marched in Birmingham Gay Pride Parade. This was the first time that a vegan message was spread in this particular venue. We wanted to get people to think, “What has veganism got to do with gay rights?” Even if they don’t immediately start connecting the prejudices, it may at the very least get them thinking and questioning the way things are. By simply walking through the city centre of Birmingham we were able to get the message of veganism out to around 75,000 people, the majority of whom would never have even thought about it before. People have a very set idea of what form vegan activism should take, but this showed that it’s good to get out there and try something new!

VF: Do you have any plans to expand on this activism?                                                                  

AD: Definitely! Equality In Action was launched last year so the group has just been finding its feet. The two main areas we are hoping to expand on are our presence at more non-vegan related events and launching a vegan mentoring scheme. We want to take our message to as many events as we can! We will be launching our Vegan Starter Pack and mentoring scheme over the coming months which we are really looking forward to as we feel this has lots of potential. The Vegan Starter Pack includes information on nutrition, recipes, events/groups and even a vegan guide to local restaurants/shops and products in Britain! People will be able to sign up to our vegan mentor scheme (at events or via our email and Facebook page) which will offer one-to-one mentoring for as long as they need. Over time we hope to expand this scheme to include workshops and meet-up events.

Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary is run by a group of dedicated individuals in Colorado who provide a safe home for nonhuman animals while also developing resources and campaigns to promote veganism. We interviewed Joanna Lucas who is on the board of directors and is the volunteer writer, designer, and producer of Peaceful Prairie’s vegan outreach materials.

VF: What does your outreach contribute to the vegan movement?

JL: We are dedicated to abolishing, not regulating, the cruelty and injustice inherent in ALL animal farming. We reject the speciesist assumption that humans are entitled to use other animals for their purposes, and we struggle to end this injustice by reminding people that vegan living—the refusal to harm others for personal gratification—is not a “personal choice” but a moral imperative. 

In everything we do—from sanctuary tours, to tabling, to online outreach through our website, blog, and social media—our priority is debunking the “humane” animal farming myth, and exposing the atrocities hidden behind the bucolic facade of farms whose products are promoted as “free range”, “cage free”, “organic”, “high welfare”, or any number of feel-good labels whose purpose is to dismiss and obscure the horrific suffering imposed on the animal victims, while disguising the violence practiced by farmers and non-vegan consumers alike, as “compassion”, “respect” and “mindfulness”.

We focus especially on “humane” egg, dairy, wool, and down production because these items are perceived as cruelty-free and slaughter-free when, in reality, they cause even more suffering and death than “meat”, fur and leather. Our premise, and experience, is that, once people understand the horrors inherent in ALL egg, dairy, wool and down production, they intuitively understand why they can no longer support flesh, fur and leather production. By contrast, countless people stop consuming “meat” because they don’t want animals to be killed for them, yet they still (often for decades) cling to the idea that there is no harm in consuming eggs, dairy, wool, etc because “chickens just lay eggs”, “cows have to be milked or they will die”, and “sheep have to be shorn anyway”. They are so secure in the belief that eggs, milk, wool and down just happen, and that no animal is killed to produce them, that they actually beam with pride when they announce that they are “vegetarian” and would never eat “meat”!

You can read more about our approach at these links:

If the world isn’t going to become vegan tomorrow…

Change in the Direction of Vegan Advocacy

Letter from a Vegan World

VF: What are the biggest challenges faced with this form of activism?

JL: Sadly, the biggest challenge and obstacle facing the vegan movement today comes from animal advocacy groups and individuals who promote the destructive myth that animal exploitation can be done “humanely”. The tragic result is not only that an increasing number of animal victims are bred, enslaved, and killed for human gratification, but their suffering is disguised and marketed as “welfare”, “happiness”, “natural life”, etc. This self-serving, and lucrative, deception has been so actively, constantly, and widely promoted over the past decade by animal advocacy organizations and industry alike, and it’s been so readily embraced by those who are eager to lie to themselves about the impact of their consumer choices, that more and more people today have convinced themselves that labeling the products of animal misery, “free range”, instead of “factory farmed”, will change the truth of the victims’ suffering. 

In an effort to address this critical situation, we have created downloadable literature and materials that deal with the problem head on. Specifically, our booklet, Humane Animal Farming? Take a Closer Look, offers both an overview of the standard and, indeed, inevitable cruelties inherent in ALL animal farming and a targeted look at industry-specific practices. Our pamphlets, The Faces of “Cage-Free” Egg Production and Can You Tell the Difference? highlight the true facts behind “humane” eggs, while Milk Comes from a Grieving Mother and Dairy is a Death Sentence describe “organic” dairy production from the perspective of its victims: bereft mother cows and orphaned calves. In addition, the Go Vegan imperative, and its call for animal equality, is delivered in compelling online presentations, like We Know Our Victims Well, whose individual slides are also available as Facebook banners, email signatures, or posters.

VF: Do you have any advice for activists who wish to do something similar as part of their vegan outreach?
JL: We urge fellow activists to reject actions and campaigns that strive to reform the indefensible and morally bankrupt system of animal farming/use, and to tell the simple truth that vegan living is the ONLY humane and ethical alternative.  

We would like to thank Equality In Action and Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary for taking the time to share their perspectives, insights, and information about the work they’re doing to make this world a more compassionate place.

Stay tuned for the third and final part of this series, where we’ll catch up with activists in Spain and the UK who are making a huge impact for animals. There will be lots of great information, including details about how one group started an ethical vegan sweet shop to fund their outreach!

Exploring Vegan Outreach around the World (Part 1)

By: Sally Thompson, VegFund Volunteer

Educating the public on animal rights and the importance of veganism is crucial if we are to bring about significant change to the lives of farmed animals who are exploited each and every day. But how do we get others to see the importance of veganism? How do we break through the array of barriers people have learnt to put up in order to block out the truth? Sometimes this can seem like an impossible task. However, we all have the ability to make a difference, and we can do so in many unique and creative ways! In this multi-part blog series, we’ll feature interviews with vegan activists from across the globe, highlighting just some of the exciting ways in which activists are working towards bringing about an end to animal exploitation.

An Interview with Our Hen House

Our first interview is with the inspirational and empowering Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House, based in New York, USA. Our Hen House is a not-for-profit that aims to effectively mainstream the movement to end animal exploitation through the use of multi-media such as podcasting, interviews, videos, talks and blogging.

VF: What does your outreach contribute to the vegan movement?

JS: Our Hen House, the nonprofit media organization that Mariann and I co-founded, is a multimedia hub of opportunities to change the world for animals. We produce an online magazine (with new content every day) and a weekly podcast, where we get to squawk about everything from animal rights theory, to hot new vegan products, to current events from the world of animal rights. And, on our show, we also interview a different mover or shaker from the world of animal rights, every single week. This is a particularly special treat for us, since many of these people are our heroes, and the podcast gives us the platform to ask them questions we ourselves are dying to know. It’s called Our Hen House because it’s all of ours.

We like to cast a wide net in what we mean by the word “activism,” and encourage everyone to get involved with changing the world for animals in a way that speaks to them and makes sense for them. I think that it has really resonated with people, and so I think that what Our Hen House contributes to the vegan movement is a real community for folks who “get it” about the plight of animals to be able to safely explore how to step up their advocacy, in a fun and fulfilling way. Our podcast, especially, plays an important role in the “movement.” We definitely have die-hard listeners, and we hear from them some of them that we make up the entirety of their vegan community. These are folks from northern Michigan, or from Alabama, or from areas of Japan where the vegan scene leaves a lot to be desired. They tune in each week, they listen to back episodes, and they feel emboldened to take on the world with gusto. That humbles me that they find that from our show. It’s ironic, too, because the folks who listen to our show are our role models in so many ways. We look up to them. It’s a big happy family.

VF: What are your biggest challenges faced with this form of activism and do you have any suggestions for overcoming them?

JS: It’s difficult to know when to say “no” to folks who want us to report on their story, their campaign, their idea. And it’s hard to call it quits at the end of the day, knowing that animals are suffering so much, and knowing that they rely on our voices. I guess both of those things boil down to creating boundaries in our own lives so that we can remain in it for the long run, giving it our all (and then some). The tactics we attempt to employ (though sometimes we fail) also boil down to ways we can each avoid burning out. So we try to eat well, exercise, get outside every day, spend time with our dog, stay hydrated, surround ourselves with a loving group of comrades and in safe space, and constantly assess our priorities.

VF: Do you have any plans to expand on this activism?

MS: We have only just begun! The movement to end the exploitation and slaughter of animals is only in its very beginning stages, and there is so much to be done! At the same time, I expect that the trajectory of this movement will continue to be exponential, because the change that it proposes is really nothing more than to bring people’s behavior into alignment with what they already believe, i.e., that we should not harm or kill animals without very good reason. The only thing that people need to figure out is that there is no reason at all to do so, and that fact is becoming more and more obvious every day. Since Our Hen House is trying to serve those people who are waking up to this reality and wish to get more involved, we expect that our work will be expanding dramatically as well and that as our family of listeners, readers, writers, artists, etc., etc. grows, we will grow to meet the demand for more and better content and communication and support.

VF: Do you have any advice for activists who wish to do something similar as part of their vegan outreach?

JS: There are a ton of resources on ourhenhouse.org. You could get lost in it for hours, so beware! There’s literally a way in for everyone who wants to change the world for animals, whether you’re a student, or an office worker, or an artist, or a lawyer, or a businessperson, or a media maven, or a grassroots lover, whatever. Our Hen House highlights ideas and opportunities for you to get involved, no matter how busy you are or what you like to do. You don’t need to hold a bullhorn and a protest sign in order to speak up for animals (though you certainly can). There is no one right way. I encourage folks reading this to check out our online magazine and listen to our podcast (either through our website or via iTunes).

Don’t get in your own way here. Don’t over think this. Do something every day to spread veganism and speak up for animals. Our Hen House will be a great resource for you, and we’re always here for you.

We wish to express our gratitude to Our Hen House for taking the time to talk with us about the amazing work that they do to support activists and the vegan movement. Their outreach is an excellent example not only of how we can use the media in a variety of different ways to spread the vegan message, but it is also a clear illustration of how successful we can be when we combine our skills and passion with activism.

In our next blog, we’ll take a look at some effective activism happening in the UK and elsewhere in the USA. UK-based Equality In Action will tell us about their aim to connect the dots between social justice issues and their future plans to develop a vegan mentor scheme, and Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary in Colorado, USA will give us insight into their amazing advocacy work at the sanctuary. Stay tuned!