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

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

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

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

What We Learned

The Basics

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

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

Q3 Location

Top three countries:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada

Top three cities:

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

Top three U.S .states:

  • California
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania/Florida

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

Q4_age

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

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

Vegan and Advocate Identity

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

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

Path to becoming vegan

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

Q12_journey

What you like best about being vegan

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

Q14 Word Cloud - What liked best about being vegan

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

Vegan values

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

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

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

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

Grantee Advocacy Interests

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

What kinds of activism are you engaged in?

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

Q9_what-kinds_3

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

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

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

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

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

Q10_how_many

How would you describe your feelings about activism/advocacy?

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

Q11_types_of_activism_2

Inspiring the Future Generations of Vegans and Advocates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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!