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.

VegFund in San Diego

Thanks so much to everyone who came to the San Diego VegFest!

VegFund was a sponsor; here is the speakers’ table:

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I gave a version of this talk: Embrace and Encourage: Lessons from Three Decades.

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And met with lots of people at the VegFund table!

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Hope to meet with more of you in the future!

-Matt

 

Ginny on Obsession with Celebrities

Ginny has a great new post up: Celebrities, Weight Loss and Penn Jillette’s New Vegan Diet.

Brief excerpt:

[Penn's] current diet doesn’t exactly create a compelling picture of the joys of vegan living. In fact, it sounds like a great way to discourage people from ever considering this way of eating. 

I have to say, I simply do not get this “celebrities and weight loss” brand of vegan activism. It sets vegan diets up to fail, because that’s what happens when vegans (especially those in the public eye) get sick or gain back their weight or start eating meat and eggs again. It presents veganism as the most unattractive eating plan on earth. And it turns its back on the core value of veganism, which is animal rights. 

 

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.

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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

 

Big Numbers Hurt Animals

As Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic.”

This Psychology Today article discusses the dynamics in detail; excerpt:

“Mother Teresa once said, ‘If I look at the mass I will never act.’ When Stalin and Mother Teresa agree on a point, I sit up and pay attention. It turns out that the human tendency to turn away from mass suffering is well documented. Deborah Small and Paul Slovic have termed this phenomenon the collapse of compassion. It’s not simply that as the number of victims goes up, people’s sympathy levels off. No, when the numbers go up, the amount of sympathy people feel goes perversely down. And with it goes the willingness to donate money or time to help.”

This has obvious implications for animal advocacy. Many vegans talk about how many billions and billions of animals are killed every year. But as the above article relates, this just numbs people.

Furthermore, in the face of unfathomable numbers, the one burger or chicken leg someone is going to eat that day seems negligible — indeed, less than negligible.

Obviously, if we are going to create a world where all these animals aren’t killed, we have to convince people not to eat animals. We need to be psychologically insightful in our efforts to do this, instead of repeating facts / stories that move us. Indeed, if something is meaningful to us as long-time vegans and activists, it is almost certainly not the best way to reach someone who currently eats meat.

Furthermore, we are not only looking to get people to stop eating animals. Rather, we need them to maintain that change, be a positive example of compassionate living, and to help advocate for the animals. In other words, we need to think strategically about our advocacy — not just the immediate impact.

If we do this, change can grow exponentially!

Caring for Animals and Caring for Yourself: Combatting Activist Burnout

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern 

Open the Cages Alliance vegan pledges and mentor trip to For the Animals Sanctuary.

Open the Cages Alliance vegan pledges and mentors trip to For the Animals Sanctuary.

Have you ever felt drained and disheartened after an animal rights outreach event? Do you feel as though your activism work is less interesting or exciting? If so, then it is possible you are feeling burned out.

By definition, activist burnout “is a phenomenon that occurs when an activist feels overwhelmed, frustrated, hopeless, or depressed, usually after a period of extensive activism.” Recognizing common burnout symptoms is the first step on the way to a healthier you; some of these symptoms include: loss of interest in usual activism activities, a sense of hopelessness, feeling irritated or angry with those around you, and blaming yourself for lack of progress for your cause.

Animal rights activists can gain a strong sense of purpose from their involvement in the animal rights effort, but this type of work can also deliver a multitude of negative emotions (Jacobsson and Lindblom, 2013). These negative emotions can take a hefty toll on activists and cause them to crash and burn. That is why it is imperative that activists make self-care a priority and ensure that they handle their emotions in a positive manner.

Animal activists can often be involved in the management of emotions, or “emotion work” on a daily basis. Some emotion work for activists includes: suppressing negative emotions, venting those same negative emotions, using vivid images to sustain commitment to the cause, and developing feelings of guilt (Jacobsson and Lindblom, 2013). Recognizing the emotional costs of activism and learning how to deal with such emotions can benefit the individual and the movement as a whole.

When participating in an advocacy event, it is not unusual for activists to receive hostile or unfriendly reactions from those around them. For example, in a society that is ruled by science and technology, there is always a risk that the public will not take animal rights seriously (Groves, 2001). If activists hastily react to negative words or actions from those around them, revealing anger, it is unlikely that the public will ever acknowledge the moral principles of animal rights (Jacobsson and Lindblom, 2013). The alternative to reacting this way is to bottle up the anger and resentment felt towards those issuing the negativity. Instead of suppressing these emotions, activists can try releasing negative emotions to other activists who will understand their situation (Jamison, Wenk, and Parker, 2000). By doing this, activists can avoid releasing negative emotions at inappropriate times.

Even if activists can release negative emotions caused by the public, some still experience deep feelings of guilt or a worried conscience, simply by being a part of the animal rights movement (Jamison, Wenk, and Parker, 2000). Animal rights activists often feel like they do not do enough and feel responsible for the countless animals that need their support (Jacobsson and Lindblom, 2013). While these feelings of guilt may always linger in their minds, activists can still take steps toward realizing and accepting that they alone are not responsible for all animals. They can look to other activists for solace when having guilty feelings.

Though discussing the negative aspects of activism with other activists is a great way to release emotions, it will not always do the trick for troubled activists. Realizing when it is time to momentarily step away from the cause is essential. This does not mean that the activist has to quit a project or not participate in all of their advocacy events; it just means that emotional health is important. In order to take care of and do things for others, you first have to take care of yourself.

There are many things activists can do to combat burnout and engage in self-care, but here are some of the most helpful suggestions:

  • Find allies at work or in your organization. Identify one or two people that you feel comfortable talking to and who will support you.
  • Consider joining a support group. If you are an activist who feels burned out, it is likely that you are not the only one.
  • Eat well and exercise regularly. This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but sometimes activists can become very busy and neglect eating properly and making time for exercise. Making this a priority is essential in maintaining good physical and mental health.
  • Make time for things that really matter to you. Make a list of things in your life that you enjoy doing, and try to spend time each week doing those things. Revive your mind and body with your favorite things!

It is evident that participation in animal rights activism requires a significant amount of emotional incentive and involves many emotional costs. Activists should invest their time not only in fighting for and advocating animal rights, but in their emotional health as well.

If you have additional tips on handling feelings of activist burnout, please leave them in the comments below!

References:

Groves, J.M. (2001). Animal rights and the politics of emotion: Folk constructions of emotion in the animal rights movement. Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 212–229.

Jamison, W.V., Wenk, C., & Parker, J.W. (2000). Every sparrow that falls: Understanding animal rights activism as functional religion. Society & Animals, 8(3), 305–330.

Jacobsson, K. & Lindblom, J. (2013). Emotion Work in Animal Rights Activism: A Moral-Sociological Perspective. Acta Sociologica, 56(1).

Cooking Demos: Educating People Through Delicious, Vegan Food

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

“If it tastes good, they will eat it” are words that vegan author and speaker Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has repeated time and time again. Whether it’s a decadent chocolate cupcake or a salad with an out-of-this world dressing, it doesn’t matter if it’s vegan as long as it’s delicious. And the key is to show people that vegan food can be even more delicious than non-vegan food!

Which leads us to a specific type of activism you may not have considered yet: cooking demos. Whether you choose to host your demo in a church or at a supermarket, whether you feature brunch or dessert, and whether it’s your first time or 100th, you will undoubtedly show people how delicious and creative vegan food can be.

We’ve talked with four amazing activists who have done this type of activism and they had some great ideas to share that we hope will inspire you!

Terri Nelson-Bunge, DTR (TNB): Terri is a long-time vegan and animal activist and has participated in a variety of events. One group she was involved with held monthly events at her local library, including cooking demos. Soon Terri will be launching a plant-based nutrition program called Happy, Healthy, & Whole.

Dr. Matthew Halteman (MH): Matt is a philosophy professor at a liberal arts college. Each year he teaches a course on animal ethics and advocacy. In 2007, Matt started Wake Up Weekend, an animal rights festival that features cooking demos among other things. On several occasions, Wake Up Weekend has hosted vegan chef and cookbook author Bryant Terry.

Leila Vaughan (LV): Leila is a founder and director of Peace Advocacy Network (PAN), and devotes significant time to organizing the PAN Vegan Pledge in the DC Metro Area and around the country. Cooking demos are central to the PAN Vegan Pledge program as well as other vegan advocacy that PAN does.

Gwendolyn Mathers (GM): Gwendolyn is a professional vegan chef and owns a vegan baking company in Los Angeles called Miss Kitchen Witch. She started doing cooking demos because she could see that there were many who were trying to transition to vegetarian or vegan, but who didn’t know what to cook or where to start.

Miss Kitchen Witch Cooking Demo

VF: What is the first step in hosting a successful vegan cooking demo?

TNB: The first step is to find a good location (hopefully free), and someone who is comfortable doing the demo. This may be an activist in the group, or in our case, a professional chef who is well-versed in vegan cooking.

MH: The first step to achieving a great cooking demo is to recruit a great presenter who has ample experience cooking in public. It’s tempting to think that anyone who is a “good cook” would make a good presenter, but in practice that’s not always the way it goes. Cooking for live audiences requires, among other things, foresight into which recipes are both accessible to wide audiences and executable on portable equipment, knowledge about how to prep and transport perishable ingredients without compromising the recipe, the ability to cook and talk simultaneously, and the poise to troubleshoot mistakes or unanticipated equipment malfunctions. That’s not to say that non-professionals can’t pull off a great demo; it’s just to say that those who haven’t done a public demo before should think ahead about these potentially challenging aspects of the process, practice the demo several times for friends and family, and perhaps even consider recruiting a partner to split up the responsibilities, with one person doing the chef-work and one doing the talking.

VF: Where are the best places to hold cooking demos?

TNB: The best places are locations that are:

  • Free or inexpensive
  • Veg events
  • Easy to access (parking)
  • Community events that draw a large audience

GM: Churches, spiritual centers, community centers, schools, libraries, and even supermarkets are great places to do demos. They often have kitchens, large community rooms—not to mention an existing audience base. Find those that feel like they ofter the low hanging fruit and lean toward what you want to teach.

VF: What are your top three tips for first timers?

TNB: 1. Be organized! You want people to come back, not feel frustrated with your event. 2. Hand out recipe cards for each dish you prepare. 3. Promote the event as much as you can. Promotion can be done through a website, Facebook page, word of mouth, flyers, and if held at a public venue (e.g., a library) through that location.

MH: 1. Retain a compelling presenter. For a lot of people, this presentation will be the first time they’ve seen a vegan recipe prepared, so it’s best to have an approachable, gracious, experienced person at the helm to create the best possible impression. 2. Book a sensible venue. Even the world’s best presenter will face difficulty in a poorly chosen venue. A fold-out table with 30 yards of extension cords between you and the nearest outlet in a park on an 85 degree summer day is no place to try to make appetizing food with perishable plant-based ingredients. 3. Keep the demo simple with delicious recipes that showcase the ability of plant-based foods to replace familiar comfort-food favorites with healthier alternatives. When people see that eating a plant-based diet can be easily done without giving up their favorite tastes and textures, the prospect of going vegan becomes much more inviting.

VF: What do you do to attract non-vegan attendees to the event?

LV: Promote the class as a free cooking demo for non-vegans and new vegans and ask vegans to please invite their non-vegan friends. As much as we love being around fellow vegans, everyone will understand that the purpose of this demo is to introduce non-vegans to vegan food. That way vegans will know that the class is more basic, and will also leave valuable class space open for the non-vegans and new vegans who really need the exposure to vegan cooking.

GM: Aside from making your demos free and open to the public, you’ve got to figure out what is the best way to get the word out for your particular event. Putting it on in a church or community center? Put up posters or go to other free classes and events to pass out leaflets. Post your event to local calendars, online community listings, bulletin boards, or ask local bloggers to share your event. Social media really takes the vegan cake when getting the word out. Create a Facebook event page. You can invite those in your area and ‘tweet’ your event page link to community event users in your town and newspaper accounts on Twitter. Though, it’s not all just about getting the word out and putting up posters. You’ve got to start with a demo that entices the average person. Sometimes you’ve got to start with cupcakes before you pull out the kale salad!

VF: Anything else you’d like to add?

LV: If the circumstances permit, give attendees a chance to get involved (after they wash their hands or put on gloves). Give them something to do, like chopping, mixing, etc. The more involved people are, the more fun they seem to have.

TNB: Yes. Don’t forget, a cooking demo (or any other event), is also a great way to promote animal rights. Have a literature table full of information about animal issues and especially at a cooking demo, veg starter kits that contain recipes.

We’d like to thank Terri, Matt, Leila, and Gwendolyn for taking the time to share these great tips!  If you have your own techniques or cooking demo experiences to share, please leave a comment. We love hearing from you!

And, don’t forget that VegFund provides funding to help support vegan cooking demos through our Merit Awards program!

Meat and Masculinity

By Amanda Riley, VegFund Operations Assistant

Community Outreach EventMentions of factory farming in the media are increasingly negative, and the number of vegetarians and meat-reducers is increasing slowly but surely. However, women are more likely than men both to follow a fully vegetarian diet and to eat at least one vegetarian meal a week (Vegetarian Resource Group, 2012). In this blog, we’ll explore why this is and what we can do to bring more men into the vegan lifestyle.

Many animal activists are familiar with the frustrating notion that “real men eat meat.” There has been plenty of theoretical work on masculinity, feminism, and vegetarianism, but empirical studies were lacking until a recent study by Hank Rothgerber at Bellarmine University in Kentucky (Rothgerber, 2013). Rothgerber surveyed men and women on their beliefs and thoughts about meat eating to see what mental justification strategies they used in a world where the negative effects of animal agriculture are so well known.

Women were much more likely to use indirect strategies. They avoided thinking about where their food came from or chose to think of animals as separate from the meat on their plates. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to justify meat directly with reasons like religious sanction, human superiority, nutrition, and the inability of animals to feel pain. People who used the direct, male strategies ate meat more frequently and ate fewer vegetarian meals than people who used the indirect strategies (Rothgerber, 2013).

Do these direct justification strategies sound familiar? Asserting dominance and refusing to be swayed by compassion are two facets of our cultural ideals of masculinity. In advertisements, eating meat is often directly linked to masculinity. For example, in one Hummer commercial, the gas-guzzling SUV is presented as a way to “Restore Your Manhood” for men who may have lost it by eating tofu and other vegetarian foods (Rogers, 2008). And indeed, when Rothgerber measured masculine attitudes along with the meat justification strategies, those who valued masculinity more highly were more likely to use the direct strategies and thus to eat more meat. This suggest that men’s pro-meat attitudes and higher meat consumption may largely be due to a desire to represent the masculine ideal (Rothgerber, 2013).

Rothgerber offers some strategies that activists can employ to temper the effects of masculinity on meat eating:

  • Educate people about the role that these messages may be playing on their identities and behaviors so that they can make more informed choices.
  • Continue to influence women, who will in turn influence the men in their lives. Not only are women having increasingly more say in household decision making (Belch & Willis, 2006), but they have also been shown to have a direct influence on important behaviors in men such as seeking healthcare (Norcross, Ramirez, and Palinkas, 1996). However, Rothgerber notes that this doesn’t mean that men can’t change themselves or each other, or that women should be responsible for men.
  • Normalize veganism by organizing discussion groups for men or by raising awareness about more “masculine” male vegetarians such as athletes or musicians.
  • Use masculine ideals to promote veganism. For example, we could emphasize that veganism is a bold and rational choice, or that “real men” choose to protect vulnerable groups such as animals rather than harm them. PETA is already notorious for associating traditional masculine attributes like sexual stamina with a vegan diet.

REFERENCES

Belch, M.A. & Willis, L.A. (2006). Family decision at the turn of the century: Has the changing structure of households impacted the family decision-making process? Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 2(2), 111-124.

Norcross, W.A., Ramirez, C., & Palinkas, L.A. (1996). The influence of women on the health-care seeking behavior of men. The Journal of Family Practice, 43(5), 475-480.

Rogers, R.A. (2008). Beasts, burgers, and hummers: Meat and the crisis of masculinity in contemporary television advertisements. Environmental Communication, 2(3), 281-301.

Rothgerber, H. (2013). Real men don’t eat (vegetable) quiche: Masculinity and the Justification of meat consumption. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 14(4), 363-375.

Stahler, C. (2012). How often do Americans eat vegetarian meals? And how many adults in the U.S. are vegetarian? Retrieved on June 13, 2014, from http://www.vrg.org/blog/2012/05/18/how-often-do-americans-eat-vegetarian-meals-and-how-many-adults-in-the-u-s-are-vegetarian/

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.