Provoke, Inspire, Educate: Five Vegan-Related Documentary Films to Consider for Film Screenings

So you want to host a documentary film screening but you’re not sure where to start or what to screen? You’ve come to the right place. We’d like to point you to five noteworthy documentaries that have proved popular and thought-provoking among audiences on topics related to vegan living.

Documentaries as tools for social change

Documentaries can be powerful tools for social change. Great documentaries engage the viewer emotionally through compelling stories of real lives and events while conveying information or perspectives that are often obscured from the public eye. The viewer becomes a participant, an insider privy to these truths. Documentaries have the potential to involve the audience emotionally and shift their awareness or change their assumptions about an issue. And, importantly, documentaries (most often) offer the possibility of change.

As vegan activists, we’re working to connect people emotionally with the hard realities of lives of animals raised for food and convey the profound impact that vegan living has on animals, the environment, world hunger, health, and nutrition.

Recommended vegan-related films

Lucky for us, we have a number of fascinating vegan-related documentaries to choose from. Our feedback* from VegFund grantees points to a few films that have been particularly successful with general audiences. Many of you are already familiar with these films, but for those of you who aren’t:

  • Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret  – A feature-length documentary that follows filmmaker Kip Andersen as he explores the devastating effects of animal agriculture on deforestation, water consumption, pollution, greenhouse gases, rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean dead zones, and more. Anderson investigates the world’s leading environmental organizations and uncovers what appears to be an intentional refusal to discuss the issues of animal agriculture. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  •  VegucatedThis entertaining documentary profiles the personal journeys of three New York meat-lovers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. The film follows their evolution as they explore the world of vegan living and its effects on personal health — and as they take their first glimpse into the world of animal agriculture. The film doesn’t shy away from presenting the challenges as well as benefits of vegan living. This film offers an often-humorous take on transitioning to a vegan diet. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  •  Forks Over KnivesForks Over Knives investigates the potential role of a “whole foods, plant-based” diet in avoiding, controlling, or reversing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, obesity, and cancer. The film advocates removing animal-based foods, including dairy, as well as highly processed foods from our diets. The film follows the journeys of pioneering researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, nutritional scientist at Cornell, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the Cleveland Clinic, whose experiences led them to take a close look at the role of animal-based foods in degenerative diseases. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  •  Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home – An engaging story of personal transformation , Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home portrays the stories of seven people who grew up in traditional farming culture as they re-examine their relationship with animals. The film follows, among others, a humane police officer whose conscience is in conflict with the laws she upholds and farmers who begin to question their way of life in light of their connections with the animals they care for. This heart-warming film enlightens us about the factors that open people’s hearts to animals and depicts the rich lives and personalities of farm animals. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  • Speciesism: The Movie – The term “speciesism” refers to a “prejudice in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species over members of another species.” This concept manifests as the idea of human superiority over non-human animals and, at its extreme, that animals exist for our use. Director Mark Devries examines the questions around speciesism through conversations with a variety of people including anti-factory farming activists, a member of the American Nazi Party, a vivisectionist, and known personalities such as Peter Singer, Temple Grandin, and Richard Dawkins. The film is a provocative foray into the moral questions regarding species. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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Customize your vegan film-screening event

Documentary screenings are ripe for your creative vision. Screenings can be held publically in theaters, libraries, schools, churches — or privately as a house party. Combine screenings with vegan potlucks or food sampling. Consider including a Q&A session or inviting subject experts to speak or lead the discussion. Use the event to encourage an action such as try veg, sign up, donate.

On the websites of most documentaries, you’ll find a section on hosting a screening. Requirements vary, but a reasonably-priced film purchase (with license) is usually needed. On many sites, you’ll find supplementary material, such as designs for promotional materials and topics for discussion. The Screenings section of the VegFund website guides you through planning your screening event and submitting a request for funding assistance.

We recommend that you view the documentary in advance to ensure its suitability for your audience. Some films, for example, have graphic images that may not be suitable for children. Some films have the option for subtitles, which may be important for some audiences.

Check out our new film-screening partnership program

More extensive lists of animal rights/vegan films can be found through a quick Internet search. Look for new films too. As the pace of awareness grows, more and more inspiring documentaries emerge.

We are particularly excited about two newly released documentaries The Last Pig and Eating You Alive. VegFund is experimenting with a new partnership model to help our activists screen these new and important films. We are inviting you to partner with VegFund to use the power of these films to reach your communities and build networks of activists to energize local connections for vegan outreach.

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How to apply for a partnership screening grant:

  •  Apply to VegFund for a grant through our Screenings program and indicate your interest in screening The Last Pig and Eating you Alive  in your community and the date(s) you hope to screen the film(s). Both films will be available to screen beginning in June 2017. Within your application, you can provide ideas of how you might incorporate food sampling, literature, or speakers from your community into the event to make it all the more interesting and informative for the audience.
  •  VegFund will locate and book a screening venue in your city, pay for the venue directly, and then pay the film license fee directly to the distributor.
  • Once VegFund has selected and booked the venue, we will turn the event back over to you, the applicant activist, to complete the event organization and host the film. That means 1) recruiting your friends, family, and community to attend the film, 2) organizing food sampling, local area speakers, etc., as approved by VegFund, 3) attending the film to introduce it to the audience and tell them why you are hosting the film, and 4) raising awareness of VegFund’s grant opportunities.

If this new partnership model shows promise, VegFund will develop a screening toolkit in the near future to make the process as effortless as possible!

Choose a film. Take action!

You can still apply for traditional screening grants through our standard process for any film that may be of interest to your community, including The Last Pig or Eating You Alive. But, if you’re interested in hosting a larger public screening at an independent theater of one of these new documentary films and need support finding a venue and working with the distributor (and having those items paid for by VegFund in advance), we are here to help!

As a vegan activist, you are at the core of VegFund’s vision to create a compassionate vegan world. So, what are you waiting for? Educate and entertain the public. Change the world. Apply to host a screening in your area!

Stay in touch — tell us about your next screening event!

*relative to popularity, most effective, and recommended.

California College Students Share Vegan Food Samples for Meatout 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Running a Successful Pay Per View Event

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

Rachel PPVHave you ever heard of Pay Per View (PPV)? No? Let me explain. Essentially, you offer to pay people one dollar to watch a four-minute video on factory farming, such as Mercy For Animals’ Farm to Fridge or FARM’s 10 Billion Lives. These events are extremely successful on college campuses, but there are plenty of other places you can do them as well.

PPV is great for anyone looking to have meaningful conversations surrounding veganism and animal rights. If at the end of the day you want to feel like you’re making a real difference, try running a PPV event at your local college campus.

VegFund has a short informational video on how to host a successful PPV event, and Mercy For Animals has some great tips for getting started with PPVs, but after interning with Mercy For Animals and running a lot of PPV events myself, I’ve picked up some tips of my own along the way. Hopefully these help you have your own fun and successful PPV event.

Find out ahead of time where you need to go to check in.

A simple phone call will suffice. It’s easier than wandering around campus trying to figure out what to do. Be sure to ask the name of the building that you need to go to. It will save a lot of time and energy. While you’re at it, you might want to ask where you’re allowed to park and how much a parking pass is. Consider printing out a map beforehand.

Rachel College PPVHave multiple volunteers. Three to four is a great number.

It’s hard to do a PPV all by yourself. You’ll need at the very least two people, but three or four is better. Having a few volunteers to answer questions and get people set up with the video and at least one person to draw people in is ideal and will help your event run more smoothly.

Be honest about the video.

When people ask what the video is about, I like to say, “It’s about how animals are treated on factory farms.” Though this may sound like it will turn people away, in my experience, it doesn’t. For me, it feels more honest than saying “It’s about where our food comes from” or “It’s about farming.”

Ask viewers questions that keep the conversation going.

In my experience, asking “Do you have any questions?” is a conversation killer. After watching the video, we want people to open with their own thoughts and questions. Sometimes, though, people don’t even realize they have questions because they are still processing what they saw. This means YOU should be asking the questions.

Some of my favorite conversation starters are “How did that make you feel?” or “Did you know this is going on?” Something along those lines is perfect. Another great question you can ask once the conversation is going along are “Do you think you could ever go vegan?” If they say no, gently ask what’s stopping them and then give suggestions on how to overcome that obstacle. “Do you have any other questions?” is perfect for ending the conversation. That way, you’ve already got them thinking and some questions might be popping up.

Share your story!

People respond to personal stories. If they say they could never give up cheese, tell them about your experiences ditching dairy. Knowing that we are not alone in our journeys and that others have been in our shoes is comforting. Do you remember when you went vegan? Learning from vegans who had been there and done that probably helped you avoid making the same mistakes they did. We all learn from each other, so share your knowledge and make someone else’s transition a little easier.

Have information available on the many impacts of eating meat.

You and I know the devastating environmental impact of animal agriculture, but many people do not. Most people don’t realize how eating meat can negatively impact their health. And many still don’t realize how many resources go into producing meat and that there would be more food to go around if we cut down on our consumption. Share this information with your viewers. Sometimes animal issues aren’t enough, but when people learn that we could feed the hungry with the grains that we feed farmed animals, that has an impact. Everyone is affected by different information, and having that information handy might just be what inspires someone to go vegan! You could even have pro-vegan literature on hand that touches on these other subjects, whether it’s on water usage (PDF), health and nutrition, or even religion! Check out VegFund’s list of brochures you can use!

Know when to let go.

Once in a while, someone won’t act affected at all and you can’t stress over it. Instead, hand them the free information and let them go on their way. They may not go vegan today, but you planted a seed and that’s all you can do. Another thing to keep in mind is if they don’t show much of a reaction, they may not feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of a stranger and that’s okay. However, that doesn’t mean they weren’t affected.

Use VegFund’s resources.

You might be thinking, but I don’t have 100 dollars to give to people. That’s where VegFund steps in to help! You can apply for mini-grants and if you’re approved, VegFund will reimburse you for the money you hand out. Check out this page for more information on how it works.

So what do you think? Would you ever run a PPV event? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this form of outreach!

 

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!

Vegan Outreach in the Yoga Community

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

Hilda in Yoga Pose; Photo by RayAngelo

Photo by: Ray Angelo

People who do yoga are generally a conscious and caring group. They tend to be open to new ideas, and they are growing in number. Vegan advocates, especially those already involved in yoga in some way, would likely find a good audience in people who do or teach yoga. Advocates can bring up the ethical, health and environmental implications of a diet that includes animals raised for food, in the terms of the yogic philosophy.

Ethics

Patanjali, the great yogi who was able to conceptualize and write down what yoga is, described the eight limbs of yogic practice. The limb that stands out for the issue of eating animals is Yama, or “choosing to practice moral restraint in external interactions” (p.44, The Aquarian Teacher). Yama is then broken into five subsets, which include non-hurting (ahimsa) and non-stealing (asteya). Clearly, all the horrors inflicted on animals raised for food from birth to slaughter would violate the former. Diverting milk intended for a mother’s child, and diverting that child away from his or her mother, would be considered a violation of the latter, stealing. Those who practice yoga are working their way toward being more and more compassionate. If they can see that every meal is an opportunity for a caring act of nonviolence, it may turn some minds toward veganism.

Health

Considering health, the following is the perspective of eating meat from yogic philosophy:

“Meat is among the most acid-producing foods. It leaves a residue of uric acid in the bloodstream. Acidic blood is an ideal environment for the development of cancer. Uric acid is a toxin that makes it harder to reach the higher, clearer meditative states because it is an irritant in the bloodstream.

Meat is also among the greatest sources of cholesterol, which contributes to heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and senility. Most animals which are raised for their meat today are fed a variety of chemicals and hormones to make them grow faster and bigger.

Meat takes three days to pass through the human system. For optimum health, men need to digest food within 24 hours; women 18 hours” (p. 253 The Aquarian Teacher).

Yogis tend to be concerned with their health and would likely find all the health benefits of a plant-based diet compelling.

Environment

Refraining from eating animals also corresponds to the yogic principles of taking care of the Earth.

Andrea Kowalski wrote in a 2012 feature for VegNews magazine how the yama (moral restraint) aparigraha, or greedlessness, supports a vegan diet. Specifically, she writes about how much more land, water and energy are used to raise animals for food in comparison to how much would be needed to feed a human with a vegan diet. Also, the yama asteya, mentioned earlier as non-stealing, can also be interpreted as “right use of resources” (p 44, The Aquarian Teacher), which would support this viewpoint.

Jivamukti Yoga co-founder and vegan, Sharon Gannon, answers the question “Can someone be a meat-eating environmentalist?” on her website:

“If that someone is a human being, then in my opinion, no; it is a contradiction in terms. To be an environmentalist is to care about the environment and care about life on planet Earth. The raising of animals for food and all that it entails is the single most destructive force impacting our planet’s fragile ecosystems. Our planet simply cannot sustain the greed of billions of human beings who are eating other animals.”

Reaching Out

Nikki in yoga pose

Nikki in yoga pose

A great way to reach out to the yogic community is to provide them with delicious samples of vegan food. In so doing, an activist can introduce people to the vegan diet, showing how it is normal and good, and also how it connects to yogic practice. Sampling out food is a very positive way to engage people and is an excellent conversation starter–anything from where the ingredients were bought, to how it is prepared, to why people choose to be vegan.

Educational literature to reinforce the vegan food and your message is also important. A Life Connected, by NonViolence United, is a beautiful piece and would be great for placement in a yoga studio. Vegan Outreach’s Compassionate Choices emphasizes the compassionate angle, while the Eating Sustainably brochure from Compassion Over Killing illustrates the ripple effect of eating on the rest of the world. Farm Sanctuary’s Recipes for Life Booklet would likely be appreciated by healthy yogis who enjoy cooking.

If you’re thinking of reaching out to the yogic community and are in need of funding to support your outreach, be sure to check out VegFund’s Food Sampling grant program.

In sum, people who practice yoga often have a deep understanding of how everything is connected into one web of life. Helping this demographic see how veganism is in line with their beliefs can have a big impact. If the yoga community is asked to look deeply at the roots of yoga and its connection to veganism, they can create real social change and greatly reduce the amount of suffering by fellow sentient beings on the planet today.

References:

Bhajan, Yogi. (2003). The Aquarian Teacher

Kowalski, Andrea. (2012). VegNews magazine. “Karmavores?”

 

Starting a Campus Animal Rights Group

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) distributes hundreds of vegan food samples and brochures at their college's activities fair.

College campuses are an ideal place to start an animal rights group. Not only are the students open to new ideas, but it gives those involved a great way to creatively express their passions.

AR groups allow you to meet with other like-minded people, to get experience as an activist, to inform, and maybe even inspire, many others.

Even though the number and diversity of animal rights groups is growing, there are still many schools and colleges that don’t have an animal rights/vegan group. If you’ve ever thought about starting a group at your school, but didn’t know where to start, we’re here to help! In this blog, we’ll be listing five tips to starting a group at your college or university, and you’ll get expert advice from current college students who have started, or are a part of, an animal rights group. Creating a vegan or animal rights group doesn’t have to be hard, but it will definitely be rewarding!

1. REGISTER YOUR GROUP

If you want to be affiliated with your college, which means use of their resources, like rooms to meet in, faculty help and greater exposure, sign up to be a school organization. Find out what is needed to get that accomplished through your school’s student affairs or student life office.

Expert Tip: Oxy VegHeads founder at Occidental College in California, Brandi Tebo, described this first step: “So one of the first things I did when I got to college was found veg club. I started by going into the office of student life, sitting down with a coordinator, and asking what I needed to do to get it rolling! Then I filled out the necessary paperwork, and started advertising! I made up these cute little flyers and posted them everywhere around campus, then spent a lot of time planning the first meeting and never looked back!”

2. GET TOGETHER

Set up an informational meeting. Hold it in a public place, maybe in the student lounge or veg-friendly campus food court, so random people aren’t showing up at your house or dorm. During the meeting, find out what people’s interests are and what they would like to do through the group. Make sure to get everyone’s contact information, and if necessary, take up a small donation to cover any costs you incurred by hosting the meeting or to help cover costs for the next meeting. Take notes. You can help newcomers get up to speed by recapping the last meeting’s notes at the beginning of the next meeting. You may also want to think about assigning each other roles so everyone has a clear idea of what their part is.

Resource: Check out the UK Vegan Society’s How to Start a Vegan Group.

Expert Tip: Kitty Jones of the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy described her experience in a college group, after having started a group in high school. “I’m now one of the leaders of Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy (BOAA) and am trying to use what I learned from high school in managing this group. BOAA was founded in 1999 at UC Berkeley. BOAA also has no set hierarchy, however there are definitely a few members that are particularly involved. I think that having member roles/hierarchy would make the group work more smoothly and efficiently though.”

Kitty Jones of BOAA gives out samples of vegan ice cream3. DECIDE WHAT YOU’RE ALL ABOUT

Think of what excites you. Leafleting? Tabling? Making meals to share? Creating an animal rights film festival? Starting a vegan mentor program? You can also find inspiration by looking at other student-run vegan and animal rights groups’ websites to see how they are structured and what the various tones/styles of the groups are.

Resources: Check out “Plant Peace Daily” by Jim Corcoran and Rae Sikora. This book includes tons of ideas for activism that can be done alone or with a group. Other great resources are major vegan and animal rights organizations. Look to their websites for information, activist activities, funding and general support. Some of the biggies are Vegan Outreach (for leaflets and tips), and of course VegFund, for resources and funding.

4. MEET WITH REGULARITY

Make sure you give your group a chance. If you don’t have a lot of people at your meetings, don’t be discouraged. Give it some time and think of new ways to bring people in.

Expert Tip: “Whether this is a weekly dinner, bi-weekly movie-screening, etc., make sure that there are certain regular events in place that people enjoy coming to and they know they can rely on. This is the backbone of your organization,” Tebo wrote in an email.

5. MINGLE

Once you are a solid group, don’t be afraid to get out there and network. Keep an eye out for how other groups and yours might have things in common or would just like to do something together. You many never have the opportunity to be around as many people willing and wanting to get together as you do in college.

Expert Tip: According to Alessandra Seiter, co-president of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition at Vassar College in New York, working together with other groups is valuable. “For every event we host, we reach out to other student organizations and academic departments who we think would be interested in co-sponsoring an event. For example, six other campus groups–such as the Food Committee and French Club–co-sponsored our recent Vegan “Wyne” & Cheese Tasting because their missions related to our event,” Seiter wrote. “The most important piece of advice I can give is to network. Having a strong community of driven individuals is indispensable in making a large impact with activist work.”

Good luck and have fun!

Are you part of a campus AR/Vegan group? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience. Please leave a comment below.

Selecting Effective Outreach Materials

By: Sally Thompson, VegFund Volunteer

When deciding which literature to use at an outreach event, there are a number of factors to consider. First, there’s the obvious: make sure you select brochures that are relevant to the event. For example, if you’re tabling at an eco-fair, you’ll want to have literature that highlights the connections between veganism and the planet. VegFund’s Educational Literature Resource page is a great place to start, as it provides literature suggestions that are broken down by category (e.g., General Tabling, Health, Environmental, etc.).

Once you’ve decided which category (or categories) of literature are appropriate for your target audience, you’ll then need to pick a brochure that effectively conveys the message. Let’s take a look at some of the major factors that make for an effective brochure.

Readability

A pamphlet cannot educate or persuade if the message it is conveying is not clearly understood by the reader. While this may seem obvious, according to a study by The Humane Research Council (2011), many vegan educational materials are written 3 to 4 grades higher than the average US adult’s reading level! Ideally, to be comprehensible for the largest proportion of the public possible, materials should be written at a 7th to 8th grade reading level. Look for literature that uses short sentences and that avoids difficult vocabulary. To test the reading level of a given piece, you can go to www.readability-score.com.

Less is More

Sometimes, in an attempt to cover all the bases, brochures will squeeze in as much information about the animal agriculture industry and the benefits of veganism as possible (O’Connor 2012). However, research suggests that this can overwhelm readers, regardless of their reading ability (Glasser 2012). Decision-making can be a complex process, and when presented with too many options, ‘ego fatigue’ sets in and people are less likely to act or make a good decision (Glasser 2012). Therefore, try to select literature that clearly presents a few key points. Additionally, instead of offering a table with dozens of different brochures, offer a small selection of quality pieces.

Look for a Story

When we hear a story, we tend to relate it to our own experiences and are therefore more receptive to taking in the information (Widrich, 2012). Try to find literature that not only relays information about the mass suffering caused by animal agriculture, but that also tells the story of an individual animal. This will help the reader relate to the issue and reduce the likelihood that they switch off altogether.

Be Inclusive

The use of particular words has also been shown to be effective. A study by Courtney Dillard (2011) suggested that by using words that establish unity and common ground such as ‘we’, ‘our’ and ‘us’ we can more effectively engage people. Even if you’re unable to find brochures with this particular language, using this language while handing out brochures is a great way to increase receptiveness.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Research suggests that the inclusion of visuals within educational material results in a greater degree of learning and understanding (Stokes 2001), and colourful images assist in emphasising information (Pennisi & Winder 2011). Additionally, research by The University of Nebraska found that the attractiveness of a pamphlet determines how likely a person is to pick it up and to continue reading (Pennisi et al. 2011). It is important that there is balance between text and imagery within the pamphlet in order to guide the reader through the information provided and draw their attention to specific areas of its pages (Pennisi & Winder 2011).

So, remember – Simple, concise, and engaging. Keep these factors in mind when evaluating literature and you’ll be able to reach even more people with the vegan message of compassion!

References

Dillard, C (2011) Strategic Communication for Activists. Humane Thinking Blog. 

Glasser, C.L. (2012) Simplifying Advocacy Materials – Understanding Decision Fatigue.

Humane Research Council (2011) Readability of Vegan Outreach Literature.

O’Connor, M (2012) How to Spread Information Without Being Overbearing. [Online]

Pennisi, L.A., Gunawan, Y., Major, A.L., Winder, A. (2011) How to Create an Effective Brochure. NebGuide.

Pennisi, L.A., Winder, A.A. (2011) Effective Graphic Design. NebGuide.

Stokes, S (2001) Visual Literacy in Teaching and Learning: A Lierature Perspective. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education. 

Widrich, L (2012) The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains.

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.

Interview with the Executive President of AnimaNaturalis Peru

 By Kimberly Dreher, VegFund Program Director

AnimaNaturalis Peru recently organized a cooking demonstration to show low-income, Lima residents how to make healthy vegan lunches for their children. Approximately 60 parents attended, and because everyone had so much interest in the topic, the event, which was originally scheduled to last only 1 hour, ended up going for 2.5 hours! VegFund recently caught up with Maru Vigo, Executive President of AnimaNaturalis Peru, to learn more about this exciting program.

VF: Would you please tell us a little bit about AnimaNaturalis? 

MV: AnimaNaturalis started in Spain in 2003 and now has supporters in 7 Spanish speaking countries in Latin America. Its mission is to fight against all kinds of abuse towards animals: experimentation, entertainment, food, clothing, etc. AnimaNaturalis aims to educate the public about the plight of animals and motivates them to be an active part of the solution to all these problems. The major animal issues in Latin America are the overpopulation of domestic animals, the fight against cruel spectacles like bullfighting and cockfighting, and the promotion of healthier choices in the public’s diet.

VF: How did you get involved with the organization?

MV: I got involved with them in 2003 when I heard about their anti-bullfighting campaign in Lima, but I am a longtime animal advocate. I have been fighting for animal rights since 1980. I collaborate with many local and international organizations like PETA, Grey2K USA, FARM and A Well Fed World, among others.

VF: How did AnimaNaturalis come up with the idea for the Healthy Lunchboxes program?

MV: All the credit goes to my team in Lima. They are the ones who thought about it. To celebrate Meat Out Day, they wanted to do something different and special; so they thought about a project that included education, social outreach, the promotion of good healthy habits, especially for children, use of native Peruvian super foods and a delicious sampling of vegan alternatives. It was a perfect plan because we developed it in a low income area where people do not have a lot of access to information about their health options. 

VF: Can you tell us more about the communities in Lima?

MV: Lima is a cosmopolitan city of extremes. The wealthy have all kinds of information and mainly, they have access to better food options. The middle class also has access to all this, but the low income people do not. Considering the vast richness of produce, fruits and vegetables that Peru has, everyone should be vegan! Low income families need to realize that they can have much better lives by using our native power foods like kiwicha, maca, quinoa, cacao, and all sorts of delicious vegetables and exotic fruits. All people need is to receive information, ideas, recipes and suggestions to “veganize” typical Peruvian dishes. All that is possible and it is one of the ideas for our future projects. The standard Peruvian cuisine is one of the most important in the world; therefore, the new Vegan Peruvian cuisine we are trying to implement should be out of this world!

VF: Did you anticipate that the program would be such a huge success?

MV: To tell you the truth, I was a little concerned about the reaction of the people in that particular area in Lima. In San Martin de Porres (the area where the project took place) people mostly eat traditional Peruvian dishes based on meat, fast food, and lots of sugar. They feed their children the same type of food. Probably most of them had never heard the word “vegan” in their entire lives, so I was a little concerned about their trust and engagement in the project we were going to present. We promoted the event with flyers, personal letters and messages written daily in the students’ planners. We told the parents that they could not miss the opportunity to learn how to keep their kids healthy. Their response was overwhelming. They stayed for an extra hour just asking good questions to our representatives and our vegan chef. Everyone enjoyed the food samples and they asked us to return soon with new vegan recipes they could use at home.

VF: Given the overwhelming positive response, do you plan to expand the program?

MV: We did a follow up and saw that the students are actually bringing the garbanzo and quinoa sandwiches that our vegan chef taught their parents to prepare. They are also bringing many more fruits and have asked us to prepare and serve our recipe of almond milk during recess. Their parents received a free recipe book with all these recipes. We would like to offer new classes on how to veganize typical Peruvian dishes and have a food festival for the community, too.

VF: What advice do you have for activists who are interested in starting similar programs in their communities?

MV: Find low income communities where they can execute similar programs. It is also important to work around the typical dishes eaten in a particular community and offer alternatives that match their income. It is vital to offer delicious vegan food that will break the myth of vegan food being boring and tasteless and also make sure that everyone goes home with plenty of recipes, suggestions, general information about veganism, and replacements to animal based foods.

VF: If activists are interested in getting involved with AnimaNaturalis, whom should they contact?

MV: We have a general email for contacts, but they should contact me at Maruv [at] animanaturalis [dot] org or at animalialatina [at] gmail [dot] com. I am happy to answer questions, give ideas, etc.

VegFund loves supporting programs that are bringing healthy vegan food options and education to low-income communities around the world. If you’re interested in starting a program in your community, VegFund may be help to help! Check out our Food Sampling and Merit Awards grant programs, or email: events [at] vegfund [dot] org.