Food, Glorious Food!

“From Grant-Based Activism to a Plant-Based Career” – A webinar with a former VegFund grantee

As vegans, we celebrate plant-based foods as delicious, healthful, ethical, and compassionate. Plant-based foods are now one of the fastest-growing segments of the food-service industry. If you’ve ever entertained thoughts of working in the area of vegan food service, read on!

Last month, Liz Gary, founder of the New Options Food Group in San Diego and former VegFund grantee joined us to present our third activist training webinar “From Grant-Based Activism to a Plant-Based Career.” Liz shared her experience in the vegan food business along with her insider recommendations for finding or creating new career opportunities as plant-based foods professionals — whether full-time/career-track or part-time.

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We hope those of you who joined us found the topic inspiring. For those of you who were not able to attend, you can view the full presentation at VegFund’s  Activist Resource Center. Below is just a “taste” of the valuable information Liz conveyed in the webinar.

“Everywhere you go there is opportunity.” ~ Liz

Liz’s tips on getting started in the vegan food business and where to find or create jobs fell into the following categories:

  • Community engagement
  • Rewarding jobs in education
  • Representing plant-based foods manufacturers and consulting in the food service industry
  • Culinary travel and tourism
  • Special events and media

Community engagement

Get involved in the local community

  • Find out what events are happening near you — green fairs, cooking classes, food tastings, community markets, etc.
  • Better still — organize your own vegan food fair! You can apply for grant support from VegFund here.
  • Watch for paid and voluntary opportunities at nonprofit animal rights organizations such as The Humane League, Vegan Outreach, Farm Sanctuary, and FARM
  • And network, network, network!
Photograph courtesy of VegFest UK

Photograph courtesy of VegFest UK

 “Outreach and community engagement translate into growth in the plant-based foods economy.” ~ Liz

Rewarding jobs in education

Consider teaching or setting up a “vegan cook club” within your local community! The following venues offer great opportunities to educate and engage with your community:

  • Retail kitchen stores
  • Cooking schools
  • Local community colleges, high schools, your local public library
  • Hospitals
  • Test-kitchen Tuesdays (donation-based community classes)

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Representing plant-based foods manufacturers and consulting in the food service industry

Offer your plant-based food expertise and consult with the main drivers of the food network:

  • Represent locally made plant-based products
  • Sell your products and services to your local hospitals
  • Consult with chefs
  • Get \on-board with popular political food days, such as Meatless Mondays and California Fresh Thursdays and use these as an opportunity to work more closely with your local schools
  • Work with food administrators and distributors at correctional institutions
Photograph Courtesy of Food Tank

Photograph Courtesy of Food Tank

 Culinary travel and tourism

Excite your local community with the offer of organized day trips to learn more about the benefits of plant-based foods. The following suggestions are popular options:

  • Vegan restaurant trips
  • Trips to Whole Foods Market
  • Visit an animal sanctuary
  • Vegan food and fashion shopping trips
  • Visit a nonprofit animal rights office
  • And more!
Moses the Pig (Photograph Courtesy of Catskill Animal Sanctuary)

Moses the Pig (Photograph Courtesy of Catskill Animal Sanctuary)

 Special events and media

Holiday-themed events are a great starting point for engaging your community, especially if they translate well into a great local story or news item.

  • Organize events around annual vegan holidays and national events, and get your community involved along the way; for example, Vegan Valentine’s Fun Run, Vegan Octoberfest, Cookie Bake-a-thon
  • Talk to news organizations (whether print or TV) about vegan food
  • Arrange lunch-time talks within local schools and workplaces
Kindred Spirits Care Farm Food Day LA 2015

Kindred Spirits Care Farm Food Day LA 2015

There are many opportunities waiting for you. Take the first steps today and build from there. Find out more about VegFund’s grant programs to support activists in their vegan outreach efforts.

The full webinar recording and slide show summary of key points are now available in our Activist Resource Center, where you can view all webinars from the training series so far. We also provide other online resources to support you in your animal advocacy.

If you have suggestions for resources you’d like to see featured on here send them our way for consideration. Email info@vegfund.org or tell us on social media. You can find us on Facebook and on Twitter. If you have specific questions for Liz on the content of this webinar, you can contact her directly via email: liz@newoptionsfoodgroup.com.

 

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

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

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

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

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

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

Some words from the photographer:

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

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

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

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

Support this project: weanimals.org/support

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

California College Students Share Vegan Food Samples for Meatout 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embrace and Encourage: Lessons from Three Decades

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

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

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Loved meat, and groovy pants!

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

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

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

lalalala-listening

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:

angryvegan

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?

hrc

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

80%!

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

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

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

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

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

Veganomics

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

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

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

feweranimals

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!

decline

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:

someanimals

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

 

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

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

Common Vegan Myths Debunked

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

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While vegan diets mainly consist of health-supporting, whole plant foods, the common misconception that we can’t indulge is also false, as shown by this beautiful dessert spread from French vegan activist group L214.

Whether you are vegan or non-vegan, it is likely that you have heard some negative notions regarding veganism. Vegan myths can relate to many different things, such as nutrition, budget, ethics, and identity, and can be heard from various sources. Whether they are acting defensively or simply uninformed, people may approach you during activism and express their misunderstandings about veganism. Sometimes friends and family might use vegan myths to justify why they are not vegan themselves.

Regardless of where vegan myths come from and why, it is important for omnivores to know the facts behind these misconceptions. This also makes it imperative for activists to have a good understanding of the facts so they are able to answer the misconceptions of others. There are countless vegan myths, but here are some of the most common:

Myth: Vegan diets are unhealthy.

Fact: According to the American Dietetic Association, when properly planned, vegetarian or vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” A vegan diet typically consists of mostly whole, plant-based foods and is low in cholesterol and fat. Being vegan does not mean compromising your health, as long as your daily diet contains all necessary nutrients for healthy living. A poorly planned diet, vegan or non-vegan, is always unhealthy, so make sure your vegan diet is full of fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats, protein, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of water.

Myth: Vegans cause harm to plants.

Fact: Plants do not have pain receptors or central nervous systems, so it is not likely that they feel pain as humans and animals feel it. At any rate, more plants’ lives are saved by not eating meat because of the large quantity of vegetation required to feed farmed animals. For example, a pound of beef can use up to 20 pounds of feed grain. So regardless of whether you’re concerned about plants or animals, if you want to preserve the most lives possible, a vegan diet is preferable.

Myth: Eating vegan is expensive.

Fact: Eating a vegan diet doesn’t mean that you have to buy all specialty products. Beans, lentils, nuts, grains, and tofu (all great sources of protein) are typically cheaper than meat, especially when bought in bulk. The money saved by leaving meat off your grocery list can go toward buying fresh fruits and vegetables or even non-dairy milk. A vegan diet is manageable with any budget!

Myth: All vegans are hippies.

Fact: This seems to be the vegan stigma, regardless of the fact that vegans come in all shapes and sizes and from different backgrounds. Vegan isn’t synonymous with hippy; there are vegan NFL players, politicians, actors/actresses, singers, and the list goes on and on. Vegans can’t be labeled with just one word, but what can be said about all vegans is that they have many good reasons (moral, environmental, and health-related) for keeping animal products out of their diet.

Myth: Vegans don’t get enough protein or calcium.

Fact: “Where do you get your protein and calcium?” This is a question that vegans are often asked, but if you are vegan, it is usually an easy one to answer. Tempeh, lentils, soymilk, tofu, quinoa, cashews, beans, peanut butter, and rice are all amazing sources of protein for vegans. Protein sources for vegans are abundant, as are sources of calcium. Just because your diet doesn’t include dairy doesn’t mean it is without calcium. Some of the best calcium sources for vegans are kale, collard greens, almond butter, broccoli, blackberries, oranges, and sesame seeds.

Can you think of some other vegan myths and how you can refute them? Let us know in the comments!

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).

July/August 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Sarah Hanshew

photoI have always loved and cared for animals, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I took my love and care to the next level. In 2012, I became a vegetarian, and it wasn’t until I watched the documentary Vegucated that I decided to become vegan. I learned that being vegan is the best way to live a kind and compassionate life and that animals don’t deserve to be killed for food.

Since becoming vegan, I have taken a great interest in animal rights and wish to promote veganism as much as possible. I started with my family by explaining to them my reasons for being vegan, and I have shared with them my knowledge of the horrific, yet very real, treatment of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses. My biggest supporter is my mom, and even though she is not vegan, we enjoy a vegan meal together several times a week.

My drive to promote veganism to others is what attracted me to intern with VegFund, and it is thrilling to start my first venture as an animal activist. I am excited to use my educational background with writing and social media to successfully engage and interact with others through VegFund’s blog and their Save Farm Animals Facebook campaign. It is an extreme privilege to have this chance to help others help animals, and I am excited to continue my activism in the future.

Powerful Vegan Messages

Book Review By: Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

powerfulPowerful Vegan Messages is the perfect read for those who want to explore veganism and for those who have already made the switch to plant-based living. The book delivers messages from the late author, H. Jay Dinshah, on his philosophy and work as an animal advocate. Dinshah’s daughter and co-author of the book, Anne Dinshah, recounts her father’s story and encourages readers to discover ways to positively promote veganism. Powerful Vegan Messages also includes more than 40 tributes to Jay from various vegan leaders, such as Thomas M. Campbell, Rip Esselstyn, and John Robbins.

H. Jay Dinshah was a lifelong vegetarian, vegan since age 24, editor of Ahimsa magazine and was the founder of American Vegan Society. He was a motivational speaker and very skilled at encouraging people to get involved. His vegan journey started after he toured a slaughterhouse in 1957, and he vowed to work hard every day until all the slaughterhouses were closed.

Inspired by her father’s activism, Anne Dinshah became vegan at an early age. She is currently vice-president of the American Vegan Society, editor of American Vegan magazine and is a professional rowing coach.

What stands out most in this book are the tributes to Jay and the recollections of his powerful vision. He saw a world in which no animals were harmed and strongly believed in ahimsa, meaning ‘to not injure.’ He had a gift for empowering others to live a kind and courageous life–just like his own.

“Jay knew that mentors, friends, time, conferences, and community were all important to success, but that knowledge holds the most power” (p. 16).

Anne also believes that knowledge is vital to promoting veganism and being a successful activist. In the book, she provides ethical reasons for being vegan and discusses ways to spread the vegan word in a kind, nonviolent way. She believes that educating people toward veganism will change the world because, after all, knowledge is power.

If you have a desire to explore veganism, or if you’re an activist seeking to learn new ways to encourage and educate others, then this book is definitely for you. The powerful, kind, encouraging words of Jay and Anne Dinshah make for a very uplifting read.

Pick up your copy here, and don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments!

Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate

Book review by Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

GrowlKim Stallwood, a long-time animal rights activist, recently published his first book entitled Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate. Stallwood went vegetarian back in 1974 and then vegan two years later. He began his animal rights career at Compassion in World Farming and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, and he then moved on to be PETA’s Executive Director and the Editor-in-Chief of Animals Agenda. Drawing on lessons learned during his nearly 40 year career in animal advocacy, Growl is a must-read for those who are looking to up their advocacy game in an effective way.

Born in England in 1955, Stallwood began his life like most of us do, eating a variety of animal-based foods. The first seed of compassion for animals was planted as a child when he saw a well-known woman known as Camberley Kate walking her many rescued dogs around town. She’d take them in and find suitable homes for them. Though her presence ignited his compassion for animals, it wasn’t until he worked in a chicken slaughterhouse and processing plant that he awakened to the truth of what happens to animals who are used for food. Not long after that, he found himself going vegetarian and then vegan, and it was then that his career in animal rights took off.

In the book, Stallwood reflects on his own journey of animal activism. In many ways, his experience is like all of ours, with twists and regrets, and in others, it’s entirely unique. How many people are awakened to animal exploitation by working in a slaughterhouse? How many of us have the opportunity to work for several well-known animal rights organizations? He notes where he made mistakes, and he explores what he could’ve done differently to be more effective. He does so by sharing the four key values he believes must make up our animal activism: truth, compassion, nonviolence, and justice.

For example, Stallwood outlines compassion as a value that “encourages selflessness, dissolves prejudice, prevents violence, and promotes peace, through an altruistic love that opens our eyes, hearts, and minds to the suffering of others and forces us to make positive differences in their lives. Compassion is justice in action,” (Stallwood, p. 58).

He makes his point about compassion being a necessity to the animal advocacy movement by painting a picture of what an interaction between Kim the Chef (the man who worked in the slaughterhouse) and Kim the Vegelical (the man in his early days of activism) might look like. Kim the Vegelical has staged a protest with fellow activists outside the slaughterhouse in which Kim the Chef works. His intent is to make Kim the Chef feel guilty for working in the slaughterhouse. Kim the Chef walks by the protest quickly, making an effort not to make contact. Inside, he might feel guilt, because indeed working there has already brought up some of those feelings, but he brushes off the feeling and laughs about the protesters with his coworkers, avoiding expressing his feelings with them.

Personally, I can relate to Kim the Vegelical. While I’ve never protested or yelled at anyone, looking back on conversations I’ve had, I have to question what my motives were. Unfortunately, compassion and understanding for all beings, including humans, were not at the forefront of my mind, despite the fact that I was trying to do right by the animals.

Both Kims would eventually change their attitudes, but “a connection had to be made in which opinions were respected and a genuine reciprocity was experienced before something could shift and progress be made,” (Stallwood, p. 68). Again, I’ve noticed in my own conversations that when both sides act and speak respectfully, much more progress is made for the animals.

Through this scenario, Stallwood shows not only how compassion makes for effective advocacy, but also how ineffective a lack of compassion is.

Throughout Growl, Stallwood highlights his experiences and the lessons he’s learned, and how they relate to the four principles. Any activist, new or seasoned, can learn from Stallwood’s experiences and apply them to his or her own advocacy.

Have you read Growl yet? We’d love to hear what you got out of the book. Post your comments below!