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

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

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

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

What We Learned

The Basics

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

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

Q3 Location

Top three countries:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada

Top three cities:

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

Top three U.S .states:

  • California
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania/Florida

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

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

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

Vegan and Advocate Identity

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

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

Path to becoming vegan

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

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What you like best about being vegan

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

Q14 Word Cloud - What liked best about being vegan

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

Vegan values

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

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

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

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

Grantee Advocacy Interests

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

What kinds of activism are you engaged in?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How would you describe your feelings about activism/advocacy?

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

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Inspiring the Future Generations of Vegans and Advocates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

speciesism

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.

volunteers

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!

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!

Meat Logic: Why Do We Eat Animals?

By Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

meatlogic_cover_400“Humans are omnivores.” “Humans need to eat animals to live.” “It’s natural; animals eat other animals.” “We’ve been eating meat since the beginning of time.”

Have you ever heard any of these rationalizations for eating meat? Maybe you’ve actually said something like this in the past. But how accurate are these arguments? What would happen if many of these rationalizations were refuted all in the same place, one by one? Emmy-nominated writer and producer Charles Horn wanted to find out.

He reveals in his book, Meat Logic, that many of the rationalizations used for eating animal productsappear to be based not on emotion but on reason and logic. What he tests, and what his book is truly about, is the logical soundness of each rationalization.

There is a rationalization for everyone if you want it bad enough.” (p. 130)

Horn begins the book with a little background on philosophy, animals, and the basis for animal rights in order to give readers a general understanding of the dispute over eating animals. In the core part of the book, 31 different rationalizations for eating animals are individually put to the test. He provides scientific and philosophical evidence into language that makes it easy for readers to understand and really profit from the knowledge he provides. He is able to contest each of the aforementioned rationalizations in just a couple pages.

Horn states in the book that he didn’t expect every reader to change their mind about eating animals, but he is still “quite hopeful about the future.” He recognizes that more people will change their eating habits once they gain more knowledge about the subject.

If you are an animal activist and are looking for more effective ways to address those opposed to veganism, then this book is a must-read. It can also act as a great reference tool! If you are interested in the rationale of why humans eat animals, then read this book and allow it to challenge you and inform you and maybe even inspire you.

Have you already read Meat Logic? We would love to know what you thought of this book. Let us know in the comments below.

Vegucated: Three People. Six Weeks. One Challenge.

Film Review By: Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

cover_vegucatedFor those of you who haven’t seen the successful and praised documentary Vegucated, written and directed by Marisa Miller Wolfson, it shows the journey of three meat-eating New Yorkers who pledge to implement a vegan diet for six weeks. All three participants agree to take on this challenge with the hopes of living a healthier lifestyle.

Watching this documentary is what inspired me to become vegan in the first place, and it completely changed my outlook on what it really means to be vegan. Vegucated is full of useful information and I firmly believe that anyone, vegan or non-vegan, can benefit from the knowledge gained through this documentary.

The documentary kicks off with Marisa introducing the courageous partakers who all have very different backgrounds. Tesla is a college student living in Queens, Brian is a bachelor from California, and Ellen is a psychiatrist and single mom. All three reveal to Marisa their meat- and dairy-filled refrigerators and admit that they are a bit anxious about the six weeks ahead of them.

Marisa starts off by getting them “vegucated.” She takes them to a local health food store, and she shows them the vast amount of meat- and dairy-free options that vegans have. They also get a few medical tests done so that they can see their health progress at the end of the six weeks.

Marisa not only educates them about the supermarket, but she shows them the truth behind animal agriculture as well. All three of them are shocked to see footage of the cruelty that lies within slaughterhouses and factory farms. Brian is especially surprised by how emotional he feels after seeing such horrific images. After watching the footage he says, “You can really see that these animals are experiencing pain.”

Along their journey, Tesla, Brian, and Ellen also get to meet with some professionals and longtime vegans that share their knowledge and wisdom. It’s extraordinary to see their minds and tastes change so much over the course of six weeks just by learning and experiencing new things. (Plus, it’s fun to see everyone enjoying vegan s’mores around a campfire!)

Is it possible that three tremendously different people can all change their views, lifestyle, and health in six short weeks? Find out by watching the enthralling Vegucated documentary. You might end up being inspired by the educational tactics used by the filmmakers and maybe learn to use them in your own activist work.

If you have watched it, don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments!

The Chain

Book Review By: Sarah Hanshew, 2014 Summer Intern

the chainWith the suspense novel The Chain comes the incredible story of Jude Brannock, an animal welfare investigator trying to uncover the animal abuse that takes place in the small town of Bragg Falls. Author Robin Lamont, an animal advocate currently living in New York, uses her professional experience as an actress, a private investigator, and a prosecutor as inspiration for her novels, including this page-turner.

The story begins as Jude Brannock arrives in Bragg Falls, a town that survives only with the local meat packing plant, D&M Processing. Jude, an employee of the animal rights group The Kinship, comes from Washington, D.C. with plans to meet Frank Marino, a D&M worker who has an exposing undercover tape of animal abuse at the plant. Upon her arrival, Jude discovers that Frank was found dead in his car just days earlier. Without Frank or the tape, Jude has no concrete evidence of the supposed animal abuse.

Jude’s passion for her work is what keeps her in Bragg Falls even after the knowledge of Frank’s death. She suspects that extreme measures were taken to destroy any evidence of animal abuse at the plant, so she sticks around to do more investigating.

It becomes clear to Jude early on that her presence is unwelcome in Bragg Falls because people see her as a threat to the town’s livelihood, regardless of any knowledge of conditions at D&M Processing. The knowledge she does gain from a few concerned citizens reveals the horrific, yet very real, treatment of slaughterhouse pigs.

Jude’s entire stay in Bragg Falls is shaped by misfortune and harassment from the town, and what stands out most from her journey is her unwavering conviction. She is brought down time and time again, but continues to fight for what she knows is right. What is also striking is how relatable Jude reveals herself to be. She isn’t just a hardened shell of a woman; she recognizes how difficult her line of work is and the emotional toll that comes with her job. Any animal advocate would easily relate to her character, and she makes this story seem so real.

This informative and inspiring novel is a must-read for anyone wishing to learn more about slaughterhouse animal abuse and the importance of advocacy for animals. Prepare to be on the edge of your seat!

What do you think about The Chain? Let us know in the comments below!

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.