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!

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.

Rotate the Universe: Stewart Solomon

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Originally written in 2006; taken from The Accidental Activist.

Matt Ball’s “How Vegan Is Enough?” lecture at the 2006 Animal Rights Conference was refreshing. I almost didn’t go because I was afraid the answer would be that there was no limit to how vegan one should be, that it might be some fire-and-brimstone speech with someone reciting the entire encyclopedia of animal products. Many people hear about all of these trace animal products and think veganism is beyond impossible.

I remember when one person asked Matt how to convince his brother to go vegan. He’d been at it for years and years to no avail and basically felt like a failure. If he couldn’t convert his own brother, he thought, how could he affect anyone else? Matt told him to forget about his brother, that his brother wouldn’t turn vegan to spite him, if for no other reason. Matt told him to go to a college campus, a concert, a record store, and hand out literature: “Some of them will read it, become vegetarian or vegan, and you will have saved thousands of lives.” I took great comfort in that remark. It was as if a huge burden was suddenly lifted from my shoulders.

I remembered that talk earlier today. I was very tired and my back hurt, but I was able to distribute 750 booklets at Pasadena City College. On the drive home I started thinking about an old riddle: How many physicists does it take to change a light bulb?

Two. One to hold the bulb and one to rotate the universe.

I think that holding the light bulb is easy, and rotating the universe is sometimes difficult. However, that light bulb must be changed.

-Stewart Solomon

 

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.