Podcast #18 – Effective Advocacy

We have all had our epiphanies that resulted in our adopting the vegan lifestyle, whether it was something we read, something we saw, or something we heard.  Whatever the source of your veganism or interest in veganism, once you have made the commitment to a vegan lifestyle,
u may want to reach out and educate others about what you have learned. As a vegan, you may be able to advocate for veganism as part of your normal daily activities. You may not need a kiosk, a street stall, or a website to get involved with vegan advocacy.  Try wearing a vegan shirt; suddenly you are an ambassador for the cause. Always remember to be a great example of healthy joyful veganism when you wear it; those casual questions and comments can really help people think about their own consumer choices and make real the injustice towards animals that is globally pervasive.

Sharing vegan food is always a good form of advocacy, especially if the food is beautiful and delicious.  One of my favorite ways to share food is to offer it at a gathering, then let people know it is vegan. They are often so surprised; many have prejudices that vegan food is dull and flavorless, as if the bodies of dead animals are naturally delicious. Somethings are upside down in this vida loca, right? It is up to us to turn things on their head. Consider hosting a Vegan Food Fair where you live. These events promote veganism while giving free vegan food to interested participants. Sometimes this can take place within another event, such as an environmental expo, a vegetarian street fair, or an animal adoption gathering.

Abolitionist Vegan Advocacy

When searching for ideas for positive vegan advocacy, I went to the collective experiences of other abolitionist vegans to see what works for them.

  • On Gary Francione’s Abolitionist Approach, he suggests three main steps: first, go vegan yourself. Secondly, share veganism with others via creative vegan education. And third, adopt a non-human animal that needs a home. Professor Francione also recently interviewed a couple who is doing street advocacy in a place not particularly hospitable to veganism, and they have had a very positive experience.  Be sure to hear his recent podcast, Commentary Number Twenty.
  • Another vegan who does street advocacy is Elizabeth Collins, who also shares with a wider audience during her podccast, NZVeganPodcast.  Elizabeth recently shared a story about learning to really listen to people that might ask you a simple or easy question — they might really want information of you. Respecting the questioner increases the likelihood you will get more conversation with the person and also that you might be able to impart more information to them. At the very least, it will improve their opinion of vegans if they are treated respectfully.
  • During a recent Animal Rights Zone chat, Minku Sharma said that in order to avoid being accused of vegangelizing, you need to “get to know who you’re talking to and how they feel about the issue. That way, it’s easier to know what to say.” He likes to talk about rights by talking about his own journey to becoming vegan. People are less resistant to personal experiences than they are towards theories.
  • Paola Aldana and Trisha Roberts both produce wonderful videos which as disseminated on YouTube. These help get the abolitionist message out to a wider audience, are perenially available, and are then sent out over social networks like Facebook and Twitter to an ever widening audience.  One of my favorites is Vegan, You Look Like Hell (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19uB5rJJtcw) which takes a poke at all the ridiculous comments we vegans received from those “concerned” about us. Trisha Roberts has created an entire library of videos which lends her beautiful voice to the abolitionist principles, making it very easy on the ears and eyes to learn about the movement. Be sure to subscribe to both of these and share them on your social networking sites, too.

More Ideas from Experienced Vegan Advocates

  • Chris Poupart has created some abolitionist vegan message tees and sweatshirts, available online for anyone who wants to get the word out. Not only that, but he is helping to develop an animal rights group collective that may grow to include an international collective of local abolitionist organizations. I appreciate Chris for many reasons. One thing that I have found so helpful is his support on Linked In threads, where I used to be the only abolitionist challenging the welfarist rhetoric.  Since Chris has come aboard, there are becoming more and more people supporting his clear, rational responses. It is a great kind of advocacy that gets the message through to those who are already vegan but do not yet understand abolitionist principles.
  • Harold Brown, the farmer turned vegan, has turned his vegan advocacy towards teaching veganic farming practices, working on farm workers rights, and thinking in terms of the larger issues of interconnectedness. Will Tuttle ofThe World Peace Diet, has discussed a “radical inclusion” that brings nonhuman animals into the larger moral community. Living our lives with that sense of interconnectedness can also help us connect with other soon-to-be vegans.

Are you a teacher, a mentor, an ambassador, a cheerleader, an artist,  a writer, a musician, a craftsman? Do you have computer skills, technical knowledge, or an abundance of enthusiasm? Think about what you bring to the table that you want to share with the world. Many artists are sharing their work presenting the personhood of animals to the world. Sam Tucker and Emmy James, both teens, are working on animation that draws attention to the problems inherent in animal agriculture. Sam is also in a band and hosts a radio show that profiles abolitionist principles and vegan band members. Emmy also has a podcast which brings abolitionist information to the public as she pursues her interest in animation.

I have seen many abolitionist vegans challenge anti-animal stances on Facebook threads, tweets, articles and blog posts, thereby raising the volume of the abolitionist vegan message. Use a Google search to find such sites; support fellow vegans in their efforts to educate and inform.  There are also many online venues, such as Linked-In groups like Vegan Professionals and Ethical Vegans where you may present the abolitionist approach and thinking to other vegans.

  • Roger Yates recently mentioned a vegan mentoring program of Neil Lea, called Vegan Buddies where a more experienced vegan may mentor newer vegans and help them in their process. He mentioned that Vegan Ireland now has an electronic version of that program to assist and encourage new vegans. Great idea! I know working with juvenile offenders, those with mentors had the greatest chance of success. If it works that well for offenders, it is an idea worth carrying forward in other areas.
  • Jordan Wyatt, one of my favorite vegans, is tremendously creative and tech savvy. He has not only created nad participated in several podcasts, but also is co-inhabitor with several beautiful chickens. In fact, if you think you have seen beautiful chickens, you need to see these gorgeous, healthy happy birds. He has videos of these birds eating falafels off his plate, playing in the snow, and munching chips off the ground. I have shared some of his photos and posted the photo of a so-called “free range” chicken next to it – someone in my Facebook circle, a distant relative, wrote me that she was shocked to see those birds; the difference was striking. Sharing those beautiful birds can be a positive way for people to see something about the animals so many casually eat without any consideration.
  • Matt Bear created a popular video that has been widely disseminated, A Life Connected, which introduces many people to veganism. Eric Prescott’s series, I’m Vegan, introduces individual people to the public, literally putting a face on the movement. With such diverse people, it helps others related to the face of veganism.
  • Dan Cudahy, author of his tremendously helpful blog, Unpopular Vegan Essays, says to start with a purpose. The strong purpose will keep you interested and the use of social networking may help you to reach a wider audience.  Podcasts, he suggested, is another way to reach more people.

Advocacy for Individual Vegans

One thing most of us can do is to start a local animal rights group. Here in northern Texas where I live, it might be difficult to start an abolitionist group, but an animal rights and rescue group would take off and be well received.  Many people are concerned about animals and want to save them, but do not yet have the connection with the many ways animals are exploited. If the group’s goals include acceptance and promotion of veganism and abolitionist principles, but all are welcome to come, it might be possible to spread the word and recruit a solid group of volunteers.  Coordinating with local rescue organizations, shelters and sanctuaries would also translate into direct action, peacefully done,  on behalf of animals.

There are many online sources if you want to leaflet.  I recently called our local Farmer’s Market to see if I might be allowed to leaflet and table there; the person who manages the market was delighted to have someone with new information, particulary with information that improves health and the environment, too. Our area is one that has been designated as having one of the highest rates of obesity in the nation.  I would not be allowed to bring any vegan food, but all the literature, information and videos would be fine.  I have slowly been gathering and printing information for that use.

Another good idea for doing outreach is through the organization, VegFund.  If you want to give out vegan food and set up a Vegan Information table at your local whole foods market, contact the store manager and arrange to come for a specified period, say four hours, once or twice a month. Then contact VegFund and they may be able to help you with the expense of the vegan food. The store might also be interested if they want to promote their vegan products and they may see you as providing a service for their customers, too. Just be sure to develop a good relationship with the manager and with the customers so you will stay as a welcome presence.  Our local WFM is known for their positive customer service. It would be delightful to participate in their ambience and congeniality while at the same time promoting abolitionist veganism.

Think about participating in a local vegan festival, or starting your own. Some vegans have joined vegetarian festivals and increased the vegan presence there. I coordinate showing animals in need of homes on line with several different local animal shelters. I have found them to be receptive of having vegans involved in their activities and allowing us to have brochures available for interested people.

Another source of getting information out are your local veterinarians. Not all vets are vegan-oriented, but more are becoming aware of what is happening to animals and many are concerned. It might be worth a call to see if they will allow you to leave some flyers in their office. Especially if they know you are involved in local rescue work, they are likely to see you as a positive force in the community. If nothing else, they may allow you to leave information about your animal rights group there.

Another needed avenue which might be open to vegans is humane education. Some schools allow speakers to come in and speak to the children about the importance of our relationships with animals. Some have curriculum which may allow for outside speakers. Make certain you understand the developmental stage of any children with which you work.  Helping young people to broaden their thinking about animals can have a long-term impact on others around those children, too. Call your local school district to inquire.

Some progressive organizations like to have guest speakers who are knowledgeable about topics that appeal to their audience. Unitarian Universalists have a division that is pro-vegan and have many progressive-thinking individual members.  They may be open to having you come as a guest speaker for a Sunday service to talk about veganism and abolition.  Contact your local UUs to see what is possible.

Contacting stores and restaurants, requesting information about vegan products or the need for them, is also helpful. I have found that talking to restaurant and store managers nearly always ends up in a positive exchange.  While some national chains have not been as open, many have been very responsive. The more of us that are contacting them, the more likely they will begin to see veganism as a positive force and a market they want to pursue.  I am currently contacting dozens of businesses daily regarding the directory I am developing, The Vegans Directory, and find that even those that do not claim to be vegan often express interest and take the time to point out certain products that are vegan or what they are doing to become more ethical and sustainable.

Many libraries allow people in the community to create library displays.  Such a display would be seen by hundreds of people throughout the time it is available.  Contact your local library to find out what their guidelines are.  Make certain your display is colorful, simple, with a clear and positive message.  A vegan message with an abolitionist bent would be able to capture the many ways in which veganism improves the world, whether peace, environment, animal rights and justice, health, habitat protection, and broadening our sense of connectedness on the earth. Anyone concerned might then be able to contact you or your group, or go online to find out more about abolitionism.

Another suggestion if you are living in an area where you are working solo: find other vegan soulmates online. Join a forum or group where you will connect with people and get to know them. There are millions of us around the world; you are really NOT alone. But it helps to know that there is this person or that working on the same exact issues, dealing with the same difficulties, all around the world. The collective support can really help sustain your individual efforts, too.

Most important of all, cherish one another. While we may have small differences in outlook, anyone who respects the rights of all living beings has something profoundly significant in common with you. I have received some of the most wonderful correction, and rightly so, from people who know just how to do so lovingly, without injury. I have also had the same from people who were not as wise, which caused great pain and really caused me to reconsider whether I could sustain the work I was doing under such emotional assaults.  All of us have traveled different paths; no one knows what another’s journey has entailed. If we try to keep a modicum of respect for all other beings as part and parcel of who we are, we increase the likelihood that we will be good representatives for nonhuman animals. Showing empathy to other humans reflects our basic value of empathy for all living beings. Want to learn something about acceptance and forgiveness? Think of an animal that you know. Consider the dog you ignored in the morning, who nonetheless greets you with a hopeful wag in the afternoon. Then go out and advocate of their behalf. You may not need to do much to become an effective advocate; you may just need to recognize opportunities when the present themselves. You bring a message of hope to the world; find your vegan voice, and go out the get them!

Circle of Compassion article – Will Tuttle

Chris Poupart’sAbolitionist Tees

Ask A Vegan program – VegFund

Unitarian Univeralist for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – vegan article

Abolitionist Vegan Outreach information:

Abolitionist Approach pamphlets

Veganism – A Guide to Non-Violence

Veganism – Black and White

Clips:

Point of View by Robin Williams

Empathy by The Mosaic Project

Happy Talk by John Pizzarelli

(All available on iTunes)