the one and only true way?

From an article called "Promoting Veganism":
"We don’t have any real data on what works. So I continue with my informal surveying, asking individuals what they were reading or looking at or to whom they were talking at the moment that they began thinking about veganism." [...]

"Until we have that research, we have to be humble enough to know that we’re all stumbling around to some extent. We shouldn’t be dismissive of any (non-offensive) campaign or message or book just because we don’t like the way the message is presented. Nobody knows the one and only true way to promote veganism and animal liberation. And we are likely to end up being surprised by some of the things that work."
Well said!

10 Animal Activist Tips

From The Vegan Dietitian, my thoughts interspersed in italics:
1. Try to understand the public’s current thinking and where it could be encouraged to go tomorrow. Above all, keep in touch with reality. Activists sometimes lose their feel for what the average person in the street might think, and this impacts their ability to know what is possible right now.

I think that's true. But I think a better suggestion is to simply ask people what they think and start from there because it can be insulting to assume someone knows nothing about the issues. If you treat everyone the same and relate to them like they all have the same ideas, it's extremely easy to be insulting or offensive.

I am constantly annoyed by activists who try to have the conversation with me - preaching to choir - without even asking what I think first.

2. Select a target on the basis of vulnerabilities to public opinion, the intensity of suffering, and the opportunities for change.

3. Set goals that are achievable. Bring about meaningful change one step at a time. Raising awareness is not enough. When Henry took on his first campaign, the anti-vivisection movement had no goal other than raising awareness in the hopes that this would bring about total abolition of animal experimentation. Henry noted “I want to abolish the use of animals as much as anybody else, but I say, let’s do what we can do today and then do more tomorrow.” He looked at successes as stepping stones toward bigger targets and more significant victories.

Realistic goals are HUGE! If you try to do too much too soon, you'll burn out.

4. Establish credible sources of information and documentation. Never assume anything.

Credible sources are great, but we all have different ideas of what that means. It's not so simple.
A better idea, IMO, is to stick to one subject at a time. Become an expert on the topic and use all kinds of sources. Be careful about your language and don't claim something as fact if you can't back it up with a source that others would perceive as credible, but don't ignore the effective sources just because some people don't think they're credible. For example, celebrity.

5. Don’t divide the world into saints and sinners. Henry said “People can change. I used to eat animals and I never considered myself a cannibal.”

You can divide between the sin and the sinner.
People are good. Their actions sometimes aren't.

Another similar concept: Be quick to forgive.

6. Seek dialogue and attempt to work together to solve problems. Position issues as problems with solutions. Present realistic alternatives.

Remember that what you see as realistic won't be the same as what they consider realistic.

7. Be ready for confrontation if your target is unresponsive. If accepted channels don’t work, prepare an escalating public awareness campaign to place your adversary on the defensive.

Said another way: Have a plan B.

8. Avoid bureaucracy.

9. Don’t assume that only legislation or legal action can solve the problem.

Laws should work in tandem with other activism.

10. Ask yourself: “Will it work?”

Then be honest. And get input from others.

Encouraging Accomplishments

PETA gets a lot of flack from vegans for handing out awards to people and organizations who haven't done much to help animals.

OK, so someone stopped wearing fur, that's great, but they're still wearing leather. Or a cosmetic company that stopped testing on animals but still contains animal ingredients. Or the restaurant that stops selling foie gras and veal but leaves chicken and steak on the menu. Or how about the fast food chain that adds one vegetarian item to the menu... big whoop!

The baby steps deserve recognition, but an award? Really?

The teeny tiny bits of progress here and there just don't seem worth acknowledging. In truth, I'm insulted whenever a nonvegan brags to me about how they only eat meat six days a week. Sure, meat-reduction is great, but don't tell me all about it, tell your friends who eat meat everyday! They're the ones who need to hear it.

In the past I've tried to ignore all of PETA's awards because of this. Even though I can rationally see these baby steps as progress, emotionally they bring me down. They remind me of how we're only moving inches at a time when we've got miles to go.

But yesterday I read something that helped me understand PETA's awards. It was Nobel Peace Prize myth-busting:
Myth: The prize is awarded to recognize efforts for peace, human rights and democracy only after they have proven successful.

More often, the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments.

So, the Nobel Peace Prize, like many of PETA's awards, are not simply for an accomplishment; they're praise to encourage more, similar accomplishments. That puts them in a whole new light, something that's a lot easier to stomach.

(Crossposted at Vegan Soapbox.)

On Being Radical

Noah Lewis explains why it's important for vegans to talk about honey:

If we think our ideas are too radical to be accepted, the solution is not to water them down to make them more appealing, but rather to present our ideas that are even more radical. [...]

Rather than retreating as society changes, social movements like veganism need to keep in front of it. [...]

Only by being "radical" animal rights activists can we actually create social change. Our movement need not to pander to what people already believe in order to succeed. By simply articulating and implementing our alternative vision its wild fullness, the radical becomes the mundane, and the world shifts by our presence.

Animal Activism Books

"Here are a dozen titles that have (mostly) been published in the last few years, each one certain to enhance one’s effectiveness when putting compassion into action."

No, silly, not here here. The books are here >>

"behaving respectfully in the face of disrespect"

I found this quote from a new animal advocacy book, Animal Activist’s Handbook by Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich. The section was quoted by Erik Marcus at Here it is:

"Matt was once tabling in a crowded lobby at a large agricultural university when a dairy farmer stopped by and started yelling. Matt calmly responded to the farmer, catching the attention of a passing Joe Espinosa. Joe listened, was impressed, subsequently joined Vegan Outreach, became a vegetarian then vegan, convinced a number of friends and family to become vegetarian, and has been a leading leafletter and activist for Vegan Outreach ever since."

"Can you imagine if Matt had instead yelled at the dairy farmer and reacted defensively? Perhaps Joe wouldn’t have even stopped. Perhaps he wouldn’t have heard Matt’s argument. As of this writing, Joe’s handed booklets to more than 145,000 individuals. Think about the impact of this one instance of behaving respectfully in the face of disrespect: so many people have learned the truth of modern agribusiness. One instance of respect has made a tremendous difference in the world."

Well, that's great. I'm sure that being polite and calm while tabling is a good idea. Why? Because when you're tabling, you can't just walk away from a hostile dairy farmer. You're basically tied to the table. And then, once you're in a situation where:
  • you have to confront this person, and
  • this person isn't receptive to your message, and
  • this person probably isn't in your target audience (remember, the goal is to move the middle, not the extremists), and
  • you did not set out to confront this person,
well then, reacting in a manner that is outwardly calm and polite - for the benefit of passersby and for your own safety - is probably a smart move.

But think about what Ball and Friedrich are really saying here: they're assuming that calmness and politeness represent respect. Calm and polite behavior doesn't necessary represent respect. And respect isn't always best demonstrated by calm politeness. Sometimes strong emotions better represent respect. Sometimes politeness (strict adherence to etiquette) is actually disrespectful. It depends on the culture and on the individual.

They're also presenting a false dichotomy between:
a) calm politeness and
b) defensive rudeness.

There are, of course, shades of gray. There are other options:
c) pure calmness - ignore hostile people,
d) offense (not defense) - witty responses that reframe the conversation and assert control (not defensive reactions that cede power to the hostile person),
e) backhanded politeness - say it with a smile.

(Personally, I usually choose option C. I try to ignore hostile people. I don't always succeed, but I try.)

It's absolutely ludicrous to assume that 'calm and polite dialogue' is always the best, most effective method. There's more than one way to cut open a mango. Likewise, there's more than one way to effectively persuade people to become vegan.

Ask ten vegans how they went vegan and you'll get ten different answers. Some people needed gentle nudging in the form of 'calm and polite dialogue' and others needed a rude wake-up call or reality check. Some came to it on their own and others were influenced by a wide variety of people.

Lastly, it's absurd to give Matt the credit for Joe's hard work. Who's to say Joe wouldn't have created his own, better pamphlet one day and handed out twice as many because it was his own project? Who's to say another passerby, Joselle, wasn't turned away by Matt's response? What if a more aggressive (or rude) approach hadn't worked on Joe, but had worked on the dairy farmer instead, who subsequently turned his farm into a sanctuary?

There are too many what-ifs...? For example, what if...

Marcy was tabling in a crowded lobby at a large agricultural university when a dairy farmer stopped by and started yelling. Marcy responded to the farmer with a funny, yet rude comment, catching the attention of a passing Francis. Francis listened, was impressed, subsequently joined the Rude Vegan Comedy Troupe, became a vegan, then a comedian, convinced a number of friends and family to become vegan, and has been a leading comedian for Rude Vegan Comedy Troupe ever since.

Can you imagine if Marcy had instead been boring and polite? Perhaps Francis wouldn’t have even stopped. Perhaps he wouldn’t have heard Marcy's humorous quips. As of this writing, Francis has handed pamphlets to more than 145,000 individuals. Think about the impact of this one instance of behaving disrespectfully comical in the face of idiocy: so many people have been inspired to go vegan. One instance of rude comedic action has made a tremendous difference in the world.

My point is that anecdotal evidence like the story above with Matt and Joe serve only to reinforce a peacenik reader's worldview. If someone who isn't convinced that politeness is the one-and-only most effective method reads that passage, someone who is more skeptical reads the passage, they might think the book is worthless. Then again, maybe that kind of person isn't the kind of person who wants or needs this book.

However, even all that, I'm still interested in reading the book. Why? Because Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich are deeply committed animal advocates and they've done a ton of activism. They're bound to have some thoughtful insights and interesting stories.

Readability Results In Rights

The most basic task that the animal advocate must achieve is to be understood. The message should not be lost in big words, confusing symbols, or disorganized ideas. Animal advocates have a responsibility to make their messages clear.

With that in mind, I copied and pasted text from a handful of vegan fliers into a readability tool. The tool determines the amount of education required to understand the literature. It calculates the "Flesch Reading Ease." A score of 90–100 means the literature can be easily understandable by an average 11-year old student, a score between 60–70 can be easily understandable by 13- to 15-year old students, and a score 30 and under means the literature best understood only by college graduates.

Since most of the literature is to be handed out to high school and college students, not college graduates, it makes sense to craft a pamphlet that is easily understood by 13-15 year olds, that is, a pamphlet that has a Flesch Reading Ease score of 60 or higher.

The results of my little experiment? Poor.

I won't name names, but here's an idea:
  • An "abolitionist" flier scored a Flesch Reading Ease of 27.46. In comparison, Reader's Digest magazine is about 65, Time magazine scores about 52, and the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the low 30s. This one page flier was more difficult to read and understand than the Harvard Law Review. (source)
  • Another "abolitionist" pamphlet scored 36.36.
  • A "what's wrong with dairy" flier received a score of 39.48.
  • An animal emancipation style flier scored a respectable 45.79.
  • In contrast, a vegan education booklet scored 61.12.
  • And a "vegetarian starter kit" returned a result of 64.23.
Why does this happen? I think this happens because many of the people who write these hand-outs are smart, educated people who are very capable of understanding complex language. Many have studied philosophy or law and are very comfortable writing in an academic style. But there may be another explanation.

Regardless, we should all learn from this. We should make sure our fliers can be easily understood by most people. By making our message difficult to understand, we're not only failing the animals, we're also excluding a number of people who might very well have become vegan or vegetarian had they received a more readable pamphlet or had they stumbled across a more readable website.

To improve your writing's readability, try using shorter sentences and smaller words.

(By the way, this blog post received a score of 59.55. Not bad, but plenty of room for improvement.)

Veggie Pride Parades

Los Angeles Veggie Pride Parade for vegans and vegetarians and veg-friendly folks:
Sunday, April 26, 11 am – 4 pm

New York City Veggie Pride Parade for vegans and vegetarians and veg-friendly folks:
SUNDAY, MAY 17, 2009

A pride parade is to express and experience community. It's to participate in something fun. And it's to raise awareness.

When we march down the street with signs that say "go vegan" or "stop eating animals" or "proud vegan" or "eat like you give a damn" we're showing the world that:
  • we don't look like they imagined we did; we come in various sizes, shapes, colors, and age
  • we are joyous and fun-loving
  • we are organized and powerful
  • our numbers are growing; more and more people are going vegetarian or vegan every day
Not only are we showing the world, we're showing each other that we're a diverse community of people who care about three things: people, animals, and the planet. But more than just caring, we DO something about it. We LIVE our values. We're the vegetarians and vegans.

Having participated in last years NYC parade and planning to attend this year's LA parade, I can tell you that part of my reason for attending is to be a part of history. We WILL make a difference. These parades will grow and grow and so will our movement. Just watch.

Share Their Stories

Two things:


1) By now we all know about foreclosure pets, the animals left behind when a family loses their home. But there's another tragic story behind some dogs' homelessness: suicide. A friend of a friend committed suicide recently. His weimaraner , Smokey, now needs a new home. She is spayed and has up-to-date vaccinations. She's a little older and she's a little overweight. If you or someone you know can adopt her, please comment here and I'll forward the info along. Thank you.

(Image above is NOT Smokey. I don't have a picture of her yet. But this is basically what she looks like. The image is Savannah, a weimaraner whose picture I found on DC Area Weimaraner Rescue.)

2) The above story, though it doesn't say much about Smokey, relays enough information for most people to feel sympathy for her. Some of those people will go out of their way to help find a home for her. Simply stated, the above TRUE story is an example of "selling compassion."

Nathan Winograd makes the point (in Redemption) that one of the most successful methods of finding homes for homeless animals is to personalize the animals: share their stories. If animal shelters share an animals' story, that animal is more likely to be adopted and thus spared euthanasia.

There's something about us that makes us care more about individuals whom we get to know than about strangers. Sharing an animals' personal story is one way of making that animal less of a stranger and more of a part of the family.

Whether we're trying to get people to care about dogs or care about cows, sharing the animals' story goes a LONG way:

Videos: Powerful Tools

Even the meat industry groups know the truth:
"Video is one of the most powerful tools used by animal rights groups and other activist organizations, according to the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. Disturbing images, whether legitimate, staged or misleading, evoke strong emotions and are effective in using rare instances of abuse to defame an entire industry."
Quote source: Dairy Herd Management (link)

Critical Examination of Vegan Education Efficacy

Vegan education is an important component of animal advocacy. We KNOW that vegan education helps convince people to respect animals and to go vegan. There are countless tales of vegans who decided to make a change in their consumption practices after viewing Meet Your Meat or after receiving a Why Vegan leaflet.

But when we do vegan education - such as leafletting, sharing videos, holding cooking classes, hosting vegan food fairs and the like - we ought to make sure we're doing the most effective kind of vegan education. We should choose the right words, the right images, the right food items, the right location, the right audience... the right pieces of the puzzle.
We want to make a difference, not just spin our wheels.

With this in mind, I've come up with a few ways to determine the efficacy of vegan education programs. These ideas are by no means the only ways to determine how effective specific vegan education campaigns are. Moreover, I don't want to imply that no one has done this in the past. I simply want to promote effective animal advocacy.

Ideas for how to critically examine the effectiveness of vegan education:
  • Conduct marketing surveys asking pamphlet recipients how persuasive the pamphlets are. For example, test out a few different pamphlets and ask people which ones are best.
  • Perform studies that analyze the behavior of people. For example, before receiving a pamphlet count how many people choose a food item labeled "vegan." After receiving a pamphlet, count how many people choose the vegan item.
  • Show various videos that promote the vegan message and take surveys afterwards to see which ones people react to most strongly.
  • Survey current vegans to ask what specific triggers inspired them to go vegan.

Small Steps Lead To Big Steps

One concept of the step-by-step method of "selling compassion":
"while there is a deep philosophical gulf between animal welfare and animal rights, psychologically and politically there is a continuum. That means on the one hand that it is at least possible, if not probable, that a person develops psychologically from animal use via animal welfare to animal rights. And secondly it proves that it is at least possible – even if we haven’t provided data of its likelihood yet – that a society develops politically from animal usage via animal welfare to animal rights. [...]

"Can animal industries be made to completely disappear by step for step victories, which bring incremental reforms?

"From a purely theoretical point of view, the psychological-political continuity from animal use via animal welfare to animal rights suggests that indeed it is possible. A society without any restrictions on animal use sees non-human animals as commodities for the benefit of humankind without any ethical value. Such a society will not have any empathy and compassion for animals. The historic example of Austria before the first animal laws serves as a good example of such a society.

"Historically, from that starting point, slowly compassion, animal welfare and animal laws developed. At this stage, ethical vegetarianism could get a foothold at the end of the 19th century. Slowly, the first ideas of animal rights developed and from the 1980s onwards, there is a lively and thriving animal rights movement. The ideology of animal rights and the animal rights movement have their psychological and political roots in animal welfare.

"Similarly, the development of single people generally advances from compassion and animal welfare feelings, which might have led to less consumption of animal products (probably rather of the free range variety), to vegetarianism and eventually to the full animal rights vision and veganism. Psychologically, compassion and animal welfare form the basis for animal rights too."

from: Abolitionism versus Reformism

Meet your Meat on the Street

This is a video of animal advocacy/ selling compassion.
They showed PETA's "Meet your Meat" and handed out Vegan Outreach literature.

Meet Your Meat:
Vegan Outreach:

The Power of Compassion

Scene from Death on a Factory Farm:

Evidence that undercover videos about factory farming persuade the public to change their meat-consumption habits and go vegetarian or vegan: The manipulative responses from the meat industry to try to persuade the public in the opposite direction.

The industry acknowledges the power of natural, human empathy for animals evoked through video education. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), recently published a report that stated:
"Public perceptions [...] of welfare issues have the potential to dramatically impact swine production if governments, the swine industry, or consumers react to these issues by outlawing housing systems or by boycotting pork. In determining whether or not the welfare of sows is compromised, individuals and lawmakers may act emotively [...]" [emphasis added]
Although the meat industry admits that factory farming methods are common (see their own video that shows factory farms) they are trying to manipulate their image by distorting the terminology. Here are some examples:
  • What normal people call "factory farms," they call "climate controlled buildings," "barns," "indoor facilities," "industrial farm animal production"
  • What normal people call "cages" or "crates," they call "individual accommodations," "housing systems"
  • What normal people call "antibiotics" or "hormones," they call "FDA approved medications"

Photo of sows confined in narrow crates unable to turn around as published, with description "sows resting and eating in individual gestation accommodations," in CAST report.
Image credit: Egebjerg International A/S.

Moreover, the meat industry is stalling.

Factory farms have existed for decades and even though there is clear evidence that factory farms are cruel, dangerous, and destructive:
"[Industrial farm animal production] systems are largely unregulated, and many practices common to this method of production threaten public health, the environment, animal health and well-being, and rural communities. The use of antibiotics in animals without a diagnosed illness, the mismanagement of the large volumes of farm waste, and the treatment of animals in intensive operations are all of deep concern." ~ The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production "Final Report: Putting Meat on The Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America" [emphasis added]
Despite this well-documented research that makes the specific recommendation to change the meat industry by increasing legal restrictions, the meat industry rebels against any such restrictions. For example, the CAST report cited at the beginning of this article states:
"[M]ore large-scale, on-farm, multidisciplinary, scientifically robust research and development is needed before rigid regulations—which would increase production costs [...]" [emphasis added]
The evident stalling and manipulation by the meat industry can easily be interpreted as a declaration that the meat industry cares more about profit than about animal welfare, public health, or environmental damage.


Today is Meatout...


Meatout is truly 'selling compassion.' Here's the description:
The occasion is Meatout, the world's largest and oldest annual grassroots diet education campaign. This year is the 25th annual observance! Every spring, thousands of caring Meatout supporters educate their communities and ask their friends, families, and neighbors to pledge to "kick the meat habit (at least for a day) and explore a wholesome, compassionate diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains."

This year's theme is "Change Your Diet - Change the World!"
So while plenty of people will be vegetarian or vegan FOR THE DAY... just how many full-time vegans are there?

“The available research puts the figure [of vegans] at around 1% of the USA population.”

That may not sound like a lot, but it translates into MILLIONS of vegans worldwide.

“Nearly one-quarter of Americans say that they sometimes go meatless at restaurants” … “10% of consumers say they largely follow vegetarian-inclined diets and 5% more are ‘definitely interested’ in shifting to vegetarian-based diets in the future.”

“'Meat reducers,' 'semi-vegetarians,' vegetarians, and vegans are growing segments of consumers. [...] The USDA estimates show declines in red meat consumption. [and...] One in four U.S. adults (25%) is a ‘moderate’ meat consumer who currently consumes meat with ‘about half’ of his or her meals.”

Use Metaphors!

"Researchers Pradeep Sopory and James P. Dillard (2002) conducted a meta-analytic review of the empirical research on metaphor and persuasion. They concluded that messages containing metaphors produce somewhat greater attitude change than do communications without metaphors."
Source: The Dynamics of Persuasion by Richard M. Perloff

A while ago I wrote an article at Vegan Soapbox. I felt that the piece was persuasive and compelling, but now I know why. Here is a bit from that piece:
My friend, showing me the cut he received on his face, said he thought they wanted his leather jacket. As he told me this, I thought about how the stitching on his leather jacket resembled the stitches on his face. Skin is skin.

Two Ways To Change

There are two ways to change: quickly or slowly.

This goes for individuals as well as societies.
  • Some people go vegan quickly (a few) others do it slowly (the majority).
  • Social trends regarding animals tend to change slowly, then there's a tipping point (critical mass) where it changes quickly.

Gradual social change regarding animal testing:

Gradual social change regarding fur:

These images are from Gallup polls.
Here is the link:

Power Tools

"One of the most powerful tools animal rights activists have is the video footage shot inside places like poorly run dog kennels, animal testing facilities and factory farms, used as grim evidence of the brutality that can take place."
Source: TIME

TIME is right, video footage changes minds and changes laws.
For example:

Consumer Trends: Veganism & Meat Reduction


A new research report found that veganism is growing in popularity:

  • “Meat reducers,” “semi-vegetarians,” vegetarians, and vegans are growing segments of consumers.

  • The USDA estimates show declines in red meat consumption.

  • One in four U.S. adults (25%) is a “moderate” meat consumer who currently consumes meat with “about half” of his or her meals.

  • Roughly one in eight adults (13%) is a “semi-vegetarian” who currently eats meat with fewer than half of his or her meals.

  • Older consumers are more likely to be reducing meat as a component of moving toward a healthier diet.

  • Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of ethical issues and skeptical of food safety.

However, there some bad news:

  • 61% of survey respondents currently consume meat with “every” meal (14%) or with “most” meals (47%).

  • There have been increases in both chicken and fish consumption.

Overall, the trend is clear: meat is out, plants are in.


thanks go to:

To be posted at Vegan Soapbox soon.)

Virgil's Virtue

Direct, honest, compelling.

I think first-hand accounts are incredibly persuasive, don't you?

Love Animals, Don't Eat Them

This cow is destined for slaughter. Here's why >>


The Six Principles of Persuasion

In the book Influence by Robert B. Cialdini, six principles of persuasion are listed. Here they are:
  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity
For a more in-depth review of the principles, read the book and also read the rest of this website :)



"vastly more persuasive" ???

P Q P \and Q P \or Q P \underline{\or} Q P \underline{\and} Q P \rightarrow Q P \leftarrow Q
Erik Marcus, undermining his own message, wrote:
"If every activist in the animal protection movement read and understood the Wikipedia link above [or here], we would collectively be vastly more persuasive and credible."
Sadly, Marcus doesn't seem to realize that persuasiveness isn't strongly correlated OR caused by an understanding of causal relationships.

Logicians are no more persuasive to the general human population than marketers. In fact, they're often less so.

Let's look up the Wikipedia entry for persuasion:
Persuasion is a form of social influence. It is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic (though not always logical) means. It is strategy of problem-solving relying on "appeals" rather than coercion. According to Aristotle, "Rhetoric is the art of discovering, in a particular case, the available means of persuasion."
Methods include appeals to reason as well as appeals to emotion, subliminal messages, seduction, peer pressure, etc.

McDonald's doesn't put toys in Happy Meals because it makes McDonald's appear more credible or reasonable, they do it to persuade children to desire Happy Meals.

(Read the updated version at Vegan Soapbox >> )

About People

Truths about humans:
  • People care about their family
  • People care about the future
  • People want to be involved in something that makes a difference
  • People prefer to work for something rather than against something
These truths were listed in the video Understanding Our Audience. They can be used to shape our discussions about animal rights.

Stages of Change

The Stages of Change were touched on briefly in Knowing Our Audience. Let's go more into depth on this subject...

Here's an overview of the stages:
  1. Precontemplation is the stage at which there is no intention to change behavior in the foreseeable future. Many individuals in this stage are unaware or underaware of their problems.
  2. Contemplation is the stage in which people are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it but have not yet made a commitment to take action.
  3. Preparation is a stage that combines intention and behavioral criteria. Individuals in this stage are intending to take action in the next month and have unsuccessfully taken action in the past year.
  4. Action is the stage in which individuals modify their behavior, experiences, or environment in order to overcome their problems. Action involves the most overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and energy.
  5. Maintenance is the stage in which people work to prevent relapse and consolidate the gains attained during action.
An article about sticking to New Year's resolutions describes the change process:
"In this model, change occurs gradually and relapses are an inevitable part of the process of making a lifelong change. People are often unwilling or resistant to change during the early stages, but eventually develop a proactive and committed approach to changing a behavior."
Most vegans get to a point where they "gave in" and ate the cheese (or the sausage or whatever). They feel guilty and wonder if they can be vegan again. These people need encouragement. Of course they can get right back up on the wagon and be vegan again! Relapses "are an inevitable part of the process," remember?

Moreover, the presence of a few ex-vegans is not necessarily a sign of our movement reversing course, as some might say, but rather is simply a normal, natural process of change wherein some relapses occur. Over all, we're making great progress. For example:
  • "Nearly one-quarter of Americans say that they sometimes go meatless at restaurants" ... "10% of consumers say they largely follow vegetarian-inclined diets and 5% more are “definitely interested” in shifting to vegetarian-based diets in the future." (source)
  • “2008 per capita [meat] consumption stands to be at the lowest point in seven years” (source)
  • “The [poultry] industry has never cut production to this degree before, but demand for chicken has never contracted to this degree either,” (source)
  • "Fishermen are hurting and quitting the business" (source)
  • "demand for dairy products is stalling amid a global economic slowdown and credit crisis, even as supplies have increased."(source)
  • "[Americans] have become less accepting of medical testing on animals, and the use of animal fur for clothing" (source)
  • "A quarter of Americans say animals deserve the same rights as humans, while almost all of the rest agree that animals should be given some protection from harm and exploitation."
  • "38% of Americans express support for the idea of banning horse and dog racing altogether" (source)
More to come on this topic of "Stages of Change"... stay tuned.

Knowing Our Audience

This video is an excellent resource for learning how to sell compassion. I've watched it a couple of times already and I learn more each time I watch it:

Understanding Our Audience from Let Live Foundation on Vimeo.

Some take-away messages are:
  • We should create strong perceptions of credibility.
  • We are most effective at persuasion when we focus our message on a target audience.
  • 10,40,40,10 Rule: The general population is composed of four groups: Two "extremist" type of groups, 10% who agrees with you and 10% who disagrees. The other two groups are larger and one leans towards agreement (40%) while the other leans away from agreement (40%).
  • The best use of our time is to try to move the middle. Don't waste time arguing with the extremist nay-sayers.
  • The Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be relevant to crafting AR messages.
  • Shame is a powerful motivating factor.
  • Stages of change: for example, most vegans were vegetarians first.
  • Every movement has its moment: pay attention to the news and social climate because opportunities will present themselves.
  • Almost by definition, our audience is different from us.
  • We should do more research. Here's one resource:

Doing Research, Having Good Sources

Following up on the idea of using the animal exploiter's words, images, and research against them, here's a video describing how to research animal abuse:

How To: Researching Animal Abuse from Let Live Foundation on Vimeo.

How to Win Friends and Influence People?

Food for thought...

Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, written in 1936, is still widely used today as a basic sales manual. In it, he describes twelve methods of persuasion:

Win people to your way of thinking

1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong."
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Get the other person saying "yes, yes" immediately.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge.
Things to consider:
  • Who are you trying to persuade? The person you're talking to or people listening to the conversation or both?
  • Is this the best method in ALL situations?
  • Are nobler motives really more effective? Is it so wrong to appeal to base motives?
I have this book and have read it. It offers some great advice, but be forewarned: some suggestions are NOT vegan. For example, he makes the same point I made in "Humans & Dogs: Not So Different" that positive dog training methods are effective with humans, too. Praise and treats work wonders. But in his example, he literally suggests giving people meat.


CopyBlogger describes six principles of persuasion. I'm addressing each one here at Selling Compassion with practical ideas for activism. This is the fourth of the series. Part 1 was: The Power of Reciprocation, part 2 was: Commitment and Consistency, part 3 was: Attracting Allies, and part 4 was: Popularity.

Today: Authority

Authority — In this age of specialization, we are more prone to respond to authority than ever before. Regardless of an independent spirit, we look to experts or those we perceive to be experts to give us the answers and show us the way. Even the mere symbols of authority, such as titles and specialized clothing, are enough to trigger a response. Example: Note how seeing someone with a white smock and stethoscope instantly suggests “doctor” and makes anything that person says about medicine seem more authoritative.

Application: Provide signs and symbols of expertise. Establish your expertise by providing solid information. Show your credentials. Create trustworthiness by admitting flaws or shortcomings and demonstrating lack of bias. Show similarities between you and your prospect or customer. Cite awards, reviews, speaking engagements, and books you’ve authored.
Here are some basic things you can do (in your own animal advocacy) to increase your authority:
  • Use proper grammar and spelling.
  • Cite your sources.
  • Don't use the passive voice.
  • Educate yourself: knowledge is power.
Regarding vegan advocacy, Matt Ball makes this claim:
"it is imperative that we present information the public won’t regard as ludicrous and from sources that they won’t dismiss as partisan."
In fact, some organizations recommend using the animal exploiters' information against them. When we use their own photos and articles, the public can't claim it's biased or isolated.

Exposing Institutionalized Cruelty from Let Live Foundation on Vimeo.

For example, this video below comes from the pig farming industry and can't be called pro-vegan whatsoever, yet the video clearly demonstrates the inherent cruelty in the industry:

  • Mother pigs (sows) don’t have enough room to turn around
  • Pigs (hogs) are confined indoors without access to sunshine, grass, or mud
  • Ear tags: a form of mutilation
  • Runt piglets are separated from their mothers
Another way to use authority to "sell compassion" is to promote the works of authoritative figures within the animal rights movement, such as:

Literally Selling Compassion

The newest Propagandhi album is out and as a promo they're releasing two singles that people can download. The cost: donate to one of three charities.

Using Popularity To "Sell" Compassion

CopyBlogger describes six principles of persuasion. I'm addressing each one here at Selling Compassion with practical ideas for activism. This is the fourth of the series. Part 1 was: The Power of Reciprocation, part 2 was: Commitment and Consistency, and part 3 was:
Attracting Allies.

Today is about popularity.

Social Proof — Most of us are imitators in most of what we do. We look to others for guidance, especially when we are uncertain about something. We ask, “What do others think about this? What do others feel? What do others do?” Then we act accordingly, all thanks to the power of social proof.

Application: Show others using your services or buying your products. List testimonials of satisfied customers or clients. Feature stories of those who have been “converted” from another service. Show pictures of people using your product. Provide case histories of some of your best customers. When people see that what you offer is okay with other people, they are more likely to give it a try themselves.

A classic example of this method of persuasion is the list of famous vegetarians:

Some bloggers who "sell compassion" use this idea almost exclusively:
  • Ecorazzi - a blog about celebrities and their environmentally-friendly or unfriendly actions.
  • Vegetarian Star - a blog about, you guessed, vegetarian stars.
Then, of course, there are the celebrities themselves who sell compassion:

One Video At A Time

Sometimes it just takes a few conversations with real people:

Porolita22 says she went vegan as a result of watching a YouTube video. So she made this video of vegan YouTubers who make vlogging videos about veganism. She and her video are "selling compassion."

Attracting Allies

CopyBlogger describes the six principles for getting to yes. I'll tackle each one here at Selling Compassion with practical ideas for activism.

This is the third of the series. Part 1 was: The Power of Reciprocation and part 2 was: Commitment and Consistency.

Today: Affection/ Attraction

Liking — No matter how reasonable we may think ourselves to be, we are always more likely to say “yes” to those we know and like. We readily comply with requests from those who are similar to us and for whom we have good feelings. It’s what makes refusing to buy Tupperware from a friend or relative next to impossible.

Application: Be personal and likable. This is one element of selling that most people know instinctively, but often fail to put into action. Getting people to like you in person is one thing. But how do you do it in print when people usually have no chance to meet you? Reveal yourself. Show your feelings. Tell a story that prospects can relate to. Use flattery and praise. Present your sales message in such a way that you are not just selling something but working with others as an ally with common problems, concerns, and goals.

Ani Phyo is a great example of exuding attraction:

Besides the above advice from CopyBlogger, here are some specific ways I believe can make anyone more likable online:
  1. Spread goodwill - Spend some time everyday giving people written praise. If you like a blogger's post, leave a comment of praise. If you like someone's pictures of videos, tell them.
  2. Return favors - If someone "friends" you on a social networking website like MySpace or FaceBook, friend them back. The same goes for blogging. If someone links to your blog, it's polite to link back.
  3. Criticism in moderation - Sandwich criticism in praise: praise, criticize, praise. It's a general rule of thumb to give positive feedback with all negative feedback.
  4. Use an alias when appropriate - The old rule is 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.' The new rule is 'if you can't be nice, be anonymous.' This can save your reputation. Just be careful because you're never completely anonymous.
  5. Use images - If you want to invoke warm fuzzies in your readers, choose images that create that feeling: playful puppies, cute piglets, or baby chicks.
  6. Choose your battles - Not every issue is worth losing a friendship or ruining your reputation. Choose your battles (and your enemies) wisely.
  7. Humanize your words - Use the avatar, icon, image options to show your face and make your online self a REAL person. A nice smile is hard to hate :D
More Ani, because she's just so huggable!

Effective Written Animal Advocacy

Mark Hawthorne suggests letter-writing as one means of 'selling compassion.' Here is his advice:
"Tips for Effective Animal-Rights Letters to Editors"

"Tell readers something they might not know – such as that most hens are confined in battery cages or how dairy cows are treated to produce milk – and suggest ways readers can make a difference (stop buying eggs and dairy products)."
I'm continually surprised by how little people seem to know about animal issues. For example, many people don't even realize that cows must be impregnated in order to produce milk.

L.O.V.E. has done an excellent job explaining this fact in their page on "Why Vegan":

"As with humans, dairy cows produce milk for their children and therefore only produce milk after giving birth. Impregnation is commonly done by shoving a hand into the cow’s anus to guide an insemination gun that is pushed into the cow’s vagina. This process is repeated every year so she will continue to produce milk. Her baby is taken away from her shortly after birth, destined either to become veal or another dairy cow. After 4 to 6 years of being used by us as a milk machine, her milk production declines and, being no longer of any economic value for us, she is sent to slaughter. Her flesh often ends up in fast food hamburgers. All dairy products, including organic and grass-fed, come from cows destined for the slaughterhouse."
says L.O.V.E.
, which stands for Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation.

Hawthorne continues:
"Include information about the issue(s); do not assume that readers already know. For example, rather than writing 'Foie gras production is bad,' be specific: 'In order to create ‘fatty livers,’ foie gras producers subject ducks and geese to an invasive feeding technique that forces into their stomachs up to thirty percent of their body weight every day. That’s like a two-hundred-pound man being forced to swallow sixty pounds of food a day.'"

More tips from Hawthorne:

"Watch your language. Instead of referring to an animal with an inanimate pronoun ('that' or 'it'), use 'who,' 'she' or 'he.' Also, use 'animal advocates' rather than 'animal-rights groups,' 'farmed animals' rather than the friendly 'farm animals' and 'painkiller' rather than 'anesthesia.'"
Here are some podcasts on this subject:
"Use positive suggestions to help readers make a difference. For example, rather than simply writing “Boycott the circus,” you can suggest events that don’t use animals, such as Cirque du Soleil, or direct them to Web sites like"

I whole-heartedly agree. Once people realize the horrific realities of animal exploitation, they see that the problem is enormous and they often feel powerless. They need suggestions for concrete action. This is an area where Mark Hawthorne has truly excelled. He's written a book purely on the topic of animal advocacy:

Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism

"Do not use overly dramatic language, which may turn some readers off. Let the facts speak for themselves."

I think it depends on the context. Dramatic language can incite controversy, which publishers seem to love because it tends to sell more, so they're sometimes more interested in publishing letters with dramatic language. The more controversial, the more attention you get. PETA proves that everyday.

" Use an affirmative voice. For example, rather than writing 'Vegans are not wimps,' write 'Vegans have a much healthier body-mass index than most meat-eaters, and they live years longer.'"

I think this is a good idea. Specific examples help, too. For example, you could cite Mac Danzig, a very non-wimpy vegan:

"Promote the friendly side of veganism/vegetarianism and animal advocacy, and refrain from insults, which will hurt your credibility and perpetuate a negative opinion of animal activists."

A good way to do this is to "sit" on the letter. Write a letter and then don't send it. Wait a day, reread, edit if necessary, and then send the letter.

Trust me, I've written a lot of things off-the-cuff and I've gotten myself into a lot of hot water. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes not. We're all human and we all make mistakes. And anger against animal exploitation and animal exploiters is often justified. But take it from me, cooling off before hitting the "send" button is usually a good idea.

"Like humans, animals have a wide range of emotions. Try to depict this in your letters and help people understand how similar animals are to us. For example, 'Like all animals, pigs feel pain and fear …'

Example: Everybody Hurts. Or this one:

Clearly, these tips can be used not just for newspaper opinion section letter-writing, but also for blogging, commenting on blogs, emails to friends and family, forum posts, and more."

Does Veganism Sell Itself?

This video is basically a historical perspective of Vegan Outreach's attempts to "sell compassion." Jack Norris, co-founder of Vegan Outreach, comes to the conclusion that "exposing factory farms and advocating ethical eating is perhaps the most readily accessible option for reducing animal suffering."

Speaking of exposing factory farms...

Thus, effective vegan education/ compassion sales can take place in these kinds of situations:
  • Leafletting: handing out VO booklets that expose factory farming in images, statistics, and quotations.
  • Blogging: posting videos, photos, statistics, etc. that expose factory farming.
  • Letter-writing: sending letters to friends, family, and newspapers that expose the realities of factory farming.
  • Mobile Videos: tabling with a TV and videos of Meet Your Meat or other videos of factory farming.

Commitment and Consistency

CopyBlogger describes the six principles for getting to yes. I'll tackle each one here at Selling Compassion with practical ideas for activism. This is the second of the series:

"Commitment and Consistency — We are driven to remain consistent in our attitudes, words, and actions. So, when we are led to make a commitment of some kind, to go on record or take a stand or make a decision, there is an urge to remain consistent with that original commitment later on. The key is to get the initial commitment, which can appear small, reasonable, and innocent. This commitment can not only lead to compliance via the principle of consistency, but also to further compliance for larger requests."

"Application: Ask for a little 'yes' first, then build on that."
For animal advocates, getting a yes can be easy. Here are some examples:
  • "You care about animals, right?"
  • "You wouldn't abuse your pet, would you?"
After that, one approach: imply hypocrisy if someone says they care about animals yet they aren't vegetarian or vegan.

This triggers their desire to be or to appear consistent. Either they'll agree and go veg or they'll find a loophole. Unfortunately, they'll usually find a loophole ("it's too expensive..." "I don't know how..." "but the Bible says..." "but animals eat animals..."). This is probably because going vegetarian or vegan is seen as a major life change. If were were selling magazine subscriptions it might be a little easier, but we're not, we're selling compassion.

A more effective strategy seems to be a series of small "yes"es that lead up to a larger "yes, I'll go vegan." This strategy takes time. It's not going to happen in one conversation. Animal advocates have to have patience and they have to be willing to put in the time. But I think we can do it. Here's how it might go:

Vegan: "You care about animals, right?"
Nonvegan: "Yes."
V: "Please consider eating one vegan meal. If everyone just ate one vegan meal, we'd save a ton of animals' lives. We're having a vegan food fair this weekend. Come on by and eat a vegan meal."
NV: "OK, sure."

V: "Thanks for coming. Now, would you please consider eating one vegan meal each week? It's a small sacrifice from you that means a whole lot to animals and to people who care about animals. Besides, it could help slow climate change. We have a recipe email newsletter. Can I sign you up?"
NV: "Yes"

V: "I hope you've enjoyed the recipes we've been emailing you. Thanks for committing to eating one vegan meal each week for the last few weeks. Now, would you please consider eating one vegan meal each day? Now you know some vegan recipes - and we'll keep sending you more - so it should be pretty easy for you by now. So what do you say, will you go vegan for one meal per day?"
NV: "OK, I will."

V: "Wow, you're 20-35% vegan now! Well done! Are you willing to up it to 50% or so? Will you make half of your meals vegan?"
NV: "Alright."

V: "You're almost vegan! Why not make things more complete and consistent? Are you ready to go vegan? You've got support here, remember, you've got me and an entire network of vegans backing you up. What do you say? Ready to go all the way?"
NV: "Yes, I'm want to live my values."

The Power of Reciprocation

CopyBlogger considers the book I mentioned in the post about Objectivity, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Robert B. Cialdini. He describes the six principles for getting to yes. I'll tackle each one here at Selling Compassion with practical ideas for activism:

"Reciprocation — There is an overwhelming urge to repay debts, to do something in return when something is done for us. This deep-seated urge is so strong, noted paleontologist Richard Leaky has said that it is the very essence of what it means to be human. Sociologist Alvin Gouldner points out that no society on Earth escapes the reciprocity principle."

"Application: Give people something for free."

For animal advocates promoting veganism this means:
What will we get in return?

Well, at the very least, people are less likely to trash the gift. Even if they don't find it useful for themselves, they seem more willing to pass it along simply because they view it as a gift. Thus, even if they don't reduce their meat consumption or go vegan, they might inspire someone else to by passing along the gift.

I've noticed a significant percentage of people thank me when I leaflet with substantial booklets. Leafletting with small brochures or postcards doesn't illicit the same response, they're not thankful because people don't seem to treat the smaller brochures as gifts. Hopefully, this thankful attitude will translate into a positive reception of the information and a willingness to change one's diet. But regardless, the thankfulness certainly makes leafletting easier. It's so much more rewarding to do activism where people thank you than activism where people are angry or mean.

For us, this idea of reciprocation is more difficult than for the average sales-person because:
  • animal advocates ask people to "pay back" someone else (the animals) rather than pay us back,
  • usually we're asking people to refrain from doing something (eat animals, wear animals, test on animals) rather than asking them to do something, which is always more difficult. (Convincing someone to say "yes" to you is easier than getting them to say "no" to someone else.)
But ultimately, evoking this thankful attitude in others can be a good idea because it makes them more receptive to animal rights and welfare concepts. When they come from a place of gratitude they're not coming from a place of anger or defensiveness.

Ten Rules of Effective Language for Veganism

Mark Hawthorne describes some ways to sell compassion in "Framing the Animal Rights Message." I agree with most of these "Ten Rules":
Luntz provides readers with his Ten Rules of Effective Language:

1. Simplicity — Use small words. Avoid words that might force someone to reach for the dictionary (because most people won’t).
2. Brevity — Use short sentences. Never use a sentence when a phrase will do, and never use four words when three can say as much.
3. Credibility is as important as philosophy — People have to believe it to buy it.
4. Consistency matters — Repetition, repetition, repetition. Finding a good message and then sticking with it takes extraordinary discipline, but it pays off tenfold in the end. You may be making yourself sick saying something over and over, but many in your audience will be hearing it for the first time. (During the Prop 2 initiative battle in California, supporters of the measure to ban intensive confinement have constantly said Prop 2 would allow animals “to stand up, turn around, lie down and fully extend their limbs” — often several times in the same interview or debate).
5. Novelty — Offer something new. Words that work often involve a new definition of an old idea (such as when author Ruth Harrison used the term “factory farms” in 1964 to describe what the ag industry calls “concentrated animal feeding operations”).
6. Sound and texture matter — A string of words that have the same first letter, the same sound or the same syllabic cadence is more memorable than a random collection of sounds (see #5).
7. Speak Aspirationally — Messages need to say what people want to hear. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his “I have a dream” speech. (This can be difficult when addressing the plight of animals. I often speak about rescued animals living on sanctuaries, free from pain and fear. Getting people to visit a sanctuary so they can meet these animals themselves is even better.)
8. Visualize — Plant a vivid image. There is one word in the English language that automatically triggers the process of visualization: imagine. (Asking people to imagine their dog or cat being forced to undergo painful medical tests or to be locked in a wire battery cage for two years and then slaughtered can be a way to help people see things differently.)
9. Ask a question. Luntz cites the dairy industry’s “Got Milk?” as perhaps the most memorable print-ad campaign of the past decade.
10. Provide Context and Explain Relevance. You must give people the “why” of your message before giving them the “therefore” and the “so that.” Some people call this framing, but Luntz prefers the word context.
Sadly, many activists don't use these "rules." In fact, they often speak in an abstract, noninspirational, long, academic way. We all do it sometimes, but we'll never get better unless we realize our mistakes.

Here are a few things I do in vegan blogs that seem to help "sell" veganism:
  1. Visualize: I use images and videos often. If there is one single thing every vegan blogger could improve upon, it's the use of videos. We MUST use videos as much as possible, because they are extremely compelling.
  2. Consistency: I link back to older blog posts and repeat the same message in a new post.
  3. Credibility: I stay honest. If I make a mistake and someone calls me on it, I admit the mistake and then fix it.
  4. Simplicity: I try to imagine a child or teenager reader. If I think it would make sense to them, then I've done a good job.
  5. Brevity: There is a place for long blog posts, but I try to say the important stuff up front so if someone's attention span is short, they still get the gist.
  6. Novelty: I scan the news for vegan and vegetarian tidbits. This keeps things fresh.