Creative, Non-Violent Vegan Advocacy (A Beginner’s Guide)

During the past few years, the call to reduce our consumption of animal products has grown tremendously. There is a great deal of diversity amongst the individuals and organizations behind this appeal, as well as in the reasons and benefits they point to, and most of them are not vegan. However, there is one thing they have in common, and that is that they are all making it easier for people to be vegan for life. Indeed, the movement away from animal use is shaping up to possibly be the most significant social phenomenon of the 21st century.

Vegan recipe blogs, which illustrate innovative techniques for preparing a huge range of delicious, satisfying meals and treats, have proliferated into the hundreds, if not thousands. Both the number and the variety of vegan food items are increasing annually in restaurants and supermarkets.  New vegan businesses are opening every year, and thriving more than ever, including cafes, bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores, clothing and apparel stores, online boutiques, and even retreat centers and B&Bs.

Professional dietitians, in increasing numbers, are helping to guide consumers through the sea of books, blogs, articles and DVDs to learn how to achieve vibrant health on naturally wholesome vegan diets, as well as making it easier than ever to avoid the poor nutritional choices that frequently result in the “ex-vegan” phenomenon.

Note: Some may be surprised to find this out, but it is becoming more and more well-known that all nutrients required by the human body can be obtained from non-animal sources, including plenty of protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and fatty acids such as Omega and DHA oils. If there were any nutritional deficiencies in well-planned vegan diets, the mainstream American Dietetic Association, American Medical Association, and similar science-based organizations would be broadcasting them far and wide.

For those of us who are committed to ethical veganism, it is essential to derive all our nutrients from non-animal  sources. Although there are those who claim to have experienced nutritional deficiencies caused by a plant-based diet, it seems ever more likely – in light of the information we now have access to – that these individuals may not have been sufficiently informed about vegan whole foods nutrition and the many options for nutritional supplementation, including the huge range of whole-food supplements that are becoming increasingly accessible for all of us in the developed world.

As the devastating environmental effects of animal agriculture become increasingly apparent, environmentalists are speaking out about the industry’s blatant offenses against the global ecosystem, such as deforestation for grazing, the cultivation of vast feed crop monocultures, extremely high emissions of carbon and other warming gases such as methane, the careless squandering of oil, water and other finite natural resources, and the pollution of our air, water and soil – all while this filthy industry is artificially propped up by tens of billions of dollars in government welfare funding.

With the growing popularity of social media, the educational resources shared by dedicated advocates are making it easier for the previously uninformed to bear witness to institutionalized cruelty that is not only perfectly legal, but so horrific that most of us turn away in distress, unwilling to endure with our eyes what innocent others are forced to endure with their bodies.

And a growing number of abolitionist vegans are explaining and demonstrating the simple fact that unless we shift the paradigm to fully include these sentient beings in our moral community by embracing veganism and rejecting the property status of animals, there will be no end to the socially-acceptable barbarism which allows us to treat beings as innocent as our children as economic commodity units.

The Internet, while still dominated by large corporate interests, has comparatively democratized the ability of grassroots advocates to share information. Blogs, forums, and social media sites have opened up communication lines for rational dialogue among everyday people at a rate of growth unprecedented since the invention of the printing press.

In the past, some individuals may have felt tempted or even obligated to tap into the wide reach of large organizations that soak up the majority of the funding available for animal advocacy by appealing to mainstream values with a message promoting animal welfare or vegetarianism. But now, individuals who are genuinely concerned with fundamental issues of animal rights are able to make their voices heard independently.

Given the burgeoning opportunities, advocates can pick and choose what methods and media suit their talents, personalities, preferences, and geographic locations. If you’re a gregarious extrovert in the city or suburbs who loves to chat with people on the street, you might do well setting up tables at festivals or street stalls with cupcakes or finger foods.

If you’re confident about your ability to prepare amazing food, you might enjoy holding a vegan cooking demonstration in your own home or elsewhere, or hosting vegan dinners or potlucks with a suggestion to guests that they bring a friend who’s interested in learning more about veganism.

Or, if you’re an introvert who would rather cross the street than engage with people you don’t know, blogging, vlogging, and social media advocacy would likely be your preferred venue. (Those of us who live in rural areas also usually find it easier and far more effective to use the opportunities offered by the Web for our advocacy.) Not confident in your writing ability? No problem – perhaps you can team up with another advocate who inspires you, and help them to be more productive by doing research or writing outlines that they can polish up into an engaging article for publication. Maybe you’re better at editing than writing; you might be able to find someone who’s in need of assistance with that. Collaboration (with someone whose approach appeals to you) can be a great way to achieve more and reach out further.

Note: There are some activists who insist that face-to-face outreach is somehow superior to online communication. However (in the absence of comprehensive studies), is there any reason to think offline or online advocacy is more effective than the other? It seems that the strengths of online are the weaknesses of offline, and vice versa, but neither seems to be more effective than the alternative.  Offline, face-to-face advocacy can often be more personable and forthcoming than online due to the subtle nature of nonverbal communication (not to mention the unquestionable power that mouth-watering vegan food has over the skeptical consumer harboring imaginary fears of sensory deprivation as a result of eliminating animal products). But online advocacy – which works around the clock, everyday, for all those who understand the language – can reach many more people, oftentimes by a few orders of magnitude.

More important than the venue or media used in advocacy, however, is the quality of the content. Excellent vegan food, a powerful vegan message, and friendliness and charisma will obviously do much better while tabling at a festival than bland or unappealing food, a message of compromise, and mediocrity, aggression or a judgmental attitude. And good photography, terrific vegan recipes, and well-researched, convincing writing will do better online – all other factors being equal – than content of lesser quality.

Finally, quality entails knowing what not to promote. Encouraging the purchase of animal products purported to be produced under ‘ethical’ conditions (free-range, cage-free, humanely-raised, grass-fed, organic, etc.) serves only to reinforce the common, traditional belief that it is morally acceptable to use other animals as resources for human consumption.

The same can be said for the confused and confusing message generated by the promotion of a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which ignores the violence inherent in the production of milk and eggs (not to mention the barbarism involved in the manufacture of other animal-based products including clothing and toiletries), as though these equally brutal industries should somehow be exempt from the moral examination undertaken by those who view meat production to be an intolerable form of injustice.

The fact is that none of us needs any animal products in our lives. We exploit animals and consume the products of their bodies because of pleasure, amusement, convenience, and blind tradition – all trivial reasons to rationalize the brutality of unnecessary exploitation.  Sadly, no matter what we say or how well we say it, the fact is that most people won’t go vegan simply upon hearing our message. However, as vegan advocates, veganism is the message we should exclusively and unequivocally promote.  Anything less – promoting vegetarianism, or the consumption of ‘humane’ animal products – betrays the fundamental truth that brings us to veganism in the first place: the understanding that we must bring an end to all exploitation if we are to move beyond the pandemic of violence that underlies our current cultural paradigm.

It is not unusual for animal advocates to be deeply troubled and frustrated by the state of our society and its hardened attitude toward animals who are not human. But social change, while often slow, is also unpredictable, subject to tipping points, paradigm shifts, and peaceful revolutions in attitudes and behavior. As someone who advocates unequivocally for widespread veganism, don’t forget that you are among the gentle, strong, and independent-minded pioneers of a growing, positive, and peaceful movement to protect our environment, improve public health, and most important, to eventually end the social acceptability of violence and injustice inflicted on the innocent.

With a little effort, courage, creativity, and the willingness to share what we’ve learned with patience, persistence, and understanding, we can all help others to understand the significance of this essential change we are trying to bring to fruition.

In the words of Albert Schweitzer,

“A man can do only what he can do. But if he does that each day he can sleep at night and do it again the next day.”

with Dan Cudahy

Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World – vegan intentional community and non-profit organization whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition.

Dan Cudahy is author of Unpopular Vegan Essays: Unpopular Essays Concerning Popular Violence Inflicted On The Innocent.

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Kathleen R.
Kathleen R.2 years ago

Great article ! Also some wonderful comments. I for one am happy to have chosen to live vegan.I am rather bewildered that there are so many comments from one who is not interested in vegan living. Why spend so much time saying we are wrong ?

alex l.
alex l.3 years ago

Bill C
you are a responsible pet owner?
that is interesting Bill - and once again you tap dance away from dealing with the actual facts here.
you will say anything to not admit that while you care about your pets, you pay people to mutilate and kill other animals for your pleasure.

my how noble that makes you sound.

make yourself sound as noble and grand as you like - you still do these things.
you do them Bill, not us. WE ARE THE ONES WHO REFUSE TO HURT THEM OR OTHER PEOPLE. we are the ones who WILL NOT DO IT. we are the ones who pay for your "rights" and the ONLY ones speaking for their lives.
not as grand as you Bill, who brags about doing the very least for his pet's health, but we all try.

Sarah M.
Sarah M.3 years ago

Thank you so much!

Bill C.
Bill C.3 years ago

I type this to make a point. When a person stands firm infront of the illogic of what some feel is a "movement" and that person is able to shut down the "movement: with 1 simple question; its not a movement that understands its own words.

When the same people can point to what apperas to be a puppet proflie and it disappears, logic dictates that the observation was likely correct.

I have nothing against people who choose to be Vegan anymore than I am concerned about omnivores; its the Vegangelicals whose concept of being Vegan is like a religous cult where the religon screams my religion is better than yours so therefore I am better.

That just does not fly with me.

Diet is choice and when you take off the rose colored glass, taste we enjoy becomes one of the last pleasures a human has before death. For my Mom it was peach cobbler, to others it is fried chicken with hot sauce and with others it may be fast food. Makes no difference

They have that right

Bill C.
Bill C.3 years ago

Dan you choose to do things because you wish to and you have no regard for the reality nor consequences of your actions. You have focued all the world woes to a pinpoint when the vision is so limited you could care less about immedicate need. It shows in your profile, been here 3 yrs and have 4 stars. I got thousands in the same timeframe, it means nothing outside the site but here it shows who agrees with who.

The reason I chose stopping the things I did was they are unreachable goals for the masses, but for the individual reachable; I do not care if a person chooses to not have sex, not drive or not have fun it is their choice.

Humans have choices because of rights in human society. Animals have the right to have humans protect their welfare under law, we even protect entire species who could be a source of food. We have also chosen specific food animals and for the masses you will never stop that. Smart people would try to educate with gentle hands to moderation

Remeber 1 thing Dan not one of you radicals could answer the question about rights; which clearly says the ideal will fail.

Dan C.
Dan C.3 years ago

I've also claimed that there is a "good chance" that liberal democracies will go vegan, but again, that's not a prediction. It's only an estimate of probability.

Dan C.
Dan C.3 years ago

Sex and driving are not necessarily harmful, Bill C, so I do those things. Exploiting and killing the innocent are necessarily harmful; that's why I don't do those things. Pretty simple.

I've never claimed that liberal democracies will have widespread veganism someday; I've only claimed it's possible. Big difference.

Bill C.
Bill C.3 years ago

Jordan I took a second to look at your profile, you have 1 "friend" who happens to be a radical vegan.

My guess is your just a puppet profile so if you get booted from the site your original profile stays. I do suggest you stop making comments about me on other threads, Care2 does not care for that at all.

Bill C.
Bill C.3 years ago

Dan I see you have chosen to do as you said you would not as I am not Vegan.

Sex is not necessary, driving and even fun not necessary, why do you do these things?

Your argument meat is not necessary falls of deaf ears, the computer you type on is not necessary, it has horrific ties to harsh working conditions, but yet you use it.

I feel sorry for you Dan, not because your Vegan as I have no issue with that; your the quack physician who milks the last penny a cancer patient has with false hope. Anyone who thinks the world will go Vegan presents thought that borders delusion.

You remind me of the "BearMan" a researcher who actually thought and believed he could walk up to wild grizzly and say cute little bear; well they ate him and his girlfriend.

Starvation and hunger can NOT be fixed with some shift to Veganism, it's BS statistical manipulation and you know it.

Diet is a choice we make the choice out of religious issues, respect, medical need, finances and location (plus many more). The Dali Lama eats meat, he also tells the monks to eat meat when the gift from the poor who give is the mostly prized thing they have, nutritious protein.

Necessary means food, shelter and clothing for protection; past that humans make choices. Face it vegetarians can't even agree that the word means one who consumes plants; fish, chicken are not plants.

But you still avoid the question of rights as I knew you would

colleen p.
colleen p.3 years ago

how do we get "Eskimos" to be vegannnnn

oh nozzzzzzzzzzzzzz

hey, look on the bright side. if the artic gets warmer they can grow more veggies and won't need to eat seal and whale.