Effective Animal Advocacy: A Guide
On September 12th at the 31st Veg Food Fest at 3 pm, Pamela Tourigny will give her presentation, “Marketing Veganism: Earning Friends and Allies for a More Vegan World” at the Studio Theatre.
Pamela will speak on the ways that we can as individuals “market” veganism in our day-to-day lives, as well as how we can direct our activism efforts towards building bridges and working collaboratively with those outside of the vegan world to maximize the number of allies we have to build a vegan world – or at least a more vegan-friendly one!
By Pamela Tourigny
Many people have commented to me over my years of involvement within the vegan community that they are often overwhelmed by all of the suffering that animals endure, leaving them unsure how to advocate for them effectively. It’s a feeling of helplessness to which many can surely relate.
I do not subscribe to the notion that all advocacy is good advocacy. It is important to consider what will resonate with those whose opinions and actions we seek to influence, otherwise our actions could hinder rather than help. It is about the people who we want to impact positively, and the animals, NOT us.
Here are what I believe to be sound starting points for being an effective advocate for animals and veganism.
Know what you want to achieve. Often advocates for animals experience a sense of helplessness and urgency; consequently their social media feeds become a long and scattered list of graphic images, hyperbolic expressions, and news articles on a wide range of peripheral issues. The result is that those who are still reading do not come away with a clear message, are likely to be confused about where to focus, and simply tune out.
And then act accordingly. Think about what you hope to achieve with your advocacy, and then line up your messaging and tactics to accomplish your objectives. If your goal is to help people to become vegan, then focus on the things that will accomplish that. If your goal is to “normalize” veganism, then align your actions to that. If your goal is to end circuses, build your activism around that.
Accept that you can’t do everything. Aside from avoiding confusing messaging, having a goal and objectives — and sticking with them — can also help with the sense of futility that can overtake advocates. You don’t have to protest to advocate for animals — building community is another critical element. One of the reasons there are so many ex-vegans is because they lack support, so I’ve made it a big part of my personal mission to build that support.
Pick your battles. Along the same line as accepting you can’t do everything. This applies to both issues, and situations. Do not waste your time and energy on “battles” that cannot be won. Just tune out the stuff that you can’t influence or change.
Set a good example. Most mainstream people will meet only a handful of vegans, and if you’re one of them, try not to perpetuate negative stereotypes. They may not be fair or always accurate, but perception is reality. People are more likely to take you — and your messages — seriously, if you are relatable, likeable, and leave a good impression.
Be kind, but assertive. You absolutely don’t need to roll over or give your endorsement to actions that you consider to be ethically problematic, but remember that people don’t remember what you do nearly as often as they remember how you made them feel. When sharing information that people will find troubling, try to do so in a way that is mindful of how they will receive that information.
Feed people — and yourself. Don’t hesitate to introduce people to vegan food, or suggest a veg restaurant for a meal out; be proactive with suggesting an alternative. Every time others see you eating something delicious, rather than picking at a crappy salad, it makes veganism seem more realistic and less like a big sacrifice.
Remember that it’s about the animals — not you. On one hand, we are their voice, and to advocate for them we need to speak up, even if it’s uncomfortable for us and those to whom we speak. Do so in a way that is kind and informative, and no matter how others respond to your message, you have planted a seed. Next time you want to lash out at someone — particularly someone who is already partly there, but could maybe use some further guidance and understanding — stop and ask yourself if that’s really going to accomplish anything aside from alienation and hurt feelings.
Find your safe spaces. It’s okay to feel angry and frustrated. The things that are happening to animals are truly horrific. But consider limiting your expressions of these things to others who are like-minded and who can support you, rather than those you are hoping to influence.
Don’t be afraid to use the “V” word. It’s true that there is baggage attached to the label. But after doing all of these other things to make a good impression and hange people’s hearts and minds, how are we ever going to change people’s perceptions of the word vegan if we don’t wear it with pride?
This post originally appeared on The Mindful Mavens blog. Follow Pamela on Twitter: @pamelatourigny or Instagram: veganpamela’s bakery