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  Creating Maximum Change

April, 2009
Vegan Outreach was recently contacted by a leafleter who complained that VO's advocacy booklets don't focus on the wrongness of killing as a violation of animals' rights. They sometimes hear from people who say that halal or kosher meat is fine, because the animal is (supposedly) killed quickly. This was our reply.

Thanks so much for sharing your concerns. I thought it would be best to take a few minutes to lay out Vegan Outreach’s goals and approach.

As we discussed in AML, our goal is not to justify or celebrate veganism, but rather to reduce as much suffering as possible. Of course, veganism is the best way for a person to prevent as much suffering as possible. However, the question for advocates is: given the society as it is and the opportunities we face, how do we best reduce suffering?

Our experience over the past decades – and those of other activists – indicate that very, very few current meat eaters are going to get a booklet, give up speciesism, be convinced of an animal’s absolute right to life, and thus immediately go vegan. Similarly, the vast majority of meat-eaters aren’t going to come down on the animals’ side if presented with a binary choice of the status quo and veganism.

If meat eaters aren’t going to accept the concept of animal rights and will be put off by veganism, how do we best create as much change as possible, given our limited resources and time? How can we reach meat eaters – the only ones who can make changes to save animals – where they are?

The vast majority of people oppose cruelty to animals. Therefore, this is the hook we must take, to reach as many people as possible – letting them know that modern agribusiness inherently and systematically treats animals in ways they find repulsive.

Unfortunately, at this time, this message isn’t going to cause a majority of people to change. Eating animals is too ingrained, and being vegan – being different – is just too hard for most people. While many people will just ignore the animals’ plight, others will make up excuses, such as claiming their halal or kosher meat is fine, etc. But because people make excuses doesn’t mean that the cruelty argument is failing – it just means that, again, at this time, no argument is going to change everyone’s behavior.

Activists face two choices. Our advocacy can be about us – “staying true to our principles,” promoting only what we view as the ultimate, perfect answer. Or we can recognize how society is today and learn from the many advocates who have come before us. It is, of course, very attractive (and easier) to pursue the former course, while the latter requires hard choices and can be exceedingly frustrating at times. But we are in it for the animals, and recognize that creating a vegan world will be a long, hard, often infuriating process.

I apologize if this is more information than you wanted – perhaps you just wanted to know how to answer people who bring up halal/kosher. When someone makes that argument to me, I ask them if they’ve ever been to the warehouses where the animals are raised, and if they’ve ever been to the actual slaughterhouse. If the discussion continues, I ask them if they’ve heard about the scandals at AgriProcessors, the world’s largest kosher slaughterhouse. Finally, and as I always try to do in any conversation, I ask them if they think not eating animals would cause less suffering in the world.

Ultimately, I know that, at this time, most people simply won’t change their habits, and will offer up any range of excuses / rationalizations. Over the years, I’ve learned not to let this bother me. I no longer spend my limited time and energy worrying about them – we simply have too many other people to reach – people who don’t know the hidden horrors of modern agribusiness and who might change if they did know.

Thanks again for all your excellent work!

For the animals,

-Matt Ball, Vegan Outreach