Why Vegan Outreach?
Several years ago, we learned of the harsh realities that animals endure in the agricultural industry. We were moved to stop consuming meat, milk, and eggs as a result of this realization. Soon thereafter, we became involved in the animal rights movement because we wanted to do more to end the abuse of animals. It was not enough for us to simply stop supporting such violence ourselves. Knowing that billions of animals suffered so horribly year after year compelled us into action on their behalf.
We contacted one of the world’s largest animal rights organizations for advice and contacts, and were put in touch with one of the animal rights organizations here in Illinois. We enthusiastically began what turned out to be several years of work with these organizations.
In order to grab media attention for the animals, we wrote letters, made signs, held protests, and donned costumes (cows, pigs, chickens, fish, clowns, cave people, even Jesus). We were successful in getting media attention for most of our projects, from simple letters to the editor to extravagant demonstrations featuring a pig turning the tables by barbecuing a human. But what was the result of our years of work and hundreds of dollars spent on behalf of the animals? This was a question that we did not feel qualified to answer, as the leaders of the movement were telling us that media coverage was the way to bring about animal liberation, and we were relative newcomers to the movement.
After many experiences of getting media coverage, yet feeling increasing doubts about whether we were truly helping the animals’ cause, the question had to be addressed. We could not deny that many of our statements and actions were misconstrued in the reports given by the media, and wondered why this might be. Why would the media not give the straight story about what animals endure when used to feed or clothe people, to entertain people, or in the name of science? After giving the matter some thought, we realized that it was not in the media's financial interests to publicize farmed animal suffering. The animal exploiting industries advertise their products daily through various media outlets. It is in the best interests of media companies not to alienate their high-paying clients by reporting on the brutality behind their products. Waiting for the media to help bring about animal liberation is akin to asking the fox to guard the chicken coop. Although the media could potentially be a good tool for advancing animal liberation, simple politics makes this quite unlikely.
Although we were becoming aware firsthand of the ineffectiveness of our efforts, we were at a loss for what to do. By chance we noticed an advertisement in an activist magazine for an organization that was taking a different approach in their work on behalf of animals. Rather than struggling against the companies that profit from animal exploitation, or trying to generate media publicity, Vegan Outreach was distributing booklets that detailed what animals go through to produce meat, milk, and eggs. Their target audience consisted of those who expressed an interest when asked if they wanted a booklet.
Vegan Outreach seemed to be offering a better, smarter, and more cost-effective approach. We therefore decided to put down our signs, take off our costumes, and take up the work of distributing booklets. In our years of work for Vegan Outreach, we have personally distributed over 150,000 booklets because we believe that it is essential to give people thorough and accurate information on what animals endure on today's farms, in order to inspire them to stop supporting such cruelty. Distorted sound bites and dancing chickens will not do. Reaching people one at a time seems more labor intensive than using the media to reach hundreds of thousands of people at a time, yet the second scenario has been more illusionary than real. The number of people the media can reach is immense, but the quality of the message is usually lacking. Offering someone a copy of Compassionate Choices, Even If You Like Meat or Why Vegan? allows them to read and witness the brutality of agribusiness, and to think about their own role in it. These are the strongest pieces of vegetarian advocacy literature that we have seen. The detail, accuracy, and strong citations are vital to reaching the reader – shorter pieces of literature typically lack these qualities.
We strongly support Vegan Outreach financially because we know that our money goes further toward advancing animal liberation with their method of outreach. We distribute Vegan Outreach’s booklets on college campuses, at charity events, at train stations, even on busy streets – any location that offers many passersby who can be asked if they would like some information on vegetarianism. Keeping cooperative restaurants, health food stores, and bookstores stocked with booklets is the other distribution route we pursue. We urge others to undertake these actions because doing so supports an incredibly efficient and effective path to reduce animal suffering.
It can be difficult to contain oneself and think about being effective when faced with the urgent knowledge that animals are suffering today in the circus, in labs, on fur farms. But it is essential that we do stop and think. When we put forth our efforts in a struggle to save one or a few animals in such situations, we are not putting forth an effort that would have been much more powerful.
By contrast, distributing copies of Compassionate Choices, Even If You Like Meat or Why Vegan? to interested people can deliver huge reductions in animal suffering. Each person moved to stop consuming animal products will be sparing hundreds of animals from an existence of suffering and a horrible death. Even people who simply consume fewer animal products will be sparing many animals from brutality. A single twenty-cent booklet can make a world of difference to hundreds, and even thousands, of animals.