After 2 school years and 280 colleges in 44 states, I have completed my cross-country leafleting. It has been an exciting, exhausting, and, quite literally, a moving experience.
Vegan Outreach will continue unabated! Until there is worldwide veganism, I will leaflet at colleges and walkathons in my area. And, of course, I will wear my vegan T-shirt, which starts conversations almost every day, and allows me to give people the information which I keep with me at all times.
Ending my full-time traveling finally freed up time to put serious research into improving Why Vegan?, and I think everyone will see a big difference. We are grateful to the following people who helped with the research: Gene Bauston of Farm Sanctuary, Andy Breslin, Beth Conrey, Michael Greger, Charles Patterson, and Melissa Snider & Alex Hershaft of FARM (whose Industry Watch Packs have been invaluable!). We want to thank Steve Kaufman for his diligent attention and insight in improving Why Vegan?
A persuasive piece of literature can only be as effective as the people who hand it out! In the last two years, our network of people who distribute Why Vegan? has grown from a mere handful to over 700. I will now give my quarterly spiel (with a few new twists) on why activists need to leaflet about veganism:
Until there is worldwide veganism, there is going to be animal exploitation. FARM reported in their Summer/Fall 1995 Farm Report that, “Farmed animals now account for 97% (and chickens alone for 91%) of all animals killed in U.S. farms, slaughterhouses, laboratories, pounds, and forests. In more personal terms, one person’s lifetime of meat eating subsidizes the abuse, killing, and butchering of 2,424 animals.” This number doesn’t include the significant amount of wildlife killed as a result of animal agriculture, including predators and those who die from lost habitat.
As adopting a vegan lifestyle in today’s society is a major change, people need a significant amount of motivation and information in order to make such a change. This is why we believe that leafleting is a better way to spread vegetarianism and veganism than trying to get media blips. Even though we reach fewer people, we reach them with the information required to allow them to change.
Most people who eat animal products don’t think they are doing anything wrong. They believe that the animals are raised and killed humanely and that you don’t have to hurt the cow or chicken to take her milk or eggs. People are merely doing what their elders before them did, and it wasn’t until recently that a small group of people have stood up and said, “This is wrong, you must stop.” In order to prevent these people from dismissing us as lunatics or having a knee-jerk reaction against us, we need to be friendly and patient.
We figure that when leafleting at a local college or walkathon, at least one person out of every 50 who take a pamphlet will stop eating animals within two years (and many others will cut back on their animal products). Since this person is probably still young with about 67% of their lifetime left, you will have saved over 1,000 animals from exploitation, not to mention the ripple effect each new vegan has on society. Fifty booklets cost us ~$10 plus postage. That’s $10 and about 45 minutes worth of time to save many hundreds of individuals from a lifetime of misery.
Can a piece of literature really change someone? I remember the first time I saw PETA’s phrase “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, or experiment on.” This was a foreign concept to me until that time; but when I heard it, something clicked. I actually felt a physical change inside my head – like my brain was forced into thinking about something entirely new and neurological pathways were being forged right before (or behind) my eyes.
Vegan Outreach’s focus is to get the idea of veganism to “click” with as many people as possible. Veganism is a state of enlightenment, and it is spreading. At one time, most people accepted human slavery. Today, in the United States, human slavery is unthinkable. Vegans realize that animal slavery is also unthinkable. Given that the older generations are constantly being replaced by the newer ones, it may not be too far off when enough of society will come to agree that animal agriculture and other forms of animal exploitation should be abolished. But first, we must continue to hit the streets and enlighten new people…