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Two Fronts

by Eugene Khutoryansky

January 29, 2005. Two major leafleting events today.

The first was at a "March for Jesus," where I stood and handed Why Vegan?s to people passing in the parade. The acceptance rate was phenomenal. Even people on the other side of the street were walking over to me to get a pamphlet. Even cars in the parade were slowing down and waving for me to walk over and give them a pamphlet. There were lots of kids and teenagers in the march, and I was giving out about one pamphlet per second.

The second event was at a music concert in the evening. I stood outside in the rain for two hours waiting for the concert to end, and then handed Why Vegans to people as they were leaving. Once again – phenomenal receptiveness! One person told me that she received this pamphlet three years ago, and that it made her go vegetarian. She asked for whole bunch of Why Vegan?s to pass out at her work. Many other people at the concert told me that they were already vegan. (I also got a new comment today: "Hi Eugene. I know you don't remember me. You never remember me.")

Then, on the way home from the concert, I picked up a hitchhiker. The poor guy had been drenched in the rain for four hours after his car broke down, and everyone had been refusing to give him a ride. On the ride home, he was saying, "Thank you Jesus! Thank you for getting me back home!"

But, the best part of today is the story behind the story.

I woke up this morning with no intention of leafleting. I would have been perfectly content to spend the day watching TV and playing video games. However, the Ringling Brother's circus was in town, and some of the local AR people were organizing a demonstration. Personally, I think these demos are not a very effective use of time: even if our demo caused Ringling Brothers to go out of business (which it is not going to) the number of animals affected would be far less than the number of animals affected from one person spending one day leafleting with Why Vegan?s.

But I thought, "Hey, I don't have anything better to do today." Just a few minutes after I arrived at the anti-circus demo, I saw a large crowd of people walking by a few blocks away. I strolled over to see what it was about, and the officials told me that it was this "March for Jesus," which I had never heard of before. I asked if it would be OK if I handed out pamphlets to the people in the march, and the police and the march organizers told me that it was fine. (Fortunately, I am always prepared for these unexpected opportunities by keeping a large stash of Why Vegan?s in my car.)

I think this graphically illustrates the point that VO often makes – when you are choosing to do one thing, you are choosing not to do another. The march and the circus demo both ended at about the same time. It would not have been physically possible to do both. Everyone else stayed to protest the circus.

Then, afterwards, I overheard some of the activists from the anti-circus demo talking about a concert they were going to attend tonight. So, of course, I asked them where it was – not because I actually wanted to attend (heaven forbid!), but because I saw it as another leafleting opportunity. Again, if I had not been outside this concert, no one would have been present to hand out Vegan pamphlets to this highly receptive audience.

When Jack proudly lists all the colleges being leafleted, I think about is all the colleges which aren't being leafleted – not even a few minutes per semester – even those with active AR groups on campus! Before I joined AAC, I had always assumed that all these colleges were being covered.

Some activists may believe in the trickle down theory of advocacy. They may think that by protesting the circus, fur, rodeos, etc. they are going to make people more receptive to vegetarianism. Well, if this trickle down theory of advocacy actually worked, then by now the animals would at least be damp!

We seem to have two fronts. The first is with regards to getting the public to go vegetarian. The second front is with our fellow activists – getting them to realize the difference in payoff of differing forms of activism, and take part in and support the most effective, even if it isn't the most visible or glamorous.