Living in a Non-Veg World

Talk, as prepared for the AZ Veg Food Fest, January, 2016
Matt Ball

I assume that if you are here today, you have some issue with living in a non-vegetarian world, that being surrounded by meat eaters most days isn’t all unicorns and rainbows.

I should start by saying that I don’t have any brilliant insight or 12-step plan to make everything better. I can’t conjure up a unicorn for everyone. I stopped eating animals almost 30 years ago, and have yet to discover the magic incantation to make living in this world easy.

What I can tell you is that I’ve experienced a lot of what many of you have gone through and are going through. Anger, frustration, rage, despair, disappointment, depression – I’ve been through all these.

And I can tell you, every single one of these feelings is justified. I assume each of us here knows just how much suffering there is on factory farms, how much incredible cruelty farm animals face every moment of their lives. We could spend all day watching horrific footage of factory farms and slaughterhouses, and we wouldn’t begin to capture how bad things are.

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We each know this, and yet we live in a world of complete denial. If we look around, there is no sign that so many animals are being tortured and slaughtered right now. All the people around us – including many of our family members, our friends, and our co-workers – go about their daily lives as though factory farms don’t exist; as if there is no brutality lying hidden, just below the surface.

It is as though we are delusional, that we simply had a bad dream where we just imagined that animals suffered and died to become the meat being consumed all around us.

What often makes it even worse is that we love many of the people who continue to eat animals. It doesn’t matter as much that Ted Cruz or Donald Trump or Dick Cheney pay people to kill chickens and pigs. But when it is our Moms, our brothers, our cousins, our childhood pal, even our spouse – that adds an extra layer of heartbreak to having to live in a world where animals suffer and die to be eaten.

So the main thing I can offer you today is understanding. I get it, the anger, the hurt, the disappointment.

And others are going through this, too. I’ve given hundreds of talks in the past decades, and I can tell you that so many people have asked me, often almost pleadingly, “What can I do to convince my sister, my Dad, my husband?”

I would love so much to be able to give you the answer. But I can’t. And I know understanding isn’t enough.

But maybe I can help at the margins. Maybe I can show that there is hope.

The first thing I would suggest is to remember that few people change overnight from the standard American diet to a cruelty-free lifestyle. There are some, yes, but research actually shows that the quicker people change, the more likely they are to revert back to eating animals again. So to begin with, as much as we would love everyone to GO VEG RIGHT FREAKIN’ NOW, realistically, we should give people a break.

Even if you changed overnight and maintained that change forever, know that most people don’t. For example, once I learned the reality behind meat, I kept eating animals. When I first went veg, it didn’t last. Cutting out eggs and dairy took me a long time. And it is likely that if people had mocked my weakness, or treated me with disdain or hatred for my rationalizations, I would have used their anger as an excuse to maintain my meat-eating ways.

My story shows us several things. The first is that many people – probably most people, nearly all – don’t want to change. They don’t want to be different from their friends and family. They don’t want to be inconvenienced.

Like me, most people are capable of great cognitive dissonance. They want to consider themselves good people. At some level they know eating animals is wrong. And yet they don’t want to change. So they’re looking for an excuse.

And as justified as our anger is, we have to know that being “the angry vegan” gives people an excuse to maintain the status quo. I’ve seen this over and over again. I saw one example of this last year, when I participated in marketing research at the University of Arizona. One of the key findings was that the general public views vegans as angry, unhappy, and unfriendly. The general public also views veganism as extreme and impossible.

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So we find ourselves in this catch-22 – we are understandably angry because the people around us create the demand that causes animals to suffer so horribly. But our understandable anger is a key reason people are able to avoid facing reality.

I’m in no position to judge. I acted from anger so much, and gave many people a lifetime excuse to not consider the animals’ plight. I consistently made it about winning an argument, or speaking my truth, rather than actually creating real change that would make a difference. It took me so long to finally stop expressing my anger and justifying my lifestyle. And it is something I still struggle with every day –truly dealing with people where they are, rather than chanting and arguing about what I want.

With the help of some very insightful friends, I finally realized that if we truly want to create fundamental, lasting change in the world, we must deal with our emotions in a constructive way. We need to ask ourselves:

  • Are we willing to direct our anger, rather than have it rule us?
  • Are we willing to put the animals’ interests before our personal desires?
  • Are we willing to focus seriously and systematically on being the animals’ voice?

 

It is not enough to be vegetarian, or vegan, or even a dedicated advocate. I believe we should focus on actually reducing suffering – and actively be the opposite of the vegan stereotype. Just as we need everyone to look beyond the short-term satisfaction of following habits and traditions, we need to move past our sorrow and our anger to optimal advocacy. We must learn “how to win friends and influence people,” so that we leave everyone we meet with the impression of a joyful individual leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Understand, though: I’m not saying we should put on an act of being happy. Rather, as thoughtful advocates, we can truly be happy!

Looking at the long arc of history, we see how much society has advanced in just the last few centuries. It was over two thousand years ago that the ideals of democracy were first proposed in ancient Greece. But only during the 18th century did humanity see even the beginnings of a truly democratic system. Not until late in the 19th century was slavery officially abolished in the developed world. In all of human history, only in the last hundred years was child labor abolished in the developed world, child abuse criminalized, women given the vote, and minorities given more rights.

Many people worked diligently to bring about those ethical advances for humanity. Now, because of the number of individuals suffering and the reason they suffer, I believe animal liberation is the moral imperative of our time. If we take suffering seriously and commit to optimal advocacy, we too can bring about fundamental change. We can already see progress in just the past decade – there has been a huge increase public concern for farm animals, as well as condemnations of factory farms. There are more vegetarians, near-vegetarians, and vegetarian products. Our focus, tools, and programs have also improved immensely during that time.

Animal liberation can be the future. As the magazine The Economist concluded, “Historically, man has expanded the reach of his ethical calculations, first beyond family and tribe, later beyond religion, race, and nation. To bring other species more fully into the range of these decisions may seem unthinkable to moderate opinion now. One day, it may seem no more than ‘civilized’ behavior requires.”

We can be the ones to bring about this next great ethical advance. We should revel in the opportunity we have to be part of something so profound, something fundamentally good. This is as meaningful and joyous a life as I can imagine!

We have no excuse for waiting – we have the knowledge, the tools, and the truth. Taking a stand against cruelty to animals requires only our choice.

To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr.:

The arc of history is long
And ragged
And often unclear
But ultimately
It bends towards justice.

We can each help bend the arc of history toward justice!

Thank you.

2015 Something Better Now Available!

somethingbettercoverWe are very excited to announce the availability of the 2015 edition of our advocacy booklet, Something Better.

If you’ve never distributed copies before, you can see a pdf here. You can also head over to the CCC website and learn about leafleting, and get other ideas about booklet distribution. (If you’ve never spent time going through the Compassionate Communities Campaign website, there is a lot of great information all throughout!)

Contact us at activist@farmsanctuary.org to learn how you can distribute copies in your area.

Tabling

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Tip for tabling: Keep it simple. Here we have Farm Sanctuary’s unique “Adopt a Farm Animal” booklet, copies of the latest Newsletter, V-lish (the “How” of compassionate eating), and Something Better (the “Why”). Two sign up sheets for busy times.

If possible, good to have a video playing (not possible here).

And since I was doing the tabling, copies of my books.

(Photo from ThanksLiving in Phoenix, where I spoke and tabled.)

Welcome to 2015!

After a hiatus, we’re back!

We’re in the process of rethinking and then relaunching the CCC infrastructure, including a revitalized blog, a more active Facebook page, and many new materials. We will, of course, continue to offer amazing essays and other resources.

We would love to hear from you with your suggestions, thoughts, and ideas. How can CCC help more people become more effective activists? Please email us at activist (at) farmsanctuary.org.

Thanks so very much. We’re looking forward to building a more compassionate world with you!
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Matt Ball
Senior Manager for Engagement and Outreach

Campaign Update: Changing the Way People View and Treat Farm Animals

By Nick Cooney

April 10, 2013

One of the key pillars of Farm Sanctuary’s mission is to change the way people view and treat farm animals. Another key pillar is to promote a compassionate vegan lifestyle.

Compassionate Communities was created to do both of these as efficiently as possible. Occasionally in this blog we share updates about what our volunteers are doing around the country to change hearts and change diets. This week, we share a few examples of the feedback we get from those whose hearts and diets have changed as a result of the Compassionate Communities Campaign.

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“I found [your
Something Better leaflet] on a cafeteria table and decided to become vegetarian after reading through it. I think that is a good way to raise awareness without being intrusive…I would like a stack of maybe 50 so I can pass it around our school campus.”
        – DongNi Zhang

 

“Its been almost 6 months since I first saw your video and I almost immediately became a vegetarian after that. It was the thing that really made me change my opinion on meat…It has been really easy for me to change into a meat-free diet and instead of missing eating meat, it kind of disgusts me now knowing whats behind a hamburger or a chicken cutlet.”
        – Anna Segarra

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“I am taking meat out of my diet. Thank you so much again, I love animals and I would hate for them to be slaughtered for the sake of my taste buds! I cannot wait until I get my meat-free meal guide. God bless you!”
       
– Abby Baca

 

“Im a 15 year old girl who never imagined to go vegetarian; however after seeing how horribly these animals are being treated I could never see myself going back.”
        – Louella Dent

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“Since I saw your video my life changed. I have been almost 4 months without meat and I have been feeling pretty good and confident about my decision. I thought it was going to be harder but so far it has been a lovely journey for me.”
        – Daniela De Los Rios

 

“This video is the reason I am now vegan! Thats all it takes to change minds and hearts to become vegan is to see truth of what’s on our plates … I have also joined some local animal rights and vegan groups here in Phoenix AZ. Every voice will help open eyes and save lives! Bless you and your work!”
   
    – Angel Cullen

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“I’m happy to tell you that I no longer eat meat since the first day I saw your video! If you have a farm nearby that might need some help with the animals I can help any weekend, and I will be very happy to do so.”
       
– Diana Pais

 

“I had heard that this type of behavior was common throughout the industry. But I just couldn’t believe that our fellow human beings could be that cruel. Obviously I was wrong…God forgive them. And I am going to try to become meat-free in my diet.”
        – Mike Onofrietti

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“This is going to change my life. I have been flirting with becoming a vegetarian for years but have hesitated … Thank you so much! PS, I am 82 years old but plan to live to be 102 because I am in excellent health.”
        – Eloise Peterson

 

“This is so sad, I am not eating meat anymore, because animals are just like humans, and if they’re suffering, then I’m not eating meat.”
        – Brandy-Latisha Lee

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“Great work by the way … I have now been a full vegan for 2 months!”
        – Aly MacNeill-Weir

 

 

Want to receive blog updates twice a month? Join the Compassionate Communities Campaign to get them delivered straight to your inbox.

2012: Compassion In Action

By Nick Cooney

January 1, 2013

Looking back over the past twelve months, what can we say but “thank you!” Thank you for helping to make Farm Sanctuary’s Compassionate Communities Campaign a success. Thank you for helping to spare tens of thousands of farm animals from a lifetime of misery. Before we dive into a new year of advocacy, let’s take a quick look back on 2012 and what we, together, achieved for animals.

The Campaign kicked off in March of 2012 with the launch of our groundbreaking compassionatecommunities.org website. For the first time ever, farm animal advocates now have a one-stop shop for learning how to carry out effective veg advocacy programs in their community. With how-to videos and guides and a library of some of the most thought-provoking essays and videos around, it’s no wonder thousands of grassroots advocates in the U.S. and abroad joined the Campaign in the months that followed.

Meanwhile, the Compassionate Communities blog dug into the latest research to provide eye-opening advice for animal advocates. We discussed why the phrase “meat-free” may be better than “vegetarian”; looked at who former vegetarians are and why we lost them; busted the myths that are told inside the vegan bubble; showed the neuroscience behind caring vegetarians; and took a data-based look at the impact of welfare reforms on vegan advocacy.

As Compassionate Communities volunteers got active, local veg dining guides, both printed and online, began popping up around the country. Residents of cities like Pittsburgh and Rochester, among many others, now have an easy way to find veg food near them, and local activists and grassroots groups have a great resource to direct the public to.

The summer of 2012 saw the launch of our snazzy new 16-page veg advocacy booklet, Something Better. Over the course of the year, Compassionate Communities volunteers distributed more than 265,000 copies of Something Better and other literature to people around the country, bringing Farm Sanctuary and its animal ambassadors to a wide audience of people across the country. This included over 55,000 vegetarian starter guides distributed through businesses and newsstand racks, as well as nearly 200,000 booklets handed out at colleges, festivals, and on busy city streets.

In the fall, we hit the road for our Compassionate Communities tour, traveling to 11 key cities around the country to rally grassroots advocacy efforts. Hundreds of local animal advocates came out for our workshops on effective veg advocacy and signed up to get active for farm animals. Many joined us for hard-hitting outreach events, from the beaches of Florida to the universities of Portland to the cold streets of Boston.

In November, Compassionate Communities launched its hard-hitting new video, What Came Before. The 10-minute film short, narrated by TV and movie star Steve-O, introduces viewers to individual animals rescued by Farm Sanctuary, exposes the cruel realities of factory farming, and strikes a hopeful note by pointing out the benefits of a meat-free diet. In its first two months, more than 180,000 viewers saw the cruel reality of What Came Before, with many leaving heartfelt messages or comments about how the video inspired them to go vegetarian.

Thanks to the support of our donors, Compassionate Communities also launched a massive online advertising campaign to bring What Came Before and resources on vegan eating to the computer screens of hundreds of thousands of young women around the country.

All told, Farm Sanctuary’s Compassionate Communities Campaign was able to directly reach nearly half a million people in 2012 with printed literature or video on the cruelties of factory farming and the benefits of vegan eating, inspiring dietary change and saving the lives of farm animals. Your involvement and support have spared tens of thousands of individuals like “The Doctor” from a lifetime of misery.

On behalf of all of us at Farm Sanctuary, have a Happy New Year! We look forward to working with you in 2012 to achieve even more for animals!

 

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The Summer Outreach Challenge is in full effect

By Nick Cooney

July 24, 2012

Kudos to the 60 volunteers who have signed up for the Summer Outreach Challenge and are each aiming to reach 1,000 people this summer with booklets or videos about farm animal cruelty and healthy plant-based eating:

Jessica Spain, Anne Kennedy, Audrey Fotouhi, Katie Moore, Robin Skov, Brandi Duffy, Barbera Thumann-Calderaro, Virginia Hanrahan, Desi Harpe, Dawn Nichols, Dennis Akpan, Don Blackowiak, Eileen Persichetti, Kamal Prasad, Emmaly Beck, Gail Mayer, Renee Gallaway, Gina Esposito, Greg Brumfield, Jolene Olson, Jen Manzari, Judi Megarity, Jonathan Hussain, Karen James, Kimberly Floyd, Laney Hopper, Laura Lyons, Shauna Saling, Malik McLean, Marilyn Nusbaum, Linda Marcovici, Maria Alexandre, Megan Della Fave, Meredith Hemphill, Michelle Brown, Milena Esherick, Myleme Montplaisir, Heather Stadther, Pam Driggs, Pamela Coleman, Patricia Massari, Patricia Haddock, Sarah, Piper Crussell, Ryan Wychowanec, Carla Wilson, Sarah Woodcock, Sherri Hendricks, Sherry Liu, Sarah Shaffer, Sue Bruzzese, Steve Small, Susan Earnest, Silvana Singer, Hilary, Tina Horowitz, Virigina Fitt, Wendy Cliggott, Victoria, Denise Anderson, and Hussein Mourtada.

On behalf of the animals at Farm Sanctuary, and farm animals across the country, thank you! June was our most successful month yet with more than 25,000 leaflets and starter guides distributed!

Challenge participants and other Compassionate Communities volunteers had this to say about their recent work for animals:

“Thank you so very much for sending me the Compassionate Choices leaflets and the Guide to Meat Free Meals. My family started handing them out immediately. My daughter took some to school to pass out to her classmates; I took them to work and passed them out to everybody, and gave one to my hairdresser as I have been discussing this with her for weeks.” –Brenda Lyon

“It was a beautiful day, and I think the turnout was probably their best ever!  I had about 170 people stop by my table…Cute story for Gene:  I had a copy of his book displayed, and one woman said she read it after it literally fell on her head at the library!  Her husband also read it, and it was the impetus for them going vegetarian.” –Susan Jones

“Just want to give you a status report for Central Valley Animal Liberation. We are well on our way to meeting the Summer Outreach Challenge…Grand total: 750 [leaflets distributed so far].” Jonathan Hussain

“My parents have always been indiscriminate carnivores. I used to think that I could simply lead by example, but when I realized that my dining/living habits weren’t really changing their hearts or minds, I sent them two very passionate emails. Yesterday, my dad emailed me back to say that my arguments were very compelling and because of them, he and my mom are going to phase meat out of their diet! Hooray! I’m looking forward to handing out leaflets and making starter kits available – hopefully we can reach even more people.” Meg York

 

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