For Farm Animals Every Day

SeattlePresentation

Below is the full interview for Every Day is Animal Advocacy Day for Matt Ball

1. What brought you to Farm Sanctuary?  When did you start?

Gosh, I’ve been a fan of Farm Sanctuary almost since it started. As soon as there were cabins, Anne and I took our belated honeymoon there. In conversations since I started actually working for Farm Sanctuary a year ago, I found out that Holly would have been there in October 1993 – so I almost certainly met her even before Gene!

I didn’t become friends with Gene until April 1997, when he and I were at a Nalith-sponsored conference in the Finger Lakes region. I’ll never forget it. My project at the time was to distribute as many pro-veg booklets as possible. At one point, Gene held up a copy of the booklet and said, “We can all agree that we need to get more of these out there.” It really showed his generosity. Ever since, Gene has been one of the warmest, most supportive people I’ve known in the animal advocacy movement.

2. How long have you been vegan (were you vegetarian before), and what inspired you to make that switch?

Freshman year of college (1986), my roommate was an older transfer student. He was also a vegetarian, and he made me his personal project. I would love to say I went vegan as soon as I learned about what happens on factory farms, but as I write about in one of my books, this wasn’t the case at all. Rather, I went vegetarian and then vegan in fits and starts. It is for this and other reasons that I’m very sympathetic to people who are (initially) resistant to the message, who make incremental change while rationalizing other actions. So although all psychological research supports it as well, Farm Sanctuary’s approach of meeting people where they are has a personal resonance with me.

It is nice to be able to say I first stopped eating animals the year Farm Sanctuary was founded!

3. Describe a typical day.

My day-to-day responsibilities include the Compassionate Communities Campaign and Farm Sanctuary’s online outreach. The former requires keeping up with news for the CCC Facebook page, the CCC blog, and alerts to our members, in order to make sure our activist members are engaged and able to make a difference day to day. As part of this, I represent Farm Sanctuary in a variety of coalitions, so I’m often on conference calls or reviewing email alerts. Lindsay M and Jae are super helpful with all of this. I also have been developing materials for the CCC. For example, on the upcoming CCC booklet, Susie has been very insightful (and generous with her time), and Crissy is absolutely brilliant with her ideas and designs!

Online outreach is a fun, multivariate problem. I can create multiple ads and choose different target audiences, and then monitor which perform best. I’m always iterating on this, to make sure we are “spending thousands to reach millions.” I also monitor the comment threads when I can, to try to make sure things don’t get out of hand, and to give encouragement, too.

One of the best parts of my job is to watch what Wendy comes up with for her various projects, like V-lish. I can always expect innovative, creative, and fresh ideas from her. Sometimes, I’m even able to contribute a useful bit of feedback here or there. Mostly, though, I just want to make sure I’m not hindering her. I can only hope the Engagement Department’s new hire is a clone of Wendy!

My wife Anne (who works for Our Hen House, headed by former FSer Jasmin Singer) and I both work from home here in Tucson, and we’re very much early birds. A typical day starts around 6 with all the emails that came in overnight. I’ll try to exercise most days (although I’m no Marathon Man like Gene), in part because I can get in some of my best thinking while running. For example, a few weekends ago, Hank sent me, Sylvia, and Lindsay an email about a Facebook post on welfare reforms. That led to a longer conversation on my Monday call with Sylvia, Lindsay, and Wendy. Over my next two runs, the idea for a blog post on the topic took shape.

4. Describe a day that was less typical and memorable.

I have Meredith to thank for my most memorable days. She has arranged my various interviews, including a one hour radio interview with a station in rural Alabama. Such a fun time! She also got me all my television appearances last fall – an amazing job. She made sure the stations had all the information (I was promoting a Walk for Farm Animals each appearance) and B-roll (so the audience was able to look at cute animals instead of having to watch me).

The best week was probably last October. I did the Seattle Walk, where Hero of Compassion Christina Cuenca organized an absolutely incredible event! (And Meredith had, of course, previously had me on the radio to promote the Walk.) People were so fired up – I’ve never been interrupted by cheers and applause so often. Not ever! I was able to spend time with different activists in Seattle, too, separate from the Walk. Then I met with other members in Portland and gave a talk there. Next was up to Vancouver, where I had another hour on the radio (this one was in studio) leading up to the great Walk (which was the only time I saw the sun there!).

Of course, compared to Gene, I’m an absolute amateur when it comes to travelling and speaking. I truly have no idea how he does it. I spent at least 20 hours researching, writing, getting feedback on, and practicing just my “Understanding the Numbers” talk for AR2015. I don’t know how Gene could possibly do it, day in and day out.

But for me, the Seattle / Portland / Vancouver trip was an amazing week.

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5. Was there a time when you reached someone whom you never expected to be receptive to your message?

I know I don’t have anywhere near the number of stories Gene has (I love listening to his stories), but I do have loads of experiences like this (including at the national Future Farmers of America conference).

One of my first unexpected encounter like this was speaking at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in rural PA. A young man in the audience was clearly agitated and just itching to get up and say something. As soon as I opened it up for questions, he jumped up and gave a dissertation on the “values” of hunting.

It was obvious that debating hunting wouldn’t be a winning strategy. More importantly, I knew arguing with him wouldn’t do anything to change anyone else’s mind or choices. I was, of course, tempted to make the full, consistent “animal rights” case, but I decided it was more important to try to get some of the people to actually make constructive change that made a difference for farm animals.

So I said, “Well, I can tell you this: I would rather live my life free and be shot dead as an adult, than be crammed into a bathroom with a bunch of others such that I can hardly move, living in our own waste.” As soon as I said that, the young man visibly calmed, and sat down to listen. I then went on to reiterate how bad farm animals have it on factory farms. At this point, the whole audience was more attentive than they had been during my main talk. I concluded my “answer” to him by repeating that I didn’t think anyone in the room would condone the way these animals are treated, and that each of us can choose compassion every time we eat.

Not only did the rest of the Q & A go great, but after everything was done, the young man thanked me. He said he always thought factory farms were bad, but hadn’t known just how bad. He also hadn’t known how rough it was for chickens (which I had focused on in the main talk), and concluded that not eating meat from factory farms was the right thing to do.

To me, this shows the power of Gene’s idea of meeting people where they are. I have always found it to be much more constructive and impactful to focus on the first step, rather than presenting a fixed dogma.

6. What do you enjoy doing outside of Farm Sanctuary life (hobbies, interests, etc.)?

On one of our calls, Hank made the comment, “Matt, most people don’t have the the opportunity we have, to be able to work for animals.” This is really insightful: we are really incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity, and I want to make the most of it. Since we work at home, Anne and I are able to work every day. But we do try to go for a hike together once every week or two (where, of course, we talk more about work). I try to log off of work by 8pm, so I can do a little reading and wind down some. A while back, Hank and Leila gave me a number of book suggestions, and I’ve not yet had a chance to make a dent in that list.

I try to cook a good dinner 3-4 times per week (making enough for leftovers).

EllenKGreenPassport

Our (lifelong vegan) daughter is away at college, so I look forward to opportunities to chat with her on Google Hangouts whenever she has a few spare minutes (usually in lab, between experiments). When she’s home, I try to keep up with her on her daily runs!

7. You’ve raised Ellen vegan; what advice do you have for vegan parents?

Oh, the world is so incredibly different now than it was 22 years ago, especially in this respect!

Reannon, who organized all our Walks for Farm Animals, is one of the founders of Generation Veggie – an amazing website and community for anyone who is vegan in a family (raising vegan kids, kids who have chosen to go vegan in a non-veg family, etc.). If you have questions or concerns, GenVeg has an article or someone who can help. It is a great resource!

And chill out if your son or daughter doesn’t like veggies!

8. Gene mentioned mixing soy powder to make soymilk back in the day… how has vegan food changed for you? What can Ellen enjoy that you couldn’t when you were in college

HA! Comparing my attempts to just eat vegetarian (dairy-a-palooza) to eating vegan today is crazy! When I first stopped eating animals, I lived on cheese sandwiches and Captain Crunch with cow’s milk. Now at college, Ellen has vegan options at every dining hall at every meal (that video’s star doesn’t appear until 51 seconds in). Other colleges (including in Texas!) have entirely vegetarian or even vegan dining halls! Vegan reubens, vegan pizza, vegan Tofurky feasts – not only around Thanksgiving but regularly? (Thanks, Seth!)

Of course, I know that most people think veganism is impossible from where they are now (all the more reason to focus on the first step). But I could literally write a book about how crazy-different it is today than 30 years ago.

9. Why should someone visit Farm Sanctuary?

Of course, you don’t need to visit one of our sanctuaries to make an absolutely huge difference in the world. Every time we choose what to eat, we can make a powerful statement against cruelty and for compassion. Every time someone asks us why we’re vegetarian, we have the chance to provide farm animals a voice.

beanBut there is something truly wonderful about getting to know individuals like Valentino, Emily, and Lucie. It makes our choices and our opportunity to advocate for these animals less abstract, more concrete. For me, at least, spending time with these individuals leaves me energized and even more motivated to change the world, to build a society where individuals like Frank and Bean are no longer our job, but simply our friends.

 

Check Out the Power of Online Outreach!

Many of our online advertising campaigns lead people to watch our powerful “What Came Before video, which introduces viewers to three Farm Sanctuary residents: Nikki pig, Symphony chicken, and Fanny cow, making the case against factory farming and for a compassionate diet. Our cost per click depends on the target audience and length the campaign runs, but generally varies between 8-10¢ per person clicking through to the video page.

As noted previously, getting millions of people to see the content of our Facebook ads can be as important as having people click through. This is why we make each ad as powerful as possible, and continue to refine our outreach efforts, varying them in terms of the text, picture, and target audience.

Below, you can see one week’s comments on just one of the ads in one of Farm Sanctuary’s current campaigns. Note also that, in addition to nearly 100 likes and other reactions every single day, hundreds of people are enraged and engaged enough to share the ad with their friends, giving a personal endorsement to our message of helping farm animals. This makes our outreach even more cost effective!
>Watch Now & please share with your friends, family, coworkers, and social networks.

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Kristina Reports In from Santa Cruz

“I wanted to thank you again for the advocacy booklets you sent.  I handed some out today along with Vegan Rice Crispy Treat Square samples.  I spoke with many people about vegan food options and told them about Farm Sanctuary’s shelters and about some of the lasting bonds our animals have developed over the years.  It was a wonderful opportunity to speak for our dear animals, raise awareness and expand compassion.  I met Keith of ‘Food Not Bombs’ and he invited me to bring vegan food dishes to hand out on Sundays in downtown Santa Cruz.  He said I was also welcome to hand out Farm Sanctuary animal advocacy literature at these community events as well.  So that might be a good option, as well as leafleting at University of California, Santa Cruz and Cabrillo Community College.  I’m grateful I had a positive experience, I was a little nervous when I was setting up but once I began talking with people all my nerves quickly dissipated into love and an open heart.  Thanks for all your support. ”

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The Vegan Handicap & the Art of Vegan Conversation

From our good friend Tobias Leenaert!

If you’re vegan or vegetarian: you may have experienced it more than once: you are at the dinner table with other people, and the conversation turns to not eating meat. Some people at the table may be able to have a rational conversation about this, but others get a bit (or quite) angry, defensive, or sometimes downright nasty.

For some of your table partners to turn defensive, you probably actually didn’t even have to start to talk. Your mere presence as someone who doesn’t eat meat/animal products, is enough to make them uncomfortable. And this discomfort may impact the whole ensuing discussion. This is what I call the vegan handicap.

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My guess (and I think it’s a pretty reasonable one), is that at the basis of the discomfort lies guilt. Most people in their right mind will know there’s something wrong with what’s on their plate. They may believe that it is ok to kill animals for food, but most of them also believe that when we choose to do that, we should give the animals “a good life” and make sure they “don’t suffer” (whatever those words mean to us). They believe there exists something like “humane meat” and that there is no problem with that. At the same time, however, most of them are buying meat from just any source: at the supermarket, in restaurants, in the cafetaria at their work… They are quite aware that they could at least get meat in organic stores, which they might think meets their criteria for “humaneness”, but almost none of them do that. Apart from all this, there may be a voice inside them that tells them that killing animals for food is unfair.

So the people at your table, looking at you, feel guilty – at a conscious or less conscious level – about the discrepancy between what’s on their plate and what they believe they should do. You confront them with that guilt, and they get defensive. They get the feeling that you are or are going to attack them, while your opinion merely represents that dissenting opinion within themselves: that gnawing little voice inside them, that they actually don’t want to hear.

It is very important to be aware of this dynamic. Assuming this attitude of guilt and defensiveness is not a good basis to work on, I suggest that the vegan at the table needs to go a certain extra length to put the omnivore at ease, and not put oil on the fire. All of this means that things you say may sound accusing and guilt-inducing much easier and faster than you expect or intended. It means that – pardon the expression – you should walk on eggshells.

There’s a lot of points you can give attention to in order to put others at ease and make the conversation go better. Here are some of them: behave very pleasantly, have a sense of humor, make it clear that you’re not accusing them, avoid charged words like “murder”, talk in terms of “we/society” and not “you”, explain how you have eaten meat yourself before (and how it possibly took you a while to see things clearly). Avoid sounding holier-than-thou. Don’t tell them things like they are complicit in humanity’s biggest crime ever (even though you may believe they are).  Admit that you are not perfect and that you don’t have the answer to everything. Above all, don’t talk all the time but listen and ask smart questions.

I would summarize this as: be nice. Being nice not just makes the world a better place for everyone (so I’m not talking about faking stuff), but it is crucial if you want to be effective at helping animals.

This whole attitude of yours is, in my view, a lot more important than the content of the actual arguments you will bring to the table. Your conversation is first of all about the relation between you and the others, not about the content. When you have established a good relationship, when there is the trust that you are not accusing or attacking the other, then you can give more attention to the arguments themselves.

Vegan conversation is an art that we all need to master.

Global Warming and a Better World

Make a Better World for Today and the Future!
Matt Ball

When talking about a complicated, far-ranging issue like global warming and climate change, it is often useful to step back and review the bottom line – what really matters.

None of us care about greenhouse gas emissions in and of themselves. What matters are the consequences of global warming and climate change. Floods, droughts, famine, habitat loss, spread of disease – the bottom line is that more carbon in the atmosphere will cause more suffering. And that is the reason to do our utmost to lower carbon emissions.

Fortunately, there is an incredibly powerful way we can each massively lower our carbon footprint – and thus reduce future suffering – while also having a significant and immediate impact on the amount of suffering in the world today!

What is this powerful and profound action? Taking chickens, pigs, turkeys, and cows off our plates, and replacing them with some of the amazing new plant-based foods out there!

Not only does changing our diet have a huge influence on our carbon footprint, it has powerful impacts in the short term. Even if we don’t consciously admit it, most of us know that factory farms are brutal. Every week a new investigation reveals just how barbaric the modern meat industry is.

And although many have stopped eating some animals, we often don’t give consideration to chickens. But we really should. John Webster, professor of Veterinary Science, has noted that industrial chicken production is, “in both magnitude and severity, the single most severe, systematic example of man’s inhumanity to another sentient animal.”

Of course, this inhumanity alone is reason enough to boycott the meat industry. But the long-term impacts of our dietary choices are also profound. Feeding the world’s grain to animals, and then killing and eating part of the animal, is not only inefficient, but also a leading driver of environmental degradation. The United Nations notes that raising animals for food is “one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”

Globally, meat production accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than every single plane, train, and automobile in the world! The international affairs think tank Chatham House summarizes: “We cannot avoid dangerous climate change unless [meat] consumption trends change.”

This is not something we have to wait for. We don’t have to win an election. We don’t need the government to act. We don’t need to negotiate a treaty. We can each make the world a far better place, today and in the future, by taking our animal friends off our plates!

Recidivism Part 1: The Power of Ethics

We will be reprinting some of Ginny Messina’s conclusions from her research on veg recidivism, starting with “The Power of Ethics.” Thanks to Ginny for all her research and permission to reprint.

Helping people go vegan is great. But it’s meaningless if we can’t help them stay vegan. [I have written] about how overhyping the benefits of a vegan diet can result in ex-vegans. One of the reasons people abandon vegan diets is that they lose faith in its benefits. That’s more likely to happen if the claims are far-fetched.

We also run the risk of losing vegans (and vegetarians) when we skip over discussions about ethics. While health may motivate many people to go vegan or vegetarian, ethics seems to be more “sticky.”

As I’ve been delving into this issue of preventing recidivism, I’ve looked at quite a bit of data including:

  • Surveys of ex-vegetarians (from Faunalytics, the Toronto Vegetarian Association, and psychologists Childers and Herzog)
  • Research on successful dietary behavior change in general
  • Research on dietary behavior of current and former vegans and vegetarians

The findings are relatively consistent regarding the power of ethics in helping people stay vegan or vegetarian.

For example, the Faunalytics Survey found that health was the only motivation for going vegetarian cited by a majority of ex-vegetarians. A study from Winthrop University in South Carolina also found that vegetarians who are motivated by ethics “demonstrated stronger feelings of conviction.” They ate fewer animal products, and were less likely to lapse (1).

Interestingly, a study from the Department of Psychology at the University of Surrey in the UK found that ethics was a stronger motivator than health for long term successful dietary change in general (2). The researchers said “…if an intervention could encourage individuals to be motivated by factors other than health (such as ethics)… such an approach would be more predictive of positive outcomes.”

So why is it that people who go vegan or vegetarian for the animals are more likely to stick with it? I can think of three possible reasons.

A vegan ethic is unique

The Toronto Vegetarian Society survey found that many ex-vegetarians believed that they could achieve the same benefits from a diet that included meat. And they are probably right

We can (and should) tell people that a vegan diet is a good choice for healthful eating; we just can’t tell them that it’s the only choice. Plant-based diets that include small amounts of animal foods are likely to be as good.

But the ethics of veganism? Once you embrace them, there is no alternative way of living and eating. This seems to be especially true for those who embrace an animal rights ethic (3). If you agree that animals are not here for us to use under any circumstances, veganism is really your only option.

Health motivated vegans may consume more restrictive/less optimal diets

Ethically-motivated vegans might enjoy a more relaxed approach to food choices that makes a vegan diet easier and makes it easier to meet nutrient needs. (4,5). Health-motivated vegans may also be less likely to take appropriate supplements (5). One group of researchers said that “It is possible that health vegans, in pursuit of better health from food sources may have eschewed supplement intake, believing that plant foods were a better source of essential nutrients.” If that’s true, it places health-motivated vegans at higher risk for nutrient deficiencies.

Ethics is a part of who we are

In a study titled “Moralization and Becoming a Vegetarian,” researchers noted that “Moral values are often referred to as internalized, that is, as a part of the self (6).”

That’s important because many ex-vegetarians say that they didn’t feel like their diet was a part of their “identity.” Maybe if they made the moral connection—the connection to their “internalized values” –more people would see that veganism is much more a part of their identity than they realize.

One theory is that those who go vegan for health will eventually embrace the ethical considerations, hopefully moving on to adopting other lifestyle changes that reflect a vegan ethic. Maybe. But—possibly because ethical reasons for vegetarianism become so deeply internalized—it seems that ethical vegetarians are the ones more likely to find new reasons to stay vegetarian (6).

Vegan Advocacy: Put Ethics First

The problem of ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians is a serious one. When people say “I used to be vegan, but…” it perpetuates the idea that vegan diets are difficult or unhealthy. Also, it’s possible that ex-vegetarians consume more chickens than people who were never vegetarian—which isn’t surprising if ex-vegetarians were motivated by health (7). This is something that can clearly cause more animal suffering.

I promote vegan diets for ethical reasons only because I have no choice. It’s not possible to make the case that all animal foods are dangerous without resorting to cherry-picked data. And I can’t do that and then promote myself as “evidence-based.” Fortunately, it appears that ethics is a more powerful long-term motivator for vegan and vegetarian diets, anyway.

With limited resources, it seems better to focus on efforts that are more likely to create vegans who actually stay vegan. And so however you approach your own activism, consider including the ethics of animal use as at least part of your message.

Hoffman SR, Stallings SF, Bessinger RC, Brooks GT. Differences between health and ethical vegetarians. Strength of conviction, nutrition knowledge, dietary restriction, and duration of adherence. Appetite 2013;65:139-44.

Ogden J, Karim L, Choudry A, Brown K. Understanding successful behaviour change: the role of intentions, attitudes to the target and motivations and the example of diet. Health Educ Res 2007;22:397-405.

Menzies K, Sheeshka J. The process of exiting vegetarianism: an exploratory study. Can J Diet Pract Res 2012;73:163-8.

Dyett PA, Sabate J, Haddad E, Rajaram S, Shavlik D. Vegan lifestyle behaviors: an exploration of congruence with health-related beliefs and assessed health indices. Appetite 2013;67:119-24.

Radnitz C, Beezhold B, DiMatteo J. Investigation of lifestyle choices of individuals following a vegan diet for health and ethical reasons. Appetite 2015;90:31-6.

Rozin P MM, Stoess C. . Moralization and becoming a vegetarian: The transformation of preferences into values and the recruitment of disgust. Psychological Science 1997;8:67-73.

Barr SI, Chapman GE. Perceptions and practices of self-defined current vegetarian, former vegetarian, and nonvegetarian women. J Am Diet Assoc 2002;102:354-60.

Happy Holidays!

First, if you still haven’t figured out the perfect gift for the animal advocate on your list (maybe that’s you!), please check out our book suggestions here.

Second, if you haven’t already, please share our What Came Before video on your Facebook page and with your twitter and other social media followers.

Finally, please check out our December e-News, which introduces you to our new executive director and CEO!