Recidivism Part 2: Why Feeling “Normal” Matters

We are reprinting some of Ginny Messina’s insights from her research on veg recidivism. This week, we feature “Why Feeling ‘Normal’ Matters.” Thanks to Ginny for all her research and permission to reprint.

There are other important issues that we all know about—giving support, and especially sympathetic support when people are struggling with their veganism. Our community needs to provide a safe place for people to admit when they have made a mistake or a non-vegan choice. We need to honor effort and intention even when perfection (whatever that means) is elusive, to respect the challenges that some people face, and to let them proceed at their own pace.

But the last thing that I want to talk about actually covers a lot of ground in terms of encouraging a commitment to veganism. It’s the importance of making veganism feel “normal.”

A study from Cornell University titled “Who We Are and How We Eat: A Qualitative Study of Identities in Food Choice,” looked at this issue. The researchers found that many people (these were non-vegetarians) expressed a desire to view their food habits as “normal,” rather than “extreme.” This is important for our advocacy because surveys of ex-vegetarians found that many did not like feeling “conspicuous.”

We vegans eat (and live) in a way that is very different from the rest of the population. For some of us, it’s not a big deal. For those who value feeling normal, it might bring considerable discomfort regarding their vegan lifestyle. We can’t change the desire to be normal, but we can take steps to “normalize” veganism.

One way is to provide more vegan options that mimic usual eating patterns. The food industry has done a remarkable job of this and the choices are getting better and more diverse all of the time. Veggie cheeses and meats are much better today than they were ten years ago. It’s easier to find vegan options in mainstream eateries, too, and this is something that vegan activists should support.

I am frequently chastised for my stance on veggie meats—which is that it’s okay to eat them. Recently, a blog reader told me that they are “junk foods” that are “worse than meat” (as she had learned in an online course on plant-based nutrition).

I understand that avoiding these foods is an important part of some plant-based dietary philosophies. But nutrition isn’t a philosophy; it’s a science. I know of no evidence that a few servings of veggie meats per week will harm your health.

And it’s not just about convenience—although that is a big part of the benefit they bring to vegan diets. Just as importantly, these foods and others may make veganism more socially and psychologically comfortable for some people. They make it feel a little bit more like what some of us grew up with. They allow vegans to eat at restaurants with friends without having to ask the server to create something special for them—something that perhaps makes them feel conspicuous and uncomfortable.

We know that veganism isn’t about us. And a little discomfort on our part shouldn’t be a big deal given what the animals endure every day. But we also need to be realistic. Going vegan presents a huge challenge for many people. It’s not just about learning to like new foods and giving up old favorites. It’s about choosing a path that puts us out of step with much of society. Depending on who you are, where you live, and what your social circles are like, it can be alienating.

What we really want, of course, is for vegan to become the norm, not the fringe. But until that happens, making it look normal might be what is needed to help some people go and stay vegan.

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.

Anger, Humor, and Advocacy


Click for larger. Thanks to B Breathed and Jody Boyman!

Some people have asked how I can make jokes when the animals are suffering so terribly, when I’m supposed to be entirely focused on animal liberation. I believe that having a sense of humor is in the animals’ best interest, because not only does it make our example more appealing, it also aids in avoiding burnout. In the cumulative 40+ years we’ve been active, Anne and I have known hundreds of activists who have given up working for the animals – some of whom have even gone back to eating meat! On the other hand, almost all of the successful long-time activists we’ve known – those who have made a real difference in the world – have a sustaining sense of humor.

As a reaction to what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses, very strong feelings are understandable and entirely justified. But I believe that our inability – individually and as a movement – to deal with our anger in a constructive manner is one of the greatest hindrances to the advancement of animal liberation.

Over time, people tend to deal with their anger in different ways. Some take to protesting, some to screaming, hatred, and sarcasm. Others disconnect from society and surround themselves with only like-minded people, seeing society as a large conspiracy against veganism.

I do not believe either of these reactions help to move society toward being more compassionate.

A different approach is to try to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of humor. This makes it easier to continue in activism, as well as avoid self-righteous fundamentalism. In turn, this makes it possible to interact positively and constructively with others, thus making it more likely they will take steps to help animals.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to gain and maintain a sense of humor. One suggestion is to always remember your ultimate goal. In my case, it is the alleviation of suffering. If I allow myself to be miserable because of the cruelty in the world, I am adding to the suffering in the world. More importantly, I am saying that unless utopia is instantaneously established, it is not even possible to be happy. Thus, my goal is inherently unachievable.

To help build any real and lasting change in the world, we need to convince others to think beyond themselves. We must be willing to do the same. Just as we want others to look beyond the short-term satisfaction of following habits and traditions, we need to move past our anger to effective advocacy – i.e., moving from yelling and chanting and arguing to positive, constructive outreach.

If I believe I can’t be happy – that I am a slave to my situation – how can I expect others to act differently?

It also helps to maintain a historical perspective. I realize I am not the first person to be upset by the state of affairs in the world. I can learn from the mistakes and successes of those who came before me.

Few people come to an enlightened view of the world overnight by themselves. It took me over a year after my first exposure to the issues to go vegetarian, and even longer after that to go vegan. If I had been treated with disgust and anger because of my close-mindedness and (in retrospect) pathetic rationalizations, I would certainly never have gone veg.

My story is not unique. Not only does my journey show the downsides of anger and the benefits of kindness and patience, it also indicates that you shouldn’t give up on friends if they don’t react to information as you would like. Shunning friends because they don’t immediately adopt your vegan views not only cuts you off from the very people we need to reach, it also perpetuates the stereotype of the joyless fanatic with no life other than complaining.

“Fighting” suffering is not the only way to make a better world; creating happiness and joy as part of a thoughtful, compassionate life filled with constructive advocacy can be a far more powerful tool for creating change.

As long as there is conscious life on Earth, there will be suffering. The question we face is what to do with the existence each of us is given. We can choose to add our own fury and misery to the rest, or we can set an example by simultaneously working constructively to alleviate suffering while leading joyous, meaningful, fulfilled lives.

In the end, being an activist doesn’t need to be about deprivation, sobriety, and misery. It’s about being fully aware so as to be fully alive.

-Matt Ball


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)

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

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!

A Global Movement for Farm Animals

November 19, 2013

If you’ve ever had the experience of meeting animal advocates from other cities and states, you know what a good feeling it is. It reminds us that we’re not alone. It reminds us that, while there are factory farms, slaughterhouses, and meat markets in cities all around the country, there are also compassionate people and organizations all over the map, working to improve the world for animals. Realizing that we are part of a larger movement for social change can be empowering, and we can find inspiration in the progress that others are making for animals.

This fall, I had the privilege of traveling around Europe and giving talks on effective vegan advocacy in 15 countries. All told, I was able to speak to more than 2,000 animal activists in 21 cities, sharing research on how to advocate more effectively for farm animals in their communities. From Rome to Vienna, Stockholm to Paris, and London to Basel, it was an incredible opportunity to meet and learn from activists throughout Western Europe. Although we may never hear their names on this side of the Atlantic, there are many incredibly talented and dedicated individuals in Europe who are creating substantial change for animals.

share_3Among the many lasting impressions this trip made on me, here are two well worth sharing.

First, progress for farm animals is occurring everywhere — and very rapidly in some places. In Austria for example, a whopping 17% of college students now say they don’t eat meat. In Finland, a pair of reality TV stars took on a “Meat-Free October” challenge, and more than 25,000 viewers joined them in cutting out meat for the month. In Germany, a vegan supermarket chain is opening up numerous new locations, a vegan celebrity chef pens best-selling cookbooks, and nearly one in 10 Germans say they’ve stopped eating meat. In Belgium, city governments are printing maps of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in their cities and encouraging residents to skip meat one day a week.

Organizations both large and small are conducting undercover investigations of factory farms and bringing mainstream media attention to the cruelty farm animals endure. Grassroots vegan advocacy efforts are also starting to expand, with college leafleting programs launching in several countries and a growing distribution of vegetarian starter guides. Grocery chains and restaurants are adding more options to accommodate the growing demand for vegetarian and vegan food.

Clementine of Farm SanctuarySecond, change is not uniform. The progress that’s been made for farm animals varies significantly from country to country. Certainly that is in part a reflection of the different cultures and culinary heritages of each country. But it’s also a reflection of the work that’s being done (or not done) in each country to protect farm animals and promote vegan eating. In some countries, well-run organizations are cranking out victory after victory for farm animals and veg eating. In other countries, the only organizations that exist are small grassroots groups, many of which do not emphasize farm animal issues. And the results for farm animals are quite clear.

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But the arc does not bend on its own. It takes us — our dedication, our intelligence, and our energy — to bend it in the direction of justice for animals.

We are part of a global movement of compassion. But our success for farm animals here in the United States will depend on how intelligently and rigorously we approach our work. With so many lives on the line, we can’t afford to give anything less than our all.


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Compassionate Campus: The College Guide to Animal Advocacy

October 28, 2013

To view a PDF of this guide, click here. If you are a student, you can order one or more copies by emailing us at


You Can End Her Misery

Over the course of your time at college, you have the power to save the lives and end the misery of literally thousands of individuals.

We’re talking, of course, about helping animals. Rosa (shown at right) spent her entire life packed into a crate so small that she couldn’t even turn around. Every time you choose a meat-free meal, you’re helping animals like her. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’re helping more than 31 farm animals (and many more fish) each year.

Want to know how you can have the biggest impact of all? By inspiring others to make the same change. Persuading just one of your classmates to stop eating meat will spare 31 individuals each year from a life of misery. Even convincing your peers to eat more meat-free meals will spare many animals. There are few other issues – even other animal issues – where we have the ability to do so much good.

And guess what: It’s easy! There are thousands of students around you. Some of them will decide to change their habits if they learn about the cruelties of factory farming and as vegetarian food becomes more available. All you need to do is put the information in front of them.

That’s what this guide is all about. We know you’re busy. And, we also know that you care. This guide can help you use your time, even if it’s limited, to do the greatest amount of good you can and to reduce the greatest amount of suffering.

If you’re associated with a student group that you can work with, great! If not, no problem — all of the tried-and-true programs on the following pages are things you can do by yourself. As Anne Frank said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”


Being The Best You Can Be

In order to present your message effectively, you should pay attention to how you present yourself. Here are some tips on being the best advocate for animals you can be:

1. ABK (Always Be Kind). Be warm, friendly, and considerate. You’re not trying to prove other people wrong; you’re trying to inspire them to join you. You’ll be most successful if they like you — and, if they know that you like them.

2. Hearing about the concrete benefits of a change makes people more likely to adopt it, so let your peers know that each of them can spare 31 animals every year by ditching meat. At the same time, validate gradual changes. Most people change their diets incrementally. Cutting out chicken and fish is the best place to start because doing so will spare the largest number of animals from misery.

3. Try to dress and speak like the majority of your peers on campus. Research covered in the book Change Of Heart indicates that the more similar we are to our audience, the more likely we are to persuade them to change. That means more lives saved. Wearing a school T-shirt or sweatshirt may be one way to do this.

4. Tell stories about individual farm animals and what life is like for them every day on factory farms. (Visit for story ideas.) Emotional appeals are more persuasive than statistics or philosophy.

5. Remember to show people how to find or make delicious vegan food. Many people are willing to make changes if they know how easy it can be.

6. When you’re deciding how to spend your limited amount of time, money, and energy, always think about what will help the greatest number of animals.


Vegetarian Starter Guide Stands

On every campus, there are many students who have considered becoming vegetarian but don’t really know how to do it. Want to make it easier for them and give them the push they need to get started? Consider setting up stands that offer free vegetarian starter guides to anyone who wants them.

Most Student Union or Campus Center buildings already have stands like these that offer newspapers and magazines. Get permission from your school administration to put up a stand of your own. Just tell them that you’d like to set up a guide about healthy vegetarian eating so that students who become vegetarian are well-informed.

In addition to the Student Union, other good spots for these stands are dining halls, libraries, and gyms. Be sure to pick spots that will catch people’s attention. It’s not only the students who pick up guides who will think about choosing more meat-free meals but also people who simply see the information as they pass by it every day.

Once you have permission, all you need to do is to set up the stands and re-stock them with guides about once a month. The stands are cheap; you can get them on sites such as for $30. If you’re not part of a group with a budget, VegFund might be willing to help buy the stands for you. Apply at The vegetarian starter guides are free; just email us at

It takes only an hour or two to get permission and order the stands and about 10 minutes to set them up — then you’re all set! Over the course of the semester, everyone on campus will see the stands and hundreds will pick up a guide and move closer to a cruelty-free diet!

Chris Guinn, Emerson College

“We put a vegetarian starter guide stand up in the Student Center, and it works great! It’s right in the front lobby, so people will see it every time they’re leaving; it’s constantly reminding people about the idea of eating vegetarian. We give out probably 300 vegetarian starter guides every semester, and it’s no work for us at all — all we have to do is re-stock it once or twice.”  


Campus Veg Dining Guide

In addition to the vegetarian starter guide stands, there’s another simple way to show students on your campus how easy it is to eat meat-free meals: create a campus veg dining guide.

Research covered in Change Of Heart indicates that the biggest predictor of whether or not people will make a change is whether they think it’s easy and convenient for them to do so. A campus veg dining guide shows how easy veg eating can be by listing all the options available in the dining halls, campus stores, area restaurants, and grocery stores. Be sure to include all the “regular” vegan options — things like pasta, fries, salads, rice and beans, vegetable stir-fry, and granola bars that typically are already part of people’s diets.

A simple, photocopied booklet will do the trick, and we even have a spiffy Photoshop template we’re happy to send you — just email Many schools will give student groups free photocopies. If you want to make your booklet extra nice, you can get several thousand full-color, glossy copies for a few hundred bucks at sites like

Once you’ve printed the campus veg dining guides, the key is getting them into people’s hands. If you’ve set up vegetarian starter kit stands, you can simply put the guides next to the kits. You can also insert them into any leaflets or vegetarian starter guides you distribute, pass them out to freshmen, leave them in mailboxes at the dorms, and offer them at outreach tables. If your school has a weekly email blast, post them online and include a weekly link.

Just like that, you’ve made becoming or staying vegetarian much easier — and more delicious.

Emily Glassman, Drexel University 

“When I was a freshman, I was worried about finding good vegan and vegetarian options on campus. I know a lot of my meat-eating classmates have the same concerns; they don’t know that there are so many delicious vegan things to eat here. That’s why vegetarian dining guides are really popular — and not just among vegetarians!”


Vegan Options in the Dining Halls

The more delicious vegan options are available, the easier it’ll be for people to cut out meat. Some campus dining halls do a great job of providing vegan options. Others still have room to grow.

If your school falls into the latter category, you can meet with your campus dining director and encourage him or her to add more (or better) vegan options. Sometimes, all it takes is a few friendly visits, emails, and suggestions to get them excited about trying something new. Be warm and cheerful, and pitch this as a positive change that a broad range of students, not just vegans and vegetarians, will appreciate.

Ask for crowd-pleasing vegan dishes like veggie burgers and bean burritos — things that everyone will enjoy, even people who don’t know the dishes are vegan. Dairy-free macaroni and cheese may be mouthwatering to vegans, but it could be a turn-off for others.

Does your school already have tons of great vegan options? Consider meeting with your dining director to encourage participation in the Meatless Monday campaign. Hundreds of college dining halls already take part in the program. These dining services don’t go entirely meatless on Mondays, but they do offer additional vegan options and put up signs touting the benefits of meat-free eating.

Ready to get started? You can download a free Meatless Monday toolkit and get help on your campus by visiting

Jamie Berger, University of North Carolina

“We worked with our Dining Services department to get them to start a Meatless Monday program on campus, where they offer additional vegetarian options every Monday and put up signs promoting meatless eating. Once we were able to show the dining director how many students are interested in having vegan food available, he was willing to make the switch!”



Passing out booklets about factory farming and vegan eating is an easy and powerful way to help animals. The findings of a 2012 study conducted at the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware, paired with additional statistics, indicate that, on average, every two booklets handed out on a college campus will lead to dietary changes that spare one animal from a life of misery. Talk about having an impact!

And it’s super easy. All you have to do is find a narrow walkway on campus with a lot of foot traffic, put a big smile on your face, and reach out your hand to everyone passing by to offer them “info to help animals!” In just an hour or two, you can reach hundreds of other students with this powerful information. On most campuses, you don’t even need to get permission first.

Keep in mind that not everyone will care about this issue. Nine out of 10 people will flip quickly through the booklet and then go on with their lives. That’s okay. As long as you’re friendly and don’t force leaflets on people, they won’t mind you offering them. What matters is that one out of 10 people will be inspired to make some sort of change, and that will spare a huge number of animals from misery.

Ready to get started? The website provides free leaflets. You can also get free leaflets from Farm Sanctuary by emailing For more detailed tips and strategies on how to leaflet, visit

Gunita Singh, Boston University

“Leafleting is one of the most effective things our group does. We’re able to reach several thousand people every semester, and a number of other students have told me they went vegetarian because of getting a booklet from us. One of the things I like most about it is how easy it is — I can do it whenever I am free, even if it’s just for an hour around lunchtime.”


Dining Hall Tabling

Research covered in the book Change Of Heart indicates that the main reason people resist change is that they’ve settled into a routine. You can help your peers out of their meat-every-meal rut by setting up a table outside your dining hall every Monday during lunch and/or dinner to promote Meatless Monday.

The Meatless Monday campaign is sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This nonprofit initiative provides excellent promotional materials that focus on health, environmental, and animal welfare reasons to cut out meat on Mondays.

Simply set up the table with Meatless Monday literature and posters (order a starter supply at, pass out vegetarian starter guides, and make sure you have a sheet that lists the meatless options that are available in the dining hall that day.

If you’re out there every Monday and your school has a weekly email blast, be sure to add a weekly blurb encouraging students to stop by your table. That will keep the idea of meatless eating in front of the entire campus every single week.

If you want to really do it right, work with your dining hall to supply you with free samples of a few of the items that they’re spotlighting on Meatless Mondays, so you can pass these out at your table to students who are about to enter the cafeteria.

Remember, every meatless meal is a victory for farm animals.

Constance Li, Rutgers University

“We table every Monday to let students know about the vegan options inside. We also stock the table with things like free vegetarian starter guides and that might help people change their diets. Of course, we talk to the people who come up to the table, but I also like to stand next to the table and leaflet to reach people who don’t stop by.”

Pay Per View

Why not add a video to your tabling outreach?

Footage of the cruelty inflicted on farm animals is one of the most powerful tools we have for persuading people to change their diets. At Farm Sanctuary, we hear from thousands of people each year who have become vegetarian or cut back on their meat consumption after seeing these videos.

How can you get students at your school to watch these high-impact videos?

Pay Per View is a program where you set up a table in your Student Center (or other high-traffic spot) and offer people $1 to watch a four-minute video. The viewings not only have a profound impact on their own but they also give you the opportunity to hand out vegetarian starter guides and other materials for viewers to take with them afterward. One of the other great aspects of Pay Per View is that it provokes questions about vegan eating and factory farming — and you’ll be right there to provide information and resources to anyone who wants to know more.

Setting up Pay Per View is as easy as having a table with a few laptops, headphones, a sign, and some vegetarian literature. And the organization VegFund is likely to give you grant money to provide the $1 to each viewer, as well as signs, literature, and funds for supplies.

To learn more and apply for a grant, visit

Kelly Kearney, Boston University

“I didn’t know how much of an impact Pay Per View would have until I started doing it, and I saw the looks on the faces of other students as they watched the video. Some of them were in tears. Pretty much all of them were shocked by how animals are treated, and many of them asked about how to go vegetarian or at least start eating less meat. Pay Per View is really powerful.”


Getting Campus Press

Studies covered in the book Change Of Heart show that the more popular or widespread a practice appears to an audience, the more likely that audience is to adopt the practice. Campus newspapers are a great way to reach students with a stream of articles, opinion pieces, and letters to the editor about vegetarian eating. As long as they’re written in an upbeat, welcoming way, published pieces can go a long way toward showing that veg eating is now mainstream.

Your college paper is almost certainly hungry for news stories, opinion pieces, and letters. Any article about the environment, food, health, or animals gives you the opportunity to draft a short, positive letter or opinion piece about why cutting out meat is a great thing to do.

It’s extremely easy to publish letters to the editor. Most college papers also welcome longer opinion pieces. Visit your paper’s website or reach out to the editor or opinion editor via email to find out the process for submitting opinion pieces or stories.

When possible, try to tie an opinion piece about veg eating to something going on in the world. This could be a social or political issue (such as the Farm Bill or climate change), or it could be an on-campus event (such as an Earth Day celebration). Consider trying to become a frequent contributor so that you can present information on veg issues regularly.

Also, be sure to let the paper know about any work for animals you’re doing on campus. Whether it’s putting up vegetarian starter guide stands, hosting a speaker, or pushing for more vegan options, keep the paper updated in case its staff is interested in writing a story about it.

Ben Sylvester, Drexel University

“Over the past year, we’ve been able to get several stories published in our campus paper about speakers and events we’ve hosted. We’ve also gotten a few good opinion pieces in there on the reasons to go vegetarian and the impact of factory farming. I spend so much time writing papers for class that it’s nice to be able to write something in an hour that the entire school will see!” 


Filming Screenings and Speakers

In our experience, most film screening and speaker events are high cost and have a fairly low return with regard to their impact on animals. First, they take a lot of time and energy. Second, with rare exceptions, attendance tends to be low and dominated by people who already agree with the message being presented.

If you’re going to sponsor speakers and films, try to: 1) find speakers and films that will appeal to a specific segment of the campus population (for example, bring in a feminist or faith-based speaker and ask the appropriate campus groups to co-sponsor); then 2) secure co-sponsorships from other interested groups and work with those groups to promote the event; and 3) have the event listed in the campus paper and on the campus “happening today” agenda of your college’s website.

Also, be absolutely sure to: 1) pass out literature to everyone who attends the event and 2) assign someone in your group to submit an article to your campus paper about the event afterward. The latter will ensure that the message of your event reaches the entire campus, not just the individuals who made time to attend.

Some campuses require attendance at six to 10 on-campus events annually. If you can work with the appropriate committee to get your speaker or film included as one of the approved events, you’ll increase both your numbers and the proportion of your attendees who don’t already agree with you.

Rachel Atcheson, Boston University

“We teamed up with the Philosophy Department at our school to bring in a well-known philosopher who talks about factory farming and vegan eating. It was a great way to get dozens of philosophy students — who didn’t necessarily care about animals before coming — to be exposed to this information and the ethical reasons to stop eating meat.”


We’re Here To Help

We’re always here to provide advice, support, and materials such as leaflets and vegetarian starter guides. Email us at if we can be of help.

Want to continue learning online? Browse the Compassionate Communities website for the most important essays, books, and videos on how to be an effective advocate for animals.

On behalf of all of the residents here at Farm Sanctuary, thank you! You have the power to spare thousands of individuals from misery.



Photo Credits: piglet, © Mercy For Animals; meatless mondays dining, © Mark Makela / for the HSUS; pay per view, © Mercy For Animals; goat, © Jo-Anne McArthur.

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Bringing Compassion To Your Corner

July 31, 2013

If you live in a large or mid-sized city, no doubt you’ve seen the plastic newsstand racks that dot many corners, public transportation stations, and areas with high foot-traffic. While most of these stands offer things like weekly newspapers, auto trader guides, and apartment listings, they have the potential to spread something far more valuable: compassion for farm animals.

veg starter kit standIn cities across the United States, vegan advocacy organizations and volunteers are maintaining hundreds of newsstand racks offering free vegetarian starter guides to passersby. Some dedicated Farm Sanctuary volunteers have been maintaining stands in their communities for years. Each vegetarian starter guide gives the recipient everything they need to start a cruelty-free diet including: information about factory farming and farm animals, tips on making the switch to vegan eating, health advice, recipes, and more.

In busy areas — such as subway stations or bus terminals  — a stand can distribute as many as a couple thousand vegetarian starter guides each year. And the stands take only a small amount of work to maintain. You simply stop by to refill the stand every three to four weeks. Day and night, the stands work on their own, promoting a message of compassion for farm animals and steering countless people toward vegan eating.

VSKYou can also move the compassion indoors by setting up an indoor vegetarian starter guide stand at your local business, college, or other similar location. Indoor stands are inexpensive and are perfect for college students or college groups to put up in dining halls and other key buildings on campus.

Interested in purchasing and maintaining a vegetarian starter guide stand (or stands) in your town? If so, please email us at for details on how you can do it! Please note that because Farm Sanctuary is unable to give stands away for free, there is a cost to you of about $50 to produce and ship an indoor stand and $160 to produce and ship an outdoor stand. If you’re placing them outside, we’ll work with you to find out the specific regulations on these stands in your town (such as where they can be placed, or if you need to get permission before placing them).


Interested in bringing compassion to your street corners? Just drop us an email at, and we’ll help you get started!


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Compassionate Communities: Bringing Sanctuary to the People

By Nick Cooney

June 6, 2013

Back in 2003, I interned at Farm Sanctuary’s shelter in Watkins Glen. Of all the animals I met during that time, my favorite was a piglet named Bella Maria.

Due to health problems, Bella Maria lived in an individual pen in the shelter’s hospital building. Because she didn’t have any pig friends, I’d make it a point to spend fifteen minutes with her every day, giving her belly rubs and scratching between her ears. It became such a routine that when I’d arrive and call out her name, she would immediately start grunting excitedly and running in circles in anticipation. Bella Maria was someone to me — someone funny, lovable, and fiercely alive.

2010_06-18_FSNY_Symphony_hen_005_by ErinAt Farm Sanctuary, we get to know farm animals as individuals. But most Americans don’t get that chance. Many are unaware of Farm Sanctuary or unable to visit one of our shelters. Few have even met a farm animal face-to-face. To the majority of Americans, a pig is a just a slab of bacon: not a someone but a something.

But we can change that. We can bring the sanctuary to the people. Since the 1980s, Farm Sanctuary has worked to shift the public toward a vegan diet by disseminating photos and videos of the cruelty of factory farming and by telling the stories of our sanctuary residents.

In 2011, I returned to Farm Sanctuary to manage the newly launched Compassionate Communities Campaign, created to expand on that tradition of outreach. This project and its volunteers have already brought the sanctuary to the people in a big way. In the past year and a half, nearly 1.4 million people have watched a well-packaged video or read a stylish booklet that shares the stories of Farm Sanctuary’s residents and exposes the cruelty of factory farming.

What Came Before screenshot

1.4 million people have seen or read the heartwarming stories of Nikki, Symphony, and Fanny, three charismatic Farm Sanctuary residents. 1.4 million people have learned about the cruelty these individuals endured on factory farms, and they’ve learned that they can prevent that cruelty by leaving animals off their plates.

What Came Before, our 10-minute video narrated by actor Steve-O, made waves after CNN aired a news segment on it. The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, The Huffington Post, and dozens of other news outlets followed suit. Celebrities from Newark Mayor Cory Booker to NHL star Georges Laraque tweeted the video to millions of followers. In the past six months, nearly a million people have watched What Came Before online.

Meanwhile Something Better, our 16-page booklet, has been distributed across the country by hundreds of Farm Sanctuary volunteers. The results of a study conducted by Farm Sanctuary and The Humane League on two university campuses this past fall suggest that, for every two booklets distributed, one fewer animal will be subjected to a lifetime of misery on a factory farm (see our previous blog post for the details). Volunteers distributed more than over 400,000 booklets in the past year and a half.


A decade ago, I had the opportunity to know a special pig as the individual she was. Now millions of others are getting the chance to meet and understand individual farm animals as those of you involved with Compassionate Communities help to introduce the public to the delightful residents of Farm Sanctuary and to the importance of plant-based living. In the process, we’re sparing hundreds of thousands more Nikkis, Symphonys, and Fannys from lives of pain.

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