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.
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.
Second, 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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