Science and a little practical common sense can mainstream vegan values and actions
In my first three posts in this series on Animal Outlook’s four programs, I talked about specific strategies and tactics to move us beyond factory farming and into a world where people feel empowered by the knowledge of what’s happening to animals and how they can be part of the solution. I saved our fourth program for last — outreach and education to move vegan values into the mainstream. This is because this raises the biggest and most important questions for all of us. These are the questions that flummox and frustrate even the most seasoned advocates. All of us have asked at some point in our lives, whether it is about advocacy or not: “Why aren’t people seeing this the way I do? How can I just convince them to agree with me?”
Reframing the problem
The answer starts with a reframing of the problem. Our jobs as advocates are not to simply fill people up with the contents of our minds, like they are empty vessels. We need to come from a place of respect, to truly listen to where others are coming from. We must understand what’s important to them and what motivates, excites, and challenges them.
We need a baseline level of humility and openness to begin our conversations. Our objective when connecting with others is not to drag them to the finish line with us, but to gain a mutual understanding. This is both common sense and a vital place to start.
Behavioral science and other social sciences tell us that there are a finite set of things people need, depending on where they are on an issue. Science also suggests that facts alone are not enough. It is important for people to know the truth and to have access to the truth – certainly we should be bold with our communication of the facts. However, more is needed to move large numbers of people across the finish line into living vegan values. The same is true for caring about animals and sharing those compassionate values: that alone is not enough. In fact, most people do care about animals, a lot. This science tells us that we must have the right kinds of conversations with the right audiences.
For example, on the question of motivation to change behavior, one of the best audiences we can engage with are people interested in making the switch to vegan eating but are not motivated to do so on their own. These people are happy to join a friend or partner in sharing a vegan meal but are not quite there yet when it comes to finding that motivation to do that on their own the rest of the time. There are a lot of these people, and the most important thing they need is a sense of community.
The power of community
With community comes positive encouragement and celebration, and our outreach campaigns, including DCVegFest and VegWeek, provide exactly that. In years where we can gather in person, we run DCVegFest, which gives a real-life sense of community, in the nation’s capital, with thousands of individual voices and perspectives coming together to celebrate vegan eating. VegWeek is a simple campaign that attracts thousands of people each year from all walks of life who commit to going vegan for one week. In return, we provide a virtual community — thousands of people all making that commitment together. This includes high profile athletes, public figures and celebrities, which enhances the positive feeling, but the heart of the campaign is that sense of solidarity with other regular people making that commitment together. Even during this pandemic, we are able to build community through connections and conversations virtually with social media. Significantly, thousands of people each year commit to staying veg after this kind of community experience.
Reaching out to others to help them live in alignment with their values and help animals is one of the most important and challenging things we do as advocates. All it takes is an intentional shift in our mindset and some guidance from science along the way.
Spotlight Series (4 of 4)
|Spotlight on Undercover Investigations||Spotlight on Legal Advocacy||Spotlight on Corporate Engagement||Spotlight on Vegan Outreach|
As Executive Director of Animal Outlook, a national nonprofit animal protection organization, Cheryl is responsible for development and oversight of investigations, litigation and policy, and effecting mainstream corporate and cultural change to shift away from animal products and reduce the suffering of farmed animals.
Cheryl and her work have been featured in media outlets including NPR, The Washington Post and many others. She is a regular speaker at law schools and conferences.
Cheryl received a J.D. from UCLA School of Law and a B.A. from the University of Chicago in Environmental Studies. She is a member of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and California bars and is based in Los Angeles.