When I was a child, I learned that creating a fire was an equilateral triangle—you need fuel, air, and heat to cause fire. Take away any of these, and the fire dies or simply won’t start.
A similar approach can be taken to vegan activism—three prongs to use when trying to convince people to reduce or (preferably) eliminate their consumption of animal products. First, we remind people of the animal cruelty inherent in all animal foods, especially eggs and dairy products. Second, we remind them of the environmental devastation caused by animal industry. And third, we show them just how delicious vegan food can be.
There’s no denying animal industry is cruel. Recent reports of appalling conditions and horrific abuse going on in slaughterhouses has been reported in the mainstream media. Even the conditions in which animals are raised have gotten some press. Many people don’t like to think of the animals on their plate suffering unnecessarily, which is why they go for less cruelly produced (often referred to as “humane”) meats and cage-free eggs. Part of the vegan activist’s job is to politely inform them that there really is no such thing as “humane” meat and most free-range labeling is nothing short of greenwashing. The only truly humane solution is to leave the animal products off one’s plate.
There is also the environmental aspect. This is just starting to get noticed among activists fighting global warming. Granted, going vegan is not the only thing one can do to help the Earth, but it’s certainly the biggest. The UN reported that animal industry contributes more greenhouse gases than all the transportation in the world, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that runoff from factory farms causes more pollution than all other industrial sources combined. Yes, it’s great to look for alternative and renewable forms of energy; yes, it’s great to use compact fluorescent bulbs (in spite of the mercury); yes it’s great to bring your own bags to the grocery store; yes, it’s great that you reduce, reuse, recycle; and yes, it’s wonderful to try to buy local foods. But nothing will do more to help our planet than cutting meat from your diet.
Of course, none of your activism will do any good if people think their diet is going to be dull, and this is where the third aspect comes in: Showing people that vegan food is AWESOME. Feeding people delicious food shows them that being vegan doesn’t mean eating just lettuce and tofu. In Carol J. Adams’ Living Among Meat Eaters, one person relates how she slowly convinced a die-hard meat eater with whom she worked to go vegan, first by the delicious-looking food she brought, the extra she brought for him because he had been asking to try her food, and then pamphlets she gave him when he finally was ready for the message about animal cruelty.
When my mom visited me in December for a very short weekend, she confessed to having gobbled a hot dog in the airport, knowing she wasn’t going to get any meat while she was up here in Washington, DC (it was barely 36 hours, Mom!). I took her to Java Green for their weekly vegan brunch on Saturday, which she enjoyed. Later that evening was a fund-raising event for Compassion Over Killing, a locally based vegan advocacy group. There was plenty of vegan food on hand from many local restaurants. My mom was so impressed by the food she decided to go vegan one day a week. It’s not much, but it’s three fewer meals at which she eats animal foods. And she sometimes visits a local vegetarian restaurant even on her meat-eating days.
You may notice that health is not listed. While stats show that vegetarians and vegans have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other so-called diseases of affluence, it doesn’t mean one won’t develop one of them. And many people—both veg*an and omnivore—don’t always eat right. It’s a “can be” not a “definitely will be,” and I know I’m not the healthiest person in the world, so I don’t mention it unless someone asks.
But by mentioning the animals (gently), the environment, and the delicious foods one can have as a vegan, you can form a strong basis for convincing people to leave animal foods out of one’s diet, even if it is only on a part-time basis.