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Winning Hearts & Minds

We all seek to end the use of animals for food. That will come about largely through growing popularity of plant-based meat and milk products. However, we can all help speed up that process through personal and online vegan advocacy. Let’s explore the options.

Social Frames

Social frames are at the root of all advocacy. These are the mental lenses through which we perceive the world around us, so we don’t have to question everything we hear and see. They help us interpret and accept all communications. They are shaped by our social and personal norms, including our experiences, stories, and stereotypes.

Effective advocacy requires that both message and messenger fit within the audience’s frames by being credible and likable, or at least compatible, with what the audience already feels and believes.

Here are some ways to be credible:

  • For the message: similar to what the audience knows, from a trusted source, logical, accurate, or based on personal experience
  • For the messenger: scientific credentials, quoting an authority, reporting on personal experience, introduction by respected member of the audience, no personal gain, use of a podium/microphone

And some ways to be likable:

  • For the message: similar to what the audience knows, appealing to audience’s fears and desires, evocative of imagery, based on personal stories,
  • For the messenger: similar (dress, ethnicity, geography, gender, profession), friendly, sincere, good-humored

If the audience is general or unknown, we can still use these universal commonalities for positioning ourselves within their frames: opposition to animal cruelty, promoting healthy foods, reducing global warming, making the world a better place.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Advocates

Here are seven highly effective habits in any advocacy:

  1. The prospect must want to learn, perhaps as consequence of some dramatic personal event, like watching a slaughterhouse video, losing an animal companion, an illness
  2. The occasion must be right – not in the middle of dinner, a sports event, a noisy environment
  3. The advocate must be credible and likable
  4. The message must be credible and likable
  5. The prospect must acknowledge receipt of the message, perhaps by recounting its core
  6. The prospect must make some commitment to a change
  7. The prospect must receive some weeks of discrete, friendly support

This may be illustrated by a program we ran for nearly a decade called 10 Billion Lives.

We would bring kiosks equipped with video screens and headphones to college campuses and rock concerts and offer people $1 to watch a four-minute video, to give us their email address, to pledge a self-selected number of vegan days per week, and to get debriefed by one of our field staff.

That dollar and the video provided the motive. The occasion was idle time between classes or before the bands got going. Our staff was selected to look and act like our prospects. Receipt of the message was confirmed during the debriefing, and the commitment was in the pledge. We supported each pledge through weekly emails about food shopping, eating out, and dealing with family and friends.

Online Advocacy

Online outreach remains one of the most promising and least explored tools of vegan advocacy. Thus far, we have limited our attempts to posting a video on our respective websites and asking viewers to request literature. That’s not enough.

Facebook’s option of creating “custom audiences” allows us to show successively more engaging videos to a shrinking, but more committed audience, eventually ready to make a vegan pledge. We could start with several millions who watched a puppy play with a piglet and end up with several thousands willing to watch a video with the intensity of our “10 Billion Lives” (still on YouTube).

Vegan Support

Most of us have heard someone share that they had been a vegetarian or vegan “once.” The most likely reason for this recidivism is lack of social support. People just get tired of having to justify their diet to others on social occasions. With the growing popularity of plant-based meat and milk products, this problem should gradually fade away.

One program with a strong focus on vegan support is Israel’s Challenge 22. Here, new vegans, few hundred at a time, are assigned to a closed Facebook group that is monitored by a vegan chef, a nutritionist, and an expert on social relations. Each day, for 22 days, they are assigned a challenge – exploring plant-based meats in their supermarket, checking out vegan offerings in their local restaurants, or taking a friend to vegan dinner. Each day, they report to the group on their challenge and get their questions answered.

The Challenge of Changing Habits

Conclusive documentation of the link between smoking and lung cancer was published in 1952. Since then, health authorities have tried in vain to curb smoking through standard advertising techniques of appealing to smoker’s beliefs and feelings. They published official health warnings, required graphic images on cigarette packages, banned tobacco advertising, and raised excise taxes, all to no avail. What finally worked was turning smoking into an anti-social activity through gradual isolation and eventual eviction of smokers from airliners, restaurants, schools, and other public accommodations.

The anti-smoking campaign experience helps to explain why our appeals to compassion and repeated documentation of the devastating health effects of animal food consumption have not had a more substantial impact. Changing popular habits requires a reform of our social norms. That will come about through the growing popularity of plant-based meat and milk products.

 

In the next blog entry, we will address the power of language and rhetoric.

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36 thoughts on “The Vegan Blog”

  1. We have learned nothing, but I see a glimmer of hope in this next generation. There’s more love and willingness to care… Maybe I’m dreaming; naive; or surrounded by ‘nice’ young people, but it’s heartening. Thank you for everything you have done to keep those souls safe and loved πŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’šβœŒοΈπŸ’•
    Alison,
    Co, Antrim
    N. Ireland

  2. Amazing post. Some people are shocked at the comparison between the Holocaust and what humans do to animals, but this is just speciesism. They feel that comparing human and animal suffering somehow discredits or diminishes human suffering, because they believe animals are lower than humans. Thank you Alex Herscaft for making this important point and hopefully the no vegan majority will see the truth soon. Peace and Love
    Emily

  3. Thank you. I often reference the holocaust in my animal activism and now here are your world changing words to back me up. Thank you thank you. Blessings.

  4. Dear Alex,

    I am moved and humbled by your experience as a young child and the journey it has taken you on. I am finding it hard to put in to words my gratitude that you have been able to find a positive trajectory for the suffering, pain and loss of life among your loved ones, not to mention countless others.

    I am only months in to living a more compassionate life. Vegan eating has been an easy conversion for me and my only regret is having not done it sooner. I have often been saddened by peoples’ lack of empathy towards fellow humans and found it hard as a child to understand racism. Little did I know I was implicitly being taught that oppression (in its’ many forms) was ok. I guess it has never sat well with me, but until only recently the connection between eating animals, animal cruelty and our oppression of people, has eluded me.

    Thank you for giving voice to such a big topic and sharing your experience. I look forward to reading more from you.

    Sincerely, Cyntra

  5. I was never in a camp. But I recognized oppression, and resolved to stop eating meat many years ago. Interestingly enough my own mother tried to guilt me about my decision. And she was raised on a farm.
    So thank you. I firmly believe that you cannot say you love animals and continue to eat meat…it’s more appropriate to say you love certain animals and hate the rest.
    And if you eat meat, you are harming the climate. That’s a proven fact. So thank you sir for your convictions. They are entirely correct.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have been a vegetarian since I was a child and a vegan for ten years.
    It is so refreshing to read that others see how this evil, everyday like slaughter, slavery and torture is acceptable if someone else does it for you

  7. Thank you very much for this website, for this clear message.
    I am from Slovakia, and I woul like to make translations of your blog posts, so people, who do not speak English, can read your important thoughts, if it is ok with you.
    I never heard thoughts about our beloved animal toys in our childhood opposing the teaching, that animals are food. I is very strong image of our internal incoherency.
    Thank you. I is honor to read your kind words!

  8. It’s awesome to become acquainted with a four-decade Vegan. I will keenly anticipate your periodic sharing of wisdom and advice

  9. Thank you. Sir for your incredible insight…
    World must start to understand that
    Savagery is. Savagery… no matter the species πŸ™

  10. This Text was verry emotional and show the same Violence to animals in high level how the Violence to jewish people before many years ago. Changes was only the Spezies,the cruelty ist the same and so unnessesary!!! Love all beeings is our learning Prozess! I fight for every Animal!πŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺ✌️I’m a vegan.❣️

  11. Thank you very, very much for calling on your family’s tragic experience, and that suffered by so many others, to advocate for fairness and compassion for all sentient beings. When will the world learn? “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards ALL.”

  12. This was the first time I heard of you. I’m already vegan , 3 years only unfortunately.
    I wish you can reach more and more people , your words are so powerful. I wish you health and happiness and that many people will hear you out

  13. Alex, I’m so grateful that you are still so active in fighting for the animals! Keep it up as there is still too much work to do. We are fighting against our own government which subsidizes the animal industry!

  14. What an excellent piece of writing to defend animal farming industry πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½ I’ve just shared it in Facebook

  15. Dear Alex, dear, dear man! I have for many years referred to the killing of these precious beings we share our Earth with as another holocaust! It has always saddened & sickened me. I am forever grateful for the work you do to try and bring awareness, awakening to the human species about what is REALLY going on!!! There are many times I cannot even leave my home for fear of what I might see! I pray and oh I do so hope one day this horrifically heinous treatment of these beloved beings, the innocents indeed will end! …. Thank you!

  16. Thank you for your kind comments.
    Additional information and lessons from the Holocaust about our oppression of animals are available on our website at https://never-again.org.
    The video of a speech I delivered before 2,000 vegan activists in England on August 31st may be viewed on the FARM Facebook page or YouTube channel.

  17. Thank you for the content of this piece, nicely written with lots of great historical information. (I wanted to re post it but I’m an aesthete and cant bring myself to post the cartoon pig logo)

  18. Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just
    wanted to give a quick shout out and say I really enjoy reading through your articles.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects?
    Thanks!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I am not aware of anything comparable. That’s why I was motivated to start this blog.

  19. Good question. Much of what I write about is material that I have given a lot of thought to or actually written about. Beyond that, when a thought strikes me, I put it down, name the topic, and file it. So, a lot of my writing is more a matter of rescuing these files, organizing the content in some meaningful fashion, and filling in the gaps, rather than generating new ideas.

    1. I hope to eventually, once the blog has become more established and assuming that the author is someone whose expertise and opinion I respect.

  20. This is a great reminder of how far we have come. Sometimes it seems as if we have stalled and that there is no way to reach the 8 billion people on this planet.

    But comparing the progress over the past four decades does reveal a real move forward. I can remember the day when wanting a veggie burger meant boiling lentils or soaking beans to start with!

  21. Thank you for this stunning, informative perspective that most people never consider. After going vegan in July 2014 I had a gut-punch realization that we do not live in a civilized society. The atrocities against nonhuman sentient beings remains hidden, justified with baseless rationalizations, or dismissed. The comparison to the holocaust has been controversial mostly because of this indoctrinated, false belief of human superiority. Equally tragic is the suffering people cause each other.

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