I had some very pleasing news a couple of days ago – and I’m not the most expressive of people but it really made me leap around inside like I’d just knocked out Floyd Mayweather Junior in the first round. That news? My sister has committed to going vegan.
This was pretty special, and got me thinking about who the best people are to focus on to make the positive move to a vegan lifestyle. You see my sister was always the lowest of low hanging fruit. She is environmentally and socially conscious. She is also very health conscious and always educating herself on nutrition. So how do we go about best spending our time at raising the issues of animal rights whilst hopefully bringing more and more people on board?
The way I see it there is no single answer. Some claim we should only be focusing on the vegan message – just pushing the lifestyle and choices of veganism to anyone and everyone who will listen. Anything less is a waste of time to some. The trouble with this approach is that it can come across to some as pushing your own beliefs on them, and the rewards are few and far between, so on a personal level it can be quite exhausting too. This often goes hand in hand with the abolitionists approach, which can also come across as quite aggressive, and I think can be counter productive to the promotion of veganism and vegans to others.
Having said that, by focusing too heavily on animal welfare issues it can itself send a message that as long as conditions are improved then the use and murder of animals, the mass extinction and depletion of our oceans, is somehow OK and sustainable. It clearly is not.
It is important to have this balance though, as promoting welfare issues moves some of the higher fruit, to continue the metaphor, much lower down and ready for the next discussion of animal rights. Animals Australia are, in my opinion, the most effective organisation at raising awareness and gaining huge public support. They, along with the likes of Animal Liberation, Aussie Pigs, Melbourne and Sydney Pig Save, Fin Free Sydney, The Coalition for the Protection of Racehourses, to name just a few, are bringing so many more people into the discussions around animal rights and starting a thought process which for so many can surely only result in Veganism if followed through. Apart from The Coalition for the Protection of Racehourses, the organisations mentioned are all built on a foundation of Veganism, but engage with so many more open ears by discussing many topics of welfarism.
There is also a case for knowing who you are talking to or aiming your advocacy at, so as to chose the particular ‘selling point’ for the world going Vegan. I only recently watched the amazing Kip Anderson documentary, “Cowspiracy”. I took an interest in the environment from a young age, and if I had seen a documentary like this years ago I’m sure I would have turned to a plant based diet a long time ago. Cowspiracy is definitely one for the environmentalists. It shows not only the science behind the unsustainable industry that is animal agriculture, but also leaves an unsettling feeling about how this information is suppressed to protect the multi-billion dollar industries around the globe. Some of the statistics are mind blowing, and it is a documentary that everybody should watch, perhaps double billed with Sharkwater as an example of the devastation that has and continues to occur in our oceans.
I guess its hard to believe there are people in the world, people we like and love, who we share all aspects of our life with, who simply aren’t interested in animal rights. People who would prefer to continue in blissful ignorance when it comes to the welfare violations happening in our own backyards. But for them there is another angle, and if even then they are still too high up in the tree (again continuing with the fruit metaphor – I’m gonna see it through now) then it is through the gentle nudges they see on their TV or on social media that might encourage them down a few branches. I don’t agree that we should ignore these people and move on. They are not bad people, they are just not ready for a certain message.
Some are ready, and that’s where the pure vegan message, the abolitionist message, is put to great use. I would love to see a study of vegans one day, but from my own interactions most came from vegetarianism and progressed to veganism. I did myself, and for the majority I don’t think it is a process you can be pushed down from. I became vegan when I no longer saw any alternative. Perhaps I should have committed sooner, but once it clicked it was easy. I never once craved eating the flesh of an animal when I gave that up, and in the same way have never missed or desired eggs, milk or cheese.
My own participation in activism is often spreading the welfare message. Live export, factory farming and the protection of our oceans apex predators are perhaps the most urgent issues to me, and when I am participating in demonstrations and rallies I am aware that some people are only hearing part of my opinion on the matter. But that’s OK, because when they are ready to hear the rest of it then me or someone else is ready to tell it. So to be an animal rights activist is also to play the part of an animal welfarist and environmentalist.