June 18, 2007

The V-Word and Money

Posted in animal advocacy, vegan, veganism at 12:35 pm by nevavegan

I sign on-line petitions. Not the silly ones circulated through email that ask you to tack your name onto the list, but the supposedly well organized ones on the websites of large national organizations. To sign I have to give them my email address so I give them the old address I don’t really use anymore.

Every now and then I log into my old email to check and see if anyone is trying to contact me there, and along with everything else I find lots and lots of emails from large national organizations.

Great. You’d think somewhere in there would be some kind of information of value to me.

But all these emails seem to do is ask me for money. “Hey Neva,” they scream, “help to save polar bears by sending us your tax deductible donation today.”

It isn’t the fundraising I mind, because I know groups need to stay in business, just like everyone else. It’s that all these notices do at all is fundraise.

I never get an email that says “Hey Neva, the best way to save polar bears is to go vegan because animal agriculture is the number one producer of greenhouse gasses. And please send us money so we can keep spreading the word.” I never get one that says “Dear Neva, Are you concerned about whaling? Why not stop eating all sea animals because our oceans are being over-fished and by-catch and pollution are killing whales, dolphins, and every other unique and beautiful species in the ocean.”

Nope. Uh-uh. I get an email saying “Dear Neva, please send us a donation today so we can fight Japanese whaling.”

I just got one that exclaimed “Neva are you worried about cruelty on factory farms?” Finally, I thought. This one will surely tell me, and the thousands of other people on the email list that we should go vegan. No. It told me to send a donation so the group can achieve more victories like getting Burger King to buy meat from more humane sources.

Hello? Anyone out there? When did the word vegan become such a dirty, nasty word that we can’t even say it out loud, we can’t write it, and we can’t promote it at all? Which does more to help the animals: if I send in $25 today, or if I go vegan for the rest of my life?

We aren’t talking about groups that seem that worried in most cases about offending the public. They feel free to exclude other activists from their conferences or they promote their causes with naked people. So it seems that this isn’t a case of trying to get along with everyone. Yet the v-word is somehow more offensive than anything else. More offensive than women in lettuce leaf bikinis. More offensive than displays featuring pictures of the human slave trade next to pictures of animals in factory farms. More offensive than ads mocking a public figure’s cancer. More offensive than capitalizing on sensational crime stories.

I’m offended. I’m vegan. I’m proud that I am. I feel it’s something worth being proud of and telling other people about. Not because I think I’m better than they are, but because if I can go vegan and stick with it (after my rural upbringing and everything else) then anyone can do it. If anything I think I’m weaker than a lot of people, so I tell people about veganism because I’m in full confidence that they can be vegan, and run marathons, and keep doing the 50 billion other things they do. I don’t think I’m offensive, opinions may vary, but whatever…

Anyway, I don’t see how we persuade people to do something or think about something we never ask them to do and don’t ever talk about. Shhhhh. Don’t say the v-word. Somebody might get upset. Let’s just stuff some money in an envelope and after that we’ll put the animals out of our minds until the next fundraising drive, the next envelope.

Heaven forbid we might actually have to make some kind of change in our lives. Better that we should all believe that we can keep doing everything just as we always have and still help the animals and save the planet from global warming.

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7 Comments »

  1. Vivacious Vegan said,

    I get the same emails you do and I always delete them because, like you, I am so angry that the ignore the one simple thing people can do to actually make a difference. I certainly don’t want my $50 donation to go towards humanely farmed beef at Burger King. I want my money to actually make a difference. The problem (and these organizations know it) is that it is so much easier to get people to send in their money than to actually “…be the change they want to see in the world” (Ghandi). People can donate online which makes it easy, quick, and painless. It’s also an ego boost. They can feel good about themselves because they’re now a “wildlife defender” and they didn’t have to spend more than 30 seconds to earn that title. The reality is that Americans have always been looking for the quick fix. They’ll turn to diet pills and surgery before they’ll eat right and exercise. I used to read the emails and solicitations – hoping that I would find some useful information in them. Something tangible. Something doable. But there never is. I ultimately unsubscribed myself.

  2. Don't Get Mad Get Vegan! said,

    I love this post.

    Ironically, I named my blog Don’t Get Mad, Get Vegan because I want to mean that. I want to be the change I want to see in the world instead of just letting it all get me angry…but it’s that frustration that you share with us here that I think I have within myself that constantly drives me to find new ways to do my part to share veganism with those around me in a way that will, hopefully, open their eyes to looking at the world a little differently and even finding that big change maybe isn’t so scary after all.

    I tend not to post about things such as these so that i won’t be called out on just how angry I really am. hehe. I could learn a thing or two from you here. 😉
    thanks so much for sharing this….and so eloquently reminding me that it’s ok to be mad. hell, it’s imperative that i stay a little mad at all times so that i never lose sight of what drives me. that shouldn’t be too hard in this world, eh? 😉

    thanks, neva!

  3. Neva Vegan said,

    Thanks Vivacious Vegan. Yes, exactly! I want to promote veganism. I know it’s easier to send money, but that really doesn’t accomplish nearly as much. Back in the day I wadded up a bunch of $1 bills from my babysitting money, because I lived with my parents and didn’t have a checking account, and mailed it to Peta, and then they sent me all this stuff saying I needed to be vegan and finally the message got through. Now it seems they’ve just given up.

    Thanks Don’t Get Mad, Get Vegan!

    I always loved the name of your blog but I didn’t know the story behind it. I hope I’m not too angry, but yeah, I’m a little mad. It’s just frustrating. We need to keep doing the vegan outreach thing all the time (and blogs like yours are great outreach), and these organizations have huge mailing lists but can’t seem to use them to promote veganism.

    But yeah, when we’re talking to non-vegans it’s probably best to keep a lid on the anger some!

  4. Deb said,

    I even get annoyed when organizations use “vegetarian” instead of “vegan,” and not because they’re promoting anything other than veganism….they just act like veganism is this scary black void, so they’ll use the more socially acceptable vegetarianism. I can sort of see the point, but then I was vegetarian for over 8 years thinking that there was nothing more I needed to do to stay true to my values. I was wrong, which I didn’t realize until I ran across someone saying that vegetarianism wasn’t enough, that we had to be vegan. I could have gone for a long long time not realizing that (I wasn’t doing any kind of reading), and I think that these big and not so big organizations are part of that. As far as I knew (which wasn’t very far) peta was promoting vegetarianism. I was vegetarian, didn’t need to look deeper, right? Yeah.

    I was leafleting on saturday with cok. I like their leaflets on one hand – it is fairly approachable, they give good info without it feeling sensationalist and it isn’t so graphic that I wouldn’t want to put it in the hands of a little kid. But on the other hand, though they have a “easy vegan recipes” pamphlet, which I think is great, they also have “vegetarian starter kit.”

    I’m not explaining it very well, but it seems like even when they are promoting veganism, they soft sell it, which implies to me that they don’t think people can go vegan. Something else I know you’ve talked about before.

    That’s one reason why I use pamphlets from peaceful prairie when I’m doing my own leafleting. I like the way they present things and I like that it is always veganism.

    It isn’t that I can’t see the other organizations point, that some people will be open to vegetarianism and scared away by veganism at first, but I also think we perpetuate that by being afraid to use “vegan,” and it is somewhat misleading, because imo we don’t want people to think that vegetarianism is the end goal.

  5. Neva Vegan said,

    Deb, you make some really good points. When I was vegetarian I thought I was doing a really good thing–if only I’d known that egg production and dairy production are actually worse, and more cruel, than the conditions for animals raised for meat. Once I got the message I became vegan!

    The trouble with using vegetarian instead of vegan is that vegan has a clear definition and more and more people know what that is. Most people believe they know what vegetarian means too, and that it includes eating cheese pizza. Some people muddy the water even more by eating fish but insisting they’re vegetarian. I knew a woman in college who called herself vegetarian but ate chicken. She got really upset when I said “that’s not vegetarian.” She said “it’s a type of vegetarian.” Uggghhh. So at least with vegan you know what you’re talking about.

    PCRM put out a vegetarian starter kit when I worked there and I assume they still do. I don’t know if COK’s is more or less the same or not. I actually never do anything with COK anymore… I’ll have to look and see if they have a copy online that I can look over.

    I feel like there’s this belief that they are working with human psychology by trying to trick people into taking a brochure they would otherwise turn down. When I’ve leafletted for vegan outreach I found most people weren’t even looking at the brochures they took, so I can’t say the word “vegan” was turning people off.

    The trouble is that there have been no conclusive studies to show if people are turned off the word vegan or not. Furthermore, you never know if someone is acting turned off because the word stirs their conscience and reminds them that they do feel something is wrong with how we treat animals. We also don’t know how many people are turned off by the word vegetarian. I’ve certainly had a lot of people say to me “I like animals, but I can’t ever be a vegetarian.” So people may see that as extreme too.

    We also need to think not just in terms of trying to lower things down to the lowest common denominator, but also in terms of reaching those who are open to our message. So if you have a leaflet that is so inoffensive that 500 people take it, but most read it and feel pretty satisfied with what they’re already doing, that doesn’t accomplish much. If you have a leaflet that only 100 people take, but out of those 10 are moved to become vegan and 10 more decide to cut back on animal products, that accomplishes more.

    It’s all interesting stuff. Sean went to the Peta website and said that despite weak mass emails, they still seem to be promoting veganism on the website, so that’s good.

  6. Jessica F. said,

    I have handed out plenty of leaflets which say vegan on the cover with positive results.

    A few years ago, several groups started replacing vegan with vegetarian or veg on their brochures. Although I preferred vegan, I didn’t make a big deal because at least inside the brochures, reasons for not eating dairy and eggs were given. However, whenever I tried to hand out the leaflets, some people wouldn’t take a leaflet and responded, “I’m already vegetarian.” What a missed opportunity!

    When it comes to toning down leaflets we have to differentiate between tailoring our message and sending the wrong message. Sometimes I wonder when organizations toned down their leaflets: is the purpose to trick somebody who wouldn’t ordinarily take a leaflet into taking one or are we activists being tricked into believing we are promoting veganism when we’re really promoting a watered down message?

  7. Rachael said,

    as others have said, its a lot easier to throw $20, $30, $50 at an organization and call yourself an activist than to make a concrete change that requires thought and action and commitment for more than 30 seconds. There is a social stigam attatched to anything considered “radical” and, while caring about the environment or liking animals is normal, taking action that is outside the norm, that makes other people uncomfortable in any way is something people will avoid doing unless their conscience finally gets the better of them. It is frustrating and it is insulting, but I know I am doing what I can and, although other people’s opinions do matter to me, my own morals matter more, so I’ll just keep living by example and telling whoever will listen.


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