Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

In my former life in the car business I was responsible for, among other things, ordering all of the new cars to stock the inventory of the dealerships where I worked.  At one such dealership, shortly after I began my employment there, I reviewed the current inventory, as well as all of the choices available from the manufacturer, in order to decide which models, with which combinations of color and equipment, I should order. I noticed right away we didn’t have any orange cars, so I asked the sales staff, who had been long at the dealership prior to my arrival, why that was. The answer was, orange cars don’t sell. When pressed, however, the staff had to admit the reason they didn’t sell any orange cars was because they never had any orange cars to sell in the first place. The reason they didn’t have any orange cars in the first place was because no-one at that dealership thought orange would sell.  Sort of a viscous circle, I thought.

I’ve always reasoned that the folks who manufacture cars spend significantly more time and money determining which color cars will appeal to the most people, and I’ve always doubted any car maker would waste their money painting cars that wouldn’t sell. It’s true, of course, everybody makes mistakes, and car manufacturers can’t be an exception to that rule, but odds are, all other things being equal, car makers know better than anybody else what their customers are likely to want. So, I ordered some orange cars.

And we sold every one of them.

It’s too easy when dealing with the buying public to assume that the things which appeal to us are the things which will appeal to them. The sales staff at the dealership didn’t like orange cars, so they assumed no-one else would either. But the sales staff at the dealership wasn’t buying any of the cars, regardless of what color they might have been, so what they liked or didn’t like was irrelevant. All that mattered was what the customers liked, what the customers wanted, they were ones who would be buying orange cars.

But this post is entitled “Orange Cars and Advocacy” so now here’s the advocacy part:

In his online interview at ARZone on Feb 12, 2001, Matt Ball, of Vegan Outreach, was asked what “vegan” meant to him. Here’s part of his response:

“I haven’t thought about it in years. As I mentioned in reply to, I think, one of your questions, my opinions / definitions are irrelevant. I will never eat animals again so I’m not in a position to save any animals. Only current meat-eaters are. So I spend my time studying psychology, sociology, etc.”

Now before we criticize Matt about his reference to other animals solely in the context of diet, and before we argue the point about what it means to “save” those who are currently being exploited, we should remember who Matt’s customers are, and what it is he’s trying to sell them. Matt’s customers are not other animal advocates or other vegans. So, in terms of what he is trying to sell, their likes and dislikes are as irrelevant as are those of car salesperson when it comes to orange cars. Matt is trying to sell non-vegans (i.e. current meat-eaters) on the idea of not eating other animals. So it is only their likes and dislikes, their wants and needs, he should consider.

As advocates, we might want to shout “Go Vegan” as loudly and as often as we can (I know I do!). We might want to always make a case for other animals based solely on our appreciation of their moral rights. But just like car salespeople who will not make the sale without putting the wants and desires of the customer first, we aren’t likely to win the hearts and minds of others if what we put first is what’s most important to us. What’s important to us simply doesn’t matter, we aren’t the ones who will be buying into the message.

Some people, as odd as it might sound, really do like orange cars. Who are we to say what they should be driving?  Some people, perhaps many, won’t, at first, “buy” the animal rights argument for veganism. What does that matter if, in the end, they buy AN argument for veganism? I’ll not give up my convictions about the moral rights of nonhuman individuals, but I already have those convictions. The task at hand is to end the exploitation of others. No arguments consistent with that goal ought to be discarded.

One more lesson from the car lot. Once a person becomes a customer, when their experience of ownership matches the promises the salesperson has made to them, they are likely to be customers for a long, long time. They are likely to refer their friends and family as well. Whatever I think about orange cars, if selling one would get me a customer for life, I would gladly sell one every day.

Are you trying to sell only the things you like, or are you helping people to buy what they actually need?

Go vegan.

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