Will Tuttle’s The World Peace Diet
hit number 1 yesterday on Amazon.com. Today, it’s number 11 (Amazon updates hourly), but still, this was a serious feat. I like to research questions to inform my views (and I like data as a general matter). So, I did some quick key word search at Amazon and at Google.
As I understand "best-seller", what that means is that for part of the day yesterday, Will’s book was the best-selling book in Amazon’s catalog. That means his book was more popular (briefly) than Karl Rove’s book, more popular (briefly) than Michael Pollan’s book, Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet (which has also done very well) and about 10,000,000 other books that Amazon sells according to Internet Retailer in terms of sales.
There are 2,621 books that turn up with the search term ‘vegan’ at Amazon.com. That may not seem exorbitant but there only 16,998 that return for "feminism" and only 936 return for "transgender". Not all of these books are about veganism or necessarily pro-vegan (key word searches aren't that reliable). But there are a wide variety of books about veganism available to the market today. The more important question is: who’s making these books financially successful? Who's taking the financial gamble to decide that these books are ready for public purchase?
I don't think it's an enormous but strangely undiscovered continent of vegans. It’s far more likely to be a generally non-vegan public who are curious about these issues and non-vegan publishers who see a clear opportunity to sell books to them. And it’s not just books and people who buy books.
Veganism, animal use, animal rights, and animal liberation figure prominently in North American popular culture. I’m not talking about C-SPAN. I’m talking about prime-time television shows such as Family Guy, The OC, and Bones (among others) on FOX (hardly a network known for its progressive values).
Google returns 14,500,000 returns for the word “vegan”. Not all of those returns will be pro-vegan, but it is obviously a matter of public discussion. For comparison “buffy the vampire slayer” returns 3,370,000 and “everybody loves Raymond” (a show whose popularity I could never figure out) returns 85,000. “Olympics” returns 78,100,000. I wouldn't say there is anything scientific here, but clearly, veganism is in the public sphere.
The truth is, we don't need to keep veganism in the closet, and we don't need antics and sensationalism to draw public attention to veganism. Public attention is already increasingly on us and on the important questions of the ethical nature of our relationship to other animals, the role that animal agriculture plays in environmental destruction and the role that animal foods play in human health.
The public gets it (and if they don't, all the more reason to educate them clearly and consistently). But this raises a serious question about what value antics and sensationalism have, except to draw attention to specific animal welfare brands like HSUS and PeTA to distinguish them in a quickly overcrowding market.
If the public’s ready to hear about veganism, why aren’t animal advocacy groups talking about veganism?
Although not books that promote veganism, the popularity of Michael Pollan’s books and the popularity of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, points to the public desire to think more about their food and their relationship with nonhuman animals generally.
And yet, prominent animal advocacy groups regularly insist that the public is not ready to hear about veganism and doesn’t want to discuss its food choices in ethical terms. Clearly that isn’t the case. The rise of "humane" labeling schemes and “happy” meat makes it quite clear that people are willing not just to have a dialogue about these issues, not just to change their behaviours, but are willing to pay extra to feel better about their choices.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow from this that there are millions and millions of people who are just waiting to go vegan. But surely, they’ll never go vegan unless we ask them to do so, make it clear to them why we think they should and, most important, help them to do so. Education is more than just handing someone a flier or dressing up in a chicken suit.
More important, that’s what makes consistent, non-confrontational and supportive education more necessary than ever. If people don’t understand veganism or abolition, that last thing anyone should do is respond to their questions either with hostility, defensiveness, violent posturing, or with lukewarm indications that "veganism is really difficult but donations are easy!" or that veganism is a personal choice like choosing between Coke and Pepsi.
We can educate clearly and consistently without making people feel bad about themselves. In fact, veganism is terrifically good news for people who want to change their lives for the better, for other animals, for themselves and other human beings (as animals) and for the environment (as the place where animals, including human beings, live). Why not talk to others about it?
Clearly, the public is hungry to learn more about these issues, which raises a serious question: when are animal advocacy organizations going to come out of the single-issue/better treatment closet and promote veganism and abolition? Even with their curiosity, many people are still hesitant to accept that animal use is unnecessary to be healthy, happy, for the environment or other reasons. It’s time (indeed, it is well past time) that every animal advocate start to educate the public that animal use is unnecessary and unjustifiable.
If you’re not vegan yet, did you know it has never been easier to go vegan? There are alternatives in virtually every grocery store in North America, Web sites, discussion forums, books, magazines, videos and more all available to help you make the transition. If you’re not abolitionist, you can learn more about the approach at www.abolitionistapproach.com
or from my previous articles.Vincent J Guihan ~ Animal Emancipation ~ http://weotheranimals.blogspot.com/2010/03/word-peace-diet-hits-1-c....