Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Nick Cooney's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Nick Cooney’s Live ARZone Guest Chat

20 August 2011

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK Time

21 August 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 

 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome Nick Cooney as today’s ARZone Chat Guest.

 

Nick Cooney is the author of “Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change” and is also the founder and Director of The Humane League, a 501(c)3 animal advocacy organization that works to protect all animals through public education, campaigns and rescue.

 

Nick became vegetarian, and soon after, vegan, at the age of 18 while on his college orientation when a friend told him of a paper she had written about animal experimentation. Having never considered the issue before, Nick went immediately to his local library, checking out the only two books they had on animal protection. He thought it was clear that the right thing to do was become vegetarian, soon after, meeting vegans for the first time and deciding to become vegan himself.

 

Nick has written for publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer and Z Magazine, and his advocacy work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets includingTime magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and National Public Radio. He holds a degree in Non-Violence Studies from Hofstra University and formerly worked conducting nutrition education programs with the University of Pennsylvania's Urban Nutrition Initiative.

 

Nick welcomes the opportunity to engage ARZone members today on a range of topics. Would you please join with me in welcoming Nick to ARZone?

 

Welcome, Nick!

 

Janet Weeks:

Thanks for being here, Nick!

 

Jason Ward:

Hello Nick - welcome to ARZone

 

Mateja Presern:

Welcome, Nick!

 

Will:

hi nick

 

Ben Hornby:

Hey Nick, glad to have you join us!

 

Lisa Viger:

Hi Nick

 

Sadia:

Hi, Mr. Cooney, good to have you with us!

 

Tim Gier:

Hi Nick, thanks for taking our questions

 

Maria Velardo:

Welcome Nick!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Hi Nick and welcome!


Sky:

Hello Nick.

 

Rae Castina:

Great to meet you

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Just saw Boston's Humane League today at the Boston GreenFest

 

Nicola:

Welcome!

 

Pat Dickens:

Welcome!

 

Jesse Newman:

Hello Nick!

 

Nick Cooney:

Hello all, glad to be here answering questions, thanks for being here for the discussion!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Nick will be responding to his pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage him.

 

Please refrain from interrupting Nick during his first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address him at any time.

 

I’d now like to ask Tim Gier to ask Nick his first question. Thanks, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Carolyn, and thanks again for your time Nick.

You relate an amusing but important anecdote in your book about what activists say they are willing to give up in order to bring about the changes they wish to see. Would you please recount that story for us now, and explain why it’s important?

 

Nick Cooney:

Sure. I was in college and we had this guy, Dan Firger from the Rainforest Action Network come speak to us about how to be more effective in our college environmental/animal advocacy group’s work. He related the anecdote, and it’s as follows: “Who here is willing to fight for the environment?” The crowd cheered“ Who here is willing to get arrested for the environment?” The crowd cheered“ Who here is willing to give their life for the environment?” The crowd cheered “And who here is willing to put on a suit and tie and cut their hair for the environment” And the crowd fell silent. Pretty powerful anecdote, and it drove home the point of just how reluctant we are to change our appearance (since appearance is so tied in with our sense of self-identity) even when it could help us be more effective advocates for our cause.

 

I should add that it still took me about 4 years before I finally took that advice to heart and cut my hair and started dressing (when appropriate) nicely. But I think it provides really good food for thought. (PS as I'm a novice at this, i missed a couple lines in there. For context, this was an exchange between a speaker and participants at a big environmental rally.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Nick!

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks very much Nick. Next up will be Sky. Go ahead Sky when you're ready.

 

Sky:

Hello - I have looked at the Humane League website and it looks like one of these organizations that are frightened of the word VEGAN. Does the organisation use "Veg" instead on purpose so as not to scare people off?

 

Nick Cooney:

Thanks for the question. I think that “vegan” is sometimes the best word to use, sometimes “vegetarian” is a better word to use, and sometimes “plant-based diet” or something else is better.

 

As animal advocates, we’re essentially marketers for a certain idea and a certain behavior change: not eating animal products, seeing animals as having their own intrinsic values and being worthy of protection from human interference and harm, etc. Like other marketers, we have to consider our audience if we want to create the most behavior change possible.

 

The purpose of our website is not to get people to go vegan, the primary purpose is to get them to join us – get on our email list, etc. Once we have them roped in, then we can start educating them about how farm animals are treated, vegan eating, etc. If they refrain from signing up because they are not vegan (or vegetarian), then we lose the ability to communicate with them, influence them, and get them involved.

 

Even when it comes to general outreach though, I strongly believe that for the general public it’s better to use “vegetarian” or more general comments (like “I don’t eat animal products”) than to use “vegan.” As I write about in my book, there is a good deal of research into “Message Discrepancy”, which is how different the speaker’s request is from the audience’s current belief. The sweet spot for behavior change – the message that is going to create the most behavior change in the audience - is one that encourages a substantial change, but one that is not so drastic that people cannot picture themselves doing it.

 

My sense, both from the research and my own work as an activist, is that “vegan” is too large of a request to work best for general audiences. We know it’s easy, but most people don’t. So a smaller but still substantial request  - like vegetarianism – is I think better, and creates both more behavior change in the short term and also ultimately more vegans (because many people who become veg later go on to become vegan).

 

Sky:

A follow-up please.

 

Nick Cooney:

Sure

 

Sky:

You say sometimes "vegan" is best - but I did not see it ANYWHERE on your site - apart from an external link.

 

Holise E. Cleveland III’s friend the cockatiel:

v   cHH

 

Nick Cooney:

As i mentioned the site isn't to get people to go vegan. But the links to "veg resources" are all about vegan eating and they use the word vegan. Or for example if I'm speaking to a high school animal welfare club, I'm going to use the word "vegan" because they are the type of people who already care about animals and could more likely be able to see themselves going vegan, and so would be open to the idea in a way the general public would more or less not be. Also, anyone who is vegetarian is a good audience for using the word "vegan" with, to encourage them to take the next step.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Nick. Joe Espinosa has the next question, but can't be here, so Jason Ward will ask on his behalf. Thanks, Jay.

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Carolyn. Hi Nick - Joe's Question: If you had to pin down the best thing you think the average volunteer can do to help animals, what would it be?

 

Nick Cooney:

From my experience, I think the two most effective things that we as individuals can do are:

1) Putting printed literature and resources for veg eating in front of people, through passing out Vegan Outreach leaflets and/or leaving stacks of leaflets or Vegetarian Starter Kits all around our towns

2) Getting people to view factory farming/animal cruelty videos and veg resource info either online or in person. We do this mainly through paid facebook ads, which are really really inexpensive and produce an incredible amount of change in people’s eating habits.

 

If anyone here wants to help us get veg starter kits in the hands of people who want them - and this only takes a few minutes a day - check out http://www.take5save5.com We use MFA's starter kits.

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Nick.  Tim has a question he'd like to ask now.

 

Tim Gier:

In your book you talk about societal norms and how they influence what people do. Would you explain what societal norms are and why activists need to understand them?

 

Nick Cooney:

Sure. Social norms are just messages about what other people are doing (usually, about what the majority of people are doing). We humans are social animals and as a general rule we’re very influenced by what others are doing. Hundreds of studies document how using a “social norms” message can make us more effective. For example, instead of telling people “you should recycle because it helps the environment” it will in many instances be LESS effective than “most people on your block are already recycling”. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about animal cruelty, of course we want to do that! But if we add in some of these social norms messages when we can, the research is pretty clear that that should make us more effective in getting people to change their behaviors.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Nick, Carolyn is up with the next question now, please go ahead Ms. Bailey.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Tim! Nick, whilst researching the psychology of why humans feel as they do toward other animals, did you cover the topic of why some advocates seem to feel the best they are able to do for other animals is advocate for "kinder" exploitation in the form of "humane" products and "free range" products, as opposed to advocating for exploitation to end altogether? If so, what did you find?

 

Nick Cooney:

I covered that topic sort of tangentially in the book, but did not look specifically at why certain individuals advocate for that as opposed to always and only advocating veganism. But for me, as a person who both encourages individuals to go vegan and also encourages institutions to go cage-free in my work, the reason is pure pragmatism. Institutions are not going to go vegan (not any time soon at least), and many individuals are never going to make the switch to veganism.

 

Creating institutional changes (at the corporate or institutional level) is a great way to reduce the suffering of animals so that the default choice (the choice made by those who buy eggs and don’t give a damn about animals and never will) is not quite so torturous. And the research also indicates – I should point out – that these welfare reforms on the policy/legal level typically coincide with increasing rates of veganism if you look to countries that have more advanced welfare reforms.

 

At any rate, the research strongly indicates that these changes do not HURT our efforts at getting people to go vegan. But they do help reduce the suffering of many many animals, sometimes with not that much work on our part as advocates.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

May I ask a quick follow-up, please, Nick?

 

Nick Cooney:

Of course

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Do you think that advocating for the consumption of “cage-free” and such contradicts the advocation of ending exploitation? I believe that advocating for “humane” products serves to increase the consumption of those products, further entrenching speciesism in society, but if you have research which proves otherwise, I'd be very interested in reading it. Thanks.

 

Nick Cooney:

Good question, I'm actually right now (not this second, but this week) looking into the data on how welfare bans in certain states and countries impacted consumption of those animal products there. All the data I've seen so far shows either no change in total consumption or a reduction in total consumption after bans on battery cages for example were passed.

 

There's also a great study put out by some ag researchers from the midwest that found that whenever farm animal cruelty stories and footage are on the news and note that these stories are just about isolated cruelty, they don't encourage people to change their diet AT ALL - lead to a reduced consumption. So even getting stories about say, bans on gestation crates, or articles in a campus paper about these welfare issues, likely similarly reduces consumption as long as people are seeing these images and reading about what's going on.

 

I also think it's very important to get people who even self-identify as people who care about the treatment of farmed animals to take more substantial personal steps to live out their own beliefs when it comes to farm animals (i.e., not eat them).

 

To answer the other part of that question, as to whether encouraging cage-free gets in the way of/contradicts advocating an end to animal exploitation overall, look, the reality is that we can be honest with people. We can say "I don’t eat eggs because I don't want to cause them to suffer, and I know i can be healthy and happy without eating them. Cage-free eggs still involve a lot of suffering, but if the University of Pennsylvania (for example) were to go cage-free, that would reduce the suffering of literally thousands of hens every single day." So we can both express our ultimate belief, as well as short-term political/policy goals. Look to other movements - anti-abortion groups do it and are very successful, look at all the state laws they've been getting passed recently. Everyone is still aware at the same time that they think all abortions are wrong and should be illegal. Yet at the same time they've gotten policy changes that will reduce the number of abortions.

 

Lastly, just want to add that there's a lot of things that I believe - ways I think the world should ultimately be - that I'm not going to express in my day to day work for animals because it wouldn't be helpful. So I think if we want to be creating the most change possible, we need to focus on what messages will create not change, as opposed to what message most correctly encapsulates my belief. And everyone -ourselves included - move along a continuum of beliefs so getting someone part way. "Start considering the welfare of animals" does ultimately help us get people further along ("because I care about animals, i shouldn't eat them") AS LONG AS we later encourage people to take that next step. so for example on every college where we do cage-free campaigns, we also do a lot of vegan outreach leafleting and we find the two complement one another well.


Carolyn Bailey:

I know what you're saying, Nick. I just wish we could help people to understand that the use of other animals in agriculture is wrong in itself, not just the horrific treatment they endure. Thanks for your comprehensive reply!

 

Nick Cooney:

Definitely agree! And I think we can find ways to work that in too :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:
Barbara DeGrande is up with the next question, thanks, Barb.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thanks Carolyn! I like your emphasis on the "positive, creative, and effective" aspects of activism. As the organizer of a new animal rights group, I struggle with prioritizing dozens of creative ideas constantly - where to invest and where to move on. Any ideas that might help me prioritize? :-)

 

Nick Cooney:

Thanks Barb! Most importantly, have that “Bottom line” mentality – what things will help the greatest number of animals, reduce the greatest amount of animal suffering? I think it’s pretty clear that for a new small group, the best thing to do to help the most animals is focusing on veg outreach, primarily in the ways I mentioned above in answer to Joe's question – literature distribution, feed-ins, online advertising, etc. Those are ways that we can reach a huge number of people with information as to the WHY and HOW of going veg. Sure most won’t change, but a percentage will and even if it’s one percent that is a way to help so very very many animals with just a little time and work on our part.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

We are having a meeting tomorrow, so thank you for your ideas here tonight. Next up is Roger Yates....Roger, when you are ready!

 

Roger Yates:

The Humane League suggests that getting institutions to adopt "cage-free" policies represents "real improvements in the lives of tens of thousands of animals every day" and they also bring forward the day when there will be no battery cages in the USA. On the first claim, do you monitor "cage-free" facilities and, if so how and for how long? On the second claim, we do not have any evidence to support it, do we?

 

Nick Cooney:

As to the conditions on these farms, I’ve done undercover investigations at about a dozen battery cage farms and have also been on many cage-free farms. Make no mistake, cage-free farms suck. As we all know they are very cruel. But if I were one of those birds, I would much rather be on a cage-free farm. Having been in jail for brief periods of time, it’s hard to overstate the value of simply having freedom of movement. And I’ve also looked closely at all the research into hen welfare and it’s clear that both in terms of psychological well-being and various physical issues cage-free is notably better than battery cage farms.

 

We don’t monitor the facilities, no, so our statements are based on the general conditions of battery cage and cage-free farms overall, including the large and worst cage-free farms.

 

As to movement away from battery cages bringing closer the day when there are no battery cages in America, that is aptly demonstrated by the recent agreement between the HSUS and the United Egg Producers to support a federal ban on conventional battery cages. That’s only possible because of the state bans and the corporate and institutional policy switches going on across the country. The institutional switches also help the state bans (in a small way) – for example Prop 2 was benefited by the fact that so many schools had already gone cage-free in California, so it normalized the idea that going cage-free is a good thing to do, by which of course I mean a better thing than battery cages.

 

Roger Yates:

A follow up if you will...

 

Nick Cooney:

Yes indeed

 

Roger Yates:

I think if I were one of those birds, I'd want humans to go vegan. You seem to be talking about abstract ideal types but the actual REAL systems are pretty horrendous, either system, so I am not sure we can say with any certainly that one system is "better" than another. Furthermore there is some research suggesting that the welfare of cage-free hens is worse than those in battery cages. Getting involved in animal use is messy. It is a guess, is it not, that the HSUS business agreement will do what you say?

 

Nick Cooney:

"I think if I were one of those birds, I'd want humans to go vegan." Of course I agree, but as I stated I am talking about institutions which are NOT going to go egg-less. RE: "you seem to be talking about abstract ideal types", no, I'm talking about farms that I've been in, and the hundreds of farms which have been studied for the scientific reports done on the welfare of egg laying hens, both in the U.S. and in Europe. Of course farms vary but the studies document the clear overall differences.

 

For those who want to check out the science, here is a very thorough report we used in one of our campaigns:  http://www.thehumaneleague.com/CageFreePennState/AnimalWelfare_EggProduction.pdf  

 

Overall, cage-free is significantly better than battery cage farms - the science is very clear on that fact, and we can all read through the research to see the specifics. I'm not sure i understand the last part of your question, but yes I do think that if the HSUS/UEP bill passes that will help many animals and be a positive step forward. And since we all know that cage-free farms still have a lot of cruelty, we can easily work at (after the bill has passed) letting people know why cage-free is cruel and why they should go eggless. (And we can then push institutions to go free-range or small scale, etc.)

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks. Next up is Jason Ward ...Jay...

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Roger. How has your book and the ideas in it been received by rank and file activists? Do they object to considering their activism in the terms you suggest?

 

Nick Cooney:

Generally it’s been received really really well I think. I was actually surprised by the number of people at the AR and TAFA conferences who had heard of or already read the book or had positive things to say about it. I’ve also done talks for about 15 local animal advocacy groups and been very, very warmly received.

 

Of course, I’m sure not everyone feels that way because people who disagree would probably just not say anything at all ! ☺ So it's definitely a perception bias to some extent. But yes I’ve been happy with it. Really what I’m advocating is something that I think is not very controversial:  that by looking to the research, we can be more effective at persuading the public into making the changes we want them to make. Of course I also draw some conclusions from the research that a few people might find uncomfortable or distasteful (or wrong).

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Nick - Brooke Cameron: has the next question - please go ahead when you're ready Brooke

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thank you Jason. Hi Nick, you've said that you believe, when talking to the general public, we can be more effective by using the term vegetarian, rather than vegan, saying that by being vegetarian the average American would be sparing about 96-97% of the other animals the average American consumes. Given this information, do you think most people see a need to take the step to veganism, or do you think most people would feel they've "done enough" by being vegetarian?

 

Nick Cooney:

Good question! And I think the most important point there is that getting people to go vegetarian is most important, and actually to be more specific getting people to stop eating chicken and fish is most important, followed by eggs, followed by pork and beef, followed by dairy, if you look at the number of animals impacted (even taking into consideration how different animals suffer to different degrees; though I guess maybe fish could move down the list a little if you consider overall suffering).

 

So, getting 2 people to go vegetarian does a lot, lot more good than getting 1 person to go vegan, especially when you consider the ripple effect of each person spreading their new diet to others.

 

To answer the second half of your question, with every issue people will sometimes use the “I’ve done enough” excuse, at least initially. As I note in the book, when we used to work getting restaurants to take foie gras off the menu chefs used to tell us that we should leave them alone because they donate to the SPCA, or some other cause not related even to animals. This is just a natural human tendency and there’s no way around it.

 

Consider this: even if someone goes vegan, that’s nice, but what we really want is for them to be an animal advocate who spends all their free time doing veg outreach. Does that mean that we should not encourage them to go vegan because even if they do they’ll become complacent there and think that they’re doing enough and not go on to be animal advocates? If so then our always and only request would be for people to go from meat eaters to full time vegan activists. But no, we don't do that. We know that if they take the first step, they are more likely to take the next step if we later encourage them to do so.

 

And so the reality is still, as I sort of mentioned earlier, that people who make a small change (or a moderate change) become more likely to go on to make a larger change later AS LONG AS we or someone else encourages them to take the next step. This is a psych phenomenon called “Foot in the door” and has been documented in over 1,000 studies. That "As Long As" is important though. We cant assume people will make the next step on their own, we always have to be nudging them forward.


Brooke Cameron:

May I ask a follow-up please Nick?

 

Nick Cooney:

Of course

 

Brooke Cameron:

You don't think that the dairy industry is just as horrific as the flesh industry, and the horror these other animals endure last a lot longer? Would this not suggest the urgency in addressing the dairy industry, possibly even before the flesh industry? Also, I believe that living as an ethical vegan IS being an animal advocate, and I'd be far more happy to have more ethical vegans than vegetarian leafletters in the world. Thanks.

 

Nick Cooney:

Well I think the dairy industry is very bad of course, and in some cases, yes, i think the animals there have it worse. But you have to factor that in alongside the number of animals, their lifespan, etc. The average American is responsible for the life, suffering, and death of about 30 chickens each year but only 1/25th of a dairy cow. do we really think dairy cows are suffering THAT much more than chickens?

 

You can factor in lifespan as well, and its still pretty clear that the biggest issue is chicken, then the other things mentioned, with dairy either last or maybe next to last - I think dairy cows probably are worse than beef cows actually.

 

For the lifespan issue: So, if you drink milk that's 1/25th of a cow per year, meaning about 14 days of a cow's suffering each year if my math is correct. Chickens live 45 days before being killed, multiply that by say 30 chickens a year, and that's 1350 days of chicken suffering per year. So unless dairy cows suffer (literally) 100 times more intensely, then chicken is the bigger problem.

 

I know this is very morbid math, and obviously suffering is to some extent a judgement call, but general trends are still pretty clear. and I think it's important we look at animal advocacy in this numbers, bottom-line oriented approach if we want to do the most good.

 

Lastly, re: veganimsm being animal advocacy, well you could define it as such if you want but what I mean if a person is vegan and not actively encouraging others to do so, versus a vegan who does encourage others to change and as a result creates tens or hundreds of other new vegetarians and vegans.

 

Brooke Cameron:

I was referring to what each of the other animals in the dairy industry endure individually, the violations of their individual rights, and the horrors they endure, moreso than as a group but, as a group, I agree with you that chickens most certainly suffer more than any other group. Thanks for your response, I appreciate it.

 

Nick Cooney:

Thanks to you

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Nick! Elaine Vigneault is up next but isn't here, so I'll ask her question for her. Can you give us some examples of how people have used your book effectively to spare or save animals' lives?

 

Nick Cooney:

Well, I spoke to a group in California a couple weeks back that said that they were inspired by the book and our talk to move away from their current approach (which was basically doing a grab bag of activism: circus protests, vivisection protests, rodeo protests, some veg outreach, potlucks, etc.) to just focusing on farm animal issues and veg outreach. I think that’s GREAT, and will allow them to create a lot more good results for animals.

 

We also had a good discussion about how one person spending three hours leafleting on a college campus – according to the data, will likely do more good for animals then 1000 people collectively spending 10,000 hours on circus protests.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Nick. Now Roger would like to ask his question. Thanks! :-)

 

Roger Yates:

Hi - me again... In your Vegan Sanctuary interview, published on the 1st January, 2011, you describe Peter Singer's Animal Liberation as an animal rights book. Philosophically Singer is opposed to rights as a foundation for a moral argument, and even though or perhaps because he is often regarded as the "father of the animal rights movement," he has bitterly complained about being called an animal rights advocate. I suggest that this sort of philosophical mess is harmful for the movement. I assume you do not agree?

 

Nick Cooney:

Hmmm, if I miscategorized Singer’s book that’s my fault, I hadn’t heard of him taking issue with being called an animal tights advocate. Overall though (hopefully this is answering your question) I think that us animal advocates focusing on philosophy and the distinction between “suffering-based arguments” and “rights-based arguments” is virtually meaningless to the general public. I understand the difference, but to the average person on the street who has virtually never even thought about farm animals and what he or she is eating, it’s not something that they are going to wrap their head around or that is going to make much difference in terms of their behavioral choices.

 

Looking at the research, few people make life and purchasing decisions around well-defined and carefully thought out philosophical beliefs. In fact there is research suggesting that getting people to think analytically actually makes them MUCH LESS compassionate than pushing their emotional triggers. Which is why for example you  - if you’re say a farm sanctuary member – don’t get letters describing the philosophy of animal rights and speciesism and such. You get a letter from them with a picture of an animal and a description of either the suffering they have been going through, or the happiness they are feeling now that they have been rescued.

 

The reason this approach is used is because research has found it much more effective at getting you to donate, volunteer, etc. Maybe not you yourself - people vary - but overall, the most people. (We could also get into a longer debate about “rights” if animals – or people – have inherent “rights”, where do they come from? God? What if (like me) you’re an atheist? To me “rights” are just something we WANT people and animals to have be protected under law. I don’t believe in any transcendent gods or souls or such, so to me saying “animals have inherent rights” is sort of meaningless – what we really mean is “we want animals protected under both law and general social norms similarly to how humans are.” But I digress. This is essentially just intellectual masturbation on my part now. I don’t think this sort of debate is useful to us anyway.”)

 

Roger Yates:

Follow-up please.

 

Nick Cooney:

Sure

 

Roger Yates:
Your answer echoes the one given by Friedrich on this and only slightly less shallow. You are not an animal rights advocate because you do not know the case for animal rights but that is the point, our theory drives our claims making. We need to sort out the philosophical mess in this movement.

 

Nick Cooney:

Well I certainly disagree for the reasons I stated earlier. But I think the most pertinent way in which i disagree is that "our theory drives our claims making." As I mentioned earlier, I don't base my advocacy messages on what I, at heart, believe. I base them on what methods and messages - based on the research, and my own experience to some extent - will create the most behavior change and thus help the most animals.

 

If my advocacy was based on my theories, I'd have to always tell people "I think you should get sterilized to not have kids, stop consuming things, go organic, go vegan,  be atheist, and help dismantle industrial civilization." But I don't think that would get many people to change, or help many animals.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Nick. Jesse Newman would like to ask a question now. When you're ready, Jesse. Thanks.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thanks! I think it’s really interesting the way you talk about people not doing their social movement work for reasons that are all about them. For instance not so much insisting that people accept our reasons for changing their behavior but finding what works for them. Do I understand what you’re saying?

 

Nick Cooney:

Yup, I think so. So as I mentioned with the recycling argument earlier, sometimes we need to put emphasis on the reasons that will actually motivate other people, not just the reasons that we ourselves find most compelling. It’s such a paradigm shift in terms of our activism, focusing on “What will motivate this other person to do what I want them to do and believe what I want them to believe?” as opposed to “What do I believe?” Though again I think it’s important we always talk about the cruelty and compassion issues as well – but that shouldn’t be the ONLY message/lever of influence that we use.

 

Jesse Newman:

May I ask a follow-up please?

 

Nick Cooney:

Surely

 

Jesse Newman:

Thanks, do you think it's hard for people to step outside of themselves in that way, to be informed by their own beliefs but not worry so much about getting others to adopt them at first?

 

Nick Cooney:

Hey Jesse, yes I think it's very hard for us to step outside of ourselves and our sense of who we are, what we believe, etc. As I mentioned in response to Tim's question at the start of this, it took me years to make the very small changes that are altering my dress and hair - since that was (or felt like) an important part of who I was. And of course there are lots of other examples about that that I could give from own life also.

 

I definitely think our goal should be to get others to believe what we believe. BUT - sometimes (usually) the best way to do that is not simply telling them what we believe. A really good example a friend made recently, if I go out on a date with someone and I really like them, I don't tell them "I really like you and I would like for us to probably get married one day." No, I would do the things that would make them like me, see I'm a good person and good companion, let them get to know me, etc. Point being, just stating what we think/want from other people is rarely the best approach. We have to think about what will appeal to them to get them to move to where we want them to be (vegan! and lots of other things too of course.)

 

Jesse Newman:

Thanks!

 

Nick Cooney:

Thank you Jesse!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Next up is Tim Gier. Tim, your turn now!

Also, this is the last pre registered question before we begin open questions. Please contact an admin to ask an open question: Carolyn Bailey, Roger Yates, Jason Ward, Tim Gier or myself. Thanks! Tim....you have the floor.

 

Tim Gier:

We often hear that a very high percentage of people (perhaps as much as 95%) think humans ought not to be cruel to other animals. At the same time, about the same very high percentage of people still eat other animals. Can you explain this incongruity in terms of the research you’ve done?

 

Nick Cooney:

Yes, this is what researchers call the “Attitude/Behavior Gap” and we see it in all sorts of issues. For example most people say it’s important to buy American, but don’t do so (and don’t even try to do so). Studies have found that peoples’ environmental beliefs often don’t match up to their actions.The reason for this is that while we as humans would like to think that the way we work is a) we decide what we believe ; then b) we live out those beliefs , the reality is that usually behavior comes first. We learn behaviors from our family and environment, and we also learn at least verbally some generic “values” that may or may not have anything to do with how we or they actually live.

 

Usually we don’t even think about those conflicts between our stated values and our actions. When we do, we usually try to find excuses for it – reasons where we can justify a reason as to why there is not actually a conflict. When we can’t, we may either change our attitude or our behavior, but we are more likely to change our attitude since it’s easier. The biggest takeaway of this for us as advocates, in my opinion, is that we have to focus on behavior change, NOT on “planting seeds” or getting people to agree with us verbally.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Nick.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I’d like to thank you, Nick, for such insightful and comprehensive responses to our questions in this “formal” session today. We sincerely appreciate it! I’d like now to open the chat up for other members to engage Nick, but ask that you send a message to an admin to signify your intent.

 

Nick Cooney:

Thanks for having me and all the great q's!

 

Holise E. Cleveland III:

Sorry about the gibberish earlier. My cockatiel did that. She actually typed and then hit 'Enter.' I have a question for Nick.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Ben Hornby would like to ask the first question in the open session today, thanks, Ben.

 

Ben Hornby:

Hi Nick. You’ve been speaking about “caged” and “cage free” chickens today. Could you please define the difference between the two and explain why one is more acceptable than the other? Thanks.

 

Nick Cooney:

Hens in conventional battery cages are confined in metal cages so small they are unable to spread their wings, can barely turn around, and can't engage in instinctual behaviors like nesting, dust-bathing, perching, etc. As a result they also suffer a host of other health problems.

 

Cage-free farms look similar to chicken (poultry) farms - animals are still tightly cramped, but in a large barn where at least they can walk around, flap wings, dust bathe, perch, and have additional space, and sometimes solid flooring. All the research (and this is also clear if you visit both types of farms) indicates that hens suffer less physically and mentally on cage-free farms. So, while cage-free farms have a lot of cruelty, overall they cause less pain for the animals.

PS not saying i think either is "acceptable," but one is clearly worse.

 

Ben Hornby::

Thanks for that. You also mentioned the HSUS/UEP deal. Won't those hens still be confined in cages and unable to spread their wings, if that deal, in 18 years, ever eventuates?

 

Nick Cooney:

I've heard conflicting reports about what specifically the deal would entail, as i think it's still a little uncertain since legislation isn't drafted yet. But basically yes, cages would still be allowed - they just would be larger cages that provided more space and nesting boxes for animals to perch and lay in. The bill would also do a lot of other things like require all egg cartons to label whether eggs come from caged, cage-free, or free-range hens; prohibit forced molting; etc. etc. So the bill isn't a cage-free bill - just a ban on barren battery cages. It's a small step, but it would impact a huge number of animals.

 

Ben Hornby::

I read that the cage sizes will be less than double, but would include, as you said, added "furniture", that's not really a victory, from what I have read. Thank you.

 

Nick Cooney:

Thanks. Again if i was that bird and I had a choice of the bill passing or not passing i'd definitely want it passed. The bill will also drive up prices slightly, meaning a) consumption may be redued slightly and b) it makes the cost difference of going cage-free lower, meaning it will be easier to get institutions to go cage-free or free range.

 

Ben Hornby::

Thanks for your reply.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Nick. Lisa Viger would like to address you now. Thanks, Lisa.

 

Lisa Viger:

Hi Nick, and thanks for being here. You've been clear you believe it's better to use the word vegetarian rather than vegan as vegan, much like Voldemort, is too extreme to even be uttered. We've seen words, such as Socialist, Liberal, etc., disparaged to the point where they're now considered insults in many circles and few are willing to label themselves in those ways. That sort of word vilification is used very successfully to discredit those movements. If we shy away from the word vegan, what's to stop the word - and the movement it describes - from becoming discredited in the very same way? Thanks.

 

Nick Cooney:

I definitely see your point, and as I said i don't think vegan is a dirty word and I always tell people - if they ask -that yes I am vegan. What i'm referring to (when we use the term) is primarily in terms of what we encourage others to do, for example "Try Vegetarian" as opposed to "Try Vegan."

 

Also, obviously the two words are similar in kind, just different in degree. So the more "vegetarian" is accepted and the more vegetarians there are, the more veganism will become accepted. I don't think the day when using "vegan" in most advocations is that far off - maybe five years? but i think it's great to have the word vegan out there as much as possible. for example "vegan recipes". or we're printing stickers now for hundreds of restaurants to put in their windows that say "We serve vegan options." Etc. Etc. I think getting the word out there a whole lot is important, just not necessarily in terms of what we encourage an individual to do immediately.

 

Lisa Viger:

Thanks.

 

Nick Cooney:

Thank you

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Nick. Will would like to ask the next question. Thanks, Will.

 

Will:

Hi

 

Nick Cooney:

Hey

 

Will:

You say the HSUS thingy will ban forced moulting. How would anyone know if you are not looking - monitoring??

 

Nick Cooney:

Well certainly we all know lots of things that aren't even legal do go on on farms. So yeah maybe a company or two would break the law and force molt, as happens with any law (some people break it). But most companies would not, since, if it was found out, they would face legal consequences. Plus the new norm in the industry would be to not force molt, which would help in getting them to refrain from doing so (since their peers are refraining).

 

Will:

Who will find this out?

 

Nick Cooney:

USDA, or whisteblowers - same as for other laws.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Nick. Tim Gier would like to ask another one now, thank you, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

Irrespective of the changes made in the lives of those chickens who will no longer be in battery cages, even stipulating for the sake of the argument that the changes will be insignificant, do you think the visibility of these kinds of campaigns helps create a world more conducive to a vegan ethic? In other words, is the simple fact that “the industry” seems to admit that something in the lives of other animals matter, helpful in that the people generally will be more open to changing their behaviors?

 

Nick Cooney:

Yes, I definitely think so. We've touched on a couple of these points: how when people start to identify as caring about farm animals, it makes them more open to larger changes down the line. How people who make a small change become more likely to make a large change. And the ag industry study about how when these issues are in the media it causes animal consumption to go down. So yes i think that even irrespective of the pigs in gestation crates, calves in veal crates, and hens in battery cages impacted by these different bans, yes i think it puts on a stronger footing to promote vegan eating.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks

 

Nick Cooney:

Yes sir

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Next up with a question for you Nick is Janet Weeks. Thanks, Janet.

 

Janet Weeks:

A FB friend asks, "Why is it that none of the groups that give out hundreds of thousands of leaflets a year can provide one statistically valid study to back up their claim that leafleting saves more animal lives than any other form of activism?" He points out, "no one has been able to measure what makes someone become a vegan. " Is he correct and, if so, what do you have to say about this? Thank you.


Nick Cooney:

Good question. I'm not sure it saves more lives than any other form of activism, but I think it is more effective than 98% of the work being done, and that it is one of the most effective things. (I mentioned a few other most-effective things earlier). While Vegan Outreach has not been interested in a study (and they are not alone - very few groups have done any sort of studies of the efficacy of their various outreach efforts), I did - with the help of some full-time VO leafleters- compile data that gives a rough sense of the efficacy, and it suggests that one person goes veg*n for every several hundred booklets handed out, at least on college campuses. Could be 100 booklets, could be 500, but point being an hour or two of your time  = one new vegetarian and many animals helped.

 

You can't get those results from virtually any type of protest in terms of person-hours. Again, I also think online outreach is really effective (probably slightly more effective), and our FB ads linking people to our hiddenfaceoffood.com site have been very successful. Other groups are doing similar work.

 

As for the queston "no one is able to measure what it takes to make a person go vegan", that's not really accurate. That's what studies and research are for. Granted not a lot have been done, but some have and it's not hard to get data on the relative efficacy of different approaches. Of course a lof of factors are involved, but we can still see which outreach methods create more vs. less of those trigger points that get people to actually make the switch.

 

Janet Weeks:

Thank you so much! I'm going to look into Facebook ads and promote them in Facebook to all my friends. I've learned a great deal today.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Nick. Holise E. Cleveland III would like to address you next. Please go ahead, Holise.

 

Holise E. Cleveland III:

I agree with you and commend you for your approach. As a supporter of marine conservation, I seek out people who have just seen The Cove or I encourage people to watch The Cove, a movie which almost always ropes them in to activism. In the process, they become more eager to learn and are more concerned about the planet and animals therein. Then I suggest, Sharkwater, The End of the Line and finallly, Earthlings. Presto! They become vegan or vegetarian (eventually becoming vegan.) I have done most of it online. It works and I know I could not have accomplished the same results had I started off urging them to watch Earthlings. Even if they would have attempted to watch it, many people will not finish it until they are primed and ready. I have found 'The Cove' to be an excellent FOOT IN THE DOOR. Have you seen it, and if so, would you agree? You are very inspiring, remarkable, brilliant and a true visionary on an epic level. Thanks.

 

Nick Cooney:

First, thanks Janet! And if you ever have q's about FB ad stuff let me know, nick@thehumaneleague.com.  Holise, thanks for sharing that very good story! Definitely demonstrates how getting our foot in the door can be really effective at leading people to larger changes, and awesome you've been able to do all that online! I actually have not seen The Cove, but it certainly seems like a perfect "gateway drug" - it exposes shocking animal cruelty on an issue where it's easy to get people to agree with us since they are not complicit in the cruelty (they don't eat dolphin). Then once you've got them caring about animal cruelty, that's (as you describe) an excellent foot in the door for leading them to personal changes in their own life. Thanks for your work!

 

Holise E. Cleveland III:

Thank YOU.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Nick. Tyler has a question up next. Thanks, Tyler.

 

Tyler:

Re: your response to one of Roger’s questions.  You were saying earlier, if I understand correctly, that most people go vegan for emotional reasons rather than because of the strength of the argument for veganism. Do you suggest, therefore, that advocates use emotional methods to create new vegans rather than presenting people with a logical moral argument for veganism? I see that as being potentially problematic because they won’t really understand that veganism is an issue of justice rather than simply one of reducing suffering. What’s your view?

 

Nick Cooney:

Well, I wouldn't break it down into two disparate categories like that. People who see suffering of animals on factory farms are both impacted emotionally, and think (using logic, reasoning, and morals/ethics), "This is wrong, I don't want to support this." I do think that focusing on abstract, concept-based, philosophy-based messages are not nearly as effective as using suffering-based messages. For several reasons. One is that, it's an easier message to accept  - you can be against animal cruelty and therefore go vegan without having to believe that animals should have the exact same rights/protection as you and of course once people make the behavior change, it's easier to get them to make those larger philosophical changes.

 

Roger Yates:
No-one claims nonhumans have the same rights as humans. You need to read up. 

 

Nick Cooney:

Secondly, again emotional messaging is shown to create more compassionate response than analytical messaging. And lastly, think about other social justice movements like gay rights. I think the biggest thing motivating the increase in acceptance is people meeting and getting to know LGBT people, not wanting them to be discriminated against, and then because of that supporting gay causes. I don't think for *most* people they think about it logically/philosophically and decide that sexual orientation is no grounds on which to treat people differently. Just one example.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Nick. For the last question of the day, Mateja Presern would like to address you. Thanks, Mateja.

 

Mateja Presern:

Hi, Nick. Two short ones. What are your views on a vegan group leading a campaign against battery cages (say) versus a non-vegan group doing the same? Also, you said earlier that a person going vegetarian will contribute about 97% less to animal suffering. I have a feeling that people up their dairy intake when they go vegetarian and they keep on thinking that leather is a byproduct etc. Taking this into the account, do you think an anti-dairy campaign can be as effective as an anti-meat campaign?

 

Nick Cooney:

Thanks Mateja, first question one: It does pain me when non-veg groups do battery cages campaign and use messages calling cage-free eggs "happy eggs" or "good eggs" or things like that. In theory I think a non-veg group could run an anti-battery cage and be just as effective, but the whole question is about what messaging they use, and the non-veg groups typically like to clearly encourge people to buy cage-free, call cage-free "good," etc. I think overall they still are contributing something, but it does make me gag a bit.

 

As for question 2, yes I do think most people update their dairy intake slightly when going veg (just a hunch, haven't seen any data), but even given that it's still exponentially more important to get people to give up meat (esp. chicken/fish) than dairy.

 

For example let's say you double your dairy intake, from 14 days of cow suffering a year to 28 days of cow suffering a year. That sucks, but it's offset by the 1350 days of chicken suffering spared by going veg (and more for fish, then pork and beef). So I would strongly encourage you to focus (for the general public) on meat consumption if you want to help the greatest number of animals.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Nick. I’d like to thank you for taking the time to be here today, and also to thank you for being so generous with your time today. We sincerely appreciate that! If there are any further questions for Nick, please feel free to leave them on the transcript post, once published. Thanks!

 

Nick Cooney:

Thanks for having me and all the great questions, and for all the work each of you is doing for animals! You can all also email me at nick@thehumaneleague.com if you want to get in touch about anything.

 

Tim Gier:

Yes, Thank you Nick, it's been very interesting.

 

Brooke Cameron::

Thanks Nick!

 

Sadia:

Absolute delight Mr. Cooney. Thank you much for your time.

 

Holise E. Cleveland III:

BRAVO!

 

Ben Hornby::

Thanks for being here Nick.

 

Janet Weeks:

*Resounding applause* Time well spent! For all animal persons!! Many thanks, Nick! (I'll be in touch regarding FB ads.)

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you, Nick. Appreciate your time being here!

 

Nick Cooney:

Also the book is online at http://www.ChangeOfHeartBook.com if you want to see excerpts, works cited, etc.

 

Tyler:

Thanks Nick

 

Jesse Newman:

Thanks for your time tonight Nick, I enjoyed your book.

 

Nick Cooney:

Thanks all, have a great night!


 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after “chats” by starting a forum discussion or making a point under a transcript. 

 


 


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Comment by Richard McMahan on August 24, 2011 at 12:36

I'm so impressed with the quality of the conversation at ARZone, so, to the staff, and also to those who contribute to this, and all threads relevant to our shared goals, 

my best.

Where was I...

Lisa, your ""I'm not going to exploit animals because I don't need to and they deserve to be left alone," mythical conversation, will be occurring at an abolitionist street stall in ones town?

Or, is it more likely to happen at a gathering intended to help dogs, cats, lobsters, fish, birds, raccoon's, possums, sharks, whales, chickens, apes, chimpansees, reptiles, end fur sales, leather sales, hide sales of any kind, insecticides, hunting, fishing, vivisection, pesticides, beef, pigs, ...

I could go on.

Also, I have to say, if the conversation of "rights" were THAT easy, I want my money back from all the so called 'vegan philosophers' that I bought books from.

Just kidding.

My guess is that welfare is the starting point for almost all who enter our ranks.(We would all wish to do the least possible!). But hey, I'm open to the idea that there is better data than, "my guess".

Mr. Cooney suggests he has it. 

Does he?

 

Comment by Alex Melonas on August 24, 2011 at 3:51

@Roger & Lisa: this line of criticism misunderstands my point.  When I argue that there isn’t a necessary connection between one’s metaphysics and one’s politics, I’m suggesting that the goal is to reach consensus about conclusions – that’s the politics – but not necessarily consensus about the reasons for the conclusions – that’s the metaphysics.  We have a consensus about, for example, the moral badness of human slavery. But some argue for this conclusion on Lockean, i.e., religious, grounds, others from claims about human nature, others from Kantian-like a priori truths, and still others – the utilitarians – from the overall increase in happiness that would result from ending slavery. We don’t have to accept the premises of all of these arguments because the “politics” are the same. And “animal rights,” as I understand it, like “human rights,” is about the conclusions (the "politics"). 

 

If you understand the crucial distinction – the one really relevant to the “politics” – between Francione and Singer, it turns on two empirical – not theoretical – questions: Do animals have an interest in continuing to live? and, Are short-term “welfare” improvements conducive to the goal of animal liberation?

 

I find this debate so silly. It’s apolitical; it’s the post-structuralists arguing with the Rawlsians over ontology all over again.

Comment by Lisa V on August 24, 2011 at 3:22

I agree with Roger in that AR folks should determine what is AR. I think most of us would agree that would be true of any group. Also keeping in mind that the definition of AR is only going to be of any interest to two groups ... proAR folks and antiAR folks. If one doesn't define the AR position, the other will.

 

Vegan v vegetarian ... It seems to me that to let welfarists determine when and if we use the word vegan is like letting Chevy tell Ford when to use the word Ford. It's unlikely that Chevy is going to come up with the most accurate definition of Ford. And because Chevy is a competitor, it would likely come up with a derogatory definition of Ford that steered people away from Ford and to Chevy.

If vegan is what we're selling - the philosophy we want people to buy into, agree with, adopt as their own - then vegan is our brand. A brand isn't just a name, it's all the perceptions that go along with the name. We should no more keep our brand name secret, or let someone else define it, than Ford should.

 

Roger also did a blog post a while back about AR folks/vegans being labeled as all manner of extremists, including terrorists. That's, in part, how our brand will be defined if we let others (our "competitors") define it (and that's what's happened to the words socialism, etc). If we throw up our hands and say, "OK, you're right! Vegan is too extreme!" we've just confirmed and reinforced the view of AR/veganism as extremism.

 

Richard, "I'm not going to exploit animals because I don't need to and they deserve to be left alone," is a philosophy. It doesn't have to be complicated. I think the less complicated the message the more it will appeal to a broad range of people. But without some kind of philosophy as a reason for doing so, few are going to change their behavior.


Comment by Richard McMahan on August 23, 2011 at 12:50

Without reviewing, Mr Cooney was adamant in his understanding that philosophy was NOT an initial draw for people to join the movement. 

If this is true, (and it would certainly seem likely to be true), then there would be no singular 'rights claiming'  group within the movement.

 

 

 

 

Comment by Alex Melonas on August 23, 2011 at 4:24

As a first thought: we really do a disservice to our goal of credibility by denying the empirical claim that “free range,” etc. is a production method that involves less suffering. I have witnessed a “free range” operation and a battery cage operation and, objectively, there is less suffering in the former. We should not, I again stress, quibble with the empirical claim. We should, however, quibble with the causal story Nick offers, i.e., from “welfare” improvements to animal liberation. And on that point, my conclusion is a hesitant sort of agreement with Nick.   

 

Roger writes: “…our theory drives our claims making.” I must demur. In political theory, for instance, there is no necessary connection between one’s, say, metaphysics, and one’s politics. There are Kantian conservatives (Nozick), liberals (Rawls) and radicals (Cohen); there are teleleologists, left, right, and center; etc. Moreover, it isn’t clear what “animal rights” means, in full. It is a liberation movement yes, seeking an end to an unjustified prejudice; however, the “form” of the theory that drives or underlies that "claims making" is not at all clear to me. Francione and Roger overdetermine it by asserting what “animal rights” is – who is and who is not an “animal rights” advocate – but I find that utterly unconvincing.     

Comment by Jordan Wyatt on August 22, 2011 at 14:12

....Unacceptable in my opinion.  From my squeaky bike metaphor above, cycling the wrong way through speeding motor traffic, you can see I have little respect for the status quo and "road rules" :-)

 

The geocache needed to be located a little further away that originally planned, and a finder complained I was being mean to the Masons, so the name was changed to "Ms Ogyny".  There is a Catholic church also nearby, oddly enough, growing up I never considered that there were never any "female priests" at our church, that there were perverse sexual hangups involved with this belief system, any more than I never thought "why are there practically no male teachers at my school?", I just assumed "sometimes there are no male teachers at this particular school...there are no female priests here..."

My cache about equal rights for Women
http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=0946e5a6-821...

I took this humble metal item, that had travelled 15,000KM around the world over the course of a couple years, and left it in a humble plastic container, hidden in my local park.  Its made many, many such little "hop skip and jumps" around the world, totaling up to something quite impressive.

I left a note saying its rather odd that Rotary International would not permit female human beings equality until the 1980's, when their whole organisation is quote 

"

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build good will and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

"

 

And yet this group wouldnt allow females acceptance!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_International#Female_membership

People who are Non Vegan believe they are good people, just as we believe we are good people.

Like a Travel Bug travelling the world with a goal encoded to its webpage, we too can make small actions that greatly add up - perhaps as far as 15,000 KM - and get towards our own destination, old bicycle or not!  

As more and more Vegans come about, perhaps we can trade up - if you're gonna promote a social agenda, do it in style!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeLorean_DMC-12 

 

http://backtothefuture.wikia.com/wiki/DeLorean_time_machine

 

 

Comment by Jordan Wyatt on August 22, 2011 at 14:07

Hi Richard!  Its nice to read your comments again :-)

I cant speak from any formal education, or long life experience, only what I think from my two decades on this earth.

I believe theres no set way of life, that things were most certainly *not* put in place from some master plan of a supernatural being, but that we change society ourselves, that we can be the change we want to see in the world, "if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change",  as M. Jackson sang :-)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_in_the_Mirror

If we had all grown up under "communism", perhaps some of us would be interested in moving to "capitalism", who knows, I sure dont!  I know from my own countries controlled market from a few decades ago, New Zealand had all kinds of government controlled industries, which employed absolute "idiots" - "The Railways" were infamous for being staffed by borderline braindead workers - and to "remain competitive", private industry had all kinds of crazy regulations enforced.  For this example, private delivery firms couldnt travel further than XX miles (from memory, whatever this "mile" was), because The Government wanted all transport nationally to flow through the railway.  My grandfather, being an Antique and Secondhand dealer with his own truck was impacted to some extent by these crazy regulations, and this is quite a minor example.

 I for one am not so sure "we need to change the entire financial structure of the globe!" in order to respect other animals, any more than "if we give women equal rights to men, then the world will go to hell...", "if we let Race X be considered equal to Race Y, then cats will chase dogs, gravity will cease to exist...." and what have you.

 

Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to me, the distance left ahead as our bicycle squeaks the wrong way down the freeway, yet each push of the pedals, turning of wheels gets us all the closer to our destination, respect for all.

 

 We are each cogs in a larger machine, to segue into another example.

 

I love Geocaching, using a GPS receiver to find "hidden treasure", usually plastic lunchbox style containers hidden in a bush somewhere nearby.  I've placed a third geocache of my own, I now have three containers hidden around my city for people to find through GPS instructions "you are 100M away...98M away....", also shown as a dot on an onscreen map, using an iPhone (or Android) smartphone ties in Google Images, so you actually have "satellite view" (mostly taken from planes I believe), before arriving you can clearly see "oh, the small plastic container is hidden at the base of a tree, based on the hint given "ground level", its probably covered with dry leaves".

 

My third geocache had a Travel Bug placed inside, a usually metal item thats been sent to travel the world, going from geocache to geocache, with each geocaches location know, the distance between each is automatically recorded online, as people log the item in and out.  I found this Travel Bug, from Rotary International, with the goal of visiting cities with a local Rotary Club (little hint, practically EVERY city has one!)

These two small bits of metal, linked by the dogtag-with-a-unique-serial-number-code-to-prove-you've -found-it has been 15,819.3KM around the world.... starting in Michigan, the USA, and currently sitting in a 200ml plastic container I bought at a local supermarket for about 2 American Dollars, with leaves covering it.  Incredible to think about :-)

 

Rotary International Travel Bug 

http://www.geocaching.com/track/details.aspx?guid=5777e191-511c-4d9...


My cache was called "Mas-Ogyny", and was originally planned to be right opposite the local Freemasons meeting temple, the masons do not allow female human beings to join as members.....unacceptable

Comment by Richard McMahan on August 22, 2011 at 13:23

 

Lisa

communism? how do you know that people would feel less hostile?

Which has become more mainstream "queer" or "homosexual"?

I would sugest pride be left out of the equasion, as this may, or may not, prove helpful.

Again, the use of the word vegan. What would you do if the research suggested that the word most useful to gaining converts, was vegetarian!

This is what we so desperately need to know.

(Its helpful, I believe, to remember that vegetarianism is a possibility, and that veganism, is an impossibility). 

I very much agree with your final comments, other than ("and that never seems to turn out well")

What does?

Comment by Lisa V on August 22, 2011 at 10:36

Maybe I'm being simple here, but how are we going to get people to adopt a set of beliefs if we aren't even willing to tell them the name of that set of beliefs? And that's all the word vegan is ... a description of a set of beliefs.

 

People recoil at the word communism because no one but dictators (who aren't actually communist) have embraced that word, so they recoil out of misunderstanding ... not because they object to what the word actually means. If they knew what it actually meant, there would be far less objection.

 

Also, we've seen how powerful even formerly disparaged words can become when they're embraced by their community ... like the word queer, for example. That's not a word that's become mainstream yet, but it does have power behind it now.

 

No matter what the group, no one is going to want to be in the group whose members won't even call themselves what they are. That's just common sense. I don't know if research is really needed to figure that out. Would YOU want to be in a group whose members weren't proud of who they are? I wouldn't.

 

Nick said, "I always tell people - if they ask -that yes I am vegan." So then vegan becomes some kind of reluctant - even shameful - admission, rather than a forthright and proud declaration. Next to having my kids, becoming vegan is the best thing that's ever happened to me ... I'm consciously grateful for it every single day. To tell others I'm vegan with that kind of feeling behind is going to be more positive, imv, than to reluctantly admit it when asked.

Also, there's not that many of us. I think for those outside the movement, it may be easy to see vegans as a stereotype ... like maybe we're all mostly angry college kids who wear a lot of black and/or Birkenstocks and protest a lot. And some are exactly that. But, others are moms and grandmas who bake vegan cookies, others are more blue collar types ... there's a vibrant vegan movement within African American communities. So, we're a really varied bunch ... with enough diversity that just about anyone can find someone to relate to and say, "ah, yes, they're like me ... so I can become vegan, too."
Anyway, in the end, we need to be the ones defining our movement ... otherwise, someone else will define it for us, and that never seems to turn out well.
Comment by Tim Gier on August 22, 2011 at 9:46
Hi Richard, one of the things Cooney points out in his book is that advocacy groups have to measure success in terms of the changes made in the lives of those they advocate for. So, while it may be the case, for example, that a certain ad campaign increases traffic to a website, or gets people to order literature, unless someone has a way of tracking how those activities translate into meaningful differences in the lives of others, it would not mean much to call that ad campaign a success. Perhaps PETA knows how many people change their behaviors as a result of the campaigns they run. I'd love to see the data on that if it's available.

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