The Art of Dissuasion: How Not to Persuade People to Become Vegans

The Art of Dissuasion: How not to Persuade People to Become Vegans

the art of dissuasion

Can we please stop trying to persuade people to "go vegan"?

Listen, please stop trying to persuade people to become vegans. It is not working, it does not help, it is a waste of time, it is inappropriate, and it probably does more harm than good.

“Wrong!” I hear you say. “Wrong! We have to persuade people to change. Even if there is room for other types of activism, we have to try to educate people, we have a duty to do so, and if we don’t educate people they simply will not change!”

You hear me state my opinion and you get all angry and riled up inside and disagree. But I hear you disagree, and then I get all angry and riled up inside too. Because, I don’t agree. And, when you take that tone with me, I have really no interest in hearing what you have to say. I mean, how dare you tell me I have got it all wrong? Why do you think you know better than me?

What are we humans? Are we unemotional, rational, robots? Or are we animals? Or something else? Hopefully, most of you realize that we are animals. Ok, great, next tell me: are animals guided primarily or entirely by rational thought as though logical automata, or are they guided primarily by emotion, simply using rational thinking as a tool to solve certain problems? Hopefully, you realize it is the latter. Hopefully, you may have also given some thought to the reasons that we, us animals I mean, have evolved to be emotional as well as logical beings. We cannot get by without logic because without it we cannot solve even the most absolutely simple problems. If you observe a spider for just a small amount of time, for instance, you can see it is very logical. It needs to be in order to solve the problems it comes face to face with in its life. But, in general, its behaviour is strongly influenced by what it needs or desires or fears. This becomes even more obvious if we observe non-human macrofauna for any length of time. We experience emotion for two reasons. Firstly, it constrains the solution space for the problems that we wish to solve, providing a set of biases that steer us toward particular types of solutions to problems, thus allowing us to solve them more roughly but far more efficiently. Rather than having to enumerate every single candidate solution in the solution space and then analytically optimize them according to predicted outcome, something that would be impracticably complex in most cases, we just intuitively know that some solution or solutions is/are available to us. Similarly, it renders infinitism null and obsolete. Secondly, it actually gives us the motivation to do the things we do, connecting together wants and needs and allowing the latter to be transformed into affective states that spur us into action. Without emotion we would be behaviourially inert. In summary, emotion is the bedrock of our mental reality.

It comes before anything else. It is the mechanism of all of our motivations in life. Furthermore, the way it skews our rational thought processes is not only unavoidable, but actually a fundamental aspect of how we function mentally. The psychologist Johnathan Haidt famously characterized the human psyche, or more specifically human moral judgement, as the “emotional dog and its rational tail”, one of the most perfectly apt metaphors ever devised. He also explained how our default processing system for moral judgement is socio-intuitive, not rationalistic. He also managed to delineate the role of moral reasoning as a tool of post-hoc justification and as the foundation of the language of moral justification, making the interesting observation that whilst we imagine ourselves to be rational judges weighing logical propositions and making determinations after considering the evidence and engaging in a process of deductive analysis, we are in fact far more like lawyers that are tasked with defending the propositions to which we have already subscribed before the fact. Our intuition is activated instantaneously during the first moment that we contemplate a thing, and via it we form an impression, a process akin to perception. The social demand to make a moral judgement then leads us to issue a verdict accordingly. We only engage logic in the specific case that we need to actually defend or communicate such judgments, after the fact.

So, let me ask the question again. How do you think I feel when you tell me that I am wrong, and you are right? You claim to be empathetic do you not? So, you should have some kind of answer. Well, I can tell you that it does not feel good. Even though you are a person whom I do not know and with whom I have no contact, it does not feel good at all to have some upstart telling me I’m wrong. And with such conviction! If we were talking face to face and you spoke to me like that I would no doubt feel even more displeasure at the whole affair. It feels like an affront. It alienates me and makes me indifferent to you and the things you say, which, incidentally, I have also decided to regard as nonsense from now on.

There are certain important facts, grounded in science, that we all need to be aware of: when people are incorrect in their views and are presented with facts or arguments, valid or otherwise, that demonstrate the invalidity of those views, they tend to become far more certain about their own views and beliefs rather than less. There are different reasons for this phenomenon but one of the main reasons is confirmation bias, which, in disputes, tends to lead to polarization of opinion. Polarization is an even more pronounced phenomenon in today’s world of social-media-induced tunnel vision, in which algorithms display content to users according to their opinions, posts, interests, and contacts, meanwhile siphoning off their personal data. (As they say, if you’re receiving a product for free, you are the product.) Nonethless, activists, just like other consumers, are getting chewed up and spat out by the same mechanism of exploitation, and yet this new virtual reality reinforces their naïve beliefs that they are converting the world to veganism, that in just a few years everyone will be vegan, and that everyone loves animals and cares about the environment deep down.

Furthermore, people who are inexperienced in argumentation but nonetheless desperate to persuade others of their own views tend to make a certain standard set of mistakes every time they open their mouths. They mentally label their interlocutor as an adversary or opponent, they fail to listen to the points that the “enemy” raises, and they are far too driven by the endgame to have a true conversation. For this reason, they learn nothing about the people with whom they are debating as they are not remotely interested in listening to and thinking about the intricacies of their views, and, simultaneously, they manage to create a bad impression of themselves and the position that they represent by unveiling their position in a way that absolutely juxtaposes it with their interlocutor’s, instead of trying moderate their language and look for common ground in order to reach some kind of mutual understanding. Furthermore, in engaging in this kind of behaviour, they reinforce their own negative preconceptions about those who do not hold their own views, and this simply perpetuates a vicious circle of pointless misunderstandings, wasted time, wasted energy, and conflict. Apart from being stressful and exhausting for all concerned, from a pragmatic perspective it is, quite literally, just a waste of time. 

cube of truth
Cube of Truth (source: Jean Gagnon)

Some people simply “agree” in such situations. “Yes, I agree”, they say, just to get out of the situation. Some people play it cold, not wanting to commit to or encourage anything that they consider dubious or disagreeable. They just want to be polite and get out of there. Some people “don’t have time”. “Sorry mate. Got a train to catch.” Some get angry and aggressive, being unable to contain or repress the offense that they feel. For instance, how might a rape victim feel if they are told that drinking milk is equivalent to being a rapist?

"Dairy is the Rape Industry" (Source: Youtube)

The problem is that it is a proven fact that argumentation pushes people away. Not everyone. But, almost everyone. Almost all of the time. And no amount of Socratic dialogue or any other trick is going to pull the wool over people’s eyes. People know when they are being pressured into committing to something, and they can sense that their opinions are being dismissed as invalid, that it is being insinuated that they are hypocrites, and that they are being shamed for the way that they live. Very few people are going to welcome this kind of interaction, and in very few cases will it have the desired impact. And even in those cases in which it does have the effect of persuading someone to change their lives, that person has made that change under pressure and is therefore very likely to “rebel” even if they do so latently. And since persuading people to become vegans on a purely temporary basis is not likely to be particularly useful, this is essentially a failure.

In the main, these supposed efforts to persuade do not plant seeds of doubt regarding the consumption of animal products, they plant seeds of further certainty. As a matter of psychological fact, as noted above, such interactions tend lead to polarization. Everyone becomes so much more certain about their own position relative to the dispute regardless of logic, factuality, consistency, or rectitude, which, despite the pompous principles we espouse regarding the members of our species, are, in reality, of secondary significance to us.

Another thing: can we please stop all the debating

Ah yes, and then there are the mass debaters. Why are we debating a certainty? The rectitude of the avoidance of inflicting unnecessary harm ought to be a foregone conclusion. One debates matters that are in reasonable doubt, one does not debate matters of absolute certainty. There is no need for this type of discussion. We say 2 + 2 = 4. And it is. End of. These people who think that they are promoting veganism by debating it with others are simply showboating. Furthermore, people are not persuaded by this – the people doing it are just trying to win a childish social game and to others it looks, at best, like sophistry, at worst, like insecurity.

Do racial justice activists participate in debates regarding whether black lives have any intrinsic value? Discussions like these ought to be the exception, not the rule. As a general principle, we only debate that which is genuinely disputed. We don’t debate whether global warming is real or whether the Earth is round. We don’t debate irrefutable facts. All of this may be well-intentioned, but it is peacockery. 

Educating the masses

Many do agree that bullyboy tactics are not appropriate but then say “yes, but there is a need for education”. The trouble is – what options are left? Well, there are some ways of influencing people en masse. For a very long time entire fields of commercial industry and professional endeavour have grown up around the need to influence. Examples are lobbying, pressure-campaigning, PR, marketing, consulting, diplomacy, and advertising.

I'm me not meat
I'm ME, Not MEAT (Source: PETA)

To take an example, advertising is extremely effective. In fact, its influence is so superior as to be almost incomparable. It is a well established fact that the majority of people do not think that they are influenced particularly by advertising, in spite of the fact that the advertising industry continues to be a hugely successful, multi-hundred-billion dollar industry that continues to grow at a very impressive rate, and in spite of the fact that industry research continues to suggest that at least 90% of consumers ARE influenced by advertising.

Perhaps something can be learnt from this? Indeed, one of the key ways that advertising is able to influence consumers is by exploiting their implicit attitudes via evaluative conditioning. For instance, it has been demonstrated[1] that in the absence of explicit attitudes, consumers tend to be influenced primarily by their implicit attitudes and that whilst explicit, objective information influences people according to a sliding scale of motivation, implicit attitudes are a reliable source of confidence in consumer choices. Furthermore, it would appear that the very fact that advertising works in this way may be one of the reasons it appears not to work at all and ultimately, and ironically, that it does work so very well. Changing implicit attitudes ought to be a priority for advertising-based education programmes.

Selling veganism

So, if we go back to the issue of persuading people, and view such interactions in this light, we might also be able to see that argumentative and aggressive behaviour, pettiness, antisocial conduct, shaming, accusing, etc. are clearly just going to create negative affective associations and are not really going to “sell” anything.

Of course, one may say that this is not strictly true. Several of the people who are particularly outstanding in this field of harassing innocent members of the public in shopping malls are clearly strong, charismatic, effective salespeople. But then so are the other folk standing nearby flogging absolution, newspapers, and cheap nights out. The problem is that conventional sales is mostly about using a bunch of cheap social pressure tactics to get someone to agree with something – even to the extent that they will pay money or sign a piece of paper just to make the experience come to an end. But this way of doing things does not create lasting change. Sadly, this means that the individuals and groups taking part in these actions are not even really focused on the ultimate consequence of the actions, only their immediate superficial impact on those who appear to take the bait. Likewise, those taking the bait are focused on their interaction with another person, they are not seriously considering the ethicality of their way of life. Also, since people tend to be repelled by negative imagery, how much does blasting people with slaughterhouse footage really help them see a positive, healthy, wholesome, and appealing way of life in veganism?

Of course, that is not to say that animal abuse footage is not an important tool in animal rights campaigning more generally, (it definitely is), just that its use in persuading ordinary consumers to change their way of life is highly questionable, except perhaps in certain highly-targeted cases. The image of the organisations and groups that engage in such persuasion does not seem to matter to them. But why? Should it not?[2]

We should recognize the slow burn of the methods that work: for instance, advertising plays the long game – and does so very subtly. No doubt we would love to believe that effecting change in consumer behaviour involves dealing with logical, rational, moral decision makers, but it does not – it involves dealing with animals belonging to a species called homo sapiens, a species that is going to destroy its world and potentially become extinct in the next few centuries if it doesn’t play its cards right. We should also be able to recognize that such commercial approaches take advantage of scale. Oppositely, what we see in many cases of people attempting en masse persuasion of consumers in the world of pro-vegan activism is something like a diseconomy of scale, due to the fact that most of them prioritize extensive, high-cost interactions with individuals over mass communication and influencing, their main attempt at mass influencing seemingly being the low-key online publication of their interactions with individual consumers. In addition to ignoring all of the above principals, they also appear to have no meaningful way to measure their own success – often being quite content to rely on sham statistics and baseless claims. Finally, there is typically little or no coordination to their actions, in sharp contrast with the brutal, mechanistic systematicity of the political system, the justice system, and the industries that exploit animals for money.

The world’s transition to veganism is not a matter of swaying individual consumers, even if education has a role to play of some description. The propagation of veganism and the attendant transformation of the world’s food production system is about social evolution and industrial innovation, in combination with what will need to be a new, revolutionarily different, and far more effective wave of pro-vegan activism. This 4th wave of veganism* will need to engage with and apply pressure directly on the political system and the business world, acting in a strategic – almost surgical – fashion. This is what the future must have in store if swifter progress is desired.

Of course, education is very important. But it has to be done in the right way. Education is not always about teaching people what they don’t know. Often it is about recontextualizing what people already understand so as to realign belief with truth and to provide the motivation to do the right thing. Some of it is informational of course: animal products have to be seen for what they are. There is a need to colour in the black and white bucolic fairytales of food production and agriculture, with the reality of the suffering, blood, death, environmental devastation, and barbarism needed to make these abominable products 

As for innovation – it’s already happening

“That’s how you remain in business. If there is a demand for a new kind of product like a vegan item then, of course, you need to cater for it, and those that haven’t will fall behind, it’s as simple as that. It’s a bit like the demise of Kodak, they kind of ignored the digital revolution, and they went from a company that monopolized photography to zero, basically” —– Sir Alan Sugar

As for social evolution, well, just like biological evolution, it is a generational phenomenon. And no, don’t listen to people who say that the world will never become vegan. Equally, don’t listen to these naïve folks who imagine that the world will be vegan within the next few years or decades. That will not happen either. The world will not become vegan until many generations have lived and died, and the world will not become vegan until a war has been waged and won by the right and the just against the socio-economic hegemony that persecutes animals, exploits the poor, and devastates the environment, for money.

People who say that the world is just on the cusp of becoming vegan, as though it will happen, maybe tomorrow, effortlessly, and without a fight, are making use of a wonderful free service that is available to all humans around the world – wishful thinking. Indeed many do seem to swallow all of the hype spat out by the “street activists” who spend their spare time after school arguing with pedestrians.

On the other hand, those who say that the world will never be vegan are not just engaging in wishful thinking – they are under the influence of an extremely common socio-cognitive fallacy. Namely, the null futurology fallacy, according to which we imagine the future as a kind of indefinitely extended present. Hypothetically, we could travel back to any period of history (or prehistory) in a time machine and ask people whether the world is changing – and they would say: “yes”, and whether the world has changed much up to that point in time or whether things have always been the same in the world – and they would say: “oh yes – drastically, in the past things used to be very different”, and also whether society will change in some specific respect – and most of them, except for a few exceptional and futurologically-minded people would say: “no, some things don’t change” or “people don’t change” or “no, that’s just the way the world is”. Every age thinks it is either the pinnacle or the dead-end in the topography of the grand journey that humanity has tunnelled through the fabric of time. This is a viewpoint that not only contradicts reality but also has no internal logical consistency, and yet it is how most people consider the future – even people who have taken some history classes! It is a fallacy a priori. The world is changing and will continue to do so – and tomorrow’s world will be absolutely nothing like today’s. Apart from the fact that we don’t see social evolution, just like we don’t see biological evolution, (due to the very fact that it is a generational affair), a further reason that a different future is so hard to imagine is that human nature itself does not change. The thing is, we ought never to concern ourselves with human nature, something that is as constant as the nature of any other animal, we ought to be concerning ourselves with society, something that is forever in a transitional and evolutionary state.

Bees don’t change. We can’t change fox nature or crow nature. Why should human nature change? We are apes like any other apes and our nature does not change noticeably, except on an evolutionary timescale. Not only is it unreasonable to expect our nature to change, no successful societal change to date has required human nature to change. Any movement for change that is predicated on changing human nature is destined for failure. We ought to be concerning ourselves not with changing human nature, but with society, something that is forever changing, something that does afford great capacity to adapt and evolve. Sadly, many activists get hung up on what some consumer or other thinks the future might look like, even though, if we are honest, the opinion of a random person in the street regarding the future is almost always fallacious and almost never has any potential to influence anything whatsoever. As they say, an unqualified opinion is an unnecessary one. Nonetheless, some activists mistakenly think that they can turn the opinions of random, unimportant individuals into battlegrounds in the war for animal liberation!

But seriously, do not try to persuade people to become vegans

Influence yes, but do not “persuade”. It is a waste of time and it is a waste of effort, and, by preoccupying yourself with persuading people of the current generation you are unavoidably engaging in a pointless lexical war of attrition, in which no side wins, but you, as you are fighting on all fronts, quickly become exhausted. Why bother to this degree with the non-vegans? With people who have simply been left behind by this fundamental phase of society’s evolution? Evolution of any form is a fuzzy, continuous, glacial process, that can only be observed on a generational scale.

Expect a continued, extremely slow, glacial drift, not any kind of sharp transition. Of course, sometimes a movement reaches critical mass and a sharper transition can be seen but these sharper transitions, whilst signalling real momentum, are in essence just little quakes and tremors in the grand scale of the tectonic shift of the continents. Furthermore, sharp transitions require caution as they are the transitions that are exploited more than any other, even when they are promulgated and driven forward by highly organized and motivated movements. For instance, the recent BLM related protests have become in essence a political football, used by the right to shame the left and by the left to shame the right. What happens to the fundamental meaning of the movement though? In Pareto-esque form, it’s 80% evolution : 20% revolution, although both sides are fundamental to success and continued progress.

Another thing. Stop trying to make everyone into an animal lover.

Do not be dismayed that many people do not care about animals. Do not be dismayed that many people hate animals. That should not be your primary concern. What should matter is whatever works. Enough of this “vegan for the animals” crap! Yes, “vegan” in the true “orthodox” sense of the word does or ought to mean “animal rights activist”. But when certain contemporary “activists” use this term they don’t mean that – they mean that it is not enough to be plant-based. If someone is not burning down synagogues you don’t worry about what their motive for NOT doing that is for God’s sake. The point is they are NOT doing it. We can encourage this behaviour in other people by emphasizing the very real health benefits of a plant-based diet, by emphasizing environmental aspects, by emphasizing the sustainability angle and the millions of people whose lives would be saved in a world in which the food production infrastructure isn’t designed to take the food out of the mouths of the poor in order to feed the fat, rich, greedy West. And we can encourage a small minority of people to really care more about animals – most likely those that already do care deep down – just don’t expect most people to care about animals, because they never will. We do need more activists, but the vast majority of those on a plant-based diet do not subscribe to this philosophy and never will, nor will they ever be activists. Imagining that veganism in this sense ought to be the same as a plant-based diet is a bit like conflating Hinduism with, well, a plant-based diet (except for the fact that certain vegan activists are far more dogmatic than any Hindu).

Most people do not care and never will care about animals. And just as they don’t care about animals having their lives violently destroyed behind slaughterhouse walls, they don’t care about “those black people” dying in poor countries either. And it is the same way of thinking in both cases: “out of sight, out of mind.” Is that racism? Yes. Is that speciesism. Yes. Would it be different if that suffering were closer to home or if those people were a bit whiter or if those murdered and brutalized animals were a bit more visible? Certainly. But another real factor is complete indifference to the suffering of others. Because not only do people not really care about animals, people do not really care about other people either. The human being is a creature distinguished by absolute selfishness. Our “selflessness” is a childish, naïve myth, like free will, the existence of which is logically untenable, even if it is a convenient trope in our folk psychology.

How many times have consumers been told not to buy Nestle’s products because of all of the infant deaths and the family poverty that are likely to result from their aggressive marketing of baby formula, and because of the way their operations have left significant numbers of people in water poverty? How many times have consumers been told not to buy Coca-Cola products because the corporation single-handedly manages to be the world’s biggest plastic polluter, because it has denied clean water to huge numbers of farmers and citizens in India, because it has on multiple occasions failed to respect and recognize workers’ basic rights, because its products were animal-tested for many years, and ultimately because it makes its profit selling extremely unhealthy products? How many times have consumers been told not to buy from McDonald’s, because of their indifference to animal welfare issues among their suppliers, because of the way they treat their workers, and because of their terrible environmental record? And are these companies still doing those things? Yes. Are people still buying their products? Yes.

coke
Original Waste (Source: me.me)

And yet there was at one time, as many of us fondly remember, an entire army of people wandering around the streets and shopping centres encouraging people to boycott their products, so why didn’t the consumers listen? Well, consumers don’t listen to reason. They are not in full control of their actions and never have been. Such is consumerism. As far as education goes, plant-based is a reasonable goal. As far as encouraging new activists goes, a starting point would be those who are already activists as well as some of those who happen to be plant-based. As far as activism itself goes, why bother with consumers to this disproportionate degree? The answer is always the same: “supply and demand”. But, before Coca-Cola, did people want to drink Coke? Where did that demand suddenly come from? It is the system of supply itself that creates and sustains demand. That is the nature of consumerism. Consumers’ opinions are largely irrelevant, being as they are irrational and ephemeral, a consequence not a cause. Consumers simply swallow down whatever the business world wants them to. So, activists need to ask themselves why they bother trying to persuade puppets when they could be trying to influence puppetmasters?

It is not just selfishness that defines us, however. In spite of the arrogant way that humans characterize other animals as beings of lower significance because they live “in the moment”, (even though they celebrate such impulsivity in themselves as a triumph over inertia and fear, and even though it is an inaccurate ethological portrayal of other animals, many of whom have highly biographical lives), the reality is that we are no less impulsive and we live in the moment to no lesser degree. Our lives have some biographical elements, but most of those elements have come about due to our socio-economic history, our propensity for cultural perpetuation, our ability with the production, development, and comprehension of language, and the ways in which we have developed power structures within society for the exploitation of one another. In fact, people’s desires, like those of other animals, are largely driven by short-term gratification. And to that end, people do not even really “care” about themselves. Just think about smokers. Why on Earth do people smoke? On the face of it is thickheaded self-harm carried out for the most ludicrous and vapid of reasons. It was suspected that there was a link between cancer and tobacco smoke in the late C19th and during the interwar period it had been scientifically established beyond any reasonable doubt that the tobacco smoke is highly carcinogenic. And how did people react to this news? Well, one of the most common anglophone slang terms for cigarette during the 1950s was cancer stick – as in: “pass me a cancer stick” and “got any cancer sticks?” Another favourite slang was death stick – as in “got any death sticks?” Certain things changed and the prevalence of smoking has dropped very considerably, but not because people started caring more about themselves than they did before. Those things did not change because of people being persuaded to care about the issue via rational arguments or due to being bombarded with (shudder) “truth bombs”. So, if people cannot even be persuaded to care about themselves – except in as much as they seek short-term gratification – how on Earth are they going to be persuaded to start caring about anyone or anything else? Homo sapiens is not a superior animal in any sense whatsoever – only in a vacuous, anthropocentric, and entirely nominal sense. Worse, we tend to set our expectations for the conduct of the members of our species unrealistically high. Yes, you are not trying to reason with an orangutan, but you are nonetheless trying to reason with a (largely) irrational, belligerent primate – so you would do well to remember that. 

If you want to help people to adopt a plant-based lifestyle and to stop financing the animal exploitation industry, try to educate them about becoming plant-based. A vegan is an animal rights activist. If you want to help people to become vegan, you are trying to make people into animal rights activists, and that is far more difficult. A good place to start would be with all of those people on a plant-based diet, all those “vegans”. We need to be able to allow a certain level of conflation of terms, as being plant-based, just like being a vegan, is a matter of degree. Certain activists disagree with all of this, insisting that trying to be “diplomatic” doesn’t work. Curiously, these are typically the same activists that are known for their vitriol and their complete lack of tact or self-control. And their delusional, unwavering certainty about their own success in spite of having no evidence of the latter is hair-raising. There is a shortage of activists at this point in time, but as far as making more of them is concerned we ought to be trying to gain support for the movement, rather than roping people into some kind of formulaic, vegan pyramid scheme in which we all practice activism-by-numbers to recruit more people into the same fraud. 

The fallacy of "going vegan"

“Going vegan” often defines the life of a person, especially an activist. “Going vegan was the best decision I ever made”, they say, as though that moment in time when they made the decision to become vegan continues to define who they are. However, this fixation upon a momentary transition can fuel a fallacious and deceptive worldview, which has the power to divert the energy of an activist toward meaningless goals and ultimately lead to their untimely exhaustion. As noted above, society is always in a transitional state. Even though good activism of the right type, based on a shrewd approach, is likely to have some kind of positive impact in the long-term, we must not look for discontinuous transitions in society as a whole. And, somewhat more controversially, we must not look for sudden transitions in the hearts and minds of others either. The world is never going to “go vegan”. We should not even want that. The ultimate goal should not be a world full of animal rights activists, but a plant-based world free of animal exploitation. For sure, to achieve that, we should be looking to grow the movement. However, the right place to look for new activists is not necessarily random people milling around supermarkets and shopping centres. There already is a large and successful animal rights movement and there are also many people already living a plant-based lifestyle – many of whom call themselves vegans.

With regard to activism, and making a difference to society as a whole, ask yourself: did George Fox wander around in the streets speaking to each and every person commercially involved in the slave trade in order to persuade them to consider the ethical dimensions of their actions? Did Martin Luther King wander around the towns of Georgia and Alabama trying to persuade everyone not to be racist? Did Nelson Mandela wander around the streets and shopping centres of South Africa trying to persuade white people that black lives have equal value and that apartheid must end? And if these great people had taken such actions what would have happened? It would have meant that their movements would have failed and that their names would not be known to us today. Today’s world may have looked very different if they had taken such an approach.

To make things change we are going to have to be far bolder and also considerably shrewder. We must challenge the business world and the political system. We need a 4th wave of vegan activism. But to create a new wave of vegan activism, we need to aim (as much as possible) for an inclusive dialogue about the future. That means creating a much more mature and inclusive movement, far from the “vegan for the animals” dogma and similar well-meaning but ultimately counterproductive belief systems.

M  E  A  T    I  S     M  U  R  D  E  R

References

  1. The Influence of Implicit Attitudes on Choice When Consumers Are Confronted with Conflicting Attribute Information Melanie A. Dempsey and Andrew A. Mitchell Journal of Consumer Research Vol. 37, No. 4 (December 2010), pp. 614-625
  2. Routledge Handbook of Political Advertising (Routledge International Handbooks) Hardcover – 2 Mar. 2017 Christina Holtz-Bacha (Editor), Marion R. Just (Editor)

Side note: 4th wave here alludes to the idea that (1) many early voices in the world of animal rights advocated ethical vegetarianism, that (2) subsequently veganism as a social movement surfaced and became gradually more and more intertwined with the animal rights movement, and that (3) thereafter activism largely based on increasing consumer awareness and sensitizing consumers to the ethical consequences of their product choices has come about and is essentially the current form of vegan activism. Note that when we say “vegan activism”, we mean it in the strong sense of “animal rights activism that avoids supporting animal exploitation and actively works to eliminate all forms of the latter”, not simply “plant-based”. There’s nothing wrong with being plant-based of course, it’s just that we’re talking activism nomenclature here.