When I posted it on my facebook page a few weeks ago, it clearly resonated with many people, given the number of shares it received. In fact, when I shared it on my personal page, it even got a few “likes” from non-vegetarians among my circle of friends.
That suggests to me that this is a very effective way to share a vegan message. It’s hard to know which types of vegan education efforts have the best impact, of course, because we don’t have the data to tell us. But other kinds of research tell us that a story about an individual is likely to touch more people than a focus on the vast number of animals abused and killed for food. In fact, as Matt Ball of Vegan Outreach writes here, talking about the billions and billions of animals killed every year is likely to simply numb people. It’s referred to as “compassion collapse” in the Psychology Today article he cites.
In my upcoming book for over-50 vegans, my co-authors and I said this about those numbers. “We can’t really imagine that many animals, let alone hold that much suffering in our heart. So we tune out. But when we hear stories about individual animals, we’re reminded that each is a living, breathing creature who desires life and freedom.”
Most vegans don’t/can’t tune out, of course. At this time of year, we’re very aware of the incredible amount of suffering that occurred to produce those mountains of turkey bodies in the freezer section of the grocery store. But if those numbers don’t affect others, we should definitely find out what does. Matt writes: “Indeed, if something is meaningful to us as long-time vegans and activists, it is almost certainly not the best way to reach someone who currently eats meat.”
I wrote a couple of years ago about my mixed feelings about Thanksgiving. It’s a sad day for anyone who cares about animals. But it is also an incredible opportunity for outreach. And we should definitely be smart in that outreach. Leave the steamed green beans and brown rice for another day. This is a day to make it clear that vegan food can be celebratory and decadent. And, if someone asks about your vegan choices, maybe a story about an individual animal will make the biggest impression.