When I first went vegan, I kept coming across a lot of inconsistent ideas and information floating around. Once I had done all of the thinking and research that led me to veganism in the first place, I felt confused by groups like PETA and HSUS who more so promote vegetarianism and "Humane" or "Happy" meat and animal products. From my new vegan perspective, using animals at all, enslaving them and killing them when it was so unnecessary was the moral problem. How could anyone or any animal rights group (who should know better) promote anything else but veganism?
Then I came across Professor Gary Francione's website The Abolition Approach. The difference? Veganism is a moral baseline. Professor Francione promotes non-violent, vegan education. He doesn't accept donations. He has worked on animal rights for over 30 years without pay (For his day job he is a Distinguished professor of Law at Rutger's University). His moral comparisons are sharp and he makes more sense than anyone else working on the topic. He has also written several books on animal rights and he is frequently interviewed. I hope everyone here will check The Abolitionist Approach out because it is really catching on and is making a very big difference.
The question is how to get non vegans to open their hearts and minds to the plight of animals. So I have been exploring how to reach people. It's not about preaching to the choir or vegans talking about how we are opposed to using animals.
The Animal Activist Handbook was the most helpful and useful book. I also have learned much from articles on Vegan Outreach's website. The Animal Activist Handbook and the VO articles came from the authors' years of experience as activists and seeing what works and doesn't work.
I have learned to be patient, non judgemental, and meet people where they are at, not where I want them to be. The key is in getting people to not shut down and to take the first step.This leads to more steps. After years of going around telling people to go vegan, (which only works for a very small minority) I have found ways that work much better. After all, we would already have a vegan world if all we had to do was tell people "It's wrong to use animals, go vegan." My conversations now go much better than they used to. I hope you will read the AAH. It is all about how to be effective.
The problem I have with Vegan Outreach, is they present veganism as an option when talking to others about animal rights. According to VO, it's morally okay if people just cut down on their meat consumption. I don't see it that way and here is why:
To advocate for anything less than veganism is confusing. It enforces the idea that animals are ours to use as we please when there is no logical reason that makes this "normal" behavior, moral behavior. During the days of slavery, some advocates argued that slavery should be regulated (meaning the slaves should be treated better ) while others argued that slavery should be abolished (meaning *using* people was abuse in itself). I'm sure you agree with the abolitionist hundreds of years ago, why should abolition now be considered any less agreeable?
Another problem I have with animal welfare groups like HSUS, PETA, and VO, is they design their campaigns with the idea that not everyone cares and therefore not everyone will go vegan. This is true, but why on earth would I mold a grassroots movements towards people who don't care? There are just as many people who *do* care! I'm going to talk to everyone I can about veganism and the people who don't care will just be my practice for the many people who do care. I was vegetarian for 12 years because I cared about animals. Then, someone talked to me about why veganism was important. They didn't sugarcoat things and they didn't settle for less than what was right. As a result of finally getting a clear message, I went vegan. If someone had talked to me 12 years earlier about veganism, I would have gone vegan then. Imagine the time that I wasted and the animals that paid the price.
I have all of the VO pamphlets from when I first went vegan but I don't hand them out anymore because I disagree with them. I think that VO, HSUS, PETA, and all animal welfare groups mean well, but I think that is animal welfare was going to work, it would have worked by now. Animal welfare has been around for a long, long time and animal exploitation has only gotten much, much worse. I think the problem is that animal welfare does not get to the root of the problem which is, the way that we think (and don't think).
Through the Abotionist Approach, I have learned to have faith in people. Before I start a conversation with someone, I remind myself to treat the person as the good, smart, compassionate human being that they are and it is amazing how well that works. As Ladybird Johnson once said, "Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them." The same can be said for all people.
On another note, it bothers me that because a person is consistent, they are often written off as being judgmental. Luckily, this more often happens on forums such as these. When I talk to people face-to-face, I make sure they know about my story and how I went vegan (how I wasn't always vegetarian or vegan) and this has been getting more and more successful.
Finally, you mention that, "After all, we would already have a vegan world if all we had to do was tell people 'It's wrong to use animals, go vegan.' This is not what Vegan Outreach, PETA, or HSUS tell people so how could we know that this honest, simplistic message wouldn't work? These groups tell people it is okay to use animals sometimes and/or it is okay to use animals "humanely". I believe that if we did tell people "It's wrong to use animals, go vegan." and we were educated about the common questions and facts, and we remained patient, consistent, and compassionate, I believe that we would have a vegan world by now.
I have the book Vegan Freak and it's hard core, Basically there is a seperation from Vegans and Vegetarians (or Flirts, Flexitarians, Pescetarian's, etc). They want those groups to join the movement to end the abuse of animals. They too were ovo-lactos for years before taking the plunge.
For me personally while I appreciate that someone is trying to make effort cutting back on products it would feel like I am not about child A but still abusing child B instead. It seems like often when people cut out meat they just wind up eating more dairy and eggs and don't really learn all the other sources of proteins, and how to live without the taste of animal products.
For me the hardest thing about being vegan is not the diet, that's easy. It's forgoing buying items such as a cute sweater on sale that has 15% wool. I am done though, using up what was bought before and not buying anymore.