As vegans, we may support organisations that work tirelessly to end animal suffering. Consequently, we encounter much more photographic evidence of animal abuse than maybe 98% of non-vegans.
It’s ironic that WE are frequently viewing disturbing images of animal cruelty when we don’t contribute to this torture. Unfortunately, these images are one way of raising awareness towards a kinder world – we share them with our FB friends, hoping that someone may bother to look and finally make a connection. The more we see and the more they ignore, the more we can feel separate from our so-called “animal loving” non-vegan friends and family.
“I’m offended by the images you post, they really upset me”
It can be very frustrating to tolerate the objections of non-vegans when they refuse to face the truth behind their choices; “I love animals, I get really upset if I see them suffering,” regardless of the fact that they are the ones contributing to the very images we are trying to show them.
It’s hard to understand why non-vegans won’t take even some responsibility and it’s easy to feel resentment towards those who create the demand for the suffering that we witness. The more they ignore the more images we may post to try to get the message through. Equally, our FB friends may feel we are forcing our “animal rights” on them without their permission. This can create a very negative cycle of mutual contempt that does not help vegans, non-vegans, or most importantly – the animals.
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls we would all be vegetarian” – Paul McCartney
The concept of CCTV in slaughterhouses is probably something every vegan would love to “share” with non-vegans. Wouldn’t you love to have everyone you know watch Earthlings? Would they actually change? Well, some would and some wouldn’t – it depends on many factors including their motivation, state of mind, conditioning and level of empathy.
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Everyone is different and although many of us share similar values, every person’s values are unique. Think about your own journey to veganism and the factors that changed your mind forever. For many of us visual images were the catalyst for change, so we think everyone else will feel the same, but it isn’t quite as simple as that… The sheer volume of these images through mediums like FB may even result in a loss of impact if they are not used wisely.
We all want to be loved and accepted
Humans are highly complex social animals – but we have created a very unnatural environment for ourselves. We have overwhelming pressure to conform to the majority (to avoid the risk of being outcasts for having radical and challenging views) yet we need to be perceived as kind and compassionate (to avoid being shunned for being cruel and unkind).
Motivation is the force behind action – and people have different motivations. Everyone is capable of changing, but transformation requires a compelling incentive to make the effort to take action, especially if it goes against the majority.
Some people perceive changing their lifestyle to veganism as potentially more painful than living with ignorance, hypocrisy and denial. This can be very hard for vegans to understand as our motivations are the direct opposite and we can feel exasperated and even more disconnected from the non-vegan community.
What do we do??
It’s great to raise awareness in all ways, but posting nothing but pictures of animal abuse is probably not helpful. Non-vegans simply stop looking or even block posts – not much point in posting pictures that no-one sees, especially if the only people who will look are other vegans who already have a head full of these images.
People don’t like being told they are wrong. Selling the many benefits of veganism (ecology, sustainability, health, fitness) and dispelling any doubts or fears alongside the facts about animal welfare will appeal to more people in more ways. Remember, most non-vegans are living in a state of denial that is fuelled by social conditioning and the animal product industries; we need to get as savvy as they are to show how easy and awesome it is to be vegan – creating a highly desirable motivation to change.
We don’t have multi million pound advertising and brainwashing campaigns – but we do have truth on our side. Being a positive inspiration will be far more effective in recruiting converts than judging, hating or harassing people. Meat producers don’t bully or criticise people into buying; they cultivate lots of desire to buy their products. For example, many children instinctively reject meat. To combat this some fast food outlets process meat beyond recognition and then lure children to eat it by rewarding them with toys from an early age, creating associations of reward, comfort and pleasure with their product- deep within the subconscious of our society.
Don’t waste your time, time is the most precious gift we have
In our “information overload age” there are fewer places for non-vegans to hide from the truth and we can find great comfort in knowing we are not alone. Although we still see these images, we know we are not contributing to the cruelty and we are taking whatever steps we can to educate and support others to make changes too.
We are learning approaches that do work and can focus on solutions. More and more evidence is proving that veganism is a better lifestyle choice – for us, the animals and the planet. The best reactions I ever get from non-vegans is when I post pictures of ultra-fit vegan people, vegan health benefits information or gross facts about animal products. I would rather they took interest in animal welfare, but any reason to go vegan is a start and still helps boycott animal abuse.
Don’t worry, be happy
The one thing we all have in common is the desire to be happy. Everyone wants to be happy; it’s the most powerful motivator in the world. Together we are a powerful force for good in the world – social media helps to connect us like never before. Every one of us is a vegan salesperson and each potential customer we meet will respond to a different sales pitch. Intelligent, effective activism is constantly evolving – we can all learn from each other and share what we learn.
If we are happy, gracious, rational, compassionate and 100% authentic – we have something no animal abusing industry can compete with. Authentic happiness is the holy grail of modern life; it can only be experienced by living, speaking and acting with complete integrity and benevolence. When we are living a life fuelled by the joy of selfless compassion and enjoying the very real benefits of veganism, we have something everyone wants. When they see what we have, they will want it too.