There are many different approaches to advocacy, spreading the word about a cause you care for and changing the way people live, think, and act in the world. When it comes to animal rights (and the environment, too), these tactics can often be of the more “extreme” variety–you know, throwing red paint on fur wearers, raiding labs, freeing caged animals from zoos or other facilities, or displaying gruesome images in full public view.
Admittedly, these extreme methods can be quite effective by getting in peoples’ faces and opening their eyes to the shocking (okay, horrifying) truths of animal farming, slaughtering, and heartless ownership. For better or worse, organizations like PETA that commonly employ aggressive campaigns have brought about very real, very important reforms in how animals are treated and viewed by citizens, corporations, and governments. And, for these victories, we (animal lovers at least) should thank them.
At the same time, though, extreme measures can also turn off a great number of people, both friend and foe, to the whole idea of animal welfare and animal rights. While it is never justifiable to seek self-enforced ignorance simply to escape painful facts, it is also important that we try our best to maintain an open dialogue on such important social topics while seeking to bring about change. If our screams and curses fall upon deaf ears, and maybe even lead to mutiny of our own forces, have we really achieved victory…and are we perhaps costing more lives over time?
As the Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and a host of other wise folks have taught us through time, violence only begets violence, and hatred only brings hatred…
Whatever your personal opinion about “justifiable” violence (in word or action), there are also many ways you can adopt a “kinder, gentler” form of advocacy to help spread information about a vegan lifestyle. And since just about everybody loves food, and a great many non-veg*ns are convinced of how inedible non-animal foods are, one great way to open peoples’ eyes, minds, and tummies to vegan living is through sponsoring a community vegan meal.
Vegan Food: Kinder, Gentler Animal Rights Activism
You can get as creative as you like, going all out and whipping up various vegan delicacies that will fool nearly any animal eater (even kids!) or keeping it simple and shopping wisely. For example:
- You can find some excellent recipes at places like VegWeb.com, ChooseVeg.com, The Vegan Chef, and Vegan-Food.net, and turn your kitchen into a grassroots gustatory hotspot.
- Or if you are in a rush, not a food whiz, or otherwise pressed for resources, you can buy any number of delicious vegan foods from your local grocery or health food stores. They can be pre-packaged foods, like granola or vegan yogurt (soy or coconut-milk based), or you can go with fresh and dried fruits, veggie platters and salads, or specialty breads, just to name a few.
- Even better, why not support local producers and buy things at the farmers’ market nearest you? Depending on where you live, you can find fresh produce, granolas, unique desserts (such as cookies), and homemade artisan breads. Then, you can get your vegan grub and support the local community…and everybody wins!
The company I work for provides a free breakfast every Friday for employees, in all of its offices. These consist of bagels (from the local bagel shop) and cream cheese–which are not all that healthy and, in the case of the cream cheese and a few bagel varieties (egg, whole wheat with honey), not vegan.
A few weeks ago, a colleague and I started providing healthier options: granola, dried fruit, yogurt, peanut butter, and/or hummus. These were all natural and/or organic…and much, much healthier. We decided to foot the bill ourselves and do the leg work of gathering the grub because 1) we believe it is important to support healthy diets and lifestyles, and 2) we are committed to contributing to a positive community where we work.
Right away, the healthy options were a hit! I soon took over the Friday breakfast and decided it would be a great way to help people eat vegan and find out that yes, vegan food can taste (and feel) good. Now, those yogurts are all vegan, everything is organic or all-natural, and I even get some local fresh fruit as much as possible. It is such an awesome feeling to walk in everyday and see the different bowls completely empty.
But even better, I have gotten very positive feedback and thanks from everyone, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, or carnivorous. Some have even volunteered to donate funds. Their enjoyment and excitement of the community breakfast is evident, and they seem genuinely happy about eating healthier, more compassionate foods. Thus, the “Feel-Good Friday Breakfast” has been a great success!
Although animal-rights activists need a variety of tools, at various levels, in the effort to improve animals’ lives, we should never forget that compassion is the greatest driving force we can use in our work, and that it is our love for animals that put us on this path. And diets are one of the most important aspects of our lives when it comes to how we impact animals and the planet.
When you sponsor a vegan meal at your workplace, in your community, or in clubs and other groups, you put compassion into action and make a priceless investment in the welfare of all beings. Give it a shot…I am sure it will be money well spent.
Need ideas for a vegan meal? We’ve got plenty of cookbooks with animal-free recipes, as well as vegan food items listed in the Green Choices product comparison engine. If you want to take this lifestyle choice further, also look at our selection of vegan living products.
Image credit: Maris DeMeglio, from Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License.