The Limits Of Promoting Veganism By Larger And Smaller Organizations
In lessons 2 and 3, I explored the vegan shift in the animal advocacy movement. This has involved small animal rights vegan organizations who put most or all of their efforts into encouraging members of the public to become vegan. It has also involved larger animal advocacy organizations who have not adopted a primary focus on advocating for veganism but have nevertheless increasingly moved in this direction.
Both larger and smaller organizations are limited in their ability to move society towards the wider adoption of veganism. However, organizations of any size can be successful, to some degree, in promoting veganism.
The greater effort involved in people switching to veganism compared to other actions asked by animal advocacy organizations, such as signing petitions or making donations, means that animal rights vegan organizations find it difficult to acquire resources, membership, and publicity. As a result, they are invariably small and rely on grassroots organizational forms.
Having less resources tends to mean reaching fewer people in their advocacy. An example of this is media coverage. The dominant interpretation of “objectivity” in the mainstream media means attempting to show both sides of an issue. In the context of animal advocacy, this often means a voice is given to industries using animals and animal advocacy organizations, with more resources and a more moderate message. Less resources also limits the reach of animal rights vegan organizations in other ways, such as having less capacity to promote their message in television and newspaper commercials.
Despite these limitations, grassroots organizations have greater capacity to more frequently promote veganism, including in a broader and bolder ways. As these organizations have less reliance on a certain amount of finances coming in to pay costs such as salaries and rents, animal rights vegan activism is more possible, despite the negative organizational consequences outlined above. An example is Animal Liberation Victoria, who frequently embrace the term “vegan” in their advocacy, promote veganism strongly and unapologetically, and promote veganism as a broader philosophy and practice also including clothing and cosmetic choices.
In contrast, larger organizations tend to promote veganism less often and in more subtle ways. An example is Animals Australia, which promotes veganism amongst a wide range of other campaigns, such as opposing live animal export and battery cages. They also tend to avoid the term “vegan” in their advocacy. An example is their whyveg.com site. While on this site they speak about harm to animals in industries beyond meat, such as dairy and eggs, the term “veg” is used instead of “vegan.”
However, all of the recipes on the whyveg.com site are vegan and, beyond the difference in language used, the format of the site is actually very similar to sites by animal rights vegan organizations. There are the animal, environmental, and health reasons for veganism, then practical advice on not just replacing meat but also other animal products such as dairy and eggs. One difference beyond the language used is a focus just on the dietary aspect of veganism and not replacing other uses of animals, such as for clothing and entertainment. This is also the case when it comes to vegan advocacy for other larger animal advocacy organizations, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as was explored in lesson 2.
Nevertheless, a vegan diet is promoted through the whyveg.com site and it is likely to reach far more people than similar websites set up by animal rights vegan organizations. First of all, by engaging in campaigns that have far broader public support than vegan campaigns, such as opposing live export, Animals Australia would have a much larger number of people visiting their website. Their more extensive resources as well as their comments on the live export issue and other issues falling closer to dominant narratives means that they are also given a greater voice in mainstream media coverage of animal issues.
They also use their resources to promote their message in television commercials and other forms of advertising that would be out of the reach of animal rights vegan organizations. While these advertisements generally do not focus on promoting veganism — perhaps their most famous is their “Make it Possible” television advertisement opposing factory farming — they do nevertheless increase public awareness of the organization generally. This means that this advertisement is likely to generate more “hits” to the Animals Australia website generally and links from this main website, including the vegan-focused whyveg.com and not just their makeitpossible.com site.
The promotion of veganism by larger organizations such as Animals Australia and PETA is certainly useful in veganism becoming more widespread, due to the large reach of these organizations. However, these organizations have a limited ability to regularly promote a vegan message due to their need to bring in a large amount of resources to sustain costs such as their offices and paid staff, which is usually inconsistent with animal rights vegan activism. It is more grassroots organizations that have far greater scope to consistently promote a vegan message. Of course, this more radical message means that they reach far fewer people due to their limited funds. Different organizational forms have different strengths and weaknesses in their ability to advocate for veganism.
If you’d like to read more about the themes covered in this post, see the Conclusion of my thesis: ‘A sociological examination of the contemporary animal advocacy movement: Organizations, rationality and veganism’ – it is available for anyone to read, you don’t need a university log-in or anything like that.