So, with all this in mind, this year I thought I'd cut my Saturday lie in short and visit the West Midlands Vegan Festival. It was great - you couldn't move for vegans! (How often do you find yourself in that situation?!)
There were tonnes of food stalls, companies selling vegan products (I tried Kara milk for the first time, and I'm now definitely going to try to switch to this from soya), and lots of animal rights groups/animal sanctuaries providing information on the causes they were representing.
|Forget-Me-Not Animal Rescue get extra points for effort!|
|Such yummy sweets!! Look them up (link below), they're great.|
|Goody Good Stuff - anything endorsed by a koala is fine by me.|
Another thing the festival encouraged me to think about was the approach that we take as vegans when communicating our values to others. There was a noticable difference between the majority of stalls, which were cheery and positive, and then those few which had 'meat is murder' t-shirts and bracelets and were offering leaflets with horribly graphic images on them. I must admit, I found the latter stalls really off-putting, and I didn't stop to look at them. I just don't think that that kind of aggressive approach does the cause any good, and in fact I wonder how much damage it does to the reputation of veganism - that 'angry vegan' sterotype came from somewhere, afterall. If people think that becoming a vegan means wearing pictures of mutilated animals on their tshirts and passing out leaflets littered with aggressive slogans, then I can fully understand why more people aren't warming to the idea!
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for bringing the truth to light. It's so incredibly important that people understand the extent of suffering and brutality in the animal industry, and that they don't close their eyes and ears to the pain they are inflicting by monetarily supporting factory farming. Nothing is more annoying than someone refusing to hear what you have to say because 'it's too upsetting', ending the conversation with you and then making a trip to Tesco (boooooo!! You know how much I hate Tesco...) to buy burgers for that night's dinner. As I discuss at length in my post 'The Urgency of Unity', the solution to this problem is so simple: Vote with the pound.
So, I totally sympathise with the frustration that most vegans feel. Animal suffering is happening on such a huge scale that drastic and aggressive action seems the most obvious route to take. However, it's in human nature to be drawn to positive imagery and ideas rather than negative ones, and thus it's common sense that charities bear this in mind when communicating their ideas. Stories of what switching to a vegan lifestyle can achieve, images of happy rescued animals in sanctuaries, the availability of exciting food and fashionable clothes and cosmetics are all much more likely to draw people towards considering veganism as a compassionate, attractive, and practical way of life than bombarding them with upsetting images. Most charity websites have now changed their approach. The majority of the images used on the WaterAid website, for example, are positive ones that show the changes the charity has made to the lives of those it has reached. That's something people want to be associated with and support. When people are repulsed or upset by images, the natural reaction is to avoid everything to do with that image. When people experience negative emotions when confronted by graphic images, they associate the distributer of that image with the same feeling.
But still, I know that those upsetting images do have their place and that they need to be seen. But in what forum? I guess it's all about having a sensitive and nuanced approached. It's an incredibly complex topic, but one that I've been thinking more and more about lately. I feel like veganism desperately needs an image makeover to make it more user friendly! Ideas/thoughts on a postcard/in a comment, please, my lovely veggie readers.
Peace and love to you all.