Vegan, vegetarian, or a small first step?

In a much shared article on latestvegannews.com on the decrease in meat consumption in the US, Paul Shapiro, vice president of Farm Animal Protection at HSUS, points out that it is mainly meat reducers driving both meat reduction and the vegan market. By their mere numbers, these people together are having a bigger impact on the number of animals being killed than the much, much smaller percentage of vegans. cow Still, a part of our movement believes that the only thing we can ask is for veganism, and that we should always make clear that veganism is the final goal. I always wonder why that is. If you know that many more people are more open to the message “go meatless on Monday” than to the “go vegan” message, and if you know that these “meatless mondivores” have a bigger impact altogether, why shouldn’t you do it? I have written before that I think it’s not very thoughtful to answer with things like: “because we don’t ask for a slavery free Friday or a childbeating free Tuesday either.” People who answer this, say that if something is wrong, we should not advise people to partially cut the bad behavior, we should ask them to eliminate it altogether. I think it’s not very thoughtful because we are in a completely different situation than with these human causes: there is way, way less public support for veganism than there is for not having slavery or violence against children. Another potential reason why some may refuse to ask for anything les than veganism, is because they fear that people would get complacent. These people might say, at some point, that they are doing their thing already, having reduced their meat consumption twenty percent. Maybe that’s the case, for some people. But the most important thing, in my view, is to get people across the threshold, to make them take the first step. When they see how tasty, affordable, doable… veg food can be, they can go further. And just as importantly, this creates a critical mass for more and more vegan products, which will make it easier and easier for these people to eat more and more vegan. At least, if we don’t discourage them by telling them they are not doing enough.

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14 thoughts on “Vegan, vegetarian, or a small first step?

    1. thx matt, i was already aware of one step, but as far as i understand, they only suggest the chicken-step? not that i think there might be more important steps, but i wonder if maybe offering three possible steps could be more effective. not sure, cause on the other hand i think an org that is really about chickens is very timely

      1. Another great post, thanks Tobias!

        I just stumbled on One Step for Animals last week myself. I’m not really sure what the “chicken-step” you refer to is (I’m guessing eating chicken instead of other meat?), but One Step’s philosophy appears to be right in line with yours. On their “about” page, it states:

        “We are working to help animals, period. We aren’t trying to promote a particular philosophy, worldview, diet, or lifestyle. Our bottom line is not how many people we can convince to think exactly like we do, but how many fewer animals are suffering and dying. We would rather help three people start eating half as many animals than convince one person to be a strict and strident vegan.

        If there were some magic argument that would persuade everyone to stop eating animals immediately, it would have been discovered by now. Our combined experience – well over 100 years – has shown that very few people are willing to make (and maintain) rapid, major changes to their diet.

        Given the number of animals suffering and the extent of their suffering, One Step for Animals believes we can’t focus only on those few people. It is time for us to realize everyone is a potential ally – and act accordingly.”

        Those three paragraphs really, really resonated with me personally.. I think the last sentence goes well with your post on this page, too…let’s work and conduct ourselves in ways that make allies…not enemies.

        1. i may be mistaken. my impression is that they especially promote or will promote the idea to give up chicken, but maybe there’ll be different ideas. Either way i think could work 🙂

        2. Hmmm… I will have go and look more closely at their website… it may be me who is mistaken. I had gotten the impression they were working for all farmed animals, not just chickens. But even just chickens would be good! 🙂

  1. Once again you and I are on the exact same wavelength, Tobias. Check out my latest fb post from yesterday.

    1. Hi Jeff,
      Do you have a blog or website where we could read your post (assuming it’s ok for the public to read and not just for Tobias)? I’m not on Facebook anymore, but I’m so happy to have found Tobias’ blog and I’m interested in anything else along the same wavelength.
      Thanks,
      Christine

  2. “I think it’s not very thoughtful because we are in a completely different situation than with these human causes: there is way, way less public support for veganism than there is for not having slavery or violence against children.”

    I agree. Once I mentioned on a Vegan Sidekick comic on Facebook to say that I’m not actually a vegan, but a mostly-vegan “reducetarian” who financially supports some vegan charities from time to time. Of course, lots of people brought up analogies such as “that’s like only beating your wife once a week, donating money to a domestic violence charity, and thinking you’re a good person!!”.

    Well, I do think I am generally a good person, although everyone has flaws and I’d happily admit to mine. But the level of public acceptance for these behaviours is absolutely crucial to the analogy. If we lived in a world where more than 95% of people beat their wives every day and thought that was fine, a person who only did it once a week and donated money to the charity, and talked about it with others, would be considered (by many) to be part of the movement for change. As I’ve said before in previous comments, there’s little chance I’d be involved in any of this if it weren’t for vegans willing to accept me as a reducetarian.

    1. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint as a “reducetarian”. I’ve never heard that term before, but I like it.
      Thanks also for your tolerance of vegans who criticize those who aren’t doing enough in their opinion.
      Would it be ok to ask what got you started on your reducetarian path?
      My big focus is to one day see the end of factory farming and the cruelty the animals must endure, so on behalf of the animals, I thank you for what you are doing. 🙂

  3. “Thanks for sharing your viewpoint as a “reducetarian”. I’ve never heard that term before, but I like it.
    Thanks also for your tolerance of vegans who criticize those who aren’t doing enough in their opinion.
    Would it be ok to ask what got you started on your reducetarian path?”

    Thanks for your kind response. I understand where absolutist vegans are coming from, I just disagree with them on a few things.

    My own story is a bit long and perhaps not that interesting 🙂 but here it is, since you asked. My older sister was vegetarian on and off for most of my life, so I’d always been aware of the issues, and somewhat sympathetic, but didn’t make any changes. Then when I was about 24 (I’m almost 32 now) I read a book on sustainability which made me aware of those problems with animal ag. I was finally pushed over the edge by having a crush on a woman who was vegetarian and convinced me to order tofu instead of chicken at a thai restaurant. For the next 5 or so years I was a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian.

    I then wanted to go vegan but my girlfriend at the time (now my wife!) was a bit hesitant for social reasons. It can be a big inconvenience to family, friends etc (I can’t go to that restaurant. I can’t eat that dish you nicely cooked for us. Etc). So I became mostly vegan. For a while I went a bit overboard with the flexibility, but now I’m back to having animal products about twice a month. I like the reducetarian label because it unites us. I’m closer to vegan than she is, but we enjoy cooking things from Thug Kitchen and Veganomicon, and I’m not incredibly annoying when we travel to places where vegan food is rare.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply and for sharing your story, Brendon. I’m always interested in finding out what gets people on the path and motivates them to become vegetarian, vegan or “reducetarian”. 🙂 Thanks!

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