Tipping the system towards a vegan world

This is our challenge: we need to get all remaining non vegans (red) – about 99% of the population – to go vegan (green).

red men
One way to do this is by trying to convince them one by one. It has been and will be a very slow process.

red and a few green men
The one-by-one approach should be combined with a reducetarian approach: we can ask people to reduce. Many more people will respond positively to this ask.

many red and green
A combination of a small amount of vegans, together with a much bigger, critical mass of enough meat reducers, will tip the system much faster. Demand drives supply, society becomes much more accomodating, norms change, going vegan becomes a lot easier.

green men

29 thoughts on “Tipping the system towards a vegan world

  1. You’ve coloured some pictures to support an opinion.

    For this to make any sense you’d need to define ‘meat reducers’. Is this someone eating one less burger per year? Is it an arbitrary amount you won’t define because you can’t?

    Why would meat reducers want to go vegan? Are you suggesting there needs to then be a wave of vegan education?

    Why is it only possible to make vegans ‘one by one’? If every vegan did this, that would speed up a vegan world much more quickly than ‘meat reducing’.

    1. it’s admittedly not a scientific representation of things here, but to try to answer your questions: i thin k that what we have to ask of people (a big audience) is the ask that, if followed by many people, would make the system tip. So i can imagine if e.g. 80% of the people are 60% vegan (i don’t know where this tipping point lies) the system would tip, meat becomes much more expensive, alternatives cheaper and more varied and available… and it becomes easier for these reducers to go vegan all the way, as their problems with it disappear and the compassion for animals that they naturally feel, can flow.
      yes, i have not formulated the one by one correctly i think. what i mean is that the when we broadcast a go vegan message, we will only have very little success, in my opinion.
      if you’re interested, you can watch the first video on my video page to get a better idea of the strategy i suggest

      1. But why would more meat reducers WANT to go vegan? If meat was more expensive? They’d already be buying it so why suddenly would they go vegan? Are you suggesting they, as a group, wake up one day and decide to go vegan? Surely there has to be vegan education involved? If so, why not just do that now since they are likely to meat reduce as a result of that.

        1. The price of meat would be determined by the demand. To suggest it would become too expensive to buy seems a ridiculous conclusion as the industry would adjust to the demand, efficiencies would be sought, no doubt welfare standards drop further etc etc etc. Are you suggesting your strategy also bends economics?

          1. Let’s stay polite here, even though we disagree, OK?

            Economies of scale are one of the factors that make meat cheap. Mass production and makes for a cheaper per product price than lower production.
            It won’t necessary become *too expensive to buy * but relatively expensive compared to alternatives, which would people eat the alternatives more etc. And that way we gain more and more momentum.

        2. Of course “vegan education” (horrible term) can be useful, but it will be even more useful at a later stage
          (also, vegan education is i think not an absolute requirement, but it will help, if done in the right way)

        3. I don’t think economies of scale are a big factor here, animal agriculture doesn’t rely on large investments in research nor does it rely on expensive manufacturing produces. Declining demand meat, dairy, etc should lower costs…..costs shouldn’t increase until meat, etc starts to become a niche product.

      2. I also think the last part would require a big leap of faith. Perhaps as alternatives become more already available, people become more knowledgeable about plant-based cooking, etc….they will support more welfare reforms and maybe lose interest entirely in some forms of animal agriculture….but full-blown veganism? I just don’t see how that is going to happen….it would require a sort of grand leap of faith by society.

        1. i’ll elaborate on it more sometime, but short: i don’t see why once we have a critical mass, it would stop there. I believe that could get to a vegan world even without even moral arguments, so let alone that it is possible given that most people do care about animals and would choose cruelty free products all else being equal (them being just as tasty, healthy, affordable, available etc)

        2. Well anything is possible, but what is likely? You may have explained it in details somewhere, but so far I don’t find your notion of “critical mass” to be clear. Animal products are produced by a variety of industries, one going out of business or declining wouldn’t force others to do the same. And most people do care about “animals”, but only if by that you mean mammals and perhaps birds. People do not care about the vast majority of animal species, that is, insects, crustaceans, fish, etc. How is care for mammals and birds going to spill over to other animal species?

          While I think the idea needs to be better explained, I can at least buy part of the story that as alternatives become available, etc that people will move away from some of the worst practices and perhaps even end the use of some mammals and birds…..but full blown veganism? I don’t see how that would happen.

          1. I think last bits (and not the first big parts) of the evolution should and will be filled in and taken care of by moral arguments. Once we are way less dependent on using animals, it will be a lot easier to accept that we shouldn’t harm sentient beings’ interests. Behaviour before attitude.

        3. That I don’t understand, the moral arguments are only strong in the case of the more complex animals that are clearly sentient…once you move down the evolutionary ladder, so to speak, the arguments become weak and incoherent. Also nobody seems to be giving these moral arguments. What is the moral case against the consumption of shrimp or similar animals? You mention sentience, but being a member of the animal kingdom has nothing to do with sentience.

          1. if they’d turn out to be non sentient, than there IS not much of a moral case and nothing much worth fighting for (and then they can be excluded from the definition of veganism). If they ARE sentient, then there IS a moral case.
            i’m not sure why you have to keep using vegan in the sense that you oppose, why you clearly can see that i’m not using in that sense…

        4. Tobias,

          You seem to be suggesting that I should be privy to your personal definition of veganism, but why would I? I’m really not sure what veganism means to you, when people say “vegan” I assume they are using the word as it is typically defined. I’m not sure I understand the sense of purposing something different and then still calling it veganism……..that will just be a constant source of confusion.

          But in terms of sentience, we already know there are plenty of animals that aren’t sentient. Do you then support the use of those animals? Also I think things are more complex than what you’re suggesting, sentience is still poorly understood and talking about it as if its something you have or don’t have gives the impression of something spiritual in nature. Sentience, as far as we know, exists on a spectrum….so at what on this spectrum does an animal become an object for moral concern and why? This is why I suggest veganism requires a leap of faith, it requires one to go well beyond our available knowledge. It is also why I think its much more sensible to ditch veganism and focus on what is clear.

          1. like i said several times, i think veganism is mainly useful as a heursitic and for brevity and simplicity.
            can we agree that it would be good avoid eating mammals, fish (not talking about bivalves etc now), and most dairy and eggs? If you agree about that (though i’m sure you wont :p) we’re talking 99% of cases. So then we have a case for something near the way other people define veganism. is that not enough?
            what do you think is a reasonable thing to do, for one minute forgetting about veganism?

        5. I have to say that I think this argument on the economics is crucial. Is there any place for imports in it? If one of the important changes is decline in demand making meat more expensive, could one of the ways of keeping meat relatively cheapish be increasing imports from countries that have no welfare legislation to add any cost to the meat? Here is an example of creative cheapening – in the UK there was a furore a couple of years ago when some frozen meals from a high street chain were revealed as containing unlisted horse meat. The presence of the horse meat was quite simple – diluting the beef (for example) content with horse from East Europe kept the product cheap.

          The other thing I would say about this idea of making meat more expensive is who is it going to hit first? Surely the poor. Some might argue that some account should be taken of the particulars of social impact and perhaps some thought given to ways of off-setting it. Either that or think of another strategy that doesn’t hit the poor first.

          I also think Mr Toad makes important points about the role of sentience in veganism. Also, I understand Tobias’ point about the word veganism being used in a heuristic way but I am inclined to think that Mr Toad has a valid point when he says shifting the meaning of veganism only provokes confusion. It is one thing to say that a vegan or nothing strategy is not viable, or to say that vegan purity isn’t tactically necessary, but if meaning of the word vegan is shifted, isn’t reasonable that people might wonder what we are actually talking about. And btw how many people know what heuristic means? Another example of university-level animal rights ?

        6. Tobias,

          I think I’ve seen you say that once, but that doesn’t provide a definition for “veganism” and talking about veganism as a heuristic just shifts the question. Namely, a heuristic for what goal exactly? A lot of the issues between you and vegans seems to really come down to definitions……you’re deviating from the standard definition and some people don’t like that.

          And you’re right, I wouldn’t agree to that. But not because I’m strongly opposed to such a thing, but because I think there is a lot of information we lack. I don’t think animals have “rights” and instead my view is consequentialist in nature. I just don’t think we can say, at this moment in our history, that the total abandonment of the use of mammals, birds, fish is the best outcome. But I find the question entirely academic, the world isn’t going to “go vegan” anytime soon so we will have plenty to reflect on matters and for the meantime focusing on something akin to “reducetarianism” makes the most sense. But I do think the issue is strategically important, if a “vegan world” is not clear than talking about it or promoting it will be a huge distraction.

  2. I wholeheartedly disagree with everything written in this article.

    If the 250,000 vegans in the UK converted just 1 person each to veganism, we would literally double our numbers overnight. If each vegan converted 50 people over a ten year period… We’d have a tipping point to start making some serious change in society.

    Unfortunately all we ever get is mixed messages about what we should do. Instead if we focused on vegan education, we’d get a vegan world much quicker.

    Ten years, 50 vegans each, let’s do it! You could use your influence for so much more.

        1. of course not, but 1. it’s not happening sofar (and no, that is not because we haven’t asked, as some want you to believe) and 2. this is not an either or situation. we can use both a go vegan strategy and a reduce strategy. unfortunately, some silly people believe the reducetarian approach is unethical.

    1. Emzy – is the word “convert, which you use, worth thinking about? How successful is “conversion” as a practice generally? Do we know how many people the average Jehovah’s Witness converts in a year? Not comparable? Why not? JWs often have a poor image, are trying to spread a particular brand of Christianity in a very secular and also culturally diverse society. The one advantage they may have is that Xanity, in the majority of European countries, is the historical religion and therefore still has a presence. The poor vegan has a poor image, is trying to spread veganism in a non-vegan world that has never been vegan. You may riposte that the vegan would be advancing rational and moral arguments. But this depends heavily on the assumption that humans are rational and moral and that behaviour follows from rational understanding and moral principles – all highly questionable or disproved. And if the vegan converts one person, will that person stay vegan? And it is extremely unlikely that all vegans have enough of the activist in them to be converters. I could of course go on. Please tell us of the evidence that “converting” is a viable strategy.

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