While I have been a sort-of-vegetarian (with a complex set of rules, as those of you that made the mistake of asking me know, and probably hope you didn’t...) for a long time, I’ve been playing with the idea of going more vegan in recent years, and decided for my yearly “fast” or “detox” last year to go fully vegan as an experiment. The problem I had then, and what remains the main obstacle for me to become more vegan* is the difficulty of it. So I was hoping to get some help when I saw an ad for an event a local vegan organisation was holding in central Geneva, promising to introduce plant-based products and ways to use them.
Boy was I disappointed. They had a few lacklustre cartons of soya or rice milk on show, but the event was really not at all aimed at showing people how to cook vegan food. It was about making people scared and disgusted of meat. The organisers were handing out flyers with explanations of the evils of meat and dairy production complete with pictures, and their whole tent had a red wrap on it with a dripping effect, in order to make it look like it was covered in blood. Classy.
We all know already that industrial meat production is horrendous and cruel. If you didn’t know about it, well first of all what kind of a rock have you been living under and secondly please do feel free to check out some easy-to-find educational videos such as this or this online. (OK, these are filmed in the US, and the regulations are stricter in the EU, but of course a lot of our meat comes from outside the Union and it doesn’t take a lot to find films about European farming as well.)
I know that shock therapy works in certain contexts – in fact in most contexts. The more shocking the better: appeal to the instincts, not to rational analysis. Tobacco labelling is a good example. Gruesome pictures of cancerous mouths on cigarette packs are more effective than just health warnings that tell you that smoking will kill you or at least give you erectile problems.
Cynics may say that use whatever methods work, but I think that is too blunt an approach as it assumes that the whole target audience is homogeneous. Most people in developed countries at least KNOW that smoking is bad for you. Shouldn’t they be told where to find help in quitting rather than being bombarded with disgusting pictures?
Similarly, people know about the problems with meat production, but some of them do not care (and I’m not sure they will be won over by force feeding shocking pictures to them) and the rest don’t know what to do about it. Tell us how to replace dairy and eggs with plant-based products easily and ethically and that may well have a more positive effect.
Or am I just being naive?
* I’m afraid I’ll never become fully vegan and the reasons can be summarised in two words: ICE and CREAM.