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Pledge to (Help Your Friends) Go Vegan

By Jasmin Singer — April 11, 2012

In the past few years, various “Veg Pledge” campaigns have gained traction and mainstream attention. An obvious example is “Meatless Mondays,” which has become popularized by folks like Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart — both of whom partake — as well as by thousands of media outlets, universities, businesses, and individuals. As we’ve seen, and as we vegans hope for, Veg Pledges — where people or businesses pledge to go vegan (or, in some cases, just vegetarian — which I think is insanely annoying, but some would say a good start) for a certain amount of time, be it a day, week, month, etc. — can frequently stick for good. Just this morning I was reading an interview on This Dish is Veg with bodybuilder LaQuesha McClain, who came to her newfound veganism by way of a “30 day trial.” After the 30 days were over, bam, she was in. There was no turning back.

The same thing happened for my mother. After I went vegan over 8 years ago (I had been a long-time vegetarian before then), Mom decided to try it out for a week. She asserted over and over again that she wasn’t doing this permanently. That was 8 years ago. Nowadays, her car is covered with bumper stickers proudly flaunting her veganism, and no one can get her to stop shooting her mouth off to fur-wearers, Facebook friends posting photos of steak, or the occasional grocery store shopper with a cart full of pus-laden dairy. Seems pretty permanent to me.

And so. I am indeed a fan of the “Veg Pledge” movement (yep — I called it a movement). Though I am in agreement that it is not in and of itself good enough for people to “just ‘go veg’ one day a week,” or one week a year, or “just for health” (it is, after all, about the animals and their unimaginable suffering), I have hope — I’ve got to — that pledges like this are one way in… of many. I have seen it work, and I also believe that the fact that it has penetrated the mainstream media is indeed a good thing. For those of you about to throw a temper tantrum, I will tell you, I’ve thrown that very same one. I am not the person who applauds someone for making the extremely obvious (to us) choice to stop their consumption of oppression. It is a no brainer. But when they “pledge,” I am absolutely right there by their side, seizing the opportunity to be supportive and provide them with resources, recipes, and a big “Ra Ra!”

Speaking of “Ra Ra,” my latest cheer goes to Compassion Over Killing (I actually try to toast to them at least twice a week, since I love them passionately and in mildly inappropriately ways). COK — a Washington D.C.-based organization that is busy exposing the truth in egg labeling, getting “go vegan!” ads on national T.V., and implementing National Vegan Hot Dog Month, is about to launch VegWeek 2012 — a “seven day celebration” that highlights the vital reasons for going vegan. As part of the Week, which will occur in conjunction with Earth Day, April 23-29,  thousands of participants will pledge go vegan, and — since COK wants them to stay that way (shhhh…) — the participants are provided with ample resources and information to make it as simple and tasty as possible. That, in conjunction with the facts about why veganism is a necessary step in order to preserve the planet, our own health, and — most importantly — why we need to boycott the cruelty of animal agriculture, is enough to make any “pledger” follow in the footsteps of my mother, and stick around.

Case in point: COK’s VegWeek was inspired by MD Senator Jamie Raskin, the very first person to take their pledge, a move that indeed stuck. Yep. Raskin continues to embrace a plant-based lifestyle, asserting that his new diet succeeds in “aligning my morals with my menu.” That’s what I’m talking about…

COK’s VegWeek has other components too, including getting restaurants in on the action, and hosting nationwide events that raise awareness (and deliciousness) about the benefits of veganism. This is grassroots advocacy at its finest.

Our Hen House is a proud partner organization on this campaign, and we hope that you will do your part in spreading the word to your not-yet-vegan colleagues, friends, family, and neighbors — and ask them to pledge to go vegan for 7 days. Remember to lead by example. Just as I might not have stuck with veganism had I not initially had loads of support from vegan friends — and just as my mom relied very much on my support — the people you get to pledge will need you! What’s beautiful about VegWeek is that, by pledging, they will also have the opportunity to receive daily VegWeek emails with recipes, meal ideas, dining tips, and more, but regardless, be sure to check in on them — even if that means you’re a tad pestering. “Atadpestering” is actually my middle name (weird, right?), and, I’m proud to say, it’s resulted in many people ditching meat, milk and eggs for good, opting instead to live a life in an ethical continuum with their values.

Spread the word! VegWeek 2012 is happening in conjunction with Earth Day, on April 23-29. Be sure to also “Like” and share VegWeek’s Facebook page, where your friends can actually take the pledge!


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(7) Readers Comments

  1. Lucretia
    April 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Does anyone know if there is any actual science on the long-term impact of pledges and things like MM? I've seen literature suggesting that the foot in the door approach can backfire and discourage people from making that next step because they already feel like they're doing enough, but none of these studies have looked at veg campaigns specifically. This might just be a gap in the literature, but I think it's an important strategic issue to address.

  2. April 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Lucretia, the only reports I've seen about the impact of pledges and MM is that they raise public awareness significantly. Anecdotally, I hear about people taking a 7-day or 30-day pledge all the time who end up liking how they feel so much that they continue to choose veg foods. However, this might be a good topic for the Humane Research Council if you'd like to contact them! http://www.humaneresearch.org/content/contact-us

  3. April 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I love this blog, I can't believe I haven't been reading it this whole time! First off, Jasmin, I think that vegetarian pledges are good because, if people really, genuinely get into vegetarianism and care about animals, they will naturally come to veganism. You can't google "vegetarian" without getting a whole bunch of results about why you should go vegan and how to have an awesome life as a vegan! That influenced me and probably most vegans, and honestly I think it influences any vegetarians who are genuine in their reasons for it. People who go vegetarian for ethical reasons are usually pretty conscientious and open minded, they are just a little misinformed. Lucretia-- I'm a psychology nerd! Can you send me the article about the foot-in-the-door phenomenon backfiring? As far as I know, it's a pretty solid behavioral technique, so solid that oppressive governments use it to brainwash people and it's unfortunately pretty successful! Here is a pretty good summary of the research: http://tinyurl.com/7wb6xw2 The only caveat that has been found is that if the same person asks you to make a larger change too soon after asking for the first change, you will be less likely to do it. Anecdotally, I can tell you that most of the problems with asking people to make lifestyle changes for ethical or environmental reasons is that we think people care when they really don't. The vast majority of people are not willing to inconvenience themselves at all. Sometimes, we get people to take an action (like signing a petition or pledge) that is not at all inconvenient, and then we are shocked when they are completely unwilling to do something bigger, like donate their time or change their diets. But I can't imagine a situation where someone would really go for Meatless Mondays, say, and run with it--buying specialty foods, looking up recipes, ensuring they are not accidentally consuming meat at restaurants--and NOT be more receptive to the vegan message than someone who did not do that. Does that make sense?

  4. Lucretia
    April 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Amanda, Thanks for the link! I see what you're saying. But do we know that people aren't just eating more meat the other days of the week? I've also noticed that none of the people I know who do MM would be that upset if their soup had chicken broth in it or their dressing had cheese with rennet. So it seems like minimal engagement with the issue, which maybe minimizes the impact (even if it does bring more people on board). It's definitely a trade off. I also know there are a lot of people in the AR community who worry that asking for half measures makes people less likely to ever go vegan. I do admit I know a lot of long time vegetarians who think they're already doing plenty and refuse to go vegan. And then I also worry that since the MM messaging is so focused on personal health, are we actually making ground on animal welfare awareness? I'm not saying pledges don't work or that MM isn't a great thing! I just wonder if it's the best use of resources for AR groups. I'm undecided on what works best I think, but I think this WWF report makes a good case for why asking for more, bigger picture things, is worthwhile. "There is little evidence that, in the course of encouraging individuals to adopt simple and painless behavioural changes, this will in turn motivate them to engage in more significant changes. The results of experiments examining the ‘foot- in-the-door’ approach (the hope that individuals can be led up a virtuous ladder of ever more far-reaching behavioural changes) are fraught with contradictions. Current emphasis on ‘simple and painless steps’ may be a distraction from the approaches that will be needed to create more systemic change. Such emphasis also deflects precious campaign and communication resources from alternative approaches." http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/weathercocks_report2.pdf There was a second report as a follow up as well http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/simple_painless_report.pdf

  5. April 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Amanda--thanks for your input! And Lucretia, a great book to read is Nick Cooney's "Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach You about Social Change" (http://www.thehumaneleague.com/changeofheart/author.htm). He talks about the foot-in-the-door effect and it is very helpful information. The key to this approach, however, is making the next ask--but another incremental ask, as Amanda mentioned. If too much is asked for too soon is when it can backfire. That's why our 7-Day Veg Pledge is so great--it's the first small ask. Throughout the week people get motivational advice, tips, recipes, and other resources to make veg eating both fun and easy. At the end of the week, participants may go back to eating their regular diet of meat, which is why we ask them to continue with a Meatless Monday, being vegan before 6pm, doing vegan lunches, whatever works for their lifestyle--if people find a routine that fits their needs, then the change is usually sustainable. It's another small ask, and that's why it works. At least from my experience, every single friend or family member I have helped guide toward vegan eating has started out this way. I can probably list 50 people in my own circle that this has worked for. I imagine that other people have the same anecdotal evidence as well. After all, didn't most of us start out as vegetarians before becoming vegans? Also, even though Meatless Monday focuses largely on health, Compassion Over Killing is an animal protection organization, and as such we will not shy away from emphasizing the needs of animals. If you take the pledge and receive our daily emails, I think you'll see what i mean. Also, you might be pleased to know that the majority of the pledges that have come in so far have opted to participate for animals as their primary reason. As Amanda mentioned, most people care about animals--they just don't have all the information about why we shouldn't eat them, and all the information about how to make and find meatless meals. But with our recipes, restaurant guides, and other resources in hand, we're here to help. And that's what this campaign is all about! :) Warmly, Jaya Bhumitra Campaigns Director Compassion Over Killing

  6. April 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Jaya, are there plans to get more restaurants involved? I am disappointed that restaurant participation is not yet a resource for VegWeek in my area (NYC metro area). There are a lot of great restaurants and I'd imagine a lot of them would be interested if someone reached out to them! Also... I am disappointed to see that several of the featured VegWeekers have done it a few times before and it has not permanently changed their diet. =/ Doesn't that put a bit of a dent in the theory? Maybe asking for incremental changes DOES send the message that those small changes are enough. But they aren't.

  7. April 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Hi Amanda, I agree--there are lots of great veg-friendly restaurants in NY that would be interested if someone reached out to them--how about you? :) We run this campaign with a small staff but the help of lots of great volunteers--please feel free to contact any restaurants in NY about participating, and if anybody bites, let us know and we'll be happy to publicize them on the website. Also, Senator Raskin did become permanently vegetarian after pledging in 2009. Former Assemblymember Nava said that he has also significantly reduced his meat consumption since working with our organization. And ALL of the participants have expressed that participating in this campaign has made them more conscious of animal and environmental issues which matters when they go vote on legislation, and when they interact with their peers, who are other legislators voting on legislation. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments--we really appreciate it!

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