Lisa Vegan's Reviews > Strategic Action for Animals: A Handbook on Strategic Movement Building, Organizing, and Activism for Animal Liberation

Strategic Action for Animals by Melanie Joy
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's review
Nov 28, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: animal-rights, non-fiction, reviewed, social-culture
Recommended for: all organizations, individuals, and activists who want their actions to be more effective
Read in November, 2009

Wow! This woman is really a pro. I have a feeling those who follow her advice will get better results than if they try to muddle through on their own.

This book has lots of practical advice, much of it for groups vs. individuals, although individuals can also definitely use the advice in this book to maximize their effectiveness. Included are factors that promote or thwart success. Step by step guidance is given, with plenty of examples. There is also information on how to start a grassroots organization and make it thrive. She addresses issues such as addiction to activism and other problems of individuals who work within groups that have an impact on group dynamics and can cause an organization to fail or be ineffective.

So sad, but the contents of this book made even clearer to me why one of my local vegan promoting groups is not as successful as it could be and why many worthy organizations and individuals aren’t effective in their efforts.

One of her most cogent points is that in order for a movement to succeed it has to become what’s mainstream: the majority needs to be shown that they’re actually in agreement with the activists, not those currently in power.

As she does in more depth in her book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows An Introduction to Carnism she does explain why there is often so much resistance to the changes wanted by animal liberation activists and she does provide very helpful ways to address this issue. The later chapters are particularly helpful to individuals working on their own or within organizations. She stresses how a “strategic advocate for animals” must have what Ghandi had: “practical skills and personal integrity.” She stresses the importance of activists taking care of themselves, an inclusion I really appreciated, and she doesn’t just say it; she gives so many helpful suggestions about various ways to implement self care.

I’ve always been bored by organizational psychology as a subject my eyes prone to glaze over if I’m forced to read about it or listen to an expert in the field, but this is basically what this book is, and I found it really interesting. This book is about how to work for animal liberation, but the strategies given are useful for doing work for any cause.

At the end of the book are a bibliography and Appendices with included pictorial descriptions of topics covered earlier in the book.

For most part time activists I’d recommend that they first read The Animal Activists Handbook Maximizing Our Positive Impact in Today's World. However, I highly recommend this book too; it contains some helpful tips that pertain to everyone who is doing something to try to make a difference. I felt helped and very supported by this book.

Edited to add: This book's contents aren't useful just for activists. Anyone who's ever experienced office politics or who has any interpersonal relationships of any kind will find much that's beneficial for them by reading this book.
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Reading Progress

11/26/2009 page 3
1.84% "Good intro. If it's 1/2 as good as The Animal Activist's Handbook by Ball & Friedrich, it wll be well worth reading."
11/27/2009 page 57
34.97% "So far more for organizations than individuals but very, very useful information."
11/28/2009 page 111
68.1% "Excellent! Can't wait to write a review and recommend this book."

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Lisa Vegan I'm not really starting this quite yet, but it just arrived, and Melnie Joy's other book: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows An Introduction to Carnism is due to arrive any day now.

message 2: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn So, I am not quite sure how to phrase this, but how do you promote the cause without sounding pushy or holier-than-thou? While I would love to get more people interested in veganism or vegetarianism, I am never quite sure how to broach the subject as most seem either slightly embarrassed or dismissive if I even mention my preference for vegetarianism and nobody has ever actually asked me my reasons for my choice--which would seem a great gateway to conversation. It seems to me most people are familiar with the vegetarian/vegan movement and I'm not sure if they are not more curious because they think they know all about it or they are afraid to know more about it!

message 3: by Lisa (last edited Dec 04, 2009 01:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Kathryn,

People do often ask me why I'm vegan, or they observe that I'm vegan and ask me questions about veg*nism.

I'm never pushy; it's completely counterproductive and ineffective. For individuals, I almost always wait for them to ask me or to bring it up, or I might say something about myself and what I feel and believe, and if they then ask/comment, I will elaborate. If anybody asks, they do get an answer! ;-) I do tailor what I say depending on the person. Do they care about animal rights or do they want a good vegan dessert recipe? Do they worry about the state of the environment or do they have a question about nutrition? Etc. I do always say that I'm vegan for animal suffering/animal rights reasons but that I also care about the environment, etc. if warranted.

Some people never ask and I do think many people deliberately keep themselves in the dark because they're afraid if they find out the truth (re animal atrocities/suffering, the degradation of the environment, or their health, and often all 3) they'd feel uncomfortable not making changes and they think they don't want to make changes. The old cognitive dissonance issue!

It is a great gateway to conversation when people ask. I've seem so many people become vegan, eat vegan, eat vegetarian because they take that step to broach the subject. As with every major life decision, it has to come from within, so I figure some people just aren't ready, some I know don't care (they do know good reasons to be vegan because they know me and my feelings) and some feel uncomfortable asking too I guess.

I've also tabled, which allows those interested to come up to you, and I've provided vegan food/taken people out for vegan food, etc. It's amazing what delicious food can do to change people's opinions about veg*nism.

Here at Goodreads, I write reviews of vegan theory books and vegan cookbooks and sometimes members who aren't veg*n notice and start reading or start thinking. And some have asked me questions and we've gotten into some useful conversations.

Letter writing to newspaper editors can also be very effective. I have some friends that do that on a regular basis and get published on a regular basis.

I'd love to do vegan education. I've never been able to afford it or figure out where I'd use it but I used to think about getting a degree or at least taking workshops from these people:

Oh, I could talk about this a lot more.

Some of the people I most admire are people who write books such as these. Yes, they preach mostly to the choir but they also target those with just mild interest who pick up one of the books.

I started going vegan (after being a lacto-ovo vegetarian for over a decade) after reading Diet for a New America How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health, Happiness and the Future of Life on Earth. When I started reading, I didn't really know what vegan was and I didn't know anything about the suffering of animals. By the time I finished reading the book, my never changing goal was to go fully vegan.

I know others who've read that book and didn't feel any internal pressure to make any changes from their omnivorous lifestyle. Everybody is different and everybody cares about different issues. I care about many, many issues but veganism is the most important decision I've ever made and one I feel wonderful about so I do like to share. But I shut up if my input is not welcome.

I believe those you mention who seem embarrassed or dismissive feel some discomfort with the fact that they're not veg. Those I know who truly don't care are comfortable with the subject, in my experience.

More from me whenever the topic comes up! ;-)

Lisa Vegan Oh, I'll also recommend books to those who've already expressed even a bit of interest. By the way, I highly recommend the two by this author!!!! I also have pamphlets available or tell people how to get them, and I direct people to the hundreds/thousands of webs sites that have vegan information. Where I send people depends on why they've shown interest.

Lisa Vegan Kathryn, Also, I find that using humor (while making clear I take the subject seriously) and being obviously comfortable with my choice are both very helpful.

message 6: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Thank you so much for such a thoughtful and sensitive response, Lisa! Of course, I'd expect nothing less from you. Having been on the receiving end of those who feel they simply must share their beliefs The Right Way to Live in one way or another, I know that the pushy is not only ineffective but not an especially great way to maintain respectful relationships, so I totally get you on that. I love your idea of offering veg*n (is that a term encompassing vegetarian and vegan? thanks!) recipes for those who might take an interest that way--that seems a bit more proactive (in a non-preachy way) than the opposite which is often me declining meat dishes when out with friends/family. Speaking of which, is there a way you have found to handle this with people you are just starting to form an acquaintance with? Do you just tack on to a dinner acceptance, "So glad to come and, by the way, I don't eat meat?" (Is that the clearest way? I always laughingly remember that scene from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when poor Mr. Fiance tries to tell Tula's aunt that he is vegetarian and she just doesn't get it!) I ask, too, because I have so many other dietary restrictions--I don't want to be a burden to people but then again I don't want my conscience to be a burden to me!

THANKS!!! :-) And I will check out the book you've mentioned. I really want to get my husband reading these, actually, because he does care very much about animals and the environment (he is actually going back to school for his environmental science degree) but so far seems to show little interest in going veg.

message 7: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Oh, and that leads me to one other question (for now, haha!) Are there any books you've come across that would be good for promoting veg*n without being too heavy into the animal cruelty aspect? I know several people who care deeply for animals but are not veg*n--I think that focusing on the details of animal cruelty might be too much for them, but then again suggesting a book that perhaps approaches the positives about being veg*n might be gentler but yet connect all the dots for them. Thanks!!!

Lisa Vegan veg*n (is that a term encompassing vegetarian and vegan?



Yes, If I go anywhere where the menu might be an issue I let them know that I'm vegan. I also offer to not be fed, to bring my own food, etc. But I do always make clear that I eat vegan food and that I will never eat any animal foods. If it's a restaurant, I'll often call the restaurant and see what they can do. If it's someone's house, I'm very thankful to the hosts but I am firm in what I will not eat.

Re books:

Are you saying nothing about animals at all but just health or just the environment and health? Or animals as a reason but just no graphic details?

One book I loved recently that talks about (mostly happy) animals in sanctuaries, and doesn't really "promote" veganism, but is about animals that are normally farmed for human food, clothes, etc. is The Inner World of Farm Animals Their Amazing Intellectual, Emotional, and Social Capacities. It's a gorgeous book and lets readers know that these animals are sentient, feel pain and pleasure, etc. Once again, for me it helps to know some specific things about the person in order to recommend a book/books.

Lisa Vegan Oh, and I love that movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding! So funny and sweet.

message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Kathryn, Re your dietary needs: I would tell them all. I think it's not a burden to try to please a friend. It would feel more like a burden to me to provide food that person couldn't eat, or, if they ate it, would make them feel sick. I wouldn't want that. If the restrictions were so restrictive I didn't know how to provide food for them, I'd ask them for some guidance and/or look up what I might provide.

I guess I think we have the right to take care of ourselves and the right to live by our ethics, and we don't have to ever apologize, even in a subtle way. We should respect those we know well enough to trust that they will try to accommodate us or, if they can't, let us know that.

message 11: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn RE: your last comment. I totally agree! :-) We have a right to our ethics and lifestyle choices and I think it's actually a really thoughtful suggestion to offer to bring your own vegan dish so as to not compromise either morals or a friend's precious time. As you say, true friends should understand--or at least, be respectfully baffled, haha!--and everyone else, well, so it goes...!

RE: books
Sorry for my lack of clarity. Yes, focus on all of the above--human, environmental and animal rights issues but just no graphic details on animals. I will check out that book you suggested--in fact, I seem to remember reading your review not too long ago and found it quite intriguing! :-)

I'll probably be offline for the weekend so just wanted to say THANKS AGIAN and have a great weekend! :-)

message 12: by Lisa (last edited Dec 04, 2009 04:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Kathryn, Enjoy your weekend!

Re books that address all 3 but with no gruesome details: I'll think about it, and try to remember books that might fit.

That last book (The Inner World of Farm Animals: Their Amazing Intellectual, Emotional, and Social Capacities) addresses animals and their lives only. It barely mentions veganism and doesn't include health or environmental concerns. But for someone who loves animals, it's effective food for thought, without the disturbing and graphic details.

message 13: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Great, I'll look forward to any suggestions you may come up with. Thanks again, Lisa!

message 14: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel Another Stellar review, Lisa. I can't wait to read this and the other book by Melanie Joy. And Kathryn, I can totally relate to the problems with accumulating books and not getting to read them all. About a year ago, I looked through my bookshelf and pulled out about 10 or 15 books that I wanted to read FOR SURE in 2009. I think I read 3 of them. Well, at least that's progress. It definitely helped having them SITTING OUT, and in that stack, so I had something visible that I could go chipping away at. It also helped deter me from buying more new books ... I knew I had that whole stack of books I am REALLY INTERESTED IN already picked out and sitting at home, waiting to be read.

Alas, in September, we moved, and I don't have that stack anymore, so I can't check to see my progress. In fact, I actually haven't even unpacked my books out of the boxes we moved them in. And the one bookcase that I own has been filling up with random papers and boxes that aren't supposed to be there!

By the way, that's another strategy I have for reducing the amount of books I collect. All the books I own have to fit in just one bookcase (about 30 inches wide and six feet tall). Every year I end up having to give away about one whole file box worth of books because they do tend to keep accumulating, no matter how much I try for them not to. Unfortunately, lots of times I end up having to give away books that I haven't read yet. But as long as I have them on my to-do list at goodreads, I know they won't be completely forgotten.

For the books I haven't read yet, the idea is that I can check them out of the library when I finally want to read them. Another thing, our library takes book donations. If the book is in good enough condition and if it's something the library needs, the book can actually be put it into circulation as a regular library book. So I've been taking my file box of give-away books to the library, with the hopes that someday in the future, I'll actually be checking out and reading the very same book I'm giving away. Hopefully, in the meantime, lots of people will have checked it out of the library and read it ... that's much better than having the book sitting in my bookcase, unread and opened by anyone, for years and years.

I'm not sure how many of my books actually get picked up and put into circulation by the library, but I believe the library sells and/or donates any books deemed unsuitable for circulation.

Good luck with everything, Kathryn. Sounds like you're on the right track!

message 15: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn What a wonderful and altruistic strategy for getting rid of your book accumulation, Rachel! :-) I've taken to simply checking out most books at the library to see if I will like them at all, rather than buying them--although when they are at library sales and whatnot I really can't resist buying if it's 50-cents and going to a good cause! After awhile, I do donate some of the ones I know I won't end up reading back to the library but I don't know that I could ever keep my personal library down to one bookshelf! ;-p

message 16: by Rachel (last edited Dec 16, 2009 08:40AM) (new) - added it

Rachel it's not just one bookshelf. it's one bookCASE. so there are like 10 bookshelves in that one bookcase. it includes every book i own, including yearbooks (that's a half a shelf right there), dictionary, thesaurus, reference books, etc. oh, it doesn't include cookbooks, actually. i keep those in the kitchen. but there again, the cookbooks have to fit in their own little shelf in the kitchen cabinet. when there are too many to fit, some of these have to go. i know it's arbitrary, but i just have to make some container and make sure i don't exceed that. otherwise, i would accumulate too much.

message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Rachel, I think I admire you. Hmm...I'm the opposite. I must have 12,000, or at least 10,000, books in my one bedroom apt. Books are the only thing I hoard. I might have more than 12,000. I might start to use the book swap feature here; I'm thinking about it. I wouldn't mind giving away more than I got, if I got ones I really wanted to read.

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