Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, & Money discussion

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message 1: by Erik (new)

Erik Marcus (erikmarcus) | 58 comments Mod
This thread is being started in response to a post by Erin Gaines, who wrote:

[Suki Sargent's Meat Market] essay on starting your own vegetarian society really struck a chord with me, and I'm considering trying to start one in my area. I live in a smallish town in central TX and honestly don't know if there is enough interest. Does anyone here have experience with these sorts of groups--as a member, volunteer, or leader?

Every town needs a local veggie/AR/dismantlement group. So who's got advice to help Erin get started?

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you for the info and encouragement, Janet!

message 3: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Vigneault (elainevigneault) | 13 comments I'm the leader of a small local group, Vegas Veg, though "leader" may not be an entirely appropriate title. Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:
- Find out if there are other groups already doing what you want to do; no point in duplicating efforts when you can just join their team
- Get help. I can't stress this enough. It's hard to do anything alone.
- Plan to be involved for a while. By "while" I mean years or decades.
- Be patient.

message 4: by Joe (new)

Joe Espinosa | 22 comments When I was in college at UIC we made the active decision to dismantle the student group, as we found it actually hindered our work with trying to coordinate schedules to do group actions, which may not have been the best actions to help animals anyway. We decided that each of us should leave the safety of the table and the comfort of the potluck and go out amongst real meat eaters asking them, via leafleting and video footage, to change their behavior regarding animals.

message 5: by David (new)

David | 9 comments Veg groups can provide a very effective way of building a community, supporting individuals and reaching out to others. But groups (and I don't mean just veg or AR groups) can also be sites of disagreement and frustration.

The best advice I can think of is to be very specific about your objectives, and be careful that anyone joining has a good sense of the personality of the organization (e.g., What are the baseline values for participating? Who can join? How is the groip governed? Why does the group exist?).

message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 04, 2010 03:08PM) (new)

-National groups will most likely give you free literature. Just ask.
-Try to find a balance between outreach and community. Both are important -- if you don't do much outreach, you won't be doing much to help animals. But if you don't do any community events, people will be less inclined to get involved with outreach, continue doing outreach, and in some cases even staying veg*n.
-If you want to get things done, have a leader, especially one that's level-headed. Like Erik wrote in Meat Market, many progressives are afraid of having hierarchy. I've seen some small groups for progressive causes get nothing done because they spend the majority of their time arguing and voting.

message 7: by Erik (new)

Erik Marcus (erikmarcus) | 58 comments Mod
>If you want to get things done, have a leader,
>especially one that's level-headed. Like Erik wrote in
>Meat Market, many progressives are afraid of having
>hierarchy. I've seen some small groups for progressive
>causes get nothing done because they spend the majority
>of their time arguing and voting.

Agreed, Kenny. If the time spent discussing or voting on what to do gets up over, say, 20 percent of the group's time actually doing the work, it's time to re-think things. I've seen several college groups who would have 5-12 people meeting for an hour a week to discuss future projects. I've got to think that in most case, a great deal more would happen for animals if this 5-12 hours of activist time a week was spent doing leafletting.

If you can find somebody whose judgement you respect, you can accomplish a lot just by making yourself available to her/him for volunteer effort. Back in the day, I'd get a call from Henry Spira occasionally and he'd tell me he needed something. I'd just do it. There wouldn't be any need for discussion.

message 8: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Vigneault (elainevigneault) | 13 comments Kenny wrote: "-National groups will most likely give you free literature. Just ask.
This is true. It took a couple tries of asking, and I had to buy some of my first boxes of literature, but now I receive free literature from two organizations because they know I'll give it out.

message 9: by Peacegal (new)

Peacegal | 17 comments Yes, that's true. Most organizations do require a donation for their first round of literature, but they'll provide it free if need be thereafter. This is because the anti-animal contingent got the big idea to drain groups' resources by ordering batches of materials and destroying them.

message 10: by Christa (new)

Christa Kenny wrote: "-National groups will most likely give you free literature. Just ask.
-Try to find a balance between outreach and community. Both are important -- if you don't do much outreach, you won't be doing ..."

National groups are great for getting ideas, (Compassion Over Killing and PETA will both provide free information) and recipes. Then, you might start looking around on local college and community college campuses. They are hotbeds of vegan culture, and outside of Texas, also of AR culture.
I've been vegan AR for just over 20 years, I got my information in college, then started inviting friends over for vegan evenings, we played games, or studied, and I'd get my 2 cents in on AR over delicious dinner. I know there are vegan get togethers in TX, I'll see if I can find the links and post them!

message 11: by Jaya (new)

Jaya Bhumitra | 5 comments Hi Elaine, I volunteer with COK, who happily provides me with all the free lit I need for outreach. I go through hundreds of copies of their veg starter guide, Easy Vegan Recipes booklet, and Eating Sustainably brochure (which does especially well at farmer's markets) every couple of months. If you would like any of these just e-mail and tell them I sent you.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks to everyone for all the great info and suggestions! This is very helpful.

message 13: by Nancy (new)

Nancy (nancyfromearthsave) | 10 comments Here in Vancouver we have a lot of people starting up their own veggie groups. The reasons differ. Most like the coolness of being the leader of a veggie group. Some trust their own judgement better than others and want to run things. Some do not want to deal with the discussion and democratic decision making process involved in a group as discussed above. Some cannot handle not getting their own way on everything.

I'm part of the only registered veg charity here called Earthsave Canada. My perspective is that people can actually get a lot more done, in most cases, by joining with us than by going their own way. I agree with Erik that leafletting accomplishes a lot, but it's not the only form of activism that reaches people. Groups, particularly registered charities, usually have money to do stuff. What we most need are people who can head up projects.

We are inundated with people who want to volunteer and are happy to do what you ask but need to be guided every step of the way. Unfortunately, we are all tapped out and don't have the people to direct them every step of the way, so a lot just does not get done that could get done.

If you are the sort of person who has the group skills to handle not getting everything your way and if you are the sort of detail oriented person who can manage a project and not forget a lot of key steps that need to be covered off, you are more valuable than you may realize.

Just going your own way and starting up your own group just makes the public scratch their heads and wonder why we can't all just get along and work together.

In my opinion, we are too small to stand divided.

message 14: by Erik (new)

Erik Marcus (erikmarcus) | 58 comments Mod
Really great post, Nancy. As you know, _Meat Market_ covers the benefits and challenges of working within a hierarchical organization. I think your experience at EarthSave Canada has been quite in step with the observations I made in Meat Market.

Basically, I think the point you're making is that the veggie movement has too many aspiring kings, but a severe shortage of people cut out to do middle management style work.

message 15: by Nancy (new)

Nancy (nancyfromearthsave) | 10 comments When I first got involved with Earthsave Canada, I thought my skills were not particularly valuable.

I didn't have accounting, IT skills or design skills. I couldn't see what someone with writing/editing and leadership skills (I'm a teacher) could offer.

I had no idea that accountants and designers are relatively easy to find, but project management is what is most difficult to find.

What is so rare to find is someone who will see a project through to completion no matter what comes up in their life.

That means if you suddenly get a fever and can't show up, you don't just send an email saying you are sick, but you crawl from your death bed to your phone book on your computer and you squeak out a laryngitissy message to everyone you know until you find someone who can show up and unlock the door and turn on the lights and make sure the usher volunteers and projectionist know where to go.

It means if you suddenly get more hours at work, you either stay up sleep deprived until you get the newsletter you promised to get out done or you find someone who can take over for you.

It means you don't assume there is someone else to report to who, although also just a volunteer like you, is going to take responsibility for the hole you leave when you abandon a project and make sure all hell doesn't break loose.

If you are that responsible person, you have no idea just how valuable you are to a volunteer organization, no matter if you are not a writer or a layout person or an accountant.

message 16: by Erik (new)

Erik Marcus (erikmarcus) | 58 comments Mod
Wow, Nancy, such a great post. There's so much there that would help new activists find a place in the movement. I'd love to work what you wrote into a longer piece on activism.

message 17: by David (new)

David | 9 comments Nancy, you're on a roll - volunteers with the qualities you've described are the lifeblood of the the whole movement!

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