Lectures by Jacy Reese (USA) and Chen Cohen (Israel), organized by EVA association in Ghent, Belgium, on 8th September 2016.
EVA association is a non profit in Belgium, founded in the year 2000, providing information about vegetarian nutrition, vegetarianism and veganism, the environment, animal welfare, health, vegetarian cooking and recipes. EVA has become the second largest vegetarian organization in Europe. The team consists of 12 people, and they have more than 500 volunteers.
From 8th until 11th September 2016, the International Animal Rights Conference is taking place in Luxembourg. At that occasion, EVA invited two participants of that Conference for a public talk in Ghent, Mr. Jacy Reese from the USA who is working for Animal Charity Evaluators and who spoke about some key insights from his years of research on the most effective ways to help animals, and Mr. Chen Cohen from Israel, a specialist in developing vegan activism strategies who shared his personal story and who talked about Israel’s vegan revolution.
Dennis Barbion, Founder-Director of Compassion Activism Charity association in Belgium, attended both very interesting and inspiring lectures. In total, 35 people were present.
After a brief welcoming speech by one of the people of EVA, Jacy Reesestarted his talk, documented with a Power Point presentation.
Reese first spoke about Effective Altruism and Animal Advocacy. Altruism, doing the most good with full consideration for all sentient beings, combined with the willingness to achieve a change, and a mind based on new evidence that is found.
What cause prioritization is concerned, is the focus on helping farmed animals in the first place. The criteria for that are scale (the huge number of animals that are killed), tractability and neglectedness. Overall, 99.8% of all farm animals are neglected, and 0.2% cats or dogs, while only 1% of all donations goes towards farmed animal charities and 99% to shelter animals. The evidence of neglectedness can be partially explained by speciesism, the discrimination against certain individuals solely because of their species, which is apparent in the way people mistreat nonhuman primates, or care deeply for dogs but ignore the plight of farmed pigs, who share similar mental capacities. In connection with tractability, when we take a look at the pace of social change, activism for change on different areas, we notice a very quick change on social movements for farmed animals in a short time.
Tactics that can be used are different types of evidence in social movements, sharing your personal experiences, showing evidence by direct observation and seeing people’s reaction for example by showing a video of animal suffering or leaflets, case studies, direct experimentation, and general psychology and sociology (behaviour change). To give an example, an experiment has been done about the use, or in fact the reuse of towels in hotels, and to what extent people were interested in the environmental topic or setting, but the result was only 35% of the people.
About welfare improvements, it is calculated that between 12-25 years of factory farm suffered animals are spared per USD ($1 is € 0,9), so donations do have a huge impact, and even a few dollars make a big difference. With consumer actions, for example videos of undercover investigations shared on social media, about 1-12 years is spared per USD. Researched has shown that with a $1,000 donation for an effective animal charity, 4,769 animals are saved.
Animal-free foods are of course also strongly recommended, going vegetarian or even better going vegan.
Another topic in the talk was how to end animal suffering. A vegan diet is definitely very effective. What is also recommended, is another approach, an institutional over an individual framing, so “we need to end animal suffering” instead of “we need to go vegan”, and to be kind and professional but in the mean time also to be bold.
Important is also to show not just why to go vegan, but also how. Showing celebraties going vegan is one thing but even better is to show delicious vegan meals, share recipies, suggestions about the vegan lifestyle…
It is good to focus on individuals first, and put statistics on the second place, for psychologist reasons, as we notice a collapse of compassion by statistics.
Reese emphasized the importance of saving animals in farms again, and encouraged the listeners to engage in research and critical thinking.
Finally, at the end of this talk, he gave some examples how we can help animals best. He suggested the group “Effective Animal Activism – Discussion” on Facebook where you find lots of interesting information. A donation to the most effective charities for animals is also recommended, the Animal Charity Evaluators top charities such as Animal Equality, The Human League and Mercy for Animals. It’s also good to look for talent gaps if people are working directly, and doing research and to discuss things, to study tactics of social movements and to write a blog, to spread the message.
To end the first lecture, a few questions were discussed, for example the individual against the community aspect in animal activism. A key factor here is the common knowledge, and the shared interest. Distributing leaflets on the streets as an individual has an impact, but more important is to build connections, building communities.
Another question was about the environmental impact on going vegetarian or vegan, as this is underestimated in many cases, or not much in the spotlight. Some organizations like Mercy for Animals do also focus on environmental issues, and a connection in different movements, a bridge between animal and environmental movements, are so important and have a great impact.
At last, the question was raised how to put all this theory into practice, and where and how to start. Reese answered that people can always contact him or Animal Charity Evaluators with all their questions and that they will get some personal guidance what to do, how etc. People also find many answers in the Discussion Group of Effective Animal Activism on Facebook.
The second lecture was by Chen Cohen from Israel.
It is remarkable that in just a few short years, Israel has become the holy land – for veganism, including now having the world`s highest per capita vegan population. From a Pime Minister touting Meatless Monday to a vegetarian President, to vegan options for soldiers in the army, and dozens of new vegan restaurants in this small country, the nation is experiencing a major shift toward vegan lifestyle.
Chen Cohen’s lecture started with his own personal story how he became vegan, and was mostly focused on Israel’s vegan revolution.
Cohen was in a dinner with his family in Israel where all kinds of foods were served, and when his brother said he didn’t eat meat, Cohen was triggered, he asked why and wanted to know more. After watching “The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear” by Gary Yourofsky, he decided to try going vegan for 30 days, and since then he is vegan.
The vegan activism in Israel is immense, with food blogs such as “Vegan girls have more fun” of Ori Shavit, a food journalist, blogger, and one of the most prominent and popular food critics in Israel. She went vegan in 2011 and teaches vegan cooking classes and promotes veganism all over Israel – and now also abroad.
In Israel, there are very good undercover investigations on animal suffering, many food blogs popped out the last 5 years, there are lots of vegan friendly restaurants with a sign outside the restaurant showing that vegan food is also served, and vegan friendly cafes. The famous Domino’s Pizza also has vegan options, and more than 20 restaurants in Tel Aviv are 100% vegan. The best destination for vegan food all over the world is Tel Aviv, according to The Daily Meal. Products sold in shops also have a vegan friendly certification.
Each year the Independence Day is celebrated with lots of barbecue events, and different celebrations in Israel serve vegan food at that occasion.
An organization called Anonymus for Animal Rights that is based in Israel has set up the successful Challenge 22+ program, to freely experience veganism for 22 days. You also have the Meatless Monday and the controversial 269 Life Campaign in Israel. “269” refers to a calf that was born into an Israeli dairy farm. 269 was the designated number of the calf that was saved not long before the scheduled slaughter day. By branding the number 269 on people’s bodies, they show their solidarity with the victims of the animal holocaust all around the world.
A vegan woman who was in the Big Brother House in Israel, shared and showed a lot of information about the vegan diet and lifestyle though this popular television program.
The Modern Agriculture Foundation in Israel has started the lab-made “clean meat” research for chicken meat.
In Israel, one of the surveys showed 5% of the population is vegan, 8% is vegetarian – that is the highest percentage in the world. In a survery, almost 1 out of 4 girls at ages 14-18 expressed herself as being a vegan.
That veganism is widely accepted in Israel is also shown by the fact that vegan meals are served to vegan soldiers in the army.
The Vegan North March was a very successful protest for animal rights. Important was also the fact that Jewish people and Arabs were united in solidarity in support for the animals in that march, with placards with messages in both languages. Marches for animal rights in Israel had 5,000 and even more than 10,000 participants.
In Israel there is also a lot of media couverage on animal suffering and veganism.
We can wonder why this is happening in Israel, and why now, in the recent years. An important factor are speeches by activists that have a huge impact, for example watching “The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear” by Gary Yourofsky. Another thing is that Israeli people are receptive for knowing the truth, and being open. Growing up as a youngster in Israel, it is quite normal that people go vegan or vegetarian, as they know the Kosher Certified label for Jewish people.
Israels cuisine is very rich, with lots of different kinds of vegetables and grains, and plant based food. Everyone knows falafel and humus, that is from Israel.
What is also important to mention is the fact that Israel is a very small country, and it has only two big TV Channels and there are two main newspapers. So information through tv or a newspaper is spreading quite fast.
Let the Animals Live is an Israeli association that was founded in 1986. It’s a non-profit organization with the goal of providing help to distressed animals, rehabilitating them and finding adoptive homes.
At the end of the talk by Cohen, he mentioned some items that have worked in Israel, for example the All of Nothing message that has boomed 2-3 years ago. 5% vegans and 8% vegetarians, that is really huge – but it’s still not the majority. Veganism is easy in Israel, it is socially accepted and wide spread. Vegan shoes for soldiers in the army is not seen much across the world. Of course, because of the fact that Israel is small, that is an important reason for a huge impact. There is also a growing movement on animal advocacy.
Some questions were raised at the end of the lecture, for example the most important reason or reaons to go vegan in Israel. Animal suffering seems to be the no. 1 reason and the far most important reason, and not health or environmental reasons, which is remarcable because more and more people have interest in health and environmental issues.
Another question was about the meals in schools. There are no default vegan meals at the schools in Israel, but you have the Meatless Mondays in which schools also participate.
After the interesting lectures in the garden where EVA association is based, delicious vegan snacks were served for all attendees.
Article written by Dennis Barbion (on the left) , Director of Compassion Activism Charity association, 10th September 2016.
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