As a movement, we don’t have advertising budgets comparable to those of the industries that profit from abusing animals. So, we have to find inexpensive yet effective ways to promote the message of compassion to animals. Most of us became aware of the ways we can help animals through our food choices after personal interactions with someone who was already vegetarian, and we can create similar circumstances that will help bring others along as well. By handing out literature and talking with people one-on-one, we can easily and positively affect people’s interest in vegetarianism.
While we may not have funds at our disposal like the meat, egg, and dairy industries do, we have a significant asset: hundreds of thousands of individuals motivated by compassion, rather than profit. Indeed, growing numbers of animal advocates across the country are dedicated to bringing about animal liberation. Many of us are willing to spend at least a few hours each week encouraging people to explore animal-friendly habits, because we know there is no more effective way of reaching people than by showing them a kind, vegetarian face and distributing reader-friendly literature.
Where to Leaflet
The best places to leaflet are public areas with high foot traffic. Our favorite locations are:
- outside of subway, train, or bus stations (especially during rush hour)
- on college campuses (though, if you’re not a student, you may be asked to leave)
- near high schools around lunchtime or just before or after school
- outside of major events like concerts, exhibitions, and sports games (preferably as people are leaving)
When leafleting, it’s very helpful to recognize that not everyone will be as receptive to becoming vegetarian as others. Because of this, it makes sense to focus greater effort on those you feel may be more interested in learning about cruelty-free eating. Typically, college and high school students seem to be the most open-minded to the message of compassion. As well, younger people tend to be much less set in their ways and more willing to question societal norms, such as the idea that animals exist to serve humans. It’s also important to recognize that younger people have an entire lifetime of eating meat, eggs, and dairy products ahead of them, making it even more critical to expose them to the cruelty suffered by farmed animals.
Does this mean we should only distribute literature to young people? Of course not. Usually, when you’re leafleting, you’ll be able to give brochures to hundreds of people and withholding leaflets to those outside a specified age bracket isn’t suggested. However, we may want to pick areas that are frequented by younger people to maximize the effectiveness of our time and effort.
What to Leaflet
There are many wonderful vegan advocacy tools available for you to distribute. It’s generally a good idea to have one simple, brief brochure you will pass out to everyone, and another more extensive publication to give to those who seem especially interested in learning more about becoming vegetarian or vegan.
Some great printed materials designed by COK for general leafleting purposes include:
Please note that all of the above—as well as many more pieces of pro-vegetarian literature—are available for a single free copy or bulk purchase at COK.net/market.
What to Say
Since we don’t want people to simply throw away the literature, it’s best to let passersby know what the brochure is about before they take it. Simply saying, Can I offer you a brochure on vegetarian eating? seems to work well.
When talking about being vegetarian, make sure not to complicate the issue, if at all possible. Most everyone already opposes animal cruelty, so it follows that we should focus on how factory farms and slaughterhouses abuse animals, rather than deliver an abstract argument about violations of animals’ rights.
While you engage people in conversation about the intense suffering of the animals we eat, be certain to tell each one how we can take a stand against that cruelty by becoming vegetarian, effectively helping to make the world a better place for all of us with every bite we take.
Simple and Effective Leafleting Tips
1. Always look professional and clean-cut. Even if this means dressing in a way you wouldn’t ordinarily dream of, it’s important not to give passersby a reason to quickly dismiss you and the vegetarian message. Promoting compassion to animals sometimes requires sacrifice from each of us, and changing our appearance for public outreach is a minor—but important—one to make. Keep in mind that since we’re trying to legitimize vegetarianism, we need to appeal to the “average” person. Activists have found that the general public is much more open to considering becoming vegetarian if we look as mainstream as our message of compassion should be.
2. While leafleting, try to be outgoing and friendly. Many people may just walk past unless you approach them in a positive and pleasant manner. A simple smile can have a dramatic effect on how people perceive you and serve as an encouraging invitation to take a brochure.
3. If you have a conversation with someone make sure to stay focused. It’s fine to have a quick conversation about the weather, the football season, or some neutral topic to connect with the person with whom you’re speaking. But try to avoid a spirited discussion on abortion, the death penalty, or any topic other than animal abuse. Never lose sight of why you’re there: to expose the misery endured by farmed animals and to promote vegetarianism as an easy, immediate solution.
4. Don’t engage with hostile people. Be careful to pick your battles. A good conversation with a person clearly interested in the issues is worth having. A lengthy discussion with someone only interested in hurling “what ifs” at you is not worth having. If someone yells at you, talks in a belittling manner, or tries to provoke you into a heated debate, it is best to either ignore the person, if possible, or just to say, “Thanks very much for your comments. I have to get back to leafleting now.” We know it’s tough to just turn away and ignore people, but trust us: If you talk with them, they will only become more belligerent, and you will not change their minds. Additionally, no matter how nice you are, the impression people passing by will get is one of you being the instigator, since you’re the one asking people to change their habits. The focus will be placed negatively on you, rather than on animal suffering.
5. Be very polite and make it easy for them to take the literature. When we refer to people as “ma’am” or “sir” and say “thank you” or “have a great day” to those who take literature, we are seen as well-mannered, well-meaning individuals concerned about alleviating suffering, rather than “radical militants” who the public is all-too-eager to dismiss. Also, try to place the leaflet directly in front of the passing person’s stomach so it’s easier for them to take the brochure from you if they choose.
You Are Making a Difference
Each year, 99 percent of the animals killed in the United States die to be eaten. As others have commented, even if we were to completely abolish every other form of animal exploitation, we would have helped the lives of only 1 percent of the animals in the country. Needless to say, the interests of each individual animal—whether mistreated by circuses, the fur industry, vivisection, factory farming, or any other abusive industry—are important, and we know that some people become vegetarian after learning about rodeos, animal testing, or other non-farmed animal issues. However, the numbers speak loudly: By encouraging people to become vegetarian, we help to alleviate far more suffering for far more animals than by spending our time in any other way.
Perhaps more importantly, unlike other forms of animal abuse—mainly the hunting, fur, vivisection, and animals in entertainment industries—virtually everyone in the country is responsible for the suffering of farmed animals. Advocating for farmed animals is not a case of stopping a small minority of people (like hunters, vivisectors, or fur-wearers) from treating animals cruelly. Rather, it is about transforming the views and habits of nearly everyone.
As you consider the ways you can best help animals, make sure to keep vegetarian leafleting high on your list. Even if you convince people to eat less meat, dairy products, and eggs each week, that alone can have a dramatic impact on the industries, if done by enough people. Never underestimate the effect you can have.
If you find a busy enough area, you should be able to easily pass out 300 brochures in just one hour. Consider this:
- By leafleting for only one hour per week (a small sacrifice to make), you can expose more than 15,000 people to the message of vegetarianism in just one year.
- Even if only 1 out of 300 people you leaflet actually becomes vegetarian, that’s still more than 50 new vegetarians each year, thanks to your one-hour’s effort each week!
- Your leafleting for just one hour each week also encourages dozens and dozens more people to reduce their consumption of animal products.
It’s hard to imagine a better use of our time.
How many hours do you spend each week watching television, going to the movies, or shopping? Why not take a couple of those hours and commit to a weekly vegetarian leafleting endeavor? You should be able to find friends to help you, and, before you know it, you’ll have a small group of people out every week, helping your community transition to a more compassionate lifestyle.
Please don’t wait to get started … the animals need your help now more than ever!