To be vegan inevitably involves talking about veganism. This may seem like a dreadful endeavor for those who’ve encountered their share of opposition—those pesky questions about where we get our protein, and gut-wrenching arguments such as “plants have feelings, too,” and “animals don’t contribute to science!” I’m sure many of us have come to a point where we’ve felt disheartened: Perhaps talking about veganism is a waste of time. People are only putting me on the spot and probably don’t have any real intention of changing. Then there’s the realization: the person who is asking these questions or making these arguments now may be the next to go vegan.
Thanks to Dr. Casey Taft’s Motivational Methods for Vegan Advocacy: A Clinical Psychology Approach, we now have a resource that can prepare us for these exact conversations. Taft’s book reminds us that there was a time even before we were vegan, a time when we simply did not know as much as we know now. Not only does Dr. Taft’s book serve as a reminder that we have power to propagate the vegan message and motivate others to align their lifestyle with their love for animals, but it also serves as a guide for effective communication. The book highlights the importance of communicating in an assertive as well as respectful manner and also being a good listener who can meet people where they are in their various stages of behavioral change.
To be assertive in our advocacy, according to Dr. Taft, is to be “calm but impassioned” in describing veganism as a social justice movement. Dr. Taft points out that animal rights discourse should not encourage a reducetarian approach to animal oppression; for the end goal of any social justice movement is the complete elimination (rather than reduction) of oppression. Dr. Taft also points out the importance of being assertive in our discussions of the myriad reasons for being vegan, as being overly passive or aggressive can do more harm than good in motivating others to go vegan.
To help us become better listeners, Dr. Taft details and provides pertinent examples of the various stages of behavioral change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Understanding these different stages will help us to gauge how we can best respond to and assist people according to where they are in their readiness for change. As Dr. Taft posits, “If we want to have an assertive, thoughtful response to non-vegans who challenge us about our veganism, we will be most successful if we try to have an understanding of the place they’re coming from—their current stage of change—and to recognize that this stage is not fixed.”
Dr. Taft is right—we must recognize that stages are not fixed and that we are experiencing exponential change. We are living in a time in which more and more vegan products are being created; a time in which the environmental repercussions of animal agribusiness are being exposed; a time in which health concerns linked with animal consumption are rising; a time in which animal cruelty and abuse is no longer ‘out of sight/out of mind’; a time in which farm animal sanctuaries are being born and education on the topic of animal rights is proliferating. We are living in a time that continues to surprise us, as the age-old assumption that humans need to exploit animals for survival is becoming obsolete.
Your paleo roommate may contemplate alternative diets and ask you if you feel nutritionally fulfilled and energized as a vegan. A steak-loving friend of yours might ask you if veganism can help him lose weight or mitigate his chronic stomach problems. You may find more and more friends on social media sharing posts about animal welfare. An acquaintance whom you haven’t spoken to in years might reach out to you with a series of long-winded philosophical questions about veganism; and whether or not you respond respectfully and with an open mind can make all the difference in her ultimate decision to go vegan.
Motivations for these questions and dialogues will vary, but the fact that they are becoming more prevalent is a testament to the accelerated change that is happening at this very moment. With help from Dr. Taft’s book, we can address these questions and dialogues in ways that are most conducive to motivating others to go vegan. By taking a clinical psychology approach to animal advocacy, we can become better listeners and, by extension, better advocates. As Taft writes: “I have found that when I hear the person out and let them talk about their experiences, they will be much more likely to listen to my (vegan) point of view.”
Motivational Methods for Vegan Advocacy: A Clinical Psychology Approach is here at an ideal time and will surely help us to become better advocates for animals and ambassadors for the vegan movement. Dr. Taft’s book is a must-have for any vegan, especially those who are looking to overcome anxieties and concerns about speaking to others about veganism. Dr. Taft helps us to put these anxieties to rest, as he reassures us: “There is no valid ethical or scientific argument in favor of breeding and killing animals, or otherwise using them for our selfish purposes, so we are aided by the fact that the truth is on our side.” With that said, let’s keep talking about veganism. It will only get easier.
Motivational Methods for Vegan Advocacy: A Clinical Psychology Approach was released on March 8, 2016 by Vegan Publishers, and can be purchased here: