My name's Jon Camp, and I'm Director of Outreach for Vegan Outreach, a nonprofit working to reduce animal suffering through the widespread distribution of our booklets about factory farming. I did an IAmA about a year ago and it generated a lot of interest and discussion. I just hit a milestone in my work and perhaps set a world record (?) by handing out a million booklets about factory farming to college students. I've handed out booklets at 523 schools (mostly colleges), in 46 states and 4 Canadian provinces. I’ve stayed with a lot of fascinating folks and have had a lot of interesting experiences doing this work. AMA!

Proof: pic: distribution chart: Twitter:

Comments: 126 • Responses: 55  • Date: 

moron_that_later26 karma

Love your work Jon and that of your organization.

Having presented people with the facts about how animals are raised and slaughtered, and with the other myriad reasons to go vegan (health, environmental impacts, biosecurity), in your experience what is the most common obstacle that stops people from making the change? Is it the cultural importance of animal products? Some need to be 'masculine' on the part of the men? Plain old denial? Callousness?

joncamp38 karma

Thanks for the nice words!

I think convenience and social pressures are the main hindrances.

We can make it more convenient by continuing to encourage outlets to offer more veg meals, to encourage piecemeal steps in the right direction, to allow people to take this at their own pace, to introduce them to new vegan foods.

And we can welcome more individuals into our big tent. Some vegans are quick to exclude others from their circle over minuscule differences of opinion or practice, are quick to judge those if they're not 100% perfect. So being less-judgmental, friendlier, more encouraging of any change -- these seem like good steps towards building our ranks.

moron_that_later4 karma

I like your perspective on this a lot, and I think it's true for other issues too. If you want to convince someone that you have a valid position on something, nothing will thwart that goal better than belittling them.

Keep up the good work!

joncamp5 karma

Thank you! And I agree. :)

katie_veg19 karma

Awesome work, Jon!! What's your leafeting "pick-up line"? ie. What's the most effective opening sentence to get someone to take a leaflet??

joncamp19 karma

Thanks! I like to smile and say, "Info to help animals?" Or, "Help animals?" Most people like to help animals, so this approach is simple and palatable and enjoys a high take-rate.

jadamsrd5 karma

I've used this phrase when leafletting many times since meeting you a couple years ago on your upstate NY tour. :)

joncamp6 karma

Nice! Whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?

jadamsrd6 karma

This is Jenn. You stayed at my place in 2010 when leafletting at SUNY and RPI. :)

joncamp6 karma

That was a nice time. Good to hear from you!

i_wantthat14 karma

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get involved in vegan activism?

joncamp15 karma

Great that you're interested in this!

I'd try to get your feet wet by joining others.

If you live in North America, it is very likely that Vegan Outreach will be in your neck of the woods in the next six months. You could meet up with one of us. Or you could see if there are other local groups who are looking for help.

If you don't have a local group nearby and want to get involved now, I'd try leafleting a college. It's a simple way to do something in the here and now that really makes an impact.

If you were to send me a PM, letting me know where you live, I'd love to put you in touch with one of our local reps!

bmcinto35 karma

Does Vegan Outreach come to St. Louis anytime soon?!

joncamp4 karma

Yes! We're there regularly. If you were to PM your contact info, I'd put you in touch with our St. Louis rep. Thanks for your interest!

i_wantthat2 karma

Thanks so much for your reply! I'm moving to a bigger area soon and am very excited to get involved. I'll PM you more info, that would be great!

joncamp6 karma

Fantastic! I look forward to hearing from you!

pumpkinpatch6314 karma

Earlier this year I tried leafletting on my campus for the first time. I discovered that I love it! It felt great to get out there and talk to people about an issue I care about. Pretty much all my interactions were positive (save a few, haha).

Given how much I enjoyed it, I want to leaflet much more. But how often should I leaflet my campus? I can do it whenever I want, but I think doing it too often wouldn't be nearly as productive.

Another question: What do you say when a stranger asks you why you're vegan? And how does this differ from when a friend or family member asks you the same question? I'm fine-tuning my response to this FAQ. Thanks! Keep us the excellent work!

joncamp10 karma

Good questions. And I'm glad that you're enjoying leafleting!

If you're leafleting somewhere and there are still a lot of people who haven't yet received a booklet, carry on!

How you respond to people about being vegan depends on your connection to them, how much time the person has, why you went vegan, etc. But I usually start by saying that I'm vegan to reduce animal suffering -- that today's farm animals suffer a good deal, and my food choices can minimize this. And if they have more questions, I just try to answer them in an honest, friendly, and calm manner.

Thanks again for leafleting!

EricHerboso13 karma

What do you think of Animal Charity Evaluators' latest study on leafleting?

While it provides confirmatory evidence for leafleting to influence some students to stop eating meat entirely, it casts doubt on the idea that leafleting helps to reduce the meat consumption of people who continue to eat meat after receiving the leaflet.

Since previous studies found that the largest effect size was in reducing the overall meat consumption of those who still ate meat, this would seem to be evidence that leafleting is less effective than previous studies (like the farm sanctuary/humane league one you linked in a different comment) indicate.

joncamp9 karma

Good question.

I look forward to looking over this study in detail soon; I hadn't seen the link that you sent me to.

I don't think this study is the end-all be-all, given that it conflicts with the THL/FS study (which I also don't see as the end-all be-all), but it is a data point worthy of consideration. I look forward to more and more research being done on leafleting, and adjusting our advocacy from there, if need be.

The continued search for more data can be a big net plus to the movement, and I'm grateful for ACE's work. And I think that Vegan Outreach is in a good position to adjust our approach as we continue to get more data on what works, what doesn't, etc.

behindthec11 karma

A bit of a loaded question here. :) For me, the hardest part of being vegan is that so few other people are. I went vegan instantly as soon as I began to learn the realities of farming and exploitation, so it's very frustrating for me to try to understand why others don't do the same. What do you think is the driving force behind the psychology of people understanding that animals are harmed, but not being motivated to make a change? Some books/resources seem to imply that if people "just knew" how bad it was, they would go vegan... but as I'm sure most of us have experienced, that's rarely the case. Even people who initially seem appalled upon learning about the cruelty seem to just "get over it" and continue their old habits. Why do you think that is? Do you have any advice on reaching them?

joncamp13 karma

Yes, the social factor is very important. Veganism is less palatable when people don't know many vegans, or those they know are not individuals they'd like to associate with.

We can make it easier by encouraging vegan social outings (certain cities have vegan meetup groups), by always being nice and welcoming to non-vegans.

We can make people feel less pressure by encouraging piecemeal steps -- say, trying veg for a day a week -- and giving them encouragement when they do that.

Thankfully in the US, more and more people are exploring veg meals, there are more veg options at grocery chains and restaurants, etc. So going veg will be an easier proposition with each passing year.

But in the meantime, I think we just have to make sure we're friendly and patient with others and realize that it's, as you said, not as simple as just showing them the facts and expecting them to change right there and then.

hipo800011 karma

Why do you think this is a fight worth fighting for. In other words, how much of an impact do you have on animal suffering, is it something that realistically can be stopped?

joncamp25 karma

Good question.

There will always be suffering and cruelty, but there is work to be done that can greatly diminish this. And if I can be responsible for, say, thousands or (better yet) millions of animals from not enduring suffering, that is huge. I can't think of a better use of my time.

I also find social change exciting, and it's great to see the values of society changing over time. It's thrilling to see our attitudes towards other animals changing over time. Animals have the capacity to suffer (just as we do), have wants and needs, a complex mind, and we too often overlook this. I'm happy to be a part of a movement that highlights this and asks important questions.

I totally get that no form of advocacy will be a cure-all. But there is a lot of work that can be done in the here and now to reduce a significant amount of suffering.

yottskry-19 karma

And if I can be responsible for, say, thousands or (better yet) millions of animals from not enduring suffering, that is huge.

If everyone went vegan, we'd have no need for cows, sheep, goats or pigs and those species would no longer be seen around our landscape. That would be a terrible shame. Veganism is not a good thing.

joncamp21 karma

A few quick points to that:

The industrialization of farming has led to us seeking the breeds of animals who grow the fastest, produce the most eggs, produce the highest milk yield, etc, leading us to opt for the particular breed that produces the highest output for each animal product and ditching the breeds that don't produce as much. in the past, there were a variety of breeds for each farm animal -- one farm might use one particular breed, another would use a different. But that's no longer the case, and there hasn't been an outcry over the shrinking diversity of farm animal breeds in the last half-century.

We destroy an immense amount of wildlife habitat so that we have land to raise farm animals on and crops to feed farm animals. For example, the majority of the deforested Brazilian rainforest has been cut down for cattle pasture. The number of species decimated for our consumption of animal foods absolutely dwarfs the number of species of farm animals.

Also, if we wanted to preserve the few domesticated breeds that we still use for farming, there's no reason we couldn't keep some alive at sanctuaries or the like.

So if we are genuinely concerned about species preservation, a vegan diet is favorable to that goal.



joncamp2 karma

Ha! Not especially.



joncamp6 karma

And thank you for the nice words!

ShrimpyPimpy10 karma

Bonus question: I work on a huge campus with a really low take-rate... students are so inundated with every group trying to sell/give them something, they just basically put their blinders on.

Is there anything you do to make yourself more effective on these huge busy campuses where students seem extra-disinterested?

joncamp11 karma

A big smile helps! And it's good to experiment with the "lean-in," where you lean towards the individual. Or on some campuses, it helps to take the cool, dispassionate approach.

It's also important to see it as a numbers game -- a lot of people won't be interested, but a lot will. And we're there for those who are interested. And even on campuses with a low take-rate, you're still able to reach a LOT of people.

Not taking rejection personally can be helpful, too. If someone says no, I just smile it off, no harm done.

I see these situations as a creative challenge (though I get that they can be frustrating), and enjoy experimenting with different approaches to see which ones work the best.

bpetrie8810 karma

I grew up on a farm, we always ate meat that we raised and ate veggies that we grew. I know that we weren't cruel to the animals and eating meat has always been part of human culture. We kept the animals fed and watered at all times, took care of them, and when the time came we would slaughter them for sustenance. To someone from my background, what argument would you present to try and sway me?

joncamp22 karma

Interesting question.

I'd like our society to move away towards seeing animals as mere means to our ends. I can live a happy and healthy life without eating animals, so I think I should.

Even at the most humane small farms, animals are often castrated without a painkiller, are still exposed to the elements outside, are usually trucked many miles to slaughter, and the act of slaughter is a brutal act.

I do get that there are certain animals on certain farms whose lives are likely decent until they're slaughtered. But they are by far a minority. And it seems very unlikely that we can raise and kill 9.5 billion land animals (what we currently raise and kill in the US each year) through a system of small farms.

I don't spend my limited advocacy time trying to convince the small minority of individuals who raise and kill their own animals not to, though I think a case could be made for this.

bpetrie886 karma

Thank you for your response. This has been a biting complaint I have heard from numerous people who grew up the same way I did. We rarely sold our animals to slaughter, but rather did it ourselves for our own sustenance and survived off of grain sales. I have been considering, if nothing else, reducing meat consumption, but it is very difficult to do so coming from my background. As a follow up, do you have any advice for someone like me who, at every meal ever put on by anyone in my family, has to try and explain that I do not want to eat as much meat as I used to? I can't say I will ever go completely away from meat, but maybe having one product per day rather than three is a good start.

joncamp10 karma

I like your line of thinking! It's great that you're looking to reduce your meat consumption, which does a world of good for animals and the environment.

When dealing with friends and family members with any change, I think the key is to be firm and respectful. By making it clear that these are your dietary preferences, your family should soon get it, get that you're serious about this, and should let you exist as you want to exist. And by stating these firm preferences in a friendly, fun, and non-preachy manner, their brief bitter pill will be a lot less bitter to swallow.

My dad grew up on a small farm in rural Iowa. When I went vegetarian and then vegan, I proved that I was serious about this by not wavering. But I also made it easier for my family to accept by me being nice and non-judgmental about it. It's a balancing act, and some situations are tougher than others, but it's definitely doable.

cestlhalloween-6 karma


joncamp7 karma

If you are going to eat meat, it's good that you're at least looking into the welfare conditions of these animals. And it sounds like you eat a limited amount of meat. That's great.

That said, there are likely still welfare concerns even on this farm.

For animals who don't speak the English language, I'm guessing that they'd prefer the farmer using his finite time and energy providing them with, say, shelter to the elements or adequate feed than him reading to them. :)

The overwhelming majority of today's farm animals are factory-farmed. So while there are farm animals who have a decent quality of life (and are read to), they're definitely the exception to the rule.

johnoberg9 karma

Thanks for your work to help animals! What are some of the most effective ways to get active for animals and why do you think this?

joncamp11 karma

For your average person, I'm a big proponent of leafleting. There's not that much time investment, and you're able to reach hundreds of people in a matter of an hour or two.

I also recommend connecting with your local animal advocacy group in your neck of the woods, assuming you like the campaigns they're working on. It can be a morale booster to meet and work with those who share your beliefs.

Lastly, if doing the actual grassroots advocacy isn't your thing, donating to groups doing good work is huge. I know that for Vegan Outreach, as our budget increases, we reach more individuals with the animals' plight. Some people don't have time to get out and do outreach, but they can ensure that it continues to grow by giving to the groups doing effective work.

ShrimpyPimpy8 karma

I know leafleting has amazing benefits for those you're trying to reach, and I leaflet when I can. That said, I'm already sort of burned out on it! Have you ever gotten sick of handing out leaflets?

joncamp7 karma

That's a good question! I think the main thing is to take it at a pace that's sustainable for you, to know that there are a lot of people thinking about this because you've taken the time to get out and do this. We're always hearing from those who have changed their dietary habits as a result of getting a leaflet; sometimes we don't see these tangible results while doing the actual leafleting. Leafleters don't always see that we get hundreds of starter guides each month as a result of our leafleting.

Just getting out once a month for an hour would do a lot of good.

Where do you do this, and is there something in particular that burns you out about it?

Also, going with friends can spice it up and make it more enjoyable. Thanks for doing this work!

hudleree8 karma

Another question... As an environmentalist I go back and forth on my desire to go leafleting. I have personally had the amazing experience of helping "convert" (not a huge fan of that term) more than a few handfuls of people to veg*anism through leafleting in my life. However as I got older, and became a more staunch environmentalist, I found it hard to reconcile passing out that much paper that was often found in the trash and sometimes scattered about campuses. This has also been an issue for my environmental group as many people at events want us to hand out literature, but we are conflicted to use those resources when it could be done digitally via our website.

Other than signing petitions and posting on Facebook, is there more digital activism to be done? What other alternatives exist out there for those of us with concern over the amount of paper being printed for leafleting?

joncamp14 karma

More good questions!

I think not only could a suffering-reduction case be made for leafleting, but an environmental case could be leafleting -- that the environmental benefits of more people reducing animal-product consumption outweigh the damage done by giving out booklets printed on recycled paper.

Essentially, what we're asking is that we invest four sheets of paper per person. Again, I think the benefits that come from doing this far outweigh the negative.

There will always be booklets that find their way to the garbage. But there will also be a lot that are read.

You could fund Facebook or online ads. That does a lot of good without using paper. Vegan Outreach has a Facebooks ad campaigns.

Again, though, in terms of person to person outreach, I get that there is a harm done by printing and distributing leaflets, but I find the harm to be way more than offset by the good that comes from leafleting, both environmentally-speaking and in terms of suffering reduction. It's an imperfect world, and we just try to make it as imperfect as we can.

EAJay7 karma

What do you say when someone asks about "humane farms"?

Also, how do you balance talking to people who are interested with handing out as many leaflets as possible?

joncamp10 karma

Good question.

I say that certain farms might be less cruel, but are not cruelty-free. If people absolutely insist on eating meat, I tell them that it would most likely be better to, say, go to Whole Foods or a farmers market than to buy something at a typical mainstream grocery chain. But I always stress that the best thing we can do is to reduce/eliminate our consumption of animal products.

During class changes, I try not to get into long discussions, as that's when everyone is out and about. And I ask those who have a lot of questions if I could answer them after the class change. If this works for them, great. If not, I answer there questions then while leafleting.

When it's slow, I love questions, even if it means I leaflet fewer individuals. But I've gotten pretty good at leafleting while still being fully engaged in a conversation.

chr0m3896 karma

What do you think about hunting?

joncamp18 karma

If individuals absolutely insist on eating meat, I'd rather them eat, say, venison, than factory-farmed chicken. The animals likely led a better life prior to death, and the individual consuming the meat has done the dirty work, as opposed to just paying someone else to do it.

That said, I don't see hunting as a harmless activity. Even experienced hunters often wound but not kill, and animals can languish for hours/days. And these animals have a will to live, and I don't see it as a good use of a Sunday to go out into the woods and kill those who don't wish to be killed.

outinthestreet6 karma


joncamp9 karma

Thank you!

It's a tough question, but there is starting to be more data collection, such as this study by Farm Sanctuary and the Humane League:

As more data is collected, we'll get a better grasp of how many booklets it takes to spare one animal from suffering. But as of now, it's looking like it might be 1, 2, or 3 (and that's not including the fact that those impacted influence others). I'm glad that the animal advocacy movement is moving in a more data-based direction.

snipawolf5 karma

Holy crap. So taking a few minutes to hand out a few pieces of paper saves the lives of an animal?

That's amazing, makes me want to start right away.

joncamp4 karma

Great! If there's any way I can be of assistance to this, or if you want me to put you in touch with any local leafleters, just let me know. Thanks for your enthusiasm for this!

yuktrude6 karma

How'd you get them GUNS???

joncamp8 karma

Ha. Mostly pull-ups and bicep curls. And years of smoothies full of nuts and seeds.

hudleree6 karma

Hey Jon! My question is what do you do when you encounter someone asking a question (whether genuinely, or to try and trip you up) that you simply don't have an answer for?

I work in sales and usually I do my best to say, "You know what, honestly, I'm not sure about that...but let me find that out for you," when I don't know the answer to something. However with someone passing by they may not want to give out their contact information or I worry that they will be agitated that I don't have all the answers.

joncamp10 karma

I like how you deal with that question!

I do the same thing: I tell the individual that it's a question I hadn't been asked before, and I give suggestions on where he or she could find the answer.

I've found that admitting that I don't know everything goes a lot further in winning hearts and minds than pretending that I know every possible fact there is out there. People often feel disarmed when they realize they're not dealing with a know-it-all.

hudleree2 karma

Great to hear! It's just such a hard line to walk because it seems that when it comes to the nay-sayers they expect us to have all of the answers and when we don't...they get angry and use it to justify their oppositional view. Glad to hear that it tends to work for you and I'll be sure to just go with that from now on :). Thanks Jon!

joncamp7 karma

Those who are trying to capitalize on us not knowing something are those who aren't really interested in changing their mind at this point. Ultimately, the case we're making doesn't rest on a single obscure stat.

But for those who are really open to an honest discussion, admitting that we don't know everything can boost our sense of credibility. Everything we had said prior to this will seem more truthful.

Thanks again for the good question!

vertbois5 karma

Do you think anyone can leaflet or do you have to be particularly outgoing and good at talking to strangers? Are people generally nice when you offer them a leaflet?

joncamp6 karma

Great question.

For the Myers-Brigg personality test, I fall more on the introverted side of the spectrum than the extrovert side. And I've been successful at leafleting.

I think as long as you smile, are friendly with individuals, you'll do fine.

The overwhelming majority of people I deal with are nice. I just got back from a six-week southern tour, and I was blown away by how little antagonism there was.

Usually, if you're friendly with people, they'll be friendly in return. There are exceptions to this rule, but people who are rude to nice people -- definitely a statistical minority.

rachelatcheson4 karma

Way to go, Jon! I'm so thrilled to work along-side you to help spread the news of compassion! What initially got you interested in leafleting?

joncamp5 karma

Thanks, Rachel!

In the early 2000s, I was volunteering with Compassion Over Killing, a group based out of DC. I did a feed-in with them (where you give out free veg food), and there was a need for someone to leaflet alongside the person giving free food.

I was relatively shy about this, but gave it a try as there was a need for someone to do this. People were nice, asked good questions, and I was sold on it. I got involved with Vegan Outreach leafleting shortly after.

remstarrr4 karma

I'm a vegan that will attend graduate school soon (in Canada). What's the best way to reach scientists?

joncamp4 karma

Awesome! I guess it all depends on what you're trying to reach them about.

If it's farm animals/veganism, I'd go about it as you would with anyone else -- talking with them when the subject comes up.

That said, from just a numbers-based approach, doing outreach to those outside of our immediate social circle pays big dividends. It's often tough to have these conversations with those very close to us. But when we get out and leaflet or do some other general outreach activity, we're usually reaching out to strangers who aren't tied to us emotionally, and we can reach them in large numbers. Our social circles are usually quite finite and we're often too emotionally invested in these individuals. But the number of folks we can reach when we do outreach to the general public, definitely massive, and rejection stings a lot less.

Good luck at grad school! We've got some good folks up in Canada, should you ever want me to put you in touch with them. If so, please send me a PM letting me know where you'll be going.

mementomary2 karma

Semi-related to this question: I work in health research in Canada, and I would really like to get more active in the animal model/animal testing activism. I'm an abolitionist through progress (meaning, I support abolition, but it will take time). Do you know of any good resources for someone "on the inside" of health research?

joncamp4 karma

Awesome that you're looking to use your line of work to push the ball forward for lab animals. And I appreciate your pragmatism and commitment to real-world results.

I just met a Tulane student who is working to decrease the number of animals tested on in her class. And I know of at least one current animal advocate who used to be involved in vivisection.

Also, one of my good friends, Alka Chadna, plays a key role in PETA's vivisection campaign. Alka is super-nice and super-smart, and I'm sure she'd have lots of good suggestions.

If you'd like me to put you in touch with any of these folks, please PM with your contact info, and I'll put you in touch with them!

lnfinity4 karma

I know Erik Marcus (at regularly discusses the idea of being an "Animal Millionaire" (someone who has saved the lives of a million animals. This comment popped into my head when I heard about your AMA:

"Saving a million animals isn't cool. You know what's cool, saving a billion animals."

I think this should be your new motto.

As for a question, how long do you think it would take you to complete a game of Defensive Omnivore Bingo?

joncamp7 karma

Thanks. :) Erik has come up with a lot of good phrases/concepts, and I definitely like the notion of trying to be an animal millionaire.

Defensive Omnivore Bingo is funny. I guess which school I'm at would determine how quickly I could fill that up. At an ag school, I'd fill it up faster. :)

caplanhart4 karma

Thanks for your terrific work. Is there any particular point you would like to make that hasn't come up yet today? Is there anything else we might have asked that would be helpful to move the ball forward for farmed animals?

joncamp7 karma

Thanks for asking!

One thing I want to stress is that eating vegan food doesn't need to be an all or nothing proposition. Individuals who don't think they can go vegan right now can still do a world of good for animals by reducing their consumption of animal-based foods, especially chicken products.

Also, if individuals don't know much about the issue at hand, I recommend checking out some videos to learn more about the current treatment of animals raised and killed for food. This is worth watching:

cowboyjohnsontime3 karma

This is so awesome congrats on the marvelous work you do! Travelling around for a cause like that is really admirable. No questions just keep doing what you're doing!

joncamp2 karma

I appreciate the support! Thanks for chiming in with your nice comment.

sabrinabobinaa3 karma

Just wanted to say I think what you're doing is incredible! Thank you for helping the ones who cannot help themselves :)

joncamp4 karma

And thank you for chiming in with your nice words!

Shadewood3 karma

Hello, John. Thanks so much for everything you do, it is majorly inspiring, and if I could I would give you a peace prize. :)

joncamp3 karma

I appreciate your nice words!

alblaster3 karma

Hi! I'm a vegan and I'm finishing my Environmental studies degree at college. In my studies I've learned about overpopulation or certain animals. Living in the Pine lands, one of those animals right now are deer. Because hunting is illegal around here, there are deer everywhere. That doesn't sound so bad, except that the deer eat everything. They've been slowly destroying the forest and have been eliminating plant diversity. They eat most of the new tree shoots that try to grow. The stuff they don't eat is this spikey stuff that just grows everywhere. When you look at the trees you see a lot of fully grown white Oaks and Pines, but not a lot of medium sized trees. There used to be, or so I've been told, lots of other kinds of trees. The lack in diversity means that over time the ecosystem will slowly fall apart, which could eventually lead to the extinction of several species of plants and animals.

In the wild deer have natural predators, except that in many places people have killed them. This results in the deer breeding like crazy, because there are no natural checks and balances that we haven't interfered with. There are deer fences which keep deer out of a protected area, but they are expensive and impractical. I know some of my professor think we should allow hunting to curb the deer numbers and to restore balance to the woods. As a vegan I'm against killing the deer, but as an environmentalist I don't want more life to suffer as a result. As an outreach vegan, what would you try to do? Would you try to save every animal, no matter what? Or would you think that maybe killing a few to save the many might be the better approach?

joncamp8 karma

Good questions. We live in a world full of nuance, and the answers aren't always easy.

You are correct that we've killed off so many natural predators.

I don't think that just shooting an animal dead is the most humane route. But I also get that in certain areas, there are legitimate overpopulation concerns.

I hope that as we move forward, we see more non-lethal population control measures undertaken, such as this one in Fairfax, VA:

In the meantime, I think we should take each situation on a case by case manner and try to respond in a manner that recognizes the welfare of other creatures.

vertbois2 karma

How long does it take you to hand out 100 leaflets on average? Would someone with not much spare time be able to do enough to be useful?

joncamp2 karma

It depends on where you're at. At some schools, I can hand out hundreds in an hour. Or if I were to leaflet outside of a concert as it let out, I could reach hundreds in a half hour. At smaller schools, it might be 50-100 in an hour.

Even giving out 50 booklets is huge, and small leafleting outings add up over time.

So I can't stress enough that using whatever limited time you can on this, even if it's a small amount of time, is a big win for animals.

joachimrobert2 karma

Most of the leaflets I have seen by Vegan Outreach have been with cute pictures of animals on the front and the occasional animal suffering picture inside, so I will assume that is the most effective.

How much less effective do you think it is, if the leaflet does not have any pictures of animals (but is very informative about ethics, environment, health, etc.)?

joncamp3 karma

That's a good question. As of now, we find the animal cruelty argument to resonate the best with our target demographic (college students).

We've been starting to add a bit more about the environment and health. And if we get some data back suggesting that we should highlight those subjects more, we'll be open to that.

If we were reaching out to an older demographic, health issues would resonate more. But health concerns don't carry the same sense of urgency with college students.

joachimrobert2 karma

I'm sorry. You did not get my question (but an interesting reply nonetheless!). I wasn't asking whether a leaflet about animal ethics is better than one about health, environment, vegan recipes, etc. I was asking if you know whether it is less effective specifically when there is no pictures of (happy or suffering) animals. And how much less effective you would guess it was.

Let's assume it is being handed out to college students.

joncamp2 karma

Thanks for the clarification.

In the last year or two, vegan advocacy has taken data collection and testing of our materials more seriously than in the past. One of the things that is currently being tested is what messages produce better results. So up until this point, it has been guesswork based on experience. In the coming year or two, we should have some data to help shape what we put in the booklet.

There are studies that show that graphic images are effective if they're coupled with a solution. That would suggest that images of animals suffering are effective if that's coupled with promotion of veg eating.

I'm assuming that booklets with no images of animals would be significantly less impactful, since concern for animals is a key reason why young folks go veg. And pictures highlight the plight of animals. For people to make a lifestyle choice that might at least briefly make some social situations uncomfortable (being veg in a mostly non-veg world), they need to have a reason that makes it all worth it. Reducing animal suffering is such a reason.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that at this point, we think that not including pictures of animals would make the booklets much less effective. And in the next year or two, we should have a better sense of if this is really the case.

feynman4life2 karma

Do you think people's label of vegans as generally self-righteous should be questioned? Most of the vegans I know will never bring up veganism to friends who don't ask; the only case in which they get called self-righteous or preachy is when they are insulted and forced into a situation where they have to defend their way of life, and even then they don't ever tell others what to do.

Although I am sure there is a number of self-righteous, "preachy vegans", but I highly doubt this is more than the rest of the population, aren't you just fuelling negative and false stereotypes about vegans by encouraging the idea that it is common? And isn't it likely that people will perceive vegans as self-righteous because people don't like what they are saying, rather than because they actually are self-righteous?

joncamp2 karma

You raise a really good point. Having been so immersed in the vegan advocacy movement, I've met more vegans that about anyone.

The majority of them are level-headed and humble. I think that caring about the wellbeing of another species is a thoughtful and humble act.

That said, there are definitely some dogmatic and self-righteous vegans who are very vocal, and it's likely that there are non-vegans who have encountered such. So I guess I must have alluded to that in a comment or two.

I don't remember posting anything hinting that these folks were the majority of the vegan movement. If I used language that indicated that, my error!

feynman4life1 karma

How are vegans able to be vocal about animal suffering without being perceived as preachy or self-righteous? It's not really fair for the animals if it's just "don't bring veganism up and I won't talk about animal suffering" - even though this may be the way that vegans can be perceived less negatively?

In addition, I think that maybe non-vegans can be overly sensitive about people talking about animal suffering, maybe this is why the "preachy" labels come in, when people feel defensive?

joncamp1 karma

It's a great question.

I think the preachy and self-righteous labels get thrown on us for two key reasons:

1) Omnivores feel on the defensive, and it's easier to attack the messenger than the message.

2) There's a minority of very vocal vegans who are preachy and self-righteous (just as there are for any cause).

It's because of people pushing for a more just world that we abolished slavery (in the developed world), why women are now voting, why we're seeing marriage equality in more and more states, etc. All of this has come with great resistance. We need to carry on in that great tradition and bring about a more just world for animals.

People value comfort, and when we shake up their status quo, they react. It's easier to call someone self-righteous than to admit that something you're doing (and enjoy doing) might be worthy of reexamination.

We can minimize the preachy or self-righteous label by continuing to push for change while doing so in a respectful and humble manner. Being the type of people who admit that we're not perfect helps.

For me, advocacy is a numbers game -- I get out and try to get the information into the hands of hundreds/thousands of individuals. I just give them the materials that describe the issue, and they carry on with their day. And then when I'm with my handful of non-vegan friends and family members, I don't worry about converting them; I just enjoy them for who they are, and focus my advocacy efforts on when I'm doing leafleting or the like.

I'm starting to ramble. In short, I think we should always expect a bit of unfair categorization when we challenge the status quo. We can minimize this by being friendly, happy, patient with others, and humble. But it's vital that we continue to push for change, even if it means occasionally being called self-righteous or preachy.

Schnozberryz2 karma

What would you say to someone with a view that veganism/vegetarianism, outside of longstanding religious customs, is largely a first world luxury?

joncamp8 karma

I'm guessing that people might say this if they're dealing with a particularly self-righteous or absolutist vegan and feel on the defensive.

I don't see veganism as some great luxury. In many ways, it's the denial of a certain privilege. We have the power to take advantage of another creature who is vulnerable to us, and we're renouncing that power.

It should be noted that it's in the wealthier countries where meat consumption is especially high. Raising and killing animals demands an inefficient system of getting our calories; we have to funnel a lot of plant-based calories into animals to get a smaller amount of animal-based calories back. It's a luxury to be able to waste so many calories.

Of course, it's easier to take the vegan position when you are able to provide for your own meals and have good vegan options. And Vegan Outreach doesn't go into third world country doing any moralizing or finger pointing. But I don't see anything especially privileged with advocating that for those who are able to reduce suffering and help the environment through their food choices, that they do, if this is done in a manner free of self-righteousness and finger-pointing.

hyphie2 karma

How do you respond to aggressive people? I was impressed by how calmly and positively you responded to the one aggressive commenter on this post, but you're behind your computer and have time to think before you write.

I'm sure that while leafletting, you get some people that just want to piss you off. How do you deal with them? Have you ever snapped?

joncamp9 karma

Thanks for the good question. I agree that it's easier to be calm when responding behind a computer. Thought it's also easier to be aggressive behind a computer, as evidenced by the vitriol that rears its ugly head online.

I try my best to just remember that the antagonistic person today might be my ally tomorrow. I've often been on campus, someone says something mean, I respond with something nice, and they come back later and apologize and ask more about the issue. So I just keep in mind that the first interaction is a test. And how we respond to that will determine if we get a second chance with this person.

Granted, I haven't always lived up to my ideal when leafleting. With thousands and thousands of interactions, not all will be the gold standard of effective communication. :) But if I ever do slip and say something sarcastic, and I have in the past, I totally get that this wasn't the ideal, that it's not effective.

automaticmidnight1 karma

So, what's the most interesting experience you've had on the road??

joncamp8 karma

That's a tough one.

While driving, perhaps getting pulled over near El Paso and getting grilled by the cop on whether I had cocaine or marijuana or firearms on me. And then I said that I was just doing pro-veg leafleting on campuses. Turns out that the cop had an animal advocate professor who I knew of, and the cop also had a friend was interested in going vegan. So I told the cop where he could order a starter guide, and I was on my way.

Blood-Wiper4 karma

Was the professor Steve Best?

joncamp4 karma


Redsox9331 karma

I ask this seriously and respectfully but what would you say to someone like myself who would never consider a vegan diet as an option? I really love meat and despite my best effort to like vegetables and non-meat/fake meat products more there is just not enough options that I do like to sustain a vegan diet long term?

joncamp8 karma

Thanks for the question.

While I am vegan and see that as the ideal route, for those who insist on eating meat but want to do so in a manner that minimizes animal suffering, these are some ways that minimize animal suffering:

Try to find out where you meat comes from, and purchase from the individuals/companies where there is the best animal welfare.

Keep in mind that the smaller animals have the least amount of regulatory protection (meaning laws that protect their welfare), though no farm animal has much of that. Also, you need to kill many small animals to get the same amount of meat that you would get from a bigger animal. So you need to well over 250 chickens to get the same amount of meat that you'd get from one cow. So trying eat fewer small animals would be good.

And again, this doesn't need to be an all or nothing proposition. Eating more vegan foods, even if you don't go completely vegan, does a great amount of good.

Again, thanks for asking!

randomlyme1 karma

Pretty impressive you could do that much physical work with so little protein ;) Good job!

joncamp2 karma

It was a struggle, but somehow I overcame the odds. :)

enlightened-giraffe-7 karma

Why do you have no compassion for trees ?

While the phrasing is more of a joke, it genuinely seems sadder to me to cut down forests than to breed and kill animals for meat. Your cause is noble, i can't say that it isn't, but handing out leaflets/booklets has a low conversion rate and i really wish the better part of a million booklets wouldn't have gone from being a forest to being trash for nothing.

joncamp12 karma

Thanks for the good question.

Our booklets are made with recycled paper.

Additionally, getting people to reduce/eliminate their animal product consumption is a huge win for the environment:

We find that the good that comes from this work (both the environmental good and the suffering-reduction good) far outweighs the harm done. We're investing four sheets of recycled paper per student. And based on our experience, the potential good, even factoring in a very conservative conversion rate, makes leafleting well worth the resources used to make the leaflets.

When we look back at our devastation of the natural world, we won't say, "If only those vegans didn't leaflet so much!" But we will be looking unfavorably at all the harm done in our inefficient system of raising and killing animals for food.

seriousquestioneer-9 karma

serious question from a meat lover and animal lover:

if your focus is to reduce and eliminate animal suffering, why is the ideology focused on getting random people to not eat animals? why not focus on lobbying for change in local state and fed gov? i mean really, why focus on the symptom when you could be dealing with the problem: humanity not being symbiotic with nature. your leverage to solve your problem is weak anyway.

does every specie in the food chain (all the thousands and millions of them) kill their prey (those that do) in a non suffering way?

are you aware that our brains very well may never have evolved this way if not for a huge increase in meat consumption a while back? if you are, how can you justify vegan or vegetarian lifestyle when it very well could mean the devolution of our specie in terms of mental capability? are you aware of health problems related to not taking in all protein chains needed for a human to live?

and my most serious question:

i assume all living things may not be sentient, but it is in the nature of nature that through the cycle of life there is suffering. every light casts a shadow. if you believe we should not eat meat, how can you justify eating plants or fungi?

if we ought have sentientbeing rights, not just human and/or animal rights, would you not include plants? in otherwords, how can you justify standing up against causing the suffering of one specie on earth, and not another? are you just focused, and do care (i read the tree question response), or are you missing entirely the bigger issue? humanity has failed to participate in the cycle, thus there is suffering unneeded. seen a lion take a gazelle? would you have that lion be a criminal for eating the gazelle?

i mean really, not to invalidate years of work, but it sounds like you have no idea what the hell you're doing or why you're doing it; you've wasted your time. find new meaning in life

how bout stopping the extinction of species by humanity? well which is worse? killing off an entire race or enslaving them to unneeded suffering?

joncamp8 karma

Thanks for the questions.

There are groups working for better treatment of animals, and that's good. But it's a very slow and piecemeal process. While they work on that, groups like Vegan Outreach will work on decreasing the number of animals raised and killed and advancing vegan eating in our society.

We don't base our actions on what other animals do, and it's good that we don't. We don't justify rape or slavery because it played a role in getting us where we are. We can reflect on our actions and change according to advances in thought. That's what makes us a unique species.

We did a lot of things to get where we are, but we don't need to be wed to the past. It's important that we view the world as it is now and ask how we can live a happy and healthy life that doesn't cause unnecessary suffering to others. The largest group of professional nutritionist and dietitians (the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics) state that a veg diet can be good for all stages of life.

Plants don't have a central nervous system or a brain. So they don't suffer. Also, we need to funnel a lot of plants into animals. So if we were genuinely concerned with reducing plant suffering, we'd do our best to use fewer plants, just eat them straight from the ground, rather than funneling an excessive amount of them into animals.

If we found out that plants really did suffer, yes, I would take that seriously and ask how we could proceed accordingly.

I'm not interested in criminalizing or judging. I'm interested in asking how we as individuals who can think through our actions can be more thoughtful and cause less pain to others. I'm not saying I'm perfect. I'm just trying to make an imperfect world less imperfect.

Have a good night!

MyPussyCantSee3 karma

I admire your ability to keep a level head when people talk out of their asses. Teach me your ways.

joncamp2 karma

Ha. Thanks!

If I respond to meanness with meanness, it's just some immature battle of egos, and I won't win the person over. If I respond to meanness with niceness, at least I'm setting up a situation where there could be conversation and room for progress. Granted, this doesn't always happen, but I figure it's at least worth giving each interaction a try.

Thanks again for your nice words!

eldeeder-28 karma


joncamp33 karma

Thanks for your question.

I ask people if they'd like information. If they don't want it, I tell them to have a nice day. No harm done.

On the other hand, consuming animals condemns other creatures to a life of very real suffering, a trip to the slaughterhouse. By pushing your lifestyle on them, there is real harm done.

Just by living, we're going to be forcing our lifestyle on others. So it's important that we do this in a friendly and humble manner, and pick the lifestyles that cause the least harm.

yottskry-14 karma

By pushing your lifestyle on them, there is real harm done.

Sorry, bad argument. This is predicated on the idea that eating animals is not normal, that it's a lifestyle choice and therefore something to be forced. It isn't. Eating meat (and vegetables, and fruit, in the right proportions) is how we've evolved. The vegan diet is unnatural. Sure, it works because of the sorts of modern foods you can eat in place of meat, but it's not natural. Veganism is a lifestyle choice; omnivorism is not.

joncamp16 karma

Communicating through a laptop isn't especially natural, either. Nor is using modern medicine, electricity, or deodorant.

Living a wholly "natural" life is something that no one in this day and age really desires. What's more important than being "natural," is accepting the world as it currently is, and trying to live in a manner that allows for good health, happiness, and minimizes the suffering of others. And I find a vegan diet to be conducive to that goal.