Want to be a More Effective Advocate? Put the (Vegan) Shoe on the Other Foot

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Guest blog by Caryn Ginsberg

Part 1 of 2

Blog series on effective advocacy by Caryn Ginsberg:

Part 1: Want to be a More Effective Advocate? Put the (Vegan) Shoe on the Other Foot

Part 2: Three Easy Steps to Better Advocacy

Why do people resist change when you tell them about the cruelty behind factory farming, fur, puppy mills, or other animal use and abuse? Whether you're an individual advocate or part of a group, you may feel disappointed, discouraged, upset, or even angry at their seeming indifference to suffering.


To learn how to be more effective, start by putting the vegan shoe on the other foot. You're used to talking to others about animal issues. How would you react if someone was talking to you or sharing written materials about a different type of issue?

To find out, and to gain some great insight on your advocacy, read the italicized text in the example below asking you to stop shopping at malls or large retailers for clothing.

(If the example isn't relevant because you already avoid malls and chains and always buy secondhand clothing, think about another "world-friendly" or health-promoting action that you may not have taken. For example, do you live without a car, never purchase bottled water or eat 100% raw vegan food? What would someone advocating for that say to you and why might you not take action?)

Example of what an advocate in another field might say to you about shopping:

Shopping at the mall or in national retail stores hurts the environment and people. It's important that you never buy clothing in these outlets!

The cotton in shirts has probably been treated with pesticides. Synthetic fibers are produced using petrochemicals. "Dyeing and printing consume vast amounts of water and chemicals, and release numerous volatile agents into the atmosphere that are particularly harmful to our health."[1]

Manufacturers source a lot of clothing from China where workers endure long hours. "Health and safety conditions in the factories include exposure to toxic chemicals, fire hazards and high risk of industrial accidents." [2]

Are you ready to give up buying any clothing at all in malls or major retail stores? Shoes? Bathing suits? Underwear? If you're like most people I've spoken to at conferences, your answer is no.

Insight and action

  • Why did the example succeed or not succeed in convincing you to take action to avoid mall and national retail store shopping?
  • If you weren't convinced, how might the appeal have been more effective?
  • Do you think there are other people who feel as strongly about this issue as you do about animal issues? Should they think you're a "bad" person because you won't change?
  • How did you feel being on the receiving end of someone else's advocacy?
  • What ways can you see to be more effective in your own outreach based on this experience?

In next week's follow-up article I'll explain three simple steps you can use to enhance your advocacy:

  1. Answer "what's in it for me?"
  2. Focus on more than the message.
  3. Find out what you don't know.

Intrigued? Don't miss next week's article. You'll think about what you experienced in the example here to see how powerful these steps can be.

In the meantime, please share your comments below on what you learned from this activity and how you can apply it to help animals.


[1] "Impact of Textiles and Clothing Industry on Environment: Approach Towards Eco-Friendly Textiles," Lakshmi Challa

[2] "Briefing on the Chinese Garment Industry", Ruth Domoney


For additional articles on effective animal advocacy by Caryn Ginsberg, please visit Priority Ventures Group . You will also be among the first to receive information on her forthcoming book.

Caryn Ginsberg has more than ten years of experience helping individuals and organizations get better results for animals. Her clients include ASPCA, The Humane Society of the United States, PetSmart Charities, Farm Sanctuary, and United Animal Nations. She serves on the board of advisors for Humane Research Council and Institute for Humane Education and has spoken at numerous animal protection conferences.

being an effective advocate

I try not to be judgemental or preachy when people ask why I do not eat meat. I'd like to be more effective in making others consider their food choices, for the animals, their health & the health of our planet.

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