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The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.
Humane Research Council. 2011. Readability of Vegan Outreach Literature. HRC: Olympia, WA.
Increasingly, advocates are becoming aware of how whiteness, class, and privilege have shaped the anti-speciesism movement in a way that makes it almost inaccessible to disadvantaged populations. The fact that most vegan literature reads at a level far beyond that of the average American speaks volumes about the lack of reflexivity in anti-speciesism outreach.
Literacy inequality especially impacts people of color, non-natives, people living in poverty, and others subject to educational barriers. This report shows that the ani movement is shaped by well-off, educated white elites writing about ethics in language and conceptual frameworks that only other privileged persons can understand. This significantly restricts the ability of the movement to expand.
Summary of Results (from report):
- The average U.S. adult has a 9th or 10th grade reading level, and 44% of adults have an 8th grade reading level or lower.
- HRC recommends developing vegan outreach materials at a 7th or 8th grade reading level in order to ensure comprehensibility for a large proportion of the target audience.
- However, all of the vegan outreach materials evaluated in the current study are written at an 11th grade reading level or higher, indicating that the vegetarian movement’s most popular materials might be incomprehensible to half or more of the target audience.
- Based on six readability tests, the average readability scores ranged from a low reading level of 11th grade for PCRM’s vegetarian starter kit to a high of 15th grade (beyond college level) for the Humane Myth brochure.
- Additional research including focus groups (and possibly one-on-one interviews) would allow a more comprehensive evaluation of the materials beyond basic readability.
Readers can learn more about effective Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.
This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 3, 2013.