The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.
J. Jasper and J. Poulsen. 1995. “Recruiting Strangers and Friends: Moral Shocks and Social Networks in Animal Rights and Anti-Nuclear Protests.” Social Problems 42 (4): 493-512.
Social movement theorists have taken interest in Nonhuman Animal rights activism for a number of reasons, one of them being recruitment. As I discussed in my review of Elizabeth Cherry’s article, most become vegan because they know other vegans in their social network.
But what if a person doesn’t know any other vegans? Moral shocks might do the trick.
For instance, I grew up in a rural Appalachian town where the notion of “animal rights” is about as alien as it could be. At 13, I was watching a cooking show with my mother in which the host was visiting a butcher’s shop with pigs’ heads hanging from the ceiling. Suddenly, it became clear to me where “meat” came from and what it entailed. I went vegetarian on the spot. Soon after, I wrote to PETA and I received literature that contained even more morally shocking information and images. I immediately decided to go vegan the day I moved out of my parents’ house and was in control of my food choices.
For a little girl living in Appalachia with no vegan-positive social networks, moral shocks were able to recruit me. Readers should acknowledge that moral shocks are not as straightforward in their effectiveness as they may appear. I explore the nuances of moral shocks in an article I published with Society & Animals, arguing that moral shocks have limited value in an environment inundated with welfare reform and “happy meat” ideology.
Readers can learn more about effective persuasion in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.
This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 20, 2013.