Tag Archives: Social Psychology

Can Flexitarianism Facilitate a Vegan World? Research Suggests Another Agenda

Can flexitarianism build a vegan world? In a meta-analysis of dozens of articles on vegan motivation, flexitarian dietary patterns, and consumer psychology, I conclude that the ideology of semi-vegetarianism promoted by the vegan/Nonhuman Animal rights movement is not supported by evidence.

Research does not support that flexitarianism facilitates meaningful change, but it does support a conservative movement culture that is conducive to industry, state, and elite interests. Activists frequently default to “common sense” mantras of “pragmatism” promoted by movement elites when deliberating strategy, but movement success will ultimately rely on objective analysis of social change processes independent of bureaucratic, institutional, ideological, or celebrity hearsay.

Research supports that most people who go vegan and stay vegan do so out of concern for Nonhuman Animals. Nonprofits, however, often focus on the health benefits of veganism. This is not supported by the research as a major motivator for behavior change. Nonprofits focus on health because it is less political and threatening than the idea of animal liberation.

Nonprofits mask this rationale by claiming that folks operate on self-interest and are more likely to be swayed by appeals to their own health. Research does not support this. Humans are more likely to be motivated by compassion and altruism when it comes to relations with other animals. Therefore, by promoting veganism as a moral obligation, nonprofits would be far more likely to affect change.

The Free-Rider Problem

In my body of research, I have suggested that nonprofits intentionally engage strategic blunders because nonprofit goals are generally distinct from radical social change goals. Could the vegan/Nonhuman Animal rights movement also be intentionally alienating the public from veganism even though veganism is an unavoidable necessity to end speciesism? I think so.

Historically, social movements have had to grapple with the problem of motivating people to participate. This is a problem because, theoretically, a rationally acting individual is more likely to want to sit on the sidelines and let someone else do the risky and costly work of activism. Activism can entail social stigma, risk of arrest, and career damage. It could even simply turn off folks who do not want to be bothered with crowds, bad weather, walking, calling up politicians, etc. If someone else is willing to do that work, why not just leave it up to them?

As one means of overcoming free-riding, collectives have begun to professionalize to ensure a dedicated cadre of activists working full time on a given social problem. Since the late 20th century, movements have taken on a bureaucratic, corporate form which allows them more stability and state support at the cost of their radical politics. Industries working in tandem with the state now funnel money into nonprofits as a means of soft control. Radical politics, as a result, are simply starved while moderates are glutted. What I suspect is that social movements today are actually encouraging free-riding in order to maintain control over movement organizations and the social movement arena itself. In effect, they are helping industries and the state to neutralize and deradicalize politics.

If a movement can facilitate a public that supports its cause but is not encouraged to actually participate beyond donating intermittently, this manufactured free-riding strips the democratic essence of a movement and ultimately weakens it. Movement organizations that use this strategy can expect institutional longevity, but the ability to create meaningful social change with power centralized in this way is stifled.

Why Unstructured Incrementalism is Less Effective 

These structural influences shape a social movement’s claimsmaking. The Nonhuman Animal rights movement’s leading nonprofits mask their allegiance to conservative cash flow by making appeals to common sense notions of behavior change. Rather than asking someone to make the big leap to veganism, nonprofits insist, ask them instead to make a few changes and ease their way into it. However, social psychological research has demonstrated time and time again that “common sense” explanations are frequently misleading. Humans are far less rational than we think we are.

Although the United States is a country with major economic, political, and social ties to exploiting Nonhuman Animals, values of freedom, fairness, and compassion mean that few Americans want to see themselves as someone who is cruel to other animals. Flexitarianism, then, is a form of incrementalism that allows people to keep participating in exploitative behaviors as the system encourages them to do, while also enacting deeply held values about compassion. America is a country of animal lovers who want to keep eating animals—charities can appeal to this cognitive dissonance by promising folks that they can identify as an animal lover without having to make any real behavior changes. This is the very definition of a free-rider.

In “Free-Riders in the Nonprofit Industrial Complex: The Problem of Flexitarianism” published in Society & Animals, I have explored dozens of studies on vegan motivation and consumption change. In many cases, those eating flexitarian are not really eating any less animal products and they are less committed, more likely to exhibit characteristics of eating disorders, and sometimes actually eat more animals than people who did not identify as flexitarian.

Other research finds that participants asked to eat prescribed diets of omnivorism, flexitarianism, and veganism experienced similar levels of satisfaction and adherence to the diet—so why not go for the gold and ask folks to go vegan? After all, veganism has a bigger impact on the well-being of both Nonhuman Animals and humans.

The research, in short, does not support that asking folks to go vegan repels them, but the movement repeatedly assures activists that it will. Something else is fueling this rationalization since the evidence explored in my meta-analysis is not lining up.

Evidence to the Utility of Vegan Campaigning

Some research from tobacco cessation programs supports the importance of being straightforward and honest about the desired change. Participants in some studies, for instance, who were asked to quit immediately were more successful than those asked only to cut back. Furthermore, participants who were given a scheduled means of reducing toward cessation were successful, too, since behavior change can be cognitively straining. Vegan organizations, however, are more likely to promote vague ideas about cutting back and never mention the word veganism.

Tobacco cessation research supports that either asking folks to quit altogether or providing them a clear plan towards a clear goal is effective, but Nonhuman Animal charities do neither. The reason for this is that nonprofits—as businesses–are ultimately more interested in financial stability and institutional survival than they are interested in actual social change. This is a basic sociological observation found across many industry sectors.

So long as nonprofits are beholden to foundations and the state for support, it is unlikely that vegan programming will ever be designed according to evidence-based scientific research. This is because the nonprofit goal is to promote generic, promotable social services for the purpose of ensuring its survival, not to promote radical social change which would threaten the elite-run foundations, the state, and the nonprofits themselves. Promoting flexitarianism allows the charity to appear to be doing good works without really mobilizing any radical change.

The Imperative of Critical Thinking and Scientific Accountability

Nonprofits with a genuine interest in creating a vegan world will need to reconsider the role of the public in pushing for change. Relying on foundations and the state for financial support creates an inherent conflict of interest. These organizations will also need to engage with scientific evidence to support their proscription for social change.

This research must be objective. Increasingly, nonprofits produce their own in-house research to draw on the legitimacy of science to lend credibility to tactics and strategies that, when studied objectively by outside parties, would not demonstrate effectiveness. In other words, nonprofits recognize that science helps sell their strategy as effective, but, since science cannot support their ineffective tactics, they simply create their own science.

A new movement culture that genuinely wishes to address the crisis of speciesism should, therefore, nurture unbiased, replicable research that is designed to benefit effective Nonhuman Animal liberation. Research manufactured by nonprofit staff with little to no scientific training with aims of improving the institution’s appeal to elite-run foundations is not the sort of research that will achieve a vegan world.

Ultimately, nonprofits present a serious conundrum for effective activism. Nonprofits have essentially become an extension of the state, making their long-term utility to the movement questionable. Large sums of money are too frequently thought necessary to enact social change, but this economic logic of growth has protected the nonprofit industry from necessary scrutiny. Sociological theory has demonstrated that capitalist structures both create and aggravate inequality. Grassroots mobilization that challenges hierarchical movement structures, the hegemony of capitalist interests, and concentrated decision-making could allow for an openness to strategies supported by the science.

 

Readers can access the entire article here.
A condensed version of this research in the context of wider vegan movement studies was covered by The Atlantic.

 


Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights. Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.

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How Effective is the Vegan Lecture? Exam Scores Tell a Horrifying Story

How Many Animals Killed?

Can you estimate how many animals are killed for food in the United States each year?

In 2015, I added this innocuous extra credit question at the end of an exam in my Introduction to Sociology course. Since we had discussed violence against animals in class, students had been assigned readings on the topic, and it was explicitly listed in the study guide, I expected that most students would guess in the ballpark of several billion. Instead, many were reporting numbers in the several millions, or even several thousands. The lowest guess was just 2,000.

I was so utterly astonished by the exam results, I was compelled to repeat the question on future exams. I have shared my findings in an open-access article with the International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Over the course of seven semesters, I eventually presented the question to nearly 200 students. All students (presuming they did not skip class) had been exposed to an 80 minute lecture on human/nonhuman relationships. This lecture clearly stated the FAO statistics on the numbers of animals killed in the United States (about 10 billion). I even made sure to linger on the sheer magnitude of individuals killed.

Results

Sixty-six percent of the class significantly underestimated the number of animals killed, and only 29% offered a reasonable estimate of between several billion and trillion (I clarified in lecture that FAO statistics do not include aquatic life). About 1 in 5 students were not even confident enough to hazard even a guess. Because 2% of students grossly overestimated the number of animals killed, the class average was skewed. However, the median response was in the millions. The bottom 10% of student responses averaged just 24,667. About that many chickens are killed every one and a half minutes in the United States (or 9 billion annually).

Predictably, students who scored A’s and B’s were more likely to guess an appropriate number. This suggests that students with good classroom behavior and study hygiene are more likely to retain information (at least up to the exam date). There was no significant correlation with gender.

Low Food Literacy

Low food literacy is well-documented across developing countries by food justice organizations, states, and industries which work to manipulate consumer decisions and public nutrition. Sociologically speaking, the systematic killing of other animals has been effectively removed from our social sensibility. Most consumers only relate to other animals as packaged products and menu items. Psychologically speaking, people employ a number of cognitive barriers to avoid uncomfortable knowledge.

The reasons for low food literacy are many, but the results presented here are especially sobering. Afterall, these are college-educated adults who have been trained to think critically and are exposed to current events, global trends, and multiculturalism. These are also college students who had been specifically exposed to information about nonhuman experiences in the food system. This suggests to me an inherent limitation to lecture as a means of lasting knowledge transmission.

Are Lectures Effective?

My suspicion is that, as Sociology 101 is a survey course, I am obligated to cover a large variety of sociological theories, concepts, and trends. I am not able to frequently return to each and every concept to aid with retention–that privilege is granted to key theories and paradigms. For vegan lecturers outside of academia, these results suggest that one-off lectures may not be sufficient to persuade. However, in research I conducted in 2017, I did find that a significant number of respondents became vegan after having watched a film or read a book on the topic.

There are a number of methodological shortcomings to this research. For one, my Introduction to Sociology course is aimed at first-year students, meaning that many respondents were still finding their academic footing. Second, I offered no control group. The estimates provided by my experimental group were so very low, however, I would find it hard to believe that a control group would have done much worse in having not been exposed to lecture.

I also did not conduct a post-test to measure if the knowledge was retained beyond the exam. After the exam, I went over the extra credit results with the class. When I explained how numbers so low could not possibly be accurate given that several thousand nonhumans are killed just to sustain the university cafeteria each semester, many students laughed and nodded. I would be curious to know if this debriefing had any effect on knowledge retention.

Readers can access the entire article here.

 


Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights. Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.

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Dr. Corey Wrenn on Animal Concerns Texas Radio

 

Dr. Corey L. Wrenn was featured on the December 10, 2017 episode of Animal Concerns Texas on KTEP Radio, El Paso Texas. You can visit the website here and download the interview here. Additional audio interviews can be found here.

This episode discusses the socio-cultural problems with lab-grown “meat,” the social psychology of social change, and the political economy of the American animal rights movement.

 


Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about these topics in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.

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The Social Psychology of Veganism – Bystander Effect

Paradoxically, the more people present when there is need for help, the less likely anyone is to help. Social psychologists refer to this as the bystander effect. It happens for at least two reasons. First, people pay less attention to their surroundings in a group setting. Second, people look to others on how to act.

There are conditions under which this effect is lessened. First, if there are no other bystanders, a single person is more likely to notice the situation, not get hung up on the reaction of others, take responsibility, and help. Secondly, in group situations, if one person acts, others are likely to follow suit.

Disrupting the bystander effect is essentially at the root of veganism. Modern society is bound by social norms of speciesism, and the propensity to follow group behavior renders vegan deviance unlikely. People look to friends, family, medical professionals, celebrities, and others to determine appropriate behavior. When that normalized behavior is encouraging society to ignore, hesitate, or refuse to help those nonhumans who suffer and die at human hands, it is then that vegans step in as bystanders to refuse their support and demand justice. If social norms can be fostered that make helping normal, the bystander effect can be thwarted.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Break the spell of bystander effect by acting first
  • Outreach that solicits action should target individuals not in group settings
  • Encourage prosocial group behavior to temper bystander effect

References

Bryan, J. and M. Test.  1967.  “Models and Helping:  Naturalistic Studies in Aiding Behavior.”   Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 6:  400-407.

Canter, D. J. Breaux, and J. Sime.  1980.  “Domestic, Multiple Occupancy, and Hospital Fires.”  In D. Canter (Ed.), Fires and Human Behavior.  Hoboken, NJ:  Wiley.

Latané, B. and J. Darley.  1968.  “Group Inhibition of Bystander Intervention in Emergencies.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 10:  215-221.

Latané, B. and J. Darley.  1970.  The Unresponsive Bystander.  Why Doesn’t He Help?  New York, NY:  Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Schnall, S., J. Roper, and D. Fessler.  2010.  “Elevation Leads to Altruistic Behavior.”  Psychological Science 21:  315-320.

Rushton, J. and A. Campbell.  1977.  “Modeling, Vicarious Reinforcement and Extraversion on Blood Donating in Adults:  Immediate and Long-Term Effects.”  European Journal of Social Psychology 7:  267-306.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

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The Social Psychology of Veganism – Distraction

As any good magician knows, distraction is key to landing a trick successfully. Activists can benefit from distraction as well. Research finds that audience members who are distracted are more likely to accept a message and are less likely to counterargue (Keating and Brock 1974, Osterhouse and Brock 1970).

Alternatively, advertisements steeped in violence and/or sex run the risk of being too distracting.  People who view commercials featuring either or both of these elements are less likely to remember what the advertised brand was (Bushman 2007). This is damning information for a great deal of vegan outreach efforts. For instance, PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than” campaign distracts from an anti-speciesist message with rampant nudity. Social psychologists in Australia have measured that PETA’s audience members are less likely to absorb the message due to the distraction caused by sexualization. It’s not just the naked bodies that distract, it’s also the misogyny.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Ensure that tactics do not distract from the message
  • Avoid too much music, light, acting, sexualization, and violence which can distract
  • Avoid sexist campaigning

References

Bongiorno, R., Bain, P., Haslam, N. 2013. “When Sex Doesn’t Sell: Using Sexualized Images of Women Reduces Support for Ethical Campaigns.”PLOS One. 

Bushman, B.  2007.  “That Was a Great Commercial, But What Were They Selling?  Effects of Violence and Sex on Memory for Products in Television Commercials.”  Journal of Applied Social Psychology 37:  1784-1796.

Keating, J. and T. Brock.  1974.  “Acceptance of Persuasion and the Inhibition of Counterargumentation Under Various Distraction Tasks.”  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 10:  301-309.

Osterhouse, R. and T. Brock.  1970.  “Distraction Increases Yielding to Propaganda by Inhibiting Counterarguing.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 15:  344-358.

Regan, D. and J. Cheng.  1973.  “Distraction and Attitude Change:  A Resolution.”  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 9:  138-147.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

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The Social Psychology of Veganism – Forewarning

Forewarning creates resistance (Freedman and Sears 1965). If an audience is warned ahead of time that they are about to be exposed to a persuasion attempt, it is less likely that they will be persuaded. In the courtroom, for instance, if a defense attorney warns the jury of the prosecution’s upcoming evidence, potential attitude change can be mitigated (Dolnik et al. 2003).

What this means for vegan activism is that a “surprise attack” should be more effective. Vegan Outreach successfully employs this tactic by hiring unassuming college-aged advocates to quietly hand out booklets to students during the rush between classes. Students usually accept the booklets without any interaction with the Vegan Outreach employee. It is only as they flip through the material en route to class that they are presented with the case for vegetarianism. Other groups prevent forewarning by offering free vegan cookies or cupcakes to passerby. It is only after the treat is tasted that activists divulge that it was actually vegan and offer them animal liberation literature.

Sneaky advocacy is sometimes the more effective approach. If people know that a persuasion attempt is imminent, they will fortify their mental defenses so as not to budge. While there is something to be said for being straightforward (recall that the mere-exposure effect illustrates that familiarity with a message increases positive association), forewarning may not be helpful when giving a one-time presentation

In general, avoiding forewarning is advised when activists know they will be dealing with a stubborn audience. In the Freedman and Sears (1965) study, the title of the presentation was all it took to dissuade the audience. Thus, activists might avoid titles such as, “Why You Should Be Vegan.”

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Do not forewarn audience that a persuasion attempt is imminent
  • For outreach events, do not use titles that suggest a persuasion attempt

References

Dolnik, L., T. Case, and K. Williams.  2003.  “Stealing Thunder as a Courtroom Tactic Revisted:  Processes and Boundaries.”  Law and Human Behavior 27:  265-285.

Freedman, J. and D. Sears.  1965.  “Warning, Distraction, and Resistance to Influence.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1:  262-266.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

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The Social Psychology of Veganism – Age

Diversity in the activist’s audience means that there will be no one-size-fits-all tactic. This essay examines how changes in an individual’s lifespan can shape their receptiveness to a vegan message.

For the most part, attitudes are generational (Sears 1976). Belief systems formed in youth tend to hold constant throughout an individual’s life. Research supports that attitudes are most malleable in one’s teens and early twenties (Krosnick, J. and D. Alwin 1989). Older individuals are certainly not immune to cultural shifts and can experience liberal attitude change as well (Danigelis and Cutler 1991), but it will be a trickier task.

This explains why many vegan outreach organizations target college students. Given that resources are so limited, it makes sense to focus efforts on a younger audience. This is not to say that efforts would be lost on other audiences, but if the choice must be made between leafleting on a college campus and a community center, the college campus would probably extract a greater return.

The fact that cultural shifts can influence those who are more resistant to attitude change is also promising. For instance, research finds that those who were already past their twenties during the civil rights era were still measurably less conservative. In other words, older people may have missed the wave, but the societal changes that resulted had at least some impact on most everyone. Focusing on the younger population will therefore have a direct impact on that younger audience, but it should have an indirect impact on older individuals as well.

Finally, to completely exclude older persons would be problematic given that such a strategy relies on inaccurate stereotypes of older persons as set in their ways and close-minded. Because veganism entails a healthful plant-based diet, older persons could benefit greatly from vegan outreach. The mental health gains associated with a more just relationship with other animals would also be a positive asset. Outreach strategies that are too exclusive risk replicating inequality. Veganism should be made available to everyone.

 

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Target teens and young adults
  • Be mindful of ageism and do not stereotype or exclude older audiences

References

Danigelis, N. and S. Cutler.  1991.  “An Inter-Cohort Comparison of Changes in Racial Attitudes.”  Research on Aging 13 (3):  383-404.

Krosnick, J. and D. Alwin.  1989.  “Aging and Susceptibility to Attitude Change.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57:  416-425.

Sears, D.  Life Stage Effects Upon Attitude Change, Especially Among the Elderly.  Manuscript prepared for Workshop on the Elderly of the Future, Committee on Aging, National Research Council, Annapolis, MD, May 3-5.

This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.


Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights. Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.

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The Social Psychology of Veganism – Decision Paralysis


Decision paralysis occurs when there is simply too much choice. People become overloaded, and, thus, make no decision at all (Heath and Heath 2010). Less choice is actually better than more choice (Swartz 2004). Consider one experiment in which one in-store display provided samples of a few jams, while another displayed many jams. When customers had too many jams to pick from, they were less likely to purchase. It was too hard to come to a decision.

What is more, the availability of alternatives means that those decisions that are made tend to be less satisfying due to the tendency to look back on “what could have been.” It’s hard to fully appreciate that strawberry jam when the blueberry, huckleberry, and blackberry jams are still hanging over one’s shoulder.

This information is particularly damning for how Nonhuman Animal rights is typically framed.  In an article I published in Food, Culture & Society, I argue that professionalized Nonhuman Animal rights groups offer way too much choice. At any given time, for example, PETA, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and Farm Sanctuary are offering ten or more campaigns for audiences to support. The reason they do this is probably to increase their fundraising, but it likely overloads their audiences to the point of inaction. Could the movement be more successful if it focused on veganism, the choice with the biggest impact?

Even on a smaller scale, vegan activists can prevent decision paralysis by practicing minimalism in tabling. Rather than loading up the display area with a litany of books, pamphlets, and fliers, keep it simple.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Condense available campaign choices
  • Condense available outreach material
  • Minimalize vegan recipe and product recommendations

References

C. Heath and D. Heath.  2010.  Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  New York, NY:  Broadway Books.

Shwartz.  2004.  The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.  Harper Perennial.

Wrenn, C. 2013. “A Critique of Single-Issue Campaigning and the Importance of Comprehensive Abolitionist Vegan Advocacy.”  Food, Culture & Society 16 (4): 251-668.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

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The Social Psychology of Veganism – Gendered Helping

Social psychology finds that social norms will determine helping behaviors, but social norms certainly vary across genders in Western society. Dangerous situations or those involving strangers are more likely to elicit help from men than women, for instance (Eagly and Crowley 1986). This is not only a result of men and women’s different socialization experiences, but also due to the reality that women are disproportionately victimized by violence, which necessitates that they be wary in many situations.

In less dangerous situations, however, women are slightly more likely to help and to act selflessly (Becker and Eagly 2004). Women tend to respond with greater empathy and to devote more time to helping (George et al. 1998). These tendencies relate to longheld social expectations that women be care-takers and highly relational.

Gendered helping is clearly evident in activism for other animals. Activism that is seen as dangerous, risky, and heroic–namely illegal direct action–is disproportionately undertaken by men. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), for instance, is dominated by men and engages in activity that risks severe legal sanctions (Hall 2006). The necessary and practical groundwork of Nonhuman Animal advocacy, however, that which requires prolonged helping, is largely undertaken by women.

As much as 80% of the animal rights movement today is female (Gaarder 2011), and this feminization is rooted in a conscious effort by earlier activists to embed gender into social norms about helping. Traditionally confined to the domestic sphere, Victorian women were actually able to exploit the “natural nurturer” stereotypes attached to them as justification for their involvement in animal rights advocacy. This concession was necessary in a time when social activism was deemed unladylike.

Unfortunately, prevailing gender inequality has ensured that masculine helping tends to garner more prestige than feminine helping. ALF enjoys a certain celebrity in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, and if not outright condoned, their actions are at least tolerated. Meanwhile, the everyday drudgery work undertaken by the female majority goes largely unappreciated despite women’s more enduring contributions. Masculine gender norms, while favorable to an activist’s status in a patriarchal world, can be particularly detrimental to men as well. Not only does engaging in illegal activity leave men susceptible to enormous restitution fees or prison sentences, but the violence celebrated within the militant movement is also toxic for men’s mental and physical well-being.

 

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Acknowledge that women’s ability to help can be inhibited by sexism and misogyny
  • Celebrate and acknowledge women’s contributions
  • Challenge hypermasculine tactics


References

Becker, S. and A. Eagly.  2004.  “The Heroism of Women and Men.”  American Psychologist 59:  163-178.

Eagly, A. and M. Crowley.  1986.  “Gender and Helping Behavior:  A Meta-Analytic Review of the Social Psychological Literature.”  Psychological Bulletin 100:  283-308.

Gaarder, E.  2011.  Women and the Animal Rights Movement.  New Brunswick, NJ:  Rutgers University Press.

George, D., P. Carroll, R. Kersnick, K. Calderon.  1998.  “Gender-Related Patterns of Helping Among Friends.”  Psychology of Women Quarterly 22:  685-704.

Hall, L.  2006.  Capers in the Churchyard:  Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror.  Nectar Bat Press.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

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The Social Psychology of Veganism – Haste

Whether or not an individual is in a hurry will determine their likelihood of helping. In one study, Darley and Batson (1973) presented an experimental group with a lecture on the importance of being a Good Samaritan, while the control group was given no talk on helping. Participants were then told to attend another meeting in a building nearby. In doing so, they would pass a research confederate in a situation of need. Interestingly, whether or not the participant had received a Good Samaritan lecture prior to passing the confederate did not predict if they would stop to help. Neither did personal religiosity. What actually predicted if the person would stop to help was if they were in a hurry or not. Some participants were told they had plenty of time to reach the next meeting; some were told they were already late. Those who thought they were late were too focused on reaching their destination to notice much else, unlike those participants with time to spare.

These findings have several implications for advocacy on behalf of other animals.  First, it highlights an innate tendency for humans to want to help, a tendency that is independent of priming (although priming does usually help) (Beaman et al. 1978) and religious affiliation. This tendency is reflected in the norm of social responsibility. People often help because it is expected of them, even when no one is watching or if that help is anonymous.

Secondly, research on haste suggests that activists should tailor their vegan outreach to account for levels of audience busyness. While the popular tactic of leafletting on college campuses has its usefulness in hitting large, receptive crowds, many of those crowds are composed of hurried students rushing to their next class. Activists should be strategic in targetting zones where people are more likely to be milling around with free time, such as bus stops, fairs, and lines.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Avoid targeting busy people
  • Seek out audiences with the time to pay attention

References

Beaman, A., P. Barnes, B. Klentz, B. McQuirk.  1978.  “Increasing Helping Rates Through Information Dissemination:  Teaching Pays.”  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 4:  406-411.

Darley, J. and C. Batson.  1973.  “From Jerusalem to Jericho:  A Study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 27:  100-108.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

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