Are We Winning Yet?

FARM Report - Spring/Summer 1999

Some naysayers have questioned the effectiveness of the vegetarian movement. They note that US and world meat consumption is rising, that factory farms are getting bigger and more oppressive, and that the Humane Slaughter Act is a sham.

Yet, the problem is not that we're losing, but that we fail to recognize the magnitude of our challenge, the complexion of winning, and the appropriate strategy to pursue.

To recognize the magnitude of our challenge, consider that meat eating is more deeply ingrained in our social fabric than smoking and exploitation of women and minorities. Then consider how many decades it is taking to correct these social ills, and note that we have been at it for only two decades.

Recognizing the complexion of winning and the appropriate strategy is a bit more involved. Each struggle for social justice goes through four phases. In the Alerting Phase, we call public attention to our problem through outrageous acts. In the Discussion Phase, we appeal to the feelings and beliefs of those whose attention we have won. In the Acceptance Phase, we promote our views to the general public. The actual changes we seek take place only in the Enactment Phase, through legislative, administrative, economic, social pressures.

In the Alerting Phase of our movement, which ended in the early 80s, we blocked entrances to the USDA and several slaughterhouses, staged a sit-in in the office of the Secretary of Agriculture, dressed in animal costumes, and held countless pickets and vigils at fast food outlets and meat markets.

Following a brief Discussion Phase, our movement was ushered into the Acceptance Phase in the late 80s with the public promotion of plant-based eating by the American Dietetic Association, the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and, more recently, by the Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association. The transition has presented activists with the twin problems of getting over outrageous Alerting Phase behavior and maintaining sufficient momentum to move us into the Enactment Phase.

The solution lies in recognizing that real-life winning in the Acceptance Phase has a vastly different complexion than the utopian visions of the Alerting Phase. Here are some examples:

Yes, we are winning! But we need to be patient, to gain a realistic perspective of winning, and to channel our activism into facilitating the consumers' steady evolution from animal to plant-based foods.

Reprinted with permission from FARM --

Insert date: 2009.05.16 Last update: 2009.05.16

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