Monday, October 20, 2014

Rotate the Universe: Stewart Solomon

Originally written in 2006; taken from The Accidental Activist.

Matt Ball’s “How Vegan Is Enough?” lecture at the 2006 Animal Rights Conference was refreshing. I almost didn’t go because I was afraid the answer would be that there was no limit to how vegan one should be, that it might be some fire-and-brimstone speech with someone reciting the entire encyclopedia of animal products. Many people hear about all of these trace animal products and think veganism is beyond impossible.

I remember when one person asked Matt how to convince his brother to go vegan. He’d been at it for years and years to no avail and basically felt like a failure. If he couldn’t convert his own brother, he thought, how could he affect anyone else? Matt told him to forget about his brother, that his brother wouldn’t turn vegan to spite him, if for no other reason. Matt told him to go to a college campus, a concert, a record store, and hand out literature: “Some of them will read it, become vegetarian or vegan, and you will have saved thousands of lives.” I took great comfort in that remark. It was as if a huge burden was suddenly lifted from my shoulders.

I remembered that talk earlier today. I was very tired and my back hurt, but I was able to distribute 750 booklets at Pasadena City College. On the drive home I started thinking about an old riddle: How many physicists does it take to change a light bulb?

Two. One to hold the bulb and one to rotate the universe.

I think that holding the light bulb is easy, and rotating the universe is sometimes difficult. However, that light bulb must be changed.

-Stewart Solomon

Cross-posted at the VegFund Blog.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

HSUS (and review)

My friends at ARZone have a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion with Paul Shapiro, touching on his early days, but delving more deeply into the inner workings of and decision-making processes at HSUS. If you or anyone you know has questions about HSUS, give this podcast a listen!

Paul also listened to my ARZone interview, and said his favorite lines were:

  • I don’t care about ideology; I care about results.
  • We’re social animals long before we’re philosophical animals.

Thanks, Paul!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Message to Friends (Or: An Early Holiday Letter!)

Dear Friends,

We wanted to again thank you for your support this year, and update you on our current status (some of which you already know).

Anne started working for Our Hen House in mid-May. We are both extremely grateful to Jasmin and Mariann for hiring Anne, sight unseen. Anne only met them both in person at the end of last month! Her role has grown greatly since then, and her title has been changed to “Director of Operations." She is working to help Our Hen House expand. (For example: she put together their largest end-of-year matching challenge pool ever. It will start on 10/30 - Jasmin’s birthday!) She’s still getting paid for part time, but if the end-of-year fundraiser goes well, she will hopefully be able to go to full time.

Matt started as Senior Advisor for VegFund in mid-September. We recently returned from the East Coast (the trip that allowed Anne to meet Jasmin and Mariann) for the annual VegFund summit. There, Matt met the staff and Board (most for the first time). He’ll be working to increase VegFund’s visibility and income, so as to help expand and refine VegFund’s cutting-edge grassroots work.

Matt’s lung continues to heal, with the pain generally being very manageable. But he won’t be travelling alone again any time soon!

As always, Ellen is doing great at Pomona College. In addition to cross country and her various clubs, she’s spending more time in labs -- for two classes and working in her advisor’s lab twice a week. She is also an official tutor for other classes! Her web comic -- -- continues to cover interesting topics and gain followers.

As per our new jobs, there are several lessons we’ve learned in our decades of activism that makes these positions a great fit for us both and for the animals.

Ever since we were hand-collating, folding, and stapling booklets a lifetime ago, the world has been changing and evolving. To do our best for the animals, we must change and evolve as well. We need to take advantage of new opportunities and technologies as they arise, so we can help more and more people take the first step -- and then the next step -- to help animals. Video, podcasts, television, online, and even sampling tasty, familiar, cruelty-free foods -- these are all opportunities unavailable to us 20+ years ago (we shudder to think what would have happened if we had offered people a 1990 veggie burger!).

Now, however, all these new options allow us to reach more people in a much more powerful, lasting way.

Just as importantly, we realize that just tossing the message out to the public isn’t enough. We need to provide people a stream of information and encouragement, and the ability to be a part of a supportive community. It is amazing to us (just to give one example) how many individuals are so incredibly committed to Our Hen House. Not only did Jasmin and Mariann change their life with a podcast or article, but being a member of the Flock also provides so many with the support and friendship they need to stay vegetarian, or evolve to being vegan, or take the first step as an activist.

Your support and friendship has helped us to take our next steps for the animals. We appreciate it more than we can ever express.

Our sincerest thanks,

For the animals,

Anne and Matt

Monday, October 13, 2014

Video Nation: Evolving Our Advocacy

What was cutting-edge in we could do for the animals 20 years ago is no longer the best we can do. This article -- Video Nation -- explains a bit of how things have changed:

"We are roused to action by cruel realism, but only if it looks and sounds authentic. Reasoned calls to our better angels are no longer enough."

H/t: Bruce

Friday, October 10, 2014


If you care at all about honesty (and I believe it is a key to our long-term success in working for animals), you should subscribe to Ginny's blog. This article:

Real Vegan Cheese and Real Nutrition Science

Is outstanding in many ways. Please pass it along!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Second Podcast

If you listen to just one podcast this year, well, it should be this one.   ;-)

But if you listen to two, this Freakonomics podcast is fascinating (not about animals, but about doing the most good, in the human realm):

Fixing the World, Bang-for-the-Buck Edition

Monday, October 6, 2014

ARZone Podcast

My friends Carolyn and Tim at ARZone talked with me about VegFund, The Accidental Activist, and how we can bring about animal liberation as quickly as possible.

Here is the post where you can download the podcast (you can also get it via iTunes).

Guess how old
this picture is.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Joe Wins!

Our friends at The Pollination Project awarded Joe Espinosa an Unsung Vegan Hero award. Here is the write-up:

When Joe Espinosa discovered the hidden truth about farmed animals 20+ years ago, not only did he go from meat eater to vegan, he immediately became an activist.

No one has been seriously leafleting for the animals longer than Joe. Even before the formation of groups that promote leafleting, he was out in public, being a voice for the voiceless. Even with his grueling social worker job, Joe has advocated for the animals without pause, and recently hit the milestone of reaching 500,000 people by handing out vegan education booklets.

“Total dedication to the animals” seems to apply to thousands, but, at the deepest levels, is not as common as one might think.

We are social animals, of course, and almost can’t help but crave the approval of others. We want our personal beliefs validated, we want to be popular — these desires are almost irresistible. The new, the cool, the celebrated and crowd-pleasing all pull us, consciously and not. For most of us (and we admit, this has been the case for us, too), these cravings shape our advocacy, tugging us toward actions that gain the approval of other vegans, rather than what is the absolute best for reaching new people and getting them to take the first step on the journey of helping animals.

Joe has resisted the siren song of the popular, overcoming the yearning for approval. His dedication is unwavering, his vision unclouded: the animals are the bottom line, period. He is a true hero who has accomplished far more than any of us know or can adequately appreciate.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Official Announcement

From VegFund:

We are very excited to announce that Matt Ball is joining the VegFund team!

Matt is the author of The Accidental Activist and co-author of The Animal Activist’s Handbook. He has been a leader in the animal advocacy movement for over 20 years, and was inducted into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame in 2005.

Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at HSUS, has observed Matt’s work: “Over the past two decades, Matt Ball has had a singularly profound influence on the animal protection movement in the United States. Matt's reasoned, eloquent focus on having the biggest possible impact with the greatest possible efficiency has resonated with tens of thousands of individuals, and created fundamental, pragmatic change on every level of the movement.”

Similarly, Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary’s Senior Policy Director, notes: “Matt Ball is in the very small group of people who have had the most significant influence on animal advocacy. Matt has been an essential, logical, relentless force for changing our movement’s focus, stating over and over in every possible forum that since something close to 99% of animals killed in the U.S. each year die to be eaten, our priorities as a movement should shift to reflect that. As much as anyone I know, Matt has bent the arc of history toward justice.”

Matt explains: “It is important to learn and evolve. My approach to advocacy 20 years ago is no longer the best way to help animals today. VegFund is driving new and innovative advocacy, learning from the experience and research of activists and groups across the country and around the globe.

“VegFund isn’t driven by inertia or tradition. Rather, they have been at the leading edge of inventive, effective veg advocacy. This is why VegFund is such an important group, and why I am honored to be a part of this dynamic, vital work.

“Thanks to all the donors and activists who have made VegFund such a powerful force for good. I look forward to working with you!”