Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Great NPR Piece

Thanks to Mikael for reminding me of this:

Want To Help Animals? No Vegan Extremism Required

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ellen on Science and Technology

From Ellen:

Anonymous asked: Tesla or Edison?

Thanks for the question, anon! I ended up talking about this in way more detail than you probably wanted, sorry.

I’m not a historical expert on Tesla or Edison, so I won’t try to be.

It seems to me that the whole ‘Tesla vs Edison’ question in geek culture is indicative of bigger issues that we have. The general consensus, however historically accurate, is that Tesla is the 'true geek' and Edison is the asshole businessman, Tesla had brilliant ideas that were ahead of his time and he was the ‘real geek’ because he could never communicate or sell them, and Edison is an asshole because he sold out to the public and was commercial.

It's indicative of this broader idea in geek culture, that the asocial genius is the ideal, that your ideas are only truly brilliant if you can’t communicate them, that anything else isn’t a real geek or a real scientist. I don’t want to diminish Tesla as a person, or other people in this archetype, (Alan Turing, for example, is one of my biggest heroes) but holding this up as the ideal is simply harmful to science.

Communication, collaboration, and education are absolutely essential to science. Not only with other scientists - where it’s vital for progress - but with the public.

We’ve suffered enormously from a failure of science education and communication, as large segments of the public deny everything from global warming  to the importance of vaccinations. These are issues where a failure of communication, of public education, of engagement, quite literally kill people.

Science cannot remain locked in an ivory tower, or a New York hotel room, in Tesla’s case - it serves no purpose there. Science shared, science acted upon - that is where it becomes valuable.

(Shameless plug - this is the purpose of my webcomic, The Science of Fandom)

People like Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrasse Tyson - these are brilliant people who understand the value of communicating science, who were/are engaged and active. I would rather form a new archetype from them than imitate the old.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ellen Closes 2014's "Best Of"

“You’re the Best Kind of Vegan”

by Ellen Green

So a whole bunch of us went to Scripps College for dinner, and Louie was talking about what cooking she and her partner were planning to do during finals week for everyone. They wanted to make sure they had a vegan option available for me, so Naomi asked me if I have vegan sweetener. My response to this was basically, “What?” I had never heard of such a thing.

They said they just have honey and sugar, so I told them both were definitely fine, because my opinion is bee sentience is limited and any animal products involved in sugar are so low down on the suffering scale that I don’t really care. (Anyway, insects are killed in the production of everything.)
Click for larger; thanks to Ben Davidow.
This led me to a brief explanation of the pie chart  of animals killed per year from the average American diet, and how dairy’s not even a sliver. I closed with, “And it’s about ninety-plus percent eggs and chicken, really.”

Louie looked contemplative and said, “ . . . I guess I really should give up eggs. But they’re in so many good Thai dishes! I mean, I could give up omelets and scrambled eggs, but . . . . ”

To which I replied, “So don’t give up eggs in Thai dishes, just give up the rest.”

Louie looked up at me, apparently wildly impressed and said, “I like you!”

I just told her, “I mean, I’d rather have you do something to help animals than do nothing, really.”

Louie concluded: “You’re not a jerky vegan. You’re the best kind of vegan.”

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Best Title of 2014, Now 15 Years Old!

Pragmatist or Absolutist?

Welfare and Liberation
Originally published in 2000

Does working for or supporting welfare measures harm the longer-term goal of bringing about liberation?

Expanding the Floor of the Cage

The Brazilian Landless Farmers movement has a slogan: “Expand the floor of the cage before you try to break out.” It is a way of saying that activists should try to improve the status quo in order to have more room in which to work towards a permanent solution. Believing that we can support efforts that improve welfare and increase awareness while working for liberation marks one position within the animal liberation movement. Another common position can be summarized as “rights first, rights only, rights uber alles.” Does history give us any indication which position will best serve the animals?

The Lessons of History: If Abolitionists Had Been Absolutists

It's easy to advocate pure adherence to our current personal philosophy. However, the history of successful social movements shows us the importance of learning what we can from the past. Successful social movements – abolitionism, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement – have all pushed for reforming the system while working towards ultimate goals.

For example, take abolitionism and the subsequent civil rights movement in the United States. These efforts built upon successive improvements in the standing of African Americans. Each improvement and each piecemeal reform elevated the status of African Americans. These advances brought greater confidence and experience to organizers, allowing them to fight for further entitlements. If the movement had rejected all reforms, it’s unlikely that it ever could have built enough momentum to succeed. Imagine if Frederick Douglass had argued, “Equal voting rights or no rights at all. Equal representation in government and business, or no representation at all.” Imagine if Lincoln had refused to issue the Emancipation Proclamation because it didn’t cover the border states, or guarantee an end to prejudice or segregation (see When Freedom Would Triumph). Douglass, Lincoln,Thaddeus Stevens (shown here), and others saw that such positions would alienate the majority of the population, condemning abolition to failure (see Lincoln and the First Step).

The same fate awaits any movement that does not seize reforms and strive to gain exposure when opportunities arise. Absolutist movements attract only those already converted to the cause, remaining confined to a small cadre of dedicated but isolated activists. By demanding “nothing short of total liberation,” many groups have condemned themselves to burnout and relative anonymity beyond those already within the movement. They cut themselves off from consideration by potential allies in the public, and do not give the animal industries any incentive to change.

More diverse organizations, on the other hand, have attracted broad memberships of vegetarians and nonvegetarians, allowing individuals to participate and evolve. They achieve results because they can reach out to those who may not currently share every opinion, allowing them to evolve in their outlook and choices, as well as working for changes at an institutional level. These results, in turn, bring in new individuals who gain confidence and experience. Ultimately, history shows that individuals, businesses, and society progress towards a more compassionate ethic gradually, as awareness and reform advance incrementally.

“It Must Get Worse Before It Gets Better”

Some advocates argue that animal liberation is a unique social justice goal, and oppose welfare reforms because they believe people will choose not to go vegan if they learn that animals are being treated “better.” For example, if the public hears McDonald’s might be getting their eggs from producers that keep their laying hens in bigger cages, fewer people will alter their purchasing patterns.

Although this argument may seem to have a certain logic, the evidence indicates that reforms draw the attention of nonvegetarians to the issue of animal exploitation, persuading many to reconsider their ethics and actions; according to the meat industry: “Media attention to animal welfare issues in the past decade has resulted in 'significant, negative effects' on U.S. meat demand. ... This study found increased media attention caused a reallocation of expenditures to nonmeat food rather than reallocating expenditure across competing meat products.” (See this for even more evidence.) Animal groups then use their victories to gain visibility and push for further reforms. In this way, welfare measures tend to be a slippery slope toward abolition, not away from it.

European countries – particularly the United Kingdom – are also a counterexample to the “it must get worse before it gets better” argument. Animals are treated far better there and vegetarianism is more widespread. There are more vegetarian restaurants, and nonvegetarian restaurants have more vegetarian options. The advances in animal welfare have given both the UK welfare and abolition movements confidence and momentum. And the attention paid to animal welfare in business practices and legislation has increased the public’s interest in how their food is produced.

The same could become true in the United States. Reforming a company like McDonald’s could initiate a domino effect throughout the industry. Competitors would have a greater incentive to match and exceed McDonald’s reforms, thereby forcing industrywide improvements in the living and dying conditions for all animals. No company wants to be singled out as “cruel.”

More importantly, when the industries that rely on animal exploitation raise the issue of humane treatment, it receives far more serious consideration from the public than animal advocates could ever hope to achieve alone. Once the companies themselves grant that animals have interests, it becomes harder to justify using them for food, regardless of specific conditions.

Of course, I have total sympathy for those who believe McDonald’s is the “enemy,” and believe we have to “destroy them.” But McDonald’s is simply the embodiment of consumer demand. Vilifying a faceless corporation distracts from what should be our core concern – the suffering of animals. More importantly, focusing on a corporation distracts us from addressing the root cause of this suffering – the choices of consumers.

Obviously, McDonald’s is not going to become vegan tomorrow – not until forced to by consumer choices. In the meantime, reforms and consumer education can lessen animal suffering and raise awareness. This does not preclude advocating compassionate choices with our advocacy. Together, these will bring us closer to animal liberation.

Purity or Progress?

We might choose to spend our limited resources opposing welfare reforms so as not to “compromise our principles.” But this isn’t the case unless our guiding principle is “Never, under any circumstances, allow any group to work with nonvegan people or businesses.” Why would someone hold that principle above all else, especially when it is at odds with another that seems more fundamental and defensible: “Work to reduce animal suffering”?

Of course, this is absolutely not to say that everyone should focus on welfarist measures. At this point in time, most of us can lessen the most suffering in the most expedient manner by promoting consumer change in our advocacy.

If It Were You

If you were being tortured 24 hours a day in a prison cell, would you want an absolutist on your side? Would you ask that no one on the outside try to stop your torture because it has to be “total freedom or nothing at all”? Would you believe that the worse your treatment and the greater your suffering, the closer you would be to liberation? Or would you prefer that someone bring to light your circumstances and enact reforms that could significantly reduce your suffering, while also working toward your liberation?

In short, would you want your advocate to be a pragmatist, focused on doing their best for you at all levels? Or would you prefer an absolutist, whose dedication is primarily to the purity of their position?

See also:
The Longest Journey Begins With a Single Step: Promoting Animal Rights by Promoting Reform 
by Peter Singer and Bruce Friedrich

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Continuing with 2014's Greatest Hits....

Lesson Learned: Advocacy Can Hurt Animals

Let’s say we have developed what we think is the most powerful pro-veg argument ever, and we present it to ten people. Incredibly, five of them stop eating animals; the others decide to “eat better”—following the mainstream suggestions of their doctor and friends by giving up red meat.

We might think, “Fifty percent conversion rate? That must be the way to go!” This is how I used to think. But after years, I finally learned to ask: How does this argument actually affect animals?

Every year, the average American eats  twenty-three birds, a third of a pig, and a tenth of a cow. It currently takes about 193 birds (chickens + turkeys) to provide the same number of meals as one steer. It takes fifty-six birds to equal one pig.

So, before our presentation, the ten people consumed a combined 234 land animals every year. After our presentation, the same ten—including the five who joined our vegetarian club—eat 296 land animals per year. This is because, even though our argument convinced fully half of them to stop eating animals entirely, the others replaced their red meat intake with birds in order to eat more healthfully.

Moving from red meat to chicken is a well-documented fact. For example: “‘If you look at dietary recommendations put forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture [and other health institutions], they are to decrease red meat and substitute lean meat, poultry and fish,’ says Daniel [a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center]. ‘We’ve seen in other data that people are gravitating toward poultry.’”

Finally, the National Institutes of Health notes “[t]he growing preference in the US for poultry, but not fish, as a replacement for red meat.”

There are contradictory studies on how much chicken is eaten by people who give up red meat entirely. But for people who reduce the amount of red meat they eat—the majority of people who change their diet for health reasons—all the data are absolutely clear: red-meat reducers eat much, much more chicken. For example, in the largest recent study, those who consumed the lowest amount of red meat ate fifty percent more chicken than those who consumed the most red meat. [Aston, L. M., et al. Meat Intake in Britain in Relation to Other Dietary Components and to Demographic and Risk Factor Variables: Analyses Based on the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of 2000/2001. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 26(1), October 18, 2012.]

Fifty percent more! The facts are clear: anything at all that might possibly lead anyone to cut back on red meat actively harms animals.

Of course, we all know people who have gone veg for health reasons. As vegetarian advocates, we are obviously in a position to hear from and remember them. When we survey vegetarians (and/or meat reducers), of course we sometimes hear the “health argument” as a motivation. But looking only at vegetarians doesn’t begin to show the full impact of any argument. The error is thinking the “health” vegetarians we know or survey are a true sample of society. They aren’t. Rather, they represent a highly self-selected sub-sample.

History shows that eating fewer large animals and more small animals for health reasons isn’t a made-up, worst-case scenario. It has been the driving force for the suffering and slaughter of billions and billions of birds. Just look at any graph of animals killed in the U.S.: as the consumption of mammals declined, the slaughter of chickens skyrocketed over the decades!

This is one of the reasons I don't use any argument that could, in any way, support the general move toward giving up only red meat. Every person who decides to “eat better” more than counters the good done by a new vegetarian.

In other words: I won’t repeat anti-meat arguments. We promote pro-animal arguments. Obviously, it feels good to say: “Vegans have lower rates of disease X.” But the point isn’t to feel good about ourselves or our diet. We’re not out to justify or glorify our choices. Our goal is to keep as many animals from suffering as possible.

Of course, advocates can claim eating birds is bad for everyone’s health and the environment. Putting aside the veracity of those health and environmental claims, this simply isn’t the way the world works. People don’t simply accept what a vegan advocate says as gospel truth. Rather, they combine what they hear from all sources, paying more attention to what their doctor and friends say. On top of this, people generally give much more weight to advice that leads toward what they want to do—i.e., continuing to eat the familiar and convenient foods their friends and family eat.

More importantly, we simply don’t make decisions based on what is “perfect” for our health or the environment. None of us, vegans included, exercise the optimal amount, sleep the optimal amount, floss every day, work standing up, give up our car, etc. With few exceptions, we all follow our habits/peers. For most people (not a self-selected vegetarian sub-sample), if we change anything, we do something somewhat “better”—eating chickens instead of cows.

In other words, no matter what vegans claim is true or what we want, people will react from where they are, based on what they’re used to and with an eye for what they want. No matter how strong we think our arguments are, no matter how noble our intentions or passionate our desires, when we advocate without considering human nature, history, and the numbers, we cause more animals to suffer and die.

If we want to help animals, we need to advocate for the animals.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

#2 Most Popular Post of 2014

HRC's big study of people who quit eating vegetarian (funded in part by VegFund) found very significant differences in the motivations for why the people originally chose a vegetarian diet:

Please click on image for larger

The data clearly shows the biggest difference between those who are currently vegetarian, compared to those who stopped being vegetarian, is that current vegetarians are motivated by "Animal Protection" -- 68% for people who are veg, vs only 27% for those who went back to eating animals.

This is not surprising. As I've argued for years, telling people they should chose their diet based on self-interest (health) leaves them much more easily influenced by peer pressure, family, and convenience. It is in most people's "self interest" to fit in and eat what their friends and family eat.

On the other hand, people who are motivated by the animals, disgust at eating animals, and concern for the environment -- in short, individuals who care about more than self-interest -- are those who are stay veg. That these motivations prove "protective" against recidivism should strongly inform our advocacy choices.

HRC makes another very important point: like the vast majority of people who are motivated by health, former vegetarians eat a lot of chickens, leading to an immense increase in cruelty and suffering. Again, this is a known fatal shortcoming of the health argument, as discussed in Advocacy Can Hurt Animals, and Ginny Messina's Bad News for Red Meat Is Bad News for Chickens.

HRC offers other important recommendations:

  • Include honest and thorough information about the "how" of ethical eating; 
  • Think of advocacy as a long-term relationship; 
  • Encourage people to take incremental, sustainable steps;
  • Focus on chickens.

But most importantly, the data supports the bottom line:

If we want to actually help animals, if we want to change society's view of animals, we need to advocate for the animals.

Thanks to HRC and VegFund for this study. See also: this Psychology Today summary, as well as Why Do Most Vegetarians Go Back to Eating Meat?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Most Popular Post of 2014

Chanted Morals or Deep-Fried Tofu?

I received this question regarding Paul Shapiro’s Introduction to The Accidental Activist:
I found a particular passage here and would like your thoughts:
     "In many ways, it boils down to this question: Do we want a social club, or do we want a social movement? If we want a social movement, we need to open our arms and have a big tent."
     This is interesting. I agree with you on inclusivity, certainly. But I'm not sure why we should be a movement "that welcomes people where they are, applauds them for taking the steps they've taken." While I agree gains come from compromise, I can't think of a single successful social movement that has taken this incremental, consumer-based approach. Can you? If not, why do you believe its the best way to effect change rather than following the successful movements of the past that focused their efforts on strong messages and systematic, moral change?
There are a number of things we can learn from earlier social justice movements, as discussed in Welfare and Liberation. But it is important to understand the significant differences between our work and previous campaigns.

In the end, we all want a world where animals are not exploited, but rather respected as individuals. Animal liberation, for short. The vast, vast majority of cruelty to animals comes from animal agriculture.

From Animal Charity Evaluators.

To a first approximation, animal liberation would be achieved when everyone stops eating animals. This won’t happen through societal-level changes: no law or amendment will abolish killing animals for food as long as the majority of those in power eat animals. Therefore, animal liberation will necessarily happen individual by individual; laws will follow behavior change, rather than create it.

The question then is: What is the fastest way to get people to stop eating animals?

Lessons from the Relevant Data

Since the determining factor is individuals making different choices, the relevant information comes from psychology and sociology, rather than politics or war. Why people do or don’t make cruelty-free choices is the central question, not how slavery was ended or how women won the vote. (And the animals are in deep trouble if it is going to take a civil war for animal liberation to occur.)

If we want to bring about animal liberation, we need to look at how and why people who currently aren’t eating animals got to that place, as well as understanding why other people don’t currently make compassionate choices.

Over the past quarter century, I’ve personally interacted with thousands of vegetarians, and heard from tens of thousands of others. Very, very few went right from a standard American diet to vegan upon being told, “Go vegan!” I know a handful who went vegan overnight and maintained that change. But I know many more who instantly went vegan and are no longer even vegetarian.

This isn’t a negligible problem. Some of the failed vegans I know were close friends. One was a founding Board member of a major vegan group; he now isn’t even close to vegetarian. He was driven away because of the self-righteousness of many vegans: “I grow weary of the term ‘vegan.’ It seems to become just a label for moral superiority.”

(Unfortunately, that is not an uncommon reaction. Obviously not all vegans are self-righteous, but veganism often attracts the self-righteous. And they tend to be loud.)

On the other hand, the people who have made the biggest difference for the animals  with their choices, their example, and their advocacy  are almost all individuals who have evolved incrementally over time. The lesson is clear: instead of insisting on the last step, we should celebrate every step anyone takes that helps animals.

We’re Already on the Same Page

One unique aspect of our work for animal liberation is that we actually don’t need to change people’s ethics, unlike the abolitionist or suffrage movements. The vast majority of people already oppose cruelty to animals. But we know, from everyday experience and through decades of research, that the vast majority of people simply don’t make decisions based on ethics. They make decisions based on habit, convenience, social norms. To quote Cleveland Amory, we have an infinite capacity to rationalize, especially when it comes to something we want to eat.

Luckily, there is a great deal of psychological and sociological research into people’s choices. Specifically: how and why they change habits when they do, as well as why they don’t, even when they say they want to. This research, as it applies to helping animals, is discussed in The Animal Activist’s Handbook, Change of Heart, and in some of the essays in The Accidental Activist. (And new relevant articles are linked to on this blog.)

In short, we have four facts regarding the majority of the population (the people we need to reach):

  1. People already share our moral revulsion at cruelty to animals.
  2. People rarely act based on their ethics if it conflicts with habit and the norms of their friends and family.
  3. People who make real change and maintain that change do so incrementally. 
  4. Animal liberation must necessarily be achieved from the ground up, person by person.

Given these facts, the movement for animal liberation is inherently an incremental, consumer-based campaign. And if we truly want to do our best for the animals, we must understand and work with the psychology of consumer choices.

For this reason, everyone is a potential ally. With allies, we work constructively. Together, we will continue to shift the consumer landscape such that it is easy for everyone to act on their ethics.

We know how to do this: through our person-to-person outreach, advocates drive increasing demand for cruelty-free options. This in turn improves the quality and availability of supply, which allows more people to get on board. Thus, we create the virtuous feedback loop that will bring about animal liberation.

As I’ve pointed out before, the vegan future is here, it is just unevenly distributed. Almost every vegan has heard, “If all vegan food was this good, I’d eat vegan all the time!” Or, as “a carnivore all the way” said about a vegan restaurant:

Wish they were in my neighborhood, ‘cause I’d be one happy fat vegan cat eating some deep fried tofu with their crazy good tartar sauce. Not kidding.

We will do this. Not kidding.

See also, One Possible Future

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year Kickoff

To kick off the New Year, I'm going to run a week of the most popular posts from 2014, as chosen by you, the readers!

While this one wasn't the #1 most popular, it might be my favorite from the year.

From Anne:
Each Step a Victory, Each Day a Celebration
Learning from the best teachers to help animals even more!

During my previous career as a language professor, I had a sure-fire way to deal with student frustration. When they would struggle with the latest lesson, I would tell them to flip back to the first chapter. Inevitably, the students would be amazed at how easy the once-new and difficult material was now.

Only by looking back could they realize just how far they had come. Even though getting to the next level was still a struggle, looking back showed just how much had been accomplished.

There are two important parallels with our work changing the world for animals. The first is that no matter how difficult the struggle seems to us today, we should sometimes step back to gain perspective. Only then can we see just how far we’ve come.

Amazing Progress
I stopped eating animals nearly a quarter century ago. Things are so much better today, on every level. The availability and quality of cruelty-free products is orders of magnitude greater. The number of people making compassionate choices has skyrocketed. Pop culture celebrates celebrities touting their new compassionate diet. The news is filled with coverage about cruelty and negative impacts of modern agribusiness. And most importantly, the number of animals suffering and dying in the US is far below its 2006 peak.

As Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich wrote in The Animal Activist’s Handbook, compared to previous social justice campaigns, we are advancing at the speed of light!

Celebrate Every Step
The second lesson is that we can each become better advocates for the animals by learning from good teachers. As much as I would have liked my students to become fluent in another language overnight, I knew firsthand it would take time. Lots of time.

All significant, lasting change is necessarily a long-term process.

It would have been worse than counterproductive for me to mock my first-year students’ mispronunciations, or to criticize their mistakes with the dative case. It is similarly unhelpful to mock meat-eaters’ questions about protein or criticize new vegetarians for still eating dairy.

We want to help everyone take what is the next step for them, rather than judging them against our ideal. Their step is determined, of course, by where they currently are. Realizing this, we can recognize that every compassionate step taken -- cutting back on meat, going vegetarian -- is a genuine advance, a true victory to be celebrated.

And we, too, can continue to learn and improve as examples, as teachers. And every day, we can celebrate the victories we are creating, together.

Anne Green
Director of Operations
Our Hen House

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thanks So Much!

To all our incredible friends:
Thank you so much for your support in 2014!
We appreciate it more than we can say.

-Team Green-Ball
(The Organizer, Wunderkind, Lung Boy)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why Our Hen House?

One of the perks of working for VegFund is that we get to work with some of the most dedicated and innovative individuals and groups out there. One of our favorites is Our Hen House.

Recently, OHH ED Jasmin Singer replied to an interested individual:

You may have noticed that OHH is basically a stealth vegan advocacy organization. But I wanted to point out that we reach far beyond just the vegan choir in our media outreach (e.g., all our stories, podcasts, etc., aren’t solely about veganism). Rather, our goal is to use our stories, podcasts, TV show, FB and Twitter posts to catch the attention of animal lovers and do-gooders of all sorts. Once we bring them in, they’re then exposed to the vegan message. Not in an in-your-face kind of way, but in a “come along with us” fashion that allows people to evolve while being a part of the supportive, friendly OHH community.
Related to that, we have found that the sense of community OHH provides is essential for people to go vegan and to be active (see a few sample quotes/testimonials below).
As you are no doubt aware, years ago, Matt Ball (a member of our Advisory Board) wrote about how the vast majority of people who stop eating animals eventually go back. (Backed up by the HRC study this year.) This study was also the subject of our podcast a few weeks ago. This distressing fact led to some deep thinking and reevaluation. We can’t just keep throwing the reasons to go vegan at the public and leave it at that. Clearly, that doesn’t work; it is just running to stand still, and, in the end, a waste of our limited time and resources.
The depressing ongoing rate of veg recidivism is clearly a sign that our movement needs to rethink our efforts for the animals. I’ve been an advocate for a long time, and I knew from experience that two of the key factors that led people to revert from a compassionate diet have been: 1. A lack of honest and relevant information, and 2. A lack of a supportive community (again, backed up by the HRC study this year).
Our Hen House is dedicated to addressing both of those issues. First, we always keep in mind that we are talking with a wide variety of individuals, not just long-time vegans. So we strive to give everyone -- especially new people -- relevant and honest information that can help them take their first steps on the road to veganism, and can then foster an environment where they will take the next steps in changing the world for animals. To that end, we work to build a positive, supportive community -- one that includes everyone from a meat-eater trying Tofurky for the first time, to a long-time activist facing burnout. We want to support them, and, in the process, we build strong voices for animals.
You asked about evaluation. As you can see, the OHH model isn’t one of distribution or immediate conversion rates (although our podcast downloads nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013, with that level of growth continuing in 2014). So we’re not the kind of group that chases numbers and short-term stats; our efforts aren’t short term.
Rather, we’re seeking to build the community so that people can go vegan, stay vegan, and be an active part of the long-term process of truly changing the world for animals.
The key to evaluation for us is constant contact with our members. Anne Green, whom we are thrilled to be bringing on as our full-time Director of Operations starting in the New Year, is regularly soliciting and evaluating feedback. As just one example, earlier this year, she put together a poll for our members, so that we are better able to serve our growing community. The overwhelming feedback we received shows that our efforts at building a community have been successful (this is just a small sample):
Jasmin and Mariann give me constant personal support through their podcast. I have no vegan friends/family in my life, and their words of wisdom and encouragement mean more to me than I could possibly say.
When I first went vegan, I felt so alone. The podcast became such a valuable resource. Jasmin and Mariann discussed all the topics that I was aching to learn about. Some nights, I would listen to episode after episode and feel like I was among friends. I truly don't know if I could have made it through those tough, early days without the show.
I was vegan in college and was very much alone in my veganism. I grew to love the OHH podcast, listening to episodes almost constantly. It was just what I was looking for, a perfect mix of conversation, reviews, and news. Above all, though, OHH provided me a community. Jasmin and Mariann seem to really care about their listeners, they tweet me back, they pour their hearts and souls into doing better by the animals. I just love it.
In the sad world of animal exploitation, the bright light that shines from Jasmin and Mariann is priceless. With great wisdom, creativity, love, knowledge and humor, they constantly bring forth inspiration, tools, and encouragement that help me in my quest to change the world for the better for animals.
I don’t mean to imply that Our Hen House is perfect. Like you and your work, we are constantly evaluating, refining, and experimenting. In 2014, based on Anne’s survey, we have pruned away things that weren’t as important to our members, so we can focus our limited resources where they have the biggest impact. We will continue to do so in 2015 and beyond.
It really does come down to our slogan. Like you, we don’t want to simply provide the animals a voice. Rather, we want to be the place where people can come to change the world for animals, where they can get the information, tools, support, and inspiration to create real and lasting change.

You can become a member of the Flock and build their important community by visiting Before Jan. 1, all donations will be doubled!