What if you were told that eating raw broccoli was the only way to be healthy? And the only way to be an environmentalist – anything else was killing the planet? And that if you ate anything other than raw broccoli, you were a murderer?
What if you were told this over and over, via email and social media, t-shirts and bumper stickers? Would you eat only raw broccoli?
Furthermore, what would you think of the broccolians? Would you carefully listen to and consider their case, or would you avoid them?
To the average American, vegans = broccolians.
I've seen it happen, first-hand, over and over, even from people who had been personally shown pictures of delicious vegan food – they think vegans eat only tasteless salads.
And people will go out of their way to avoid dealing with a vegan.
I'm not just saying this to be mean or pick fights with vegans. And I'm not just saying this from personal experience. Marketing research done in 2015 at the Eller Business School of the University of Arizona also showed this. Every one of the four investigative teams of MBA students found that the general public views veganism as impossible, and vegans as annoying.
I know this seems misplaced, to criticize vegans when they are standing up against the truly horrific brutality that is inflicted on so many animals. I also understand the argument that we just have to stand up more, be more outspoken, more in-your-face: "The further out we are, the more leverage we have to pull society with us."
Margaret Mead might be patron saint of this way of thinking, with her quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
But here's the punchline. You know who else likes to quote Mead? Terrorists. White supremacists. And just about every fringe group unhappy with some aspect of society.
Just because some groups of dedicated people have changed the world doesn't mean every dedicated group changes the world. The vast majority of efforts to change the world fail. Nothing – not slogans nor "scholarly" rationalizations – will change that.
In my opinion, looking closely at history, our main opportunity to lessen suffering and alter society's relationship with other animals is by choosing strategies and messages via dispassionate reasoned analysis. It may not feel good, it may not go viral in vegan crowds on social media, but it is the best way to avoid the failures of the majority of attempts to change the world. Otherwise, we may as well join the broccolians.