I TOOK MYSELF along to a Go Veg talk hosted by SAFE in Auckland yesterday evening. That may seem an odd choice given that I’m a committed (some would say overly so) vegan, and I’m usually the one trying to get people to get down with the plant life, but it’s always interesting to see how other people promote a plant based lifestyle, and how that message is in turn responded to.
The speaker was Marianne Macdonald, a SAFE volunteer who takes many such talks, often at schools (which is frankly just awesome) and her approach made a lot of sense. Funnily enough, most of the people in the room were vegetarian or vegan – only around 15 showed up, but it was a very strange Auckland summer evening, feeling more like the depths of autumn, so those who bailed are forgiven for shooting home to a cup of soup. Still, even with an audience who weren’t entirely ignorant, Marianne kept us entertained.
Rather than concentrating on a single reason to go veg, or showing 200 awful slides of animals in terrible factory farmed conditions, her focus covered the gamut from animal rights, to health and global concerns. Overall it makes for a compelling argument, and her softly-softly, non-confrontational approach is a long way from the militant one I initially adopted as a vegan. I can certainly see how much more effective it is than having an angry South African pushing people’s buttons.
One slide from her presentation really stood out for me – the one covering exactly how many animals are being factory farmed in little old New Zealand. Try this on for size:
90 million meat chickens
3 million battery hens
600,000 ducks, turkeys and rabbits
30,000 feedlot cattle
3.5 million salmon
Those are unbelievable numbers considering our population, and unfortunately, they’re numbers that are too big to make sense of. I mean, 93 million chickens? Imagine extrapolating them out for the USA, a country of over 300 million people. My brain just doesn’t want to go there, and not many brains could. It’s all too vast, and it seems impossible to make a real dent in the wave of death.
Still, every bit counts, and every slice of tofu might just translate into one happy pig. I can see how getting people to at least try going veg with one of the Go Veg starter packs, or by getting them enthusiastic enough to try SAFE’s 30 day veg challenge is better than alienating them or pushing them into a corner.
So maybe it’s time for a softly-softly approach of my own. I’ll be resorting to my favourite sneaky tactic to subtly influence more of my social circle – the great meal. Either cook someone a great vegan meal, or take them somewhere that serves a great vegan meal. It’s sometimes enough just to get the wheels turning, to get them to think that this might not all be about sacrifice and deprivation. Who knows what’ll happen down the track. Anyone for Little Bird? My treat! ASHLEY KRAMER
(The food on the night was served up by Andrea of La Chimba Wholefood Kitchen, a new business offering vegan ready meals in Auckland – for more info, check out my short article here)