CEVA uses the term “effective” for two reasons. Effectiveness reflects our focus, and it informs what methods we recommend.
We focus primarily on results. This means, for instance, that we may advocate using messages other than “go vegan” if there is reason to believe that those messages will lead to a swifter and more sustainable change (and if these messages aren’t reinforcing other problems or forms of oppression). Moreover, much of our focus is on process, not content. We are not simply promoting one strategy or another but rather encouraging advocates to ask questions and approach issues in a way that increases the chances that they will make effective decisions when promoting veganism—decisions that will do the most good. We seek to enhance strategic thinking, not simply to discuss what specific strategies may be most effective.
The methods we recommend are, whenever possible, based on empirical evidence, as well as on our combined experience as vegan advocates, which spans decades. Both Melanie Joy and Tobias Leenaert have extensively researched strategic methods for social change and authored books on vegan strategy. Furthermore, Melanie holds a PhD in psychology and specializes in the psychology of social transformation and in relational literacy; and both Tobias and Melanie have consulted for vegan organizations around the world and have a strong track record of success.
As its name suggests, CEVA advocates veganism. However, we advocate various means toward that end. We discuss the role that meat, egg, and dairy reducers play in helping to make vegan food and lifestyle choices more accessible by increasing the demand for—and therefore the supply of—vegan products. We also discuss the resistance many people feel toward being presented with an all-or-nothing, black-and-white framing, such as, “You’re either vegan and you’re part of the solution, or you’re not vegan, and you’re part of the problem.”
Specifically, we advocate being “as vegan as possible,” which is the only rational and compassionate request one can make. Nobody can know what is and is not possible for others—practically and psychologically—and it’s not respectful, appropriate, or strategic to assume that we are experts on others’ experiences. If we ask for more than what another deems possible for themselves, then we’re essentially asking them to be vegan even if doing so is impossible, which is neither a rational nor a productive request.
We also suggest inviting nonvegans to become vegan allies. A vegan ally is a supporter of veganism and vegans even though they are not fully vegan themselves. We believe that cultivating vegan allyship is an important way to hasten the success of the vegan movement.
Research suggests that people are more likely to reduce their consumption of carnistic products out of concern for their personal health than out of concern for animals. Research also shows that concern for the environment is a strong motivator for a number of people. So, while the wellbeing of animals—and specifically, animal rights—is clearly an important reason to advocate veganism, using this as the primary argument is not always productive, and it’s sometimes even counterproductive.
Moreover, research suggests that when people are less invested in eating animals—when they have reduced or eliminated their consumption of carnistic products—even if they’ve made such a change for reasons other than animal rights—they are less defensive against animal rights arguments and are therefore more open to supporting “ideological” veganism. In other words, attitudinal change can follow behavioral change; people may be more likely to care about the wellbeing of animals after they have become less dependent on eating them.
At CEVA, we recommend that advocates tailor their approach to the interests and needs of those to whom they are advocating. We believe that animal rights is a critical component of veganism, and we also believe that framing the vegan message appropriately and strategically is the most effective way to ultimately support animal rights.
We recognize that our approach to advocating veganism inevitably reflects our worldviews, and we take measures to ensure that we’re not promoting methods that simply reflect our own norms or biases.
We work closely with our host organizations, which are run by members of the communities we visit. We share our materials with them before each training to solicit feedback and guidance so that the materials are culturally appropriate and useful for attendees. We also make clear in our trainings that our understanding reflects our own cultural orientation, and we invite discussions about ways our methods may differ from those of the community we’re visiting. We also try to ensure that the research on which we base the methods we advocate is as culturally diverse as possible.
We continue to learn and adapt our materials with each new community we visit. And we have found that the vast majority of the issues we discuss and the challenges vegan advocates face are similar across cultures.
We are aware that unexamined privilege—white, male, etc.— is a serious problem in the vegan movement and beyond, and that this problem both enables unethical practices and damages the effectiveness of the vegan movement. Melanie Joy has written a book on this issue, The Vegan Matrix: Understanding and Discussing Privilege Among Vegans to Build a More Inclusive and Empowered Movement, and we are developing a similarly-focused workshop to include in our standard CEVA training. We are also committed to ongoing development of our own self-awareness and education in this area, as we are aware that our own privileges influence how we perceive and relate to others.
CEVA does not charge a fee for our services. The fee charged is only what is necessary to cover the costs incurred by the host organization, which is responsible for providing food and a venue. If there is money leftover, it goes to the host organization, not to CEVA.
In some cases—where a host organization has a substantial budget—we ask for a contribution toward our travel expenses.
We know that ideological labels such as “vegan” can sometimes be problematic, particularly when they end up being divisive. For example, when our primary identity in life is being vegan, we can tend to view others accordingly: we see them primarily as vegan, or not vegan. We lose nuance; we fail to appreciate that we, and others, are complex human beings who have multiple identities and who, beneath all these identities, have a shared humanity. In this case, an ideological label such as “vegan” can be divisive, disconnecting us from our empathy and compassion for others.
We also appreciate the value of using the term “vegan” to describe a shared identity. The term is especially important in cultures where the vegan movement is still young and there’s little understanding of, and support for, vegans’ beliefs and behaviors. Having a name that connects ourselves with others who share our ideology can be an important way to stay grounded in our beliefs when we feel second-guessed and invalidated by the dominant, carnistic culture.