Volunteering at your local animal shelter is perhaps the most common example of altruism towards animals. Our research suggests that this activity may be hundreds or thousands of times less effective in reducing the suffering of animals than other forms of volunteering your time.
Current Best Volunteering Opportunity: Leafleting.
Four ways to leaflet (in increasing degrees of sophistication):
1. Classical leafleting: Order free leaflets, go to public place, pass them out. For tips on how to leaflet, scroll below.
2. Feed-in: Order free leaflets, apply for a feed-in grant through vegfund, buy veg food samples, go to a public place, offer people food samples, then give them a leaflet. For more on feed-ins, see Food sampling Intro.
3. Pay-Per-View: Order free leaflets, apply for a Pay-per-View grant through vegfund, bring $1 bills, a screen/laptop, and a sign, go to a public place, offer people $1 to watch Farm to Fridge, then give them a leaflet. For more on Pay-per-views, see Video Outreach Intro.
4. Outreach extravaganza: Find 1-2 other people to come with you, put up a feed-in + pay-per-view event.
Ninety-nine of every hundred animals killed annually in the United States are slaughtered for human consumption. That’s ten billion land animals – more than the world’s entire human population – raised and killed for food each year in one country alone.
If these billions of animals lived happy, healthy lives and had quick and painless deaths, then a concern for suffering would lead us to focus our efforts elsewhere. But animals raised for food must endure horrible cruelties. Indeed, every year, hundreds of millions of animals – many times more than the number killed for fur, in shelters, and in laboratories combined – don’t even make it to slaughter. They actually suffer to death.
If there were nothing we could do about these animals’ suffering—if it all happened in a distant land beyond our influence—then, again, our focus would be different. But exposing factory-farming and advocating ethical eating is one of the best ways to make a better world. Every day, every single person makes decisions that affect the lives of farmed animals. Informing and inspiring people to open their hearts and minds to making compassionate choices leads to many fewer animals suffering.
In doing outreach, focusing on young adults – particularly college students – may prove most promising for three main reasons:
- The Relative Willingness and Ability to Change
Obviously, not every young adult is willing to stop eating meat. But relative to the population as a whole, this age group tends to be more open-minded and in a position where they aren’t as restricted by parents, tradition, habits, etc.
- The Full Impact of Change
Even if young people and senior citizens were equally likely to change, over the course of their lives, the young can save more animals. They not only have more meals ahead of them, but also have more opportunities to influence others.
- The Ability to Reach Large Numbers
Whether at a college or outside a concert, for a relatively small investment of time, an activist can hand a copy of Even If You Like Meat or Compassionate Choices to hundreds of young people who otherwise might have never viewed a full and compelling case for compassion.
For tips on How to Leaflet, see the video below and more tips here.
Statistics for coordination purposes: http://adoptacollege.org/totals
Selected information and resources from Vegan Outreach's advocacy page, which contains much more in-depth materials:
Data collected by Vegan Outreach suggest that for every couple hundred leaflets you hand out, at least one person will become vegetarian (and a lot of the people you interact with will receive a positive message about vegetarianism). So, with just an hour of your time, you can save dozens of animals from a lifetime of factory farm cruelty.
With all the fancy new technological ways to reach people, isn't it outdated and inefficient to hand out pieces of paper? Here is why the old-fashioned pamphlet is still a very useful tool:
- There are a lot of people who are not reached through any other means than leafleting. They do not consume much mainstream media and do not know other vegetarians. Getting a booklet is often, even in this day and age, the first time they really hear about the issue.
- Once someone has accepted a booklet from another person, they are somewhat invested in it. We think that it is generally harder for people to discard a booklet than to ignore a web link or turn channels when they see a commercial about vegetarianism.
- You can get more information to people in a booklet. What we are asking of people is a pretty big step (although getting smaller every year), and our experience has been that soundbites and short pieces often don't have the weight to start overcoming people's habits, taste preferences, and peer pressure. We're asking people to make real, significant change, and that can very often require more information.
- Giving someone a booklet allows them to have something to take away. Many people do, and it sits around their home where they can see it and think about it many times. Many people pass it on to someone else. We often hear from people who say that one booklet changed their own habits as well as a number of their friends.
- College campuses, concerts, and other venues are very accessible and easy to take advantage of.
By convincing just a few people every semester, you will be preventing the suffering of thousands of animals over their lifetimes. You will be creating a pocket of change that will likely extend out from those people. As the numbers grow, people who have given up eating animals will be much more likely to be sympathetic towards other animal issues and this will increase political pressure in favor of animal liberation.
Other forms of high-impact volunteering:
On the ground:
4. Start a group:
- Student group: For tips on starting a student group, check out:
Students for Animal Rights (StAR).
- Social group: For tips on starting a social group, check out the
Compassionate Communities Campaign.
5. Volunteer or Intern with a top charity. Note that volunteers are rarely ever replaceable, but interns may be - it is therefore important to find this out ahead of an internship. In the case of our top and standout charities, there is currently more room for volunteers and interns - this means you won't be taking someone else's spot.
If you're looking for additional volunteering or internship opportunities, we also recommend our standout charities. Though not top charities at this time, internship and volunteering opportunities with these organizations may still offer ways to give one's time highly-effectively.
6. Don't volunteer at all! Get a job and donate the extra money you're making in the time you would otherwise use to volunteer. By doing so you could help cover the cost of other activists - and you may even be able to make more of an impact than volunteering directly. For more on this, see here.