A recent study by the Humane Research Council (HRC) shows that 10% of U.S. adults ages 17 and over are former vegetarians/vegans, while 2% of the adult population are current vegetarians/vegans. Many of the former vegetarians and vegans reported that they had felt a lack of support or a sense of isolation in their veg lifestyle. What these findings suggest to us is a need for animal advocates to focus more on supporting existing vegetarians and vegans in their choices so that they don’t feel compelled to return to eating animal products.
As much as we encourage others to embrace their empathy and move towards a plant-based diet, we should also focus on supporting them after they have chosen a vegan lifestyle. We want to teach them not just why to go vegan but also how to do it in a sustainable way. While the outreach that motivates people to make a change is essential, we also need to offer the support that keeps them on the path. Beyond the videos of the factory farms and the message of compassion, we need to provide additional resources.
At Compassionate Action for Animals, providing these resources has always been a key aspect of how we work towards our mission. Community building may take a variety of forms, from social events to volunteer opportunities. What these activities have in common is that they allow participants to interact with one another. In the company of other like-minded individuals, we are reminded that we are not alone. With these relationships, we get a sense of validation. When compassionate lifestyle is experienced as the norm, new vegans and vegetarians are more likely to continue to continue on that path.
Social media is also proving to be a valuable forum for building community. Whether through a Facebook page or a Twitter feed, interactive online media is another way to be part of a larger group and is perhaps most valuable to those who live in an outlying area and are unable to attend live events on a regular basis.
Building a community is an ongoing endeavor. We must strive to welcome new people and truly embrace others wherever they are on their path to compassionate living. And we must offer support and resources to those who are already on board. With more focus on sustaining our compassionate community, we can do more to help farmed animals.