Commentary: Vegan outrage

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Recently, I wrote about a little-known group of vegetarian activists called Vegan Outreach. Their claim to fame (allegedly) is that they distributed a million anti-industry booklets to so-called supporters over the last three months.

So they say.

The booklets are all about condemning animal agriculture and promoting the vegan lifestyle, which is fine. We have something called the First Amendment, and it’s what makes this country great. They’re welcome to have at it in trying to convince Americans that raising livestock and eating meat or poultry is somehow evil and immoral.

I can live with that. People aren’t stupid, and the truth has a nasty habit of eventually prevailing, no matter how heated some group’s rhetoric becomes.

What I have a lot less tolerance for, though, is the wild numbers Vegan Outreach claims, as “proof” of its legitimacy. To even approach the numbers they claim, they’d have to be handing out nearly 11,000 brochures every day, five days a week, four weeks a month, three months straight just to get within shouting distance of a million booklets distributed.

Even though they say they’ve got nine people working full-time on booklet duty, that’s still a hefty 1,700-plus booklets per person per day. You know how long it would take to hand out 1,700 booklets? Try leafleting some time, as I’ve done on numerous political campaigns over the years, and you’ll quickly find out that the majority of people you approach want nothing to do with your literature. So to unload 1,700 booklets you have to conservatively approach probably triple that many people—more than five or six thousand people every day.

Where are these activists leafleting? Times Square? The Rose Bowl on game day?

Record-breaking pace

Now, however, the plot has thickened, as Vegan Outreach has fired back to contest my skepticism over their million-vegan fairy tale, headlining its latest fan club email with “Let’s Shock the Meat Industry Even More in 2014!”

The email continued: “Recently, meat industry spokesman [don’t I wish!] and Executive Director of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame Dan Murphy went looking for the most unbelievable claim by any animal rights group.”

(Slight correction: It wasn’t much of a search. No other group I know of is so over-the-top).

Then they quoted an excerpt from my recent column about the group (“Lies, damn lies, and vegan statistics”): “When VO’s website begins bragging about its influence, and the numbers of susceptible people they’ve touched, all credibility disappears.”

Thank you, vegans, for choosing the most salient statement from that entire commentary. That was exactly my point: When any organization starts tossing around unbelievable data about their reach and their impact, they’re no longer believable.

Moreover, reliable research estimates that less than 5 percent of U.S. consumers are actually adhering to a vegetarian diet, which means that true vegans—who are but a small minority of all veggies—couldn’t possibly number more than 1percent of the population.

And that’s being generous.

So for Vegan Outreach to claim that the group has connected with fully one-third of its entire universe of supporters in a single college semester is about as ridiculous as trying to pretend that humanity has always existed on plant foods alone.

You know that evolutionary calendar that compresses all of the Earth’s history into a single year? It calculates that our solar system was formed on Jan.1st, dinosaurs died out on Dec. 26th and humans first appeared just five seconds before midnight on New Year’s Eve. In that timeframe, the vegan lifestyle doesn’t even rate the blink of an eye.

And unlike their statistics, that’s no exaggeration.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.

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usa  |  December, 26, 2013 at 05:05 PM

you are ignoring all of us volunteers who work with VO. there are hundreds of us! we work with the VO employees and by ourselves. we are at college campuses every weekday during the school years and at concerts during the summers. we hand out VAST numbers of leaflets and keep a very careful count--we have a fool-proof system. the numbers are exactly correct. people are basically decent and do not want to support the vicious abuse of the innocent defenseless. they are horrified to see the truths that the meat, egg, and dairy industries try so hard to hide from the public. goodness, morals, and decency will triumph in the end. savage, vicious brutality will lose. animal products are cruel and unnecessary so they will fade away . . . . thanks.

Scranton, PA  |  December, 26, 2013 at 08:32 PM

Yep. The volunteers hand out tens of thousands at Warped Tours alone all summer long. This article kind of cracks me up. Hahahaha. They are NUTS. For real bonkers.

Pennsylvania  |  December, 27, 2013 at 05:55 AM

Although Vegans are (for now) a smaller group than conventional eaters our numbers are growing as more learn the truth. People are so disconnected and completely unaware of how their "food" gets to their tables. Learning about who they consume. Learning their horrific journey from birth to plate awakens. These sentient beings are not here for us to manipulate from their natural states, injected with hormones and antibiotics to grow larger than their bodies and hearts can manage. Proudly. Vegan and ashamed of my former self.

December, 27, 2013 at 09:14 AM

Exactly. Bacon had a mom.

Humas The Cow    
USA  |  December, 27, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Well my wife an her good friend leaflet at GA State University in downtown Atlanta. They do this on their one hour lunch break and have handed out as many as 600 in one day during that time. Do the math and 1700 is not that unbelievable. I think this quote from Winston Churchill sums it up "The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is." Eat Mor Tofu!

Wisconsin  |  December, 27, 2013 at 10:35 AM

I am so pleased that I haven't been purchasing products from your companies for the last sixteen years. Here's to a continued lifetime boycott! We are talking about an animal (pigs) as social and intelligent as a dog. If we were talking about eating dogs there's be a national outrage. But you and I - we are in agreement on one thing - truth will prevail - though the arc of the moral universe is long.

Dan Murphy    
Everett. WA  |  December, 27, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Yes, do the math. Six hundred leaflets on your lunch hour means you're handing out one every six seconds, non-stop for an entire hour. And that also means no conversation, no answering questions. No explaining who you are and what you're doing. Just shoving papers into people's hands without let-up. And since not everyone wants one,you'd actually have to "approach" probably 10 or even 12 people every minute to unload your six copies. Please. Your "do the math" a argument just doesn't fly.

Eat no one who poops.    
SC  |  December, 27, 2013 at 11:49 AM

In my experience leafleting for VO on my local college campus, almost every passerby- mostly students but some profs, etc. will take the brochure. Usually there are several volunteers for every VO staffer. It's actually quite easy.

Wisconsin  |  December, 27, 2013 at 12:35 PM

"I can live with that. People aren’t stupid, and the truth has a nasty habit of eventually prevailing, no matter how heated some group’s rhetoric becomes." Sounds like you are talking about the aggie industry!!!!!! Well said!!!!

NYC  |  December, 27, 2013 at 01:04 PM

The math works out quite well, actually. VO has (according to you, but fits with what I know as well) 9 full-time leafleters, and dozens of volunteers (as someone pointed out above). Full-time leafleters work 5 days/week, maybe 5-7 hours/day, 4 weeks/month, 10 months/year. That's 10,800 leafleting hours in one year. Let's be conservative and say there are 20 volunteers leafleting for 3 hours/week, 4 weeks/month, 10 months/year. That's another 2400 hours per year. So a total of 13,200 leafleting hours per year, as a VERY conservative estimate. A million leaflets distributed over the course of 13,200 hours is only 76 leaflets per hour. That's giving out less that 1.3 leaflets per minute, which we all know is completely possible and its obviously not an exaggeration. Most of the leafleting is done in high-traffic locations, which means a lot of leaflets are distributed quickly (much more than 1.3 per minute), so that leafleters have plenty of time to stop and engage with interested recipients. Maybe a million leaflets a year sounds exorbitant to you, but it seems that your math must be flawed, because 76 leaflets per person per hour is completely realistic.

Colorado  |  December, 27, 2013 at 03:02 PM

You did forgot about the tons of volunteers and supporters of VO. I distributed a few tousands of fliers my self in 3 universities and a high school in Tallahassee FL in a very short period of time.Since I moved to Colorado i have not been able to leaflet as much as i would love to, but this article just inspired me to go leaflet to high schools on my day off, where tons of very interested and potential vegan kids will actually come to take a flier from my hand. Lets show the author that we can double that number or even more for 2014! He will see what are vegans really made of!

Helen Margaret    
Cincinnati.  |  December, 27, 2013 at 05:17 PM

I hand out leaflets for Vegan Outreach and Mercy for Animals in the Cincinnati area as a volunteer. I am retired so there are a lot of volunteers for both these organizations. This number is not far fetched . I hand out 300 or 400 all the time and in lots of locations. Fairs, festivals, and concerts being the most popular. I am a runner who passed out about 500 at the expo for the Flying Pig Marathon just when I was getting my running packet. Porkpolis is a wonderful vegan place now. The stockyards are empty. :0)

December, 27, 2013 at 07:15 PM

Meat is on the decline as people become more aware of how poorly animals are treated. Go vegan and get healthy!

Memphis  |  December, 27, 2013 at 10:53 PM

Not sure why you are such a hater Dan not to mention a pessimist, but VO's stats are completely doable and true. If you knew the hearts and dedication of the people that do the cross country vegan outreach your icy heart might melt a bit, or not. I know because my daughter was one of those interns driving town to town, staying with like minded people along the way to save money and living on $50 a week for her love of animals. In each town the VO team is met by other local vegans who want to help. When you have a bunch of enthusiastic compassionate people with a smile on their face because they know they are making a difference, it's not at all hard to hand out a couple thousand brochures at change of class. I have leafleted with my daughter in Dallas, Memphis and NYC. Some will take the brochure and keep walking-some will start reading and come back to ask questions about how to start the transition-where do you get your protein etc. The over consumption of factory farmed meat & dairy is the number 1 cause of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Whether these VO leaflets get people to go vegan or just start actually being educated consumers that start paying attention to where their food comes from and cutting back on animal products for their's all good. For anyone to say that veganism doesn't help the health crisis, environment and plight of animals-is to embrace ignorance. Some diabetics will continue to drink cokes and dairy, heart disease and colon cancer will down the BBQ pork-some will eat themselves to death and defend their actions every step of the way-so be it. Some will tirelessly try to help humanity and spread the truth while others put them down for it. Did you bash Mother Teresa too?

Memphis  |  December, 27, 2013 at 10:59 PM

Oh man, I just noticed that this blog is on the PORK NETWORK-lol I get the vegan bashing now! Pork might want to start investing in organic produce...just a thought to enhance your future security ; )

Kathleen Taylor    
Virginia  |  December, 28, 2013 at 08:04 AM

Vegan Outreach does commendable work. I love helping out when they are in my area. I have volunteered twice with the organization and helped boost the total number of booklets handed to students to well over a thousand for those couple half days of work. Most people are very interested in learning more about what they eat, where it comes from, and how they can reduce animal suffering by eating a plant based diet. Eliminating animal products from our diets not only ends unnecessary animal slaughter, it is proven to improve our health and the environment. It's time we all take more responsibility for the ills of the world and stop being so self centered.

jc  |  December, 28, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Dan Murphy is an animal agricultural lacky, who I'm sure gets paid pretty well to distort facts and make bold face lies. He reminds me of this quote: "If one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people." ~ Ruth Harrison, author of Animal Machines

sydney  |  December, 29, 2013 at 10:13 PM

ohh poor danny all upset lets call the WAAAAAAAAAAAAmbulance~all the animal proteins are making him angry (and stupid!) waaaah waaaaah

December, 30, 2013 at 05:59 AM

I came upon this website accidently. Such is the world that the concentration camp cammandants have their own website. Naturally. And yet, it shocks me.

Dan Murphy    
Everett, Washington  |  December, 31, 2013 at 01:11 PM

Yes, it must be shocking to think that people actually consume animal foods. I guess all those spiritually enlightened, eco-conscious First Nations tribes who hunted and fished to sustain themselves were misguided and probably just too dumb (savage?) to realize that humans are supposed to live on processed soy food and salad greens grown and transported from halfway around the world. Too bad nobody had invented veggie burgers, almond milk and soy cheese 30,000 years ago when the original inhabitants of the area where you now live, Albert, first arrived and somehow managed to build a culture and create a lifestyle that we (rightly) admire even today. It's a shame the food processing industry didn't exist back several millennia ago, or that the multi-billion dollar corporations that produce and market nearly all of the veggie foods you embrace were around back then, because then those poor, ignorant natives could have adopted the vegan lifestyle, complete with faux fur substitutes for the buffalo robes and deerskin clothing they mistakenly wore. Pity.

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