Animal Advocacy and The Power of Asking

Last month I was putting on my shoes after a swim in the ocean and who should walk by but the Skinny Bitch herself, Rory Freedman. She ended up taking me out for vegan pizza that evening, and the next night I attended a talk she was giving in town.

Rory gives a terrific and persuasive “here’s why being vegan is a great choice” kind of presentation. But what I liked best was its conclusion. She asked the non-vegans in the audience to—within the next couple of weeks—commit to spending one month as a vegan. Seeing the response was a revelation to me. People were remarkably receptive: Rory had already won them over to the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, but they still needed to be asked to take the next step.

I resolved to do more asking in my activist life, and I gave it a try the very next week. My Amazon.com commissions, no doubt due to a tanking economy, were way down—and this was turning into a real source of stress for me. So I blogged a simple appeal asking people who were comfortably well off to provide a donation. There was no overheated “kittens will die” rhetoric. Instead, I was operating on the assumption that a small percentage of my readers would prefer to not see me struggle financially to keep Vegan.com afloat, and would have the means to lend a hand. I was right: within two days I amassed sufficient funds to keep me writing through the summer.

Yesterday, I went back to the well and asked my readers for something completely different. I blogged about a terrific little anti-dairy piece by Caity McCardell, and I concluded my blog entry by asking my dairy-consuming readers if they were ready to cut out milk products. I then linked to a form where they could affirm their commitment, and get some helpful info by email.

Well, guess what? Just because I asked the question, twelve dairy-consuming Vegan.com readers stepped up and gave dairy products the heave. These were no doubt all people who’ve been meaning to cut out dairy products for a while, and simply needed to be asked.

So this summer, I’ve twice gone to my readers with requests. The first time provided me with the funds needed to spend my summer writing. And the second time, all by itself, has made all this writing worthwhile. I think as a society, many of us are afraid to ask for what we want and need, and then we spend our time frustrated and resentful that we didn’t get it. Perhaps the only way to fulfill your potential in life is to be brave enough to risk rejection, and step up to people and ask for what you want.

The world would be a happier, more compassionate place if more people were more comfortable with making requests. And that goes double for activists. Any salesman will tell you that after you’ve made your pitch it’s time to ask for the sale. More animal advocates need to learn this lesson.

Now, with all that said, I’d like to extend a big congratulations to my newest dairy-free readers: Alyson, Nichole, Marianna, Angela, Bárbara, Gail, Jenn, Laura, Ben, Carmen, Ricky, and Dirk.

So let me end this by asking you to try out my advice. This week, think about a positive step for animals that you can ask a friend or loved one to take. Give some thought to where that person is at in terms of food choices, and what next step they might be comfortable taking. Maybe it’s reading a book, or watching Death on a Factory Farm, or going dairy-free for a month, or refusing to eat battery eggs. Whatever it is, I’m now asking you to put yourself out there and ask. The worst you can get is a no, but imagine how it will feel to get a yes.

And please let me know how it goes.