Friday, November 28, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Scripting

Today is the last day of World Vegan Month, 2014.  To contribute to this month's activities, I have presented a social psychological concept or theory each day and applied them to abolitionist Nonhuman Animal rights.  I have discussed various methods of persuasion, how pro-social behavior can be suppressed but how it can also be harnessed, and other particulars for attitude change.  To close, I will discuss how the decision to go vegan, once made, can successfully be reinforced through careful scripting.

Going vegan can be daunting, script the change

Carefully directing individuals down the new and unfamiliar path is important.  We might presume that simply telling people to "Go Vegan!" is sufficient; we might think it self-evident what going vegan entails.  Realistically, however, veganism still appears a daunting task to much of the public.  This is due, in no small part, to the efforts of animal "rights" groups like "Vegan" Outreach who spent an astronomical amount of time painting veganism as difficult and unrealistic.  Thus, simply demanding people go vegan is not enough.  According to social psychological research, the critical moves of behavior change should be scripted and unambiguous.  The many changes involved in rejecting speciesism should also be broken down into small changes so that the overall task of becoming vegan does not appear daunting and undermine motivation.

Breaking down the vegan switch into manageable actions improves persuasion

Importantly, I do not think it is an ethical alternative to tell people to do Meatless Mondays or go vegetarian first. The key is to script big change into smaller changes, this does not necessitate compromising ethics.  Too often, donation-focused non-profits adulterate persuasion research to support their compromised, unethical position, but abolitionists can make veganism scripted and approachable in very practical ways. I propose the following script for going vegan, which is based on the assumption of moderate access to particular groceries, services, etc. Note that many will face serious barriers to many of these steps. Scripting should be tailored to suit the socioeconomic status and structural opportunities available to a given audience.

  1. State clearly to your family, friends, and others close to you that you will be going vegan.  Making a clear commitment will motivate you to hold true to your decision.  It will also alert your support system so they can be both respectful and helpful.
  2. Buy or borrow a few books on vegan ethics, vegan health, and vegan cooking.
  3. Locate a list of common animal ingredients and keep it handy.
  4. If you have a smartphone, download vegan apps to help with ingredient checking.
  5. Remove all nonvegan food items (flesh, milk, eggs, cheese, butter, honey, and all processed foods that contain these ingredients or other ingredients like gelatin, whey, datum, etc.) from your house.  If you don't know what an ingredient is, toss it (unless you have time to Google it).
  6. Create a grocery list and replace pantry with staples (use beginner's vegan cookbooks to guide this process).  Also buy some vegan analogs like veggie burgers to ease the transition and to provide you with quick foods.
  7. Get familiar with vegan fast food options in your area for times when you don't have time to cook (websites and smartphone apps are available).  Keep  your pantry stocked with snacks for times when you're in a rush.
  8. Check out for vegan-friendly restaurants and natural grocers in your area
  9. Purchase new shoes, belts, jackets, and wallets to replace any nonvegan items you may have that are made of leather, wool, silk, fur, down, or suede (hard to find items can be found in online vegan shops).
  10. Replace your soap, shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, and other bath and body products with vegan alternatives.
  11. Join a local vegan group and/or an online community for support.
  12. Subscribe to some vegan food blogs for inspiration.
  13. Try one new vegan recipe each week.
  14. Purchase a vegan multivitamin (with B12), vegan Vitamin D, and vegan Omega-3s (all available from natural grocers or
  15. Donate or trash any remaining products made from nonhuman animal products.
For those with the means to do so, this list can be tackled in a few days--but for others who might be overwhelmed with the transition or who may have limited income, this can be staggered over a few weeks or months. The emotion many people feel in response to learning about Nonhuman Animal exploitation is important to get them motivated.  Reason is important to make sense of that emotion and to shape it into an appropriate reaction.  Scripted, manageable changes are important to sustain that desire into change.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Provide very clear steps for going vegan
  • Make sure steps towards veganism are manageable

Heath, C. and D. Heath. 2010. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. New York, NY: Broadway Books.