How to answer ANY question about veganism

Hello and welcome to the newsletter that taunted Happy Fun Ball: it’s Taste This!, the official newsletter of TasteBetter.com!

New! Download the MP3 (19 minutes), watch this on YouTube (10 minutes,) or read online!

In this issue:

  • Welcome!
  • We’re (almost) everywhere!
  • How to answer ANY question about veganism
  • What if plants feel pain?
  • What’s ahead this week
  • Thanks!

Welcome!

Hello hello hello! I hope everyone managed to sneak a few wins into the final days of 2009 and that you’re all rested and ready for an amazing 2010. I know I am!

As you saw in the intro, this week’s newsletter is available for download in a few formats. That’s because…

We’re (almost) everywhere!

As I promised last week, I’m working hard this year to make sure these ideas arrive in the form that works best for you, and that means both the delivery channel and the modality that fits you best.

I still love email, but I know it’s not for everyone (you’ve told me enough times!) so you now have the ability to download the content to your computer or MP3 player as audio, or you can watch the presentation on YouTube or Facebook. I’ll have a podcast feed set up at some point as well, and if there’s some other way that would work best for you, please let me know!

This new formatting is going to add a lot to the production time for the newsletter, but I think it’s worth it. I used to average about an hour to put one together from blank screen to hitting send, and this obviously takes a lot longer, so please, if it’s working for you, please tell me.

Better still, if you really like what I’m doing here, please tell your friends and more importantly, ask them to subscribe. One of my breakthrough goals for 2010 is to significantly boost readership of the newsletter, and I’ll be asking you for help with that throughout the year. We learn so much from each other through this thing!

How to answer ANY question about veganism

As a lot of you know, I spend most of my reading/researching time without looking too much into vegan-specific literature, and in fact I devote most of my energy to sales and marketing, because I think that’s what a lot of activism comes down to.

Today’s idea comes from a sales training call I was on a little while ago that gave me a big “aha!” when it comes to answering questions about veganism.

Make your answers as simple as possible.

I don’t know about you guys, and maybe I just read too many Encyclopedia Brown books as a kid, but I’ve got this tendancy to want to know everything, because I want to be able to answer any question that might come up, especially when it comes to a topic I’m really passionate about like veganism.

The thing I’ve learned is that while it’s good to know these things, if I give a detailed response to a question about, say, omega-3 fatty acids, I’m actually saying two things:

1) I know the answer, here it is, what’s next, and…

2) being vegan means you have to learn a million things before you can even start.

Number 2 is crap (sorry, couldn’t resist that one) of course, but that’s the perception that will come across a lot of the time, and even though you might have removed one obstacle to someone’s transition to a plant-based diet, you’ve just created a new one: vegans know a lot about nutrition, I cant possibly learn that much, so I can never be vegan.

Instead, when you get a question about health, or animal welfare, or the environmental impact of meat, resist the urge to get into the little details (unless it’s actually appropriate to do so.) Give a quick summary and then a pointer to more information “when you’re ready to learn more about it.”

By separating the basic facts from the future learnings, you’ll make it easier for people to take that next step to a better life.

My response to most health questions usually works out to “you know, I used to worry about that, but it turns out to not be such a big deal. An easy way to ensure you’ve got XXX covered is to eat some YYY with your meal. If you want to get more into it, Becoming Vegan has a good section on that, but like I said, most vegans I know don’t worry about it too much.”

Personally, I find the hardest thing about this idea is that I end up sounding like a broken record – I mean, is there anything leafy greens and a copy of Becoming Vegan can’t do? 🙂

What if plants feel pain?

I had a question from Sandy last week about this whole “plants feel pain” thing that I guess was going around again. If I understand the logic correctly, omnivores have heard something about plants screaming when they’re cut, or something to that effect, and somehow this invalidates the entire concept of veganism.

Even if that’s true (about plants, not veganism,) how many plants do you figure the cow they just ate had to eat to get big enough to slaughter?  This argument used to come up with small animals being killed incidentally during crop harvesting (caught by threshers, habitat elimination, etc.) but the basic math is that most farm animals are fed way more calories in plant-based foods than they can provide as flesh, so the best way to reduce suffering is to eat lower on the food chain.

Of course, the other side to that argument is the “you’re not perfect so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing even though it’s even worse than you’re attempting” line, which usually isn’t voiced out loud but people need to try really hard to rationalize their diets!  As I said, it rarely gets voiced, but I like to use something extreme like “so if you jaywalk I get to kill babies?” to get that absurdity across.

For what it’s worth, maybe there is something going on there with plants, and maybe there isn’t. I haven’t gone through any of the research, so I don’t know much about it other than what I hear from omnivores, so for now I’m focusing on reducing overall suffering as much as I can, which includes a healthful diet full of (possibly screaming) plants.

What’s ahead this week

We’ve got a lot of stuff planned across the Better Network. I haven’t figured out an ideal schedule for Taste Better yet, but something new went up today, and I’d like to see one or two more by the end of the week. I’m finally realizing that I gave the site a subtitle of “and other tips for great green living,” so I’m trying to work on exactly that.

Posts on our vegan parenting site Spawn Better are continuing, and this week is about dealing with non-veg family members, you might pick up a trick or two even if you don’t have any children.

On the technical side of things, I’ll be making some changes to Barnivore, our vegan booze guide so it can grow into those mobile options I keep talking about.

Over on VP (name might be NSFW but the content is just silly) I want to get another porncast going, but something else has to happen there – I just haven’t figured out what yet!

Finally, for those of you wondering about our cooking show The Eazy Vegan, I’d love to do something new with cooking videos, but our kitchen still isn’t done… Yeah, I know. Soon, they tell me, soon…

Thanks!

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This email goes out every Monday afternoon, see you next week!

Jason

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