Veganism requires much more than an omnivorous diet: many vegans pursue vegan-friendly restaurants or home-cooking with vigor because many traditional restaurants cannot provide for their restrictive diets. People have many reasons to eat the way they do, and many want to share their experiences with others, especially vegans who don’t consume animal products for moral and ethical reasons. Spreading moral causes and advocating for animal rights is laudable but doing so through graphic means is ineffective and harmful to people who must eat meat.
Some vegan advertising focuses on the harm that the meat industry inflicts on animals. People for the Ethical Support of Animals (PETA) describes the conditions in which farmers and factory workers keep animals to convince people to stop eating meat. PETA also promotes veganism through advertisements that show people on a grill with the caption “Meat is murder. Try Vegan.”
Advertisements also show activists covered in fake blood in Trafalgar Square to demonstrate the blood shed in the meat industry. Advertising by showing gruesome images represents an example of “moral shocking,” which intends on shocking the audience into changing their view point.
Yes, the meat industry keeps animals in unfathomably cruel conditions, but comparing animal death to human death and showing people graphic images of the meat industry turns more people away than it converts.
“A moral shock commonly involves some transgression of social norms, meaning that attempts to shock potential recruits might in fact fail. Indeed, it has been shown that activists who employ anger or and moral outrage as a strategy may be taken less seriously by their audience, or may be experienced as threatening,” writes Jacobsson and Lindblom in a 2013 article titled "Emotional Work in Animal Rights Activism: A Moral-Sociological Perspective."
Guilt and shock fails as a persuasion method. In a 2010 research study conducted by Agrawal and Duhacheck, students who viewed guilt-inducing anti-drinking ads responded with greater intention to binge-drink than those who did not view guilt-inducing ads.
Guilting people into being vegan also harms people who cannot change their diet due to socioeconomic class or dietary needs. Bodies easily absorb iron from animal meat, making an omnivorous diet easier for an anemic person, and fast food can be easier and cheaper to obtain than a dairy-free home-cooked meal for people of lower socioeconomic class. Guilting people who cannot change their diet simply deepens the divide between the vegan and non-vegan community.
A better method of advertising would focus on the health benefits associated with veganism and the expanding the accessibility of the diet. Younger generations eat food of plant-based diets more often than older generations and reap health benefits such as lower risk for heart attack and healthier weight as a result.
Sharing a diet that offers a better health outlook and a cleaner conscience drives many advertisements, but vegan people must advertise in a less aggressive way in order to convince omnivores to change their habits. Change your focus and method, and maybe then the community will start eating green.