Effective Vegan Activism and Outreach
Written by Robert Cheeke
Created Friday, 14 December 2012
Like many people who follow a vegan lifestyle, I have been involved in protests, boycotts, leafleting, and other forms of direct action activism and outreach promoting veganism and opposing animal cruelty. With more than a decade of experience as an outspoken vegan activist, I can say with confidence and certainty that nothing I have done has been a more effective form of activism than building my body and leading by positive example as a vegan bodybuilder. For me, nothing comes close to the impact I have been able to have on others than the role of vegan bodybuilder. Being something other than what most people expect you to be causes others to take notice; it gets them to pause for a few moments and think differently about veganism.
If you want to have the greatest impact for the vegan movement, it would behoove you to not fit the general stereotype of vegan weakling. I don’t oppose that stereotype because I think it is quite true. I believe many vegans do fit into that category of being “vegan weaklings” and that is precisely one of the reasons I work so hard to be anything than what someone would expect when they hear the label “vegan.” It is true that most vegans I see appear to be underweight or unhealthy in some way. That just seems to be the way it is. I’ve traveled all over the country to more vegetarian and vegan festivals than most and observed this reality. Of course it doesn’t apply to all vegans, just like any stereotype; but I can fully understand where the stereotype comes from, and it’s hard to argue against it without working to change it. Even as a bodybuilder, I still fear that I fit the stereotype when I’m not at my best. It motivates me to work harder to be a better activist and be a better role model for people.
Effective vegan outreach comes down to being a positive and inspirational role model. There are vegan activists who are passionate about saving animal lives and work tirelessly to do so but appear to be unhealthy. This detracts from the message they are trying to promote. So often, passionate activists who really care about animals diminish their efficacy because of the way they look; they turn people away from veganism because the general public associates that image of a skinny, weak, and unhealthy body to animal rights and the vegan lifestyle. Even with good intentions, sometimes vegans cause harm to the animal rights movement when they are not very good physical representatives of the lifestyle. I don’t mean to suggest that every vegan must be fit and muscular or meet a certain physical standard, but I’m writing directly about effective activism and what creates positive or negative results as I have perceived it.
If vegans are to be as effective as possible in supporting the vegan movement, they will have to come together as a community to change the image of veganism. Just imagine for a moment if the general, widely accepted image of a vegan was a fit, energetic, positive, caring person who looked healthy and strong and led by positive example by their actions. What could that do for the movement? It could do amazing things and create incredible amounts of change. Right now, vegans are often seen as weaklings, as aggressors, and as those who don’t care about health or body image but do care to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. I believe vegans can change this image by changing their diets, changing their exercise programs, and ultimately changing their lifestyles. These changes will not only benefit the vegan person’s own health and happiness, but also will benefit the vegan movement as they become more effective leaders in their daily lives.
I spread veganism and promote animal rights through my success as a bodybuilder in many ways. Every time I compete in bodybuilding, it is announced over the microphone that I am vegan. I often wear my Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness clothing items backstage or in the audience when I’m competing. Regardless of my audience, targeted or mainstream, niche or general, I find a way to positively promote veganism through my success as a vegan bodybuilder. Listed at the end of the chapter are some helpful tips to turn your vegan bodybuilding lifestyle into a positive and effective form of activism and outreach.
When I tour around the country giving talks, I have a variety of outlines and themes that I focus on in my presentations. One of my talk outlines is directly related to activism and, in fact, it is titled, “Nurturing Activism.” I use the following outline for various presentations including annual talks at the National Animal Rights Conference (http://www.arconference.org)
Nurturing Activism -Bringing out the BEST in YOU
Tips to bring out the best in you:
• Love what you are doing and spend a significant amount of time doing the things you enjoy most.
• Believe in yourself and really mean it.
• Find a support network that understands you and believes in you.
• Learn from those who have achieved what you are trying to achieve.
• Set specific goals outlining what you want to achieve through your outreach and activism.
• Stay positive and support others in the movement.
• Represent veganism in a positive way as part of outreach and grow the movement.
• Make veganism look practical, creative, fun, easy, and accessible to anyone.
• Thrive rather than just get by. Eat for nourishment rather than stimulation.
• Lift others up and support those working toward the same goals.
• Listen to others as a way to offer solutions and learn something new.
• Appreciate those who have paved the way for us to do what we do.
• Respect what you're doing and what you've done; know you're making a difference.
• Apply what you know rather than just talk about it.
• Get adequate rest and take time for yourself. Rejuvenate when stress levels are high.
• When you speak for those who can't be heard, you're standing up for a group worth fighting for, and that in itself has great value.
• Pick your passion. There are many aspects of outreach and activism and so much to cover. Pick the aspects you're most passionate about, and that is where you'll likely have the most significant impact.
• Enjoy life. Be happy that you're making a difference in the world and saving the lives of those you will never meet. Be happy that you’re vegan, not sad because you’re vegan.
• Strive for wellness and good health so you can effectively carry out your chosen work and impact those you encounter in a positive light.As you can see, I focus on a lot of positive ways to be an effective activist without having to be involved in confrontational circumstances, though you can still be positive and effective while being involved in conflict or intense conversation. What I aim to communicate to an audience is the concept that whatever we’re doing as forms of activism and outreach, they should be constructed with our very best effort and best positive image in mind. I always work to put my best foot forward, my best physique forward, and my best presentation forward because that is in itself effective outreach and an inspiring form of activism.
The above is a excerpt from the best-selling book Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness - The Complete Guide To Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet by Robert Cheeke
Robert Cheeke is a best-selling Author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness - The Complete Guide To Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet and a champion Vegan Bodybuilder who runs the company and website Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness. Robert is a motivational speaker who tours around North America with his speaking tour and he is also the Director of the award-winning documentary Vegan Fitness Built Naturally.
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