VEGETARIAN ACTIVISM

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SPEAKING TO CLASSES ABOUT VEGETARIANISM

This guide is for both teachers and outside speakers who have been invited to address classes or other groups. The handout provides you with the basics, which can be adapted to the age and type of group. This guide covers many aspects of vegetarianism and can be abbreviated or lengthened to suit the time allotted by the classes you are addressing.

BEING INVITED

There are many groups or classes that would like to have vegetarian speakers. If you are not a teacher, you need to make your availability known to your community. Most referrals will come by word of mouth. Let people to know you are available to speak. When you receive a response, schedule a date for the talk right away, even if you can't talk for several months.

The best "in" for speaking engagements are members of your vegetarian society or related groups who are teachers or those who know teachers. The teachers may know about vegetarianism, but prefer an outsider to talk about it. Many people may hear about you from tables at fairs. If a teacher comes by, mention that you do talks. Listings are also important. Be sure to include your group on the directory of available groups at the local library. You can also send notices to schools. You may want to send a flier about The Vegetarian Resource Group Essay Contest for schools to post, and let teachers know you are available for presentations. You can also let your availability be known to the parents of school-aged children, especially those parents actively involved in planning school activities.

PREPARATION

Be as scientific as possible. If you are not sure of a fact, say so. If you are giving an opinion, not a scientific fact, let the students know. For some, it is easier to present with a group of two or three other people. This adds balance since each person has different knowledge and perspectives. If you use this approach, prepare an outline and decide what each person will present.

Audio-Visual Aids - Many people who give talks ask The Vegetarian Resource Group for audio-visual aids. While there are some good resources, we prefer to interact with the students for the whole session in order to have discussion on vegetarian questions, an opportunity that they do not normally have. Do what works best for you. Often teachers like to borrow a video the week before the presentation to prepare the class. A good video for class preparation is FOOD WITHOUT FEAR. It is available on loan from VRG for $6.00 and a credit card deposit of $50. Call or write VRG for ordering instructions (see end for contact info.). VRG has a list of videos available to rent. For younger children, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE (available from ASPCA, 441 E. 92nd St., NYC, NY 10128), while not a "vegetarian video," presents the issue of factory farming, focusing on veal calves, and offers vegetarianism as a solution.

Props and Handouts - These can be very helpful. We can send you our brochures in quantity. We have a listing of our Publications, Resources, and Tabling Materials available on our website. Many of our brochures are on the website, and you can print out copies from there if need be. You are welcome to reproduce any handouts or information from Vegetarian Journal as long as you credit VRG.

What to Expect - The outside speaker: Some teachers are more receptive and interested in finding guest speakers than others are. Often classes will consist of bright and inquisitive students. Usually participation will depend on the atmosphere set up by the teacher. Right before or after lunch are the hardest times of the day for any presentation.

Most classes are over before you know it. But once we spoke to a school where we couldn't wait for the hour to end. The students wouldn't respond. Finally we got some interest when we asked how many calories were in beer!

At one school in farm country, most of the students worked in fast food chains or meat markets. We did get one very positive response from a girl who was in both of the classes in which we spoke. She was relatively quiet throughout the first class, but responded to our statements on factory farming because she was being raised on a dairy farm. We asked the student what she did with the male cows that were born. She stated matter-of-factly, "I shoot them." The class became silent and stared at her. They had no idea. We continued to speak. We don't argue with people and never try to convert them. Our purpose is to share information and let them make decisions. We accept people's lifestyles.

In the next class the girl answered questions using information presented in the first class. She had obviously listened well. She mentioned that at first she didn't want to kill the animal, but was told it was a necessary part of life. This seems to be a common experience among farmers with whom we speak.

Resources - Before you speak, be well prepared. We recommend you read the Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets (1997) available on the VRG website or upon request. Reference books include: Simply Vegan by Debra Wasserman and Reed Mangels, PhD, RD; The Vegetarian Way by Virginia Messina MPH, RD and Mark Messina, PhD; Becoming Vegetarian by Vesanto Melina, RD, Brenda Davis, RD, and Victoria Harrison, RD; Cooking Vegetarian by Vesanto Melina, RD and Joseph Forrest; A Vegetarian Sourcebook by Keith Akers; Animal Factories by Jim Mason; The New Laurel's Kitchen, by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Brian Ruppenthal; Vegetarian Journal, VRG's publication. References for specific nutrient questions include: USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Building 005, Room 107, BARC-West, Beltsville, MD 20705-2011 (their nutrient database is on the web at: www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp.

Citing references from more than one source is always best, and including some mainstream sources (i.e. USDA food pyramid, ADA, etc.) helps show that vegetarian groups aren't the only ones who know that a vegetarian diet can be healthy and well-balanced.

Other resources:
Humane Education Committee Lesson Plans, available from the Humane Education Committee, Box 445 Gracie Station, New York, NY 10028; Creative Food Experiences for Children, along with other valuable materials available from Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1875 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 300, Washington ,DC, 20009-5728; The American Dietetic Association has a vegetarian pyramid available, DPG-14, The ADA, 216 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60606 or request one from VRG at PO 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203. Also available from VRG is Leprechaun Cakes and Other Tales, A vegan story/cookbook for children 8 to 11 with over 40 easy-to-prepare recipes. Also includes a glossary of cooking terms, safety tips, and clean up & preparation instructions.

OUTLINE FOR A PRESENTATION

CONCLUSION

When giving presentations, we encourage the students or teacher to ask questions at any time. This may result in your topics being presented out of the order you had originally planned. You may not have time to get all the way through your presentation. On the other hand, in case you finish faster than you expect, it's helpful to have a display table of vegetarian books and magazines.

Remember, some participants may come to your presentation by choice while school children may only be there because it is mandatory. Students today will often respond most enthusiastically to environmental or animal rights topics. Don't expect to reach everybody, but remember you are always planting seeds whenever you talk.

Good luck. Please let us know if we can be of further help.

This handout is from The VEGETARIAN RESOURCE GROUP. To join and receive the 36-page Vegetarian Journal send $20 to VRG, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203. Call (410) 366-VEGE; www.vrg.org; vrg@vrg.org.




VRG Home | About VRG | Vegetarian Journal | Books | Vegetarian Nutrition
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Last Updated
April 5, 2001

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