The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Animal Rights Activism in a College Cafeteria

Posted on May 18, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Anna Lam

Animal rights activism can sometimes seem intimidating and even counterproductive. It can be especially intimidating to those who aren’t necessarily outgoing (like me), and counterproductive because of exposure to fringe groups who are keen on employing shock value tactics to get people’s attention without starting substantive dialogues (which I think we’ve all been exposed to). While everyone who is an animal rights activist is ultimately oriented towards the goal of making the world a better place for animals, there are certainly better and worse ways to be an activist. Put simply, it comes down to making oneself approachable and likeable. At least that’s what I learned when I set up a table in my school’s dining hall to distribute leaflets containing vegetarian information.

Specifically, I learned that it’s better to be an engaged activist rather than a disengaged one. You might feel like you’re intruding unasked in people’s lives; however, people also rarely see the need or importance of what you have to offer, only you do. So the best way to at least get the information into people’s hands is to actively engage them. My friends and I experimented with just sitting down at the table, the leaflets displayed for all to see, and waited to see if anyone would approach out of interest. We got some interested side glances, but nothing more. After little success, we started to smile at passersby and say “Good morning,” which also resulted in little success. We eventually decided on a more forward approach to at least get the information from the table to the students. After passing out hundreds of flyers, I felt like I had gotten the routine down to a science: stand up; smile; lean forward; making good eye contact; hold the leaflet at approximately stomach level so it’s easy to take as they pass by; and ask politely if the person would like information on health, the environment, or vegetarianism. The person should definitely not feel reproached, confronted, or attacked for their way of life. It’s best to stay away from any kind of shaming language, as that’s a sure turn-off. I found that people were most responsive when focusing on the ways that vegetarianism is helpful for one’s health and the environment.

It’s easy to confine oneself to the company of like-minded people. It’s encouraging and motivating, and there’s nothing like being a part of a community of those who share the same values as yourself. But it’s also a good exercise to connect with those around you who may not be vegetarian. It’s useful, if not an imperative, to be able to associate with unlike-minded people, because we inevitably have to interact with them on a daily basis. While it’s fine to outwardly express your thoughts on animal rights around people who agree with you, those unfamiliar with the issue may be turned off by the “holier than thou” effect that we vegans can sometimes have, especially on the ethical stance.

That’s why awareness is so important. Because unawareness can lead to being complicit in something that one is actually morally opposed to. And, really, most people are against animal cruelty if you were to ask them. No one likes to see animals in pain. So getting the information out there is a crucial first step towards more informed, cruelty-free purchases. Our money really does have a tremendous impact and, as consumers, it’s our most powerful asset. And as an activist, your most important asset if your voice, and by using your voice for those that are unable, you’re making a tremendous impact in helping people, the environment, and animals alike prosper.

For information on other activist ideas, see

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