Be Respectful

Fragment from Effective Advocacy of Animal Rights
by Bruce Friedrich

The second principle is to always be respectful, even if the other person seems not to warrant it. Being discourteous or saying something nasty is never effective.

I try to go to the streets to pass out leaflets and talk with people at least once a week, often while showing PETA’s “Meet Your Meat” video. Sometimes people say something unkind. In the past, I insulted them right back. This usually made me feel good. (Ha! I told them!) But my reaction hurt animals.

First, responding in kind doesn’t influence the person you’re speaking with. You might think that certain people just aren’t reachable, but I can tell you from experience that some of the people who seem the least receptive are actually the ones who are really challenged and on the verge of changing their behavior. That’s why they react so defensively. We must always strive to respond with respect and kindness. It can’t hurt, and it might turn those people around.

Reacting with anger or sarcasm also hurts animals because anyone else who happened to hear the exchange would think I was humorless or mean. At that moment, I would not be doing animals any favors.

Now I say something like, “Have a nice day, sir,” or if it’s a slow leafleting session, I might say, “Would you like to talk about that?” Not only am I taking the moral high ground in the eyes of others, I’m consistently surprised by how often I’m able to have excellent conversations with obnoxious-seeming people!

The same analysis applies to your nasty brother-in-law or to your coworkers at the office party. No matter how right you are, the question we must ask ourselves in every situation is: “What’s in the best interests of animals?” Please allow me to repeat: It is never in animals’ interests for you to say something disrespectful to someone in a discussion of animal rights or veganism.