Frequently Asked Questions
What does CEVA mean by “effectiveness”?
CEVA uses the term “effective” for two reasons. Effectiveness reflects our focus, and it informs what methods we recommend.
We focus primarily on results. This means, for instance, that we may advocate using messages other than “go vegan” if there is reason to believe that those messages will lead to a swifter and more sustainable reduction in harm to animals (and if these messages aren’t reinforcing other problems or forms of oppression). Moreover, much of our focus is on process, not content. We are not simply promoting one strategy or another but rather encouraging advocates to ask questions and approach issues in a way that increases the chances that they will make effective decisions when promoting veganism -- decisions that will do the most good. We seek to enhance strategic thinking, not simply to discuss what specific strategies may be most effective.
The methods we recommend are, whenever possible, based on empirical evidence, as well as on our combined experience as vegan advocates, which spans decades. Both Melanie Joy and Tobias Leenaert have extensively researched strategic methods for social change and they both have authored books on vegan strategy. Furthermore, Joy holds a PhD in psychology and specializes in the psychology of social transformation and effective communication, and Leenaert and Joy have consulted for vegan organizations around the world and have a strong track record of success.
Does CEVA advocate reductionism or veganism?
As its name suggests, CEVA advocates veganism. However, we advocate various means toward that end. We discuss the role that meat, egg, and dairy reducers play in helping to make vegan food and lifestyle choices more accessible by increasing the demand -- and therefore the supply -- for vegan products. We also discuss the resistance many people feel toward being presented with an all-or-nothing, black-and-white framing, such as, “You’re either vegan and you’re part of the solution, or you’re not vegan, and you’re part of the problem.”
Specifically, we advocate being “as vegan as possible,” which is the only rational and compassionate request one can make. Nobody can know what is and is not possible for others -- practically and psychologically -- and it’s not respectful, appropriate, or strategic to assume that we are experts on others’ experiences. If we ask for more than what another deems possible for themselves, then we’re essentially asking them to be vegan even if doing so is impossible, which is neither a rational nor a productive request.
Why do we use “vegan” in our name?
CEVA uses the term “vegan” because vegan advocacy is advocacy whose goal is to increase the acceptance and practice of veganism. All of the strategies and approaches we promote in our trainings are geared toward this objective.
What reasons for adopting veganism does CEVA use?
Research suggests that people are more likely to reduce their consumption of carnistic products out of concern for their health than they are out of of concern for animals. Research also shows that concern for the environment is a strong motivator for a number of people. So, while animal rights are clearly an important reason to advocate veganism, using animal rights as the primary argument is not always productive -- and it’s sometimes even counterproductive.
Moreover, research shows that when people are less invested in eating animals -- when they have reduced or eliminated their consumption of carnistic products -- even if they’ve made such a change for reasons other than animal rights -- they are less defensive against animal rights arguments and are therefore more open to supporting “ideological” veganism. In other words, attitudinal change can follow behavioral change; people may start caring about animals more easily after they have become less dependent on eating them.
At CEVA, we recommend that advocates tailor their approach to the interests and needs of those to whom they are advocating. We believe that animal rights is a critical component of veganism, and we also believe that framing the vegan message appropriately and strategically is the most effective way to ultimately support animal rights.
How does CEVA try to ensure that trainings are culturally appropriate?
We recognize that our approach to advocating veganism inevitably reflects our worldviews, and we take measures to ensure that we’re not promoting methods that simply reflect our own norms or biases.
We work closely with our host organizations, which are run by members of the communities we visit. We share our materials with them before each training to solicit feedback and guidance so that the materials are culturally appropriate and useful for attendees. We also make clear in our trainings that our understanding reflects our own cultural orientation, and we invite discussions about ways our methods may differ from those of the community we’re visiting. We also try to ensure that the research on which we base the methods we advocate is as culturally diverse as possible.
We continue to learn and adapt our materials with each new community we visit. And we have found that the vast majority of the issues we discuss and the challenges vegan advocates face are similar across cultures.
How does CEVA address inclusivity?
We are aware that unexamined privilege -- white, male, etc. -- is a serious problem in the vegan movement and beyond, and that this problem both enables unethical practices and damages the effectiveness of the vegan movement. Melanie Joy has written a series of essays on this issue, which are being revised and will be released as a book in 2019 and which we will make available at all CEVA trainings to help raise awareness. We are also developing a module addressing privilege and oppression among vegans, a resource that will be a part of our CEVA trainings, which we’ll start offering in 2019 as well.
We know that our own privileges influence how we perceive and relate to others, and we are committed to ongoing development of our self-awareness and education in this area.
Why does CEVA charge fees for trainings?
CEVA is a not-for-profit program that is funded entirely by charitable donations. Because CEVA has a limited budget, and because the money given to CEVA is money donated to the cause of spreading veganism, we aim to stretch our budget as far as possible. This means ensuring that our trainings are as cost-effective as possible, which includes allowing the maximum number of participants at the minimum price necessary to cover the costs to our host organization, which is responsible for securing a venue and providing food. A small fee is charged to cover these costs, and, if there is money left over, that money goes to the host organization, not to CEVA.
CEVA asks for no money for our trainings, but in some cases -- where a host organization has a substantial budget -- we ask for a small contribution toward our travel expenses. Often, however, CEVA pays our own travel expenses in full. Sometimes CEVA also covers other expenses, to help organizations that have no discretionary income.
Some people suggest it’s better to use the term “vegan” as an adjective, saying, for example, “I live a vegan lifestyle,” instead of using it to describe an identity (e.g., “I am vegan”). What is CEVA’s position on this issue?
We know that ideological labels such as “vegan” can sometimes be problematic, particularly when they end up being divisive. For example, when our primary identity in life is being vegan, we can tend to view others accordingly: we see them primarily as vegan, or not vegan. We lose nuance; we fail to appreciate that we, and others, are complex human beings who have multiple identities and who, beneath all these identities, have a shared humanity. In this case, an ideological label such as “vegan” can be divisive, disconnecting us from our empathy and compassion.
We also appreciate the value of using the term “vegan” to describe a shared identity. The term is especially important in societies where the vegan movement is still young, with little understanding of, and support for, vegans’ beliefs and behaviors. Having a name that connects ourselves with others who share our ideology can be an important way to stay grounded in our beliefs when we feel second-guessed and invalidated by the dominant, carnistic culture.