An animal activists' handbook
9. DISPLAYS and exhibitions
"A picture paints a thousand words."
You can put on a display in any public place, such as a library, entrance to a civic building, hospital, university, (catering) college, school, or as part of a larger exhibition. It's very cheap and easy to do, and requires almost no maintenance. The same display can be reused and improved over the years to come.
The simplest display is some posters and leaflets stuck on a wall. Aim to use lots of photos and big pictures, and the odd chart or graph, and go easy on detailed writing. Aim to get people's attention with photos and cartoons and give them enough food for thought to get some literature or take some action. Or at the very least sow seeds of understanding, empathy and compassion.
Display boards are very nice, but unfortunately very expensive also. A small set costs hundreds of pounds. See if you can scrounge some for your display from a charity or someone else who does displays. Or make your own by buying (or scrounging, if you are lucky) some large pieces of strong, light wood, roughly 2m by 1m. Cover each one with thick, tear-resistant material, preferably unpatterned and dark in colour. Then join them together with hinges, two or three to each join.
Use a word processor or coloured pens to make captions for photos and drawings, and to make big headings for each section of your display. Different coloured paper can be used for each section, and you can use big sheets of paper as a background. If someone can draw or knows about design, get them involved.
Go easy with text. Lots of leaflets with small writing will be hard work to read. Cut out the pictures and type the best bits again in big letters, or put the leaflets as a small part of the display for those who have time or inclination to read in detail. People can always come back later for another look.
GOOD TOPICS ARE:
Live exports. Show the separation from mothers and say that the animals cry for days, the facts about overcrowding, distance, stress, dead on arrivals. Show the crates in France that have been illegal in Britain since 1990. Next, and this is the good bit, explain how all this is caused by people drinking milk and then explain the alternatives and how to make them or buy them locally.
Vegetarianism. Do displays on the main reasons that meat is bad: factory farms, slaughter, health, waste of land. Then, or next to each section, show the alternatives. Give ideas of what folk can do to wash their hands of meat, and the benefits to them and nature.
Veganism. Do displays on egg farming, including so-called free range with pictures of male chicks being gassed and crushed, and show what happens to old chickens. Do the same for milk and veal, and draw attention to the death of the dairy cow at only 7 years instead of 20. Show vegan foods such as the new four food groups: grains, pulses, fruit, vegetables. (Not to be confused with the four food groups of the Health Education Council or the four new food groups of the Vegetarian Society, both of which consider dairy (or dairy and soya products) an essential food group; which is, of course, complete and utter bollocks!)
Vegetarian Food. The new four food groups - you can get charts from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine or The American Vegan Society. How to cook beans. Different kinds of bean and products made from soya. Meat replacers like TVP and Cheatin' Ham. Using herbs, spices, soy sauce, garlic and lemon juice. Vegetarian dishes of the great cuisines: India, China, Japan (macrobiotics), Turkey, Mexico, Italy, Middle East.
Heart Disease. Charts showing 50% of meat eaters die of heart disease, 25% of vegetarians, 4% of vegans. Diagrams of the heart and what happens when arteries fur up. What causes furring up. Where saturated fat and cholesterol come from. Foods that are full of fat and sodium. Cholesterol and low fat foods. Why switching from beef to chicken makes almost no difference. Why switching to beans does. Why non-smoking vegans rarely get heart disease. Plant foods with no cholesterol and low fat. Dr Dean Ornish's diet for reversing heart disease. (You can get the facts from Dr Klaper's books and videos.)
Ecology. Get facts from Beyond Beef, The Silent Ark, McLibel literature, and Viva! guides 9 and 12. Draw graphics of how many people a field can feed on different diets. Say there are 25 billion acres of farmland in the world and a meat eater needs 3 acres, whereas a vegan needs 1/4 acre. In the next century population will pass 10 billion. Uh oh! Animal farm effluent causes half of water pollution. Deforestation for beef. Cow farts are potent greenhouse gases. Topsoil loss. Third world poverty and meat.
Nutrition. The six things you need: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, water. The things you don't need like cholesterol, pesticides, BSE. The different food groups and what they contain. What is a balanced diet. Cooked or raw. Major western causes of death and how animal foods cause them. Different diets: omnivore, veggie, vegan, macrobiotic, raw food, fruitarian. Deficiency myths about vegans: protein, calcium, iron, B12. Good sources are Peter Cox's Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Living, Vegan Nutrition, and anything by Dr Klaper.
World Week for Animals in Laboratories, National Vegetarian Week, Veggie Month, or World Vegan Day. Get posters and leaflets from the nationals, and add your own recipes, pictures of celebrity vegetarians, where to get food in your town. Before and after foods like burger/veggieburger. You could display pictures of animal-tested and non-animal tested products.
At the end of your display, put the addresses where people can get more info and ask them to send at least a stamp (unless they're very young). If your budget stretches to it, put some leaflets on a table.
HOW TO WIN PEOPLE's MINDS
by Swiss activist Sigrid De Leo, fulltime teacher and Secretary of the European Vegetarian Union.
I went to the headteacher of the local high school, with 400 students aged 15-20, and asked him whether he would agree to an exhibition "Vegetarianism and Health" in the entrance hall of the school. He agreed on the condition that we would not include publicity for particular products like tofu.
Together with the Swiss Vegetarian Association (SVV) we covered nine poster boards (180cm x 180cm) on both sides with posters. The subjects were: general health, environment, animal welfare, religion and ethics, politics, economics famous vegetarians, quotations of famous vegetarians and prejudices. As well as the written posters, we displayed several photoposters showing fresh fruit and vegetables, and pictures of hens, pigs and cows in dreadful conditions in factory farms. There was a poster in which little pigs were castrated, obviously without anaesthetic, and a big poster with a clean, intelligent looking pig saying "My flesh belongs to me. If you want to eat meat, bite into your own arse."
Some examples of what we have displayed:
1. General Health: the results of longterm studies on vegetarians; statistics on the growing consumption of meat compared to the growing number of diseases. Anatomical comparison of carnivores and fruitarians. Statements and quotations of professors of medicine. Physical and mental fitness. Nutrition and allergies. Iron. Protein.
2. Environment: the consequences of factory farming on soil, water, climate, acid rain, third world.
3. Animal welfare: "Humane slaughter", "Could we not bring up animals without suffering" and other popular misconceptions.
4. Religion and Ethics: quotations from the Bible. The Bible and vegetarianism. Christian religion. General quotations from priests.
5. Politics and Economy: comparison of subsidies for meat and plant production.
6. Famous vegetarians: quotations from Aristotle, Thomas Edison, R.W.Emerson, Gandhi, Aldous Huxley, Rousseau, George Bernard Shaw, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Rudolf Steiner, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy and Voltaire. You can get quotes from living vegetarians from The Vegetarian Society or Viva!
7. Prejudices: "They are only animals," "Humans have always eaten meat", "Humans come first", "Humans are biologically meat-eaters", "I cannot change anything", "Animals eat one another too" and other myths.
Newspapers and the local radio reported the exhibition. We estimate that its message reached nearly two hundred thousand people. For two weeks there were always crowds of people reading or discussing near the posterwalls. There was not a lesson during the two weeks that the students did not discuss with their teachers the vegetarian way of life.
I was approached by mothers who asked me what to cook, because their son or daughter would not eat meat any more after seeing the exhibition.
We are translating all the materials into English, so if anybody has an opportunity to organize an exhibition in a school, university, youth centre or shopping centre, we would gladly pass on our documentation. Just write or give us a call.
Contact: Sigrid De Leo, EVU Secretary, Bluetschwitzerweg 5, 9443 Widnau, Switzerland. Tel/Fax +41-71-722 64 45.
Campaign Against Cruelty An Animal Activists Handbook
available for £4.99 (plus p&p) from Vegetarian Guides