Monday, January 3, 2011


It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.
—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

I don't like approaching people I don't know. In fact, I have trouble with people in general. I'm an introvert and find social interaction to be exhausting. It's not that I don't enjoy it, because sometimes I really do, but it's something that I have to work at and that leaves me ready for a lengthy nap.

Accordingly, I never fancied myself as a person who would do outreach with strangers. My sister is one of those people and has spent the past few years touring with musical acts and talking to kids and teenagers about animal rights. That sounds terrifying to me.

But really, how bad can it be? A few hours approaching strangers? Even if they're completely rude to you, that's about the worst you can expect to happen. That's why I committed to buying fliers from Vegan Outreach last August when Erik Marcus posted that month's list for Commitment Tuesday. I immediately and publicly committed to buying, reading and donating the books. That was easy.

It took a few days, but I settled on buying some fliers to have on hand when people asked me questions. But it didn't quite work out that way. The Vegan Outreach team got in touch to make sure that I knew what resources were available to me, and how to find on-going leafleting in my area. Then, I received an email from Jon Camp, Outreach Coordinator, saying that he'd be leafleting at Bowie State University, which is just down the road from my house, if I wanted to join.

That was the game-changer. I read The Animal Activist's Handbook, which was invaluable in its advice, but the opportunity to go with a veteran for my first time really motivated me.

In my email exchanges with Jon, he said something that made all the difference in the world:
I should also note that I'm not some great extrovert. But I found there to be a great need for those who do outreach and I've been overwhelmed by how positive it can be and what great feedback we receive as a result of it. So it's important to remember that the hardest booklet to hand out is the first. And it gets easier and easier from there. So if you don't think much about the first booklet, you should be good to go.

So I made arrangements to leave work early one cool November Monday, and set off to Bowie State with one of my favorite vegan buddies to join Jon.

Jon was a nice guy who gave us a few pointers. I think he could tell I was nervous, so he said, "I'm just going to let you go ahead and give out that first one." So I did. Jon relinquished his spot to us, and headed a few yards away to reach another segment of traffic.

Honestly, the first 20 minutes crawled by. I felt apprehensive and weird and kept glancing at the huge tower clock above me, hoping that the hour I'd promised would fly by.

But the source of my pain was not the passersby. Everyone was nice to me. The worst I got was an occasional, and polite, "No, thank you." One man did walk by, loudly saying, "Birds are such bastards and should be dipped in acid," but he wasn't saying it to us. He was being passive-aggressive and that doesn't upset me.

In fact, the response was largely positive. People took fliers happily, read them, talked about them, and a few even sought me out and asked about them. People expressed love for animals and dismay at the information in the pamphlets. It was a rewarding event in the end.

Honestly I don't think I'll become the star leafleter of any organization, but between the three of us, we handed out over 300 leaflets on that campus, and that's a start. Even if I never become comfortable with it, isn't an hour or two a month of discomfort worth it to educate people about the cause I love?

So how about you? Do you think you could approach strangers with a smile on your face and ask them if they'd be interested in some "info to help animals?" I think you can. So why don't you check out the resources below and give it a shot. If there's an organization you really like, why not ask them if they do leafleting and get involved? If the thought of leafleting leaves you queasy, why not order a few to have on hand for when someone asks about your ethics? Answering a few questions is great, but putting information in their hands is even better.

Even if you think you know what to do, read this first. The Animal Activist's Handbook will answer so many questions, give you good ideas, and help you understand how to approach and talk to people. I can talk to people well, despite being an introvert, but this book really opened my eyes to effective outreach techniques.

Handing out leaflets requires one thing above all others - leaflets. Vegan Outreach has a few different designs, so look for one that suits you. I really like "Compassionate Choices." A lot of people expressed adoration for the happy animals on the front, and then realized once they looked inside that such adoration made the reality of factory farming more difficult to face. I also handed out "Even If You Like Meat" and Jon gave me some "Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating" for people who had questions.

Spare farmed animals: Leaflet campuses! Adopt a college near you—it’s not just for students! Click here for details.

If working with Vegan Outreach is appealing to you, and you live near a college, check out their Adopt A College program. College kids have the time to stand around and talk to you, and so many schools have established programs that you can probably join some experienced leafleters.

As scary as leafleting may seem, it really is one of the quickest and most effective ways to spread your message. Give it a go once. Worst case scenario you decide not to do it again, but my bet is that you'll be happy to have done it and be looking forward to doing it again.

 Make a difference for animals! Click here to subscribe to Vegan Outreach’s FREE weekly enewsletter


  1. Great and inspiring post, Lauren! And you and Steve were outstanding at leafleting! I'll be calling on the two of you when I next go to Bowie State!

  2. Way to get out there and try something new! In many cases the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Thanks for your efforts, I hope you continue to be active with Vegan Outreach.

    Brian Grupe

  3. Great work and inspiring words. Thanks for getting out there for the animals!

  4. I just got done with my first day leafleting as well and I totally see where you are coming from. A lot of people have a hard time convincing their Uncle Joe to be veg, when they could be doing so much more convincing strangers in this moslty hands-off approach - you don't have to try to make them see the truth, the brochure does it for you.

    Great job! I'll be back doing it, too. The most worthwhile commitment to the animals there is to make now that I am vegan. The next step.

  5. Please fix the "leaflets" link. There's an extraneous double quote on it. Cheers!

  6. Great writing Lauren. I too tend to be a pretty shy person by nature, but the amount of suffering and death that we can prevent by overcoming our introvert tendencies makes it clear to me that this is work I need to do. My discomfort in asking people to withdraw their support from the brutality of modern farming pales in comparision to what the victims of that system go through. So leafleting I go each week.

  7. Way to go, this is such important work! I will be sharing this article with my shy volunteers.

  8. Thank you everyone. I'm working on becoming a serous activist this year and am kicking it off with a month of activism blogging.

    Leafleting was a rewarding experience and I already plan on going again at the end of January. If anyone's thinking of doing it, I really encourage you to. It's not hard and the payoff is huge, for both you and the animals.

    Vegan Aide, congratulations on your first experience with leafletting! I'm so glad to hear you'll continue. :)

    Twiggyfan, every week? I'm impressed and inspired!

  9. Hi Candy thank you for sharing your "first Time" with us...I am Paris, the volunteer coordinator for the Christian Vegetarian Association
    I set up leafleters all over the world to distribute our booklet "Would Jesus Eat Meat Today?". I would love to copy your post to my newsletter for encouragement.
    Would that be ok with you? Our first timers would be very appreciative!
    FYI: The CVA is a 6000+ member, non-denominational, 501C not for profit that encourages plant-based food choices to promote humane care for animals, health, and the environment. You can read a copy of the booklet at the link.
    You can reach me at
    Thank you again,
    Pea's and hominy

  10. yeah, Vegan edu Leafleting is simple/easy and fun, and a good way to connect with other Vegans and Vegetarians: b/c they often announce/identify themselves when they see what the Vegan edu Leafleter is handing out. There are various benefits: natural exercise being on your feet strolling about extending one's arms to offer valuable beneficial gift. i find it a pleasant way for gaining more comfort with out-going social skills that carries over into other aspects of my Life. thanks for being a writing messenger; and i am grateful to all vegan Edu team-mates however they choose to creatively go about spreading good word. i enjoy the good feeling in heart/soul knowing i am making positive impact to many inter-connected ethics issues: feeding hungry humanity directly on the grains freed up from not cycling plant foods thru animal flesh factory farming, for example. saving forests from clear-cutting for quick grazing profits that turn it into dead hard-pan desert from once lush moist rain-forests, which preserves bio-diversity for all good things many plants can do for us, habitat for flora/fauna, oxygenated air via photo-synthesis.
    since vegans/vegetarians are gonna be eating avocados and peaches, please plant all the pits to make new fruiting trees ! that becomes convenient vegan free fast food ! ;-D
    Loquat seeds and sapote' seeds too ! if you eat seasonal fresh figs direct from trees, then note those trees and return winter and early spring to prune cuttings to plant new fig tree saplings! i can show vegan str8edgers these simply propagation techniques if/when visit santa cruz, CA.

  11. you are so adorable. i loved reading this post and look forward to reading more of your blog! you are my hero!

  12. This was a useful article

    While many Americans and vegans are not introverts, they do have a thing about approaching strangers. I think that cuts down on the number of leafleters that the AR community could have.

    More articles like this could draw more people out to pitch in.

  13. Littlestar, that's a great point - it is a great way to meet other animal-rights-minded people. I've been looking to expand my network.

    Thank you Lisa :)

    Thanks Beforewisdom, I'm working on some of my shy vegan buddies to come out with me sometime and give it a try.

  14. I have a similar personality. The first time I leafleted with someone, I thought it was very rewarding in the end also. But then when I had to do it alone, and even when I was with someone else, I was still so uncomfortable. I found it hard to hand out any leaflets!

    But I've found that it's the approach aspect of leafleting that makes me uncomfortable. I'm afraid of getting in someone's face and pushing something on them, even though I know it's necessary. I was much more comfortable when I got to table with someone who was leafleting, so that only the interested people came up to me for more information and I could have good conversations with them.

    If you don't get comfortable, you should look into doing that. You can easily get a table in many public places; you just have to ask.

  15. That's a really great idea, lowbudgeveg! I know the organic store near me lets people table for things all the time so I should check with them.

    It could also be a good stepping stone for people who are nervous to try. They can practice talking to people about the subject and maybe eventually graduate to leafleting.