Vegetarians, beware! You can’t save animals by judgment and transformation

Vegetarians are opportunistic, humorless, moral, inflexible, relentless people who scream “meat is killing” all the time. If this is the image of people who do not eat animals, this is confirmed and refuted by Tobias Lennart (1973) in the same book: Towards a vegan world.

The Flemish co-founder of ProVeg International, an organization that wants to reduce animal consumption, is vegan. This book is also written for vegetarians. But this is different from preaching to your parish. Lennart speaks sternly to his activist supporters: Stop judging and diverting, because you can’t save animals with that. If you want to have an impact, you will get more pragmatism than idealism.

The book was published in English in 2017 and has been updated and supplemented by a Dutch translation after nine translations. for a vegetarian world It is clearly not intended to strengthen the beliefs of vegans, they are already quite adept at it themselves. It reads like a self-help book for vegan activists. Linert understands the moral struggles of vegans when they have to swallow their moral arguments, and helps them feel better about a more effective kind of activity.

Lennart hasn’t eaten meat, fish, eggs, milk, or any other animal products for 25 years, but he doesn’t ask the bartender what ingredients are in his wine. It’s realistic enough to know that most people won’t follow it (1.4 percent of Dutch consider themselves vegetarian). And not to convince carnivores with stories about the injustice done to animals.

It shows with a graph how most vegetarians primarily view others. The x-axis is a scale from no meat to vegetarian one day per week. The y-axis explains the reasons for not eating meat: from “no reason” to animal suffering. There are angry emojis at almost all intersections, only a pure vegetarian who finds eating animals morally reprehensible deserves a smile. It’s an ironic depiction of a vegan who only tolerates one type of vegan: people who constantly do the right thing for the right reason.


Perhaps Lennert, despite his humor and pragmatism, was from the bottom of his heart. Anyway, it starts with an unfortunate metaphor. Viganville is located on top of the mountain, where vegetarians live. Carnivores live at the bottom of the mountain. The road to ascent, from meat-eating to vegetarian, is difficult and full of obstacles. What Leenaert wants to say is: We have to help people on their way to Viganville. But the image of those chosen at the top rather confirms the suspicion of carnivores that vegetarians feel like better people: they are morally awake, and have the strength and stamina to do the right thing.

It doesn’t really matter in his argument whether Leenaert feels superior to a carnivore. He’s not trying to prove that vegetarians are right. In fact, he uses a variety of research to show how it can backfire if you trigger feelings of guilt, fear (no more good food) and the wrath of meat eaters.

As the founder of ProVeg, he knows that the imperative to “go vegan” will convince fewer people than offering delicious vegan recipes and affordable meat alternatives. He has learned from behavioral psychologists, from marketers, and from other activist movements. Lennert is clearly indebted to writers like Matt Ball and Melanie Joy, who have previously written pamphlets with which animal activists can increase their influence. He gives generous credit to everyone who influenced him.

Leenaert knows that most vegans (just like others) only listen to give their own answers. But to reach people, you have to be genuinely interested, ask questions, and constantly realize: You are not your audience. Not everyone becomes a vegetarian after watching horror movies from the slaughterhouse. It is not easy for everyone to cook vegetarian food. And hardly anyone is a vegetarian overnight. For many people, behavior comes first, then faith, so support meat eaters every step of the way to cut back.

Not being rude is, if you read it this way, harder for vegans than never to eat cheese again. Leenaert helps them with tips like: Admit that you’re not perfect and remember that you once ate meat yourself. “We have to get on our feet,” Lennart wrote, lest we sound more accusatory than we mean. We need to put carnivores at ease.

Effective altruism

Leenaert has only one goal: to help more animals. With all available resources. If people only want to eat vegan for their health or the climate? Fine. If you get to more people eating soy burgers at ten regular restaurants than at one entirely vegan restaurant: focus on that. If major meat producers start making vegetarian sausages? See the capitalist as your ally. Embrace influencers who are in your eyes bogus vegans, don’t call them hypocrites and accept that being completely consistent is impossible. By the way, animal liberation – a method that the Animal Liberation Front finds justified – is not among them. If only because radical actions denigrate the entire movement – not effectively.

How far should you go as a pragmatist in what seems to be a betrayal of the ideal? Leenaert only seems to dare give the answer after 182 pages: Suppose a meat eater starts eating three times as much meat every time someone becomes a vegetarian, then “I would be tempted to start eating animal products again because a vegan would It causes more suffering.”

Dutch translation of How to make a vegan world It comes at a time when the “effective altruism” advocated by Lennart has been popular in the vegan movement for some time. An angry hate man on Twitter sometimes raves about how disgusting meat eaters are, but most professional vegetarians are friendly people who carefully ignore the V-word and make gentle pushes toward a plant-based lifestyle.

Perhaps this updated version is more interesting in the meatloaf than in the vegans. Not only to understand how their opponents actually think, but also to learn from their approach. Meat fighters may wish they had Tobias Lennart.

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