A Practical Guide to Effective Leafleting
Imagine the difference we could make for animals if more of us leafleted on a regular basis. Follow these helpful tips for getting involved in this easy, enjoyable and simple form of animal activism.
Step 1) Getting Started
Many potential activists are reluctant to begin leafleting, as they feel uncomfortable approaching strangers. Don’t worry, as you are not alone! Getting over your initial fear of advocacy is easy, yet crucial, as the animals desperately need as many dedicated and effective advocates speaking up on their behalf as possible. Here are some simple tips to ease your nerves and help you get started:
- Start by attending an existing leafleting event. If you live in a community where vegan outreach events occur, shadow a more experienced leafleter at first until you grow more comfortable. To find upcoming MFA leafleting events in your area, click here
- The first time will be the most challenging; leafleting becomes easier and easier every time. The more frequently you leaflet, the more natural and comfortable it feels.
- Keep in mind that most people will in fact accept literature from you, particularly when it is presented with a smile. And any turndown will likely be followed by someone who gladly accepts your offer of a brochure. It’s a numbers game – the more literature you pass out, the more animals you can help. If someone rejects your literature, quickly move on to the next person.
- You don't have to know all the answers; basic knowledge of factory farming and the ethical reasons for going vegan are all you need to be a successful leafleter. Although people are sometimes interested in discussing the issues in more depth, you will rarely be "interrogated" on your knowledge of the issues; a basic familiarity with factory farming and good intentions are almost always sufficient for a constructive leafleting event.
- Remember your motivation. You're making a real difference for animals. Keep in mind that your efforts for an hour or two will likely result in one, two or more new vegetarians, which will in turn help to reduce the suffering of countless farmed animals.
Step 2) Finding an Ideal Location
High foot-traffic locations are the best places to leaflet. With that in mind, consider the following places:
- On or near college campuses or high schools
- Outside of subway, bus or train stations - especially during rush hours
- In busy public parks or squares - especially during lunch hour
- Outside of concerts - before or after the show
- Outside of Earth Day events, arts shows, gay pride festivals, community festivals and sporting events. Most city or local commerce websites include a year-long calendar of upcoming festivals, parades and other area attractions.
Be creative; many successful leafleters have found unique opportunities, such as the local appearance of a political candidate on a campaign tour or outside a book signing, that are ideal places for handing out vegan literature.
Step 3) Distributing the Best Literature
Mercy For Animals offers various educational pamphlets, ideal for leafleting events.
- "Why Love One But Eat the Other?" is a brief, but highly effective, pamphlet that presents people with that most basic of questions: Why do we love our dogs (and other companion animals), yet abuse and eat chickens, cattle and pigs?
- "Vegetarian Eating: Healthy, Humane and Sustainable" is ideal for events where non-graphic material is desirable. While it contains no images of suffering animals, it still supplies the basic reasons (ethical, health and environmental) for switching to a vegetarian diet.
Vegan Outreach, an organization focused exclusively on providing resources to activists nationwide for leafleting events, also offers a number of compelling publications:
Step 4) Recruit a Friend
- Double the impact, double the fun. While many veteran leafleters are comfortable hitting the streets on their own, most newcomers prefer to find friends or fellow activists to make the event more enjoyable and effective. Contact other interested activists and plan a leafleting event around an appropriate location or venue (such as a concert or simply a rush hour time near a busy train station) that is convenient for everyone.
Step 5) Dress to Impress: Looking the Part
Because most people quickly form opinions about other individuals based on their initial impressions, it is important to consider how your appearance can help, or hinder, your efforts advocating on behalf of animals. Your interaction with each leaflet recipient will likely be mere seconds, so make it count! Some good rules to consider are:
- Dress professionally and be well-groomed. Because we are asking people to reconsider their food choices – a deeply personal and ingrained habit – many individuals will be looking for every excuse to dismiss the messenger as "strange," "crazy" or "different" from them.
Because our goal is to speak up on behalf of animals, and not highlight our "individuality" during outreach events, it’s crucial that our appearance help spread the message, not be a distraction or barrier.
- Dress for your audience. Your attire should convey the message to your audience: "I'm just like you." Although dressing professionally is appropriate for most mainstream outreach opportunities, it's important to always consider your audience before jumping into your kakis and button-up. For example, while having a pink, spiked Mohawk might be inappropriate for outreach at a conservative convention, it could be incredibly helpful during outreach efforts at a rock concert. Wearing a sports jersey while doing outreach at a sporting event can increase reception, while wearing a rainbow shirt can help generate goodwill during a gay pride event.
Step 6) What to Say: Speaking with Integrity
Leafleting is a chance to reach people and engage in meaningful one-on-one contact that helps spread our message of compassion. Although no expert knowledge is required, it helps to keep the following in mind when interacting with the public:
- Opening hearts with an opening line. Many experienced leafleters have found that a well-crafted "opening line" will increase the chances of passersby accepting literature and actually reading it, rather than discarding or dismissing the information. Some effective "opening lines" include: "Information on helping animals?" and "Information on vegetarian eating?" Find what works best for you.
A genuine smile, eye contact and friendly tone also do wonders at increasing acceptance rates.
- Be prepared to discuss the issue further at times. Many people will express interest and it is often well worth some additional time spent discussing the benefits of vegetarianism with them. Many times, you can simply refer people to the printed and on-line resources. Consider carrying a few copies of MFA's Vegetarian Starter Kit to give to individuals who seem particularly interested in the issues.
An exhaustive knowledge of all of the issues is not necessary, but on those rare occasions when you don't have the answer to a specific question, it is okay to say "I don't know."
- You're an ambassador for a vegetarian diet and are a face of animal activism. Always be positive, polite and encouraging. You might be the first vegetarian this passerby has ever met – leave them with a good impression. The animals deserve it.
- Avoid arguing or exerting too much energy with those who are instantly hostile or looking to "push your buttons." It is inevitable that some members of the public will be averse to our message and looking for ways to argue. If you are confronted with someone who is mainly interested in debating, try to politely move on as soon as possible. It is a better use of your time to interact with those who are more interested in learning than arguing with you or contradicting you.
- Be helpful and encouraging. Frequently, people will express interest in going vegetarian or vegan, but be doubtful of their ability to do so. This is your chance to offer support.
For instance, if someone says, "Oh, I could never imagine going vegetarian, I eat so much meat," you can say: "Why not try it gradually? Go vegetarian one day a week at first, or try making one meal each day a vegetarian one." Many other people will immediately focus on the one or two foods they could "never" give up, such as cheese or ice cream. Besides - or instead of - emphasizing the vegan versions of these foods, you can also encourage a vegan-to-be by saying, "Why not give up everything BUT cheese at first?"
These approaches will help on two levels: one, you are making it an easier transition for them by emphasizing that it can be a gradual process, and two, you are helping to represent our movement in a positive way, by acknowledging that the vegan lifestyle will not be judgmental or intolerant of others who are in the process of transitioning to a pure vegetarian diet.