Recommended Narratives

Based on our research, here are 15 ways you can improve your ability to connect with the general public.

Evolving Together

Describing a gradual transition across society

Consumer-Voter Conversion

A meat eater embraces the cause.

“Humane” Deception

“It’s no secret” that humane labels are deceptive.

Open Your Heart

An explicit appeal to listen to our emotions.

Trailblazing a Better Way

The innovators making a slaughter-free future possible.

Stuck in the Past

Unmasking the bucolic family farmer.

Level the Playing Field

How to talk about federal subsidies.

Denying Natural Behaviors

The public’s frame for thinking about farming conditions.

Bloody Industry

Addressing the unique harms to slaughterhouse workers

Sounding the Alarm

Framing up data about animal farming and the climate

Our first recommendation, Evolving Together, isn’t so much a narrative as a way of talking about what we want. 

Some animal advocates say they want to focus on “systems change” rather than consumer change, but the public doesn’t understand this vocabulary. Because people are accustomed to thinking about food as consumers, we need new language to talk about animal freedom as a civic issue.

The evolving together message accomplishes this using language the public understands.

This narrative shows meat eaters how they can embrace animal freedom as a political cause.

Character(s): A highly relatable "average Joe" meat-eater, especially from demographics not typically associated with veganism and animal rights.

Plot: The main character experiences a shift in perspective from thinking of veganism as an ineffective or unnecessary consumer action, to thinking of animal freedom as a necessary social evolution.

Point of View: Average meat-eaters (the audience’s own point of view).

Values: Collective action for a bright future; responsible stewardship of the planet.

Key words/phrases: right direction

The key to calling out the humane deception is asserting that its dishonesty is common knowledge. Nobody wants to be the only one falling for a trick.

Character(s): Deceptive marketers; the public.

Plot: The secret gets out that “humane” meat is just a deceptive marketing ploy.

Setting: Day-to-day life, a factory farm, or a sanctuary

Point of View: Average meat-eaters (the audience’s own point of view).

Values: Being informed (as opposed to ignorance)

Key words/phrases: it’s no secret; no humane way

People often see emotional appeals as manipulative. Address this head-on and remind people that emotions are useful information about ethical decisions.

Character(s): A person of moral leadership

Plot: We have all been shutting off our emotions and ignoring our moral instincts, but now we have a chance to correct that mistake.

Values: Compassion

Key words/phrases: heart; disgust 

When telling the stories of entrepreneurs and scientists, it’s important for them to talk about why they’re doing what they’re doing. They should especially name wanting to do something about animal suffering. Because they’re focusing on solutions that don’t implicate consumers, these people make great messengers for animal ethics.

Character(s): Scientists, farmers, and other food system innovators

Plot: An visionary innovator shows that an animal-free food system is possible.

Setting: Animal product alternative lab, transitioning farm, etc.

Point of View: A visionary person who can clearly see a brighter future

Values: Innovation, modernism, equity, optimism

The industry loves to tell a fiction about rugged farmers whose families have been working the land for generations. People who come from that world are the best messengers to pull back the curtain.

Character(s): Reactionary animal farmers and one reformed animal farmer

Plot: Someone who grew up on a farm or around farmers rejects the farmer legacy argument

Setting: Rural area (perhaps where the economy is being revitalized by a modern industry)

Point of View: A former animal farmer or child of farmers who has left the industry

Values: modernity, rationality

Example narrative:

Barney Lewis, who came from four generations of cattle ranchers, isn’t who you might think of as a typical advocate. “A lot of my neighbors are still clinging to this worn out image of the heroic family farmer struggling to make a living off the land,” Lewis explained to a curious local. “But that just ain’t how it happens anymore. Everything’s gotten big. Some people still call themselves ‘family farmers’ when they have a multimillion dollar operation with 10,000 cows packed into a tiny feedlot. Other farmers are genuinely struggling, but it’s because they’re trapped in a cycle of endless debt to Purdue or Tyson. For those folks, switching to crops can be a way to escape that cycle.”

Federal subsidies to massive agribusinesses are widely seen as unfair. It isn’t easy, but advocates can explain these subsidies and link them to sought-after local policies.

Character(s): Corrupt government and corporate officials engaging in backroom deals; an underdog calling for more fairness in the food system.

Plot: Crooked corporations conspire with politicians to get an unfair advantage from subsidies, but now voters can correct the balance to help a benevolent underdog.

Setting: Government, halls of power.

Point of View: Inside the system (trying to change it from within)

Values: Fair competition, especially in business; aligning responsibility with affordability.

Key words/phrases: level the playing field; responsible/affordable; food deserts

Most of the public thinks about the conditions of farmed animals through the lens of natural behaviors. Focus on the fact that all modern animal farming is incompatible with natural behaviors.

Character(s): animals, animal behavior experts

Plot: animals used for food would have rich social lives, but modern farms deny them the ability to live natural lives

Setting: Sanctuaries, factory farms

Values: naturalism, respect for animals

Key words/phrases: no humane way

The public’s response to messages about the exploitation of workers often involves the fact that workers are exploited in all industries. Animals and animal farming get lost in what they see as a larger issue. To remedy this, advocates should focus only on harms unique to a job that involves so much killing.

Character(s): A former slaughterhouse worker or contract farmer

Plot: One worker’s experience demonstrates the inherent violence of the industry

Point of View: human suffering inside the industry

Values: compassion, justice/equity

This narrative packages data in stories of scientists whose research has been ignored by the establishment. Packaging complex data in a story can make the takeaways much more memorable. We also need to explain to people why they’ve heard so much about fossil fuels in relation to climate change and so little about animal farming. Without explaining that, many people will reject this information.

Character(s): A whistleblowing scientist

Plot: A scientist urgently tries to share the message that a key driver of the climate crisis is being overlooked

Key words/phrases: comparison to fossil fuels, green energy, and electric cars

In order to win over the public, we must replace the consumer frame, address common rationalizations, and lay out a credible path to a future without slaughterhouses.

Wait, where did all these come from? →