|Founder||Matt Ball and Jack Norris|
|Type||501(c)(3) non-profit organization|
|Focus||Veganism and animal advocacy|
Vegan Outreach is an American grassroots animal rights advocacy group working to promote veganism through the widespread distribution of printed informational booklets. As of March 2010, over 11 million hard copies of the group's brochures have been handed out by members of Vegan Outreach around the world. Originally known as Animal Liberation Action (ALA), the group was founded by Matt Ball and Jack Norris in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1993.
Vegan Outreach is currently one of Animal Charity Evaluators' Standout Charities.
As members of the Animal Rights Community of Cincinnati, Matt Ball and Jack Norris (along with Phil Murray, now co-owner of Pangea Vegan Products) spent the winter of 1990–1991 holding fur protests outside cultural events. Their focus turned to vegetarianism in 1992, and the Animal Rights Community of Cincinnati funded the printing and distribution of 10,000 pro-vegetarian flyers entitled Vegetarianism. In June 1993, twelve activists—including Ball and Norris—held a three-day "Fast for Farm Animals" in front of a Cincinnati slaughterhouse. On the last day of the fast, some of the protesters took a large banner reading "Stop Eating Animals" to the University of Cincinnati campus.
Following this event, Ball and Norris formed Animal Liberation Action (ALA) and started a campaign of holding "Stop Eating Animals" banners on street corners. In 1994, ALA developed a booklet called And Justice For All. It focused on the reasons to adopt a vegan diet, focusing on the abuse of the animals involved. The following year, ALA's name was officially changed to Vegan Outreach.
In their June 1998 newsletter, Vegan Outreach published an essay by Ball called "Veganism as the Path to Animal Liberation" (now called "Activism and Veganism Reconsidered".) This article questioned the priorities of the animal rights movement, in part by pointing out that ~99 percent of all animals killed in the U.S. died to be eaten, while only a small minority of the movement's attention went to exposing factory farms and promoting vegetarianism. The essay also argued against the movement's focus on trying to get media attention through protests. It also questioned the effectiveness of civil disobedience and direct action, and a perceived tendency towards self-delusion and dogmatism in vegetarian and animal rights promotion. Until veganism was more widespread, Ball argued, animal liberation could not succeed on any major front. The essay shaped Vegan Outreach's guiding principals of advocacy.
New booklets were developed in 1999 and 2000, including a Vegetarian Starter Guide (now the Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating) for people who were interested in following a vegetarian diet, and Vegetarian Living (later Try Vegetarian) which fewer graphic photos contained in the Why Vegan brochure. In 2001, over 330,000 copies of Why Vegan and Vegetarian Living were distributed. In the fall of 2003, Vegan Outreach launched its Adopt-A-College (AAC) program, the animal advocacy movement's first systematic attempt to reach large numbers of students in the United States and Canada in an organized way. The program's first year saw 22,000 brochures distributed at 63 schools; most recently, 486,219 brochures were distributed at 692 schools during the fall 2009 semester. As AAC started to grow, Vegan Outreach was able to hire a new employee, Jon Camp, to focus on leafleting at colleges. In his first two years of employment with the group, he handed out over 145,000 brochures. As of March 2010, Camp is Vegan Outreach's all-time leading leafleter, having reached over 570,000 individuals with VO literature.
In 2005, VO printed their new brochure, Even If You Like Meat (EIYLM). VO explained the new booklet in this way:
After many years of leafleting, we realized that students had started to erect a number of mental barriers to prevent them from seriously considering their part in supporting factory farming and slaughterhouses. ... One major barrier is that people have convinced themselves that boycotting animal cruelty has to be an all or nothing proposition, and, since they cannot go all the way, they will do nothing. Thus, a big emphasis of EIYLM is to let people know that not supporting cruelty does not have to be an "all or nothing" proposition. Any amount of animal food reduction helps prevent suffering.
Another problem we encountered was that people would see the word "vegan" or "vegetarian" on our flyers and assume we were just do-gooder busybodies trying to get them to improve their health, so they would not take a flyer. With EIYLM, we put pictures of factory farms on the front of the brochure so people would immediately see we were talking about a serious social issue in which animals were being treated cruelly.
Anne Green was hired full-time as Vegan Outreach's Director of Programs and Development in 2007, after many years of unofficially contributing to the planning and management of the organization. In 2009, Ball, along with Bruce Friedrich, published The Animal Activist's Handbook.
VO has also hired other leafleters; currently, in addition to Jon, Brian Grupe, Nikki Benoit, Fred Tyler, Vic Sjodin, and Eileen Botti are all associated with VO in some way in early 2010. Hundreds of others also leaflet for the animals.
Today, Vegan Outreach continues its mission of disseminating this information on college campuses and at other venues across the globe. Their brochures have been distributed in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, ten Canadian territories and provinces, Mexico, and numerous other countries (including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Taiwan).
Animal Charity Evaluators has named Vegan Outreach as one of its Standout Charities since May 2014. ACE designates as Standout Charities those organizations which they do not feel are as strong as their Top Charities, but which excel in at least one way and are exceptionally strong compared to animal charities in general.
In their November 2016 review, ACE lists Vegan Outreach's strengths as a leafletting program with a strong track record, its cooperation with other groups, and focus on effectiveness in planning changes to interventions. Their weaknesses include, according to ACE, a possible over-reliance on poor source of evidence in evaluating the effectiveness of leafleting, and a lack of a successful track record in the new programs they are trying to implement (e.g., online ads). Vegan Outreach's focus on outreach targeted at individuals may also be a limitation.
Vegan Outreach was an ACE Top Charity from August 2012 to May 2014.