If you haven't heard James Aspey's celebrated pro-vegan speech yet, do your future-self a favour and click play below to experience the short version of it now.
How has this very normal looking and sounding Aussie bloke been so successfully campaigning for veganism around the world for the last couple years? Well, finances aside, one reason is precisely because he looks so "normal", and because of this, it makes him extremely relatable to the masses.
Look at his before and after photos below. You wouldn't think he's vegan if you passed him on the street. And this is perfect for activism, because when someone like this is talking to you so passionately and intelligently about veganism it immediately disarms the prejudice in most people minds about how different vegans are to the general meat-eating population. And when this difference disappears, so does the mental barrier between the audiences current selves and their potential future-vegan-selves.
James Aspey before and after going vegan.
If the image in someone's mind of vegans (most likely put there sometime in their youth by cultural stereotypes being perpetuated in all sorts of media) is something so different from most people who we see on a day to day basis, it's not too surprising they feel comfortable making ridiculous jokes about us. But when it is someone like James speaking so informed and passionately to them instead, flexing his meat-free muscles mid sentence, it's not so easy to cling to these dying stereotypes.
While there are other vegan activists who can look quite normal, most of the time, they don't always behave in ways which would give vegans the best reputation for being "normal" or relatable, or someone who most people would want to be like. This is another area where James shines.
As you can see from one of the many videos on James Aspey's YouTube channel of him talking to meat-eaters in the street about the vast array of benefits of going vegan, he makes a point to make himself relatable. Because, as anyone who's done any sort of street activism knows, if you're not likeable and relatable immediately, no one's listening to you. And without their attention, you can't have any kind of meaningful impact on their life. Below is a short clip of James being very relatable to someone on the street.
On top of this, he always makes a point to be respectful, polite and understanding, all while remaining firm in his pro-vegan stance. He appears to be eternally positive, and never seems to get caught up in the realm of petty personal drama that seems to haunt the vegan youtube community. And I hope this all stays this way, because, even though participating in these dramas can be an easy way to get more followers and views (which on YouTube directly translates into more money), it can detract from spreading the vegan message in the most effective way possible. Which is a way free from negativity and judgement, two of the main ingredients in petty personal drama.
You don't need to be an activist, or even want to be an activist, to learn something from James. Because the reality of the situation is that every vegan is an activist every now and then, for at least a brief moment. When? Whenever someone asks you "why aren't you eating this dead animal like everyone else here?" or any number of similar questions we get asked all the time. This is the chance to be the vegan you wish you met before you went vegan, to be a vegan activists who seems like someone they could easily be themselves in the not too distant future.
Simply unapologetically inform them of the information they do not know, maybe the same unique facts and information that made you turn vegan, or maybe thing you know they'll be into. Speaking about the aspects of veganism that get you the most excited are the ones that you will speak about with the most passion, and speaking in this way about aspects of veganism you know they are into will have the strongest positive impact on them.
All the while you are talking passionately about these subjects remember that there was a time not too long ago when you yourself were in the same position as the people you are talking to - eating meat and eggs and drinking cow's milk while being completely oblivious to the cruel places they came from - so if you really want to have a good shot at helping others realise what you realised in order for you to become vegan, don't act like you're better than them now. Instead, talk to them from a relatable place (which is done by remembering you didn't always now what you know now) while always being respectful, polite and understanding of their current situation, all while remaining firm in your pro-vegan stance. Like James does... most of the time.
Lastly, don't be shy or hesitant to talk about these things through fear of negative social feedback. It is exactly talking about them as much as possible (in the correct way of course, as briefly described above - more detail can be found here) that spreads the vegan message as far and wide as possible. In my experience, the best time to talk about it is when someone else brings it up.
Increase the Peace, Love and Plants and get in respectful conversations with people about this stuff as much as you can.
You can connect with James on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and his website. You can also support his awesome work by purchasing one or more of his shirts here.
I've also mentioned James Aspey in a blog post about The 5 Most Influential Vegan YouTubers, and another one about The Top 5 Drama-Free Vegan YouTubers.