Dr Melanie Joy on CEVA
Dr Melanie Joy is a co-founder of ProVeg International, an activist, psychologist and author of several books on veganism. Her work has inspired animal advocates across the globe and she has taken many of her experiences and used them to craft training for vegan activists alongside fellow ProVeg founder, Tobias Leenaert. The Centre for Effective Vegan Advocacy (CEVA), is coming to the UK for the second time this September and ahead of the event, we decided to have a chat with her about the training and why it is so important for vegans to be able to communicate effectively.
Why do you think being an effective advocate is so important?
Being an effective advocate is so important because they really are the engine of the movement. When we improve the effectiveness of advocates, we improve the effectiveness of the movement as a whole; the movement is only as effective as its advocates. People can also be counterproductive; we can be effective we can be ineffective, and we can be counterproductive, we really work to offset counterproductive behaviours in our advocacy and increase effective behaviour.
What skills do you hope the trainees come away with?
Really, it is about developing a new set of skills or an improved set of skills about how to navigate the complicated process of communicating about veganism, with people who are offensive especially, but really with all people. Greater self-awareness and more sustainability, the ability to stay in the movement for the long haul and more collegiality, more of an ability to communicate effectively, not just with non-vegans but also with other vegans which I think is critical to strengthening the movement.
Is there a common theme for attendees in how they feel after the training?
It’s not a ‘feel’ per se, we have our attendees fill out anonymous evaluation forms after every training and the common feedback that we get is that advocates find the trainings empowering, inspiring and re-energising. They feel like they have new tools, that will decrease the chances that they will burn out and increase the chances that they will be more effective and happier in their advocacy.
How do you think that your work and Tobias work complement each other?
My focus is more psychological and focuses more on self-care, advocacy strategies and communication. Tobias has a broader focus, he looks at a variety of different areas.
What is driving the movement at the moment?
I think that there are a lot of different factors; advocates have access to more training, not just in our training but there is loads out there where advocates can actually learn how to be effective. There was almost nothing like this in the past for advocacy. As the movement is growing there is a larger community of advocates, there are more professional organisations emerging, more knowledge about how to advocate and how to actually build a social justice movement. There are so many different components: clean meat for example; new vegan products; the conversation is broadening to look at how carnism and speciesism connect with race and gender and other isms and that’s not new but that conversation is being taken more seriously.
Could the movement be shaped more productively?
Yes absolutely. There is a lot of infighting in the movement and ways that vegans think about and communicate with each other that is problematic. I’m working on some writing around that right now actually, I think that communication amongst vegans can be very much improved. It needs to become a safer space for vegans. We need to move away from a toxic moral perfectionism that can cause problems for sustainability in the movement.
Why should the UK come out in force to the CEVA training?
There are a lot of vegans in the UK, there is a lot of advocacy. The culture in many ways means that non-vegans are ready and more receptive to this, so it is really the time to be having this conversation and taking this conversation to the next level. We even get feedback from seasoned vegans who come to the training who have deepened their understanding of issues they were aware of or they learn about issues that they hadn’t been aware of before and learn new techniques in order to deal with these. All of us, including myself, learn from every training as well, listening to people, there is a lot of wisdom in the room, so it’s not just about connecting with me and Tobias, it is about connecting with other people who are committed to increasing their impact, doing more good for animals.
CEVA is taking place from 1st – 2nd September 2018 at Bankside House in London. For more information and to book your place visit Eventbrite.
Interview by Amy Odene, Campaign Manager, ProVeg UK.