Vegan Outreach and “The Power of One”

The Power of One: Talking Tofurky with Jon Camp of Vegan Outreach.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Jon Camp has accomplished something that no other human being on the planet has done: Jon has personally handed out 1,000,000 brochures filled with vital  information about where our food comes from, and the power and influence those food choices have on animals and the planet. Jon recently celebrated this milestone, and he kindly took a break from leafleting to speak with Talking Tofurky.

Talking Tofurky (TT): We are honored to have this time with you, Jon. So, tell us a little about yourself and your work with Vegan Outreach. What does it mean to be the “1,000,000th Booklet Man”?

Jon: I’m honored to have this time with you, Talking Tofurky! The majority of my work over the last ten years has consisted of traveling throughout North America, going from one college to the next, giving out booklets to college students about the plight of today’s farm animals and vegan eating. It’s straightforward work, and it gets the goods; we’re always hearing from individuals who have gone vegetarian or vegan as a result of our leafleting efforts.

Over the last ten years, I’ve had the honor of leafleting at 523 schools, in 46 states and 4 Canadian provinces.

It means a great deal to me to be the 1M Booklet Man. I’ve had the goal of handing out a million booklets for many years now. It’s thrilling to establish a long-term goal and see it come to fruition, especially when this goal does good for animals.

TT: What compels you to do this kind of animal advocacy? It seems like it could be exhausting work, and certainly not the most glamorous.

Jon: Yes, standing on one’s feet for hours at a time and leafleting, driving hundreds of miles each week, and sleeping on the beds, futons, air mattresses, and floors of others isn’t especially luxurious or glamorous. But what could be better than looking back on each day and knowing that my efforts made the world a better place?

So what has compelled me has been a desire to use my brief shot at life to make the world a kinder and more just place with less suffering. Very real suffering exists, and I want to do my part to reduce as much as I reasonably can.

While I admit that I have sacrificed a lot for this work, it’s been a labor of love, and I can’t imagine a better decade than my last ten years. I’ve met so many amazing individuals and have learned a ton. Helping others has helped me.

TT: How has the acceptance rate and response changed for you in the years that you have been leafleting?

Jon: When I first started leafleting, a lot of individuals didn’t know what the word “vegan” meant. Now, pretty much everyone has a friend, family member, or significant other who is vegan. I also get a lot less resistance to my work. It’s really exciting to see societal change taking place over just a decade. The times are definitely a changin.’

TT: What are some common objections to not wanting to make lifestyle changes? How do you respond?

Jon: The majority of the objections are practical, not philosophical or ethical. Most people don’t want farm animals to suffer, but simply don’t know what they’d eat if they went vegan, if they’d get all their nutrients, if it would make social situations difficult. We can help minimize these concerns by offering more “how to” information, providing individuals with accurate nutritional information (as my colleague Jack Norris, RD does), and encouraging them to take part in vegan social groups in their area so that they feel connected to like-minded individuals.

TT: Why target colleges and universities?

Jon: College students are in the time of their lives when they’re really questioning the status quo and are willing to make changes. And if we can get someone to change in their teens or early twenties, we’re reaching individuals who have many years ahead to influence others.

TT: What do your next few years look like now that you have reached this major milestone? Do you have a goal of being the two millionth booklet man?

Jon: I doubt I will ever become the 2 Million Booklet Man. There are a lot of other activists with so much passion who want to get out and do this work, and there are a lot of other ways in which I can be of service to Vegan Outreach. So while I still leaflet regularly, I won’t be leafleting as much as I did in the past. Instead, I will work on being a good manager to those now out there toiling on behalf of the animals, and helping to ensure that the outreach materials they’re using are as effective as possible.
TT: What are your favorite go-to, quick vegan meals while on the road?

Jon: Whenever I’m in a big city, I like to check out the vegetarian and vegan restaurants in town. But some things that I can consistently rely on are the vegan burritos from Moe’s and Chipotle, the black bean patty from The Pita Pit, kale chips, and Lara bars.

TT: Do you have any favorite Tofurky products?

Jon: Of course! I love the beer brats, the Italian sausages, and the pepperoni pizza, among many other Tofurky products. And I like that Tofurky has always been supportive of the animal advocacy community (such as interviewing me!). Whenever I buy a Tofurky product, I know that I’m supporting an ethical company run by friendly and good people.

TT: Do you have any advice for those readers who may want to get active for our animal friends but who feel a bit insecure, or who may be more introverted?

Jon: You’ve asked the right person! On the Myers Briggs test, I come out more introvert than extrovert. And when I first started leafleting back in 2000, I was incredibly shy.

Fortunately, introverts can be powerful activists and leaders. Some good examples are Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi. This is detailed in Susan Cain’s empowering book: Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking. You don’t need to be an extrovert to be effective; you just need to be sincere, kind to others, and dedicated. Some of Vegan Outreach’s best leafleters are introverts. A big chunk of society falls on the introverted side of the spectrum, and they appreciate introverts doing outreach to them. Being able to ask someone “Info to help animals?” isn’t exclusive to extroverts. Anyone can and should do it!

Also, it’s exciting to challenge ourselves. For me, it’s been a good challenge to get out more in public, to leaflet, give talks, etc. What used to be scary to me is now actually fun. I’ve been shocked by how easy outreach is for me now.

So in short, embrace your inner introvert, realize that the animals need both extroverts and introverts speaking up for them, but do challenge yourself to get out there. The animals really depend on us to be their voice. Being a bit socially uncomfortable is way less daunting than what today’s farm animals face.

TT: Any parting words for our readers?

Jon: Vegan Outreach always welcomes those who want to help our work, either through leafleting or by supporting our leafleting efforts. To get involved, please check out veganoutreach.org. Thank you, Tofurky, for interviewing me!

TT: Thank you Jon, for your incredible contribution to alleviating suffering, and for tirelessly advocating for our animal friends. You are a true hero for the animals and the planet!

In the comments below, let Jon know how much you appreciate his efforts. We’ll randomly draw two of your comments to win free VIP Tofurky coupons!

As a final note: Vegan Outreach is in the final hours of their annual Team Vegan fundraising effort that is being matched dollar for dollar. If you have any interest in donating to support Vegan Outreach’s important work go to this link: http://teamvegan.biz/

Good food is kind to people, animals, the environment, and especially tastebuds. That’s exactly the kind of food we’ve been making at Tofurky for more than 35 years.

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