The emotional power of stories

Pictures of puppies and kittens are surefire sellers. But what about pigs, roosters, cows, goats? How do you make people care about what happens to these animals, and possibly change their behavior to save them?

Seen on The Animal Planet:  This ad “What if we were served the truth?” for

Note the website name. “Try veg.” Instead of “go veg” or “be veg.” Just try it, they ask. Their target audience is people who eat meat, so they offer a PDF Starter Guide to show how to try vegetarian meals. It talks about vegetarian foods that are substitutes for meat. This suggestion to substitute a veggie burger for a beef  burger, and swap meat-free chicken-flavor nuggets for the real thing, makes it easy to prepare the same meals we usually prepare, but with simple substitutes. It makes behavior change easier.

So, great to know it’s easy, but why should we care? The Guide includes education about health as well as the animal farming industry and what happens to the animals we eat. Here are more of the campaign’s TV ads.

I don’t know who funds, but I have visited The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York which has a similar education message. All animals are rescued farm animals, and I learned things new to me, like the close relationship between a mother cow and her calves, and how it’s painful for them to be separated and have that bond broken. All Sanctuary animals have names and stories. The Farm Sanctuary’s stories make you care about animals that you never thought much of before. After all, these are animals that usually live on farms, not in our homes. Not all are super cuddly. But the stories make me think twice about eating meat, like the stories about animals that ran from slaughterhouses and wound up, to their good luck, spending the rest of their lives in the rolling hills and big beautiful meadows at the Sanctuary. 

As one story, meet cute ‘lil Bob Harper, a piglet. This poor guy fell out of a truck on an Illinois freeway. If he hadn’t fallen off that truck, he would have been slaughtered for food at six months old. But now, Sanctuary staff say he is “making us laugh by crazily spinning around his hospital stall and shaking his blankets with his mouth like a puppy with a chew toy!” No matter how good bacon tastes, this guy plays like a puppy! Oh the conflict!

I didn’t meet pigs at the Sanctuary because swine flu was going around at the time, but I did meet turkeys. They’re ugly! But they must think they’re photogenic because when they see you and your camera, they are hams. One turkey saw us and came over and strutted and pranced and really put on a show for us. It was really cute. I could see his personality. I’m glad he won’t ever be on anyone‘s table for Thanksgiving.

Those of us in Illinois might remember the story earlier this year about a truck carrying cows that crashed and cows were crushed and burned and some survivors were wandering around a freeway after the crash. All surviving cows except one were loaded on another truck for slaughter. But one critically-burned cow was forgotten. Here he is, Jay the bull cow, moving into his new home where he is recovering at the Farm Sanctuary. His fellow cow neighbors touch his nose and give him kisses over the fence! His caregivers say he is thrilled to be around other cows and he loves to run.

Hearing these stories, seeing their pictures and meeting the animals, it makes a difference in what we might think about them.

A few more Sanctuary stories:

  • Two “escapegoats” Isadora & Duncan, only a few months old, saved from dangerous New York City streets. Extremely loyal to each other, they cry loudly if they are apart for even a few seconds, signifying the deep emotional bond forged by their shared adventure.
  • Faith the infertile cow with no value to the dairy industry is saved – her life does have value! Now affectionately known as the “exfoliator” for her endearing habit of excitedly approaching her caregivers and licking their hands and faces when she sees them.
  • Jade and Indigo, best friend chickens saved from a meth lab. The Sanctuary reports that opposites must attract — Jade is a spunky fiesty firecracker, very outgoing among the chickens, and Indigo is a calm, tranquil rooster whose feathers don’t get ruffled.


So what do you think about Isadora, Duncan, Faith and Indigo now?



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