Interview with Mary Pelletier

I interviewed my friend Mary Pelletier, who advocates for plant-based eating and animal welfare. She’s also been engaging people in conversations online and face-to-face for the past year, and she spends her free time volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary. She makes beautiful artwork as well:

Live and Let Live. (Work-in-progress, courtesy of M Pelletier.)

We talked about the challenges of engaging people— who to approach, and how to approach them. Especially in face-to-face engagement, there was opportunity for people to shut down, and take information personally.

Food is such an integral part of everyone’s life… It’s almost like attacking the very core of who they are.

She mentioned she’s found success when tailoring an approach to the individual and their motivations.

I listen to see if people—if they give any indication that they’re looking to clean up their diet, or be more environmentally friendly, if they’re interested in other social justice movements. I try to build repertoire with them and work that in.

For her, face-to-face is the one of the most effective ways to start a conversation. She finds this approach works way more powerfully when combined with documentary media:

It’s one thing to have a conversation with someone, talking about the ethics of animals. But if they never go, find a video, or look at pictures, or listen to the audio of the inside of a slaughterhouse… It can’t be understated how much the impact of that.

A few other things that stood out to me:

  • There is so much resistance built into government, fed into education, and reinforced by money and power. Mary imagines reducing resistance into the vegan conversation by aligning her motives with movements people already care about—feminism, reducing community hunger, or the environment.
  • On a plant-based future: what societal conditions will this create or require? By the time we get to a world without animal products, we will already be in a world without conflicts with human beings, “[because] we wouldn’t be practicing classifying others as commodities.”


NYTimes hack:

Link to the audio:

Link to written transcript:

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