Brian Kateman is cofounder of the burgeoning Reducetarian movement, and one of the bright young stars in the fight to save humanity, animals, and planet earth from spiraling into an unredeemable mess.
Brian reached out to me about a year ago, sharing a modest vision for an edited book designed not to turn ordinary people into vegetarians or vegans, but simply to encourage and empower them to eat less meat.
I happily contributed a chapter, but didn't think much about the project until I started seeing the Reducetarian movement pop up in all sorts of places.
A TEDx talk. A summit in New York City. And the book has been endorsed by some of the most respected, influential, controversial, and colorful figures in the world of ideas and English-language writing.
This thing is going to be big. (Of course, this prediction is from the same guy who told T. Colin Campbell to stop wasting his time with Forks Over Knives; the title was so dumb that it wouldn't amount to anything.)
No, seriously. What Brian has done is take an idea that almost nobody can argue with – eating less meat is good for humans, for the animals, and for the environment – and divorced it from the advocacy groups that trigger guilt and shame and overwhelm in most people.
I'm not knocking the advocacy groups at all. Without animal welfare, animal rights, and whole-food, plant-based health advocates, Brian and the Reducetarians would probably not have come to pass.
But we have to admit that the “extreme” message of all or nothing is not saturating the marketplace of ideas. It's not resonating with the billions of people on the planet who eat as much meat as they can afford. And for all of us who go 100% vegan, there are thousands of people we're not influencing at all.
Brian and I discussed the strategy of the Reducetarian movement, and how we can create massive change if we're willing to let go of doctrinaire positions and unrealistic goals, and instead find common ground with allies.
- Growing up in nature (Staten Island) and becoming a college environmentalist
- Reading Peter Singer's The Ethics of What We Eat
- Favorite food: Buffalo wings from Applebees
- Being a vegetarian, but complicated situations (Thanksgiving)
- Eating a piece of turkey (“I thought you were a vegetarian, Brian”) or iHop bacon
- Not about being perfect – but the name vegetarian caused problems.
- Are there other words (reduce animal products)?
- Flexitarian / semi-vegetarian – rigid terms.
- Open to cutting back 10-20%
- Come up with a word describing people who cut back incrementally.
- Creates behavior consistency (reduce).
- Movement came from conversations with friends.
- Heck, let's go for it (SquareSpace website, TEDx talk, media representatives)
- IndieGogo campaign to raise money – consider turning this into a non-profit
- Tapped into an existing movement – excited to reduce animal products they consumed, but
- immobilized by not having a community.
- Persistence and lucky timing (VB6, Meatless Monday, absolutist vegans).
- Omnivores wanted to join this movement.
- Making the movement more mainstream.
- Plant-based opposition to reducetarians – not as much as he thought.
- Understandable reasons for opposition to reducetarians
- “There's only progress” (make tomorrow a little bit better than today).
- Progress is incredibly incremental.
- Dating vs proposing marriage on the first date.
- Goal: not to make everyone vegan, but to make a happier world for people and animals.
- “We don't have to wait.” – Then we're incredibly screwed.
- If we don't have time, then we should minimize suffering in the meantime.
- Parents eat 200 pounds of meat a year (“Are you still doing that vegan thing?”)
- The math of getting heavy users to cut back a little.
- Why get caught up with someone eating mostly plant-based?
- “Cheating vegan” or “lazy vegetarian” – words drive Brian crazy.
- Celebrate every single plant-based meal – that's a really great thing.
- The lamppost problem – easier to reach the almost vegans.
- Horizontal hostility – share a lot of common values and yet hate each other intensely.
- Bickering between environmentalists and animal rights advocates and health advocates – we need each other so badly.
- Our brains are designed to think in black and white terms.
- Perfection is the enemy of the good.
- The lawn sign commitment study.
- Create a positive, reinforcing identity with the word Reducetarian.
- How to get all these people to blurb praise of the book? Not “The Vegan Solution”
- Getting high profile people early on – once you get Richard Dawkins, you can get Sam Harris.
- Social proof as a promotion tactic.
- People are generally supportive of reducing animal products.
- The Reducetarian Summit: May 20-21, 2017 at NYU
- The question is how, not why
- Marketing, policy, the future of food, impact investing, social entrepreneurship
- There's so much suffering in the world, we have to work together and establish common ground.
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
The Ethics of What We Eat, by Peter Singer
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