Every veg*n has their own reasons for being veg*n and their own opinions about which arguments are most convincing. No argument is going to convince everyone. Changing your beliefs or actions is a complex, individual process.

However, if a list of arguments is presented to a person, I expect that some of those arguments are more likely to work than others. Similarly, if those arguments are presented to 100 people, some will have a greater net effect than others. One might make 10 people consider veg*nism in a more positive light. Another might have that effect on 20 people. Another might have it on 30 people, but completely put off the remaining 70 people, and should thus be avoided. The best argument of all may be one that only influences 2 people but completely convinces them to go veg*n forever.

Which arguments have the highest expected value (backed by evidence) and should be included the most often in conversations and campaigns advocating veg*nism? I'm specifically asking about arguments involving ethics and animal suffering/rights, not health or the environment.

Some hypothetical answers:

  1. A psychological study in which different arguments are presented to meat eaters and their reactions are measured and compared.
  2. A survey in which veg*ns select from a list the argument that is closest to the argument that initially convinced them to be veg*n.
  3. Personal experience from an activist who has had many conversations in an attempt to persuade and has observed the arguments that seem to have the best effect.
  • 1
    This would depend heavily on the cultural background, right? Do you want to focus on a particular one?
    – Turion
    Mar 2 '17 at 9:47
  • @Turion If one can show that argument A works better than argument B in one background, and I know nothing about another background, the most sensible assumption is that A will still work better than B in that other background. I don't think it's useful to narrow this question down preemptively, it's already quite difficult and I'm surprised I got an answer. But I'm even more surprised that despite the presence of a good answer, people are voting to close and looking for reasons that the question is problematic.
    – Alex Hall
    Mar 2 '17 at 9:54
  • I agree, I think the question is good and important. No reason to close it.
    – Turion
    Mar 2 '17 at 9:57
  • How To Speak Non-Vegan | Effective Activism youtube.com/watch?v=nv-occxP-fQ An experienced vegan activist describes her strategy.
    – wolfv
    Dec 10 '18 at 4:25

This book is a whole book of that sort of with with empirical studies to back up the text: "Veganomics: The Surprising Science on What Motivates Vegetarians, from the Breakfast Table to the Bedroom, by Nick Cooney" in particular Chapter 14, "Messages that Motivate". It's fantastically footnoted with empirical research, no easy way to copy it to this small box.

One surprising result is that people become vegetarian for health motivations, but those who stay vegetarian change their reported motivations to ethical concerns.


It depends on what the person values. There is no one size fits all argument.

Ethical (onion)

  1. First Layer, abuse.
  2. Second, suffering.
  3. Third, killing.
  4. Fourth, exploitation.

To directly answer the question, talking about a case of animal abuse and segwaying into inflicting unnecessary pain/suffering (namely factory farming) has the most clout for most people (IMO).


Pulls a lot of environmentally conscious people.


A few.

Here is a bunch of related studies:


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