Asheville may be among America’s most vegan-friendly cities, but local supporters of the movement believe there’s always room for more Ashevilleans to abandon animal products. With its new Asheville Vegan Outreach campaign, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue hopes to win more Western North Carolina residents over to the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.
“It just makes sense with our core ethic being uncompromised compassion,” explains BWAR’s outreach director Rowdy Keelor of the impetus behind the new campaign. “That in and of itself encompasses all animals. It doesn’t exclude any species just because one is typically known as a commodity and the other as family.” Keelor will lead the Asheville Vegan Outreach effort, along with a team of volunteers.
As a vegan organization, BWAR is unique in its field. Most similar nonprofit organizations are focused solely on companion animals, but Brother Wolf embraces the idea that all animals — including those typically raised for food — deserve protection.
The group is also a no-kill organization, meaning no animals are killed for population control, and euthanasia is reserved only for animals who are irremediably suffering or hopelessly dangerous, so the ethics of preserving life extend to all aspects of operations. The Asheville Vegan Outreach logo, which shows a dog’s face side by side with a pig’s, represents the similarities between farm and domestic animals.
“How can we love some [animals] so much but have this huge disconnect from others who are just as sentient and just as smart and want to live just as much?” Keelor asks.
The campaign has been in the works for a while, says Keelor. With two very passionate animal advocates at the helm of BWAR — founder Denise Bitz and executive director Paul Magee Berry — the group has big plans for saving animals of all kinds. The recently launched Brother Wolf Animal Sanctuary, for example, is home to both dogs and cats and farm animals.
The AVO initiative is ambitious, and the team has spent months preparing for its launch. Programming will include pay-per-view events, where the AVO will give people $1 to watch a four-minute video about factory farming. The first screening will be of What Cody Saw, an undercover investigation piece by Mercy for Animals.
In addition, the group will do presentations at local schools, introducing children to the concept of a vegan diet. They’ll also be leafletting and engaging in “chalktivism,” which refers to “placing pro-vegan chalk messages in strategically placed positions around the city,” explains Keelor. Eventually, AVO hopes to create all of its own advocacy content, from leaflets to videos to posters.
AVO will also host lectures and documentary screenings — hopefully monthly — and hang posters throughout the community with poignant messages and graphics. In the future, the group will roll out coaching and mentoring for people interested in going vegan.
Vegan Celebration Days are another key aspect of AVO’s efforts. At these monthly events, guests will gather at various locations to taste vegan food samples and learn more about the lifestyle in a fun, fair-like setting. The effort kicked off on April 16 at West Village Market & Deli, featuring food from purveyors including No Evil Foods, Roots Hummus, Eden-Out and more, plus beer from Sanctuary Brewing Co., live music, door prizes, and more.
Keelor and his team are also planning a new event to launch this fall — the Taste of Vegan Asheville — which will showcase the city’s best plant-based eats. “We won’t have any extreme actions or protests,” he says. “We’re here to educate and dialogue with people. We understand that this is a conversation. … That we just don’t say ‘go vegan’ and walk away. There’s a lot of support and nurturing and education that needs to go along with that.”
The goal of the AVO, says Keelor, is be the most active vegan outreach group in the region. “There’s a sense of urgency — not only for the animals dying by the hundreds of thousands every day — but for the environment,” he says. “We’re very convinced that industrial animal agriculture is a plague upon the planet. And we’re big believers in the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Our people have experienced it firsthand, and that’s showing compassion to our neighbors and families. We’ve got to get out there and work hard and get the word out now.”
Follow Asheville Vegan Outreach’s efforts at facebook.com/AshevilleVeganOutreach.